Serving Others

The summer I was 16 my friend Cathy and I were Red Cross volunteer’s at a VA hospital two mornings a week for about four weeks.  Our job was to mostly push patients here or there around in a wheel chair.  Occasionally we would deliver flowers, escort visitors to rooms, or offer to get cups of water or coffee for families waiting on a loved one having surgery.  At the end of our shift, we both felt appreciative for the chance to help and be of service to others.

As I approach retirement I have begun to research opportunities to volunteer. Living near a large city provides an abundance of choices such as assisting at a hospital (both regular and children’s), becoming a foster grandparent to a child, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels (I love to cook and would really enjoy preparing these meals), helping out at an animal shelter and the list goes on. If I decide to get more adventurous there is Global Volunteers.

A young friend told me her parents volunteer at a nearby hospice.  It takes a very special person to volunteer in this environment. What an excellent opportunity to provide emotional and spiritual support to both patients and their loved ones during this truly precious and delicate time of life.

Our school system allows people to become mentors to our students. Filling all of the slots for this volunteer position can be challenging because a lot of people don’t know this particular opportunity is available. The men or women usually come once a week during lunch time. They will sit with the child outside at one of our picnic tables or inside at a reserved section of the lunchroom. Sometimes they come during the day and they will usually go to the library to talk, read a story, or play a game. These children may lack social skills, have private issues, or their home life may not be the most stable environment. Often all these students need is an adult (or anyone) to listen to them and let them know someone cares. Both the mentor and the student look forward to this special time together.

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Becoming a volunteer can be an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and may also change someone’s life (maybe my own) in the process.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8 

Fog

The weather today will be mostly sunny with mild temperatures and a very light chance of rain.”

That was the daily forecast of my life until the fog rolled in very unexpectedly.

The first line from Carl Sandburg’s poem “The Fog” states, “The fog comes on little cats feet.”

This is exactly how my fog arrived. It arrived in such a quiet and unsuspecting manner that I hardly took notice right at first. As the fog slowly grew thicker, I began to experience emotions and sensations that were completely foreign to me.

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I could hardly tell if it was night or day.

I had no sense of direction and nothing made sense.

I began to experience an ache in my heart that was almost too much to bear.  It was an ache so deep and came from a place inside which I never knew was there.

Day after day I cried and begged God for clarity and understanding. I wanted Him to carry me through this fog and bring me back into the warm sunlight and mild temperatures.

I felt ignored, forgotten, and misunderstood by the One who loved me the most.  I was hurt and angry.

Gradually, I began to hear His words, “Trust me.”

Over the years, as the fog began to slowly lift, I started to notice things I had not seen before.

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My renewed vision brought clarity, compassion, and comfort.  My days in the fog made me humble, more accepting, and (maybe?) a litter wiser.

Those foggy days taught me that you don’t always get what you want, and helped me  discover so much that I did not know I needed.

 James 1: 2-3  Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, for the testing of your faith produces patience.

Proverbs: 2-3  Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”  – Jagger/Richards

Savoring – Greenville, SC

“Yeah, that Greenville get ready to fall in love.”

Last Fall my husband surprised me with tickets to see an upcoming musical production (this month) for my birthday present.  The venue was the Peace Center located in Greenville, South Carolina.

Since this venue is about two hours from our house, we decided to drive over this past Saturday morning and spend the day reacquainting ourselves with this delightful downtown.  We made reservations at one of the hotels on Main Street because it was within easy walking distance to the venue.

Main Street in Greenville has many delicious restaurants and a variety of shops for browsing.  The atmosphere is very relaxed and everyone is friendly.  As you walk along this mile on Main Street you will notice several of the stores have bowls of water and treats for your little canine friends right outside their doors.

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Street musicians are everywhere.  These gentlemen were playing classical selections.  It was delightful!

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This area is a must see.  It is called Falls Park on the Reedy. It is such a tranquil and peaceful setting to take a stroll.  This photo is of some of the lofts, restaurants and hotels located along the river just off Main Street.  On the other side of the street are gentle waterfalls and paved walking trails with beautiful views of the rocky river. There are picnic tables scattered about as well as boulders and benches for sitting. Young people were throwing Frisbees in a big grassy area while others sat on blankets and sipped on warm beverages.  Shade is abundant and I am sure it is a favorite spot to enjoy during the hot summer time.

There are two favorite stores we have to go to whenever we visit:  Mast General Store and Oil & Vinegar.

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There is something for everyone in this unique store!

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Oil & Vinegar – The customer service at this location is first-rate!

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I could not resist buying a few goodies to serve when I host an upcoming book club meetup.

As the day passed we decided to take a break and soak in a little sunshine while we people watched.

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Shortly after this photo was taken we went back to our room to freshen up before enjoying a very casual dinner and the show.

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Look at these milkshakes!!  We did not indulge, but may have to return to Grill Marks restaurant sooner than later to experience this cold and creamy delight!  They have quite an assortment of flavors such as, “Chocolate Brownie Crack” and “Salted Caramel Heath Bar Crunch”.  They even have beer shakes and adult beverage shakes (minus the milk)!

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Peace Center  (notice the hanging sculpture in the lobby entrance – Taking Flight)

Before we knew it, we were back in the car heading home.  I am so thankful to have opportunities such as this to create new memories and savor these moments in time.

Side Note:  In the spring and summer there is a Saturday morning farmers market along Main Street where you can buy homemade goodies and fresh produce.  Also, starting in mid-March through the end of September they have free concerts called Main Street Fridays. The city shuts down the one end of the street. People bring their lawn chairs and coolers while they listen and tap their feet to the beat of the live music. Others get up and dance while others visit the vendors or take their children to some of the activities designed for the younger crowd. We accidentally stumbled upon these two events on our visit last spring and had a wonderful time!  “Yeah, that Greenville!”

Be More Than An “I Love You”

What does it mean to love someone or to be loved by someone?  Maybe it is the security of knowing that we occupy a place in someone else’s heart or the significance we hold in someone’s life.

Maybe it means that in spite of our silly oddities, our looks, and our imperfections someone can see us for who we are and they love us anyway.

We are someone who matters to somebody else.

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Singing softly in my ear

Once in a while the words “I love you” can be just that ~ words.  Over the years I have learned (sometimes the hard way) about love and relationships.  Not just in the romantic sense like the love I share with my spouse, but also the love I share with all my children and grandchildren, my BFF, and my extended family. The most important thing I have learned is: It is the ACTION taken that can create the strength, emotion, and significance of those three simple words.

For example:

  • Supporting each other is essential in any relationship ~ marriage, parenting, friendships.  Have each other’s back.  Celebrate successes and comfort disappointments.
  • Respect one another because you each deserve the other’s respect.  Treat each other the way you wish to be treated as you express opinions, thoughts, dreams and desires ~ make these matter as much to you as it does to the other.
  • Be a safety net and refuge from the outside world.  A person you can always trust.  Strive to create an environment that is a welcoming place of comfort, joy and peace.
  • Commitment takes work, commitment is not easy, and commitment must become a priority. Become the “something that you want to last forever” every single day.
  • Forgive the forgotten item at the grocery store and forgive the forgotten birthday present. Forgive when the other lashes out because they are tired after working hard all day. Forgive the other for not knowing what you needed when you really thought they would or should know. Forgive the other when they fall short even when you know they are trying their best. Forgive because no one is perfect.

Be More Than An “I Love You”

Bucket List (a different perspective)

“Bucket lists are only for the young; once you get my age there is no need to seek such outlandish adventures,” said the older woman as she leaned toward the younger lady sitting across from her.

I had been out running errands and decided to stop for a quick-lunch and could not help but overhear the conversation next to me.  I have been thinking about bucket lists so this conversation naturally caught my attention. The older woman was probably close to 70 and the younger woman (possibly her daughter) looked to be in her 40’s.  The older woman argued that she had “no interest in swimming with dolphins or riding in a hot air balloon” at her age.  She would rather take the time to teach her (the daughter) how to make her “special coconut cake” or “teach her granddaughter how to knit”.

Making a bucket list doesn’t have to be all about adventures or fulfilling an overwhelming need to achieve.  The “must do’s” can be something as simple as making cookies for our first responders, teaching your daughter a beloved recipe, teaching your granddaughter how to knit, or watching your grandchild compete in an event.

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Maybe consider making someone else’s dream come true.

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Getting involved in things around your community, staying informed about the world around us, and enjoying the slower pace of life are all some folks need as they age.  This sounds inviting and very appealing to me!

Setting goals and satisfying desires are great motivators. The goals may have to become more focused.  For example, I have put on some weight.  Getting down to a desired size is overwhelming, but loosing three pounds a month is less daunting and more attainable.

Long terms goals can still be set.  I have a friend who would love to finish her college degree after an almost 40 year gap now that she is retired.  Guess what she is pursuing this fall?

I guess the purpose of a bucket list is multifaceted as you age.  While a bucket list can help you see that dreams are still attainable, challenges can still be met, and dreams can still come true there is something to be said for simplicity.  Approach each day as a new opportunity.  Teach your daughter how to make a special recipe, teach your granddaughter your special talent, or step outside and take a walk around your neighborhood. Composing a formal bucket list may not be necessary.  Just get out there and start doing the things that matter most to you!

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All about HIM

Among the presents scattered under the Christmas tree, the nativity sits as a quiet reminder of what Christmas is all about.  My dad made this little stable several years before he died in 2002.  It is simple and made of plywood.  A few sticks from my parents backyard hold up the roof, and the roof has glued pieces of pine bark from their plant beds.  It always brings a smile when I think of how the baby Jesus might have approved of his structure.  I truly can’t believe how well it has held up over the years!  As you can imagine it is a precious and very valued piece of my holiday memories.

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One of my friend’s posted on this on Facebook a few days ago.  She is the mother of five beautiful young children.

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Her caption read: “Not sure which of the kids set up this nativity scene, but I couldn’t help but pause when I walked by and saw that they had taken such careful consideration to make sure that everyone, including the animals, were facing towards Jesus.  It was a small detail and sometimes its hard to know what all the kids really process or understand, but one of them knew enough to know that it was all about HIM…”

My favorite Christmas scene is from the tv show “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. When Charlie Brown cries out in frustration and discouragement, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus replies, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Like Charlie Brown, I think we all get frustrated and discouraged from time to time. During this season it is good to pause and reflect on God’s greatest gift to us.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

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Monday

monday-again

        “Monday, Monday can’t trust that day” ~ Mamas and Papas

                     “It’s just another manic Monday” ~ The Bangles

                                “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” – The Carpenters

Why is Monday such a bummer day? It is the one day of the week I dread because I have to drag myself out of bed (at 4:45) and get back in the working routine.

The bliss and non-structure of the weekend is gone.

Last night as I was preparing for Monday I wondered if I could try to change my attitude and mindset.  Try to look at Monday as a fresh start; as an opportunity to adopt a new “start the week with a positive attitude” attitude.

I could give myself a morning treat – buy a flavored coffee, a breakfast sandwich, or maybe purchase a lunch instead of bringing it like I always do.

Maybe I could pay it forward and help someone else’s Monday morning start off with a smile.

As I began to brainstorm my ideas, I saw the options of making Monday a day to look forward to are endless!

We never know how many days we will have on this earth. We have to look at each day as being just as important, if not more important, than the one before it. Mondays are no different.  Can you imagine how much better your week could be if you started if off on the right foot?  Even if you are tired and have a lot of stuff to face this week, (I am right there with you) find your motivation today and let it carry you through the rest of the week.