Beachcombing

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It is early when we awaken at the beach. Time has a way of speedily escaping us while we are on vacation, we are determined to make the most of every single day. We are not in a hurry here, but we do know that it will all too soon it will be time to pack up our little “cabana” on the beach until another day.

Glunking, treasure hunting, beachcombing…it’s what we do while we are here. Who knew there were so many things to see on this sandy strand? Our goal is to find sea glass or as some call it “beach trash” large or small, it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day? we never come back empty-handed.

The process is different for each of the three of us. One is usually searching amongst the crushed shelly area, one is searching along the water’s edge, and the other, somewhere in between the high tide mark and the line of stranded shells. Each day brings something different, some days are a larger find, while others have been scarce. Maybe that is why we cherish each piece, some of them take a while to find. We have been known to be competitive, but they quickly become family treasures that belong to us all.

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So we walk, and walk some more – and we remind ourselves to look up ever so often, not to disregard the beauty swirling all around us. The sun is our friend on these treasure excursions, glistening down on the glass, just waiting for one of us to notice. The smallest of shaped objects are often found by color or shape, and mostly when you have just about given up finding anything. We know by the last couple of years of searching that to give up, will mean lost treasures. It is our week of pirating what the ocean tosses us by tide or by storm. It always gives something…..always.

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Piece by piece….. we gather them into our shell bag, hearing the clink of the glass and shells, anticipating what the end of the day will bring.

The greatest thing about beachcombing? Our treasures always include more than sea glass. Whether they come from the priceless time that we spend together, splashing in the water, digging in the sand, or just the laughter that finds us there? They are gifts; days that we spend carelessly yet time that we count as gems.

This particular trip has brought some unusual finds – some a little creepy (what the blazes is a worm snake?) some just plain amazing and unexpected. It is these that make beach combing more than looking for sea glass! Unusual finds like heart-shaped stones, shells, fossilized shark teeth, an actual shark, jellyfish, sandfiddlers and even a hinge from a ship… make it all treasure.

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Yes, another vacation is soon coming to a close…we will add to our collection of treasures and look forward to the next one…for today, we will just enjoy our last hours of beachcombing, until the tide inches its way up to the dunes, churning more treasures out of the vast body of water – leaving something for the next family of beachcombers.

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Gathering on the Grove

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Long before the road was built and the land was fully cleared, I made the walk across the grassy foot path to the grove as a little girl. No matter how long or short my visit there was? My cousin would make sure we fit in the time to go there. She would simply say “let me know when you want to go to see your daddy” then we would go about finishing whatever we were doing. We had been making this walk since I was ten years old, gathering on the grove, picking whatever flowers were blooming at the time to place on the lone grave of my 30-year-old Daddy.

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Since those years of making that solemn walk, the grove has been filled with many more of my family, the people whom I have loved and cherished memories on into my adult life. The grove that started out being the place he picked to build a home, is now the resting place of those that have gone on. I made the journey there again this year for the annual Mills’ Memorial Service, gathering on the grove for the first time since my Mother was laid to rest there several years ago.

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The grove has always been a peaceful place, even as a child. Now, as an adult, it remains the same filled with even more memories of those I love. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and Cousins, it will always be a bittersweet place to visit. It had been too long since this last trip.

The gathering this year was much more needed for me, maybe because I am older, maybe because it has always been the place that I felt “home.”  Surrounded by cousins, too many to count and two of my Daddy’s last surviving siblings, (one of which led me to believe she couldn’t make it.. only to surprise me when I got there!) I needed to feel connected to my beginnings, the place I came from.

I can’t tell you which part of this journey to the grove made the most impact. I was able to attend the church service that began from my Uncle’s pulpit, listen to my family sing hymns and play music and be a part of testimony after testimony of how God had been faithful. Gathering with those that are and were a part of my tapestry, was a feeling of unconditional love that is not often a part of our ordinary daily lives. We were there, together, to enjoy every part of family, catching up with one another and meeting those that had been added to our circle of love.

There were many times that my heart ran overfilled during this visit. I watched my daughter enjoy cousin time, like I was afforded growing up, I don’t think she realized until this particular visit how large her family was on my side, for this I was especially grateful.

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I watched my cousin, who is more like a sister, open up her home and welcome everyone that came by regardless of their “kinship” in our family. She will never know how much love I felt in her presence. (yes, I know this is a goofy picture of us…but this has always been US!)

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I found myself stealing away by myself with tears, being thankful that I was able to be there this year. I don’t even think my husband realized how much I adored him for jumping through hoops to get me there this year – thank you for melting my heart- one of my love moments with you.

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I don’t know how often I will make it to the grove in the years to come? Probably not as often as I will wish, but when I do? I will cherish the time, count the blessings, and never take it for granted. Although there were sad goodbyes, I left with my heart overflowing, knowing that the miles between us will always be too many, but the distance between our hearts will always be less. No matter how many years pass from gathering on the grove, it will always seem like yesterday when we pick up where we left off…just as it always has – that is what makes it so special. For this time, I can say that “my cup runneth over” and I look forward to my next “Gathering on the Grove.”

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To all of my family… near and far – thank you for making this such a special place in my heart.

 

 

 

 

No Tolerance Policy

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How many time have you seen it in an administrative handbook? Guidelines and rules set before your eyes, policies and procedures blah blah blah. boring read? yes. It is needed in these references, but there lies another type of “No Tolerance Policy” (excuse me while I step up onto my mental soapbox)

We use our own plumb-line to measure what we want to tolerate, what we choose to dismiss, what we choose to judge and what we allow in our own circles. We have set up our own “no tolerance policies” and we stick to them, no matter who they hurt.

I think we confuse the words, respect, loyalty, and love, only substituting them to mean one thing: no tolerance. We demand justice for ourselves, revenge to those that have not spared us hurt, and betrayal to those that hold us in low regard. We say what we feel, and call it “being honest.” We use our words to cause injury to strangers, co-workers, and here’s the biggie..sometimes our own family members. Yes, we all have someone in our circle that has no filter, no desire to spare your feelings, and seemingly no remorse even when you tell them they have hurt your feelings.

If you have read any of my blogs, I have often said that my major pet peeve in this life is mean people: those people who say what they want, when they want and how they want.. just because they can.. leaving people’s feelings totally irrelevant, as long as they accomplish their own agenda. I have yet to figure out the agenda portion. Maybe this is where I get confused? Do people really convince themselves that a no tolerance policy works? I just can’t seem to figure out how it could.

The fact is… hurt people? hurt people. Plain and simple. Offenses are gathered like stones and saved for another day to throw back into the lives of others. Sometimes we throw them, sometimes we are the ones that receive the pelting. Either way? we flip through our mental pages of no tolerance policies and if we are not careful, we can remove people as easily as a page in a binder, discarded because we can’t tolerate or won’t.

Everyone needs to check their own brain-to-mouth filter, but I am referring to the act of disregarding someone out of selfishness, because all you can see is you, your own agenda and your need to do unto them before they have a chance to do unto you. You play with the very lives of people. I find this very scary. I always have.

At times, I am capable of  tolerating more than most people -note, I didn’t say at all times. Sometimes you are raised to do so, sometimes you learn to do so, and sometimes that quiet still voice leads you to do so… I am a whole other chapter when that tolerance has been trampled on and taken for granted, or if you intentionally attempt to hurt my child… It’s not what I wish for people to read about me – but yeah, that’s a chapter you may wish to avoid altogether.

What if? for just one day you practiced tolerating? those that get on your very last nerve? What about the ones that lives in Debbie Downer world? Tolerating people is a choice.. a conscious one that you make in every interaction. What happened to the golden rule? There is a reason it has always worked. Time-tested…..and proven. What happened to the simple rules of being polite? We often hurt the people we are supposed to be loving the most. Instead, we use and abuse them because they are readily available and well, those are the ones that always overlook your offenses? You may want to reconsider that idea, because I can just about guarantee you that their “no tolerance policy” with you will be forced into existence.

I can’t say enough that words hurt, and offenses linger. Make the choice today to choose them more wisely. You may be someone’s last hope for a word of encouragement, before they give up on people altogether? I don’t want to be responsible for being that “last straw” that breaks someone down. Everyone is fighting a battle, unseen and different from yours. Why not revoke the “no tolerance policy” on their behalf? Tolerance keeps you from becoming the “intolerant”. I have learned I don’t want to become that person, do you?

 

 

 

Courage on Canvas

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The room was filled to capacity with my female friends, along with clean brushes, easels and the most intimidating object of all…a blank, glistening white 16 x 20 canvas. I twisted my hands beneath the table. I listened closely to our instructor who gave us only two rules.

1. No Comparing

2. No “I can’t”

Sounded simple enough, rules that were fairly easy to follow. I am used to following. I have always been more  of a follower and less of a leader, so this part was not difficult.

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As I listened, I became more and more anxious about painting, but not in a positive way. I was afraid. Afraid of being a failure, regardless if I followed the rules. I had already told our instructor before this class that I was not sure that I could do it? She encouraged that I could and I would be surprised with the result.

The starting point was fairly easy, since it required a ruler and a straight pencil line. Then came time to dip the brush into the paint. I felt my hands tighten around the brush, but nothing was happening. Quietly she says, “Painting is all about courage, I can only give you the tools, the courage has to come from you.”

My soul starts to whisper….No I can’ts. No I can’ts. No I can’ts, until the first strokes of paint seem to glide onto the blank canvas.

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It was a start. I learned that painting is full of “layers” just like people. What you see in the forefront, is not all there is. There was a process that had to take place before it. There were layers, foundations that had to be built. Unless you were there in the beginning? You can’t really know how it came to be, you can only see the top layers. Looking from a distance, I do not really see that my horizon is not straight. Up close and personal? Oh yeah, it is jagged and full of imperfections. Our goal is to see the beauty in the painting while not putting our focus totally on the flaws.

I had no doubt that I would make mistakes. I was assured that my mistakes were not final. At one point I wasn’t sure we were even still talking about painting? It was starting to sound more like things I was familiar with.. Grace, do overs, unpeeling the harsh layers of people, being intentional, and realizing it is “okay” to not get it right the first time…. as long as I continued to try again.

Painting was the most different thing I have ever experienced. All the while, I felt like I was doing more than brushing the paint onto the canvas. I was creating and it was liberating. I also learned that I had to realize when it was “enough”. I think I could paint water in an ocean ALL DAY! The more I whisked that brush through the blues, the more I wanted to enhance the colors. I found a simple truth: my layers are going to be different and that’s okay too. I am me, God created me to be just that…me.

If you have never painted a blank canvas? I highly recommend it. It was terrifying, but that is usually when you find courage. Each stroke of the brush was a step towards courage. I’m so glad I continued and finished my painting. I will never see a Van Gogh when I look at it, but I will see courage…and the layers it took for me to get there..

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Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts. – John Wooden

 

 

Senses

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Of all of the five senses? Smell is the one that evokes a burst of vivid images for me. I have been known to stop on a dime at the slightest hint of one of these triggers. Yes, I look for the unexpected in every day ordinary.

Favorite smells are the incense of my life’s tapestry. They often appear as if divinely ordered, anxiously waiting to see if I am aware. A gentle breeze of fresh air or aromas that seem to say “I am here” or “Remember Me?” These moments are gifts, a surprise to my senses. I hope I am always sensitive to their nudging.

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Sawdust ….. My Daddy was a Carpenter

 

My Aunt and Uncle's house - where the coffee was always fresh

My Aunt and Uncle’s house – where the coffee was always fresh

 

My stepdad after a shower...it's the only thing he used to remove the coal dust

My step dad after a shower…it’s the only thing he used to remove the coal dust

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The smell of my Mother’s inexpensive perfume… which is priceless now

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The smell of the ocean…. reminds me of my three favorite things. Faith, Hope & Love and mostly…GRACE that is new every morning

I hope you take time to notice the things that make you smile….maybe it is the sense of sight, hearing or touch, taste…. maybe, just maybe? you are blessed to enjoy them all…

Hope

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Hope: The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. –

The air was cooler than forecasted and the sky was overcast but I held onto “hope” that tomorrow would be a better day. For the moment, I am content to watch the sunset cast hues of gold across its path. The fields catch a glimpse of Heaven before the shadows fall across the ground, another day comes to a close. There will be another tomorrow, another sunrise that brings the light of a new day – new hope.

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Sure enough, the sun shines and I am given yet another gift….hope (Hatikvah) for the journey of today, for now, it is enough to take each day for what it is – the gift of the present. It is early with anticipations and hope for good. I can already see it on the horizon…..sunny blue skies with pillowy white clouds. A grand appearance by the sun lessons my memory of the cold winds from the day before. Hope renews… a constant reminder that as long as I look for it, I am capable of finding it in each new day.

Your “better day” may have nothing to do with the weather, it may have everything to do with another chance to love more, forgive more, or embrace more. We are all “doing life” in seasons, regardless. I have today to choose how I plan to use it, and although circumstance may sometimes alter my plan? I know that no matter what it holds, hope will be there in the midst of it all, waiting for a chance to rise. Wait for it…..look for it. and while you are waiting? strive to be content with the present, making the most of the good parts no matter how small.

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Here is to today……a gift. Blue skies with bursts of color, may it soften the gray areas in our little corner of the world. Hope is there too.. abundant enough for us to share!

Philippians 4:12

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

 

 

 

I’ll See You Later

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I’ll See You Later………….

The years have come and they have gone

Your work down here is done

No one can ever take your place

You’ll be missed for days to come

Death, it seems so final

But a joyful thought remains

I’ll not have to say goodbye

For we’ll meet again someday

 

I’m not saying goodbye

But I’ll see you later

For on Heaven’s shore

I’ll see your face once more

We’ll embrace again

And I’ll feel your arms around me

So I’ll see you later

And we don’t have long to wait

 

Wished there was more time to spend with you

Our days have been so few

There’s just not enough hours in a day

So swiftly they are through

I wouldn’t call you back even if I could

For when the Lord ascends

We’ll have plenty of time to spend together

For time will never end.

 

Wrapped Around My Finger

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I was small – A five-pound baby girl, born too early in an era that was not equipped to offer promises to parents of premature infants. Although he had hoped for a son, he would not deny the fact that regardless of my tiny hands, they were still big enough to wrap him around my fingers. My parents were told there was little chance that I would make it more than weeks, but eventually I was sent home with a grim prognosis.

My parents were only 20 years old, not really prepared for the care that I would require. They were the ones that literally stayed awake to make sure I was still breathing. Daddy made a habit of poking and prodding me if I slept too long. My mother just didn’t sleep except for exhaustion.

For the first year of my life, my mother said that he never referred to me by my name, I was his baby girl. That’s all he called me forever. He was very protective of me and made it clear that I was the boss. His friends were probably tired of being asked if they had seen “his baby girl” I had him wrapped around my finger from day one.

It was true that he had wanted a son. He held to that request until the end, but he would have to wait for a boy. He would, for now, have to settle for dolls and tea parties, and unfortunately for him, my imaginary friend that drove him crazy. I think he ended up sitting on him one day, and that was the end of that. I cried, and he brought home a dog. Yes, he was wrapped by the curly-headed new gal in his life.

He was a carpenter so I benefited from all sorts of cool toys, furniture, etc, a handcrafted toy box. It was large enough for him to hide inside just to make me giggle. He was so much fun, I realize now how much of a kid he still was, they both were young parents. There were many trips to the Chesapeake Bay for crabbing and fishing as a child. The entire family would have a cookout and stay up really late. I can still hear the lapping of the water and guitars and singing. The crab boils were not bad either.

I would have 5 years with my parents being together as a married couple, and only 10 having him in my life. A short span of time when I think of it now, but the memories seem like more. Maybe because we tried to make the most of every visit. I don’t recall him ever being harsh or angry with me about anything, only being silly and having fun. One time he did catch me playing with some matches and he immediately told me to put them away. (I had made a pattern in the sand and was going to light them all at one time) I remember tears welled up in my eyes because it was the only time I can remember him having to correct me about anything. I never wanted to disappoint him.

Only as an adult have I realized how difficult it had to be for him. He missed out on a lot of goodnight hugs and little things in my every day. I can remember how tight he would hug me when it was time to go back home..I can also recall that he hugged me and my brother for what seemed like a very long time. Now I understand. He had to make it last. He always wanted more time.

I am fortunate in my memories, blessed to have them. Although they may be a little blurred in detail at times, I have never doubted how much he loved me and how much he would have preferred things to be different. I’m sure most children from divorced parents would always wish for some kind of “different.”

He would always give me things to take home after a visit. One visit it was a set of deer horns from hunting, a trinket from the country store, a new coloring book and crayons, but I always left with something. I never left without him saying “You know how much I love you, right?” the words still break my heart to this day. I still had my Daddy wrapped around my finger.. just as all little girls should.

We were not afforded more time, only left with memories. No childs’ last memory of Daddy should be a funeral service, at least not for a 10-year-old little girl. He would never teach me how to drive his old green truck, or show off pictures of me in a prom dress. He would not be there to give me away at my wedding or live long enough to be a grandparent.

I have never blamed him harshly for his choices. As an adult I know that in life there are consequences to our choices. Some are choices in the beginning, but lead to something that spiral out of your control. I witnessed this as a small child, my Daddy was an alcoholic at a very young age, and died at the age of 30 in an automobile accident as a result. Children can’t process this at 10, but as an adult, it has been a journey of understanding, loving beyond circumstances, and being compassionate in spite of the different scary monsters that people face everyday. I knew enough about him to know that he battled and regretted his choices. It has always been enough for me, regardless.

I don’t know how different my life would be if he were still here? I don’t know what kind of struggles we would have faced or what victories we would have celebrated together, but I do know he would still be wrapped around my finger, I would make sure of it.

Don’t let choices and circumstances be your downfall, let them be your reason for extending grace to someone on their own journey, use life to make you better, not bitter. Learn from those you love, and those that love you. And girls, keep those daddy’s wrapped as tight as possible, I happen to think they depend on it more than we realize.

I Wonder Why?

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Do you ever have a day filled with “I wonder whys?” I do.. sometimes on a daily basis. So today, instead of my normal blog.. I thought it would be fun to list some of the crazy things I wonder about. After all, it is Fun Friday.

I wonder why…….

If I bring home take out food, I am greeted at the door. However, if it is groceries? no one hears me struggling to open the door?

No one visits when my house if it is really clean.

I cannot scream. (those of you that have heard it..well..you know)

Why does only one of my socks come off during the night?

If the news is on? it is on volume 22…if it is something I am watching…5 and I am reading lips.. and trying to carry on 2 conversations at one time.

Alien vs. Predator is on every day.

I like to smell gasoline

I frequently leave the house with an article of clothing turned inside out…yet no one notices until the END of the day.

The cars’ gas tank is never full when I am in a hurry

A thimble sized amount of milk is always left in my refrigerator.

I burn bread/toast/bagels almost every 1st attempt.

Mondays are the longest days of the week.. unless I am at the beach.

I can’t tolerate cabinet doors left open.

I am the mean person if/when I decide to be assertive.

My mother would not eat with a “bent” fork or eat a meal with a “salad” fork.

I can’t stand the sound of utensils scraping a plate.

I can hear my husband crunching his spoon into his cereal every morning.. when I don’t hear the alarm clock.

Why do I have to see every sunset..every evening?

They always leave their shoes in front of the doorway. (they do know I am a gravity tester, right?)

Why did I get all of the short genes. – t-rex arms

Why do I wonder why so much?

Why is the moon out in the daytime?

Why did they come up with Jane/John Doe? Why Doe?

Why do I remember the phrase “John Henry HoeHandle?”

If “Mother knows best” is true? Why do I question every decision I make? maybe it only meant your own mother.

I can’t remember second grade.

Wal-Mart never has enough cashiers.

My laptop battery is always dead after anyone else uses it.

It rains on days I need to do errands.

Why? Why? Why? do I wonder why? LOL

I am thankful to still have my mind to wonder why…….I plan to use it while it lasts.

Keep Looking Up

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Dreary weather plagued the previous week, I began to feel like a drowning soul with no sun and warmth on my skin. The rainy days passed and once again, the sun returned. Why do I doubt that they will return? As sure as the night falls, the morning rises for yet another day. Yet, I doubt during the storms and I doubt against the cold wind that blows during my day. I’m working on it-the ability to feel the sun even before it rises. Unfortunately, I am visual.

Living the words that I know require more of me than hearing them or reading them…

2 Corinthians 5:7 

For we live by faith, not by sight.

I know what the sun feels like on my skin. I know how it feels to have the breeze from the ocean whispering into my soul -The place where I feel small, but a part of something larger than any of my rainy days. I know the peace that passes all understanding, I have felt it, embraced it.

I can never fully experience joy, unless I have experienced the opposite. The rainbows of this life only come after the storms have passed. A promise of a better day ahead, lies on the horizon. Yet in my times of doubt I still know that I must keep looking up, instead of watching my feet take the steps. Unknown paths, places I prefer not to walk. If I refuse to keep placing one foot in front of the other? I stay in the storm, stand in the rain. I know me well enough to know I can’t stay here.

Psalm 59:16 But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

I know that Spring follows Winter –  regardless, just as much as I know I can’t dismiss having joy without sorrow. I’ll wrap my arms around the joy and I’ll struggle through the sorrows. I’ll battle in between the parts that I can change, and that which I cannot. I will waiver at times, I already know this because I am human like you.. but as long as I continue to look up? I will eventually see the sunrise, the promise that lies in the moon and stars. Grace will lead the way (it’s NEW every morning!) and there will be provisions for this journey.
Here’s to looking up and moving forward…

Lamentations 3:22 :  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.