Vacations are Good!

lakechamplain

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

fall

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.

 

Refuge

As I was reading through Proverbs today, I read this:

Proverbs 14:26

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.”

I don’t ever remember reading this before, but it spoke to me.  I needed to hear this.  Have you ever mulled over the past, contemplating if you had made a difference? Have you ever questioned if you had put enough time into your kids, teaching them, preparing them for life, showing them the love of Christ?

Well, I’ve wondered. The “more mature you become” (older), the more you reflect on the past.  At least I have! There’s no turning back. You can’t change the past.  It’s important that you get it as right as possible the first time.  But in reality, it’s a done deal….you can’t go back and rewrite your life and the “what ifs”….

In Philippians 3:13-14 it reminds me that we need to forget what is behind and look forward….because we CAN make a difference going forward, no matter how flawed our past may appear.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Because of God’s grace, I know that He is faithful, even when we lack faithfulness.  He is patient, when we are not. He is complete, when we are lacking. He is strong when we are weak.

So…going forward…I pray that our children will always find our home, their childhood home, their family, and more importantly…our faith… to be a fortress, …not because we were a perfect family (not even close)…but because we serve a mighty God….

Ephesians 3:20

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”

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.

 

Family

For the past few weeks, we have anticipated and longed for the arrival of our newest grandchild, Lila Pepin. She came, in her own good time, in the early morning hour of August 15th! She came quickly and safely into this world and was instantly loved and cared for by her parents, and of course her grandparents! Babies seem so perfect in every way! Their skin is so soft and delicate and the small and intricate details of their fingers, toes, eye lashes, eye brows, lips….well you get it….are mesmerizing.  We can’t stop looking at her and marveling at the miracle of birth and life and dreaming of what she will be like next month, and the next…and the next!

The blessing of family is so important. I’m so thankful that God instituted the family as a union to represent the love that he has for us.  Through our children, we experience love…a love we would die for!  I’m so thankful that through my love for my husband, our love for each other, we had a family…three beautiful children of our own.  And now…through those beautiful blessings..more blessings are coming.

My husband has mentioned that it was remarkable how our love tent is spread when we have more children (or grandchildren).  We love them all the same and all the more deeply.  I believe that God wired us that way, to show us that his love for us is likewise immense. Our capacity to love comes directly from God. isaaclila

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

flowerQueen of the Night (variation)

This flower……so beautiful, stark, striking and aromatic! This plant was given to my husband and I from his parents.  They told us that this particular plant only blooms once a year, and when it does, it blooms at night and then when daylight comes…it shrivels up and drops off! What beauty to only last for such a short time….and if you by chance miss it…well then….you have to wait until next year!

These last several weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least!  One of our pastor’s was diagnosed with a small bleed on his brain which caused minor strokes, our finance director was also diagnosed with something similar and resulting in mini strokes.  Another of our pastor’s wives was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and has since started aggressive treatments that have made her very sick.  A cherished friend was killed while riding her bike with her husband leaving 2 teenagers without their mother. One of Sammy’s classmates from high school contacted him, requesting he come to the hospital.  The friend’s wife had been feeling tired a week before, and found out she had leukemia.  Following a few days of chemo, she began to bleed in her brain, was on life support and has since passed. A dear friend and co teacher’s son was in a devastating car accident and is in a coma.  So much tragedy and so many questions.

In the midst of all of these tragedies and life’s struggles, a flower blooms in our back yard.  We almost missed it.  We weren’t interested in walking around enjoying our yard while all of this heartache was happening all around us.  But by chance….or by God’s nudging, Sammy happened to see it early this morning and ran out to take a picture before it wilted and dropped from it’s stem. I’m so thankful that he did.  All of these families are experiencing such difficult circumstances. Every moment is a gift to cherish.  All of the things in life….money, possessions, status completely fade away when faced with deep, discouraging life’s struggles. The simple things given to us by God become the most important things….our children, our loved ones, our friends…and the chance to catch a glimpse of a beautiful flower in our back yard, that only blooms once a year at night….Learning day by day, that God is in control.

 

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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