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Christmas has come and gone--yet one more time. It now is time to take down all the trimmings and decorations. What would it look like to still have your house decorated from top to bottom when the New Year rolls around--Why perhaps even Valentine's Day might see not only red, but also green decorations with a side of tinsel thrown in. Somewhere along the line, SOMEONE started this silly notion you would have bad luck if the New Year saw you with Christmas decorations still adorning your abode. I am CERTAIN it was some OCD sufferer who needed all things put back in order ASAP! I begin the process EVERY TIME with the distinct intent of doing one room at a time. An orderly process with boxes labeled and stored as I go. Rooms cleaned from top to bottom and all restored to their previous state. This worked well for the first container, but then I am driven with the need to have it all down at the same time. It soon becomes a quest to get it ALL down, in a box, and put away---out of sight for another year! This lead to a house stripped bare of all decorations--Christmas or generic --it's all put away. AND the slate is as blank as the first day I moved in. It is now up to me what I put out for as a statement of who I am and what I like. The question becomes, will I put everything back exactly like it was--or will I change it all--or keep some--lose some? There is a new beginning courtesy of Christmas being over and what do I intend to do with that opportunity for difference? Will I make improvements--try the untried--or will I continue in the rut which I have grown accustomed?
So it is with the new calendar. I have had my new calendar in hand for a while and have already begun filling in the slots. The question becomes--Do I intend to live life exactly as I did last year---or will I make some needed changes? Is there not room for improvement and will some change not be a good thing? When given the opportunity will I keep more of the same or assess/evaluate and make needed changes?
The things that roll around in my head--when taking down the tree!
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Hero and I are home from our Texas Christmas travels. It seems every year after Christmas, I begin a new project of some sort. This year I came home and decided Hero would be this year's agenda. You do remember Dr. Vet said he should not gain any more weight? In my eyes, exercise is always the answer to weight problems. After consulting my two doggie experts and hiking buddies, they assured me he could walk much longer distances than I was giving him the opportunity. Sucker that I am, I thought he would give out with his short little legs and pick him up and carry him. MORE THAN ONCE, I have had someone stop as they passed me carrying him and ask, "Who's walking who?" FUNNY!
SO the first day home, I take Hero to the beautiful Lincoln Parish Park for a little walk in the woods. I LOVE-LOVE the beautiful parish park and knew he would enjoy a walk in the woods. We started out with him pulling me in an effort to smell every blade of grass, leaf, twig, or whatever else scent he was picking up. He was getting his exercise and I was enjoying the great outdoors in the lower 30 degree temperatures.
AND THEN, things began going downhill. The Wonder Dog became distracted when he caught the scent of another dog's poop. He would pull me over to the pile and stand there and want to sniff and sniff. WHAT is so attractive and alluring about another dog's waste pile? More than once I had to pull him away and get him back on track again.
As if--THAT wasn't bad enough, he then caught a whiff of something further down the trail that he proceeded to want to roll around in----SOMETHING DEAD-DECAYING--the stink would have gagged a maggot! SO basically as long as Hero had his eyes on the trail, we were doing great! It was when he caught the scent of a pile of poop or the stench of rotting flesh that we were in trouble and lost our way. The stink of poop and death are powerful aphrodisiacs for many. A dog's lesson in the downfall of mankind. As long as we have our eyes on the trail God has placed before us, we are headed in the right direction. It is when we get distracted by man's waste and decay that we get into trouble. ANOTHER simple lesson by The Wonder Dog! By the way, he made it over two miles and slept like a baby once we got home. The walks in the park could be just the thing to slim the chubby Hero---if I can only keep him on the path!
Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path
What if Mary had insisted they wait until the baby had arrived before leaving on their trip to Bethlehem?
What if Joseph owned a faster donkey, and they beat the crowds and found a place to stay in the inn?
What if the shepherds had fallen asleep and missed the angelic visit? What if their sheep had strayed and they were searching in the hills and caves?
What if a storm had blown in and the skies were covered with clouds and there were no stars--even the brightest was not visible for The Wise Men to follow?
We serve not a God of chance, but a God of certainties. It happened exactly the way it had been foretold hundreds of years before. When God is in the midst of our plans---there is no need to be concerned over the What If's. His plan will come to fruition--exactly as He has promised. Exactly as it did that first Christmas night all those years ago.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
I recently saw the local community theater group's performance of "A Christmas Carol." That wonderful Dickens's tale which explores the tenses of Christmas. It was a great performance and the story never grows old.
Pondering the visit of the three ghosts--past, present, and future, I was drawn back to those wonderful days of English classes. Did you realize there are actually twelve tenses? Once you get past the three most basic---I plead lost. And then there was that nasty little fellow---PAST PARTICIPLE the form of a verb, typically ending in -ed in English, that is used in forming perfect and passive tenses and sometimes as an adjective I put those silly past participles in the same basket I placed the dangling participles. The basket labeled--WHY DOES IT MATTER? Well I am off the subject--SORRY! Let me reign myself back in and pointed in the right direction. As I thought about those ghosts visiting Scrooge that Christmas Eve, it gave pause to all the Christmases I have been blessed to experience.
Here is the family picture from last year. I walked down memory lane from my earliest memories with my family of origin to my own family. So many wonderful memories, from my earliest thoughts of Santa, the fun of being Santa, and now the joy of seeing the grands enjoy a visit by the jolly old elf. There are forever holes in Christmas from those who have gone before us, but Christmas and the evolving traditions hold a special place in my heart.
Christmas present includes a trip and a couple of stops in Texas this year. One son is with his fiancee's family in Chicago, and we will not all be together. As our families grow and begin families of their own, Christmas takes on a different look. I have come to view Christmas not as a day, but instead a season. As long as there is a visit during the season, it is Christmas.
And that unknown ghost of Christmas Future is an eye opening reminder there is no guarantee of the next Christmas. In fact, until the day is here, we have no certainty of the one less than a week away. No one knows the number of days we have here on this earth. Taking this to heart and making the most of what we do have is the only answer. Christmas as viewed by Scrooge is time dependent. Either you had one, you're having one, or next year promises another one. What if I told you, Christmas is like God---and present in all eternity? Christmas and the birth of Christ is not dependent upon a day, a year, a century--it is eternal. Before God placed the earth in its orbit, the birth of our Savior was known to our all wise God. Christmas and Easter are eternal events and not bound by man's calendar. Jesus is eternal. What if I told you every day we should celebrate Christmas, because Jesus was born to fulfill the prophecy of old? My thoughts only--but somehow it makes sense.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
The secular world has colored Christmas for us by tradition. Our world is filled with Christmas music before Thanksgiving has even been celebrated. Bing Crosby made famous, "White Christmas", and many others have crooned the tune over the years. "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas," echoes in our ears for weeks before the day arrives. Here in Louisiana, our Christmas is usually colored bright and sunny or cold and dreary---but almost never white. I remember maybe two white Christmas celebrations in my long life. Somehow we have come to associate snow with Christmas. How must those who live on a tropical island feel? One of my favorite Christmas advertisements gives us a glimpse of Christmas in paradise. Christmas can also be colored by green and red. The long tradition of green Christmas trees, boughs of holly with bright red berries are the fore-runners of this tradition. Of course the silver and gold of the tinsel around the tree, and the brightly colored lights hanging from the branches have all given color to Christmas. Long ago, candles were placed on the tree branches--thus the tradition of the white like the star the Wise Men followed from afar.
We all know Santa wears red and white and the elves a touch of green. Rudolph has a nose so red it glows. Mr. Grinch is a sickly green, and "A Wonderful Life" was all black and white. The Muppets are more colors than the Crayola Giant Box of Fun. Color in every tint and hue have become a huge part of Christmas as we know it today.
One of the most famous secular Christmas songs is "Blue Christmas" although it has been sung by many, my favorite rendition is by the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley.
The Blue Christmas Elvis is referring to is not one with blue decorations in abundance, but instead a sad Christmas. "I'll have a Blue Christmas without you." Christmas is blue for far more than we realize. The first Christmas was a different story. There was some color--the donkey was a dull brown or gray, the road and floor of the stable the color of dirt, the cattle were the color of all cows in the field--brown, black or white, yellow was the hay--and the sheep were a dirty white for after all they grazed in the hills. The predominate color--was the lack of color--the black of night. The star in the east and the angels announcing the birth blended in nicely with the twinkling stars in the night sky. The colors that first Christmas night were a far cry from the wonderland of bright color we associate with Christmas today. Yet from that dark night with very little light, the greatest of Christmas gifts was born. A baby--born into a dark world in need a a great savior. The Prince of Peace was born to give us all the Light of Hope---on that first Christmas Night.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
We all have shared great laughs over the perils and advantages of aging this week. I will leave this series of posts with this final post on a more serious note. Although I love to laugh, I also spend a great deal of time and thought on introspection--examining who I am. One thing is undeniable---Sunday I will enter the last year of my seventh decade---that does not upset me and in fact reminds me of how blessed I am. A few short weeks ago, I was thinking how glad I would be to have my 60's behind me, they have held some of the greatest moments of devastation of my life. God kindly nudged me after a couple of days of my pity party and reminded me---some of the greatest moments of blessings of my life had also occurred during this decade. This has given me cause to stop and consider how I intend to spend the final year of yet another decade. I have come away with four rules for finishing this decade well.
1. LOOK BEYOND MYSELF-- A sweet friend was recently lamenting no one had noticed her change of hair style. I laughed and told her we were all too busy staring at ourselves in the mirror to notice anyone else. Sadly we are all born with a streak of narcissism. Though I try to deny it, why else would I color my hair, buy new clothes, and compare myself to others. It's all about me--not them! What a silly waste of time and energy. I am praying for God to cloud my mirrors and help me to look up and out. I have always been far more blessed by the time spent with others than sitting in front of my mirror.
2. BE OPEN TO OPPORTUNITY, CHANGE & DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS--The very best me and the very best moments of my life all centered around others--family, friends, ministry partners --other people. Every plunge into change required courage and was rewarded with moments of wonder and the thrill of new experiences. Keeping my eyes open and my ears turned to opportunities for spreading the good word of unlimited grace should be my primary focus. Dare to say yes--even when it is so far from my comfort zone I think it might be the twilight zone. Seize the moment and savor the day. Make the most of every opportunity God places in your path. Above all plunge deeply into relationships with the expectation of being blessed by the others God has placed in my life.
3. DON'T WASTE ENERGY ON NEGATIVE EMOTIONS--Think of any negative emotion--hatred, jealousy, vengeance, fear, worry, doubt, sadness. Even when we have righteously earned the right to the negative emotion--it is best when we can walk away from the negative and seek the joy all around us. Search the scripture, David mourned his son, turned away and resumed life. Ask God for help with leaving the negative behind and seeking the positive. Know and cherish joy.
4. LOOK FOR GOD--He is there--He is always here--He is present in every moment. He never leaves us--we turn from Him. Stay present with God--enjoy His presence--cherish His love. Know that He is God--He loves us best--He will not forsake us. Things are always the best they can be when we are practicing knowing the presence of God. I thank God He woes me, loves me and faithfully cherishes me.
I am thankful for these 69 years--and am looking forward to making a great effort from the depth of my heart to finish this decade well. Thank you all for blessing me by reading and commenting on my stream of loose association. I thank God for each and everyone of you. May He richly bless you as you have richly blessed me!
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
My mother, May She Rest in Peace, had a list of Do's and Don'ts that would send Emily Post into a swoon of envy. Why she could have filled volumes of books on table manners alone--and that is only one aspect of your daily life. Rules--rules and more rules! I spent a great deal of my teenage years rolling my eyes over her long list of rules.
My list of do's and don't's has become more of a Reader's Digest Abbreviated Version. I have given some serious thought to those rules at this point in life that I consider set in concrete. Once again---I will not bore you with the entire list--but only give you those that floated to the top in today's cerebral monologue. DON'T---hop, skip, jump, or run once you reach senior status.
With age comes the loss of skin elasticity and things begin to not be quite so tightly attached. This produces the danger of hitting ourselves in the chin with various body parts (use your imagination) and knocking ourselves out cold if we dare to do any of these activities where both feet are off the ground at the same time. AND I won't even mention the danger of certain internal parts becoming external with repeated jarring. It's best if we always keep one foot on the floor. My jumping jacks may look a little awkward, but my parts are all in place and to date I have not bruised any body surfaces while flinging around loose epidermis.
DON'T--be so desperate for the companionship of the opposite sex that you loose your ever loving mind. Heard a story yesterday of a man meeting a woman via text messaging (they have never seen each other face to face). The conversation goes quickly from "Hi, my name's Jane Doe", to sending a selfie of certain body parts sans clothing. PEOPLE!!!!What has the world come to? It's one thing to make a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower with your clothes on--quite another to be sending ANY naked selfie on the WWW. HELLO!! It NEVER disappears--is forever out there bouncing around in cyberspace. Is ALWAYS subject to being found by the unintended. IF I send you a selfie in any shape or form, contact the Crazy Police--because I am officially over the edge. NOT TO MENTION if I totally lost it and sent a selfie without the benefit of full cover, what part of my nude body at this point in life would not make small children cry?
DO--speak your mind--or what's left of your mind. Why do we spend our lives not saying what is on our mind? It really does not matter---because for the most part--no one is listening to us. If for some strange reason, someone happens to hear you, they will attribute it to old age and blow you off anyway. SO--no more repressing--no biting of the tongue--no need to worry about reprisal--just let it go--speak up!
DO--have fun--laugh with all your might and don't worry about what people will think. Here is a scientific fact found in an article in "Forbes Magazine", Laughter protects your heart.Research has shown that laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. Not to mention the good endorphins released by laughter. I read in another article that even if we are born deaf, we have the ability to instinctively laugh--without having to learn how to produce the sound we cannot hear. AMAZING. God's gift of laughter is truly good for us--so like an apple---laugh at least once a day and I recommend as often as possible.
DO--hold on to hope. No matter what your circumstance, what life has thrown your way---there is always hope for a better tomorrow. God's plan is always the best plan for us. His plan is for a hope and a future. Don't ever let go of that hope--claim His promise and hold on to hope. Well somehow I have almost made a week of posts about aging. Come back tomorrow--for my OCD will not allow me to not finish the week out. One more epistle before turning the date book and beginning the last year of my seventh decade.
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter And your lips with shouting.
It's not simple maintaining myself at this ripe old age. Why I have one address book dedicated to the names, numbers and addresses of my full time maintenance crew AND they are all on speed dial. THINK about an old car--the parts are difficult to find and the work don't come cheap! A better analogy might be a B-52 bomber--sans World War II - I AM one of the Baby Boomer Generation after all. Those flying attack planes are still in the air, but the latest and greatest they aren't. The Work Horses of the Air Force's fleet of airplanes, One might call them Old Reliable. (Who the heck wants to be known as Old Reliable??) Old Reliable requires LOTS of maintenance--for parts wear out with use over time!
I will mention only a few of the vast army responsible for keeping me going these days. NOT to say that they all aren't vitally important, but there is not enough air space on the WWW to transmit the entire list.
Since I just made the regular --every five week visit to my hair stylist--let's start with him. Bless his heart---it's not easy to work with the feathers I have that supposedly are hair. The new Ruston stylist was so excited when I told him, "Do whatever you want" on my first visit. I didn't have the heart to tell him no matter what you want---it's not going to do it. I believe before that first visit was over he was muttering under his breath about the back of my hair growing the wrong way and how would he ever get it to stay down. Poor man--I am his biggest challenge. Somehow he keeps me looking half way decent--unless you catch me just out of the bed. That's another subject!
And then there's the man who is responsible for making sure I can still get myself out of the bed without crawling, able to tie my own shoes, walking without dragging my leg behind me, and in general moving--mostly in forward motion. I saw him about a week ago and I walked out his door with a thinly veiled threat of what was coming next visit if I didn't incorporate some psoais stretches into my stretch routine. He has obviously confused me with someone who has a regular stretch routine. The only routine I have is routinely complaining about my latest ache or pain. I will give him credit, he does keep me going. Maintenance is the key, My Friends---routine maintenance. We mustn't leave out my aerobics instructor. She is responsible for keeping me reasonably fit and in some semblance of shape. Bless her perky little heart! The course has mention of body sculpting in the description. If this body is sculpted, I hate to think what the sculpture would be named--
Crumbling comes to mind. She is at the front of the class jumping all around and flinging weights around like they are match sticks and I am on the back row grumbling with a side of moaning and groaning. She has her work cut out when it comes to sculpting this relic. Though the list is long, I will once again have mercy on you and end with my doctor--or should I say doctors. The cardinal rule is one doctor always leads to another--so avoid them if at all possible. The thing about Medicare and all its glory is they require you to have a primary care doctor. Turns out I am obviously more than she can handle, because she keeps sending me to other doctors. The only doctor she has not sent me to is perhaps the one I need the most---because I am pretty sure I am a brick short of a load--one twist short of a slinky--have only one oar in the water. My mental health can be questionable on the best day. My favorite in this elite group of highly educated body mechanics is the GI doc. SURELY with all we know and the advances in medical science there is some way OTHER than a colonoscopy to look at my insides! I want to stay healthy, but would prefer to do so without the aid of all these wonderful docs and without taking any medication. Is that TOO MUCH to ask?? Getting old is NOT for the faint of heart! BUT with regular maintenance by a highly trained maintenance crew--I seem to be continuing to have birthdays. Ask ANY car salesman and he will tell you--with regular maintenance it should be good for the rest of your life.
2Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
I am not QUITE finished, with the subject of ending this decade next year. As I was writing yesterday, it dawned on me all the things I put off yesterday--too busy, too poor, too stressed, too many too's to list them all. We all come into this world procrastinators or so it seems. I don't know a single person who did not say, "Some day" in their earlier years. You do know the road that is paved by good intentions?
A GREAT example is sleep! I spent most of my life being sleep deprived. From those exhausting teen years on, I NEVER got enough sleep. My mother was NOT one to allow extended stays in the bed. If she got up and went to work, we all got up. Then along came my first child when I was 19. We ALL know you can kiss sleep goodbye once you have children. I was smart enough to have three children in three different decades. That means MANY years of no sleep raising babies! Add to child rearing trying to work and you have a sure fire recipe for exhaustion--constant-mind numbing exhaustion. I spent a great deal of time day-dreaming about retirement and being able to sleep to my heart's content. Sadly--now that I can---I find I can't sleep. I have no problem going to sleep---it's staying asleep that is an issue. I have tried various remedies and occasionally resort to one in desperation, but from 2:00 AM on--there is a good chance you will find me wide awake. As for sleeping in--my brain is triggered by light---and with the first glimmer of light (and often the beginnings of daylight) the gun goes off and I am wide awake. Trying to stay there and go back to sleep does not work--I am tossing and turning and in fear of flinging myself off the high bed and breaking my old neck.
AND then there is traveling--taking long road trips--seeing the things I never had the time or money for. Oh I have PLENTY of time to spare to travel these days and when you travel with a group it is very affordable. The problem is my night vision is poor at best. IF I am driving in the city limits (LOTS of street lights) and on well marked roads at slow speeds, I am good. This makes me the hazard my own grandmother was in the small town I grew up in---she drove down the middle of the road at 25 MPH. EVERYONE knew to move over when Mama James was on the road. SO for some strange reason, they elect me to drive when we travel. That is great as long as we are off the road at dusk. No late night partying for this group! Add to this the confusion and indecision of a group of women trying to plan a trip and you have organized chaos. We are now in our 5th or 6th meeting for our next trip and still do not have plane tickets or places to stay--much less an itinerary. Lots of indecision!
It's a miracle we ever get where we want to go! For the sake of brevity (and to avoid boring you out of your mind), I will conclude with food. Now that I have reached the age when I could eat anything and everything--(for after all who cares if an old lady is fat), I can't make a decision about what I want to eat most of the time. Having always dealt with food indecision, this is no new issue. BUT you remember my therapist friend's words---our crazies get crazier! Not only can I not decide upon where I would like to go out and eat (honestly--I DON'T CARE), but once I get the menu, I can't make a decision about what I want to eat. After choosing some random entree, I ALWAYS have food envy when I look on the plates of my fellow diners (well most of the time---who would EVER want liver!). Whatever everyone else orders, always looks better than my choice. And IF, I happen to think I will just order what they are having, it is always a huge disappointment. Add that to the fact that all that junk food I so loved most of my life, no longer rings my chime and there you have it- a sad state of affairs. Now that I can eat anything and everything---I find I can't find the stomach or desire to do so. SO the morale of this story--DO IT NOW---BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! Tomorrow may never come and even if you can--you may find you can't! HMMM!--Have I exhausted the subject? If I even have a glimmer of an idea of anything else to write, I had better hurry before I find I can't remember the great topic I thought of for tomorrow. TOO LATE--it's already flown the coop!
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
This week is leading up to the beginning of my last year in this decade of my life. When I am motivated and when time is allotted, I plan to write this week of the beginning of the end of my seventh decade here on this terrestrial ball. After all--at this age I am doing good to get out of bed, much less write a post everyday. As for the trip on this ball--- IT HAS BEEN A RIDE!
In my younger years, I was a rule follower (except when I was a teen)--well MOST of the time. It seems I am living my therapist friend's rule of life. Our crazies get crazier as we get older. BAD NEWS, PEOPLE!
In my rebellious teen years, I sat on the back row of church so we could pass notes, count the grammatical errors of the pastor, sleep---in general do a lot of stuff other than worship. I seemed to have slipped into my old pattern here in my old age--though for quite different reasons. You see, in the church I attend, after the message and final song, THEN they pass the bucket. It feels like we are being asked to contribute based upon today's service. I don't like it! They didn't ask me. SO in my own act of rebellion, I slip out the back door as they begin to play that last song to pass the bucket. (It LITERALLY is a paint bucket-new age offering plate) NOW-before you attack, you DO KNOW you can contribute on line now! I am accompanied by quite a few senior delinquents who are hugging the back row with me.
I have NO shame when it comes to playing the old lady card---go to the front of the line, plead old age when it comes to parking right by the door, shamelessly ask for a discount in EVERY place that expects payment. I feel like I have earned the right to preferential treatment! I might have hiked 10 miles the day before, but I don't want to be inconvenienced in any shape or form when dealing with the public or parking at the grocery store.
It seems with age I now have license to wear what I want when I want, and speak my mind without hesitation. SO if you see me wearing the same clothes I worked out in first thing this morning in the grocery store at 5:00 PM, DO NOT JUDGE! I have gotten past trying to impress and instead lean more toward comfort. And as for speaking my mind, I have the reputation of all cranky old women to uphold. It's up to me to spit out whatever thought crosses my mind and heaven help you if you don't agree with me. I am on a mission to straighten you out!
YES--I have become a Senior Delinquent. After all who would EVER expect the little old lady to have a lead foot, to not follow the rules, to not be sitting at home drinking tea with all the other little old ladies. I am flying UNDER---WAY UNDER the radar. It's GREAT to never be suspected, never questioned, and have a license to be not so good. AFTER ALL--
BLESS HER HEART--SHE'S OLD!
He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.