A Very Thankful Thanksgiving!

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The food table. We did buffet style this year.

I know Thanksgiving has passed, but now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I’d like to share some important things that happened and for which I am truly thankful.

As most of you know, for the past six months or so I have been living with Cervical Dystonia.  What that means is that doing simple tasks is no longer simple.  Pain, frustration, and a soft neck brace are now my daily companions.  So, as you may imagine, the thought of cooking a Thanksgiving feast was a bit daunting.  The past few years my sister has been doing most of the cooking with everyone else bringing a dish or two.  This year, however, she was blessed with the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in Hawaii with her son.  So, Thanksgiving at my house was on this year.

Praise Jesus, I had some help!  My sweet daughter brought several dishes, two of which were family traditions that I handed over to her.  My son and husband were big helps as well.  I feel I should stop here and explain that my idea of a Thanksgiving feast includes appetizers, a plethora of desserts, and a drink station to rival Buccee’s (that’s Texas for 7-eleven on steroids).  Just for fun, this was our menu plan:

164C0249-4EDB-42CC-8A38-B5681764275BOh!  We added deviled eggs which I boiled, two of my grands peeled, and Shauna deviled once she got to the house Thanksgiving day.  I also added Pumpkin Bread to the dessert list and the cocoa was homemade from scratch, as was everything, actually.  So, what happened that made me so thankful besides the availability of all this amazing food?!

Aside from all the help of my awesome family (my grand-girls Leah and Karlyn were especially helpful), I was able to do all that I did!  Two days of shopping and three days in the kitchen – cooking, baking, cleaning, and prepping.  I wasn’t sure that everything on the menu would make it to the table, but it did and then some!  We fed eleven people at a beautifully set table and the food was amazing!  In addition to all of that, we also had a thankful tree that my grands crafted and hung by the front door.  Beside that was a basket of leaves, pens, and tape so everyone could fill out a leaf with what they were thankful for and hang it on the tree.  I think we filled it up pretty good.  😊

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I am amazed at God’s goodness! At one point during our planning and doing, my daughter, Shauna, said to me, “Do what makes you happy!  If it’s more stressful than happy, just step back from it and breathe instead.  We’re gonna love you either way, it’s going to be a great day!”  How sweet is that?!  And, she was right.  That’s exactly what I did and it all came together . . . beautifully!  In spite of missing some significant loved-ones, it was a fantastic day!  Great food, lots of love and laughter, and much thankfulness!

And today I rest!  I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little wiped and my neck muscles are a little more unhappy than usual.  All-in-all though, I feel extremely thankful, grateful, and blessed!  Bring on Christmas!!

🎄😃💕

What Women Want

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Good morning all!  Today I’m going to touch on a subject that I don’t normally.  Romantic relationships.  This could, potentially, get a little complicated since I was never a single Christian.  I didn’t start following Jesus until about a year after I was married to my sweet husband.  So, to keep it simple, I’m just going to speak to my experience.

I am not, by any means, a relationship expert.  In fact, while I have been involved in many relationships in my life, before Christ most of them were disastrous.  My current husband of almost 25-years is my fourth husband.  I was 21 the first time I walked down the aisle and I am now 58-years young.  I’ll let you do the math and you will see that my younger years were, shall we say, full of experience.  😏  If you know my testimony, you know how true that is.  If you don’t know my testimony and would like to, you can read it here.

Okay.  Now that I’ve established my lack of credentials, let’s get to the heart of the matter.  What women want is what I would specifically like to address here.  Partially because men seem to still be stumped by this question of what women want and partially because we women seem to have a hard time communicating the answer.  IF we even know the answer.

I think we all know that women want to be loved.  That seems to be common knowledge to some extent; women want to be loved and men want to be respected.  Here’s a little twist to that for you – women also want to be respected.  We want to be cherished, protected, and we want you to read our minds.  Unrealistic, but true.  Men, we want you to just know when we need to be held and when we need to be romanced, when we need you to do the dishes and when we need you to notice that WE did the dishes, when we need you to fix something and when we need you to just listen.

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I know this sounds impossible, but if you REALLY know your woman, you’ll know and that’s the bottom line for us.  We want you to KNOW us.  You’re not really reading our mind, you’re simply knowing us.  On the other side of that coin, women, your man can’t really know you if you’re not communicating with him – especially in the beginning of the relationship.  You have to tell him what you want and when you want it.  Tell him when you really need him to bring you flowers, or a Sonic drink, or your favorite latte’ from Starbucks.  Tell him when you’re exhausted and need him to take over bedtime with the kids.  Whatever you need or even really want, TELL him.  That doesn’t guarantee that you will get what you need or want, but I promise that there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that you’ve communicated with him.  Sometimes, I felt better just saying it out loud and after that, I could let it go.

This communication thing needs to work both ways.  I hope he doesn’t get mad at me for sharing this (I don’t really think he will or I wouldn’t share it), but my husband is still learning the communication thing.  He tends to be a bit passive/aggressive sometimes, keeps things inside, and when they really pile up on him he does the silent thing.  It’s actually quite subtle and if you didn’t know him, you might not even recognize it.  He’s REALLY good at it.  After almost 26-years total of being together, however, I can see it.  I know when he’s pouting, I know when he’s angry, and I know when he’s just plain tired.  I know these things because I know HIM.  This is scary to say, but sometimes I even know WHAT is bothering him without him telling me.  I know, freaky, right?  That’s what years of being with the same person will do for you.  Or maybe I should say, years of caring about the same person.

You can be with someone forever, just going through the motions, taking them and your relationship for granted.  I’ve seen it.  It’s terrifying.  There’s no growth, no real joy, no real investment in the other person, just habit.  It’s sad and it’s avoidable.  Communication is key; real, honest, sometimes difficult communication!  And a lack of defensiveness.  That’s been a hard one for me.  I’m a lot of Irish and I’ll fight you in a heartbeat if you come at me.  Unless I make a conscious effort to drop my defenses, which is a very important thing in a marriage – or a relationship headed for marriage.  I MAKE myself listen calmly and respond as rationally as possible.  That’s where a lot of Jesus comes in for me.  He’s the center of our marriage and He makes these real and sometimes difficult conversations possible and fruitful.

I realize that I am coming from a place of great blessing.  My husband is a wonderful man.  He almost always puts me first and approaches difficult conversations very tactfully.  He never says a harsh word to me or outright accuses me of anything.  He approaches our relationship with a team attitude.  He is 100% invested in me and our relationship.  He almost always gives me what I ask him for, and quite honestly, I’m spoiled.  He loves Jesus and Jesus helps him love me the way he does.  My man is rare.  I realize that not all relationships are like ours (obviously, I’ve lived the other side of this coin) and that things I’ve said here are not so black and white for some.

I can’t speak to every relationship, obviously.  What I can speak to is my experience with relationships and what I’ve learned.  These are the highlights for me:

  • Take the time to be friends first.
  • Communicate honestly and as calmly as possible.
  • Invest in the other person and your relationship.  Always make time with each other a priority.
  • And, most importantly in my experience, make Christ the center of your relationship.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been a single Christian.  I have been in three prior marriages and have had countless boyfriends (seriously, my sister and I tried to count them one night and kept losing count.  Sad, I know.)  and no relationship has been as good, as healthy, and as fulfilling as when Jesus was in the center.  25 years of marriage will attest to that!  That’s just my experience.  Take it for what you will.

Wow!  This has been a long one.  I apologize for taking up so much of your time.  I guess I consider this an important subject.  😁  I also should probably change the title of this post to “Communication in a Romantic Relationship”, or something like that. While I do want men to know what women want, or at least what some women want.  Obviously I don’t know what ALL women want.  I guess, more importantly, I want to see healthy and happy marriages where couples flourish and enable each other to be the best that they can be.  That’s my hope for MY marriage.  That’s what THIS woman wants and my man better know it!  😘

(He even takes selfies with me!)

😊💕

Moments of Mourning

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Once upon a time I had small children.  My life was full and busy.  Sometimes I resented the demands put on me by motherhood, but most of the time I cherished and enjoyed it.  I actually had children in my home for 37-years.  There’s a big spread between my children.  Their ages are 37, 30, 24, and 21, and I took care of one of my grandchildren for awhile who will be 12 in November.

My children are all grown now and my granddaughter spends most of her time with her mother, which is a good thing.  I am finally, at the age of 58, basically an empty-nester.  My 24-year old son still lives with us, but he’ll be leaving for the mission field soon.

These days, instead of making breakfast and waking kids up for school, I wake up to a quiet house.  I make myself some coffee, turn on some instrumental worship music, and start my day with a devotional.  To young mothers, that probably sounds like heaven and some mornings it is.  Other mornings, not so much.

I try really hard to not make my life completely about my children, to have hobbies and other interests.  I don’t want to be that mom that falls apart without her children to take care of.  Now is the season to be just me again; rediscover passions and interests that there was no room for while raising children, reconnect with my husband in a whole new way and actually have time for him, deepen my relationship with Jesus and spend more time with HIM.  The world is my oyster again!

That’s my attitude some mornings, but other mornings, like this morning I find myself mourning the loss of my young children.  I miss them!  Their laughter, their sweet little faces, watching them play together, the way they’d sit in my lap and say adorable little kid things, and their pure love for their mommy.  Those wide-eyed little faces saying, “I love you, Mommy!”  God, I miss that!  I miss seeing things that I’ve seen a million times, brand new through their eyes.  I miss so many things!

My youngest is 21-years old!  He’s technically been an adult for three years now and still, from time to time, I find myself heart-broken and crying.  Will it always be like this?  Will there always be these moments of mourning?  I really don’t know because I’ve never been here before, in this empty nest.  They come to visit, children and grandchildren, but it’s not the same is it?

Some mornings the peace and quiet is really nice, and some mornings not so much.  Moments of mourning show up uninvited.  The question is will I let them in and visit awhile or will I embrace this new season of life and shut the door on them until they stop coming?  Good question.

Committed to the Commitments

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A line in my devotion this morning went like this; “A committed relationship demands you take the risk of the unexpected.” -Daily in His Presence devotional

I wonder how many of us even thought of that when we took marriage vows, or simply committed to a friendship?  Anything can happen in life, even the things we think only happen to other people.  Life can go sideways and make huge demands of us; emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, spiritually.  Life can drain us.

What do we do then?  When we feel like we’ve given all we have to a relationship, do we give up and walk away?  When someone needs more than we think we have to give, do we quit on them?  A true commitment demands otherwise.

In order to continually give, we must continually be filled up.  Filled up with what?  With love, patience, grace, hope, and energy – just to name a few.  You’ve heard stories of caretakers burning out because they were too busy taking care of someone else to care for themselves?  I think that’s true in every kind of relationship.  We are all caretakers of some kind.  We take care of each other in marriage, in friendship, in a family . . . so, we need to take the time to care for ourselves.

The best way I have found to do that is to spend some quiet time in the presence of God.  He is the source of all we need to maintain all of our commitments with integrity.  In His Presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).  Spending time in His Word, listening to worship music, praying, journaling – all practical ways that I keep myself filled with the love of God, so that I can love others with His love.

Do I do this perfectly?  No.  I do, however, do it almost every day.  He is my Rock and my Salvation and He keeps me in perfect peace when I keep my focus on Him.  I don’t think I could do this life without Him.  As I recently heard someone say, “He’s not my crutch, He’s my stretcher!”  I love that because Jesus is my Refuge, my Rescuer, and my Strong Tower to which I run when things get scary.  And this world can be REALLY scary!

God’s commitment to me allows me to keep my commitment to others; to my husband, to my children, to my friends.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to run away in my 25-years of being a Christian wife and mother.  My relationship with Jesus Christ has kept me anchored and sane.  His love flowing in and through me allows me to risk the unexpected and be truly committed to my commitments.

😊💕

Addendum to “58 Years Ago”

Okay.  I think my last post was a little too negative.  For the record, all of my friends and family with whom I share my life are bright spots in it.  My husband being the brightest of all. I am extremely blessed and I well know it.  I’m afraid the fact that my house is basically an empty nest and my health is not where I would like it to be, just served to magnify the fact that I am 58 today and 60 is getting closer.

Also for the record, I had a wonderful birthday weekend filled with sweet family members, lots of laughter, and being completely spoiled by my husband.  Life is full of hills and valleys.  Sometimes we focus on the hills and sometimes we focus on the valleys.  That’s part of being human.  This morning I was focused on the valley and I apologize if I brought anyone else down with me as a result.  I am changing my focus now.

👍🏻😊

58 Years Ago

On this day 58-years ago my mother, Dixie Lee Miller, was in Santa Ana Community Hospital giving birth to an 8lb. 8oz. baby girl.  She would name her Brenda Lee, after the famous country singer of the time.  I believe the hospital is now part of what’s called the South Coast Global Medical Center.  This is what it looked like when I was born there:

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My parents lived at 8002 Carnation Dr., Buena Park, California.

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This is the street view on Google maps today (modern technology is amazing!).  I’m sure the house looked different in 1960, but I haven’t located a picture of it from that year.

For some reason, this birthday is a difficult one.  30, 40, and even 50 were birthdays I celebrated quite happily.  I celebrated all month the year I turned 50!  A lot of changes have come with this birthday; my youngest son is living and attending college 8-hours away and this was the first summer he didn’t come home for the summer.  My eldest son is about to move to the other side of the world for schooling. I was diagnosed with Cervical Dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes my neck muscles to contract and rotate my head involuntarily and spontaneously.  There are just too many evidences of aging this year and I don’t like it.

There are bright spots, of course.  My youngest daughter recently moved back to Texas with her husband and four kids, and we spend a lot of time together which is a total blessing.  In fact, my daughter is coming to spend the day with me today which I am very much looking forward to.  Otherwise, I would be spending the day alone and probably a little sad . . . or very possibly, a lot sad.  I got to go home to California for a visit a few months ago and that was awesome!  I got to see my oldest daughter and granddaughter and met some new members of the family.  Fortunately, that was right before the Dystonia got worse so we had a wonderful trip!

There are always bright spots in life. It just seems that I have to look harder for them as I get older.  Aging is a cruel thing, I’ll be honest.  I don’t know if there is a good way to prepare for it other than taking as good care of yourself as possible, but even that is no guarantee of an active lifestyle in the golden years.  Am I even IN the golden years yet?  I’m pretty sure I’m past middle age.  I don’t know.  I always hear that “age is simply change” and “It’s just a number.”  I can’t decide if those attitudes are optimism or denial.  Either way, today I am another year older and this time, I feel like it.

👵🏻😕

A Mama’s Perspective

I have a son, 24-years old and other than a year of living in a college dorm has always lived at home.  In a little over a month he is scheduled to move to Central Asia for 2 years of college there.  I am torn.

On one hand, I’m excited for him!  What an adventure!  I’m sure he’s going to learn a lot and grow in leaps and bounds as a man.  I may not even recognize him when he comes back.  On the other hand, I’m freaking out!  Central Asia?!  That’s the other side of the world!  Is he at all prepared for this?  How often will I even hear from him?  Holidays and his birthday without him for the first time in 24-years, how will I cope?  How will this family cope?

I don’t really know the answers to those questions other than, “by the grace of God”.  I have been very blessed to have had this young man so close for so long.  Even when he was living in the dorms at college, he was only 10 minutes away.  I believe he is in God’s will in this latest venture, so I believe God will see us all through it.  That doesn’t mean that this mama’s heart isn’t going to hurt.  Shoot, I’d drop him off at college (he didn’t drive until after his freshmen year), watch him walk away and flash back to his first day of kindergarten and start crying.  I’m kinda pathetic when it comes to my kids, especially my boys.

Don’t misunderstand.  My sons are not mama’s boys by any means, especially this one.  He couldn’t wait to move into his dorm freshman year and only moved home for his sophomore year because it was “financially prudent”.    He gets impatient with me when I display any clinginess of my own.  He’s been chomping at the bit to move out for quite awhile.  He is, however, a pragmatist and usually chooses the more practical way of doing things and leaving home has yet to be practical for him. He decided on this path to Central Asia and it required finances – a lot of them.  Living at home and saving his money seemed the practical thing to do.

We always told him that as long as he was working or going to school, we were okay with him being here.  We also told him that unless he was in school, he would be paying rent, and for a time, he did just that.  His dad and I decided to make an exception though, and help him prepare for his trip by letting him live with us rent free.  Which made the decision to live at home even more practical.

I’m sure everyone has their own opinion about our decision to let our son live at home rent free, or even to charge him rent in the first place.  That’s not what this post is about though.  It’s about separating from our children when it’s time.  The time will inevitably come.  Just like there are differing opinions about rocking your children to sleep, or holding them too much.  I have learned from experience to hold on to every second I have with my children.  I rocked them to sleep when they were little.  I held them every chance I got and it still wasn’t enough.  The day still came when they didn’t want me to hold them anymore, or hug them in public, or be affectionate at all at times.

It doesn’t matter how old they are when they “finally” leave home.  They all leave when they’re ready and that’s the perfect time.  As long as we’re not enabling them to avoid the real world, or doing whatever we can to keep them at home because WE can’t let go.  It’s a difficult balance to maintain sometimes, but not impossible.  My son went to college, he worked, he is active in church and out in the “real world” except for where he resides.  For the most part, we have maintained the balance – not enabling and not clinging – and done a fairly decent job in my mind.

I think it’s interesting that he’s been living at home for so long and now that he’s preparing to leave, it’s going to be an epic “leave” to the other side of the world.  We won’t see him for at least two years.  It’s going to be hard and I’ll have 24-years of memories to help me get through it, as well as the support of my husband. I also have 3 other children and 5 grandchildren to keep me busy.   Most importantly though, I have the amazing grace of my loving God who has blessed me so incredibly!