Christmas Cards? Absolutely!

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I love getting the mail this time of year. In addition to the usual bills and junk mail and all the various catalogs, there are the multi-colored envelopes which hold Christmas greetings from friends and family. Sometimes, there are beautiful cards and sometimes there are photo cards. Sometimes, it’s someone’s annual Christmas letter. I love getting everything…including those letters…probably because I’ve been sending a Christmas letter for over 20 years. But, I also sincerely love hearing what’s been going on in people’s lives.

We seem to be connected to people electronically. What with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we do keep in touch with people, if only superficially. But, how nice is it to actually have a piece of mail in hand that someone took the time to prepare? According to Psychology and Aging, receiving Christmas cards boost happiness, particularly with older people who aren’t as tech savvy as many of us.

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a significant reduction in the cards we receive. I know the cost of cards and postage is a major contributor. It has certainly reduced the number we send. And, it also seems to me that the holiday season just seems to get busier and busier. And, sending cards does take time. But, I’d like to make an argument on why sending cards doesn’t have to be a chore nor does it have to break the bank.

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Now, if you are a fan of Pinterest, you have probably seen all those ideas of great homemade cards. And, I used to make our Christmas cards. I hope to be able to do it again someday…but not this year. This blog is about things one can do to reduce the cost of sending cards as well as make them less time-consuming to do.

1. I know this seems obvious, but buy cards after Christmas to use for the following year. Cards are a fraction of the cost after Christmas and there are still lots of really good cards out there. And, don’t worry about fancy cards with matching gold-lined envelopes…although those are also available for at least half off. Instead, look for cards in local drug stores like CVS, Rite-Aid, or Walgreens. I’ve also seen a nice selection at the local stationary box stores like Office Max and Office Depot. And, don’t worry if your cards don’t all match. Who of your friends and family are comparing your yearly card anyway?

2. Review your mailing list and see what names can be dropped. Yes, it’s kind of like ‘unfriending’ someone on Facebook, but if you really are no longer in contact with that co-worker from two jobs ago, it’s time to stop sending them cards.

3. Hand addressed cards are lovely, but I’ll take an envelope with an printed address label any day. Who keeps the envelope anyway? Create your Christmas mailing list on your computer so that you can just print it out each year. I update mine throughout the year as addresses change. I bought a box of plain white address labels several years ago and I’m still using them. If you are really creative, you can insert a holiday graphic on the label. Or, you can also buy decorative holiday labels at half price AFTER Christmas.

4. Lots of people now send a Christmas photo card. I love getting those. And, unless you are a photography pro, don’t worry about having professional photographs. I think some of the cutest cards I have received are those which have a collage of natural, real life snapshots. There are lots of sites which print these cards inexpensively. I recommend Shutterfly, Snapfish or Costco. This year I received several e-mails from Shutterfly alone offering 10 free photo cards. I probably got these offers because I ordered a photobook last month. But, if I had been going that route, I could have gotten almost all my cards for the year for free. The cards don’t need to be ordered all at once. Once you have uploaded your card and picked your design, you can order a few at a time.

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5. Postage is a significant expenditure and a real concern. But, you can spread out the cost by buying postage a little at a time. Every year the post office issues special Christmas/holiday stamps…but they don’t get your card to the sender any faster than a regular stamp. Most supermarkets sell stamps so buy a pack each time you do your grocery shopping. And, if you know postage is going up (as it seems to do every year), buy “Forever Stamps”. These are stamps you can get at the post office at whatever the current price of first class postage. Then you can continue using them until you run out…even if first class postage has risen in cost several times.

Another thing you can do is take advantage of those times when you can hand-deliver a card. Do you normally send cards to co-workers? If so, bring them to work and deliver them by hand.

We set up a system at our church called the Christmas Mailbox which also saves a lot of money on postage. It’s simply a series of plastic boxes that we purchased at the Dollar Store. (We got the idea from our former church which actually had wooden boxes built for this purpose.) The boxes are labeled alphabetically. Any cards that you would normally mail to friends who attend the same church are, instead, dropped into the appropriate box. And, you can pick up any cards addressed to your family. It’s a simple, inexpensive, cost-effective way of getting a lot of cards out to friends at almost no cost to you. And, kids love checking the boxes each week to see if the family has received any cards. If your church doesn’t offer this, suggest it. We did and it’s been a big hit!!

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6. Maybe getting out Christmas cards before Christmas is just too difficult to squeeze into your schedule. Consider sending a Thanksgiving card before the time crunch hits or sending a New Year’s card when things have settled down. We have some friends who do that and, I love receiving those cards just as much as if I had gotten them at Christmas.

7. If you have children, let them help in the process. They can stick on address labels or stamps. Depending on their writing ability, have them sign the family’s name to the cards. They can even stuff the card into the envelope. Anything they can do is just one less thing off your shoulders.

8. Consider doing a Christmas letter. It doesn’t have to be a full narrative of the entire year. Don’t make it a blow-by-blow narrative of every single success of your family. Do make it self-deprecating and share some of the humorous blunders of the year. Try a newsletter format with a column about each person in the family. Or…better yet…have your children write their own column for the newsletter. Maybe you just have a top ten list! The options are endless. Print it out on red or green paper and put it in a similarly colored #10 envelope. It’s easy peasy!

(As an aside, I’ve kept copies of all my yearly newsletters. Someday, I’m going to bind all the letters and give them to my children for Christmas. It’s amazing how you can be reminded of a year simply by reading an old Christmas letter.)

9. Lastly, when addressing cards, address a few and send them to our servicemen and women. It’s a little thing which can bring a lot of happiness to someone far away from home. The Red Cross suggests spreading some cheer by sending to the following:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

Or, you can send a card to:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue
NW Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

 

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I also want to share one thing I do with the cards I receive every year. Christmas cards have beautiful graphics of all sorts of holiday images. My mother didn’t waste anything and she taught me this little trick. Save the cards, cut out the graphics, and attach them to the front of Christmas presents. It’s amazing how this simple (and free) embellishment can really add to a package. I know this sounds like just one more thing to do, but I cut up the cards throughout the year while I’m watching television. Then, when Christmas comes, I already have this nice selection of Christmas embellishments. These can also be used as one-of-a-kind gift tags!

I hope I’ve encouraged you to consider sending cards this year. And, if not this year, maybe next.

Thanksgiving Traditions.

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Many years ago, I had my own craft business. One of the things I sold were some wooden pieces which I painted to look like a turkey head and five colored feathers. These pieces all had pointed wooden dowels attached to the end of them so they could stick into a real pumpkin. Every year at Halloween I buy a pumpkin to use on Thanksgiving day. (I’ve found that for some reason, pumpkins aren’t available in the stores after Halloween.) I search for the perfect pumpkin. I needs to be round, but with one flat side so it doesn’t role all over the porch. On Thanksgiving day, Bob and I assemble the “Turkey Pumpkin” and put it out to greet our guests. My grandchildren love that it’s waiting there when they arrive. It’s a tradition.

Thanksgiving is upon us and it’s, what I consider, the official start of the holiday season. With the holidays, comes the celebration of many family traditions. I love the holidays and our family has lots of traditions. And, even though my children are grown with families of their own, many of those traditions are being carried on with their own families.

Besides my Turkey Pumpkin, our family traditions for Thanksgiving are very simple…involving the food we eat, the decorations I put out, the thanks we give…even the dishes we use. Traditions don’t have to be complicated. But, they are very important because CHILDREN LOVE TRADITIONS. I believe traditions instill in them a sense of belonging to something bigger than just themselves and it gives them a comfort of knowing what they can count on. Traditions can pass on family values. And, they can create lasting memories.

It’s never too late to start a tradition. So, if you are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time or if you just want to add something extra to your day, here are a few ideas of activities which could become a future family tradition. Just know that you don’t have to do things exactly as I describe them. Feel free to expand on an idea, tweak it a little, and, most importantly, make it your own

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I think giving thanks is one of the most important traditions one can instill in children. At the dinner table, go around and have everyone state what they are thankful for that year. Or, have everyone write their thanks on a piece of paper. Put it all in a hat and have people guess who wrote what.

Another thing you can do is document everyone’s thanks for the year. My daughter-in-law started something a few years back with their children which is a such great idea. She bought a plain, white cotton tablecloth. (You can also use a white, queen or king-sized sheet.) Every year, each person in the family says what they are thankful for. It’s written on the tablecloth and dated. The children are little now so Mommy writes for them, but the idea is that they will write their own thanks as they get older. This Thanksgiving tablecloth is put out every year. The children already like to look back and see what was written in the year’s past.

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Another take on this same idea would be to purchase a blank journal. (Barne’s and Nobel has a ton of these). Every year, set aside a few pages for people to write in their thanks. And, the pages don’t have to be exclusive to written words. Trace handprints of each child or a footprint of a new baby. Have children collect some fall leaves and stick them in the pages. Add a picture of everyone. The ideas are boundless.

You can also reincarnate some old family traditions. As families grow up and move away to begin new lives, frequently the same people are no longer getting together. But, that doesn’t mean traditions can’t continue. Think back to your childhood and remember how things were done. Was there a particular ‘ethnic’ food that was served? Did your mother always decorate with the construction paper turkey you crafted in kindergarden? Did all the children help with a particular dish? These are all things you can incorporate into your day to introduce, yet continue, a family tradition.

Another suggestion would be to plan an activity. It can be as simple watching football together and choosing sides on which team is going to win. You can have prizes for those who picked the winning team. If you don’t like football, there is always the Westminster Dog Championship which is aired every Thanksgiving. Have everyone pick a favorite dog that they are rooting for Or, set up a Yahtzee competition or a game of Twister. Whoever wins is the champion until the next year.

How about a game of touch football while the turkey is finishing baking? This helps get people active and help burn off some of the calories of the impending big meal. Or, the family can go for a short walk after dinner to try and wake up.

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After dinner is finished and the kitchen is cleaned up, have everyone sit down and watch a special movie. We love the  ”A  Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas”, and “The Christmas Story” are all great movies to get in the mood for Christmas. My daughter’s family watches “Elf” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. “The Blind Side” is a wonderful story of family and what it means…and it’s also about football.

You can also make it a tradition to serve other people. There are lots of places where you can donate food and even help serve a Thanksgiving meal to those less fortunate than you and your family.

I know Pinterest has some wonderful, creative, exciting ideas for every holiday, but traditions don’t have to be difficult or fancy. For some people, just getting dinner on the table is enough of a task. However, having family traditions add something to the day so consider adding them to your Thanksgiving celebration. And, considering that Thanksgiving is almost over…keep this all in mind for next year!!

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A Perfect Life? Think again.

Many people look at my life and think it’s perfect.  And, don’t get me wrong…my husband and I have a wonderful life.  God has blessed us abundantly, particularly financially.  Bob retired three years ago at the age of 59 after working for the government for 40 years.  I retired the end of 2012 at the age of 62.  While I thought I might get a part-time job, there hasn’t been a need and I’m really enjoying my time off.  We love our time together.  While I did have a bout with thyroid cancer two years ago, I am now cancer-free and we are both in pretty good health.  And, our biggest blessing of all…we have eight beautiful, wonderful grandchildren…all healthy!!

ImageBob and I are also living in our dream home, which is more than we ever imagined was possible in our lives.  Both of us came from extremely modest beginnings.  Bob’s parents grew up in the projects of Detroit.  When his grandfather was able to build a home for the family, this was an unbelievable chance to advance.  The house was humble and tiny…but it was theirs.  In Bob’s family, just graduating from high school was an enormous achievement.

My background wasn’t much different.   I grew up a block from the Bradley Street Dump in Sun Valley.  It may not have exactly been the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ but it was definitely the poorer side of the tracks.  Our house would have been the one that most neighbors hated as my father didn’t believe in doing yard work or fixing up the house.  He was too busy with his own personal interests to spend any time on his family’s home.  When my mother re-married and we moved into an apartment in Panorama City, it was a move up for us.

Bob and I have come so far from where we started and we are so thankful for the blessings we’ve had in our lives.  But, contrary to those who think otherwise, our life isn’t perfect.

ImageRecently, our lives went through a major upheaval.  The circumstances and events were destructive and far-reaching…and devastating.  I was totally thrown for a loop.  I spent many nights unable to sleep, crying silently and praying.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, it tells us to pray unceasingly.  I definitely prayed unceasingly as I’ve never prayed before. 

In fact, I actually prayed that if God couldn’t bring healing, forgiveness, and restoration, I asked Him to take me home.  I just couldn’t imagine living through the pain of it all.  Heaven just seemed so desirable to me.  And, I wasn’t even the person most impacted by what had happened.

ImageSome people knew what was going on in our lives, but many people didn’t have a clue.   Bob and I felt incredibly isolated, particularly from our church family.  A few people did reach out to us and we asked that they give us time.  But I’m so grateful for them for at least contacting us to let us know they were praying for us. My best girlfriend was definitely there for me.  However, many people never contacted us and it was very lonely. 

There was one friend who has experienced her own personal trials having been widowed way too young.  Yet, in spite of her own troubles, her posts on Facebook are always of a spiritually, uplifting nature.  While she and I haven’t spoken directly, her posts were like water to my parched soul. 

ImageI’m really embarrassed by my crisis of faith because as time has passed, God has been faithful.  My prayers for healing, forgiveness, and restoration are being answered.  These things took time.  And, it wasn’t my timing.  It was all done in God’s timing.  And God’s timing is always perfect.  Today, I am feeling incredibly hopeful.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are getting better every single day.

ImageI’m not sharing all of this to get sympathy or bare my soul, but, as a reminder that we don’t always know what’s going on in people’s lives.  People who are going through their own personal torments and demons surround all of us.  Yet, we are probably mostly unaware.  Sometimes it’s an individual choice to keep problems hidden, but sometimes it’s because we are so caught up in our own lives that we just aren’t paying attention.

Couples that seem like they are rock solid to the outside world may be living separate lives behind closed doors.  People we know to be terrific parents may have a child who is bulimic or who is battling addiction.  The National Alliance of Mental Illness reports that one in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year.   And certainly many people are struggling to pay their bills.  I think all of us probably know someone who has lost or is in danger of losing his or her job.

ImageVery few of us have a perfect life…certainly not I.  But, I’m glad God had a better plan than ‘calling me home’.  Going through this recent experience has reminded me that I shouldn’t judge anyone.   Nor should I presume to know or understand what they are going through in their life.

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Should Your Husband Be Your Best Friend?

Just a quick apology for the break in my blog posts.  First, we went on a much needed vacation.  If I was more experienced at blogging, I would have had a couple of articles in the queue…but I’m new to this.  Then, I actually was working on two different articles…and the app I use to write them on my iPad crashed.  This deleted all my work and I just couldn’t get started again.  But…I’m back.  So…onto the topic at hand.

ImageI am not embarrassed to say that my husband is my best friend.  I’m not talking about the warm, fuzzy, “you complete me” kind of sentiment.  I don’t personally feel that anyone, except Jesus Christ, can complete anyone.  But, I am talking about a safe, comfortable, peace of mind relationship where there is shared history, shared experiences, and simple pleasure in each others company.  I’m talking about that safe place and that loved place.

According to an article I recently read by Cynthia Hanson, having your spouse as your best friend is ‘unhealthy’.  “Friendship is a huge part of marriage, but expecting your spouse to be your everything is unrealistic and can strain the relationship,” says psychotherapist Joyce Marter, CEO of Urban Balance LLC, a counseling group practice in Chicago. “Women need and deserve multiple people in our lives who love us and offer us support, whether it’s for a crisis like a serious illness or a daily drama with a nasty coworker. It’s not fair or wise to rely on your husband for all your friendship needs.”

Couples who are enmeshed in each other’s lives tend to be boring. “It’s a setup for too much dependency and isolation from other sources of support,” Marter explains. Far better is to enjoy what she calls a “healthy separation,” where spouses have different friends, work and hobbies that make them interesting and whole. You’ll bring more to the marriage party if you have a life and experiences outside of your relationship.

In addition, men and women process emotions and life…and relationships differently.  Marter feels that we need people of our same gender to relate to, outside our marriage.  And, she also says that our having best friends outside our marriage is healthy for our children.  It exposes them to different people with different personalities.  And it helps them understand that there people outside of family that care about them.

I don’t disagree with these ideas at all, but I think this article is missing the point.  First of all, I don’t think there should be a limit on ‘best friends’.  I, for one, have had multiple best friends in my life.  I’ve had best friends in various stages of my life.  I remember telling my own children that they shouldn’t expect to keep in touch with their high school friends once they graduated because that was unrealistic.  My kids couldn’t imagine it at the time, but now understand what I was talking about.  (Of course…that was before Facebook which has allowed us to reconnect with people with whom we went to preschool.)

I’ve had my best work friends.  I’ve had best church friends.  There are a few couples who are our best couple friends.  And, of course there are those family members who are your best friends.   And…last, but never least, I’ve had a best girlfriend.  I’ve actually had two…one of my youth and now one for my ‘golden years’.

 

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All these friends have shared different aspects of my life and have been there for various stages of my life.  But, the one constant best friend has been my husband, Bobby. 

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It seems like we have always been friends.  In fact, we were close friends before we began a romantic relationship.  We were friends in high school.  But, I married someone else.  And, having been married before to someone who wasn’t my friend, I was hesitant to begin a romantic relationship if it meant risking our friendship.  I’m sure glad I took the risk. 

Bobby and I recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary.  And, what we have realized in our 35 years of marriage is that, while we do have different interests, we just enjoy being together.  Which is a good thing since we both recently retired and are together all the time.  And, isn’t it most couple’s goal to grow old together?  How dreadful would it be to reach this stage of life and not spend it with your best friend? I’ve known couples who didn’t nurture the friendship aspect of their marriage.  They either ended up divorced, or living under the same roof…but leading separate, lonely lives.

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Which takes me back to the purpose of this writing.  Yes, your life shouldn’t revolve around your spouse to the exclusion of all else.  And other people should be included in your circle of friends.  But, with all the changes and stages you will experience over the years, the one constant will be your spouse.  At least, that should be the goal.  So, for me, there is nothing ‘unhealthy’ about being a best friend with your spouse.  In fact, I think it is the sign of a healthy marriage.

Worry vs. Faith

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My name is Kelsey and I’m a worrier.  Not just a little worrier…sometimes I am overwhelmed with worry.  I’m so ashamed to admit it because, as a woman of faith, I should be putting all my trust in my savior, Jesus Christ.  I know it is one of my biggest character flaws.  I have been thinking about blogging on this forever but even worried about getting my thoughts down succinctly.  But, I also know I’m not alone in this and I thought that by writing through it, I might be able to help others who struggle with this same failure of faith.

 

 I’m sure my worrying nature dates back to when I was very young.  As I have posted before, I grew up with a very abusive father.  I suffered from migraines when I was 10 years old and I underwent a myriad of medical tests to find the reason.  What the doctors found was not only did I have the migraines, but I also had a full-blown ulcer.  Their diagnosis was that I was over-stressed and that I worried way too much for a 10 year-old child.

Image I never knew the mood my father would be in when he came home from work.  And I certainly couldn’t control what was going to happen…although I know I tried.  I can remember rushing around trying to make everything perfect.  But, nothing I did or didn’t do really had anything to do with whether he would be in a good mood or bad.  And, we only needed smooth sailing until my father left for the evening.  He had a slew of activities and hobbies that kept him busy and out of the house almost every night of the week.

 

ImageBut, after I was diagnosed with my ulcer, my mother made a decision to change the dynamic to try and help me better deal with my anxiety.  From that day on, we rarely ate dinner at home with my father.  My mother, brother, and I would leave the house at 5:00 p.m. sharp…just missing my father who arrived at 5:05.  We went out to dinner every night!  By the time we got home, my father would have already left for his evening activity.  And, we were usually in bed by the time he got home.  This is how we lived until my parents divorced when I was 16.  But, by then, my tendency to worry had now become ingrained and second nature to me.

 

 

ImageIn an attempt to have some degree of control over all aspects of my life, I now ponder and plan, obsess and over-analyze, strategize and scheme so that every “i” can be dotted and “t” crossed.  I try to take care of everything so I won’t have to worry, but it doesn’t matter.  I worry anyway.

 

 

You may ask what it is that I worry about?  More than anything, I worry about my children…their successes and failures.  I worry about their marriages, their finances and how they can survive in this economy.  I worry about my grandchildren.  Will they grow strong in their faith and love the Lord?  Will they do well in school?  WILL THEY STAY HEALTHY?  The list goes on.

 

ImageSurprisingly, I don’t worry about myself.  Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  While I did have some complications, for the most part, my entire cancer journey and recovery was smooth and simple.  Some people would have heard the word “cancer” and they might worry about their own mortality.  I don’t worry about my mortality at all.  I don’t fear my death.  Sometimes I think it is the only thing that would end my worrying.

 

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I am aware that my worrying is rather self-centered and prideful and it all revolves around control.  It distracts you from what is wonderful and beautiful and joyful.  But, the reality is that I worry the most about things over which I have absolutely no control and over which I couldn’t fix even if I tried.   Intellectually, I realize that my worrying serves no practical purpose except to immobilize me.  But, that doesn’t stop the worries from creeping into my thoughts.

 

But, I have found ways to calm my worried heart.  There are three things that I rely on to help me ‘let go and let God’.  I’m not listing them in any particular order.  Sometimes, just doing one of these things will be enough to put my emotions under control.  Sometimes, I require doing all three because I am overcome and crippled with worry.

 

ImageFirst is prayer.  I know that sounds obvious, but sometimes when you are in the depths of despair over a problem, you can be blind to what can help.  Right now my family is currently struggling with some issues that have the potential of being devastating to many.  I have so many specific needs to put in prayer and I can’t verbalize my thoughts and prioritize the needs.  I am overwhelmed with worry.  That’s when the Holy Spirit is most helpful.  Rather than articulating my concerns in a precise way…sometimes my prayers are simply my repeating “Jesus, Jesus” over and over again.  The Holy Spirit knows the desires of my heart and my being articulate is completely unnecessary.  Just as you would share your troubles with your best friend, our Heavenly Father is waiting to share our worries as well.

 

ImageMy second helpful aid is praise and worship music.  Praise songs always remind me of the magnitude of my God.  And when I praise God, He reveals Himself to me in incredible and wondrous ways.  I have a “Worship Music” mix of over 100 songs on my iPhone.  I love being in my car by myself and playing the music via my Bluetooth.  I put the music on “Shuffle” mode so I never know what song will be up next.  It is always a God thing that the songs I need most are the ones that I hear.  And, as I sing along with the radio (at the top of my lungs), my praise turns to worship and I am calmed.

 

ImageLast, but absolutely not least, is turning to God’s Word.  I have certain verses that absolutely touch my soul when I read them…no matter how many times I have read them in the past.  The following are many of the verses in the Bible which deal with worry:

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27 New International Version) (This is one of my favorites!!)

 

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 King James Version)

 

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1 KJV)

 

 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 KJV)

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

 

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 New American Standard Bible)

 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)

 

“I lift up my eyes to the hillswhere does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV)

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 New Living Translation)

 

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25 NIV)

 

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These three things are all things we should do as part of our Christian walk but they are lifesavers when you are a worrier like me.  I hope I have encouraged all you other worriers out there.  Let me know the things you do to help you overcome your worrywart ways.

 

 

 

 

The Tale of the Traveling Green Jeans

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I’m sure many of you are familiar with the book/movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”.  It’s about four best girlfriends who are heading off in different directions and make one last pact to stay connected.  They pass around a pair of second-hand jeans that miraculously fit each one of their frames.  Even more miraculous was how these jeans arrived at a time when they were each at a moment of crisis and needed to feel their connection with their friends.

I recently bought a pair of pale green jeans and I was taken back to another time in my life.  Many years ago, I owned a similar pair of pale green jeans.  They were somewhere between a mint and a lime green.  Oh, how I loved those jeans.  Whenever I put them on I felt sexy, sassy, feisty, and empowered!  And, you have to understand that I wasn’t a dainty little thing.  I think those green jeans were a size 16!!  They might even have been a size 18.  But, whatever the size, when I was wearing those green jeans and my Cherokee brand platform shoes, I was woman…hear me roar!!

Unfortunately, there reached a time when I outgrew those pants.  But, rather than throw them away, I passed them on to best friend, Judy Jarred Comford.  Judy was another  “plus sized” woman.  It didn’t take long before she also discovered the power of those pants.  In fact, whenever Judy was feeling down, her brother, Jeff, would say, “Judes, put on your green jeans and let’s go out.”

Over the years, as our size fluctuated, Judy and I passed those jeans back and forth…and back and forth.  We must have each had them in our possession at least four or five times.  Sadly, there reached a point where we realized our favorite pants were too worn and no longer in style.  It was time to say goodbye to the green jeans.

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The pants were something that we shared and they reflected the ebb and flow of our friendship.  Judy and I became close friends during our senior year of high school.  We discovered that we were kindred spirits when we found that we had much in common.  Both of us came from households headed by an abusive father.  That wasn’t something that one could share very openly as most people just didn’t understand or relate to it.

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But, there were also many positive things that drew us together.  We both loved to sing and were avid readers.  Over the years, it was common for us to pass books on to each other.  I still have copies of books which have Judy’s name written in the flyleaf.  Judy got me hooked on soap operas…first, with “Dark Shadows” and then, “General Hospital” and “One Life to Life”.  We would stay awake all night as she filled me in on the back-story of each soap so I could immediately start watching with a clear understanding of what was going on and who was doing what to and with whom.

 Judy was the one I asked to be the godmother of my daughter.  It was the best way I could show her how much she meant to me.

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Judy is also the one who got me though the devastation of my divorce from my first husband.  We separated from our husbands within a month of each other.  Divorce is a horrendous experience and it can be immobilizing.  It is often described as being similar to experiencing a death.  And, that is so true.  It is the death of a relationship, as well as dreams for the future.

Judy and I both got through those dark days because of the support of each other.  When one of us was down, the other was there to support and encourage her.  When one was feeling unlovable and unattractive, the other would be there to tell her what pond scum we had been married to.  I often describe my first husband this way…”I used to worship the ground he slithered on.”  It may not have been the truth, but it helped get through those bad periods if we could laugh.  And, laugh we did.

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During those first months when my daughter would go for visitation with her dad, I would spend the night with Judy at her apartment.  I was afraid of the dark and frightened to spend the night alone.  So, we hung out together and had some great, crazy times.

Because I married so young, I never went to bars or clubs dancing…not ever!  But, Judy and I were now ‘single ladies’ and had some fun times together.  In those days, there was actually a ‘Talent Show’ circuit in S. California and Judy was a very talented country singer.  There was a different talent show at a different country bar every night of the week.  There were actually a stable of regulars that performed and that we got to know.  I was Judy’s biggest fan (besides her mother who often joined us.) 

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I remember that the craziest thing we ever did was to drive to San Francisco over one Labor Day weekend.  This trip is what cemented our “best friends forever” status.  We left after work on Friday and returned home in the wee hours on Monday morning.  We had almost no money but we had the absolute best time of our lives. 

One of our goals was to go to the “Top of the Mark”…a restaurant on the top floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel.  We had heard that the view of San Francisco was spectacular.  We couldn’t afford dinner but we figured a drink at the bar would be as good.  After walking for what seemed like forever in high heels, we finally flagged down a cab to take us the rest of the way.  The fare came to exactly $1.37.  I gave the cab driver two dollars and told him to keep the change.  That led to Judy exclaiming loudly, “Whoa…big spender!” which caused even the cabbie to crack up.  From then on, whenever the other would splurge on something outrageous, we could say, “Whoa…big spender.”   And, as for the view at “The Top of the Mark”…it was a typical foggy, San Francisco evening and we couldn’t see a thing.  But, it really didn’t matter because we had created a memory which would last forever.

 Judy and I had other key phrases which meant so much more than what we said.  For example, if one of us tried on something that wasn’t particularly flattering, the other would say, “I’m sure you’ll be very happy with it.”  That translated into, “That makes you look fat…put it back.”  We could even communicate with just a look. 

 Judy was the first one (after my daughter) that we told when Bob and I got engaged.  And she stood up for me when we got married.  A few years later, I was thrilled to do the same for her.  I sobbed throughout her entire wedding ceremony…not because I was sad…but because I was so happy she had finally found her perfect life partner.

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We spoke the same language and considered ourselves ‘sisters’.  We were both the only girls in our family so we ‘chose’ each other to be our sister.  And like sisters, we often fought.  I don’t think there was anyone who could hurt me as deeply as Judy and I know I wounded her on many occasions as well.  Sometimes, we wouldn’t speak to each other for months.  But, it never really mattered.  Even when we weren’t speaking, I knew that she would be there for me if I needed her and I know she knew that about me as well.  There was really no one who knew my history better than Judy.

 Judy passed away almost 7 years ago at the age of 56.  She had suffered many years from several debilitating and disabling health conditions.  One of those conditions by itself would not have been fatal, but because of the magnitude of them combined, her poor body was just too worn out.  I was the one who told her that she was dying and that she had to make some decisions.  She died 5 days later.

I’ve often wondered if she thought I was being unkind because of my calm demeanor in delivering the news.  She was really surprised by my words because she always thought she would get better.  My heart was breaking inside, but I knew her husband couldn’t bring himself to tell her.  And, she hadn’t heard what the doctor’s had been telling her.  I wanted her to be in control of what happened.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And, even though I knew her death was imminent, I was completely devastated when it happened.   I had thought we had more time.

 Don’t we always think we will have more time?

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Fast forward to a week ago when I bought a new pair of green jeans.  I’m sad that I won’t be able to pass them on to Judy.  But, they are a size 12!!  I’ve maintained this size for almost a year now and it’s my goal to stay this way.  So, instead of outgrowing these jeans, each time I wear them, I will remember what I shared with a remarkable, one-of-a-kind friend.

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Me, in my size 12 green jeans!

The Healing Power of Forgiveness – Part 2 – YES, It Means Boundaries

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When we truly forgive, the debt is paid, just as our debt was paid when Christ died on the cross. As I stated in the first part of this series, we can only reach healing when we forgive those who have hurt us. And, for those of us who are Christians, it is also part of our faith to try to forgive others just as Christ forgave us.

Our forgiveness is not filled with contingencies. Giving forgiveness should not be based on getting anything in return from those who have hurt us. First of all, besides an apology, what could anyone possibly give us to repair the hurt or damage? And second, we may never get an apology or even an acknowledgement that we were harmed or hurt in anyway. In fact, if we were to tell a person that we forgive them, their response could be anything from remorse to indifference…and everything in between. Forgiving is not about what we get. We forgive because it sets us free!

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But, being forgiving does not mean we can’t put boundaries in place. It doesn’t mean we have to accept the unacceptable not does it mean we are willing to accept abuse. As Christians, we are to love unconditionally. But, boundaries have nothing to do with our love for an individual, even if we may not be liking them very much. Establishing boundaries means that we acknowledge our value and worth as God sees us.

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Boundaries are critical to moving forward. And boundaries are critical to keeping safe. I mean…what good is there to healing from prior hurts if you allow someone to hurt you all over again?

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Some boundaries are obvious. In cases of sexual abuse, boundaries may mean limited access to you and your family. Unfortunately, families frequently wear blinders and refuse to accept that the abuse ever happened. If you were abused as a child, there is no way that you would ever leave your own children alone with the predator. And, while other family members might not understand why you aren’t just moving on, ultimately, you need to protect your children.

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Another obvious situation where boundaries are needed is when a friend betrays you. While it is important to forgive them for both your sakes, it is highly unlikely that you will ever trust that ‘friend’ the same way again. Nor will you ever return to your former intimate closeness.

Other situations requiring boundaries may not be so obvious. Sometimes we have to limit people’s access to us simply because of the mess they have made in their own lives. And, if they aren’t even willing to acknowledge that mess, we may feel the need to become completely unavailable to them. Our love for them doesn’t change; we just have to restrict them from our lives simply because of the damage that spills over because of their drama. I think women, particularly, have a problem with this. Although it is said that men need to fix things, I find it is women who want to fix relationships.

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 When I decided to forgive my father for the years of physical and verbal abuse, that also meant that I redefined our relationship. Even though I was adult in all other aspects of my life, I realized that when dealing with my father, I became a little girl again. My reactions to him were immature and willful. And I was disrespectful as well. When I was a child and living in his household, I had no control over my life. I certainly couldn’t openly disagree with him because I feared what he would do to me.

When I reached adulthood and lived on my own, I knew he could no longer physically hurt me or ‘punish’ me, so I took every opportunity I could to push his buttons. What I didn’t realize was that in acting immaturely with and toward him, I did nothing to earn his respect. And, so despite my thinking otherwise, my father continued to punish me by withholding his love and approval. Regardless of how much I claimed to hate him, I really did want to know my father loved me.

In this case, the boundaries I set had more to do with my behavior than it did with his. While I wanted my father to respect my abilities and my decisions, I needed to also recognize when I was acting with disrespect, my father shut me out. He was then incapable of hearing any truth in my words, regardless of how well informed I might be. It took a lot of self-restraint on my part. And, a great deal of biting my tongue!

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In the end, boundaries really have to do with trust. The less we trust someone, the stronger and bigger the boundaries need to be. And, whether or not the boundaries ever come down is not dependent on time or distance…it should only be dependent upon whether trust is restored.

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