Tag Archives: appreciate

Seeing the Beauty

So. It’s a gloomy 8:13am in middle Georgia. The sky is spewing rain yet the air is warm. The trees are drenched and the puddles in the driveway expand. Grumbles of thunder loom in the distance. The rain stops and the birds start to sing. A couple of them zoom in on a puddle and start to bathe themselves. Spring flowers dot the landscape, just beginning to emerge with their bright and bold colors; an amazing fragrance fills the air. The green of the trees is enhanced as drips of water hit the moist ground. Then, the rain returns. Life is great. That’s pretty much it.

I guess that’s all I really want to share today: life is great, even though to some it may not appear to be. I am amazed at how great my life has turned out. I’ve had some pretty rough patches. I’ve been knocked down so many times in so many ways, but all that, all that has brought me here, to this amazing time in my life – and I am so incredibly thankful you cannot imagine. No. Things aren’t perfect, but, that’s the beauty of it. Nothing is horribly wrong, nothing is even remotely wrong. There is nothing in my life right now that I fear, and for that I am grateful.

You’ve all heard that life is what we make of it. True, but it goes much deeper than that. If you want something, you have to believe. If you want something, you have to work for it. Ok. Some people don’t work for it, which I think is a shame, because without working for it, you don’t gain the appreciation of having it. This world has become too ‘gimme’. We are a society who feels indebted, as if we somehow earned happiness as a birth right. Well, we haven’t. Some don’t have it as hard, some have it worse. While it may seem unfair, life has this natural balance. It’s hard to ascertain a person’s level of happiness just by looking at them or reviewing their bank statements. We all do it, but stereotyping someone is the biggest fail. Some emotions do not have a face. They are felt so deep inside that they are hard to judge. Just because someone has money doesn’t mean they are happy. Just because someone smiles, doesn’t mean they are happy. Just because someone has ‘things’ doesn’t mean they are enjoying life. Some of the wealthiest people are having the worst time of their lives. Wealth isn’t in ‘things’, it’s inside. That’s what makes us unique. Some people do not look deep inside, the expect happiness to follow them, to come to them in the form of another person. I’m learning that ‘happy’ is a state of mind that starts inside. Peace isn’t the absence of pain or trials, it’s knowing who you are in the midst of it. It’s working for what we want and appreciating who it makes us in the process. For all I have inside, and out, I extend my deepest appreciation.

Thank you, Lord, for watching over me. I ask that you watch over my children and help them to succeed in this life. Show them true happiness that does not fade. Shower them with your unfailing love like You do the flowers and the trees. Thank you for the nuturing you provide my soul. Thank you for helping me become the person I am today, for the realization of what greatness lies within me. Thank you Lord, for the beauty that surrounds me, even if at times I cannot see it as clearly as I do now. Help me to continue to grow and be this person I always knew was here. Thank you for forgiving me and loving me through my faults. And thank you Lord, for the rain, and the sunshine.

~Amen

Bigger than the Biggest

So. I feel like blogging…so many things to blog about. The hard part is picking one. It’s the day after Christmas. Just got off the phone with my second oldest sister. This topic seems appropriate. For those who don’t know me, I’m the baby of 8 full-blooded siblings. My folks were married almost 50 years. I’m the youngest. Sixteen years separate me from the oldest. All but me and a brother are married and every one of us have at least 1 child. You’d think our Christmas would be filled with merriment and joy and family upon family. But no.

This blog will not be filled with happiness and joy, nor oozing with holiday delight and moments of love and cherished memories. No. I’m pissed. I’m pissed that I have such a large family and we don’t take the time to be together like we use to. If my Mom were still alive, she’d be pissed too. Oh yeah. We are getting together, on New Year’s Day. No food. Just stop by between 2pm and 5pm. I doubt everyone will stay 3 hours. Several nieces and nephews won’t be there and half of us live out of state. I wonder if everyone is going out of desirement or requirement. (I know it’s not a word. Sue me.) What gets me most is, back in the day, it was “we eat at noon.” You could show up early but rarely did anyone ever show up late without cause. And while it was hard to find a day when no one had committments with their inlaws, most stuck around until it was dark. What the hell is 2pm-5pm?? Having a beginning and ending time sounds more like a meeting, not a gathering of family. Maybe I should take doughnuts. (Yes. It’s okay to laugh. I am.)

Every year we use to gather on Christmas. If not Christmas day, a day very close to it. My old bedroom usually served as the coat room: I smile when I think about my old bed hidden with stacks of coats, scarfs, purses and gloves. And as you would suspect with a family my size, there were more gift than the livingroom could accomodate, but even better, it was a necessity to drag every chair and table from the basement upstairs so that no one had to stand. Everyone worked together, everyone pitched in. (No. I really had to go to the bathroom when it was time to do dishes. 😉 ) Kids chased each other down the hall, their laughs echoed from the basement where the adults would also congregate eventually to play ping pong or pool. The holiday feativites fostered a time for nieces and nephews to stregthen their bonds. A time for brothers and sisters to poke fun at ugly sweaters, compliment new hairdos, talk about new things in our lives, and maybe make a joke or two. 

An array of food always adorned several tables and nooks and crannies in the kitchen. There was always chicken and dumplings – a specialty my Mom and Grandma would tediously and religiously begin preparing the night before. And everyone brought a dish. Some we became accustom to every year: my sister-in-laws famous 8-way potatoes. Another sister’s spin on broccoli casserole. Always the familiar, and ever so popular peanut butter balls, fudge and sugar cookies with the Hershey’s kiss on the top that my second oldest sister would make. They weren’t even popular that first year she made them. Oh. She has a way with desserts. When I saw her pull up, I always ran out to help her bring stuff in just so I could get a sniff.

We are a strong family based on faith, yet while we always said grace before a meal, one of my sister’s would always include Jesus by telling a story. Usually before opening gifts to remind us what the season was all about. My niece and nephews even put on a show one year, costumes and all. They were so proud and we were proud just watching them.

All of these things – the food, the family, the traditions, the working together, the laughs, the pokes, the attempts to avoid doing dishes, the watching grandma fall asleep upright in the recliner –  it was what made the holiday special. Man. I love those memories. I can close my eyes and I’m there again.

If you find yourself complaining about traveling to visit inlaws, or trying to juggling seeing both sides of the family during the holidays, next year, just do it and be thankful. Don’t let the holiday’s become a chore. It’s not about presents and food and ugly sweaters. It’s about spending time together. Even if it’s in 3 hour allottment… No present, no dish, no card, will ever replace those moments. Maybe next year will be better. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second, even if there’s no sugar cookie with a hershey’s kiss in the middle, because it’s more about just being together because when you take all those little things in life and put them together, they become bigger than the biggest things. And those are often the most irreplaceable.

I’m not pissed anymore. The holidays may make me sad, but I know I’m still blessed. Even my own children were scattered around the states with their significant others. So, the holidays may not be exactly as I wish they would be, but I do appreciate the memories. Maybe that’s why I’m the first to volunteer to do dishes now….

You don’t need a holiday to hug the ones you love.

Oh! And let me add: remember the movie “A Christmas Story”? The mom goes through all the work to make a big meal, and the dog eats the turkey and ruins dinner so they go to a Chinese restaurant? It wasn’t about the food, it was about being together. Thanks for reminding me of that, Dave. While we just went there to eat, it meant much more to me than you know. But that’s how God works. In the simple details. I love you.

Every Second Another Smile

I really wanted to blog today. I settled in and tried to accumulate my thoughts struggling with that first sentence, but then this came out. Sometimes, you just have to let it flow…let the heart speak on your behalf. Here goes…

 
If I could let you inside my heart,
To see what I feel
Feel what I see
You would think it was just some crazy dream
Just like I did,
Until you showed up and brought that craziness into focus.
Making sense of the senseless.
 
A part of me always knew you were out there
Through all the hell
Through all the pain
I could not relinquish that dream…
Rather, it would not let me go.
All along echoing deep inside that I didn’t have to understand, only believe.
No one knows God’s plan.
 
I have come to realize there were things I needed to work on
Things I needed to learn
Things I needed to unlearn
And although I may have taken the long way at times
I had to go through those things.
All a part of His master plan ensuring I’d be ready for us.
And I am.
 
I know from here on out we will see the world differently
Every second will be another smile
Every day another memory
And we will appreciate all we’ve been through before
Knowing that it was all purposeful in bringing us to now
Together. Side by side.
And forever I will thank God for you…
for breathing life into my crazy dream.
                                                                                   ~ Angela Nichols

Finding the Success in Failure

I rarely have the luxury of picking what instigates my blogs; it’s usually the simple things in life that speak to me…or tug at me until I finally get the message. I think this is how God communicates with me sometimes. Actually, I think nature speaks to all of us but we get so bogged down with the daily drudges of life that we don’t take the time to listen. No wonder the natives were so in tune with nature….nowadays we are so distracted by so many things that we don’t take the time to appreciate the simple lessons to be learned all around us. Well…here goes.

I’ve written about a myriad of plants and produce and this blog post is apparently no different. True to form, I reckon. Life is about nurturing and growth, right? As you may know, I love to garden and love trying new things. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I find success, but I always learn something either about the produce, the process or about myself. Several years ago I discovered a new favorite food of mine: guacamole. The avocado has always been illusive to me…such a strange fruit (yes, a fruit, not a vegetable). Like a child with a science experiment, I’ve tried on numerous occasions to get that huge round seed to sprout…but have never met success. I’ve discounted my failure to the source of the seed (large grocery store) or the fact that they grow mostly in the tropic region where there is no severe winters like we have here in the Midwest. But, I have seen it done. I know it is possible. Being the determined person that I am, several weeks ago I decided to try it again.

I thought I had scarred the seed pretty bad when I removed it from the fruit; removing it is a talent. Carefully inserting toothpicks on either side of the brown ball, I precariously teetered it atop a wine glass and proudly adorned my window sill with my newest project. Over the weeks it lost its sheen but I resolved to not give up on it too quickly and just continued to add water and let it be. Low and behold, what do you think I saw the other day? A SPROUT! Yes! This avocado seed is alive! Each time I look at it, the thick, single shoot grows longer and longer. Thriving. I’m excited to see the next phase but know I must be patient and do my part in order for it to reach maturity.

Isn’t that the way life is? We put so much work into something, and as the days inch by without so much of a hint of a root, we continue to cater to it hoping it will defeat the odds…or worse, we give up on the fact that there is any seed out there that will sprout. After awhile we comfort our wounded soul by convincing ourselves that it’s just not in the cards, that this is just the way it is…the way it has to be; we toss in the towel and miserably settle in right where we are at. The disappointment ultimately chokes out our dreams…our wants; the things that make us who we are. We get lost in the excuses as to why we failed and why we should quit trying, silently adding to our feelings of loneliness and regret. Sadly, passion slowly dies as acceptance of discontent moves in. Yet destiny encourages us to move forward. It is in those seeming failures that we find the opportunity to build our understanding, as well as our resolve, to see our dreams through to reality. How can anything be a failure if it grows us? It is in those failures we can actually learn about ourselves: what we want, what we don’t want, what we are capable of and what we aren’t. We learn about what works and what doesn’t work. True failure only occurs when we quit believing in ourselves and our dreams all together; from believing that we are not capable of whatever we set our mind to; from believing that we do not deserve every ounce of what we give… from believing that our dreams will never take root.

I’ve always believed there was someone out there perfect for me, and me for him. I’ve witnessed people settle and in retrospect, I’ve seen where I have succumbed to settling myself…but I never stopped believing. I just allowed those things to stay in the way of my growth. Often in our search for love we will find failure, but there is always a lesson to be learned that makes us better for it…better for when we do finally find success. Love is most definitely alive and possible. All we have to do is believe and keep trying, learning as we go, finding the success in our failures. Because, rest assured when we do find it, it will require all that we are and all that we have learned to give. I have come to realize that everything I’ve been through has been purposeful in helping me learn more about myself so that I would be exactly who I need to be when I finally meet him. And I believe I have met him. I know the potential we have to grow together and it’s greater than anything I’ve ever seen or felt. I am who I need to be and with whom I’ve always wanted to be with. And that simple, sprouting avocado tells me that with patience and endurance, it will grow…stronger and better than I ever dreamed.

Seasons of the Heart: Never Stop Believing…NEVER

So, I’m driving down the road seatbelt snug around my big coat clutching my steering wheel with gloved hands, anticipating the increasing warmth of the heater as it rises with each mile. Just the other day it was in the 70s and now it below freezing again. Argh! So ready for Spring…before leaving the house this morning I heard that the temps weren’t going to rise anytime soon and we had at least 1-2 inches of rain on the way. While some might have gasped in dispair, I actually got a little happy: THANK GOD IT’S NOT SNOW!! Woo-hoo! Guess it’s all in how you look at it. I know Spring is close. We’ve been blessed with a few glimpses; the bigger blessings are yet to come. Just hold on. It’s worth the wait.

I’ve been thinking lately, the seasons of earth so match the seasons of our hearts. We have times of planting (Spring), times of tending/nurturing (Summer) and times of harvest (Fall), then times of hibernation/rest (Winter). No wonder I hate winter so much…no wonder some people move to areas where there is none. While some thrive in winter, I don’t. I just get by. That’s it. I hate the bland, dead appearance of the landscape: a boring, lifeless palette of every shade of brown, grey and white. The ground hardeneds like stone and all but the pine trees are barren, practically stripped of their beauty while life bubbles in the other seasons. Winter must be like when Jesus was in the tomb. Cold, dreary, heavy….but look what happened as a result of that time of hibernation…that time of reflection…that time of rest…

So what’s my point? Well, in life sometimes we have to go through these seasons. Even the bible tells us that in Ecclesiastes 3 – there is a time for everything. Just as a farmer knows he must rotate his crops to maximize the fertility of the soil, so we must experience times of rest, times of reflection, in order to maximize our times of growth. It’s just like having a cold or the flu. We feel like crap, take lots of medicine and get lots of rest; when we start feeling better it’s like being reborn – we get a new appreciation for what it’s like to not have the flu, to just feel ‘normal’ again. If we had no idea what it felt like to not feel good, how could we measure it? If we always settle for convenient love, how can we ever experience real love? How could we ever truly appreciate it? If nothing is ever special, if we never place a value on love, then what is it? Ordinary. Plain. Lifeless. Just getting us by as we clutch onto the season we don’t want to leave…

It just hit me…so many question God as to why they are being put through the pain, the turmoil…the winter. God knows we must experience it to appreciate what He has in store for us. Our winters develop our perseverance. They should drive us to make it to the next season. James 1:2-4. Life must take its’ course if it’s going to amount to anything worthy. What has a runner accomplished if he cheats to win? Nothing. Maybe a temporary high but that soon disapates into nothing because nothing was scarificed in the process. Nothing learned, nothing gained. And neither will we if we do not stay the course. If we settle for what feels good at the moment, we could be sacrificing what feels good for a lifetime.

Don’t allow your heart to reside in a state of winter. Accept the fact that our hearts must experience some kind of winter, yet refuse to allow it to take up permanent residency. Each small blessing leads to a bigger one. If it’s one thing I’ve learned through all the pain: I’ve survived, and I will never stop believing. Believe in something special, accept no substitutes, and eventually it will come to you…you just may have to experience a few seasons first, but I assure you, it’s worth the wait.

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~ James 1:2-4