June 26? The last week of June? Already? This month sped by. Where did the time go? What happened to rest, relax, and renew? I feel like I go, go, go. And still there are piles-literally piles-of things I need to do. I’m being interrupted by the urgent things we need to do to complete the sale of our house. And in my determination to s l o w d o w n, I’m taking longer than I think I will to do things I enjoy.
I keep thinking I’ll get to things like daily writing, going through the turf in my office, cleaning out a drawer or a closet. Maybe even packing a box or two. When I have a couple of hours together, I promise myself. But so far, that hasn’t happened.
I want routine. A completed to-do list, items neatly checked off. A feeling of accomplishment.
And then I remember. I’m retired. I don’t have to hit the ground running at the beginning of August anymore. While I do have a deadline for cleaning closets and packing boxes, Van and I will do that together. Slowly, I realize I focused on the wrong list. Instead of worrying about what I haven’t done, I need to remember who I am in Christ. What are His priorities? It’s time to adjust my thinking.
First of all, I despise exercise. I don’t even want to try exercising, even though I know it’s important. And if I truly want to lose the forty pounds that make me look, well, round, I need to do it. When I exercise, I prefer swimming. And a couple of years ago, I faithfully went to the pool at a gym and swam several times a week. Sure enough, I almost made it to my goal weight. Then, my mom got sick, and my routine evaporated. So now I need to lose weight again. I even rejoined my gym. How many times have I gone swimming? Three. Not going to cut the mustard. Now I’m retired, I keep telling myself I can get back into the routine of swimming. But it hasn’t happened yet.
This week, I’m in Prescott Valley, Arizona, staying with my sister and brother-in-love, David and Judy. Judy goes to water aerobics every day. Every. Day. I avoid water aerobics like the plague. I’m not coordinated enough, nor do I have enough rhythm, to keep up with the movements. I’m always behind and/or going the wrong direction. It makes me feel incompetent.
Judy invited me to go with her to water aerobics this morning. “It’s fun; you’ll like it,” she encouraged. Begrudgingly, I agreed to go. Pasted a smile on my face, grabbed a towel and my sunglasses, and followed Judy to the pool. I’m not too happy about how I look in a bathing suit right now, but if I don’t exercise it’s going to get worse, not better.
We got to the pool only a minute before the class start-time. And it was nothing like I expected. Thirty women, most of them my age, wearing colorful bathing suits and sun hats spread out across the length of the pool. Noodles and weights lined the pool edges. Everyone smiled.
Suddenly, someone yelled, “Jumping Jacks!” The class started. The bobbing in the pool became more purposeful. Everyone stayed where they were. No lines of people trying to go the same direction, moving in synchronized patterns. Just clusters of women, chatting and moving in the water. Judy demonstrated any movement I didn’t know. And we continued to chat while we exercised.
I loved it. I’ll join Judy tomorrow. And for the few weeks I’m still in California, I’ll check out the water aerobics class at my gym.
Try It, You May Like It
Today, I only went to this water aerobics class because Judy asked me to. She and David continue to be more than helpful and gracious, and I thought I’d be rude to look down my nose at something she likes to do. So I forced myself to go along.
I’m glad I did. I learned some valuable lessons because I went to water aerobics:
– Try new things: you may enjoy them more than you expected. Even enough to keep doing them.
– Don’t worry about anything but having fun and building relationships. How I looked in my bathing suit didn’t matter at all. Being with people, laughing, exercising were the important things. If I stayed home, I would have missed out on much needed exercise, time with my sister-in-love, and a new experience it turned out I liked.
– Just keep going. There were times when I didn’t know how to do the exercise. Judy always showed me. Since most of me was underwater anyway, no one noticed any mistakes. And I was still moving. Even if I never grasped how to do an exercise, it didn’t take long for before we switched to something different that I could do.
I have choices to make every day. Will I stay only in my comfort zone? Or will I be willing to try new things? I want to move forward. Have fun. I don’t plan on spending all my time sitting on my front porch. If I’m going to enjoy this new season of my life, I must be willing to try new things.
On Friday, February 17, my mom passed away. She had been sick for almost two years. Today, Mom rejoices in heaven. All of her pain, gone. She sees her Savior face to face and casts her crown at His feet. The best parts of me are because of the lessons I learned from Mom. I will miss her all the rest of my days, but the things Mom taught me are a legacy of her unconditional love.
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned from my mom. Wisdom was not found in school, but in the day-to-day examples set by Mom at home.
Lessons I Learned from Mom
Be faithful to God
Every day, Mom took the Methodist daily devotional, the Upper Room, and her Bible and spent time alone with God. But she didn’t leave the Word in between the pages, she lived the lessons she read there. She prayed for her family and friends. Mom was faithful to go to church her whole life, but she didn’t just sit in the pew. She served however she could: making soup, filling communion cups, being on committees. And she encouraged her sisters, Sandy and Bev to go to church with her.
Give others the gift of yourself
Mom gave love, kindness, and caring in so many ways. She helped others even if she had something else to do. If someone couldn’t drive, she picked them up and drove them to church or to the market. She baked Christmas cookies and fudge and gave them away. She called people who were alone.
Put your family first
Mom would go without so we kids had whatever we needed. She made sure that there were treats like a candy bar on Sunday afternoon when we stopped at Joe’s Italian Store to get the weekly pasta.Mom opened her home for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and holidays so the whole family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—could be together. She and Daddy took my daughters, Kim and Erin, on vacations to Yosemite and Sequoia. When Erin lived in Hemet, she brought Zach and Katie to Mom’s every week to use the washing machine and take the kids swimming.
Let your children be who they are
Mom encouraged each of her three children. She went to every tap dance recital, Girl Scout badge ceremony, mother-daughter tea, and basketball game. To keep me supplied with the books I craved, she drove me to the library every week. But she didn’t freak out when she realized I went into the bathroom every night after dinner to read and then hid the book in the hamper. She made me stop reading until after the dishes were done though!
Never stop learning and growing as a person
Take risks and venture outside your comfort zone. She traveled with Daddy to the Orient and Europe. When she first moved to Sun Lakes, she took swimming lessons. For twenty years, Mom loved doing aerobics with her friends. At seventy-five, she got a computer and a tablet and kept up with friends and family on Facebook.
Make life-long friends
Mom and her friend, Marilynn, met in elementary school. In their fifties, they started weekend adventures several times a year. When I was in elementary school, Mom and her friend Alice met for coffee every morning after the housework was done. Alice moved to New York fifty years ago, but last month, Mom and Alice chatted by phone. Mom looked forward to her Breakfast Club every Friday, and every year on her birthday showed me all the cards she received, “And not one is a duplicate,” she said with amazement. She loved her newest friend, Laura, deeply. Mom was delighted when she got Laura to eat broccoli and fresh cranberries and watch Call the Midwife. And Mom’s life was enriched by Laura’s care.
Never give up on yourself or others, keep trying
Even in pain, Mom made her bed every morning. She tried chair aerobics when she couldn’t do her regular aerobics any more. She liked reading the paper with a cup of coffee while she enjoyed the beautiful view out her kitchen window. “God is always good,” Mom said constantly. “He’s given me a great life.”
My life is better because of Mom and the lessons she taught me. She never said I needed to know these things; this was how she lived.
Her example and her love will always be with me. They are the best parts of me. The lessons I learned from Mom are gifts I will treasure and use forever.
John 15:7-11 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
The fruits that grew from my intense time of seeking God was exactly what He promised in John 15: love and joy!
As God pruned, He also revealed the fruit He produced. At the end of my time of confession and praying for direction, I looked back over journals and blog posts. I read comments from readers and friends, not for my own satisfaction, but to see how God used my work despite me.
The result of this reflection, which I wanted to use to learn and grow in service to Christ, showed me His faithfulness. All the time I thought I was too focused on myself and my fruit, God was pruning and His fruit was growing.
How do I know? I teach seventh grade English and History, and the 2013-2014 school year was the worst of my thirty-four year teaching career. I spent all of last summer praying for change in my own life and asking for a better, more productive year in 2014-2015. And it was better. In every way. But the last week of school, a long-time friend and coworker said, “It’s good to see the light back in your eyes.”
That light was God’s joy and peace. All of the intentional living praying and Scripture and reminders I kept on my desk, really did produce the fruit of the Spirit. And while I needed pruning, God continued to bear fruit.
Looking at my Joy Journal (1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp) shows tangible ways I noticed and named the goodness and grace of God.
In Psalms, the word Selah is used 74 times. The Amplified Bible says Selah means, “Pause and think of that.” I am thankful that I used my time of seeking and praying to pause and think of all God did despite me.
Take time in your own life to pause and reflect. What fruit is God growing in your life. What gifts does He give you have to be thankful for? What goodness do you see from abiding in His love?
Yesterday I tagged along to my granddaughter, Katie’s, parent-teacher conference. I wanted to see the charter school centered around the one subject Katie loves, art. But because this conference was student led, I wanted to hear from Katie what she learned. Everything I heard and saw was good. For the first time in her school career, Katie feels successful and capable as a student.
During her explanation of how she rated herself in math included two areas she thought she needed to improve: her ability to apply what she already knew to new concepts and seeing patterns in what she learned. Good observations. Good skills to add to her repertoire. Look back at what she already knows. Be confident that her knowledge doesn’t sit, useless, but can apply to new challenges. She has a notebook of notes and sample problems to look at, refer to, help her see what looks incomprehensible as possible.
But she has to see the connection and trust what she knows and can already do applies to something she hasn’t seen before.
Because yesterday was Maundy Thursday and today is Good Friday, I couldn’t help but think about how much the disciples needed those skills during the confusing and dark three days before Jesus’ resurrection.
The triumph and elation after they witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and then enter Jerusalem surrounded by crowds shouting, “Hosanna!” evaporated. The arrest and crucifixion engulfed them in a fog of shock and dismay, fear and uncertainty, doubt and defeat. Peter carried an additional burden of guilt and shame.
Good Friday was anything but good.
But what if they looked back. For three years they lived under Jesus’ teaching. They saw him do miracle after miracle. They knew the power of Jesus. They called him Lord; they expected to be seated in heaven with him.
Still, they couldn’t see the good. They couldn’t connect and apply what they knew to be true to this new situation. They needed one more example. Easter. Jesus resurrected. Seeing him, touching him, talking to him. Then they were ready to continue the work Jesus’ planned for them.
If I rate myself, I realize how often I react like the disciples. I temporarily forget the good things God does in my life. In a new situation, I choose fear instead of trust. I don’t have to. Unlike the disciples, I already know the triumph. What if I focus on the good, the triumph, instead of the unknown?God works good in my life every day. He promised.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
I’ve seen it in my life over and over. Apply my knowledge and experience of God’s goodness to the next unknown challenge.
He will never fail.
This was written in response to the Five Minute Friday prompt, good. The intention of Five Minute Friday is to write for only five minutes as a free write, but I broke the rules today. It took longer than five minutes to connect all the ideas swirling in my head and heart. Thank you for understanding. Happy Easter. He is risen!