On a recent vacation/celebration, I began to feel overwhelmed. There were people all about, noise, humidity, chaos, dishes, family, friends, food, teenagers….you know, normal stuff. Yet that is the very stuff that presses in on me and sets me like a pressure cooker. I kept trying to calm myself with positive affirmations with such as: it’s really ok, He gives perfect rest, it’s not about you, which escalated to Lord HHEELLLP!!!! And shortly after the 15th call for help I get a break to sit still for a few minutes outside. After a few short breaths I heard a bird singing. Unfamiliar with his song, I looked for him. Spying the tiny creature in a tree in the front yard I watched and listened and smiled and calmness began to set deep within. Could it be? … nah.
After a few minutes, I went back inside to hit the second wave of dishes and lovely family chaos. But throughout the day, when I would go outside, I would here the song of my new friend. He was not always in the same tree. As a matter of fact I only saw him that once but heard him consistently. The following days I would purposefully seek the songbird and think of him often. That birds song was like a lullaby to me and a reminder to ‘look to the hills from whence cometh my help’. Yes I can get sensory overloaded but I also know who created me and I know who is my ever present help in a time of trouble.
This little bird sang about four different short songs in a row (mocking other calls, suppose that’s why the little creature is called a mockingbird!)I could tell his call/song easily as I have familiarized myself with the birds in my back yard -chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, blue jays, hummingbirds, cardinals, owls, hawks and doves. But, no mockingbirds. Birdwatching is a fairly new sport for me and it appears to be one of the many ways God chose to calm my soul. Albeit this little bird mimicks the calls of others, if you sit still and listen, you will hear the difference.
I am thankful for the mockingbird 🐦
It is Monday night. I missed getting my Thursday post done. Why? Life happened and time ran out … or did it? I can spend a lot of time chasing time. Trying to maximize time. Always running to keep things moving and accomplished in time. But, I always run out of time. When I am sewing, I have plenty of time to think. Over the past few sewing days I have been thinking about time management. Something I think I am pretty good at but want sharpen. This time instead of thinking of all things I wanted to get done and setting a time management frame for those things, I decided I would think about time itself. Where does it originate and who dictates my time? I initially thought only of my job because well, we are there basically from sunrise to sunset (that’s a thought for another post). Then something popped in my head, “he called the light day and the darkness night and the evening and the morning were the first day” Genesis 1:5. My fifth grade Sunday School class is studying the book of Genesis. As I totally sew this row on backwards, I realize just how far I have let my idea of time and time management go astray. If God is the creator or time and life shouldn’t he have a primary role in my thoughts and action regarding my time?
Moving outside to do some yard work, it is hot and humid. Too sticky to work. I move inside to the screen porch with a glass of iced tea and my book. Moving into chapter four, it is entitled ‘a sanctuary of time’. How befitting. All is going well until I read this … Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts 🎁
How long have I neglected to think deeply of my time. In God there is no end, time has no end but time moves and is not choosy about the lives it affects. God’s grace is sufficient and his time is perfect. My time is just enough. The way to maximizing time is to live fully in the moment and to give thanks for what that moment gives
11. Humid, hot days because they remind me to take it slow and enjoy some down time with him. Is that a small respite I detect? How about spending a little with Him and let him how grateful you are for your moment in time?
12. Birds at the feeder, because even they know not to stress the heat of the day, or where the next meal will come from. They sing anyhow, inspite of the circumstances. Inspite of it all, I am grateful.
The transforming journey continues. But I will leave you with one more quote from Voskamp herself, “It is not the gifts that fulfill but the holiness of the space. The God in it”.
Psalm 39:6 Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.
In time, peace & love, ❤️Gwendolyn 🌹
Abraham Heschel refers to the Day of Atonement as Judaism’s holy of holies in time. This day is the most sacred day of the holy calendar. It occurs on the 10th of Tishri, the first month of the civil year and the seventh month of the ceremonial year. A day of fasting, it stood between the two great feasts of Pentecost and Tabernacles. It was on this day that all the sins, transgressions, and iniquities of the people for the entire year were covered over. It was on this day that the high priest entered the holy of holies with blood on his hands.
Jesus Christ died that we might come alive to God. He suffered the banishment of heaven that we might bask in the presence of Almighty God. It is only by His blood that we are able to enter in to the holiest place and…
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I am learning to be content and to live fully, no matter what. I am currently reading Ann Voskamp’s book, ‘One Thousand Gifts’. She has found the often illusive secret to living a life to the full for the believer. When I am battling some crazy life circumstances I get shifty and really want out. I just want to sit down and wait it out and then I will … whatever -live the life, dream the dream, work the plan. But, it always seems just beyond my reach. Then I reach down deep and declare that I need a big old dose of Jesus come quickly and it lasts sometimes for a few hours and others mere seconds. I cannot remember at the moment how I stumbled upon her book but I am glad I did. I am intrigued when others share their journey experiences and help other navigate this often rutted road we travel.
It is amazing to me when I have read a scripture passage and memorized it and still fail to fully see grasp all that is there in plain sight. One of my favorite books of the Bible is Philippians. Right there in the fourth chapter and beginning at verse 11. I sail through the familiar words… I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (12) … I have learned the secret of being content in any and ever situation… (13) I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Now you probably rushed through it as well but Ann implored me to turn around and look. I mean really look. She called to my attention to the fact that this contented life is a learned behavior. And I love the way Paul peppers this scripture with words like any, every and whatever. Those words just turns over all the rocks in the garden leaving no hiding place. So now that I have to learn this behavior of being content, and brother Paul is inspired and adds verse 13 because he apparently knew me! Yep, only through Christ will I be able to have this behavior/heart changed. Voskamp presses onward to dealing with joy, thanksgiving and grace and this is all masterfully packaged up to page 39. I needed prayer and a three hour nap when I got to this, “thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life”. After my nap, I move a little further and realize that she really, I mean literally became thankful in all things and she begins to number them. Now at first I thought, aw cute. But now I’m sensing her transformation as she writes her thankful note to 243, 244 and 245 on page 55. I flipped further back in the book to see if she actually made it to 1,000 and I AM NOT TELLING! I will not spoil it for you but I will share my gifts every Thursday right here on this blog. Each Thursday will be Thankful Thursdays. I am not merely looking to make a list but to indulge in His perfect grace and goodness. -the one who gave and continues to give all.
September 11, 2001, we -Americans, remember when terrorism arrived on our soil in such a brutal and forceful manner. This event caused us to unite, embrace and converse. But, we are a nation who quickly forgets tragedy; and as we gradually head back to the ebb and flow of our lives as before. No longer being transformed. But today, after mass racial tensions across the nation, hurricane Harvey (Houston) and currently hurricane Irma (state of Florida), we remember but will we allow ourselves to be transformed for the good of mankind long termed?
I have had the blessing of leading a team of approximately 60 people including departmental managers, vendors and maintenance personnel. After six months I reflectively looked back at my goals and accomplishments and found that I was not making desired connections and had not helped anyone move closer to their desired potential in a measurable way. I was managing business well -streamlining processes, training and developing employees to improve company standards … blah, blah, blah. I could not tell you a single thing about most of my staff. No idea what their interests, family values, desires, dreams, plans, or anything outside of their jobs. My job is what I do and not essentially who I am. It was my job to drive profits and manage well. It is my purpose to serve and lead whoever God sends to cross my journey of life. Here is a group of sixty people and I have neglected to reach them in a way that is meaningful to them.
The goals for the next six months were:
-pray for them, their families and their jobs
-connect with each department head everyday, whether by word or deed or touch
-take a break when other employees are in the break room -be accessible
-be mindful of employees who walk or bus to work, especially when weather is bad
-see who is reading what, potential readers, book club?
-who plays sports (kids play sports)
-thanks, thank you -are great but finds other words to show gratitude (I appreciate you) but be honest and transparent, they can see a phony a mile away
Tall order and lots of moving parts but enough for me to remember to focus and connect with others. One of my teammates was mentally challenged and everyone would talk loudly to him. After watching and purposefully talking with him I found out a few interesting things about him. He was not deaf or hard of hearing, he enjoyed a military career until he suffered from a ‘nervous breakdown’ and was honorably discharged. He was married and had recently had to put his disabled wife in a home as he was no longer able to care for her. He rode a bike to work everyday and then would take the bus to see his wife. He was meticulous with his budget and lived not above his means. He and his wife loved to watch movies together and he was knowledgeable of foreign films 😱. One day I said to him, each day you come to work I want you to tell me a fact about movies I don’t know. He quickly replied, ‘that’s not fair or fun. I do the work and you reap the reward’. Stunned, I said well what do you suggest, sir? He and I agreed that he would tell me a line from a movie and the next day I would tell him what movie did it come from. It turned out to be a lot of fun and others got in on the action as well. Connecting with him in a way they had never done before. Once at the end of his shift he and I were leaving at the same time and it was pouring rain. He asked, ‘is that your car over, Miss Gwendolyn’? I said yep that’s my beast. He relied, good cause me and my bike need a ride home and your suburban can get us there. This made me laugh hysterically. We loaded the bike and headed to his home. After that myself and two others took turns ensuring that he got to and from work in inclement weather.
So you see leadership is about moving and making a difference with people. My staff began to evolve and interact with each other. They also began to find solutions with each other before involving me. Many of them had some really great ideas and you bet we used some of them. There are many experiences I could tell but that will make for one long post. My overarching point is that leadership is rarely focused on the leader. The leader reaps blessings from the gratitude and growth of those in his charge.
After a long and taxing day. It was finally time to head home and relax. Per my planner, I had just enough time to grab dinner and my Mentee and be home by 6:15pm to work on the new quilt project. Getting into the car I received a text …’don’t want Chinese. Think I want those sausages in the freezer. My response text was … ok. Cool. Then text two came from person two … I think I will eat those burgers in the freezer. My response … great!
As i am getting into the groove of my ‘The History Hour BBC podcast on Nike and Sweatshops’ (exciting! I know!) and while sitting at a red light for the third cycle, in comes text three … can you bring hotdog and hamburger buns home? My response …nothing -because I am seething! They are home … I am still trying to get there. Couldn’t one of them have easily gone 1 block to the store? And then I thought, well I am out and will pass by a few stores so I can stop. Plus I was going to stop and bring Chinese anyway. So I finally text back …sure.
Still in traffic, seething (yep, I am back to where I started), tired, hungry, hot (a/c works when it feels like it) and just want to rant (let me see, which of the three gf’s will it be😊). I knew I needed a time out because an adult temper tantrum can seriously ruin a day! I wanted to pull into a parking lot and take a few minutes to get myself under control but I was still hungry, hot and tired; plus there were people waiting on buns, a Mentee to pick up, dishes to clean, laundry to wash and a project to worked on. Annndddd … I sat through another light cycle at a different light. Finally drained and had nothing else to give, I aimed for the next restaurant. Dragging into the restaurant like a zombie, I take a seat by a window and say a prayer of thanksgiving. I was truly grateful to be in a cool, bright place with someone else cooking my dinner and bringing it to me and the ability to pay for it. I still felt guilty that there were two people waiting on those buns.
As I sat there, listening to my podcast and enjoying my meal, I actually began to unwind and feel refreshed. I dared myself to look at my watch. I smiled at a few people and played with a baby that was overjoyed with life and … ordered a milkshake! Leaving the restaurant, I stopped at the next grocery store I came to and … yes, you guessed it; there were long lines and I had a pack of hotdog buns. A miracle happened -a cashier open a line just for me! No, no, not just for me. He was a manager who walked out and saw two long lines and said, ‘I can take guests on three’! Several of us made a mad dash to his lane as if Saint Peter was closing the gates to heaven and never to be opened again. I left the store and made it to pick up my Mentee by 6:15pm and was home by 6:25pm. Yes! Triumphant! And I’m feeling good! My Mentee and I walk inside and hand over the buns and head upstairs to start or quilt project. A voice stops us … ‘did you get only hot dog buns? You didn’t get hamburger buns? And, without a word, I grabbed my Mentee’ hand, turned around, walked down the stairs and out the door to the store that is one block from our house.
I didn’t say I had a perfect life but I do have a life that is worth living. So glad that in spite of my plans, the Lord orders my steps and gives rest, even when I do not think it is ok to take a rest. Oh! And that gourmet meal with impeccable service and friendly babies … guess.
When mentoring, I want to make sure that I am setting the example and that I am always listening and hearing my Mentee clearly. One of my mentees is bi-racial and has hair that seems to ebb and flow with the tides. It is gorgeous and shrinks according to the different levels of humidity. It can be down her back one day and up near her ear lobe the next. It is curly in some places and coily in others. But what it is not -is straight! And that is exactly what she dying to have. Once after getting her hair flat ironed to the level of straightness that she desired, she came home, showered, got her hair wet and POOF! Massive curls again! We laugh now but it was sheer meltdown then. Those massive curls were back to stay and she honestly had no idea what went wrong. Her mother, several friends, and family members have straight hair.
My girl is in crises mode. She wanted and identified with straight hair. So being as good-natured and fun-loving as ever (not), I decided to get some books and magazines on the hair struggle and come up with some ideas and new methods to battle the whole ‘black hair struggle’. After several trips to the bookstores and hours pouring over Pinterest and YouTube, my girl was still struggling and skeptical of the whole free to be natural movement.
One weekend, after getting myself ready for 2.5 days of hair preparations and re-braiding, a thought occurred to me -my example of hair was contradictory to what I was trying to get her to see. I kept my hair in braids because … I did not like my hair. The truth is that I braid it to hid it and not to deal with it. I see clearly now that she and I are sitting on the sidelines watching and sulking. So, the braids came out and did not go back in.
Did I struggle? BIG TIME YES!!! And I still do a little. But here is what I now find fun and unique about my hair -it changes! No one at work ever knows what they are going to encounter when they see me. My looks are so versatile -even I do not know what I am going to get. My Mentee is now experimenting with her hair (yes this is a process that is never done) and LOVING IT FINALLY. She stated that when she returns to school, it going to be interning to see how all the girls with straight hair get to wearing their hair perfectly straight and she will have a different style everyday. I am not allowed to show pictures of her hair yet. I will share a few of mine after the braids.