Waiting!

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Waiting!

Waiting is probably the most difficult thing for me. When an idea comes in my head, I can already see it to completion. It’s sometimes difficult for me to realize the time and effort that is required to get to the end result! I will sketch out an image on paper and expect Sammy to magically get it done by the weekend, but he lovingly explains everything that has to happen and it may take weeks, but it turns out to be so much better than it would have been if the process would have been rushed.

Sammy balances me out in this area and has proven to be the patient one in our relationship over the years. He, too, sees the final outcome, but also realizes the work and detail that has to go into making it right. If I were in charge, whatever it is that I’m attempting to do, would no doubt get done, but it most likely would involve errors and sloppiness.

Most often, the things we have to wait on are well worth the wait…….having a baby, waiting for a garden harvest, allowing treatments to attack an illness, working on that college degree or saving money for that down payment on a first home!

Waiting creates many emotions. In my case, often it’s impatience since I’m bent to want things so quickly. My anxious heart takes hold, and is only quieted sometimes by my husband’s rational perspective or God’s comforting embrace assuring me that He’s with me in the waiting.

Waiting can also create in us a discipline of trust. If it’s something material, like finishing a driveway (our current situation), then it’s trusting in the process and in the workers doing the job. Yet, if it’s a spiritual matter, waiting can be a time of resting in God’s timing and realizing that He is in control. I’m reminded often that God sees the entire picture, when we only see a portion.

Not only do scripture tell us to wait and trust, but it also tells us to be strong in the waiting.

Psalms 27:14 “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Isaiah 40:31 “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

In the rush of things, we would most likely not have time for God, but it’s in the waiting that we can quiet our souls and look to Him for strength and courage as we wait. God can teach us in those waiting times if we allow him to enter into our rushed lives and be that calm voice of reason that we so desperately need.

So as I wait, I pray that my complaints and impatience will be minimal and my trust in God would be paramount. If waiting on God sharpens and increases my faith, then I welcome the waiting.

Colossians 1:11 “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…”

It’s One of those Days!

Do you ever have days when you can’t seem to retrace the last hour of your life….your mind was somewhere else…..maybe you were driving and you realized that for the past hour or so, it was all a blur! How frightening! I’ve done that more times than I can count. No matter how focused we need to be on the present, sometimes our hearts and minds are pulling us away.

This week…this month…this year has been a blur at times.  So much heart ache and struggles and to be honest….spiritual warfare has been thick around here! I’ve always been taught that when God is doing some amazing things, that the enemy will be working over time!

Our daughter and family are coming in to town this week, so I’ve had a running checklist on my kitchen counter as well as in my mind…..cut grass…power wash patio…plant flowers…clean fridge and bathrooms….wash sheets….oh…and buy a new comforter for the guest room.

I hopped in the car and trekked over to Tuesday Morning…one of my all time favorite stores…and picked out a white comforter for the guest bedroom.  I decided, like always, to walk down every single aisle…just in case I found something else…and I always do. Today it was 2 for 1 pool loungers! Tuesday Morning was full of people, and it was difficult to get through the aisles.

I checked out and got back in my car to come home.  I suddenly was aware that I had on flip flops, which I haven’t worn for several weeks because of a skin cancer I had removed on the top of my foot.  It also felt like they were oddly large on my feet and were kind of flopping around on the peddles below.

At the stop sign, I glanced down at my feet and realized that I had accidentally slipped on our son, Austin’s, huge “man” flip flops! For goodness sakes, I had been flopping all around Tuesday Morning up and down every aisle and I never even noticed it!

Instead of being disturbed for my total lack of awareness, I smiled and even laughed a little at the thought of my absentmindedness.  When I slipped on those large flops when I left my home, my mind was totally thinking of something else.

I was also reminded that I need to keep my thoughts captive. I too often allow circumstances to direct my thoughts elsewhere  (mostly on worry) and lose focus of where I need to be. unnamed

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

The Old Oak Tree

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When I was a little girl, growing up in South Alabama, there was this old oak tree in a field adjacent to my parents’ land where I would go and find respite. To get to this tree, I had to pass through two fenced fields, across a 2 acre garden, cross a dirt road and jump a ditch…but it was all worth the effort. (Something similar to the tree above)

You see, this tree was not like any other tree! This tree had a large, flat piece of wood across two low hanging, thick branches.  The tree branches hung low enough that even as a child, it was easy to climb on top of the platform. The crown of the tree extended wide, and covered the area with complete shade. It was nice and secluded, a perfect hideout!

I spent many days in that tree with childhood friends, Gail, Kim, Lisa, Lorie and Kathy.  It was like our “club” house! Many hours leading up to the sun going down, were spent giggling, telling stories and simply being young girls.

My most memorable times spent in that old, oak tree were those spent  alone, reading a good book, praying or simply taking a nap on a hot summer day. There were some days that I would be stirred from my slumber hearing my mother’s voice calling me home for supper.

I learned as a child, that having time away from the everyday grind of chores and worries of life was so important. I believe that God formed us with an innate desire to pull away from the cares of this world, retreat, and fix our eyes on him.

To this day, my heart still longs for time away to reflect, pray, spend time with God, admire his handiwork and acknowledge his presence.

These days, my old oak tree is my back yard swing, my hammock over our deck,  the park, or sitting on a bench by the bay. But I still make time to retreat. It remains one of those “must haves” in my life.

God has something to say about being still.

1 Samuel 12:16 Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!

Psalm 62:5-6 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.

Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you while you keep still.”

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God!

The old oak tree still stands tall, and the branches hang even lower, but it is now on someone’s private property.  When I visit Alabama, I visit that special place and reminisce. I’m thankful that God afforded me fond memories of my childhood that formed me into the person that I am today.

These days….

These days, I call my dad at least twice a day to check in on him and hear his voice. I’m worried about him being lonely. I worry about him in the evening, when things are quiet and he’s alone sitting in my mother’s recliner. I worry about him spending hours upon hours combing over pictures from the past….65 years of memories documented in slides and photo albums.

I worry.

My heart aches.

My heart aches for his loss, as I feel it as well….just in a different way. I miss my mother so very much, but I wasn’t with her every day like my dad. You see, for the past 7 years, my dad selflessly honored his marriage vows to almost perfection! My mother was not bed bound, however, she needed constant care. She could no longer cook, clean, drive or even take a shower by herself. She was just too unstable and the fear of her falling and breaking a hip or worse was too much of a gamble. She walked with a walker, and was pretty good at it, but my dad did all of the rest. He even helped her get dressed in the morning and put her gown on at night. In addition, he set the alarm clock for every hour…every night to check on my mom’s medical needs that needed attention…..for 7 years!

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My dad is almost 85 years old. Yet God gave him the strength to lovingly take care of his bride in their old age in ways we never dreamed. It was tough at times, and I’m sure there were days he complained and was weary. But he remained faithful, even to the minute she passed with him by her side stroking her hair, telling her how beautiful she was. His heartache was palpable and almost unbearable as we spent time by her bedside, in the hospital, after she died. The reality of his great loss, and ours, consumed him. We were, for the moment, devastated, not because we were shocked…..she was 83 and had been in poor health for several years….just the minute you go from death to life in Christ is a stunning thing to witness.

The shock quickly turned to peace. Instead of extreme exertion for each and every breath, there was silence. Her struggling turned to surrender. Her pain turned to healing. Her face became as peaceful as I have ever seen it. We knew, that although she was not with us in that room, she was instantly in another place, a much better place.

I had a moment to spend time with her alone before we left the hospital. I talked to her, kissed her, touched her and cried. But it was for selfish reasons. I wanted to memorize her face, her hands and her hair. I knew that this side of heaven, I would never hear her voice again. I wrestled with the thought and fear of forgetting her features. I don’t want to forget. I want to remember every memory I have of my mom. I’ve been telling my kids story after story of my childhood that involve my mother…just to refresh my memory.

In all of our loss and grief, there remains peace. Peace knowing that my mom loved God. She lived out her faith day after day. Her good works were evident, but not necessary for her relationship with Christ. But she chose to live out loud. She wanted others to know Him. Every day my Mom and Dad started with reading of scripture together and praying. I was always on that list….she told me. My children were on that list…she told me. I would often tell her of prayer concerns here in Miami, and she would add those to her list. She was praying for Jackie, Greg, Tony and Rick..just to name a few. A life lived like hers leaves a void. She was present. For this, we will miss her in this world. Our loss is most definitely Heaven’s gain.

My dad is doing fine. You see, he knows where she is as well. He’ll be there before too long and there will be a wonderful reunion.

I called my dad this morning…he whispered…”hey sweetie”…..and I knew instantly that he was in the woods hunting……enjoying God’s creation…and most likely talking to Mom.

 

 

Our “Ugly” Christmas Tree

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(First of all, the first tree posted was not our tree, sadly, I couldn’t find a picture of that tree, but found this jewel in Google images.)

As our children are all gone now and living on their own, decorating the Christmas tree, house and yard completely fall on Sammy and me. What once was a family affair, has become a job for two. Sammy does the hard labor stuff, and I get to do all of the fluffy, creative things. He pulls the heavy tree from the attic, sets it up, strings the lights and the rest belongs to me! He takes his talents outdoors to properly place spot lights and hang the lights around the yard and house. Christmas music is a must, and sometimes I turn on a Christmas movie to listen to in the background. Anything I can do to create that special Christmas mood, I will do it! Oh, I almost forgot the candles, the Christmas fragrant ones, that make you “think” you have a real tree, when your allergies keep you from ever having a real one again!

No matter our lot in life, the chapter we are in, or who’s home or who’s not, I believe that I will always continue this tradition in the Flores home. It makes me happy and reminds me of why we are celebrating in the first place. It puts significance in the “holiday” and reminds me that it’s not just another holiday….it’s Christmas…the birth our our Savior. It’s a remembrance of when God chose to break into this crazy world as a baby, virgin born, placed in a manger, in such humble circumstances to live in a sin filled world, experience pain, loss, loneliness, fear…and die on a cross for all the sins of the world and then conquer death. When we look at the manger, we have to look toward the cross.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

As I look back on Christmases pasts, there is one that stands out from all of the others. It was a Christmas in Missouri, when my little family of 4 (pre Austin),  piled into the cab of an older model truck with the Ward family! It was snowing, and just beautiful! Robert drove us deep into the woods to a friend’s land (at least I think we knew them) where we tromped in the deep snow over fences and hills and found the perfect Christmas tree for the Flores family! We saw it from a far, and all ran to it….when we got up close, it wasn’t so perfect after all. It was tall, but it was crooked, thin, scrawny….but it was tall….and it was calling our name! The kids were so happy as we cut the bottom of the crooked trunk and drug it over the snow to the truck and chucked it on top of Robert and Rene’s perfect tree!

We propped that tree up and tried to get it as straight as we could. When Sammy strung the lights, the limbs bowed so low and changed the shape of the tree, but we didn’t care. The scrawny limbs were so dispersed, that we could hang ornaments clear to the trunk. When we were done, we stepped back and admired our beautiful tree.  It might not have been beautiful to others looking on, coming to parties or stopping by, but it was beautiful to us. We chose it, cut it down and celebrated that day with precious family friends. It’s not about the perfect tree, or the perfect presents, or the perfect decorations at all! It’s about Christ and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas with close friends and family….making those memories. We are still making those memories, they just look different. But that’s ok too! Our tree comes from our attic now, and it looks the same way every year….and we love it. We love the season, that points toward the Savior. Merry Christmas!

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Lost and Found!

I’m so thankful for the time I’ve had to spend with family recently. I was just able to spend a few days with my aging parents in Alabama…..and it was good. Can I tell you, Alabama in the country is sweet….the pine trees….the quietness….the stars!!!! This time, I went alone, but the trip there was refreshing as I prayed, listened to talk radio or blaring worship music my entire trip! I left the windows open most of the way, and as I started west on interstate 10, I could smell the pine.

After a few days of cooking chicken and dumplings, peach cobbler and biscuits and gravy, it was time to return home.  I love trips, but I always love coming home.  I split my trip in two when I travel alone, and always stop at the same Hampton Inn in Ocala.  They pretty much know Sammy and I.  The following morning, I decided to get up early to get ahead of the traffic in Orlando, so I was showered, packed and headed down for breakfast by 6:30.  I noticed as I sat down to eat, a very important item was missing from my luggage! My buddy pillow!!!! I pretty much panicked!!  I take this little U shaped pillow with me everywhere! I can’t sleep without it. It’s one of those memory foam neck pillows that you just can’t stop squeezing!

Without even thinking, I left my luggage unattended and headed back to my room.  As I turned the corner of the long hall toward my room I saw it…..there it was…so little…on the floor where I dropped it in the middle of the hallway. I smiled and was relieved, but felt a little silly! It’s so funny that even as adults we have things that are extra special to us and trump more important things in our life! I mean, after all, I left all of my luggage, including my computer in the hotel lobby to go after my old, worn U shaped pillow.

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I was reminded of the story of the lost coin in the book of Luke.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Luke 15:8-10 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I love how God uses the simple, everyday experiences in my life to remind me that each one of us is important to him. Whenever someone crosses the line of faith at our church, I always envision the angels singing, clapping and rejoicing!

Vacations are Good!

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The past few days, my husband and I have been discussing how peaceful we feel while driving through the Adirondack Mountains, sightseeing the shores of Lake Champlain or watching the leaves change to hues of orange, yellow and red. We’ve questioned how the change in environment can affect you physically, mentally and spiritually. We really do “feel” differently.

We live in Miami, and people travel there from all over the world to vacation…..and we live there! It is beautiful, sunny, breezy….and it’s our home.  Our family is there, our friends are there…our church is there….But because it’s our home…. I have to clean, get the mail, cut the grass, wash the clothes, water the flowers, cook dinner….etc.

A change of scenery and a change in routine is good for the soul.  A little adventure in your life keeps things interesting.  As long as I live, I pray that I will always seek adventure, trying new things and going new places!

I read recently that taking a vacation helps to reset your mind, gives you a new perspective and increases productivity upon arrival back to work.

I would add that time away also forces you to slow down (as long as you’re not working while away)…experience quietness, appreciate nature, and spend time with God without the everyday stresses of life pressing in on you. If you plan it right…a vacation can be life changing.

My kind of vacation, is planned up front, with a loose agenda along the way.  What I mean by that, is…..plan ahead with flights, rentals and any reservations so that everything is paid for prior to leaving.  Then, all of the in between things are planned along the way leaving room for impromptu stops and exploring.  These are usually the places that are the most memorable…..the places you happened upon…an apple orchard, a corn maze, an amazing hiking trail. When you’re road tripping, it’s so freeing to be able to stop whenever you see something interesting, without stressing over an agenda.

Oh….and it also helps to vacation with someone you love….my vacation buddy happens to be my husband.  We’re like two kids, oooooooing and ahhhhing at each new thing we discover.  Sharing our adventures together brings us closer and builds on the wonderful memories we are storing up.

In a few days, we’ll head back to Miami, our beloved home…..refreshed..renewed and rested!

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