I Didn’t Intend to Buy a Pizza Today…

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This morning, on the 13th anniversary of 9/11, after a semi-long evening of caregiving the night before, I woke up without the alarm clock. The time showed it was minutes before the first plane hit the World Trade Center all those 13 years ago… I thought about it and said a prayer, and then drifted off to sleep for a few more minutes. When I woke up again, the clock read “9:11″…

After a morning and afternoon of watching news programs and remembering and crying all these years later, I realized this will stay with me forever, as it should for all of us…

Thirteen years ago, I had just gotten back from a month-long writing intensive in L.A. I woke up that day to get ready for grad classes, and turned the television on to see the beginning of the horror. My mom called me from work to tell me what had happened. We and everyone else were in shock. How could this kind of evil happen here in our very own country?

This evening, after running down the street to get my mom a smoothie on this hot day, I doubled back after seeing a little bird run across the hot pavement with his mouth wide open. I wasn’t sure if he was headed for food or if he was so hot he needed a drink of water. I tried to find him, but couldn’t. I tried to tell myself that he was one of the three starlings now finding food in the grass nearby.

As I started to leave, I noticed a sign with a good deal for a pizza. I didn’t intend to buy a pizza today, but I went with that leading.

Right after ordering, an elderly gentleman walked in and ordered that good deal too. We waited together, talking for 10 minutes. He had a kind heart and a slight stutter. He mentioned that he couldn’t believe it was 9/11 already again, and how much evil was in the world, and how great our country is. He talked about growing up with many siblings and that he was the 12th of 13 children. He asked if I had children, and then said he had one son … but that his son went Home to Heaven 12 weeks ago, after developing pneumonia after surgery… He talked about how his son loved music, loved to play music, and how he’s up there now making beautiful music with the Lord and the angels…

And then my pizza was ready. I started to talk more, but could tell he needed a break after he said, “You enjoy that pizza!” with a bright smile and misty eyes. We said good-bye and God bless you, and I left as his pizza was about ready.

Life keeps going…

Some of us are here for just a short time, some are here for decades… And we all leave in different ways…

That day 13 years ago, so many lost their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, teachers, mentors… Roles ended, memories started… New York, D.C., Pennsylvania…

I know some people say we should just move on… That, since it was 13 years ago, the best way to honor the ones who were killed would be to live life to the fullest today.

On my walk, I saw people out running, kids playing baseball, people on their way home or to work or out to eat or the movies… And all under a brilliant, colorful sky with dark clouds too…

Those of us who are left have so much to be grateful for…

We’ll all have to leave sometime; our stay here is not forever…

Time is precious…

One of the stories I heard today was about a woman who was trapped in one of the elevators in the Twin Towers. She was rescued but died in the ambulance. She said she had an out-of-body experience and saw the workers, felt the peace, and was taken to Heaven, where she saw her grandparents and Jesus — and that Jesus told her she still had work to do on Earth, and she then went back into her body.

And then there was the story about finding the cross in the middle of the rubble… A sign of hope…

I want to work hard to turn my dreams/goals into reality here. Hopefully, by the time it’s my turn to leave, I’ll have accomplished my life’s mission.

And I hope no one ever forgets what happened that day. I don’t mean just having the knowledge that it happened, but that, in the middle of living life to the fullest every September 11, we’d all have a really strong sense of what occurred.

If we don’t, we should stop for a while and really remember… It’s hard. It’s gut-wrenching. But it’s necessary.

I’ll never forget. And I don’t want to forget.

The Cicada’s Shell

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I found this on the pear tree. A shell left behind from the cicada’s old life. We’re all inside “shells,” waiting to emerge into something greater. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to hang on to everything that’s already here. Not fond of change. But we’re all changing. So we can either move forward and fly into our dreams and goals, or we can drag our heels and stand beside old shells…wishing we could go back inside, wishing everything could stay the same.

(P.S. — Here’s a neat time-lapse video of a cicada shedding its skin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4TiY1Ji5Zk)

God Gave Me Flowers!

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On Facebook, once in a while you’ll catch posts from friends whose husbands/boyfriends sent them flowers. I love that! Such lovely expressions of devotion…

Well, last Sunday, after the neat experience finding that Scripture card (see previous blog post), I had on my list to pick up some marigolds and begonias at the garden center.

On the way though, I stopped by the local hardware store. A clerk asked me, “Would you like some flowers?”

“Flowers are on today’s list!” I told him.

And then he showed me an almost-empty section with five little raggedy plants sitting in their plastic pots. A sign with them had “FREE!!” marked across the sale price.

“This is all we have left,” he said. “They’re not in the best shape, so we’re giving them away. Do you want them?”

I have a heart for raggedy plants (and animals!). “Sure! Thanks! What are they?” (Only one sported a flower.)

“All but one are marigolds.”

And that made me smile.

Thank you, my Love, for the flowers you gave me!

P.S. — Isn’t it something that sometimes when God gives us a gift, He wants us to nurture it until it’s strong and beautiful to behold? (Oh! And I bought the begonias at half price with coupons at the garden center.)

Salty Words…

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Last Sunday morning, I found this little Scripture card in my room. I should say, I almost stepped on it. There it was…in my path, perfectly centered, right-side up, staring at me. I picked it up and read, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

Just the previous night, I’d been talking to Him about my language—that I want to tame mine, because sometimes it can be just a little too salty… It’s not an everyday occurrence, and everybody has “stuff,” right? But I want to be better than that. I don’t want the first thing to come out of my mouth—when, for example, an infuriating news story airs—to be a curse word. It’s too easy.

Yeah, sometimes a good curse word just adds a little punch to the air and lets you at least release some pent-up frustration in a quick way. I once had a poetry professor tell us that the reason we curse is because of the beginning and ending sounds of those words, and that regular ol’ words like “chair” just don’t have the same effect. Hmm… Interesting, but not sure I believe that entirely. One thing I don’t do is add His name to the other words. I have done that in the past, but it didn’t sit right in my spirit; it grieved His Holy Spirit… And that’s something I never want to do again.

And here we all are. Human beings on this planet that’s in chaos in so many ways. I don’t want to add anymore chaos on any level, on any personal level. When I hear those horrendous news stories playing on the television and radio and computer that you can find 24/7, I want my first reaction to be, “Jesus!” Not as an expletive. But as a prayer. I want any type of friction to be a catapult to prayer. I choose to place my “self” under His ways—not to be “better than” anyone else or to be “holier than thou” or to be any other “thing” that people might label you as being for wanting to improve your inner life. (Whew!) Yes, I want to tame my tongue, and thereby create another type of inner peace, a peace that does go way past comprehension, that makes you feel that though the tumult in the world is spinning around you, it’s not affecting your inner person—that if you really get quiet and listen, when you’re really at peace, you can hear Him, you can hear His still small voice, the Prince of Peace…

Now, I know going on and on about salty words might sound ridiculous to some; after all, they’re just words. Right? Or wrong? Words are powerful. Words we think, words we speak… I want to be better than the easy choices I sometimes make with my words. I want my will to master my own “self” to be stronger than what’s easy. I want to be an expert at using my words wisely, spoken or written.

It’s neat when God gives you encouragement and signs along the way, helping you grow as a human being. That little Scripture card, by the way, was a complete surprise and really got my attention. It seemed to appear from out of the blue. I later realized that when spring-cleaning, I’d placed some papers together on a table, and some of those cards were mixed in with those papers… Maybe one was on the edge and, when I walked by, that card fell off and onto the floor. Or maybe God had one of His angels to handpick that card out and perfectly position it for me to find. Either way, it was a gift and a reminder that He cares…and longs to be active in our lives and to cheer us on with encouragement and instruction.

And isn’t that something? A God who longs to be active in our lives… If every person on the planet would choose to listen in peace and to act in peace, soon the words spoken would be of peace and hearts would be transformed in the process…all around the world…

Happy Independence Day!

I absolutely love this holiday… And we should never take lightly what our Founding Fathers — and those men and women since — fought and died for… No, as history shows, we’re not perfect. But we’re still growing… As long as we don’t grow away from what our founders intended, we’ll get stronger. I still have hope!

Here’s a quote you might like to consider:

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress.

If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.

If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature…

If the next centennial does not find us a great nation…it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

Congressman (later, President) James Garfield
July 4, 1876

Have a beautiful Fourth of July, everyone!

“See You In Forever!”

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This past Friday I attended another funeral. This one was to say good-bye to the father of one of my childhood friends.

Funerals are difficult. You hurt for the people left behind; you hurt for the one who’s left, knowing their presence will be missed, that we’re all connected, and that when one of us is gone, something seems off kilter. Maybe, in the first place, because we were never supposed to die. Yes, I believe what Scripture says. It all makes sense when you take it all in — not just parts you pick and choose, but the whole picture, as much as we have of it on this side of life…

The morning seemed a little ominous at first, as there was a chance of rain. But while under the tent at the graveside, the partially overcast sky on this hot summer day was welcomed, and there was an unexpected refreshingly cool breeze during the service…

The pastor was amazing. A man probably in close to 80, he had a kind heart and warm smile. And when he spoke about God, you knew he knew Him, not just about Him. As he shared Psalm 23 and other passages, he didn’t read them; he knew them by heart, and he said them just the way you would imagine Jesus saying them.

He also reminded us that death is not the end, and to remember the good times, the happy memories. It’s always comforting to remember that these bodies of ours are just our vehicles for getting around on this planet. Won’t it be something to wander around Heaven someday…when we’re not restricted by gravity and time and boundaries of all sorts… My friend’s father is having the time of his life right now — and, along with Jesus, I’m sure his son met him at the gates and they had a beautiful reunion… I can just imagine it… And all the hurts and scars from this life melted away in an instant. Pure joy. Pure peace. Pure beauty.

At the end of the service, after the Naval tribute and the folding of the flag, after the prayers and blessings, after talking with the family, I saw the pastor start to walk away, and saw him brush away a tear. I got to talk to him for a bit, and as we parted, he reminded me that I was his sister in Christ.

“See you in Forever,” he said, and then repeated that with a bright smile and a wave.

Yes… See you in Forever… I love that. Heaven is Forever…

I attached a picture of a statue of Jesus that was near the grave of my friend’s brother. It kind of looks like He’s parting the stormy sky, separating the dark clouds from the bright blue sky. He does that for us, doesn’t He? He separates the death and casts it far away…forever…

By the way, as the day went on, the sun came out more and more, until those clouds were completely gone… I love when He does that…especially on days like that Friday.

Before You See It…

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Every day has its own kind of beauty and magic…

I’ve been spending most of my spare time outside lately — trimming hedges, raking pine straw, picking up broken branches, weeding the garden, transplanting the rosemary and some flowers, fixing up the patio for when Mom can come back out again, and digging up dirt for the vegetable garden. I love this whole process, and spring is my favorite time of year!

But Thursday’s beauty and magic was really woven in wonderfully… So many neat surprises!

In the middle of everyday life, with everyday challenges and irritations (such as a bottle of bleach leaking onto the utility room floor…), Thursday made me smile. On a quick run to the grocery store, just as I got out of my car, a gust of wind blew a grocery cart right in front of me, with the handle facing my way, and I literally just grabbed onto it and kept walking. And more ideas for a story I’m working on hit me in the checkout line. And while looking for a card at the Dollar Store, a woman with a German accent started talking to me — and so I was able to use my German and have a nice little conversation (“little” because my vocabulary isn’t as big as it used to be — but this exchange reminded me how much I love languages, so should brush up on these skills…).

Along the way, as I ran quick errands, there were also people the Lord seemed to “highlight” for prayer, for a word of encouragement… The Holy Spirit is so sensitive to everyone’s need…

And when I returned to work in the garden, a ladybug stayed on my arm for a while, the honeysuckle bush was brilliant, and a couple of ducks walked up on the patio to visit (yes, I gave them bread and water — and, yes…they returned the next day, and brought a friend with them).

Now, some might say, “There’s nothing beautiful nor magical about any of that.” And they’d be wrong.

Negativity grates on my nerves probably more than anything. Complainers and whiners and glass-half-empty speakers: Open up your eyes! The beauty and magic is there… Every single day… No matter where you live, what circumstances you’re in, make it a practice to see the beauty and magic… As you do, your world will grow bigger… You’ll be able to lift your heads, knowing that the Lord is the one that lifts them to see this awesome world He’s created… Sift through the ugliness that’s there, and let your new light, your new awareness of His ways and creation, push away the heaviness…. Pretty soon, you’ll step up out of despair, out of negativity, out of feelings of hopelessness, and into all the beauty and “magic” He has for you…

But you have to recognize it first…before you see it…

Just like the Holy Spirit… You have to recognize Him first, learn of Him, breathe of Him, before you truly start to see Him in the middle of everything…even in the middle of a grocery cart pushed into your path by a gust of wind…