New beginnings come in differently tied packages: marriage, birth of a child, new job, move across country. Joyous occasions. But some times they are life rising from the ashes: divorce, loss of a loved one, natural disasters. New beginnings that come as a result of tragedy cause us to re-examine our lives with a brand new pair of glasses. Glasses that remind us of all the love we’ve had in the past, giving us hope for the future. Glasses that help us recognize the lessons we’ve learned, giving us wisdom to help others. Glasses that show us the future is bright because of the love and lessons that brought us to a new day.
I do not mean to make it sound easy, it’s anything but . . . I know, I’m in one of those new beginnings and some days my life feels like it’s coming apart, as if the edges of my soul are held together with a basting stitch - a stitch used to hold pieces of material together until the final tight, small stitches are in place. My life is new, unexplored territory, but inch by painstaking inch, tiny new stitches are being sewn. Somedays the tears, sorrow, and regret, threaten to seep through the tight band of control I usually convince myself I possess.
As God would have it, not long after I lost my son, I found myself in the book of Job. It wasn’t like I planned it, I had finished the book of Esther and Job was next. I’ve read Job before and, to be honest, it was not the easiest book to read. And it’s far from my favorite, no my favorite in the Old Testament is Ruth. After all, Ruth is a romance - what can I say, God created me as a romantic.
This time, reading Job was different. Verses spoke to me on a deeper level. Job 3:13 “Then they (Job’s friends) sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” God has rewarded me with so many good friends and to have them reach out to me in love, encouragement, with heartfelt sorrow, has been the greatest comfort. Sometimes they know exactly what to say, other times they say nothing because there is a sorrow that words cannot touch. I’ve thought about Job and this verse many times, it kept coming back to my mind. The silence of seven days. Seven days. We live in a culture that has trouble being silent for five minutes. Never underestimate the importance of being there for a friend in need, even if you don’t know what to say. Believe me, you are making a difference simply by your presence.
Despite all that Job suffered, his faith in God remained strong. Job 19:25 “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” Hope - it is powerful and wonderful, and when you know God, it is real.
As I enter 2019, a new beginning for me - my hope is to know God better and to share His love with all I know. His love is real, His salvation is real and it is here for you - whoever you are and wherever you are, makes no difference to Him. He created you and loves you and desires to have a relationship with You.
June 18, 2018 - the date of my re-birth. In the writing world it is called the "Ah Ha Moment." That point in time when the protagonist realizes the untruth in what she has always believed; she learns the truth. From that point on, she is a new creature. She will never be the same again. She will act differently and think differently for the rest of her life.
What did I gain in my "Ah Ha Moment"? Freedom, peace, and the most meaningful relationship of my life! I share it because I want everyone to know the same freedom, peace, and intimacy I have gained. The most wonderful news is that it is available to everyone who chooses! Of course, not everyone is interested or cares - it is a personal decision.
It seems even more amazing to be because it is a relationship I thought I had already nailed down. I'd followed all the steps to achieve it, participated in all the activities to improve its' meaningfulness and depth. Yet I had missed the whole point. After all, a relationship does involve active participation from both sides - I should have realized the relationship I thought I had was pretty one sided. There was no true communication going on. There were telltale signs along the way but I conveniently ignored some and misread others. But, there was a niggling of doubt that was always there, just beneath the surface, telling me that what I thought I had was not all that it should or could be.
By now you probably want me to get to the point. The relationship I'm speaking of is the one I have with God through His son Jesus. It took me 53 1/2 years to get my "ah ha moment" so forgive me while I revel in its' beauty. I cannot get over how much He did so that I could have this moment. How patiently He has been waiting on me to finally realize that this relationship matters to Him because He loves me! How could it have taken me so long? I who was raised in the church, attended, volunteered, etc. How could I have missed the most important fact, that God desires intimacy of relationship. He desires to sit with me. Now, more than anything, I want to sit with Him.
There is a story in the bible about two sisters, Martha and Mary - just so you know, I am a Martha - always needing to be busy, usually about unimportant matters. Mary knew what was important, she sat at Jesus feet and listened to all He said (Luke 10:38-42).
A sermon from the pastor in my home church, followed by a blog post from someone I have never met, but will forever consider as a dear friend, changed my life for eternity. Now I understand that God did it all because He loves me. My love and relationship with Him brings Him glory and shows others His love. It is more beautiful than words can describe. I always knew that God forgave my sins when I asked, but because I didn't understand the scope of His love, I never accepted His forgiveness. Consequently, my sins constantly weighed me down and the quilt is a heavy burden. Not only that, but I could not escape my flesh and the sins I seemed to have no power to escape. Once understanding arrived, I experienced a shift in my thinking and acting that I can only attribute to the work of the Holy Spirit in me.
This is not to say I do not experience problems, or that I don't sin. However, the power to overcome and say no rises up in me and gives me the strength I never before experienced. Now I have experienced the yoke of my Lord and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). The freedom from past sin is incomprehensible and as scripture says, when the Son has set you free, you are free indeed (John 8:36).
Traditions, in most cases they are begun with no intention of becoming anything other than what someone just happened to do. A tradition begun by my grandmother, Ruth Teeter, centered on Santa Claus. Seems whenever he visited he had a hole in his toy sack that resulted in a trail of candy wherever he walked. My mother continued the tradition as did I and my daughter.
As a child, I was delighted to wake Christmas morning and see the trail of candy and doing the same for my children was every bit as fun and delightful as it had been when I was the recipient. Even when I was no longer susceptible to the legend of Santa Claus the candy trail was exciting. It carried a hint of the Christmas Spirit.
We are almost a month past Christmas. Decorations are put safely in the attic, Christmas music no longer blares as we frantically shop for presents and the last ingredient in that special meal we have planned. Children's excitement for the presents they will receive is now focused on the coming summer break - which can't arrive quick enough - and although we are no longer crazy from the Christmas season, we are no less busy as we continue with our hectic lives. But the Christmas Spirit should never be put away. It should be sprinkled all along the path we tread each day, much like the candy from Santa's sack - to delight, encourage, and love all who cross our way.
What are some of your family's traditions? Share in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.
It is a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon, there's a slight breeze and if you close your eyes and listen to the sounds, it takes you to another time and memory. I hear the birds high in the "tree of life" in our back yard, the distant hum of a hedge trimmer, airplanes overhead, the wind in the leaves, and the dryer exhaust.
The normal every day sounds of life. But today I'm feeling nostalgic and the sounds take me back to my childhood. I'm in my front yard staring up at a Carolina blue sky and loving the brilliant colors of autumn against the deep blue. The hum of a motor comforts me because it means my Dad is busy in the yard and the churning of the dryer and clank of pots and pans is a sign my Mom is busy and a delicious meal will soon be on the table. I have no worries, life is simple.
Nostalgic because today would have been my Dad's 88th birthday. I've missed him for 36 years. I miss him more today than ever , because now I know how blessed I was. I especially miss the adult conversations we never experienced.
Yesterday while going through some old papers I found a list he had comprised of goals he wanted to accomplish. His first and last are my favorites:
He accomplished the first - he set a wonderful example for me and my three siblings of how a Christian treats others and follows God. Sadly, he died when we were all young - the oldest 17 and the youngest 11.
Despite the difficult years that followed the loss of my Dad, I know that Gods hand was upon us and with us all our lives and the values my parents instilled in us are with us to this day.
Thank you Daddy for a life, however short, well lived. Praise God for giving us loving, caring parents and for guiding us through those turbulent years. You never left us and sustained us by showing us Your great love.
As we leave October and head into November I'm reminded of all I'm thankful for, and my Dad is one of those persons who made a tremendous difference in my life. Who is someone, living or not, that you are thankful for because of the difference they've made in your life? I'd love to hear from you.
There was a story I once read that mentioned a bottle tree. But it wasn't until my husband told me that a box of bottles he'd been toting around for years was for the purpose of a bottle tree, that I became personally aware and interested in bottle trees or as my husband called them, Charleston Christmas Trees.
Turns out, years and years ago he had visited a friend in Charleston and she had a bottle tree that she told him was called a Charleston Christmas tree. This appealed to my husband's artistic nature to the point that many years later . . . years of stopping at every antique mall and junk, I mean consignment shop, on the way to the beach, resulted in a box full of cobalt blue bottles, the color he decided would be perfect for his own Charleston Christmas tree, along with a few clear and green bottles.
We recently found the perfect spot in our yard for the bottle tree and an abandoned post from Lowes parking lot obligingly served well as our tree. Between my husband and son the bottle tree took shape and I must say I'm delighted with the results. The more I enjoy our tree, the more I wondered how this tradition got started. Being the research nerd that I am, I went in search of answers.
Imagine my surprise when my Google search only gave a list of Christmas tree farms in SC! I hate to break it to you, Charleston, but you didn't invent bottle trees, in fact far from it. According to my research, bottle trees have been around in one form or another for thousands of years and seem to have begun in Egypt and Mesopotamia, spreading to other cultures throughout Europe and Africa and, not so surprising, made their way to North America by the slave trade. Today bottle trees can be found across the United States.
If you read the history you'll find many believed evil spirts were captured in the bottles at night and the light of sun destroyed them. I simply enjoy the added dimension it gives my yard as the sunlight bounces off the blue and green glass. As it happens, blue is the color frequently chosen but styles and colors vary widely.
The full box my husband had collected appeared a gracious plenty for our tree but once completed it was obvious the tree could use more, plus I would like to have red bottles - don't you think they would look great with the cobalt blue? I have now joined my husband in his hunt through junk, I mean consignment shops, in my own search for bottles to add to our tree.
Since bottle trees have been around for such a long time, there is every possibility one will show up in The Weaver's Dream, of course in that time period (1300 BC), it's sure to have a different meaning than the simple yard art it is in mine. I'd love to hear back from you about any special yard art you have. Do any of you have a bottle tree?
Until next time, may your days be full of love and laughter!
A Valentine Legacy
As a romance writer and someone who wishes everyone a Happy Every After plus a happy heart, I couldn't think of a better time to debut my blog, Second Chances Unlimited, than on Valentine's Day!
The date can elicit any number of memories and feelings from despondency if one is single to excitement at what one's better half will do to prove his or her love. Today I'm thinking of my great-grandparents whom I was blessed to know well as they both lived to a ripe old age. My great-grandmother, Nannie Victoria Elliott, at a rather young age spied an advertisement in a magazine for correspondence with a young man in Fredericks, Maryland and decided to respond. Thus began a relationship that would last 65 years.
Winter turns to spring in North Carolina and Nannie presses an early violet and includes it in her next letter to Tobias Martin, telling him that spring has arrived in North Carolina. Tobias opens the letter to a wisp of spring, a warm embrace in comparison to the stark winter fields outside his window. At that moment Tobias decides it is time to make the acquaintance of this friendly young lady and promptly tells his parents he is leaving for North Carolina and will marry Nannie Elliott - not exactly what his family wants to hear, he will be the first to marry someone who is not German..
Nannie and Tobias where married April, 1911. Together they survived the depression and raised a family of three girls, the eldest of which became my grandmother. Their years obviously had many ups and downs but the romance writer in me loves the idea of a 65 year marriage that began with the simple act of writing a letter.
May your Valentine's Day be full of special moments whether with family or friends and until we meet again I wish you love and laughter.