Beauty in Every Season

I got together yesterday for a group hike with some high school friends. Four of us made it (plus the dog), which wasn’t a bad showing for such short notice. Of course, a few years have passed since we’ve passed one another in those hallowed high school hallways. Somewhere along the way, we entered another season in our lives. But just as all seasons come with a purpose, we should be purposeful in how we live out each one.

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One day we’ll be in our winter years (if all goes well). Winter’s all too often known for its drabness, its barrenness, its lonely appearance. All too many people live their winter years out like that too, bundled away with no desire to be hit by a little fresh air. That’s part of the reason for the hiking/outdoor high school club venture – to prepare for that cold snap before it arrives – by surrounding ourselves with the warmth of friends. All that being said…

Yesterday’s fun challenge (besides being able to make the 7-mile hike – especially without getting lost, as we were exploring a couple of unknown trails on a system), was to find something beautiful to share on our winter hike. 

My hiking colleagues outdid themselves in sharing many lovely things about themselves along the way. But I thought I’d show you just a couple of the beautiful images that we captured on camera to share with others.

Fortuitous Stories are Made Every Day

I just recently finished my novel, Rolling River. As the writer, I of course have a responsibility to orchestrate events to move my characters towards some form of resolution. Even if they feel everything is spinning out of control, I can’t let them stay that way – no matter how many edits it takes.

Oh, that real life always worked that way, right?

But wait. Every beautiful once in awhile, it does!

Take, for example, this Wednesday.

It didn’t start out too great. My youngest son was diagnosed with pneumonia, but we got that dealt with for the time being.
One of my dearest friends was having a birthday, and a group of us was getting together to celebrate at lunch.

What it looks like when our group of high school friends gets together for lunch

Many laughs later, it was time to go back and face the work world again. I had loitered with two of my besties in the parking lot, encouraging and being encouraged, and then we parted ways. As I got into my car, I thought to warn the canoodling couple in front of me not to let my car startle them when I started it. (It had squealed a little that morning and I had to get it to the shop the next day to be checked out.)

As promised, it squealed. Only very loudly this time. Then smoke started pouring in through my vents and out from under my hood.

An Unrealistic Re-enactment that I found on the Internet.

As I shut it down, I heard the shocked man in front of me yell, “Pop the hood!” Before I could feel guilty that I’d ruined his goodbye kiss, his significant blonde other had come around to assist me.

Looking back, how I think the couple may have actually looked…

No sooner had the helpful stranger diagnosed my problem as “a broken drive belt,” producing evidence of it swinging in his hand, than I heard a familiar voice coming across the parking lot behind me. “Jody, what have you done now?”

I turned to face one of our prior youth leaders at church, Greg, who also fortuitously works in the repair shop closest to where I’d broken down. He told me he could get my car towed and taken care of. I told him I could meet him half-way on the towing – I had AAA.

“Let me get a ride back to the shop and go get my truck. I’ll come back and pick you up,” he nodded.

The lady who had been at the scene of my car’s crime wanted to assure I felt comfortable with those arrangements. (She also offered to take me to the mammogram I’d just cancelled, if needed. I guess she figured Greg wouldn’t want to do that! Any hey, I figured we weren’t strangers anymore about the time I’d told her about the mammogram; but I assured her it was all just as well – I was happy to put that trauma off for a few more days.)

No sooner had the couple left and Greg returned than one of my besties surprised me by coming back across the parking lot. “You go back to work and wait on her car to get there,” she told Greg. “I’ll hang out with her until the tow arrives and then take her to work.”

And that’s how it went. I never had to do much of anything for myself – except make the call to AAA.

But that’s not really the end of this story. It has a better punchline from the grand writer’s perspective.

My oldest son stopped by my house that evening for dinner, and I was telling him about my day. When I finished my story, he leaned back with a big grin on his face.

“You know,” he smiled, “every time I stop to help someone and they try to pay me, I always tell them that I’m helping them because I know if my mom or my fiance’ ever breaks down, God will make sure that someone’s right there to help them.”

My oldest son with his fiance’. (If he ever stops to help you out, he’s a pretty good fella’.)

It wasn’t too long before he was on the phone with his fiance, sharing my story and assuring her, “You know how I know that you’re gonna’ be alright if you ever break down? Because God showed me how faithful He was in watching over my mom today. She didn’t even have a chance to worry, and everybody else had already solved her problem for her.”

Now, I’m not going to tell you that usually happens. I’d never have a chance to grow in life if everybody else always solved my problems for me. But isn’t it nice to know that, every beautiful once in awhile, our faith isn’t tested as much as it’s simply gifted?

Don’t miss those fortuitous stories of resolution in your own life either (’cause I’ll bet they come up more often than any of us truly ever notice.)

Gray sand peas,

Jody

Recycling Christmas Cheer throughout the Coming New Year

Of the left-over items from the holiday season, CHRISTMAS CARDS may present the most perplexing puzzlement of all.

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Christmas cards have become somewhat of a societal anomaly, after all. Where letters have transitioned into e-mails and passing thoughts get texted without enough thought, Christmas cards are one of the few remaining print expressions that actually still (most often) travel through snail mail – frequently from those who we’ve not truly heard from in ages past, despite potential social networking opportunities that often reveal very little beyond “it’s complicated.”

Perhaps because they’re a little more festive or maybe because we try to imagine the people opening their postal boxes, then opening our cards, we take a little more time in their preparation. After choosing a card (or making one) that conveys our personalities (or maybe our children’s growth), sometimes we buy fancy colored pens that glitter, or make a trip to the post office to buy season-appropriate stamps, or tuck a special thought or a little gift inside. Whatever the case, the recipient is left to understand that he/she was “special enough” to have been gifted with this extra effort.

Therein lies the quandary – what to do with this special endowment once the holiday season has passed. When the halls are no longer dutifully decked – and the house is no longer a jolly wreck…when everything around you appears sterile once more…what do you do with the remaining evidence of others’ thoughtful Christmas spirits? Do you just throw them into the trash – to be carried off and tossed onto a garbage heap? How very un-green (and red) of you!

Christmas Left-overs for Fun Recycling at our Home

Christmas Left-overs for Fun Recycling at our Home

How about some GREEN Christmas Card Re-Cycling Ideas that will continue to spread Christmas Cheer instead?

  1. Okay, here’s the most obvious “re-cycling” idea. Choose some of your favorite cards and cut out pieces to make your own homemade Christmas cards next year. Don’t do it on your own though – how does that spread any Christmas cheer? Have a little card-making party. If you want to wear silly sweaters and do it with your BFF’s, fine. But instead of setting yourself up to say, “I thought we’d never come back from that one” (yes, that was an eye roll)…What if you included some young, glue-sticky hands in your fun? Invite the creative energy of kids to join you (e.g., youth group, boy or girl scouts, children’s church, foster kids, mission trip kids – wherever you might be able to get involved). You may have to hold onto these cards for several months, but by fall, these children could be making cards to give to special people and brighten their days. Up the ante by having the kids send (or deliver) the cards to folks in an elderly residential home or to soldiers. Look beyond yourself and share the spirit from beginning to end.
  2. Re-cycle the blessing back to the individual(s) who originally blessed you. Place your pile of Christmas cards into a basket. Each night (or once a week – you can set your own reasonable time schedule), pull a card from the basket and resolve to pray for the name(s) on the card. Not only will you be blessing the sender of the card, you’ll be sneaking in another blessing for yourself once again. The card that keeps on giving…
  3. Take your re-cycling efforts a step further. Mail that card back to the original sender, letting that person know you prayed for him/her. (Or if you are not comfortable with that, then just follow my lead from here.) Enclose a special note to the person(s) whose name(s) is/are in that card, letting that person feel the special touch of Christmas at an unexpected moment. You may not even know what’s going on in that person’s life; but I’ll bet he/she could use a blessing. How’s that for spreading cheer throughout the year?
  4. Combine any of the above ideas for a whole new dimension of bless-ed fun! Help some kids cut out cards to make new seasonal cards. Can you imagine Santa saying “Hoppy Easter”? Or sending a partial card with a note to your friend, explaining the other parts of it were prayed over &  sent out with a special note to someone in the armed forces or in an elderly living facility?
  5. Create a collage of the fronts of Christmas card clip-outs onto a board and shellac it for a family member who either can’t be with you for the holidays or can’t be with you throughout the rest of the year. Send it to them as a writing/laptop board to remind them of your cheery love throughout the time you all are apart.

Come up with some new ideas of your own – and share them here for the rest of us to enjoy!

And may your year be full of Christmas blessings!

-just jody