Ultimate Joy

Archive for May 2011

The solemnity of the occasion slaughtered any thoughts that I’d rather be playing.  It drowned out the heat and how uncomfortable I felt in my Girl Scout uniform.  As a ten year old child, I felt, probably for the first time in my life, patriotic.  It infuses me to this day.  On future Memorial Days, I silently thank my Girl Scout leader who took a small group of us to a local cemetery for their Memorial Day observance.

The ceremony touched me so deeply its memory has not faded.  I can still hear the chaplain’s voice proclaiming because of these brave men, we were free.  Free to disagree with the government, free from tyranny, and probably more important to a ten year old, free to fulfill our dreams by growing up to be who ever we wanted to be.

I remember looking up into the trees to see the sunlight’s glint dancing through the leaves.  At the same time, I wondered what it was like to pack your belongings into a canvas bag leaving behind family and friends to go fight a war.  Then never coming back to realize your life’s dreams.

Mostly I recall taking note of the soldiers’ pride and sense of duty in honoring their fallen comrades.  Taps played mournfully in the background.  This was followed by the traditional 21-gun salute.  Thundering, poignant and sad.  Then silence.  I’ll never know what everyone else was thinking during that silence, but I was lost in the thought of how truly precious life really is.  Which to this day, is amazing to me because as a fifth grader, you are filled with tangled emotions and life seems so complicated. Thinking about life and death seems so out of character for someone so young.

But later, when I became a Christian, I learned my thoughts that day echoed how God feels.  Life is so very precious.  And I no longer need a 21-gun salute to awaken that thought in me.  There are pages upon pages of places where the Bible says this is true:

{Psalm 103:11}   You’re loved more than you know, more than you see, more than you’ve even dared to dream.

{Jeremiah 29:11} No matter how it may feel, you’ve got a purpose and God’s got a plan.

{Genesis 1:31}  We only get one YOU and what you have to offer the world is good. 

{Romans 8:28}  Whatever has happened this week, it’s going to be okay and you are too.

So as you go about celebrating your Memorial Day with a barbeque, parade or family dinner, listen hard to what your heart is saying about those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Take a moment and thank God for their sacrifice and for our country.

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My dream of moving to California is taking a little longer and the way is much harder that I ever imagined. If it were up to me, my car would be packed already and heading west.  Or better still, I’d be writing this from California.

When the dream seems distant, I’ve sat down and cried – big drippy tears.  And with great frustration, I’ve said, “I thought I could do this.  Why is it so hard?

What about you? I don’t know if your car broke down and your kids got sick. I don’t know if you got that job you wanted or found that inspiration you were looking for. I don’t know if someone hugged you tight or helped you cook dinner.

I don’t know if you had long talks with family or long walks with your dog. I don’t know if you went running, painting, baking or commuting. I don’t know if you ended the week giddy happy, dog tired or heart broken.

If I have learned one thing about my California dreams, it is this:  Never sit down and say, “I thought I could do this.”

You can.  You can do this!

Get back up.  Stand tall.

Look behind you and see how far you’ve come.

Look ahead and remember where you’re going.

Look next to you and see Who’s with you. Then take that step.

Just a small one.

Just the next one.

Then another.

That’s all it takes.

Not perfection. Just perseverance.

Not speed. Just stubborness.

You’re doing well. You’re going to make it.

You’ve got more strength than you know, and we’re cheering with Him, “Go, go, go!”

Pizza

Posted on: May 15, 2011

I have a huge dream…to move to California.  However, finding a job in this economy – especially in California – has been slow going.  Unfortunately, I’m still located in the Land of Lincoln.

Parts of the upper Midwest I will never miss – cold, snow and ice – but there are others I leave behind with great trauma.  Even on that future day driving my car towards my new life out west, I’ll be disappointed to leave behind so many wonderful things unique to the Midwest.

Topping the list is pizza – not just any pizza, but thick gooey Chicago-style pizza loaded with cheese, flavored with rich tomato sauce, oregano and nothing else.  You’re probably thinking, “What’s wrong with this gal?  She won’t miss her friends, her church, the vibrant city of Chicago?”  Oh, I’ll miss every one of those things, and more! But Chicago-style pizza will always hold a special place in my heart, or should I make that stomach? (Thank heavens for overnight delivery!)

The point isn’t what I’ll miss, but that I’m currently in the astonishing place to savor moments that matter. Preparing myself mentally for leaving means I now place special importance on things that often rush by in the busyness of life.  Like watching lightning bugs, enjoying the smell of freshly-mowed grass, the hushed silence of a winter’s snowfall.

These are the stirringly beautiful things I want to take away from my life here.  More importantly, I don’t want you to miss those things in your life.  The rich tapestry of events that cause you to realize what you might be taking for granted or missing entirely.

I want you to stop.  To feel, smell and acknowledge the gifts God puts out for you every day – How every single day, He makes the sun rise from its slumber to warm you, and in the dark of night to see and feel the magnitude of the heavens, the stars and the moon.

I want you to be fully awake to your blessings and not miss a moment.  Take them in and savor them in your senses as if you might lose them tomorrow.

Savor your life and your blessings.  And thank our God for the gift of it all.

That’s the best memory of the Midwest that I could take with me…to know that my life has taught you something about your own.

As an encouragement to others, please leave a comment about what you savored today that you might have missed!

Like many Americans, I woke up at an ungodly hour to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton.  You have to admit, the Brits have a way with ceremony – the beauty of the wedding chapel, the women’s hats, the regal carriages, and of course, the fairytale story of a woman, a commoner at that, finding true love in the arms of her prince.  

The only thing that was missing as Prince William and Princess Kate sped away from Buckingham Palace in their gorgeous Astin-Martin was the standard, Hollywood ending:  Fade to Black: “And they lived happily ever after.”   THE END. 

But real life often doesn’t work that way. We hope and dream but things don’t always turn out like we plan. We face trials, hard times, and we ask, “God, where are you in this story?”

He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in THE END it might go well with you. Deuteronomy 8:16

God’s path to “happily ever after”–to all going well with us–looks different than ours. But in all of it we can trust that He has our good in mind, that He knows where the story is going, that He will love us and keep us every step of the way.

Easy? Nope. But we aren’t all supposed to be Cinderella at the ball.  Rather we’re supposed to be the type of people that can face the cruel stepsisters and all that work without breaking.  That’s where character is built.

Something we do with a smile on our face the entire time? Not unless you’re as unconscious as Sleeping Beauty.  But adversity builds integrity into our hearts and makes us yearn more and more for our dashing Prince.

Worth it? Oh, yes, because one day our Prince will come.  And He will rescue us from all that is evil in this world.

Listen, sweet friend, as I take your heart by the hand and whisper these words…

Your story has a good ending. And it’s not over yet.