Gift Ideas - Handmade and Other

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Letting Go of Offenses

Recently I have been strategizing how to update my wardrobe a little bit. A common suggestion is to use accessories to add a little spark to your look. I began thinking about accessories and two old offenses came to mind unbidden.

My father's mother died when I was very young and I have no distinct memories of her. When my father's father died, I was given a bracelet that had been my grandmother's. While this bracelet, being made of gold and pearls, did have monetary value, the greater value to me was that it had belonged to my grandmother. While I was in college, we had "College Days" a time for high school students considering our college to come and visit. One day during College Days my roommate and I were expecting to have guests come and stay with us. I came into our room during a free time and found sleeping bags and other luggage in our room. Our guests had arrived. When I came back later, all sign of them was gone and I never did meet them or know what happened to them. A few days later I realized that my grandmother's bracelet was missing, never to be found again. I believed that it had either fallen into our guest's belongings during their brief visit, or that it had deliberately been taken. This made me sad then and now - sad for the loss of the connection to my grandmother, sad that one Christian would do this to another.

While I was at another college, I roomed alone for a semester.  Because I had extra space, I was able to hang my necklaces on a rack where I could grab them easily. Unfortunately others could grab them easily, and sometimes did. One girl in particular liked to enter my room when I was away and "borrow" my necklaces. Unfortunately she borrowed one gold cross necklace that had been given to me by a friend and never returned it.

When these two incidents came to mind, I found myself feeling resentful because of these two injustices. Some one had stolen from me and I had no way to track down either thief, recover my property, or see justice come. Nearly 25 years have passed since these offenses took place, yet still I sometimes have to work through the emotions again the sadness of loss and the anger of injustice.

People offend us. In my case and in the grand scheme of things, these offenses are relatively small. Sometimes the offense is large. How do we respond? We can hang onto offenses, hold grudges, allow resentment, even hatred to grow or we can choose to forgive.

Forgiveness frees us from being bound by hatred, resentment, revenge, and grudges -- all things which can eat away at our souls. Forgiveness is not easy many times, but it is worth it when we value the quality of our souls and the quality of the life we will live. Jesus told many parables and taught several times on forgiveness. The Lover of our Souls knows the value of forgiveness and desires for us to live in freedom and health.

Are there offenses that come to your mind now and again . . . 
or that linger like a perpetual cloud over your life? 
Will you let them go? Will you choose to forgive?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Visit

On Fridays a lot of people join Lisa Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing, without pressure to get it all right, a time to just write for 5 minutes. This week's word (although I'm a day late to this party) is "Visit."

Read . . . set . . . write . . .

This morning the phone rang and I saw a friendly name on the ID screen . . . a family member, one of my sisters. I picked up the call and we had a visit, not face to face, but a time to catch up, to hear a dear, familiar voice. Visiting with one sister, led to a visit with another sister and then my mom. All by phone.
These days it seems many, too many perhaps, of my visits are by phone. We live far apart and getting together amidst busy schedules becomes increasingly difficult with both family and friends. Yet, I am thankful for this invention of the telephone, as well as, I might add, e-mail and Facebook. Although there is no substitute for a face to face visit, these little mini visits by phone or via the internet, help us stay connected and involved in one another's lives . . . a very valuable thing indeed.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Letting Go - Good, but Not Best

As we start off this new year, there may be things that we need to let go of, things that if we hang on to them will keep us from pursuing the good things ahead.
In his book, Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud identifies three things that we need to prune from our lives:

1.  Those things that are good, but not best.
2.  Those things that are sick and not getting better.
3.  Those things that are dead.
Here at the beginning of 2014 as we've made resolutions, chosen a word or theme, or set goals for the coming year, let's pause for a moment to think about what might stop us from keeping those resolutions or reaching our goals.

What are activities, habits, relationships, or attitudes that are barriers to moving forward in our lives, that are keeping us tied to the way things have always been? When I was teaching I had a poster hanging in my room that said, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten." (author unknown) Growth requires change and change means some things will have to end and others must be different. 
  • What activities take up resources (time, energy, or money) that could be better spent on pursuing our dreams?
  • What habits keep us stuck in the same rut day after day, month after month, year after year? 
  • What relationships drain us of energy or lead us to places or activities that are hurtful to us? 
  • What attitudes keep us stuck where we are?
Take a little while to ponder these questions, to pull out a piece of paper or an electronic device where you can write, and jot down the ideas and realizations that come to mind. 

These are the things that may be good, but are likely not the best. These are the things that will keep us from moving forward toward our dreams, goals, and desires. 

Now, comes the more difficult, perhaps even a painful part. What will you do to change? 

How will you change your activities so that your resources are spent on pursuing your new resolutions or dreams? Last summer I participated in a Clutter Buster Challenge and I realized that I spent too much time and energy managing paper. For example, I had a picture file that I had built over 30+ years with pictures to be used for bulletin boards or crafts. I had hundreds of pictures that I had spent time searching through magazines to find. Once found these pictures had to be trimmed and filed. How often did I use this file? Occasionally it had been a valued source for some project, however probably not as valuable as the time and energy I had spent maintaining it. The file was pruned. Hundreds of pictures were thrown away and now only very special pictures are added. It was a good thing, but not the best.

How will you change your habits so that you are no longer stuck in the same rut? 

What will you do to change your attitudes to ones that encourage you to move forward and increase your energy level? 

What will you do about those relationships? This seems like the hardest one of all to me. I value people as gifts from God, created in His image. I know that true relationships take time and energy to build and cannot be easily replaced. Too often relationships are fragile. Yet sometimes people have a negative impact on us. Sometimes people make choices that hurt us and them. What do you do with those relationships that are holding us back, hurting us? What do we do when those relationships are people that it is difficult to avoid like family, coworkers, or members of an organization we are part of and value? 

What things do you need to let go of in 2014 to pursue not merely the good, but the best?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014's Theme

Each year, for many years now, as New Year's approaches I pause to reflect on the year that has passed and to ask God what He wants me to focus on in the coming year. Although this holiday season was filled with an unrelenting busyness, I was still able to squeeze in this important tradition.

As I reflected on 2013, the title of an influential book popped up over and over . . . Necessary Endings. Early in 2013 I began reading this book by Dr. Henry Cloud. It helped me to process a series of unexpected and painful endings that had come my way, unbidden and unwanted, and beyond my control. This book helped me to find peace and to heal raw, wounded places.
Many things in my life had ended. I learned that sometimes even good things in our lives have to be pruned away so that something new can grow. We grieve the losses and learn from them and then open our arms to embrace the new that is ahead.

So, although my theme for 2014 might seem cliche in some ways, for me it is more than a cliche. It is filled with anticipation as well as fear. "New Beginnings" a phrase often heard around New Year, a time for resolutions, for wiping the slate clean and starting over. I'm not making any resolutions (well, except to write 2014 instead of 2013) and I'm not trying to wipe out my past. No, I am embracing the past and seeking to expand my soul by learning from it, by being enriched by the wonder and joy of what has been (even what has been lost), by assimilating it into my outlook on life. Still, 2014 is a year of New Beginnings, a year to pursue a master's degree in counseling, a year to pursue God's call on my life in different ways, a year to maintain valued relationships while also building new ones.

2013 was about coming to peace with the past. 2014 is about moving forward to the new fruit that has space to grow where all that has been pruned once was.

Do you have a theme or word for the new year?
I would love for you to share it here, and, if you'd like, why you chose that word or theme.