Monday, September 24, 2012

What Makes You Happy?

That was the question for my Life Group last night:  What makes you happy? 

In my excitement to attend this group for the first time, I actually got out paper and made a list of the things that make me happy to take to the meeting.  It wasn't really necessary to get so crazy about making a list as we casually went around the room sharing our happy thoughts, but it was a good exercise nonetheless.  It brought joy to my heart as I realized all the ways I am blessed in this life.

What makes me happy?

Seeing my children's name on caller id
Someone using the word gracious to describe me
Snuggling with a baby
A blue, blue sky
Watching the waves of the ocean with no where to be
Company of true friends
Watching college football
Encouraging someone
The Holidays
Farmer's Market
Sunshine on my shoulders and the wind in my hair
Singing in the car and at church
Road trips~short or long
Squirrels and sqwirls
Wearing a hoodie
Books that beg reading
Sitting on my brother's back porch with the family
Completing a final four bracket
A crackling fire
A song that makes me say, "oh, I love this song" like it is my only favorite
DVRs and IPODs
A good saying
The comfort of routine
Chips and salsa and playing cards
Snooping in my mom's kitchen cupboards because I can
A father who would give anything and did
Sitting around at Starbucks with my family and talking the day away
Pink tulips
Puppy dogs
Friends who know my every fault and love me anyway 
Second chances

I could go on but when I got to Second Chances, it made me stop.  This is really the crux of the matter.  Second Chances mean hope.  They give life.  Second chances renew our spirit.  It not only renews the one at fault, but renews the one who gives it. 

Second chances were not created by some highly educated writer or creative team at some marketing company.

Second chances were created by God and He alone gets the credit.  From the dawn of time His plan allowed for us to be human and yet forgiven; at fault yet still loved; unworthy but renewed.

Alot of things make me happy.  But yeah, second chances are  my favorite.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Real Gurl Goes to College

Having only been in college a total of two weeks, I am already compelled to share anecdotes from my experiences. Here in these posts you will find some funny, and not so funny, happenings as I walk the campus with experienced eyes, rather than those of an 18 year old,  and witness with shock and awe how the academic world has changed since my last day in high school. Do not ask how long it has been unless you want to risk a good friendship. Suffice it to say that if my children so desired, I am old enough to be a grandmother! It is a world of Ti-84 calculators that come with usb cables but I don't know why; where there is no such thing as a quick answer or a quick anything; and don't be stupid and wear cute shoes because your feet will hurt. Feel free to join me on my latest road trip through this concrete jungle. I welcome your advice and input. Maybe. It just depends on the day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blogging again....Outside the Box

Hey there! 

It has been a long while since I blogged and I have put alot of miles under my feet.  I ended up jobless for the first six months of the year, my daughter got married and I made the decision to go to college!  That's alot of miles, right?

But the reason I am back at the keyboard is because of my friend Rhona's encouragement.  She often says, "you should write about that" and the voice in my head says something real supportive like, "sure, everyone just loves to read my writing."  But Rhona is a friend who sings my song to me when I have forgotten the words.  She reminds me of my dreams and hopes and of how capable I am to see them through.

So you are probably thinking you are going to hear a whole bunch of lovey dovey descriptions of a the most beautiful, sweet wedding in the whole wide world but you would be wrong.  I am saving that for another day.  I have a story to tell that has touched several as I shared it with a few close friends.  This all began Tuesday, September 4, 2012.

Let's title this one:  God Thinks Outside the Box

A  broken relationship

It was Tuesday, September 4th, the day after Labor Day and my apartment rent was due.  I knew that September and October rents were going to be difficult to pull together as I wait for my financial aid to kick in, which wasn't going to be until October 24th.  I had a tough couple of months looking at me, financially.

On this day, I was walking my dog before work and one of my lady friends drove by in her car and stopped to talk.  I had been thinking heavily about how I could come up with the last $50 I needed for my rent.  It was weighing on me because I could not be late any more and I just had no idea where I was going to get the last $50 I needed.

So when my friend pulled up, and offered a smile and consolation, I broke into tears.  She jumped out of the car and gave me a hug and prayed with me right then and there.  I hustled my dog back to the apartment to get ready to go to work.  I stopped to check the mail, which was completely piled up with the Coupon Cutter and other miscellaneous junk mail.  I slammed the post box door shut and entered the elevator.  As I glanced again at the pile of mail, I saw an address label sticking out and what looked to be a greeting card.  Hey!  Something interesting.

I didn't even wait to get inside the apartment as I slid the envelope open.  The mailing label let me know it was from my aunt and uncle, who live in Texas.  Now I have to give you a little bit of advance story here....I am friendly with my aunt and uncle but really haven't had a relationship since they live so far away.  I grew up on the east coast while they lived on the west coast and just never had a super close bond with them.  As a matter of fact, I grew up with some hard feelings as I watched my aunt and mother have sisterly disagreements and of course, I sided with my mother as most children would.  Now as a grownup, I have put those feelings away but still was not extremely close to this family.

So here I am desperate for $50, getting ready for work with no idea how I am going to come up with the balance of my rent.  I knew I was getting tips that day but it wouldn't be enough.  I thought about selling something but didn't know what.  I was very worried.

I looked at the envelope with curiosity.  It was a cute envelope with squirrels on it which of course has meaning to me.  I slid the card out of the envelope and it was the sweetest little picture and inside some handwritten words.  My aunt wrote about how much I had inspired her (with my posts on facebook) and about how often she thought about me.  That God loved me and she and my uncle did too.  That the card was actually from God through their hands.

And there was a gift check for way more than I needed.  I cried and laughed all at the same time. 

Can you see the total miracle of this?  Just a few days earlier I had been fretting over the finances and I prayed to God to make Himself known to me; that I needed a sign that I was on the right track with school and everything.  Boy, did He answer!

Now I probably could have figured out a way to come up with the $50 that I needed on my own.  But when God answers, it is more than we can even imagine!  He more than met the financial need but He also brought much needed words of encouragement and love.  And on top of that, He restored a relationship.  Completely.

I was immediately brought to shame as I realized that I did not even have my aunt's contact information to call and thank her and my uncle.  I hurriedly got the information and made the call.  My uncle wasn't home but my aunt and I had such a great conversation.  It was like old friends.  She would take a breath and I would jump in.  Then I would take a breath and it was her turn.  All we could talk about was how good God is and how He has met our needs!

My aunt shared that she prays for me every day!  And the previous Wednesday she felt compelled to help me somehow.  After talking it over with her husband, they both agreed on what to do.  The next morning her feet hit the floor to look for THAT card, the one with the squirrels, because she had it for over seven years and now knew who should get it.  She rushed to write the check and get it in the mail, praying to God that I would receive it by the first, knowing that if I had needs, it would be on the first.

She was disappointed to hear that I didn't get the card until the fourth of the month, until I told her, "but the fourth is when I needed it!" and we both laughed at how perfect it was.

Computer records

A few days later I made a trip to the college to find out how my financial aid would work.  I knew I wouldn't get any funds until October 24th but I needed a little bit to get my books for class before that.  As I sat down with the financial advisor, she reviewed my account and confirmed that I would indeed have some funds for books in time for class and that my other funds would be available on October 24th.  Since I was a new student, I wouldn't get my funds on October 3rd like everyone else.  There would be a one-time hold until later in the month. 

But she kept typing and looking and finally said, "wait a minute.  You took classes before, about 19 years ago!  The computer records show that you're not a new student!  You will get your funds on the 3rd just like everyone else."  My October rent is due October 4th.

As I walked back to my parked car, dumbfounded over the turn of events, I said to God, "I hadn't even asked how I was going to pay my October rent yet."  And I started giggling.  I hurried to the car to call my mom, cause that's what every girl does when she wants to share something.  She didn't answer so I aunt!  She answered immediately and when she heard it was me she put me on speaker phone so my uncle could hear too.  I explained that since they helped me last week that they would probably like this story too.  We talked for over 90 minutes.

So you know about the broken relationship and the computer records in 1994 but what about the 5-year old?

A 5-year old

I am a facilitator of several women's groups in my home that meet each week.  During one meeting I was sharing this story as I tried to encourage one of the ladies that God can watch out for her just the same!  This lady has struggled with an adult daughter in her home that continually causes disruption, hurt feelings, screaming, threats and drug use. The daughter is not supposed to live there but my friend cannot get her to move out.  There is a 5-year old grandson involved too and it is not the right environment for him to say the least.  It is so awful that my friend never wants to go home at night and she is getting more and more discouraged and depressed.  It has been going on for so long and my friend has tried every legal avenue to no avail.

As I shared my story, we talked about getting our lives squared up and our hearts in the right place with God so that He can work on her behalf.

I kid you not, the very next day God provided.  The 5-year old grandson went with his father to the Family Services department to see about their food stamp services.  Without any planning or coercion, the 5-year old courageously spoke out to the caseworker that his mother had hurt and threatened him.

BAM!  In that moment the entire scenario changed. 

Protection was immediately put into place for the child and custody and benefits awarded to his caring father.  My friend received support to get her home back.  Not only that, but a financial arrangement was agreed upon that will be a huge blessing to her.  All because a 5-year old bravely spoke out.

God Thinks Outside the Box

I wrote all of this to tell you that God is bigger than your problems.  And His answers are better than your solutions.  He wants more for us than we can even think or believe.  If only we would trust Him more.

Had I been able to scrape together my own $50 I would not have known the full restoration of a relationship nor had the pleasure of the uplifting words from my aunt and uncle or the blessing of check in excess of my need!  I also would not have had the beautiful experience to share with my friend to encourage and lift her up.  I was able to demonstrate in Real Time how God watches over us and knows our need.

I just this minute got a call from my friend.  Things are going smoothly and the right people are in place to bring peace to her homelife and protection and care for her grandson.  We are thanking God.

God thinks outside of the box.  When we think we have to dig up some extra cash for rent, make do without because of a technicality, or can't go home because it is so fractured and broken......He uses a broken relationship, computer records or a 5-year old and makes everything right.