Summertime and the Livin’ is…

shutterstock_125617796It’s hard to believe we are already heading into the traditional months of summer, yet here we are!   As a singer, I can’t help but think of the song “Summertime” when we reach this time of the year, though I’m not always sure we can all say the livin’ is easy.  Regardless of what actual season we are in, we have seasons to our lives as well.  Sometimes those seasons bring great times of abundance, and sometimes the seasons bring times of want/need.   In spite of this reality, we actually can live above our circumstances or in spite of our “seasons.”

Summertime is traditionally viewed as a time filled with fun and relaxation.  The daylight lasts longer, people take vacations, kids are out of school and there is an abundance of activities in which we can engage and enjoy.  Aside from the heat in some places, there’s not much to keep us from doing anything we want.  Wintertime, on the other hand, often prevents us from feeling quite as free to enjoy life.  shutterstock_182019791The weather is cold or wet, and it gets dark early so there’s less time for being outside, even if you can stand the elements.  Life is much the same way.  When the “weather” of life’s circumstances turns dark and cold, we have a choice in how we react to it.  We can bundle up and trudge out into it, determined to get where we are going, or we can snuggle up inside our homes and ride out the storm.  What we do NOT need to do is run out into the elements without any protection!  As children of God, we have the ability to lay back and rest in His arms and trust Him to take care of us no matter how the circumstances may appear.  He is our protection and has promised to work everything out for our good.  Sometimes the winters of our lives exist to help us reduce the frenetic pace of our lives and slow down.  In the “winter” of life, we are faced with difficulties that remind us our true power lies in letting go of our need to control everything.  Winter takes us down, sometimes against our will, but it sets the stage for the eventual summer that is just around the corner.

shutterstock_116510107Summer is, in fact, a wonderful time for most people.  I actually prefer the dreariness of storms and winter, but I love the longer days of summer and all that comes with them.  That being said, just because summer is here doesn’t guarantee the “livin’ is easy.”   When things are going well in our lives, we tend to be happier, more peaceful and even more content.  We are quick to praise God for His blessings and our faith seems to be stronger than ever, but as time goes on it becomes easier and easier to forget that all we have is a blessing from our Heavenly Father.  We start relying on our own abilities and strengths and even forfeit our time with God because we feel less and less need for Him.  After all, things are going great, right?  I don’t say this to pass judgment but to point out that we are ALL human and we ALL fall into these same patterns as believers.  And when we reach the point where we begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3), we will quickly find ourselves in the midst of another storm that brings us back to our knees.

Like the apostle Paul, we need to learn how to live in times of plenty and abundance just as much (or even more so) than living in times of need.  In our times of need, we cling to God.  We refocus our priorities and get back to what is important.  We simplify our world as much as possible because we don’t have much of a choice.  Times of need have a tendency to bring us back to our true center much more than times of plenty.  In times of abundance, our human nature is to become complacent and comfortable.  We rely on our own self-sufficiency and lean less and less on God.  We are blessed with material gain but that gain soon becomes the reason we don’t have time to spend in study and prayer with the One who created us.  There is nothing wrong with material gain and it is not bad to abound!  God WANTS us to have a truly abundant life but that abundance comes through our faith and trust in Him and not in ourselves.   It comes in the peace and joy of knowing God is in control and is working everything out for our good, whether our circumstances seem “good” or “bad” to us.  If we can learn, like the apostle Paul, how to be constant and stable whether in times of plenty or of need, THAT is when our lives become filled with abundance.

shutterstock_150252494The actual season of summer is upon us and I pray it is a beautiful time for everyone.  But more than that, I pray it becomes a reminder that just because the sun is shining, doesn’t mean we should forget the storms we have weathered or the “winter” storms those around us may be trudging through.  Let us open our hearts and allow the summertime to remind us that even when the livin’ seems easy, the difficulties and pain our Heavenly Father endured for us to enjoy the warmth of the good times in life, cost Him more than we can comprehend.

Blessings!

Are You Graduating or Are You Commencing?

shutterstock_125333273Today marks the beginning of June and a time when many schools will be holding their annual graduation/commencement ceremonies.  People get together to celebrate the accomplishments of their loved ones and bestow their well-wishes for the future.  We take time to reflect on the journey to this point and even if it was long and filled with set-backs, everything seems to fall away in the light of achievement.  Pictures flood social media sites because we want to share these times with our friends and family whether they are our personal events or those of the significant other people in our lives.

So what does it mean to graduate?  The word graduate is defined as “to divide into marked intervals, especially in use for measurement.”  Think about that for a moment.  Graduating is about recognizing and marking a specific period of time in our lives.  It could be applied to not only academics but jobs, relationships, recoveries, rehabilitations or any other aspect of life.  It is a time when we look back at where we have been and what we have come through, whether good or bad.  It is a time to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments.  It is a time we can feel proud of what we have done and no one thinks poorly of us for doing so.  It is about finishing a period of time on our journey no matter if that period has been something positive (like academics) or seemingly negative (like dealing with loss or recovery).  It is still a beautiful moment in our lives.  Regardless of where we have been, graduation allows us to “mark” our life’s timeline at the point something has ended. 

shutterstock_128054627Most people talk about times of graduation from school but have you ever looked at an actual printed graduation announcement?  Most of them still announce the event as a “commencement” ceremony.  Don’t miss the significance of this word or why it is used!  The word commence is defined as “to enter upon or have a beginning or start.”  Commencing is much different than graduating.  Graduating is about marking the end of a time period in our lives but commencing is about BEGINNING a new one.    Commencement is about recognizing the significance of the start of a new phase in life.  It signifies the beginning of our extended education or our professional path.  It represents the beginning of our commitment to our recovery.  It marks the start of our marriages or the arrival of our children. Commencing fills our lives with newness and freshness..  It is a re-birth of our path as well as our focus!  As we look forward and celebrate the opportunities ahead, it is a renewal of our hope for a better tomorrow and a gratitude for today.

shutterstock_134516501Here’s the beauty of both graduating and commencing:  both perspectives are beautiful and appropriate!  Life can sometimes become so difficult when we are in the midst of challenging circumstances.  We get worn out.  We fall down and feel like never getting back up.  Our energy and strength drains from us and it seems as though we will never get through our struggles but eventually we make reach the other side.  One of my favorite phrases used over and over in the bible is, “It came to pass.”  No matter the situation in which you find yourself, it will come to pass.  It is also important to recognize that sometimes we find ourselves in wonderful places from which we do not want to graduate or commence.  Sometimes life is rolling along smoothly and we have great joy and peace.  Naturally we do not want these periods of time to end.  We don’t want to mark the end of something that makes us feel good or brings us joy.  We don’t want to lose a loved one or have our own health fail.  We don’t want to lose a job we enjoy or have to move from a place we love.  We don’t want to think about “graduating” from something positive to something more difficult or painful.  We don’t want to consider “commencing” something new that might be more challenging for us. 

The reality is that time will continue to move on at a steady pace no matter how we may try to speed it up or slow it down.  Sometimes we soar through life and other times it drags us along behind it!  Time does not stop for us but thankfully we have markers to note significant points along our way.  We graduate.  We commence.  We pause to notice and commemorate chapters of our life.  It is a natural part of our journey to recognize our endings and beginnings and when we take time to reflect on where we have traveled over the many years, the markers of our lives bring color to the tapestry of our existence.

shutterstock_126623258So for all the academic graduates and “commencers” out there, I applaud your efforts in completing your degree!”  For the rest of you, always remember this:  Every day is a graduation and every moment is a commencement.  Each breath you take is a reminder of how different your life can be so take a deep breath.  Exhale the past and inhale the future.  There is always a reason to celebrate!

Blessings!

Love Shared Is Not Diminished

For most people, February is the “love month” because it contains Valentine’s Day (which also happens to be my birthday so yes, I’m a lover not a fighter!).  As a result, you may see several posts this month that relate to different aspects of love.  Hopefully you don’t mind.  😉

I’ve been thinking about something lately that has troubled me for years.  Why is it that some people have such a hard time understanding that love shared is not diminished? Here is what I’ve always believed:  If I love one person completely, it does not preclude me from loving someone else completely.  I’ve encountered a LOT of people in this life for which this seems to be a totally foreign concept and it is something that has always puzzled me.

shutterstock_1371755Some people seem to believe we are given only a finite amount of love and we have to choose how we “spend” that love.  They wouldn’t openly admit that is what they believe, but their actions certainly reflect it!  In other words, I start out with 100% of love so if I love two people then I have to split my love.  I can split it 50/50 or by some other ratio but neither person can have 100%.  Based on this thinking, the more people I love, the LESS love I have to give.  We look at love like we do money, time or other resources.  We only have so much money to give before we run out.  There’s only so much time in a day, etc.  All these things force us to make choices in how we spend these resources because they are limited.  Limited resources mean we must divide them in order to cover more ground.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE WITH LOVE!!  Love is not a “resource;” It is a gift!

Love, when it is given, multiplies.  It is not diminished because it is shared.  Think of it this way:  If a woman who loves her child with all her heart gives birth to another one, she doesn’t have to take an amount of love away from the first one to give to the second.  Her love for EACH child is 100%.  This woman ends up with a complete and total love that is twice as big as she had before!  Her love was not reduced as a result of her sharing it with another.  It was, in fact, multiplied.

The Bible tells us God IS love.  Jesus loves me, this I know…right?  He loves completely and unconditionally!  Since “God so loved the WORLD…” does this mean if He loves everyone, then you must take that number of people (billions over the course of time) and divide it in order to figure out what percent He is capable of loving you?  That is not only unscriptural but it is ridiculous!  We know this to be true with God but if God is love, then we must also remember it to be true about love.

I must confess it drives me absolutely crazy when people are so selfish that they demand the people who love them do not love anyone else or at least do not act on their love for anyone else.  I love to see and be around people who love freely because I love freely, openly and completely.  It breaks my heart when someone takes the fact that I love many people and tries to imply that I don’t care or love about him or her as a result.  I used to let that heartbreak determine how I acted or reacted so that particular individual wouldn’t feel “unloved” or unappreciated but over time I have learned that some people prefer to be judgmental and exclusionary rather than to love as love was intended to be.  I feel bad for them because they are missing out on the greatest blessings of life.

shutterstock_65540413I cannot change anyone around me but I can refuse to let the negativity drag me down into a place where I begin to look at love as a “win-lose” proposition.  For me, love will always be a “win-win.”  Love is not an equation but if it was, there would actually be two of them based on the way people think:

  1. Love – Love = Nothing
  2. Love + Love = Infinity

I’ll just say this….”To infinity and beyond!!”

Blessings!

One of “Those” Days

FrustratedYesterday I had one of “those” kinds of days.  You know the kind I’m talking about: You wake up late, rush to get dressed and grab some type of makeshift breakfast.  Then you take off for work and get behind a slow driver who tests the limits of your patience.  Your lunch hour is filled with personal errands so you have to stop and grab something at a mini-mart for lunch.  Work seems to be nothing but putting out fire after fire with no break at all in the madness.  Then you finally head for home (after working late, of course) to tackle all the personal things you need to get done but things just keep going wrong.  You try to limit the negativity in your home but just can’t stand the thought that anyone around you is taking time to rest or goof off instead of doing things in the house that need to be done (dishes, laundry, you name it)!  Yep, yesterday was one of those days.  I even got mad at my husband because he just didn’t seem to share my irritation over things cluttering up the kitchen and living room.  Was it a terrible mess?  No, not at all, but I had absolutely had enough!

Days like yesterday test more than just my patience.  They often wear me down and drain me of what seems like the last drop of energy I may ever have.  Yes, I realize that is an exaggeration but it sure feels that way at times.  As I stood over the kitchen sink doing dishes, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I have let unmet expectations drag me into the mire of anger and disappointment.  Half EmptyUnmet expectations not only have the ability to create a frustrating day, they can also drag us into a depressive funk that can linger on for hours, days, weeks or even months at a time.  It can become a cycle that begins to feed on itself.  Soon we find ourselves viewing everything in a negative light or with a defeatist attitude.  We start believing things never work out or that the good things really are “too good to be true” instead of celebrating the positive things in life.

All of us have expectations of the people in our lives and the world around us.  We expect others to be respectful.  We expect to be loved by the people we love.  We expect honesty and compassion.  We expect all kinds of things but sometimes we fail to see our expectations realized.  I used to think it didn’t matter if my expectations were met.  I also lived many years feeling as if I didn’t have the right to expect anything from anyone.  It seemed selfish to expect things from others so I lived not only with the disappointment of being let down but also the guilt of having expected anything in the first place.  Ugh…a double hit to the psyche!  I am positive I’m not the only one who has struggled with this mindset at times.

Being let down by others is a reality of life.  For me, I realized just how much my expectations of others were based on how I treated them or expressed my love and care for them.  We’ve all been taught the “Golden Rule” – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It sounds fair, right?  Golden Rule picWhat we miss in that verse is that it says “as you would have them do unto you.”  It doesn’t guarantee that our treatment of others (or the world around us) will cause us to get the same in return.  It doesn’t say if we are nice and helpful that people will be the same toward us.  It doesn’t say if we put others first they will put us first and it doesn’t say if we love them they will love us as well.  It calls us to a higher plane that keeps us from wasting our energy seeking reciprocity OR retribution! We are all imperfect human beings and our imperfections lead us to sometimes having unrealistic expectations of others.  Those imperfections also cause us to sometimes be unable to live up to the expectations of those around us. (I’ll talk about that aspect more at a later time!)   I’ve been let down by people I thought were capable of certain behaviors and responses only to find out later that they just weren’t wired that way.  I have been there to support, love and care for people who have been oblivious to the times when I have been the one to need the same love and care.  It hurts deeply when we feel like our relationships or endeavors in life are one-sided, even if the reality is they are more equal than we are able see when we are hurting or upset.  We will be disappointed in life but if we let our disappointment become the fuel for more darkness in our world then the darkness wins! Let’s go back and look at my day again with a new perspective:

  • I woke up late…..becomes….I am alive.
  • I got stuck behind slow drivers….becomesI have a reliable means to get to where I’m going.
  • Lunch was filled with errands and mini-mart food…becomesI am fortunate that I can take care of personal matters during the day instead of trying to do it after hours.  Mini-mart food may not be my first choice, but I am grateful to have something to eat.
  • Work was full of “fires.” …becomesI have a good job with a good company in this very difficult economy. 
  • I got home late…becomesI have a place to call “home” that is safe and warm.
  • My husband irritated me…becomesI have someone who loves and accepts me as I am.  

spotlight warmIt’s amazing how different things appear when we turn on the light of the truth and shine it on the darkness of our earthly perspective!   I could say “shame on me” for letting the day get the best of me but instead I choose to say “I’m human.”  Thank God today is another day!

Blessings!