Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lessons in the leaving

I'm looking at moving sometime within the next year. 
After nearly 20 years in the neighborhood I've called home.
Honestly, I never really wanted to live alone, but agreed it would be good for me... a stepping stone before something (or someone) finally came along and fell into place. Two years or so, max. 
Or so I thought..

And so, here I am, all these years later, looking back and taking stock.

Jodi asked me what I would miss the most and my knee-jerk response was: commute. I live 10-15 minutes from work, which has been a huge blessing. I get to come home for lunch most days. I get to get away from the office for an hour a day. I don't have to leave home until 8:15 in the morning and get home by 5:45 most days. And those months I was in a flare... so incredibly grateful for that short commute.

But, then I considered the sunsets. Oh, man. I have had a front row seat to some amazing sunsets over the years. With my apartment facing west and being on the 2nd floor, I've had the pleasure of seeing the sun slowly rest into the skyline time and time again. I only recently realized, however that even I don't have the view I once had. The pines the sun dips behind have grown more than double in size since I moved in! 

With being on the 2nd floor, my porch also practically perches up in the sweet birch tree that's filled in quite nicely. The birds come right up in front of me on its branches and Buddy, my poor little sweet bullied stray is able to climb up there and find refuge. 
I didn't even hardly go out on my porch until about 8 years ago, but finally decided to put a couple chairs out and a cute little table and some plants... and it quickly became my favorite spot to spend my free time. (When it's not sweltering hot outside.) Planting and repotting and working on my green thumb. Sitting and reading for hours at a time. And many times, praying after nightfall. There's just something about being out under the stars that makes God seem closer.

I'll also miss just being around people... in a community. Now, it's not necessarily a tight-knit community and some of these folks are crazier than I'd like them to be... but  most have been good and it's just nice (especially when you live alone) to have people around. Kids playing in the pool all summer, yelling "Marco!" "Polo!" and skipping along the hopscotch pattern painted on the basketball court across from me. Passing folks on the sidewalk or in the parking lot and exhanging a "Hey, how ya doin'". Kids passing by in droves, to catch the school bus. Sometimes, some thumping rap from a car in the parking lot, but other times, Mary Mary belting out "Can't Give up Now" or some CeCe Winans on Sunday mornings. 

See, I'm the minority in my 'hood and at times, I have to shake my head and ask "Whose life am I in?"  but I'm glad to have lived here for nearly 20 years. Though there have been some incidents over the years, I've had more good than bad and I feel like living here has kept me humble and less judgmental. And I honestly fear I'll lose that once I move further out. 

But, I'll just try to remember...

Devine and Kyle - half brothers and my buddies, who when in about 5th grade, made a little job out of taking peoples' trash out for candy money. And who would come hang out with me and talk endlessly about McDonalds and the latest 'kicks' and favorite basketball stars... 

Aaron - sweet sweet Aaron, who passed away a couple years ago and was such a blessing here. Any time anyone would pass him, either here or up the road at Kroger, he would have a huge smile and throw his hand out in an enthusiastic "hey!" He's also the one who took in one of the sweet little stray kittens a while back. Sweet guy. We called him "Mr. Cordial".  :)  Still miss seeing him around.

Jimmy - okay, so his name was actually Steve, but before I learned that, I had dubbed him Jimmy because that's what he drove. ha  I never did tell him that, but always feared I'd slip up and call him that instead of Steve. He was kind of intimidating at first - older gentleman who'd sit out in his car for great lengths of time, smoking and came off kind of gruff. But, as time went on and we passed one another more, it would brighten both our days to see each other. He would ask how I was, tell me to have a good day and even got him to laugh a time or two.  :)  He also took the liberty to point out that I'd put on some weight when I was on my steroids, but apparently, in the black community, that's a compliment, so I let him slide on that one. hahaha  He moved a year or so ago and it's still strange to not see Jimmy out there in the parking lot.

Jolasia - oh my goodness, my crazy little neighbor on the porch beside mine. That girl still has me laughing. And it's been years since she's been over there. A little 6 year old spit-fire who just loved chattering on and on with me. And I loved it, too. :)  She was full of questions for me and full of stories. Knew the entire prelude to "Baby Got Back" and thought hussy was the funniest word ever. She was a hot mess. I remember she yelled "Hey!" down to 'Jimmy' and then said "Why you not say 'hi' to Mr. Steve?" hahaha  She wished I was her sister, so I could take her to the park. :)  She's the one who wasn't sure if she should tell her grandpa she was talking to me because (and she whispered) "because you're white". I reassured her that he probably already figured that one out. ha

Then, of course, years ago, we did have quite a little community formed within my building. Angie and her little Chihuahua Amia and her boyfriend David. And Diamond, who lived caddy-corner from me and whose uncle mistakenly let himself into my apartment once and both were mortified. I just thought it was kinda funny. Ms. Yvonne, downstairs, who worked at an auto parts store, but surprisingly enjoyed playing guitar in her spare time. We had Vernon and Carmen and Sweeny and his mom... Joey, who kindly gave me a plant for my b-day one year and made sure to specify "this is the kind you water". hahaha  Still not sure why he thought I might not be able to figure that one out. Ms. Deborah, who made me thee best homemade, fresh from the oven, pound cake for sharing a couple homegrown tomatoes with her. And Billy, who kept us all entertained, both with humor and acrobatics and yet I could sit and talk about things like race and religion with for hours. And then, Mandi and Cortney... whew. They were rough. They were a couple and lived just behind me and fought at all hours. And fought hard. Mandi was particularly rough and drove a leaky old Oldsmobile, with the booming music and the dreadlock-type hair and just a rough and tough demeanor. And yet... there was just something in her or something in me that lead my heart to say "Don't be so hasty. There's something redemptive in her." So, in between calls to the cops, I would just pray. And try to be as cordial as possible. At one point, she lost her car, so it was hard for her to get to a job. Cortney was no help at all. And I was unemployed at the time, so Mandi asked a couple times if I could take her to her job. I said "Of course". I wasn't sure exactly what to do with that, but just decided to roll with it. She was still a bit intimidating, but I still had a peace about it and felt a sense of purpose with her. She talked a fair amount in our 10 minute drive and I couldn't help but laugh out loud when she told me matter of factly that she had told a potential employer that she could do electrical work (electrical work!) and neither had the knowledge or the tools for the job. hahaha!  I think it caught her off-guard when I laughed at that, but then told her "Girl! I only WISH I was as bold and confident as you! You are awesome!" I have little to no doubt that that was the first time she'd heard that in years... or maybe ever. :(  Shortly thereafter, they got evicted and I don't know where she went from here, but my heart still breaks for her and pray for her often. And the sweet little handwitten heart cut-out note she gave me for giving her a going away care package is framed on my wall and remains one of my most treasured possessions. 

And now, at this point, I have a nice lady about my age, who has a sweet porch set-up, and brings her birds out to sing in the morning sometimes. And a lady who moved in below, who I've not had a good chance to meet yet, but seems furrowed and a little less than cordial - yet... because she moved into where Buddy was used to hanging out and being fed down there, and set up a nice little porch with furniture and plants and whatnot... I was afraid she wouldn't take to Buddy being down there too well. However, a month or two ago, a good little storm kicked up and apparently, she wanted to open her door to check it out and she saw Buddy take off into the storm and she felt bad. So, she's plopped food out on her patio for him ever since.  :)  And Ms. Thompson, who I have spent more than one lunch hour talking to. She's somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 yrs old and lives on the top floor (oof! - that's a long climb for her). Originally from Mississippi and her kids talked her into moving up here. Her daughter comes by every now and again, but she's quite lonesome and says that she "talks more to the pine trees out back than with the good Lord!"  :)   And has, on several occasions, carried a chair out to the lower breezeway, just to be around people. I feel for her in that. So, I try to speak with her whenever I get the chance. And the sweet older maintenance man who also greets me most days with "Good morning" and sends me off with a "God bless!" Who asks how my cat's doing, saying she's the sweetest.  :)
And, of course, my Lil Bit. I mean, she's definitely coming with me, but had I not lived here, she couldn't have crashed my pad and taken up residency with me and she's blessed me with her companionship for well over 13 years now!

So. Though many people wonder what in the world I may still be doing here, all these years later. And, at times, I may have myself - it's not anywhere I would have anticipated living for nearly 20 years of my life, but it has blessed me. It's been close to work, close to family and has grown me in ways I may not have grown otherwise. And hopefully, I've impacted this place and these people as much as they've impacted me.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Gift of Single... at 43

If God simply granted wishes, I'd have married a high school sweetheart (and, of course, lived happily ever after - preferably in a cute little farmhouse on some land somewhere where it never goes above 80 degrees).

If He simply answered prayers, I'd have most certainly married by 43.

But, sometimes He gives us gifts that we don't want, aren't quick to see the value in and would never ask for. 

It's only taken me about 40 years to begin to discover the gift that singleness can be (and to stop rolling my eyes and huffing whenever I read 1 Corinthians 7:7).

   "God gives the gift of single life to some, the gift of married life to others."

(I can't be the only one to have read that and thought "Psh... if it's a gift, where can I exchange it?")

Yes, it is a much simpler life. Less complication. Less 'hassle'. Less mess. 
But, also less companionship. Less communication. Less support.

Point being: there's good and bad to most everything. And I believe Paul is just trying to help us to realize that God is a giver. And whether you find yourself married or not, it's a gift. Not only to be received, but to use. In both regards.

Don't waste so much time and energy resenting the gift that you've been given, that you miss what the gift beholds.


In my 20s, I just expected to get married. It was all but given. It's what you do. Go to college, meet someone, graduate, get married, have kids, get a career, retire, play with some grandbabies... boom. 
Wrong.

In my 30s, I fluctuated between being bitter and resentful that it hadn't happened for me yet (when it seemed to fall into place so easily for everyone else) and holding out hope that it still would somehow for me. 
Wrong again.

In my 20s, I didn't regard the gift at all. 

In my 30s, I focused solely on the gift of marriage and wondered if mine had somehow gotten lost in the mail, wondering if there was some sort of tracking number I could get my hands on somewhere. 

Now in my 40s, I can honestly say that my focus has shifted. From the gift to the Giver

I still have a great desire to marry. But, I desire Him more. I still long for intimate companionship, but He knows me better than anyone else ever could. And loves me unconditionally. I still would love to talk to someone besides myself or my cat when I get home. But, He is always available to talk to, is the best listener you can find and even answers if you give Him a chance.

I believe that God has brought me to this place, so I can know Him in ways that would have been hard for me to know if I were married. Seeking His counsel, trusting His protection and provision, focused solely on Him and the things of His heart and resting in His loving arms.

What a beautiful gift indeed.  


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Stewardship

So, I love Dr. Tony Evans.
He's just such a dynamic speaker and uses such great illustrations to convey the Word.
I had recently read 'Detours' and loved it, so was wanting more from him when I saw his newly revamped 'No More Excuses' book offered with his daughter Chrystal's 'She's Still There' and couldn't resist. 
I realize it's for guys, but truth is truth and we could all use some of that. And I just change out any "his" for "hers" and "brothers" for "sisters" and it's all good. :)  And, I figured it may just give me some insight to the male psyche, which couldn't hurt, should I ever need that down the line.  ;)

Anyway...
In 'No More Excuses', one of his chapters addresses stewardship. Not a common topic in the secular world, but certainly not a new concept in the church. We're often told "be a good steward of your time... of your money..." which, to me, always meant to be mindful, or responsible of your resources, in a nutshell. But, I love the way Tony illustrates stewardship.

He says:  A steward in Bible times was someone who administered or managed another person's property. Therefore, a steward didn't own anything, but he oversaw everything for the owner. He was accountant, foreman, field boss and office manager, all rolled into one. It was a position of great responsibility.

He then goes on to use Joseph as an example:
A biblical illustration of stewardship is Joseph in the house of Potiphar, the Egyptian official who bought Joseph as a slave.
According to Genesis 39:6, 'Potiphar left all that he had in Joseph's charge.' When Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph, his reply showed that he understood his role. He told her 'Behold, because of me, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?'

So, the nature of stewardship is very easy to grasp. A steward owns nothing, but he manages everything. When a steward starts acting like he owns his master's stuff, there are problems. (See Luke 16:1-2)

God owns everything because he created everything.
He's the owner; you and I are just the managers. 

At work, one of my jobs is to manage office supply inventory and order accordingly. Because it's not my money, but rather the company's, that I'm spending, I try to be as frugal and responsible as possible. I know that to some extent, I am accountable for the money that's spent and I don't take that responsiblity lightly. I want them to know that I'm managing their money to the best of my ability. 

If only I were that responsible with my own money! :o
I've never been a huge shopper or spender, but let's just say, money management is not my spiritual gift. I just don't like thinking about it. I want to make enough to cover my living expenses with a little extra for play and good causes. Other than that, I'm out.
But, Tony's admonition challenges me to be just as mindful with my own money as I am with my company's. After all, it's ultimately His money I'm managing. And to manage it to the best of my ability. 

The test of our stewardship is whether God winds up with our leftover time, energy and resources, or whether we give him our first and best... Jesus is either Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

The real issue isn't whether you worry, but whether God is first. If he isn't then you should be worried. Because that means you're assuming the responsibility of providing for your own needs. You are trying to act like the owner rather than just the manager who works for the real owner.

I don't know about you, but this concept gives me both a greater sense of relief and a greater sense of  responsibility. It's not mine, but rather it's all God's and only mine to manage. For Him. Whew.

God says that if I will look after Him, He will look after me. That doesn't mean I don't have to work, save and be responsible, but it does mean I can turn the worry over to the Owner. It's His stuff, so if something breaks, He gets to fix it. (And is way more able than me, by the way.)

A final example Dr. Evans provides is this:
Take a pair of newlyweds. They are deeply in love. Yes, they want a house one day, and they hope to get into a better financial situation. But they are content because there is great gain in their relationship. They enjoy just being together.
Ten or fifteen years later, this husband and wife are looking good in their designer clothes. Each of them has a car and a career. The home is nice. But wouldn't it be tragic if, in all they've achieved, they've lost that 'great gain' because now they are living like two strangers in the same house?
That could happen because money can buy a house, but it can't purchase a home. Money can buy you medicine, but it can't buy you health. Money can buy pleasure, but it can't buy peace. There's nothing wrong with houses, cars and careers, but when you leave out godliness, God says He won't give you great gain because it has to do with the things money can't buy.

The secret to being a contented steward is to have such a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ that it doesn't matter what your circumstances are. You're just tickled to death to belong to the Lord regardless.
The secret to real contentment is found only when Christ is dynamically at work in your life.

Put Him first.
Be a responsible manager of all you've been given charge over.
And see how He wants to use you and your resources.



Love Thy Neighbor

In talking with a neighbor the other morning, I learned that a fellow neighbor of ours had passed away recently. I was shocked, as he was rather young and saddened, as he was always one to have a smile on his face and greet you with an enthusiastic wave.
The girl who told me was sorry to hear of his passing as well as other neighbors who were familiar with Aaron.
I wonder if he knew the extent of his impact on the lives around him through a genuine smile and a simple wave. I hope he knew it didn't go unnoticed.
Rest in peace, my neighbor.
Hope to see that wave again some day.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Living on the Excess

LAs part of my forementioned Financial Inititative, I decided to 'live on my excess'. 

So many of us Americans have been so blessed, we don't even realize how excessively we tend to live. But, when I started thinking about ways to cut back on spending - food being one of the highest categories for me - I stopped and thought about how much food was in my fridge and freezer. So I determined to eat all of that before buying any more (with the exception of some of the essential expendables like butter, eggs, some fresh produce...) 

I had 3 packages of turkey breasts in the freezer. I threw those all in a crockpot and that's gotten me through almost 2 weeks worth of lunches. I had a package of top sirloin steaks that had darkened from being frozen, so I very well may have assumed they had gone bad and thrown them away before. But, I thawed them and had them for dinner one night this week - they were every bit as delicious as they would've been the day I bought them! I also thawed a pound of ground beef, but I didn't want plain burgers. I could've gone for some chili, but knew that meant going to buy more stuff to add to it. So, I looked in my cabinet and saw a single can of pizza sauce, from who knows when. So, I found a recipe for Paleo pizza crust online, whipped up a simple crust from the almond flour I had on hand, cooked up the ground beef with a bunch of yummy Italian seasonings, threw it on the cooked crust, topped it with a bunch of Swiss and cheddar and it was really good and  got me 3 more meals! 


I also had a freezer full of frozen veggies, many of which had become rather freezer-dried, but determined to make the best of those, too and not replace until eaten. (Hence the need for more butter.)  :)  
Also had some ice cream in there, too, which I happily dispensed of, but have not yet replaced!  ;)

And it's not just food.
I deep cleaned my bathroom last weekend and decided to see how long I could go without buying any more toiletries by using what I've got stored in there. Every time I go on a trip, I tend to buy the little travel sized items that never get fully used. And often tend to come home with any complimentary items.  :)  So, I've put all of those in a little basket to have at the ready, to actually use up and be able to throw away once used. Two birds, one stone! Cleaning up and saving money! 
And all that excess bubble bath... what better reward after a day of cleaning than a nice long bubble bath!
I also have a couple extra shower curtains and I hadn't changed that out in over a year, so I threw one of those up and boom - just like new!

Almost out of Febreze spray. But, thought of all the candles I have that I never use! So, burning those down before buying any more spray! And hey, burn enough of them at once, you can save on power! {Haha} Or use those essential oils in the medicine cabinet in that nice diffuser you got for Christmas!

I hadn't painted my fingernails in probably 15 years or more. But, I came across a bag full of nail polish and threw any that had dried up, away and decided to use the others. Why not! So, that's been fun and 'new' and didn't cost a dime!

And the list goes on and on...

But, all of this has just made me so much more aware. Of how much excess I really have in my life. And appreciative. Of the value of all that excess. And I can't help but think how more appreciative I'll be of FRESH veggies and how much mindful I'll be not to BUY more than I need going foward.


Finance Initiative

I'm blessed to work for a company that strives to keep their employees' best interest in mind.
In an effort to promote wellness, they have a Wellness Program, encouraging employees to exercise more and eat better.
In an effort to encourage community involvement, they offer 2 paid Volunteer Work Days a year.
And this year, they've offered us the chance to participate in a Financial Wellness class. 

Seeing as I already eat healthier than anyone I know and I do volunteer at the church with the youth program (not that I couldn't do more)... the financial wellness is where I've needed the biggest nudge. And this program has been just the nudge I've needed.

I admit, for some time now, I've tended to live with more of a spirit of resignation that one of intention. And I want to change that. This year, I've determined to live more intentionally. With goals and a purpose. With hope. And renewed resolve.

So, this financial program came just at the right time. 

I must say, money has never been much of a driving force for me. I'm glad to have a decent job and grateful for the income it provides. But, as long as my bills are paid and I have a little left over to 'play with'... I'm good. I believe the more you have, the more you spend and the more you have to spend, the less the stuff you spend it on means (to some degree). 

And I hate math. I can do it. I just don't enjoy looking at numbers. Let alone crunching them. 
But, look ~ bubbles! I can do bubbles.  :)


This is my budget, in bubbles. The program they've set us up on takes any of your bank accounts, credit card accounts and so forth and it pulls them together to show how you're spending your money. They have other formats, but I like the bubbles. All I had to do was go in and set specific monthly budget costs for each category and it shows what I've spent and tracks when I come close to the budgeted amount. Or, in some cases, gone over (hence the red bubbles). 

We took the introduction class on March 7th - just over 10 days ago. And I have been ridiculously good so far. I think, for me, just the awareness and accountabilty was the kick in the pants that I needed. Seeing all that red in February was incentive enough to see how March could shape up. And seeing as I spend mostly through my credit card, my changes won't really reflect until April... but I think I'm on the right track! (Shopping in still red just because I haven't set a budget for that, because it's so vague. Starting wtih tracking the others first before I decide what would be reasonable for that category.)

Thankfully, I don't have any outstanding debt (which is a lot more than most folks my age can say). I just need to be better about saving instead of squandering. After all, our instructor reminded us that:  Saving is merely delayed spending. So, might as well stop squandering so I can spend it on something I can look forward to!  :)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February in Georgia

You're killing me, Georgia.
Killing me.


Do you even remember a little thing called Winter?
What's supposed to come before Spring?
The thing that gets me through the rest of your sweltering year?

I would enjoy these beautfiul days more if they weren't in February... and didn't make me dread what must lie ahead in the upcoming months.

Ah, well. Enjoying this cooler rainy Saturday.

78 though?.... Really??
Ugh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sweet Surprises Bring Sweet Reminders

I received the sweetest surprise this morning.

My friend / former manager stopped by to hand deliver a pot of tulips and to tell me that she loves me. 


And as I looked at them throughout the day, I kept thinking. Back to my years at Blue Willow and how He had blessed me there. And where I am now and how He blesses me still. 

Regardless of my marital status, I am loved. Not only by my friend of over 13 years, but by the One who knitted me together and who continues to knit my life together.

Thank You, Lord. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mekdelawit

This is Mekdelawit.
She lives in Ethiopia.
She is a precious student of a brand new school in the Shiro Meda area of Addis Ababa.
I began sponsoring her last August and so love getting updates on her! Don't you just love that smile? So sweet.


A friend of mine (Jen, from a couple of posts ago) learned of an Atlanta couple, Tymm and Laura Hoffman, several years ago, who had founded a charity called 'Brighton Their World'. 
Wonderful couple. 
In 2008, they were expectantly preparing to receive their first adopted baby from Ethiopia. His name was Brighton. Sadly, Brighton passed away from malnutrition before Tymm and Laura could get him. So, they turned their pain into purpose and now use their charity to raise both awareness and supplies for the children of that area.
Their main mission has been to get formula (and diapers) into those sweet babies' hands.
But, recently, they've been able to expand their mission! They now have a school there and are heading up a program that will ensure both nutrition as well as schooling for the children! So awesome! 
I love being a part of such an amazing effort!
And who knows... maybe, one day, I'll join Jen and Missy and go meet sweet Mekdelawit for myself.  :)

Check out Brigthon Their World at:  www.brightontheirworld.org .

To sponsor a student at Brighton Academy, the cost is $28 / month. This includes the schooling, meals at school and clean water for their family.
To be a nutritional sponsor, all it takes is $12 / month to provide them with meals and clean water.

If nothing else, add them to your prayer list. No telling what other ways God wants to use their willing hearts!



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Back To Life

This guy's music ministers to my soul like no other these days.
So grateful for him! He literally gets me through each and every day at work.
And I am so glad that he just released his new album 'Back to Life' this past Friday!

I cannot get enough of "See You Again". Powerful anthem that invokes such hope and resolve. Love it! Check it out!  https://youtu.be/fChUxSW9-bk  (I dare you to listen to that and not come away charged up for the Lord and what He can do!)  :)