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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cordial Connections


CORDIAL CONNECTIONS


Life is pleasant when people are cordial, warmhearted and friendly. Cordial hospitality is generally considered a home-grown thing . . . I have you in my home, or you have me in yours. But there are many more options.

Hospitality is an ancient custom that is still important today. Nomadic people were quite hospitable. If strangers turned up at their tent door, they were expected to feed, shelter and protect them.

Open Hospitality
In our society nomadic people may turn up at missions and soup kitchens. Hospitality is offered there, along with a cup of kindness to refresh both body and soul.

In English movies, like Jane Eyre, I’m fascinated by the hospitality shown to guests arriving at a huge estate. They were welcome to stay for weeks in rooms prepared by the staff while cooks prepared food in abundance.

In spite of small homes and no servants, old west ranchers and settlers with barely enough to feed their own families did not shrink back. Strangers were welcome to share the beans and cornbread or a kettle of soup and homemade biscuits.

I enjoy cordial connections. Sitting across the table from one person is as fulfilling as serving a dinner to six, eight or ten.

The holidays this past year provided an unexpected form of hospitality. My husband’s health precluded going out of town to be with family and friends, so they came to us.

Cordiality Includes a Smile
Our Goddaughter drove several hundred miles to be with us for Thanksgiving. Then my sister-in-law and brother came up from Phoenix for Christmas Day. Each of these ladies have a heart for hospitality and each insisted on preparing the holiday meal. Not only did we enjoy a lovely time together, but, as a caregiver, it was a day of rest. They even insisted on doing the clean up!

Easy access to restaurants and coffee houses offer other options for hospitality.

Food & Fellowship
For example, my husband had a friend who was housebound. Whenever he could visit, my husband would call and say, “I’m coming over. What can I bring you?” The answer was always the same, “A load of tacos.” He would then stop by the guy’s favorite fast-food place and be greeted with a smile upon personal delivery.

As I see it, hospitality outside the home offers three positives: (1) It allows you to focus on your guest, (2) you give of yourself as you pay the bill, and (3) fellowship over some type of food, no matter where or when, provides valuable time for personal connections.

Since hospitality is shown by a friendly or solicitous attitude toward people don’t hold back, no matter how meager the fare. The key is to offer it cheerfully and, according to 1 Peter 4:9, “without grumbling.”

If you’re not in the mood, don’t do it. But if you are, both you and your guests will benefit from your cordial connections.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Keep Looking Up


KEEP LOOKING UP


Sometimes I notice a lot of jet streams in our clear blue skies. They are fascinating because I can’t see the jets, just the white streams in their wake.

I once worked at a Christian company where employees could voluntarily attend a weekly devotional. One person each week would share a Scripture and life application.

When it was my turn, I was inspired to share Psalm 23:6. I grew up with the King James Version which says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . .” Other translations mention mercy as kindness and love, but whatever the translation, one truth remains: You are being followed by two positive forces.

Jet Streams Show Power
While meditating on this verse I thought why would these two desirable things follow me? I would prefer them to go before me. It was then the picture of a high-flying plane with flowing white jet streams came to mind.

I understood that God in His power is carrying me through life every day. His goodness and mercy do their work on my behalf, then flow behind in visible ways to show He was there all the time.

God is always at work for good in our lives, but we don’t always realize it until we look back and observe the jet streams.

His power carried me through hard places in my life many times. I was sick and got well. I needed money for food and it was provided. I needed a job and got one. I desired a Christian husband and just the right man became interested in me.

At the time of my prayers, only the needs were obvious. But when God went to work and answered my prayers, jet streams showed up. I could see that God had been at work in my life all along.

I heard a pastor share a thought regarding a request from Moses to see God’s glory. God replied, “I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you . . . I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy . . . but, you cannot see my face” (Exodus 33:18-23). He then put Moses in a protected place until He passed by. Moses was allowed to see God’s back.
Enjoy the Afterward

The pastor explained that the Hebrew word for back means what has been. Strong’s Concordance explains it in similar fashion as the afterward, or what is behind.

We may not see God’s face, but we know when He has been at work in our lives. The afterward makes it easy to praise Him.

Sometimes, while looking at what is behind, we see clearly God’s goodness and mercy toward us. He helped us through tough times, and in the jet streams of His provision we find encouragement.

Keep looking up. You might be surprised at things which remind you, “God was here!” Enjoy your jet-stream view.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

How Do You Spell "LIFE?"


HOW DO YOU SPELL “LIFE?”


Questions Need Answers
Some of you may remember a clever bit of advertising from the mid-seventies. It had people answering this question: How do you spell relief?

Whether their problem was acid indigestion or gas, each answer and spelling was the same: R-O-L-A-I-D-S.

I’ve been asking myself lately, “How do you spell life?”

What first comes to mind is C-H-A-N-G-E. I always thought I liked change, so why think about it now? After all, change has been part of my life since conception.

To Live is to Grow
I faced up to change through years of education and a variety of jobs. Then I dealt with change through unexpected health challenges. But, for me, the biggest change, came with retirement.

It doesn’t matter how you spell it, the interesting thing about change is our ability to adjust or adapt to it. 

When we were making a major move years ago, a friend jokingly said, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” Wise words in their own way.

The next spelling is my personal favorite: C-R-E-A-T-I-V-I-T-Y. I don’t have to wait for change, I can make my own.

Create With Color
Unhappy with the colors in the house? I can study paint chips and come up with some new tones. Tired of the furniture arrangement? I can experiment with moving things around. Need some new inspiration for meals? I can consult a cookbook, changing ingredients even more if I so choose.

The creative part of my life has varied. I took lessons in tole painting. It was so exacting I got a headache. I switched to oils and felt more freedom.

I took piano lessons but wanted to learn how to play the organ, so I taught myself. I enjoyed writing letters and sending cards, but decided it would be fun to write more.

Creativity developed as I took classes and studied books about writing. Interest deepened as I experimented with different genres. Short inspirational stories became my focus. It was satisfying to publish a collection of them as *REFLECTIONS: Inspirational Stories from Everyday Life.

There’s one spelling of life that we cannot avoid: R-O-U-T-I-N-E.

Seasons Bring Change
Since Creation there has been a routine of days, weeks, months and years. Imagine life without them. . . what a jumble. Cycles of sun, moon, and seasons change our lives, but we adjust.

These changes may challenge my flexibility, but the One who set them in motion is strong and steady.

The Apostle James wrote, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17 NLT).

That’s why I spell life H-O-P-E-F-U-L.

Who better to understand the challenges in CHANGE, CREATIVITY and ROUTINE than the One who put LIFE in motion?

I’m hopeful because, in all of life, if we need the steadiness of His strength or the wisdom of His advice, all we have to do is ask (James 1:5-6).

*Available from BookLocker.com

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Caregiver's Choice


CAREGIVER’S CHOICE


I Don't Ignore the Alarm
I reach over sleepily to turn off the alarm. Time to face another day. As a caregiver I don’t know what to expect; each day opens with different needs.

Sitting on the side of the bed I pray a silent prayer for God’s new mercies, love and faithfulness as promised in Lamentations 3:22-24. Then I’m off to splash cold water on my face and take care of personal needs before checking on the person who needs me.

My husband is now under hospice care which has been a boon to me. It’s nice to have some support from professionals who can give guidance and answer questions. Today was a day when I needed extra support and I got it.

Choices Bring Changes
Being a caregiver includes loss of personal goals. It’s my choice to care for my husband but his life has become my life. I have friends who will come and sit with him to let me get a break now and then, but care giving is basically 24/7.

To recover from loss of any kind, we must first acknowledge our emotions. We can’t just “suck it up” and keep going because emotions don’t just disappear. They go undercover and come out incognito. For example, resentment may appear as anger and bitterness as lack of forgiveness.

When I was a caregiver for my father, I discovered some negative emotions in my usually calm approach to life. The most surprising thing was my anger. Second in line was my resentment.

Oh, sure, I had grown up with the verse “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NAS), but I had never been challenged to apply it personally.

Flying Birds Look Free
My father’s need for a caregiver changed that quite quickly. In the two-and-a-half-years that I cared for him, I refused to be a victim. But if I was to be a victor I had to face up to my emotions as well as my thoughts.

Now as a caregiver for my husband I’ve had less anger and resentment because I’ve faced these challenges before. I can tell I’ve grown some, but I’m not perfect yet. Below is a poem I wrote while reflecting on my life as Dad’s caregiver:

CAREGIVER’S CHOICE
Darlis Sailors

I walk up a hill and sit down on a rock
It’s fun to look down like a bird in the air
Who flies where it will in space wide and free

Out here it feels calm, no one to talk or turn up the TV
No one who needs me
I close my eyes and feel at peace
I need this time, I need this space

Up here I feel free, like a bird flying high
With no drag on my wings to stop my flight
I breathe in fresh air and let go of my stress

A break from life, now back I go
Down to the house that feels so small
Back to the one who needs me
I’ve made a choice---while there, I will freely serve

Challenges Come to Everyone
Caregivers have several challenges. Being aware of negative emotions and letting them go is one. Finding time to rest or regroup physically, mentally and spiritually are some others.

But friends and family have a challenge, too. How will you show appreciation to the caregiver closest to you?