Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Bucket List

You’ve likely seen the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicolson. Fighting cancer, both men know they have a short time to live so they form an unlikely alliance and set out to do all the things they would like to have accomplished before they die. Interesting. You may even have your own bucket list.

This past summer, my six-year-old granddaughter had it in her heart to see Mount Rushmore. “It’s on my bucket list,” she told me.

 “Exactly what is a bucket list?” I asked her. 

“It’s everything you want to do before you grow up,” she answered solemnly.

That may be a healthier concept. We would likely get more done in our lives if we didn’t put off our dreams to “someday.”

My daughter and son-in-law surprised my youngest granddaughter with a trip to Mount Rushmore. In the picture you cans see the pure joy on her face. (As an aside, she also had the Statue of Liberty on her list. They made sure that happened this past summer as well.)

I can’t say I ever had a “bucket list.” I looked online to see what others consider bucket list worthy. I’ve already had the opportunity to swim with dolphins and been both waterskiing and snow skiing. Tom and I traveled in Europe. We took a cruise down the Nile and traveled by train from Helsinki, Finland to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’ve driven on the Autobahn and tried my hand driving on the left side of the road in Scotland. I even lived in Europe for a while. I’ve had the joy of experiencing many adventures in my life.

Now that I am aging and will likely enter my second childhood at some point, I decided to create my first “bucket list.” All the things I’d like to do before I “grow up.” I may add to it, but I’ll be pretty happy if I get to do these few items.

I’d like to:

Go Whitewater Rafting
Be an Extra in a Movie
Visit Alaska
Take an Excursion Out West on a Conestoga Wagon
Tour Israel

And, oh yeah…one more thing. I’d really like to see Mount Rushmore.

What’s on your list?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Playing the Birth Order Card to Your Advantage

People often speak of “birth order.” When people speak of family, I often hear them grouse about their position in the family. 

“I was the oldest so I was responsible for all my brothers and sisters. It wasn’t fair.”

“I was the youngest. I never got to do the stuff my brothers and sisters got to do because I was always ‘too little’ or ‘a baby.’”

But the pain and suffering of “the middles” must be the worst. According to them. I can’t actually speak to any of this since I’m an “only.”

Then again, there is one person I’ve known all my life who says she always thought she was the luckiest person in her family because she was…are you ready…the middle. Yep. She was smack dab in the middle of seven, count them, seven children. She had an older sister and a younger sister. She had two older brothers and two younger brothers.

The middle. 

With My Mom 2019
Why did she view herself as lucky? She had the best of both worlds. Mature enough to be included in the activities of the older ones and playful enough to enjoy the younger ones. She enjoyed her big family so much she fully expected to have at least four or five children of her own. It didn’t happen. She had one. One that was full of energy and kept her busy. She counted herself lucky.

She’s my mom. I’m the lucky one.

But this leads me to share a position I’ve long held. I’ve been blessed with three daughters. They are strong, smart, fun, women who are also full of energy. If they run into some issue or discover some flaw, it would be easy to blame their birth order. I hear that stuff from others frequently.

But I contend God places you in a family exactly where you need to be. The experiences you have and the qualities you develop because of your family position are what you need to be the person He intends you to be.

Responsible because you were the oldest? Good. We need responsible people.

Felt left out because you were the youngest? Okay. We need people who can empathize with the disenfranchised.

Always having to work to make things happen because you were a middle? Caring negotiators are scarce. We need you.

I used to think being an only was the worst. But the “only child” brings a different viewpoint and skill set to the table. Independent thinking. And we need that, too.

How did "birth order" make you the person you are today?

Also...this week, is my mom’s birthday. So to all the middles out there…Celebrate!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Redirected Life

A Re-Directed Life

I’ve had this notion rolling around in my head for a while now. It is the changing of life’s path. In fact, I spoke to a church group about this very subject in September.

Last month, I wrote a post about the university where I taught closing its doors. I suggested that the students who had to complete their studies elsewhere would be “uniquely qualified” to live in our ever-changing, Plan B world. 

In August, I penned a post about reinventing or refining our lives. It is true. We all must do it. I simply don’t know anyone who is living out Plan A. In fact, I’ve been through so much change I’m not sure I remember Plan A. I may be on Plan D, E, or F by now…I only trust I’m not to Z. Yet.

My youngest daughter and I talk about this. We talk about how change happens and how we respond to it.

Sometimes we change our direction to follow a dream.It is our choice. That’s what happened when I left teaching to become a writer. Writing had been a dream since second grade. When Tom and I decided to retire, I was a professor at Cincinnati Christian University. I could have continued teaching somewhere and was even offered a job to teach online courses. Writing had been something I desired. Retiring afforded me the opportunity to pursue it.

Sometimes we change our direction due to circumstances beyond our control. That’s what happened in 2014, when I had to shift from being Tom’s wife to being his widow. As I shared in one of my talks, learning to live alone is more than learning to change the filter on the furnace. It is learning to live in the quiet. It is learning to live without someone to share your ideas and dreams.

For the students who were left suddenly without a college, it was a scrambling to find a university, pack, locate housing, obtain funding, and fight to transfer as much as they could to their new schools. They rose to the occasion. At the last chapel service, they worshipped the God who will never leave them. They spoke of this change in plans as an opportunity to be like the early church and be “scattered to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.” They modeled resiliency. 

Sometimes God Opens a Door and
We Walk Through It
Sometimes we change our direction because God opens a door and we walk through it.That’s what happened when I accepted the teaching position in Kosovo. I know God would have blessed me even if I hadn’t said yes to the adventure, but I’m so glad I lived in southeast Europe those ten months. It helped me heal from the sudden death of my husband. 

What lies ahead? I have no clue. That’s part of the adventure. A new year… a new decade… a new challenge? All I know is this verse from Philippians 4 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (v. 13)

What changes have redirected your life?

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Quiet...My 2020 Word for the Year

QUIET…My 2020 Word for the Year

As many of my readers know, I choose a word each year. It’s a practice I picked up from author Debbie Macomber. I don’t always know how it will play out in my life, but that’s part of the fun.

Last year I chose the word “hospitality.” It came from my study of Romans 12 where we are instructed to practice hospitality. It was a great year. I enjoyed having people in my home for breakfasts, dinners, parties, and desserts. I appreciated cooking meals or dishes for others in need and for friends at Bible study. I found myself reaching out to others more. I made new friends. I opted to be more generous. I started a collection of books for women in prison. I visited people who were sick or hurting.

Sure, some of that I would have done anyway, but clinging to the word “hospitality” brought focus to my actions. As I said, it was a great year.

Now a new year looms ahead. I’ve been thinking and praying about the word I would choose. The one that keeps coming to mind is…Quiet.
It’s a scary one for me. I am anything but quiet. What will that mean for me? 
To listen more? 
To lead a quiet life? 
To be still?  

Perhaps I will find time to be more reflective. Perhaps I will guard my calendar so as not to overbook my time. Perhaps I will finish the book I started writing based on a passage in I Thessalonians.

I Thessalonians 4:11-12.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

There’s a lot to consider in that quiet life: minding your own business, working with your hands, consistency, respect, independence. 

I don’t know exactly how the word will play out for me. I do know it is a journey worth exploring.

A new decade. A new year. A new word. 

Have you claimed a word for the year? Share your word if you dare. And keep me in the loop. I’m anxious to hear how it works for you.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Convoluted Christmas

My blog posts are published on Wednesdays. As I write this I am well aware that most of my readers will be fully engaged in family activities the day it appears. Christmas Day. 

I actually had a rather convoluted Christmas season. I think that happens more as we age and our children are out on their own. 

For the past twelve years or so, our family has celebrated what my youngest daughter referred to as “Thanks Christmas” every other year on Thanksgiving, and Christmas on the even years. All three of my girls are married and have their husbands’ families to consider. It was a plan that worked.

Of course there were exceptions. The year Tom died, all three spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with me. They needed that time together as much as I did. 

In 2016 we weren’t together for Christmas either. We had a Disney cruise planned but only two of the families could go. My middle daughter gave birth to a sweet addition to the family that year and couldn’t go with us. But trust me, that little boy was worth it!

And then there is this year. This year turned out to be one of those “exceptions.” As 2019 was an “odd year,” I planned for our “Thanks Christmas.” It freed the actual Christmas holiday for the others to do as they wished.

My oldest daughter and her family planned a cruise over the Christmas break. It’s a graduation gift for my oldest grandson.

My middle daughter and her family are taking me to Florida. We’re getting to enjoy that Disney cruise they missed in 2016.

My youngest daughter and her husband are taking their two little ones to Colorado to ski. That is a Waters tradition so I’m happy to see it continue.

All seemed to be on schedule. But “Thanks Christmas” didn’t happen. I had my gifts wrapped and ready, but my middle daughter’s family couldn’t get here for the Thanksgiving break. She brought the youngest member of the family a week early and we all had turkey, dressing, and the works as our Thanksgiving celebration.

Since Christmas day fell on a Wednesday and everyone had travel plans, the two local kiddos and their families met at my youngest daughter’s house for gift opening three days before the big day. We had a great time.

My “middle” and her family arrive after Christmas for our Florida trip. That’s when they’ll get their gifts. 

You see why I say it has been a convoluted Christmas? 

But simply because it hasn’t gone as it has in the past, or maybe as I originally planned, doesn’t mean it is a bad one. 

I’ve enjoyed singing Christmas carols with family and friends. I baked cookies. I’ve had fun both giving and receiving gifts from loved ones. The colorful decorations and poinsettias have brightened the onset of the winter season. 

And, although we don’t have an exact date for His birth, I’ve embraced the church services recognizing that my Savior entered this world and lived this life in a frail human body as we all do. 

A baby. A child. A man. A savior. 

“Emmanuel” means God is with us. And He is with us…convoluted days and all.

Baking is a Tradition. But this one is special to me.
My sister-in-law's Breakaway Bars
with black walnuts from my grandparents farm...
harvested by my mama!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wedding Vows at Christmas

December 18, 1971
December 18th.  My wedding anniversary. Forty-eight years ago on a Saturday evening one week away from Christmas, Tom and I committed our hearts to each other. 

We were kids really. I was eighteen and he was nineteen. But our parents approved. We were supported by family and friends, as we stood at the front of Lutz Baptist Church in Florida and spoke our vows.

We took those vows seriously. We repeated them to each other every year on our anniversary. We would light our anniversary candle (You can read The Candle story by clicking here) and in the quiet of the evening, we would say our vows again. It wasn’t a ritual. It was a sweet and tender celebration between the two of us.

Every year, since Tom died in 2014, I’ve hosted a caroling party at my house on my anniversary. My family and close friends come and we sing. We talk, share memories, and laugh. We eat Christmas cookies and treats; we visit. And we sing. I often share a story or memory or meditation. And we sing. We sing a few songs in my living room before heading out to carol the neighbors. It’s a celebration. One I know Tom would have loved.

I have this party every year. It is my way of recognizing my anniversary. 

The year I lived in Kosovo, I hosted the caroling party there as well. It is that important to me. (You can read about A Palm Tree Kind of Christmas by clicking here…and no, the weather in Kosovo is not palm tree kind of weather!)

Eventually, everyone leaves and the quiet of the evening settles over me. I don’t light the candle anymore, but in the darkness I whisper my part of the vows:

I take thee, Tom to be my wedded husband.
To have and to hold from this day forward;
For better, for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; 
To love, honor, and obey as long as we both shall live; 
According to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto, I pledge thee my love.

Yes, I know that chapter of my life is over. But like any good book, it is worth revisiting again. So I do. Every year, I host a caroling party and celebrate the joy I had in being Tom’s wife.

As I’ve had a few people ask about year end gifting to the scholarship fund for Tom, here are the links. The first is for online giving. The second is for those of you who prefer to mail in your gift. Thank you so much for helping make this a reality.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Idea Collector

Many people I know are collectors…of something. I know people who collect books. Others collect salt and pepper shakers or sports memorabilia. Golf balls, coins, stamps? You name it. People collect things that bring them joy.

My daughters were collectors. When they were young.

Allison collected porcelain dolls.
Danielle collected music globes.
Kendall collected Cherished Teddies.

Allison grew up, got married, and has two sons. She kept a few of her favorite dolls. Perhaps one day she’ll pass them on to a granddaughter. Or not.

Danielle still has most of her music globes, though now they are safely tucked away. She has four young children. Enough said.

Kendall married a minimalist. Don’t misunderstand. It’s a quality I admire. She may have one or two of her “Cherished” figures around, but some other collector dropping in on a yard sale benefitted from “drastically reduced still in box” prices. 

I understand. You grow up. As a little girl, I collected stuffed animals and rocks. The colorful animals covered my bed. I have one left. His name is Pokey. He was Lassie’s friend. I did the math and the poor thing is over sixty years old.

I’m still drawn to pretty rocks or fossils. I don’t have my collection anymore. Somehow in moving, my boxes of rocks and fossils disappeared. I mourned the loss, but my husband, Tom, seemed to be happy about it. Hmm…

Now I collect ideas. Seriously.

I am always bumping into great ideas. I jot them down for later use. I collect ideas for crafts, menus, parties, programs, and gifts. 

But my biggest collection? Ideas for stories and books I want to write.

I have story ideas scratched onto scraps of paper, receipts, church bulletins, calendars, envelopes, and in the margins of workbooks. A few ideas make it into my computer and I have a few in a notebook. But mostly, the ideas are “displayed” in my car cup holder, my wallet, or on the fronts of file folders in my closet.

I tried writing them on a poster in my office, but I would tire simply looking at the ever-growing list of possibilities. I finally grabbed a boot box and started throwing the bits and pieces of paper into it. Perfect. I can close the lid. 

I’ve tried to organize my story ideas. I’ve tried transferring them to a spreadsheet, copying them in a notebook, or putting them on index cards. It’s no use. There are simply too many of them.

Boot Box of Ideas
I have enough ideas to write a plethora of works of fiction and dozens of non-fiction works. I could spend the next 365+ days crafting stories and books using these ideas and never make a dent in the box. (That’s assuming I can read my writing on those scraps of paper.)

Do I throw up my hands in despair? No. I’m an idea person. I’m always coming up with ideas. I collect them. All I need to properly display those ideas is the time, energy, and motivation to write.

Which gives me a great idea…I could create an idea manager for writers like me…or not. So for Christmas this year, I’m asking Santa for a heavy dose of “follow through.” 

What’s on your Christmas list?