Miami at Night….Me at Night

f841e629adc16b92fa6480841d88faf2Regardless of whether or not you’re a city person, there’s just something magical about a big city all lit up at night….especially Miami! It is absolutely beautiful! The reflection of the spectacular lights on the bay, along with the breeze off the ocean makes for a unique experience….if you like that sort of thing. Even though we live south of the city, and don’t often venture that way, we still enjoy an occasional trip that direction. Miami is like New York, in that it’s a city that never sleeps.

Well, tonight, and many nights lately, like Miami, I’ve been a gal that never sleeps! Seriously, it’s become an issue when my eyes aren’t even heavy at 3 in the morning! I start off sleepy and comfy in our bed, but after a few hours I’m stirred from my slumber and my mind begins to go into gear. When that happens, it’s game over for me. One thought leads to another and sometimes I get up and write things down. Other times, I’ll get on my computer and turn the screen on dim, hoping that I’ll get drowsy. I’ll turn on the t.v. with the volume at its lowest point and eventually get drowsy enough to head back to the bed.

I’ve tried not eating later in the evening, not drinking anything with caffeine and even putting lavender on the bottom of my feet to lull me into a relaxing slumber. I’ve prayed during those hours of sleepless nights, thinking that God is keeping me up for a reason. I’m sure all of this helps, but it just doesn’t stick. So here I sit, writing a blog about not being able to sleep while the rest of my family are snug in their beds.

So of course, I searched for scripture about not being able to sleep…..there were many and they all had to do with peace…..here’s a few that I found!

If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Proverbs 3:24

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 

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.

pillow

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!

A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps~ English Proverb

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When I was in the classroom, it was easily seen that the students take on the temperament of the teacher fairly quickly.  If you’re excited, they get excited! If you’re agitated, they get agitated. If you’re mellow, they quiet down.

There was a particular teacher in our school whose temperament and demeanor was cool and calm……low voice, quiet instructions, and mostly non verbal cues for behavior. Every year, no matter which class was coming her way, the kids…by osmosis…or some other super natural power…somehow..miraculously took on the demeanor of this particular teacher. It was remarkable! They were, by far, the quietest, straightest line in the hallway…..the envy of every teacher!

And then we had another teacher, through the years, that would tap dance on top of the desks…..was very animated…..and practically tap danced down the halls with her joyful followers. Her students..likewise showed enthusiasm for similar things…thankfully, they did not dance on top of their desks.   But…you get the idea!

As our pastor often says…now let me turn a corner….

Just as teachers have great influence over the lives of children….all of us really do become similar to those we are around the most! I read a verse this morning that reminded me that we influence others in our life, without even knowing it….and likewise…we are easily influenced by others..either positively or negatively.

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
    do not associate with one easily angered,
 or you may learn their ways
    and get yourself ensnared.

Proverbs 22:24-25

My mom used to say…”Be careful who you hang out with, their ways will most certainly rub off on you..” which I’m pretty sure was her southern, common sense, loose interpretation of this verse:

Proverbs 13:20 

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

 

Jade, an Unexpected Guest!

Jade is her name! She is from Alabama….I have never met her before…wasn’t expecting company…but had the pleasure of her being our guest for the past few days!

 

jade

Let me back up! Thursday evening I received a call from a mutual friend of my mom and dad’s from their church in Bay Minette, Alabama. She said..”I have a huge favor to ask of you…” She went on to tell me about her friend’s 20 yr old daughter that had been in Haiti on a mission and had fallen ill.  She was flown into the Miami International Airport and taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital.  She was alone and scared. She asked if I, or someone from our church could go and provide some sort of comfort to her…a friendly face..a connection..and of course I said yes!!!

All I could think of was my own daughter…..several years prior, while in college experienced an attempted abduction of her and her roommate.  She was over 4 hours away from us..and we couldn’t imagine her being alone ,filing the report with the police..two young, scared college students. We were close enough that we were able to hop in the car right away and get there as quickly as possible…but in the mean time…several adults in her life stepped in on our behalf and were by her side until we arrived.  I was so thankful for their genuine concern for our daughter.

Jade was in the last room on the right in the emergency area of a hospital that was beyond understaffed and in extreme need of bedside manner. I was completely out of my comfort zone, so I could only guess what Jade was thinking.  People were screaming obscenities, cops were in and out with cuffs on patients….and nothing was separating us from all of the chaos of an emergency room situation in a downtown hospital in the middle of the night.

As soon as I walked in…I saw Jade…she was trembling…flushed…and disoriented. I told her I was a friend of her mom’s friend.  She was expecting me!  Her mom had told her someone would be coming that lived in the Miami area. I didn’t do anything special…I was just there.  We chatted a little bit…nurses were in and out…fluids were administered..and tests were run.  It turns out that she had gotten some sort of water bacteria from Haiti. She needed antibiotics and plenty of rest and fluids.

I realized that pretty soon, they might be releasing her!  I texted her mom and asked her if it would be ok for her to go home with me…I didn’t even know if the hospital would allow it…but since Jade was 20..they did!  So at around 2 am….we went to my car (escorted by a police officer) and drove home!

The past few days have been a blur…at least for Jade…they have been mostly filled with plenty of sleep, chicken soup, ginger ale and crackers! What a dear, sweet blessing God brought into our home…..totally unexpected!!

I just took Jade to the airport..and by now…she probably has touched down at the Pensacola airport, reuniting with her mom and dad…sharing with them her crazy story of the past few days!!!  Crazy as it seems….I believe that people come into your life for a reason.  I’m not sure exactly why all of this happened to our family and to Jade’s family, but I know that in time..I will know.

Jade means jewel……The Hebrew meaning of jewel is precious treasure….Our unexpected guest was indeed a precious treasure.

 

Seasons

I love the seasons.  Here in Miami, we have but one season….hot!!  But seriously, I love the year round beautiful weather we have here, but relish the occasional visits we have farther north, to experience the cooler temps and changing landscape.

Just as there are seasons in our year, we also have seasons in our lives.  Some seasons are predictable.  The newly wed season usually enters the Mommy and Daddy season, which lasts until they go to college, and then empty nest season creeps in, far before we feel we’re ready for it.  There are also seasons in our ministry.  Sometimes growth is exploding, and lives are being changed on a weekly basis, and other times, there seems to be a dry spell.  Friends come and go in our lives, some remain close despite distance, and some we might not ever speak to or see again.

Some seasons of growth don’t involve exciting things, but rather difficult situations, difficult discussions or difficult decisions.  Even though those times are the most avoided, they turn out to be the richest seasons of all.  It is through those difficult times that we strengthen up and our faith is tested.  We are purified through the fires of difficult times if we allow God to  mold us and teach us through the valley.  Someone recently sent me  a message that they were praying for me, and they weren’t sure why I had come to their mind, but they felt it was perhaps God nudging them to lift me up in prayer.  The very next day our family was hit with a blow, a discouraging, sad situation.  I’m thankful that through every season, God is there, and not only does he go before us, but he prepares the way by having believers in our lives lift us up through prayer.

Read James 1:2-8

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