Refine (Five Minute Friday)

I’m very excited to again this week join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. Week after week, these women produce insightful and inspiring posts based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com). My timer is set for 5 minutes; let’s see where the word “refine” takes me.

Elegant ladies — and I mean ladies — in dazzling gowns and shimmering jewels. Dazzling and shimmering yet tasteful. Men in tailored — not rented — tuxedos. Both speaking in well-modulated voices and behaving only in ways that would make Miss Manners nod in approval.

Refined.

Fine wine, Precious metals purified by fire.

Refined.

Tested by trials and tribulations and not merely surviving but surviving with grace and courage and coming out on the other side a better person.

Refined.

I’ll never be an elegant lady; of course, neither can I ever be wine or a precious metal. But I can be a person who handles adversity with grace and courage, who is a better person because of it.

Sadly, I must confess that I haven’t consistently responded to a life challenge in a way that meets my definition of refined. No, I’ve cried, whined, retreated, brooded, gotten angry, and obsessed over what I perceive as horrible situations that have befallen me.

Even worse, I haven’t walked away from each of the trials a better person. All too often, I haven’t learned a thing and have gone right back to may old ways.

But time and experience has had its way with me in more ways than just wrinkles and some physical aches and pains that remind me of my age.

I’m also more likely to heed the warnings of small difficulties, to stop and consider what lesson those difficulties might have to teach me. I know full well that things will go better for me if I do, because if my attention isn’t caught by a small problem, larger ones are just waiting in the wings.

Refining is a process.

I’m being refined every single day.

It’s not always fun; sometimes it’s downright painful. But I’m thankful for that process. Thankful I’m being refined.

Grateful to the Refiner.

 

Janus, the 2-faced god

While on any given day I can’t remember where I put my car keys 15 minutes before or whether or not I’ve taken multivitamin, I can remember an amazing amount of what I learned in Mrs. Malahy’s Latin I and Latin II classes from . . . . well, let’s just forget how many years ago that was, why don’t we?

I can conjugate verbs, read and understand “Winnie Ile Pu”, and sing more than a few Christmas Carols in Latin. And, of course, I remember most of the Greek gods and goddesses and what it is they rule.

That’s why, every year when I turn the December calendar page and begin noting appointments on the first page for the new year, I think of Janus. The namesake of our month January, he is the 2-faced god of beginnings, gates and doorways, transitions, time, and endings, among other things.

Of course, it’s fitting that the first month of the year — a time when people reflect on the successes and failures, joys and sorrows of the previous 12 months and plot out a course of action for the coming 12 — be named after such a god.

Looking back is important, of course. It’s important to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and even on what we ardently wish had never happened at all. We learn from our pasts. That’s why we study history.

Some of us spend too much time focused on the past, however. We chew on past slights, silly little goofs, or other minor issues like the proverbial dog with a bone. We simply cannot let go of things. We’re so busy daydreaming about the past, rewriting scenes so that we’re more favorably reflected, that we miss out on the present.

Similarly, it’s important to look ahead, to lay the foundation for the time ahead. But just as it can be dangerous to focus too much on the past, always looking at tomorrow at the expense of today can create problems.

It takes careful balance, this act of living in the moment while at the same time learning from the past and prudently preparing for the future.

I’ve been reflecting the past couple of weeks on 2016, on what I learned about myself and life in general. I’ve focused, too, on what I hope 2017 to look like.

But I’m done with that. I’m ready — more than at any other time in my life — to live in the moment, in the day at hand.

I’m ready for 2017 — it’s going to be a wonderful year . . . no matter what it brings!

 

 

 

 

Good Times!

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I’ve been a list-maker; in fact, I’ve been known to make lists of lists I need to create! So when I first heard of Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists Project, I was intrigued and rushed to check it out. I paged through the book and knew I wanted to participate in 2017. To that end, every Sunday I will post my own list for that week’s topic.     

List 3: The Happiest Moments of My Life so Far

1. September 16, 1984 — the day after my wedding, with all the hoopla behind me, enjoying a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game at the now-old Bush Stadium with my new husband

2. August 23, 1986 — at the end of a long, very exciting day, sitting in my quiet, dimly-lit hospital room with my 7-hour-old son, holding him and sharing with him my hopes and dreams for him

3. March 22, 1989 — watching from my hospital bed as my husband held my son, who held his 5-hours-old baby sister

4. Our week-long camping trip to The Great Smoky Mountains

5. The four of us sitting around the dinner table — eating, playing games, etc.

Oh, What a Character!

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I’ve been a list-maker; in fact, I’ve been known to make lists of lists I need to create! So when I first heard of Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists Project, I was intrigued and rushed to check it out. I paged through the book and knew I wanted to participate in 2017. To that end, every Sunday I will post my own list for that week’s topic.   Note: I was out of town and without internet service on January 8, so I’m posting this list a week late. 

List 2: List your favorite characters from books, movies, etc.

1. Sheldon Cooper — the theoretical physicist and king of social awkwardness on The Big Bang Theory


2. Katherine Mary Flannigan — the spunky, inspiring protagonist of Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

3. Salem Grimes — the earnest, bumbling, totally-unique heroine of Kim Hunt Harris’ “Trailer Park Princess” series

4. Sherlock Holmes — as portrayed in *both* the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’ Elementary — I know, I know . . . supposedly there’s some huge internet controversy over which Sherlock is the best. People get quite heated while defending their preferred version of the famous detective, but I like them both!

5. Ove — the socially-awkward and well-meaning protagonist in A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

6. Anne Shirley — the spunky red-haired orphan from “Anne of Green Gables” book series

7. Izzy Spellman — the complicated and quirky private detective in Lisa Lutz’ “Spellman Family” series

8. Winston Valentine — the delightful patriarch of the Valentine family in Curtiss Ann Matlock’s “Valentine” book series

Goals & a Dream

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I’ve been a list-maker; in fact, I’ve been known to make lists of lists I need to create! So when I first heard of Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists Project, I was intrigued and rushed to check it out. I paged through the book and knew I wanted to participate in 2017. To that end, every Sunday I will post my own list for that week’s topic.     

List 1: List your goals and dreams for this year

Goals:

1. To stop merely wearing the label of and identifying myself as a Christian and instead live in intimate, authentic, and continual relationship with God.

2.  To digitalize all of the photos and memorabilia that I plan to use in scrapbooks for my now-adult son and daughter. When I see how many years I have to convert (1986-2010), I question my sanity in setting this goal, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

3.  Accomplish each of the 12 monthly challenges I set for myself in 2017.

I’m the founder and administrator of the Facebook group “17 in 2017”. Participants set 1 mega-challenge and 12 monthly challenges, and they select 4 quarterly rewards (1+12+4=17). No legalism or stringent rules — just encouragement, support, etc. If you’re interested, check us out at  https://www.facebook.com/17-in-2017-1606398529668434/


4. Arrive at 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2017 in much better shape physically, emotionally, socially, and financially.  My current condition in every category isn’t dire or anything, but there is room for improvement in each area, and I want to make that improvement a reality.

5. To find an affordable (“free” would be a real dream-come-true) class B camper and travel around the U.S. as work allows.

6. To write a book and be published, or at least be under contract for publication.

Dream:

1. To become part of a group of women who gather regularly — once a week would be heavenly — for no other reason than friendship.G

Shaken (a review)

Shaken, by Tim Tebow and contributor A.J. Gregory, is a multi-faceted book that offers more than a few surprises.

One of those surprises is that this book, Tebow’s latest, is far less about the game of football than would be expected from one written by a Heisman Trophy winner, 1st-round draft pick, and former NFL player.

Instead, Tebow focuses on the emotional and spiritual impact of the game, particularly the devastating lows — being traded by the Broncos to the Jets, only to be cut after one year; being cut by the Patriots after training camp; and again being cut after training camp a year later by the Eagles.

Tebow is refreshingly open about the effect of these disappointments. He admits that he struggled emotionally, questioning himself and his dream. In short, he is candid in explaining that his failure to be successful in the NFL shook him.

However, that failure did not shake Tebow’s faith. And it is that unwavering faith and the lessons he learned from his professional struggles that form the core of this book.

Tebow explains how, despite all the media scrutiny and relentless discussions of why he’d failed, as well as the widespread speculation about his professional future, he never lost sight of who he was and what was truly important to him. He in turn explains, in a warm and engaging style, how the reader can share that same confidence in who they are no matter what life throws his or her way.

Shaken is not just for the football or sports fan. Rather, it is for every person who has faced disappointment, who has run into seemingly-insurmountable obstacles, and whose dreams have been broken.

In fact, it is a book for anyone and everyone.

I was provided a free copy of this book in return for my honest review, which I have provided here. Shaken is published by WaterBrook and released today (October 25, 2016)

 

Who Has My Vote

“I’ve been following all the election coverage,” a friend said to me late last week, “and it’s all such a mess. What personalities! And the issues. So complex and so many. What issues do you think are most important?”

I explained that I vote according to one thing only, and that is absolutely true. Before I explain what that one thing is, though, I want to share a little backstory.

In May 1976, I celebrated my 18th birthday, knowing that in just 6 months I would cast a ballot in a U.S. Presidential election. My parents had always taught me that with rights came responsibility, so I was determined to be an informed voter and to make a wise decision.

As a result, I watched television and read newspapers, but there was so much to wade through that I finally made a chart that showed how each candidate — Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford — stood on each issue and then chose the one with whom I agreed on the majority of issues. They both seemed quietly dignified, one in a somewhat more sophisticated sort of way, so to my way of thinking, their personalities weren’t an issue.

I did the same thing — Carter and Ronald Reagan that time around — 4 years later. In that election, personality was an issue. Both men were genial and personable yet stern and serious when the issue called for it; however, Reagan was the more charismatic of the two. While I don’t remember specifically, I would imagine that my 22-year-old self was at least slightly influenced by that.

But eventually — I don’t remember exactly which election — I changed my strategy in two ways.

First, I stopped considering the candidates’ personalities and demeanor for the simple reason that they do not matter. Disagree with me? History abounds with examples, but consider just one.

Harry Truman was considered by many outside rural and small-town — and particularly by the “movers and shakers” and the media — to be a crude country bumpkin, unfit to be President of the United States. At the same time in history, Adolph Hitler was consistently acknowledged, even by his critics and those who were plotting his downfall, as charismatic and polished. Compare their personalities; compare their actions and “accomplishments”.

Second, I stopped comparing the candidates’ positions to how I stood on an issue. I continued making a chart of each candidate’s stands, but instead of comparing theirs with my own beliefs, I compared them only with God’s position.

By the way, I would love to say that the two — God’s position and my own — were always the exact same. But I must admit that sometimes I get distracted by the gray areas; in reality, though, truth is not relevant and murky. Real Truth never changes and is  absolute.

Some issues were easy. God’s Word is very clear in regard to the sanctity of life and, despite what some might say, same-sex relationships (yes, the New Testament does address this issue).

Other issues were not so clear. I read passages and cross-references, looked up what original Greek words were used and what those words meant, and tried as best I could to draw from all that information a bottom line, for want of better word.

There was no reason to look at any one specific issue because no one specific issue was more important in and of itself. Rather, what was important, to me at least, was which candidate’s views were most closely aligned with God’s view. .

That hasn’t changed.

This year,  like every 4 years since I changed my strategy, one candidate stands out. His or her positions — as indicated by their actions and their own words — on the various issues are aligned with Godly standards far more consistently than the other candidates’. And that is the only thing that I consider when I cast my ballot.

Who is that candidate? Rather than tell you, I hope you will do your own research and that, when you discard all the chatter and focus only on the candidates’ words and actions, you will have a clearer picture of where each stands in regard to Biblical truths.

An even greater hope is that on November 8 you will cast your vote for the candidate whose beliefs are most closely aligned with those truths.

I truly believe our country is at a very significant crossroad and that it is crucial that we elect a President who will put us on the right path, the Godly path.

I also believe that “not voting” is not an option. Our citizenship provides us countless benefits, but it also places on us responsibilities, the greatest of which is to vote. It is, in my opinion, irresponsible and even immoral to fail to vote for any other reason than absolute physical inability.

I realize this is a controversial issue, and I of course realize that many will disagree with what I’ve said here. Please share your own thoughts, even if you disagree — but do so respectfully. Thank you!

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