Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lessons Learned From the Backyard

My office window looks over the entire backyard...pretty much.  It is a second story view so, I can see quite a ways and it is a beautiful. I haven't always appreciated the view. When we first moved to this rental house I was laser focused on a building that needed to be torn down. I later found out from a granddaughter of the original owners that the building was where the small livestock were kept. The actual part of that building that was so very offensive to me was the very first outhouse… interesting but still ugly.  Our first family visitors to this house/home were our first born child, his wife and two children, our beloved grandchildren. I made a big dinner for us and it was a lovely fall evening so...I suggested we have dinner outdoors on the deck. My son looked off into the backyard and remarked "There's the million dollar view!"  I thought he was being sarcastic. He wasn't. It wasn't until I looked beyond what I had considered an eyesore...and saw a breathtaking view. Now, I look beyond the building that STILL needs to be torn down...and see the view because my lesson is:

You should look beyond shortcomings because usually there is something beautiful just past what you are seeing.

We have a beautiful deck on the back of this house to go with that beautiful view. In fact...most of the houses on the street have back decks, or back porches, or even wrap around the whole house porches to accommodate this view! At first when my husband and I would take our dogs outside in the backyard, we would notice the house next door and that everyone indoors would be outdoors in the evening. They would sit on the porch, rocking in the rocking chairs, rockin’ and starin' at us. Bob and I finally pulled up two chairs and faced it in neighbor’s direction and stared right back...thinking... How rude? Two can play this dumb game!  They should come over and welcome us into the neighborhood! We are the new ones but instead...they are just rockin' and starin'. About fifteen minutes into this fruitless endeavor ...Bob looked behind him. He then suggested we turn our chairs around and appreciate the view...that our neighbors were enjoying. Our neighbors never did welcome us into the neighborhood although after I went and introduced myself, they do throw up their hands now and wave at us. But...we sit out on that deck and enjoy the view, a glass of wine and each others company most evenings. The lesson for me was…

To take my joy in what is happening around me, Life is too short for petty grievances and it is rarely about me anyway!

Recently I was talking with a friend and she remarked about how deep I was. I was a very thoughtful thinker...she thought. As a drove home on Cloud nine, I was thinking ...what a lovely thing for her to say and what a wonderful thing for me to be. I came upstairs to my computer and I then opened an email to this blog... and there...was a comment. A person was commenting about what a shallow so and so I was. I immediately left Cloud nine and felt defeated. I hadn't changed. I was still me. the space of a half an hour my mood and my self esteem had changed.
 The thing is I am neither deep nor shallow. My lesson in this...

People will see you based on their perspectives. You be yourself. Be authentic. Show up. Ponder praise and criticism ...and gain what wisdom you can. But remember...beyond the Outhouse is a million dollar view. And when people stare sometimes it has nothing to do with you... it is just their view beyond you!

I want to be the person looking for the million dollar view. I want to be the person who will turn my chair to see the other person's point of view. But...mostly I want to sit on the porch in the evenings in the back yard, drink in hand, beside the guy I love and ponder!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

5 Books that Changed Me (Part 2)

I posted on Facebook a picture of my 5 Life changing books and I later Blogged about how the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman changed the course or direction of my life. Here is that post!

The second book I mentioned is a type of Bible. I would like to digress a little bit here…You can never control how others perceive you…NEVER. This has been a difficult lesson for me. AS a person who likes to communicate and understand others, I don’t like to be perceived as someone who judges others, labels others. But…I do want to be as authentic as I can be. I am a Christian, and by that I mean I try to follow Christ and his example. I do believe in Jesus, God, and Holy Spirit. I believe in the power of prayer.  I accept others who do not and many of my friends are non-believers or have a different religion as myself. I love them they are my friends. Here is my disclaimer of sort. This is my walk. You may walk beside me and question and challenge me because that is how I grow in life.  But…you may not bully me or others in the name of your faith or lack thereof. I am not preaching right now, I am not qualified to preach to another…I am telling you about a book that has been life changing for …me.

My second book, Serendipity Bible for Groups came to me as a gift from an associate pastor at the church I was a member at and when she handed it to me…I hadn’t any idea how meaningful this book would be for me. This book is always the book I have in my hand whenever I teach anything, study anything, and discuss anything about a scripture. It is not the only Bible I use but it is always the first. Her reason for handing it to me was simple…she wanted me to become an adviser for the youth at our church and I was skeptical that I was the right person for the job. I think that pastors learn this overcoming obstacle technique early in their training class entitled Pastoral Recruiting 101. It was successful, I did feel equipped whether by her gift or her powerful prayers. But this book along with leading small group study groups...changed my ideas and the course of my life. There is a quote at the beginning of the book that says it all for me…

Serendipity is the facility of making happy chance discoveries.
Horace Walpole , 1743

What is wonderful about this book is that the entire premise is that scripture is meant to be shared and discussed in a small group setting. The Serendipity dream as also stated in the front of the book is of building a Christian community through small groups. This Bible is one of many resources designed to help small groups get together, get changed and get going! Notice the word…CHANGE in that dream.

I have had many, many changed thoughts and feelings because of discussions centered on this book. For every scripture passage there is an opening question that encourages you to share with the group about where you are today. The next week question instructs on digging what this passage means and a final question reflecting on how you can take this meaning out into the world you live in today! This exercise is explained with another great quote by Anton Chekhov, 

Putting a question correctly is one thing and finding the answer is something quite different.

My greatest time of learning has been when I attempt to facilitate a group, it is through asking questions and listening to others answer them that I have learned the most. This book, The Serendipity Bible, many years ago gave me this insight into myself and made me a lover of small group ministries. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, or Spirit God ...those "chilly bump" moments when you hear something spoken by another that resonates within you. Through my experiences with small groups I have learned to listen to others and be open to what others think in a way that I had not been before. I have felt supported and loved during challenging times and celebrated during the happy times. It is amazing that this wonderful, thoughtful, challenging Pastor gave me all of this by handing me this book that I hold today.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

If I Made Time for a Hobby...

If I had time and a place to do a hobby it would be A Finder of Old Things. These used treasures would be restored ...lovingly,  and kept...and displayed. Because for me...

                      they are a symbol... tangibly so, of God's redemption.

We live in a throw away society. Things are literally made for obsolescence. Our market place is made for this. Get the latest. Get the newest...just in time for Christmas. We want shiny.We want new... and on and on... Until next Christmas when it all begins...anew.

I love finding things other consider discarding. I love finding things that some consider trash. I love old things. The time I spend pondering a new purpose for an object, a new color for it,  or even the actual hunt for such a creative, so fulfilling and so passionate a time that I consider this would be my dream job!

I understand the allure of new...besides being well, is also a clean slate. No broken parts. No mistakes. No stains, no scratches and no tears...and no nasty history. It is perfect.

In the bible there are more than a  few stories where God discards people. A few women turned to salt, a nasty, nasty flood, a poor fruitless fig tree...and Judas. These stories do not speak to me. The stories that speak to me are of redemption. Give me Moses, give me Elizabeth, give me Peter...Give me Paul. Where God used a broken, mistake ridden, badly stained or a badly dinged person for a better purpose. He found a purpose for old "used up" women that others thought finished. He used men who were not "good" but who were more than a little scratched in character. These are the stories that are meaningful to me...they tell me I still have a purpose. And while others may think me old, broken or riddled with mistakes...I know my God ponders over me as I ponder over an object thinking...

How can I use her differently? How can I make her new again? How can I  renew her life...again?

Mama’s Losin’ It


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finding my Way

In the past two years I have exhausted myself into trying to make Virginia my home...and still have Florida be my home. I have driven south and north at least 15 times, and got on the dreaded airplane at least five times. My desire to see my family trumps fear of flying, hands down! And I have a big fear of flying...they say your likelihood of dying in a car crash is greater than dying while flying and while that may be true the likelihood of my flapping my wings and flying without aid of airplane is nonexistent! So...while I would rather drive, I would forgo my fear of flying to be with my grandchildren, children, parents and siblings. I could easily write non stop about being homesick but there is no challenge in, this is the post that I put a happy spin on my circumstance and dwell on those unexpected joys that I have found in this place called Virginia.

The first wonderful thing about Virginia, is that my friend Brenda lives here along, with her husband Mike and her two children. We have known one another forEVER. She is an amazing person who makes amazing events memorable while photographing it all. We share a love of old things and the joy that comes from making them beautiful again. We love decorating, creating, celebrations and we love each others families. Our husbands are friends which is nice as sometimes that doesn't happen...sometimes frankly...the guys get dragged out on couple's dates and they act like dead weights. Not our nice that I have this amazing person live so close to me now. I am lucky.

The second wonderful thing about Virginia is my husband's amazing family lives here. His parents have passed on but all his other extended family still live here or nearby. They are kind and loving to me and recognize I struggle...and so far have not been frustrated with my moaning...and you know... the other word that accurately describe my behavior that I am unable to type 'cause my Mom reads my blog. My husband's family owns 150 acres on a mountain surrounded by national forest. It is amazingly different for this city girl.  I am lucky.

The third wonderful thing about Virginia is that I found an amazing church. It is full of intelligent people who think of the word "Christian" as a verb and they are the "doingest" people I have ever met. They were not shy about putting me to work, keeping me busy...literally trusting me with the keys to the building. The love I have found here...has saved my sanity. Three women in particular have made sure I have lunch dates, a place at Christmas to go to, and literally, in one case... a shoulder to cry on. You are proof to me that God came before me and made a way for me. I love you all at Trinity.

The fourth wonderful thing about Virginia is the people. While the locals are a little slow to warm up to you...if you persevere and put yourself out there, which I will find the kindest people. I love to talk with people and I have had some amazing conversations...filled with family history, faith, and love of country. This is not an original conclusion but there is a slower rhythm to small town living that large towns no longer have and I have enjoyed the feeling of unhurried. What a gift I have discovered in taking your time, sitting on a porch watching fireflies, squirrels and deer move about until only the lights of the stars illuminate your evening. I am lucky.

The fifth wonderful thing about Virginia is its unexpectedness. They have a marketing slogan..."We like it Wild" meaning the hiking trails. The hiking is AMAZING!  For is wild. It is an adventure...this life is so unlike my life in Florida. I am used to instant, quick, and easy. Accessible, comfortable, warm are the adjectives used to describe my life in Florida. Virginia is more challenging...remote, rugged ...and mountainous. I feel like things have been turned upside down ...and indeed they have. Three years ago..I thought my life would be one way and it turned out it will not...and that is sad. But, also it is an exciting adventure. It is a chapter not yet written in a book...that I can't wait to read. I am blessed!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving to Remember

 Sometimes I think the really happy memories we have and remember...don't really start out so happy! Sometimes, it starts out stressful or tragically wrong and then all works out and you remember it as if looking through rose colored memory glasses. Then that awful moment becomes funny, amusing, and a treasured memory. Or, maybe that is a crazy coping mechanism that I have developed and if that is so...then I thank God in heaven on high that I possess that crazy gift!
My husband and I are what you may refer to as..."competitive holiday cooks" or  "bossy-get-the-hell-outta-my-kitchen" types! We literally have to take turns with our holiday cooking..."You may have Thanksgiving and I will have Christmas!" to which the other person will respond "And, I will watch you and critique your every move at Thanksgiving and you will micromanage the Christmas Spirit right out of me!" In the picture above it is my turn to cook but as you can see...HE is in my kitchen...and he can't decide whether to finish washing his hands or choke me!
The particular Thanksgiving I remember and am thankful for started out awful...the middle was awful but like a great three act play...had a great finish! 
My husband was being picky, bossy, and testy. At least that is how I remember it! I was having a difficult time...I was menopausal and the doctor thought a bit of Zoloft would help. It didn't unless my crying at the drop of a hat was an improvement over say...picky, bossy, and testy! The Hubby was hovering which was making me nervous...and I had 15 for dinner and a complicated menu. I wanted him out of the kitchen...and I wanted him to read my mind and take out the kitchen trash...without you know coming into the kitchen. He finally had had enough of my mood and snapped back...which I accepted all wounded warrior like.
When my guests including my Mother, Grandmother,and Father arrived. The tension in the air was significant and everyone felt it. I was holding onto my tears with a feather-like grip. My father took one look at both of us and said " Boy, is she giving you a hard time?" And.I.burst.into.tears! leaving all the guests, all 15 of them ...and running into my bedroom...crying hysterically! My father saying to anyone who would listen "What did I say?" What did I say?"
I cried for only a few minutes...when in walked my mother and grandmother who did not say anything...just hugged me. I kept saying that I didn't know what was wrong with me over and over...They both said it will be okay. I cried and cried. I finally called in my oldest son who conveniently had just turned 21. I handed him a $20 and said go get me a bottle of wine. "What kind?" he said helplessly. "Any kind. Just make it a white wine!" (And that day marked the first day that I drank wine with dinner at Thanksgiving...which now has become a lovely tradition.) But the memory I have that makes me so very thankful...was that at my worst...snotty nosed mother and grandmother showed me such love! That out of the awful "how do I get out of this bedroom with all my guests in the other room" feeling was resolved with my grandmother, mother and I walking in arm and arm and greeting everyone with...A Happy Thanksgiving!

Mama’s Losin’ It

There are Five Books That have Changed Me

  There are five books that have changed the course of my life at different pivotal  moments. They transformed my thinking and doing... three of then profoundly so, at least in my mind. Ask yourself what books have changed you, transformed your thinking...and moved you to action. These are my books, I was surprised by the list...but this is my list. 
My first book came to me by way of my husband, during a very difficult period...what I thought was the end of our love affair. While we were both really nice people who happened to be Christians...we were in fact two Christians who were not nice to one another and we were unhappy, desperately so unhappy. We were separated with the emphasis on separate. We no longer lived together and I was heartbroken. 

Out of the blue, I mean not expected at all... my very much "separate from me" husband appeared at my work with two bag lunches in hand. My co-workers were concerned that I was leaving to go with him...not because they thought he would harm me but because they did not want to see me hurt further. I am not sure why I agreed to go with him...there was a kindness in his eyes I hadn't seen in a long time.

We sat in silence for awhile, awkward silence... awkward, awkward silence! Finally, he spoke. He told me he had listened to an interview of Gary Chapman on the radio. He is an author who had written The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to your Mate.  I was stunned into silence. My two biggest complaints in our marriage were that he did not value our marriage and that he acted like he didn't love me. Not only had he made me lunch, he bought the book and suggested we have lunch together everyday and read this book together. And that is what we did.

He would show up each day, having made two bag lunches and wait while I finished up what I was doing...we would go to a park which was close to where I work and eat and discuss and read the book. There were a lot of hurt feelings on both our parts and discussing this wasn't easy...but we did it.

The premise of the book is that we all express love differently. This way of expressing love, our love language is learned from how our parents expressed love to us as a child. Obviously, couples are raised in different homes and many times we are "speaking" different love languages. We had different unspoken expectations of each other and we had failed to express love to each other in a way the other could recognize it.

The five love languages are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time, and Acts of Service. In reading this book together we discovered why when I would buy him something and he would criticize me for spending money...I would be wounded; why when he fixed something for a neighbor while my "broken whatever" remained broken...I became furious! We knew instantly that when I had made a joke in public at his expense why he became distant...AND when we stopped touching each other...why we had separated!

My love languages are Gifts and Acts of Service...that is how I give and receive love. And Bob tries daily to learn this new language. Bob's are Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch...and I am getting really good at these! This book...Gary Chapman's written words changed the direction of my marriage and the course of my life! 
What Five Books changed your life? My next Book...Serendipity Bible for Small Groups!

Five "Ronda Changing" Books

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Some(one) I Am Thankful For...

I could write for days about what I am thankful for..."My blessings" are many. I immediately think of my grandchildren but then I would need to start at my children...without children I wouldn't have grandchildren. When I think of children I think of my husband...without children. Well, for me that was how it worked! But...when I think of my husband...I think of my parents and how supportive they have been all my life. I didn't realize how supportive until I think of myself as a VERY young girl, ME wanting to marry equally young guy...back to husband! Husband it is.

My husband is kind, thoughtful, handsome, sensitive, loving, and hardworking...most of the time. Sometimes, he is a jerk. Even then he is my best friend. It has not been an easy marriage. We have worked hard at our marriage. While that is not romantic is the truth. And...that is what I am thankful for: That I have married someone who loves me in spite of knowing all the truth about me. He knows me and yet, still loves me.

Bob has seen me at my most awful. I mean God awful...and I don't mean "Woke up, Bad breath awful" although he has seen me that way! I mean broken. Sniveling and full of despair. Lost and without faith. He knows every secret. ( No...he is not Santa!) He knows every bad thing that I have ever done or said. ( I promise he is not Santa)
And...still he reaches for me in the night.

I have forgiven him of much and would forgive him of anything...because he has forgiven me. I will never take our messy, crazy love story for granted! We have worked for it and it is ours and ours alone.

I am most thankful for my husband, Bob.

Mama’s Losin’ It