Makes Me Happy Monday : Still Water

I’ve really struggled over the past few years. I’ve been very still and very hidden.
If I don’t move, I won’t be noticed.
If I don’t speak, no one will argue with me.
If I don’t write/photograph/share/blog, I cannot be attacked.

N.o.n.e of those tactics proved to be effective, but I continued try to make them work.

During this time, I had a completely, devastating realization about relationships. One small remark (that I mentioned here)  really changed my perspective of how I see others and gave me an unwanted realization of how others see me.
The words were simple and quick …
but they completely, fully and totally pulled the rug out from under my life.
The person who spoke them has no idea that they literally changed my life.

Before the move from my mortgaged, large home of ten years to a smaller home I am renting, the stress of being in charge of everything was daunting. Knowing that I was fully responsible for anything that broke, cracked or failed in the house and that I had absolutely no buffer of money and limited repair skills kept me tense.

I am finally covered with medical insurance. I have been covered my entire life … but my divorce meant a severing of that protection. With my new policy has come the ability to have a recent CT scan to compare to the one I had last year while hospitalized. It that showed that the undiagnosable sack on my lung … has not grown over the last year. WHAT a relief.
It is not gone. But, it has not grown.

And watching my sweet, beautiful van slowly become feeble kept me from traveling. In the past three years,  I’ve taken just a few trips. None of those were in my vehicle.  I have made some wonderful memories, but I have had no “camping therapy” at all … because I couldn’t drive more than thirty minutes from home.

I’m working through the friendship devastation.
I have moved from the house.
I am covered medically. If I have a catastrophic illness, I am covered.
And I have a new-to-me vehicle. Clarks Hill / Lake Thurmond morning

As these things have changed, I am feeling the relief.
I have felt the calm within my soul during the storm
as my Savior kept my boat steady, but the waters were tumultuous
and the wind blew wildly fierce.
Without warning, the gale would change direction
or a new obstacle would arise.
It has been hard, but graciously strengthening.

But of late, I am feeling slightly better.
With the changes in life’s situation have come this wisp of energy
to adventure out farther, reach out just a little and explore.

Saturday was spent at a picnic with some church friends. We shared fried chicken, pasta salads and all sorts of fresh fruit. We watched six beautiful souls step into the lake and be “buried with Christ”  and arise soaked from head to toe, praising God for the symbol of new life, Holy Spirit power and renewal through baptism.

After the baptisms, I walked the edge of the lake to find solitude and treasures.

Feather amongst the rocks

I came across beautiful sticks that drew my admiration, but I had no way to collect them.  When a friend mentioned he was going back to the lake to fish Sunday morning, I asked if I could tag along and forage for wood while he spent time casting his reel.

Lake Thurmond / Clarks Hill Lake We arrived before sun up and got the boat on the water just in time to watch orange ripple on the water.
The water was slick like glass
and clear enough to see the sandy topography below.
It was wonderful. It was soothing, therapeutic and cleansing.
And the memory will go with me through the week
of soft ripples, cool water, good conversation and a renewed interest in traversing.

Sometimes we adventure, explore and fellowship.
Sometimes we sit still, gather our thoughts and process.
No matter where you are in your walk through this life,
embrace the place.

I embraced my time of retreat while life felt out-of-control stormy
and I am thankful to be transitioning to a place with more ease of spirit.
I am so happy to have started my week with a morning
paddling about on calm, still water.
Enjoy the beauty while it is present. Bask in serenity when it is available.
Because … we truly never know what storm may  be around the corner.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Still water makes me happy.
What makes you happy
this marvelous Monday morning?

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Makes Me Happy Monday : Mistletoe

Oak out my kitchen window
There is a wonderful, stately oak tree in the backyard at the old house.  You could see him out the kitchen window. He has HUGE, strong limbs that held up well against the blustery spring days of the past and the weight of a layer of ice in last year’s storm.

Mistletoe in the oak

In the spring, I would often go outside and lie down on the driveway for a few moments
when the intense warmth from the sun on my face felt like a stranger
and the chill of the pavement on my back offered great contrast.
I would look up through those beautiful branches
and find myself squinting … my eyes surprised by the intensity of light
after a long, dark winter.
How quickly clouds would roll past.
How unfamiliar was the crisp, blueness of the sky.

And at least once a winter,
the oak would offer me a substantial cutting of mistletoe
placed in my walking path
right there on the ground so I couldn’t miss it.

Careful not to dislodge the waxy, pearl berries,
I would gently bring it into the house
find a “Christmas vase”
and call it an arrangement.

Mistletoe in a

Mistletoe has always reminded me of south Georgia.
The pecan trees hide the orbs of green through the lush summer,
but Oh, Fall!
Those parasitic plants are revealed
when the trees become bare.

Wiki says that mistletoe is not native to America. And it explains that mistletoe requires a host plant.  It buries roots into the limbs of a host plant and then draws nutrients and water from the tree or shrub. And in some cases, the limb upon which it plants itself can eventually lose circulation, die and fall from the tree.  So, in more ways than one, it is an uninvited invader to our area and to the plant it thrives upon.

And yet it is beautiful  … at least in my eyes.

The balls of life dot the tree canopies across thousands of acres during those cold months when most life that bears a bark overcoat is barren and slumbering. They cling tight in the frigid, blustery air of winter and offer fresh berries to birds and other foragers. And they remind me of the symbol of Christmas festivity – to offer a kiss when you stand beneath a sprig.

Not far from our new home,
I spied a tree full of mistletoe.

My heart sighed with joy.
God knows how I love mistletoe.
And like a gateway tree welcoming us to our new home,
I drove past this tree time and again
when we first visited
and later began to move our belongings
just around the corner.

Mistletoe

These two photos were taken less than two weeks apart during mid March.

Mistletoe

And as I drove past this morning with the sun barely over the horizon?
The mistletoe is nearly completely hidden.
The tree’s new leaves are a fresh, spring green … just moving past wildly iridescent …
while the parasitic plant is a deep, saturated jungle green.
The tree is filling in with leaves on every branch and limb.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....  I thought about how there are times when life is so full of growth
that we no longer notice the parasite who has the potential to cause damage.

He is covered, disguised and hidden.
He lingers there nourishing and growing
while we hardly notice his presence.

Wiki also points out that mistletoe has long been considered harmful to its host plant, but recent studies have revealed that it offers many benefits. Many animals eat the berries, shoots and leaves of the mistletoe plant. Their orbs provide protection for some animals during winter and others nest in them. Some animals that are drawn to the plant, become covered in pollen from the host. Later, these animals carry that pollen to other host plants, so the mistletoe actually encourages pollination of his host.

I am so reminded how our pains and discomfort can bring good.
When someone comes into our life that puts down roots
and steals what we feel is OUR nourishment,
they may simultaneously be beneficial to our lives
in ways that we might not expect.
In the end, we may feel like we have “lost a limb” because of their presence,
but searching can show us ways that we have benefitted from their stay
or that others have grown and reproduced via their intrusion.

It isn’t always pretty
when we are used as a host,
but if we search
we can find ways to see
how our loss
can also be the channel used
for gain, good and glory.

And, to be truthful,
in the end
we may find that
the “loss of a limb”
was a small price to pay
for the good that came
and also a small price to pay
to have them finally out of our lives.

I love mistletoe!
Mistletoe brings me joy.
What about you?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Nails that bent

The days are warm for December. We have seen mid 60’s for days. There is almost a caution in the air. Are these lengthy fall temps a treat because Jack Frost will bring us another agonizing winter like last year? There is no reason to dread what is to come. We must just enjoy the day. Relish the moment.

And so I do.

I’ve been working on projects. I realize that my want to do things perfectly leaves me not finishing projects at all. And LORD knows that I am so.crazy.slow. I never rush at anything. When I rush, I make messes. When I move too fast, I fumble.

So, I prefer slow and steady.
And perfect.
I don’t want things done, I want them done well … done right … and with excellence.

Well, ya know what? That kind of pressure has become a standard I have slowly laid aside.
“Improvement is better than perfection” is my new standard.
Though a little speed helps me move on to new things more quickly.
So, there I am on the screened porch with saw, hammer, nails and wood …
cutting and putting together.

I am bracing a line of five or six pieces of wood with a single piece of wood on the back.
The wood on the back is pallet wood which is hard and dry.
The nails move into the wood begrudgingly.
And the last nail … refuses to sink.

It bends. 

And so, I grab another.
And it bends.
And another. and another. and another.
I am almost ready to go find a drill to try another source of penetration.

I realize, I am not paying attention well.
I am quite near a knot.

As I become frustrated, God reminds me,

I’ve already learned this lesson.

Knots are hard, hard places. 


No wonder those nails can’t hold up to the argument of the rock hard wood.
A strong, fibrous, sappy knot is much more difficult to pierce
than the smooth, even grain of the rest of the tree’s wood.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

And I look at my discarded nails
and think of God.
How often does He
try to hold things together for me
with just the right nail …
not too long, not too short ….
just the right size head,
just the right point  …
and I’m so damned hard that
I won’t budge.
I won’t let Him in.
I fight. I squeeze tight. I firm up
and dig in
and REFUSE His carpentry.
He’s working on this wonderful project
bringing together hand-picked pieces  …
and I’m refusing to allow Him to use the pieces to make something lovely.

And sometimes, when things are nearing beautiful ….
there’s a tough spot  … and I walk out.
I abandon the scene.
I leave.

It is always about relationships.
For we are here for community.
We aren’t here to buy a bigger house,
buy a bigger vehicle
get that promotion or raise
or purchase a better phone, television or toy of choice.
We are here … to grow closer to God and love others.
We are here to be a part of relationships.


Honestly, there are so many ways for this to end.
Eventually, God may bring a new nail to the scene and try again.
Or He may bring a new way to pierce my hard-core.
He may even choose to use a screw rather than a nail for better joining.
Or He may … just give up. He may just put the project down and leave me alone.
Because where is the beauty in force?

Oh, how I want to be used.
I want to be supple and easy to pierce.
I want to be available to be used in His projects.
I want to be used to create beautiful … whatever it looks like.
Unconventional. Scrappy. Eclectic. Awkward. Balanced. Messy.
No matter what …. just use me, Lord.
I pray … that I continue to allow Him in.
I pray that I not refuse His choice of elements in the design,
His choice in ways to join together the pieces
or His choice in the final artwork.

And really … I don’t think this life is as much about the final project
as it is about being the being available to be a part of the design.

Practical Pins & Uncolorful Choices

My grandmother, Odessa, was an excellent seamstress. She could sew clothing “from scratch.” She could alter clothing to fit any body. She could identify fabric by touch. And she knew her sewing machine and notions like many people know their kitchen tools … because she used them so often.

I have been sewing forever and ever. I still remember a halter top that I made for myself when I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was made from white material. I embroidered a perfect yarn red heart right in the middle with a simple straight stitch. And I ran a metal choker necklace through the casing at the neck and a ribbon through the casing around my ribcage. I still remember how proud I was that I had created a piece of clothing … by myself! Thinking back, my grandmother lived in another city and we visited every few months … but I don’t know that I ever showed her my halter top. If anyone would have encouraged me in my new sewing adventure, it would have been her.

Though my Mama was a seamstress and I began sewing early, I am not well-trained. What I know about sewing, I have learned by accident or through books or youtube videos. You won’t find me creating clothing with a pattern, notions and fabric. I more enjoy altering and embellishing existing garments or creating things for the home like pillows or curtains.  I am all about zigzag and straight stitching.

About a year ago, I realized that I needed more straight pins. I choose the type that have the brightly colored-plastic balls on the end.  I like to join my work together with pins and pull out the pins shortly before the fabric guides under the sewing needle. I find the round ball heads easier to grasp and remove as I am sewing.Magnetic Pin Cushion Tutorial #DIY #Vintage #Repurposed

But, when pressing my fabric before sewing, those pretty little round balls melt under the heat and pressure of my hot iron. I end up with flattened balls … that sometimes have a rough edge that will catch on certain fabrics. And … sometimes, the plastic heads actually embed themselves into the weave of the fabric.

So, I recently decided to buy a small pack of straight pins that have no ball on the head. They just have a tiny little metal head.   What a difference!! I chose the thinner, longer dressmaker pins. They have a great thin shaft and a super nice point that moves through fabric so smoothly.

But … ya know what?  They don’t look like much sitting there cold and shiny on my magnetic plate pin cushion.

Straight pins

As I was sewing the other day, I thought about how similar this is to life.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Sometimes, what looks cold and boring,
is actually very practical and helpful.
And sometimes, what looks colorful and fun …
does a very poor job of handling heat and pressure.
This is true in the physical, emotional and spiritual worlds.
DSC00253

As that fabric slowly moved between the pressure foot and feed dog,
I began to think about how we will often choose what looks better
over choosing what IS better.

For example, I have a beautiful friend who is dating a man who has skin that does not match hers. In today’s world, biracial dating isn’t shocking …. to many. But, to some people, it is still taboo. It’s true; mixing cultures can be tricky. But, so can mixing families, languages, lifestyles, attitudes or even college loyalties. It depends on the couple as to how tricky the melding may be. They may l.o.o.k  like they don’t fit to some people, but they may actually be an excellent team when paired together. 

Sometimes we choose to live in a house or drive car that represents a monetary worth … that we can’t back. Living that life, brings a financial burden and an emotional struggle that will eventually implode upon itself. So, maintaining the l.o.o.k that the car or home offer may actually cause so much damage to us emotionally or financially that we find yourselves exhausted and drained.

Life is full of messy and change.
Every day brings new decisions about how we will live our life.
The question is: will we live according to our own values and desires …..
or will we let others’ likes and dislikes direct our decisions.
Will we choose what looks better … or what IS better
for ourselves and those in our lives? 

Like Danielle LaPorte’s Truthbomb #623 states….

It helps to be clear on exactly what you’re leaving behind.

If you need, ditch those colorful, bright shiny stick pins
and go with some plain, metal straight pins.
Push aside what looks better to others  … for what truly IS better … for you. 

DSC00255

Suburban Barn Raising

Last week, my friend Linda came for a visit. In Single-Parentdom, the chaotic frenzy of being responsible for everything can be quite overwhelming. In a conversation a month or so ago, we were discussing the things on my to-do list
when Linda offered to come help me tackle a few projects.

But,
she didn’t just offer.
She came.

She drove six hours from Tennessee with paint spattered clothing packed in her suitcase.
She came ready to tackle whatever was most pressing.

As I prepared for her coming, I thought about the Amish and their barn-raising practice.   A barn raising is an event where a large group of people come together to build a building (like a home or a barn) in a short period of time. The tv show Extreme Home Makeover does their magic this way. Planners and organizers do a lot of work, but the bulk and brawn of the work is done by the friends, family and community who come together to get the project done. 

In the past, Linda’s family of six has come to help us make a few of our moves. And the children and I have helped them make several of theirs. We have all loaded trailers, scrubbed baseboards, filled cardboard boxes with treasures and stopped to fellowship and sup in-between.

Linda is my “Reading Friend.” Years ago, she was the first person to read to me (at least, as an adult). Others, including Kenneth, have since do so. And I love it. If the words in a book or poem mean so much to someone else that they want to share them, Oh how I want to listen!

I have had one person after another tell me that I should read the book Love Does. And I have shared quotes on Facebook from Bob Goff, the author of Love Does.

So, around the time that Linda and I began to plan her visit, a friend told me that he had a surprise for me. He told me to be watching for it. He didn’t tell me what kind of surprise, so I didn’t know what to expect. Nearing 2:00 and having found no surprise, the thought occurred to me, “Oh! Maybe I should go look in the mailbox!”

My mailbox on the street
And there it was. My friend had sent me a copy of Love Does.

Bob Goff - Love Does

As Linda and I sat at the breakfast table, I asked her to read Chapter 10 while I took my bath and got dressed.
I asked her to read it,
because I could hardly see the words on the page
as I worked through Chapter 10 in tears
just an hour earlier in my room.

Love Does - Bob Goff

The chapter, for me, was about two things:
being a good parent and being a good friend.
What I heard as I read through the chapter
was that parents go out of their way to encourage their children
by doing …. by feeding their spirit and encouraging them to be themselves.
A parent has the ability to make a crazy idea
appear completely attainable for a child
so that the child grows up knowing they should go and do and explore
rather than sit … and fear … and live stunted.
And a friend ?

Chapter 10 - Love Does

Well, Bob tells us that his children were told a story while meeting a Russian leader at the former Communist Party Headquarters. (Really, truly … you need to buy and read the book! Go here to do that. And no, this is not a paid or sponsored endorsement.) Bob writes of this leader,
“He shared his thoughts drenched in sincerity about how a friend knows what you need even before you ask.
He ended his talk with these words that still ring true for our family.
‘You know what it is about someone who makes them a friend?
A friend doesn’t just say things; a friend does.'”

How fitting. That morning, of all mornings, God times it that I am reading a story about encouraging my children to be themselves and about friends who “do” … and Linda is here … encouraging me to be myself and bolstering me in my loving of my children WHILE she is here to “do” … to work.
I couldn’t read the chapter to her.
I had to hand over the book
and leave the room
lest I begin the day with sobs.

The week involved lots of encouraging and lots of doing.
We cleaned and purged and put back together.
We prepared and repaired and fellowshipped.

Linda pressure washed the entire outside of my home … all the way around.
She removed mildew and moss and dirt and gunk and more.

Friendship in action

With a little Clorox and a lot of water pressure,
she single-handedly removed years of build up from the brick and mortar, vinyl and wood that make my home.
Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... I thought so much about this in terms of a spiritual/physical parallel
and how, left without attention, our spirits form a film of life
that can smother us and encourage decay.
It takes time and energy to life gunk-free.
It takes work. It takes doing.

And sometimes, it takes a friend’s help.
before and after - deck pressure washing
Last week, I saw friendship and love in action.
I experienced my own little barn raising right here in my little suburban neighborhood.
And even after she left, she still “did.”

I found this encouraging, loving, uplifting note on my cluttered desk
a full day after she got into her vehicle and drove away.

A sweet note of encouragement

Bob’s words and Linda’s actions remind me to look for chances to make a difference.
Love ….  drives, cleans, fellowships, encourages and, yes, pressure washes.
Love does.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Treasure JackPot!

Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to do a little exploring in the woods with a friend.
We walked down a power line thoroughfare, climbed over barbed wire
and tried our best to stay a little more than arm’s reach from briers both green and brown.

Autumn flowering

While hitch hikers grabbed hold of clothing, we chatted
and I counted blessings ….
for friendships that nourish the soul
sunlight that dances through trees
and the stunning beauty that is creation.

Afternoon woods meandering

Near a gorgeous old barn
that told stories of animals that were invited
and squatters that were not,

Gorgeous old barn

I spied treasure!
Remains ... of an old truck or tractor seat?
Some of it was so well camouflaged that I found myself stepping on it
without seeing it first.
There I stood
tangled in knotted wire that would have thrown me
had I tried to break free in haste.

Can you see them?
And I thought about all the gifts we receive
that we don’t even recognize as such.
We may be standing right on top of them ….
with them pressed under the weight of our life
and not even know they’re there.
Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... And some of us, foolishly
don’t even recognize the tangles and knots as gifts.
For what is treasure to one
often looks like trash to another.
All the messes can be gifts if we look past the oxidation and decay ….
divorce, sickness, lack of wealth,
loss of income, injury, brokenness,
delays, detours and death.
There is something to be learned
and something to be gained
from all …
even the painful.

And in that half-buried, disintegrating pile of rubble,
I could see the value.
So, I ran back out to that long stretch of cleared land.
I grabbed that forlorn box and stuffed it full of glorious booty!

Power line thoroughfare

I gathered up treasures
for some not-yet-conjured-up creation
and walked away with excitement.

Reindeer Moss

As we start another week, inching towards winter
where busy lulls to a slower pace of rest,
I am thankful for a slow walk in the woods
with an old friend
and the uncovering of treasures.

What about you?
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morn?

The Beauty in the Treacherous

It has been several years since I have been camping. Money has been tight. A dependable vehicle has been elusive. And parenting alone means you struggle leaving your children at home. Thankfully, I have older children who help me with the youngest from time to time. And it was actually the youngest who said, “Mom! You need to do something for yourself. Go out. Camp. Go see a movie. Ride your bike. Do SOMETHING for yourself. Go!”

So, that day, about four months ago, I turned notifications back on to a Meet-Up group that I used to play with.
And that same day, I signed up for a camping trip.

Wildflowers along the Panther Creek Trail

I have always wanted to go on an overnight, backpacking camping trip. But, I certainly can’t go alone. And I wouldn’t take my youngest without first getting some experience.

The Meet Up group offered just the experience that I needed.
Panther Creek, Clarkesville, GA

I met with the group about a week before the trip. We sat at the outdoor table downtown on the sidewalk at Soy Noodle and discussed things we needed to pack and things we didn’t, what to expect and the plans for the weekend.

I took notes and paid close attention to lessons like ….
Pack your clothes inside large ziploc bags. It will keep them dry if we get rained upon and will keep sweat from soaking through the backpack into them. I found it also kept them dry from the condensation inside the tent overnight. That was super advice.

They also mentioned that hiking boots were important. I have a fairly new pair that are about three years old, but have been seldom worn. They have not been comfortable.My hiking boots

One of the guys suggested wearing them every chance possible between that night and the trip. I took the to heart and found that each day I wore them, they became more comfortable. Several times on the hike, my ankle turned one way as my leg went another.  I firmly believe that wearing those boots on the trip saved my ankle from a painful  injury. 

Panther Creek Falls, Clarkesville, GA

Packing as light as possible was really good advice.
I really wanted to buy a lighter weight sleeping bag for the trip. Backpacking sleeping bags can weigh as little as under two pounds! But, we already own around five sleeping bags so I couldn’t justify buying another one! The $75. price tag that I found on the CHEAPEST lightweight bag just seemed like too much to pay when we already had a shelf full of similar equipment. In the end, the excellent advice on how to pack light (like wearing the same pants in that I wore out on the second day) was pivotal to keeping my pack light. My already-owned sleeping bag weighed a five full pounds, but I packed light enough that it wasn’t a big deal.


So, we left Augusta around 7am Saturday morning and arrived at Panther Creek Falls in Clarkesville, Georgia around 11:00.

Our hiking crew

We hiked in on a trail around three and a half miles and set up camp beside the creek.

My tent beside Panther Creek, Clarkesville, GA

We arrived and set up around 3:30 in the afternoon and had several hours to explore, eat, and rest before sundown. A few of the others brought along camp stoves, but I chose to eat food that didn’t require cooking. I brought along cashews, granola bars, tuna in a pouch, a small delicious loaf of whole grain bread, cheese and pickles. And I brought powdered coffee creamer for the morning.

Morning coffee

I knew I didn’t want to leave my morning warm-coffee ritual back at home.

My backpack at home

(Looking at my backpack above, you see; a sleep mat at the top, a {brightly colored} pillow in the middle and my tent in the bag at the bottom. The sleeping bag is on the outside of the pack and the ziplocs hold my pjs, food and clothes for the second day. My filtering water bottle is sitting upright at the far left. It weighed around 20-25 lbs)

A little fire to keep us warm after sundown

After we arrived, the trip coordinator and our guide, got a great fire going. We sat around talking until I finally wilted and headed into my tent to snuggle up and rejuvenate for the next day.

DSC09724

Surprisingly, though we were at least around 45 degrees that night, I didn’t really get cold. The mat underneath me blocked the cold air from coming into my sleeping bag. I wore double socks and flannel with a hoodie to sleep. I also brought along a hat. While I did find that I woke up several times in the night, I stayed warm and toasty. Several of the guys slept in hammocks and weren’t as fortunate.

One of the only photos that proves that I actually went on this trip - a tent selfieAs the sun crested up over the hillside behind us, it slowly brought warmth back into the valley. It was a beautiful sight to watch it creep down the mountainside and illuminate the trees and then the creek. Sun coming up over the ravine

I really expected to have more trouble keeping up. The men were all in their mid-forties making Sandra and I were the oldest in the group. I was sore Sunday morning, but all the guys were stiff, too, so I felt a bit proud that I hung in with them well.

Andre and I often brought up the rear.  He stopped to talk to every passerby.

Andre talking to a group

And I took photos while he chatted.

Beautiful mushroom

We made a perfect caboose combination.
Panther Creek Trail

As we walked, one thing I thought about was how narrow  … and even treacherous  …. the path was along much of the way.

Panther Creek Hiking Trail
While there was a reprieve from time to time
with nice wide walking space

Panther Creek Hiking Trail, Clarkesville, GA
that was comfortable and easy,

Panther Creek Trail along Panther Creek in Clarkesville, GA

much of the trail teetered narrowly on a ledge.

Looking down from the trail
A stumble, trip or mis-step could easily land you 20-50 feet (or more) below.

And what stood out to me was how rooty we found the trail.
It is an obviously heavily traveled path.
While the exposed tree roots offer great risk of being stumbling blocks …

Roots along the trail

they also offered a foothold.
Often, I found myself strategically placing my feet between the roots
and using them to steady my next step,
especially when climbing
and on the more narrow sections of the trail.
So, in truth, they were a double-edged sword.

Climbing

There were times when walking across smooth rocks
that offered no resistance and often appeared  slick and polished
felt much more risky and uncertain
than when you once again found yourself
with those uneven, tricky roots underfoot.

So, in reality ….

Exposed  roots COULD be a stumbling block to cause you to trip …..
or  provide a reliable stepping stone to your next, more steady position. 

In reality, how you viewed those roots
had to do with your personal perspective.
And I thought about how true this is in our lives.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

This is a spiritual/physical parallel
of how we view life’s difficulties.
As the path of life turns and dips
with the valleys and hills that unfold before us,
we will find things happen that we can view as a hindrance
or stepping blocks
to whatever comes next.
We can be totally surprised by the new distraction or difficulty.
We can bellyache and be frustrated that there is a tangled, mess in life in front of us.
OR  … we can expect the unexpected.
We can know that life is going to happen and it won’t always be easy.
And we can use those tangled roots in our path to give us better footing
as we strengthen our legs,
take a deep breath
and get stronger with each “next step.”

And those messy roots can take absolutely any shape or form …  like a flat tire, a lost library book, a bounced check, being abandoned in a relationship, a car wreck, a broken arm, a burned dinner, a disgruntled friendship, a spilled cup of coffee on a new bedspread, a broken lawnmower, a wayward son, a positive diagnosis, a speeding ticket, a split seam in a dress while you’re away from home, a broken phone screen, a sentence taken out of context and used against you in your absence, a heart attack, a lost job, a revoked license, a tree limb through your roof, an angry daughter, a sideswiped plan, a smooth-talking friend who turns out to be a Sociopath, a lost job, weeds in your grass, an unanswered prayer, a computer crash, a tax hike to take more of your earned money, cobwebs that are out of reach, a setback in recovery, a hole worn in your favorite shoes, a cracked window pane, a lost pet,  ….
Truly ….  the list goes on and on.

The question isn’t whether these things will happen to us,
the question is when … and which ones.
But more importantly, how will we handle them?
Will we become angry and frustrated because these “roots” are in our path
or will be see them as part of the obstacle course of life
that allows us opportunity to grow, increase in agility and balance
and move on to the next thing, stronger than before.Panther Creek, Georgia

I see it all as an adventure.
Yes, I become weary …
but life involves people … and people are messy.
We’re all broken.
We’re all hurting.
And with the right perspective, life offers us opportunity
to love on each other
offer a helping hand
and continue moving … getting stronger as we travel.

Autumn color along Panther Creek Trail

The hike was set in a weekend of perfect weather.
The trail offered beautiful explosions of autumn color
among the still green hills.
And as always, the life lessons God shows me along the way
are the most precious of all the gifts involved.


Fall color - Maple Leaf

Transfer of Weight

So, this was yesterday morning. Rain was imminent.

Augusta Rain

We haven’t seen much rain of late.
And I knew that a “quick fix” on my roof for a very small hole …
had recently been removed by wind.
So, I knew I had to get up on the roof
before the heavens opened and the world was drenched.

 

A hole in my roof

I’m really not afraid of heights.
But, there is something about being on a slanted surface
15-20 feet above the ground
walking on pine needles, sticks and Sweet Gum balls
with no rail
that leaves me nervous.

On my roof again

But, if I don’t get up there … who will?
James is a big help from time to time, but
I’ve said before … I don’t think it’s his sole responsibility
to care for everything “manly” or “dangerous” that needs to be done
to keep this house healthy. This is my house and the responsibility is mine.

A long way down

So, I brave this aluminum scaffold
leaving stable, steady ground
and move to a slanted, higher surface.

And my heart races.

Here’s the thing: I can fairly easily get up onto the roof.
My struggle is coming back down.

I can step backwards towards the edge of the roof.
I can flip my leg over the ladder.
But, the hard part is

t.r.a.n.s.f.e.r.r.i.n.g my weight from the roof to the ladder rung. 

Transfer weight from the roof to the ladder rung

As I stood there yesterday in the morning cool with clouds overhead and impending rain, I shifted my weight from the roof to the rung, back to the roof, back to the rung. I just couldn’t commit to transferring all of my weight onto the ladder.
God reminded my heart that this is a trust issue.
This is a physical snapshot of my spiritual photo album.
This is the tug-of-war of life.
Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

But, Lord! The ladder could tip!
The roof is high!
The fall would be hard!
I can’t afford to break a leg or shoulder!

In the end, I decided the only way I could safely get down was if I knew the ladder was braced.

So, I did this …
several times ….Calling Glory for help!

… and she didn’t answer.

Then I decided to use the broom handle as a tool. I began banging on the sliding glass door to The Party Room where Glory was sleeping. After some persistence, she woke up and came out to help me.

She wasn’t angry. She wasn’t impatient. She understood. And she stood there for the few minutes that it took me to move to the edge of the roof, flip my leg over that tall, aluminum ladder, transfer my weight from roof-to-rung and work my way down to the ground.

I thought about the difference it made
with her standing there holding that ladder still …
bracing it on the edge of the roof so it wouldn’t tip to the right
or fall to the left
taking me down like a rag-doll with it.
Her presence … her bracing … her steadying  .. made all the difference
for my insecure feet … my trembling soul.

And that was the reminder for me.
God is there. He braces the ladder. He steadies the scaffold.
He says, “transfer your weight from the scary place up high
that has no rail and is scattered with slippery fodder
to the ladder that will guide you back to solid ground.”

Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  I know that I can trust Him. He won’t save me from every harm, but He will calm my soul as I walk. He won’t keep me from every calamity, but He will steady me as I travel. He will brace the ladder that is life. He can be trusted.

He reminded me yesterday morning to transfer my weight … and trust … to Him.

Deserving Forgiveness

Over 20 years ago, I went through a program at my church that taught a systematic way to tell people about God. We learned how to share in a way that was personal and included illustrations and specific verses from scripture.

One of the illustrations that made a tremendous impact on me was this one:

Wrapped gift - plain brown paper & personalized, layered fabric

If I offered you a gift, you would have to
acknowledge the gift’s presence,
reach out your open hands,
transfer that package from the giver to yourself
and then unwrap it and accept it as yours
in order to truly receive it as a gift.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Isn’t that beautiful?
Had you ever thought of receiving a gift
in such an intricate, personal way?

 

This illustrates the steps we must go through to accept the gift of Christ as our Savior
and with it, His forgiveness.

Recently, a complete stranger who doesn’t know me at all
quoted words from one of my blogposts. He pointed out in conversation
that I had written a story about Joy and forgiveness. He said that I mentioned that some people “do not deserve to be forgiven.” 

I was not given a post reference and I couldn’t easily find it through my blog’s search tool. This statement just stabbed at my gut. Had I REALLY said that? It doesn’t SOUND like something that I would say in conversation or writing … at least not in the way and context that it was thrown at me. I believe we should all strive to forgive others when they hurt us, whether they ask for forgiveness or not.

I spent several days mulling over this thought
and began to think more about forgiveness
what it looks like
who deserves it
and when we should offer it.

I came back to the blog … and finally found my words here. 

Then it all made sense. That line is straight off the screen.
But, oh how different it looked when it was twisted with an attitude in which it was not written.
Oh, yes! Those words were correct … but the heart of how they were written was misconstrued by the reader.

Wrapped gift - plain brown paper & personalized, layered fabric

None of us d.e.s.e.r.v.e.s forgiveness.
I don’t deserve forgiveness for any transgression that I have committed
any more than you deserve forgiveness for any pain that you have unleashed.
We don’t deserve forgiveness for
lying, cheating, murder, stealing or breaking a vow.
Forgiveness is not something we deserve.
Nor can we earn forgiveness.
No. Forgiveness is a gift that we offer to heal relationships.
It is a gift that can take time to package and prepare.
It is a gift that can be very difficult to release into the receiver’s grasp.
And there are times, when the recipient does not even WANT the gift.
By refusing forgiveness, they continue to cry “victim” or claim rejection.
But …. you nor I can FORCE them to accept forgiveness .. and healing.

But, always, in giving the gift of forgiveness
we are the ones who receive the greatest blessing.

None of us “deserve” forgiveness
which is all the more reason that I do my best to offer it quickly
and actively encourage my children
to offer it in spite of themselves
and in spite of the actions of the offender.