FINISHING WITH EXCELLENCE (A Wedding Dress? A Life?)

 

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It was very time consuming. It was designed, cut out, marked, and sewed with delicate precision and it was a labor of love. It was my daughter’s wedding gown.

While I’ve sewn many projects over the years, including my own wedding gown, making my daughters’ was probably the finest item I’ve ever had the pleasure of creating and sewing. I was meticulous. I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I wanted it to be perfect. I made sure every seam was finished. Each of the 37 button loops fit perfectly over the silk buttons sewn on by hand. Hand stitches on other parts of the dress were so delicate you couldn’t see them.

The inside was constructed as detailed and beautifully as the outside. I tried, just for fun to keep track of how many hours I worked on it. It took about 150 hours to the point that all I had left was the hem. The final work required approximately 2000 inches of hand turning the delicate and individual 6 layers of fabric to a tiny 1/8” rolled hem. I felt it might get monotonous. It was at this point I asked myself, “What if I took a short cut here? What if I all of a sudden didn’t care about the final detail because I just wanted to get it done? What if I felt it would just be too much work and effort!?” Wanting to finish well what I had started, I prayed through the parts that were tedious until I could say it was completed with excellence!

Such is my/our Christian walk. We can all be meticulous – doing a very good job in loving and serving the Lord, but how will we end up when things get tiresome or maybe even a bit uninteresting, unadventurous, or even boring? It might be in my job, my marriage, or at church? I’m watching a few relationships fail as I stand in amazement at foolish and unwise choices being made – choices that affect an individual and the ripple effect to family, friends, and even people in the church. It causes me to ask myself, “How will I finish what the Lord has started in me?”

Just like with the dress, when it comes to the final touches, I want the final years of my being to be ones that continue with excellence, serve in obedience, and have prayed my way through it all – the fun parts and the tedious parts! I want to finish what was started….with excellence.

What’s YOUR plan to finish with excellence?

Don’t Be Jealous of Our Romantic…(WOW! Write On Wednesday! takes 1.30 min. to read)

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I’m glad I got your attention. Romance always does, right? You wonder where we might have gone that you’ll get to try some time. Or perhaps you’re thinking we found a great new spot for dinner and you’ll be adding it to your list of places to go!

Well, lane change! That’s not exactly where I taking you. Instead, I’m taking you on a little trip. Oh, yes, it’s a real trip. But it wasn’t the trip I was expecting and neither were you.

Recently, we realized in planning a trip for ministry, that the hopeful 3 days we’d hoped to have (just the 2 of us seeing the sites after the meetings) would need to include our son. The usual care options for our 33 year old son with special needs weren’t available for that frame of time and we would need to take him with us or not go. Delete the words not go and romantic. Even though the trip had nothing to do with romance, just the two of us getting to be together can be romantic because we’re not really alone that much!

We’ve come to realize that sometimes that “romantic dinner for 2” will actually be 3, or the trip that was to be just the two of us will be including our son. It’s a matter of vocabulary and attitude. If we want to do these things, sometimes we need to think outside the box and just make a new plan.

When your plans get changed, the romance you hoped would happen – doesn’t, or you can’t do what you’d thought you might, can you change the vocabulary and attitude to fit the circumstances and enjoy the journey?

I haven’t arrived yet; I’m still learning, but now I generally make sure I reserve a table for 3!

Black/White/Indian: COULD WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

I don’t often mention people by the color of their skin or ethnicity, but because I didn’t know (two of) these people to call them by name, and because of what I’m about to share, I will be doing both.

Just yesterday this white girl (me) was in line at a local discount store. At the checkout in front of me was an Indian man. Behind me was a black man who had one item in his hand (I had a cart full.)

I looked at him and asked, “Would you like to go ahead of me?” He was, of course, delighted.

He patiently waited while the Indian man finished paying his bill….and who was .10 short.
The black gentleman gave the Indian man a dime. Both men graciously accepted the gesture and thanked and appreciated one another.

He was quickly done checking out and looked back at me as he was leaving and said, “Thank you.” We exchanged smiles and good bye pleasantries.

I stood there thinking, “Wow, if we all just treated each other like this more often and let the news report it!”

I know issues of prejudice and biases go much deeper than what I’m describing here, but this is where change can start to be kindled. It starts with treating others (everyone!) with kindness, generosity, civility, and love. In just a 2 minute time frame I watched and enjoyed a very nice transaction with 3 very different people.

We just need to take notice….not so much of skin color or ethnicity but of opportunities to show kindness and appreciation…everywhere and to everyone.

 

THE SPIN ON SIN – (WOW! Write on Wednesday is back! Read in <3.5 min.)

10405259_873484722673397_8460082224567518866_nWe’re so good at putting a spin on sin, that we almost don’t think we sin or that there is even such a thing anymore!

The word sin is seldom used. We might hear someone say, “I made a mistake,” or “I wasn’t thinking when I did that,” or      the all too famous, “It wasn’t MY fault.” We say everything we can think of besides the word “sin.” We justify, lie, blame  others, etc. but the truth is: that is all just a spin. When we sin there is only one person to blame and that is ourself.

Sin (according to Webster) is defined as “an offense especially against God; a weakened state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God.” Perhaps the reason we don’t use the word “sin” much anymore is because we have conveniently, even as believers in Jesus, talked ourselves right into thinking we’re not wrong, we’ve not wronged anyone, and why would Jesus really even care.

The problem is this: He does care, and He knows when we sin. Furthermore, so does everyone else. It’s like the big hole I had in my kitchen ceiling that needed to be fixed. For years I left it. I didn’t want to deal with the mess of dry wall, sanding, and repainting. I didn’t even have to fix it; I just had to clean the mess. So after a while, I didn’t even notice the hole. Everyone who walked in however, did notice it. Yep – big hole…asking themselves, “I wonder why nobody bothers to fix that. It’s a mess.” The reason? It was just plain easier to leave it alone than to deal with what it would take to clean up the mess and fix it. It’s not bothering anyone and who really notices?

Sin is just like that. When someone walks into a room with their adulteress – everyone sees it. They see the sin. They also recognize that they don’t want to do the work to fix the marriage they’re still in because, you guessed it, it’s just too much work to clean up the mess. There are other sins. Fill in the blank and put your own sin spin to the test.

Gossip? We don’t want to stop talking badly about someone because it’s easier just to keep the lies going and it feels good. It feels good to be better than the person we’re gossiping about. It feels good to be “one up” in knowing something no one else knows. (Sadly it’s usually a lie…)

Lying? We don’t want to stop because we sound good. We sound “big.” We like knowing (or thinking we do) information no one else does, and who cares if we’ve stretched the truth a bit? It’s okay if we steal a person’s reputation or character. What does it matter to us? It’s not my reputation!

Stealing? People’s reputations, items from work; clothing from stores….it’s not hurting me personally, right? Someone else can pay for it. Other people can afford it.

Well, some day, the spin on sin will affect you. Suddenly it won’t be you who’s doing the sin and hurting others, soon you will be the one betrayed by an affair or a friendship, or it will be your business from which someone steals and it’s not only going to hurt and devastate you, it will have a ripple effect on others. Suddenly there is a sting to sin because it touched you.

Let’s start to call it what it is. Let’s hold others accountable by helping them stop their sin instead of pampering and coddling them through it. Help them grow up and take responsibility rather than demanding what they think are their rights. We all totally understand forgiveness and God’s redemption but let’s not forget that He can and will provide consequences – and not always in the same way in which sin was committed. The consequence will be manifested somewhere. We can mock sin (“Fools mock at sin,” Prov. 13:9) and think we’ll never get caught, that God doesn’t care, or that others don’t notice or aren’t affected by it. But He does notice and “God will not be mocked” (“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows this he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7)

Whatever you need to do to fix the mess, get started. Make apologies and stop sinning. Turn around and away from the sin. Flee from it. They’ll be a mess to clean up but it can be done.

And when that gaping hole in your heart, like my ceiling, gets fixed…things will look a lot better, and it will be noticeable and oh, so very worth it.

 

TAKE IT BACK! (WOW! Write On Wednesday!) Read in < 2 minutes

Behind every

  • Disagreement
  • Argument
  • Mean spirited word or action
  • Abuse
  • Murder

are maybe 5-10 things that COULD have been changed if we were to trace it back and TAKE IT BACK to make a new and different decision along the way. We watch the news, our families and friends, and things happening in our work place or community and realize a few wrong decisions lead to (sometimes) very bad places!

I won’t belabor your time with examples of how this works. i actually want YOU to find YOUR own. Think of your most recent (and likely hurtful) argument or disagreement. Trace it back to who said what until you see where the confrontation/difference started. Then, recognize and OWN UP to YOUR PART and TAKE IT BACK. TAKE IT BACK as you go back in time and then also as you ask forgiveness of the person(s) you hurt.

What could you (and/or the other person) have said or how could either of you responded differently? Was it:

  • an action
  • a look
  • a remark
  • a sigh
  • a rolling of the eyes
  • other? _________________

that got it all started? Well…then TAKE IT BACK. Apologize. Make things right.

If we’d stop “in the moment” and make a different and better decision, we’d have less arguments, less crime, less divorce, less of all the things that tear up individual lives, families, and communities. TAKE IT BACK to the next right step and make a new, better, and right decision.

We might just find, if we TAKE IT BACK that we’re:

  • making more responsible decisions
  • not blaming others for OUR errors, sins, and mistakes
  • better off at work, with the family and in all relationships
  • happier in our marriage
  • supportive in our communities instead of hostile
  • forgiving one another
  • working together instead of tearing apart

If you’re not sure about this….TAKE IT BACK to the top and read it again!
If you’re ready to go, TAKE IT BACK!

And HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!

 

 

What We “Take” After our Parents Die – None of the STUFF Matters

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As a little girl I remember RIBBON CANDY setting on a corner table at Christmas. It was Grandpa’s table; not fancy table; not really great of wood, but I remember viewing it at eye level and admiring the candy. It wasn’t just the candy. It was the people. I remember the kitchen being busy with that ladies cooking and as a little girl getting to help “dry” dishes. I remember all the laughter and conversation. I remember eyeing that ribbon candy and being so excited when Grandpa offered a piece of it to me. It didn’t taste as pretty as it looked….but I loved it! Year after year until my grandfather’s death, there was ribbon candy on that table at Christmas….and it eventually the table wound up in a corner of the dining room of my own parents home. Each time I saw it, I saw the ribbon candy…..in my mind.

I’ve watched many families implode after the death of one or both parents – and not because of how much they miss them or the grief that overtakes them. Kids want the goods and the money, and will often fight each other for it to the point of destructing what’s left of the family unit. (This happens in divorce, too, even though they “think” it’s going to be amiable.)

My parents died 5 days apart from each other 13 years ago just before Thanksgiving – seems like only yesterday. Mom, the well one died of a massive heart attack ending the 6+ years of caring for my dad with Alzheimer’s. He was already fading fast and died 5 days later, shocking us once again within a week!

My sister who had lived with my folks all those years sat my other sister and me down to discuss what we wanted. Honestly, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind – I figured it was all hers. Where most stories turn to the “I WANT THIS” with bitterness and raging, we actually sat down and discussed it. She was to re-decorate to her tastes, and wanted us to “take” the things we might like for ourselves.

I thought about all the furniture, jewelry, and household trinkets, but it was the memories of laughter and fun that really came to my mind, and the memory of that table. I pointed to it, “And if you don’t want that table in the corner – I’d love it….but it’s not something I have to have.”

Without evening knowing the “why” of wanting that table, my sister soon delivered the table. It was then, that I unfolded the story of the ribbon candy to her. I now grace the table with ribbon candy at Christmas. Sometimes no one eats the candy and I have to through it out, but I never discard the memories.

 

The memories are the relationships; somehow memories translate to “things” but we can’t let things override relationships. When marriages fail or when people die, none of the STUFF matters in the same way anymore. It’s the memories….and I’d rather enjoy the old table in the corner of anyone’s house than even my own if I had to exchange bad memories of nasty words and bitterness because I had to fight for it. I’d rather fight for strong healthy relationships; I’d rather have my folks than that table; but I’m grateful for all they gave me in memories over the years, and for the little table that now reminds me of them and Christmases and holidays we all spent together.

I hope we’ll all find one fond memory from this year that we can take with us into the New Year to enjoy in all the years to come!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

No You Wouldn’t….(WOW! Write On Wednesday! read in <2 min.)

“If I win a million dollars I’ll give more to my church.”

“If I get that raise, I’ll treat  “so and so” to dinner.”

“If I could get a day off, I’d try to spend some time with my folks.”

No You Wouldn’t. And probably I won’t either. Here’s why:

If we’re not GENEROUS now, with the little we have, having more won’t make us more generous. Generosity is a matter of the heart not just the wallet or the ticking of time on a clock. If we want to treat others to something special, maybe we can’t go to the fancy-schmancy place, but we can treat to something….how about pizza!? Taking time from our busy day to talk with someone who needs a listening ear or to visit someone who’s lonely is a matter of priority not minutes on the clock.

It’s clear that generosity isn’t just about money; it’s about time, talents, treasures, listening, caring, etc. If our attitude is that we can’t do things for others until something else happens, we’ve already shown a wrong attitude. It’s an attitude and habit developed over time, not just when the time is right.

We’ll all fail from time to time, but how do we normally operate in our day to day living? Are we willing to stop our busy day and meet a need? Are we willing to reach a little deeper into our wallets and share with others?

Are you willing?

Would YOU do it?

 

 

 

 

I Like my Ducks in a Row, but….

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I don’t alphabetize my soups in the pantry nor does the house have to be in perfect order (if you saw the layer(s) of dust on my furniture, you’d see I’m not OCD.) But with this disclaimer being said, I do like my ducks in a row.

I like to plan my days, order my steps in running errands, make phone calls when I’m not rushed, pay bills on time and like correspondence (emails, texts, notes, blogs, etc.) kept up. I don’t like getting behind with the mail or having a ton of magazines around because they just seem to call my name for me to look through them. I do like to have a place for everything and most of the time I like everything in its place. I like order.

But then the grandsons come over. I am quickly taken back to the days when our kids were small and we used to push all the toys to the wall and make sure there was a clear path in case we had an emergency. The counters are once again filled with plates and cups and I wonder why I can’t get them into the dishwasher.

The reason? We’re spending time with our grandsons as we color big papers on the kitchen floor; we’re playing dodge ball in our ministry room (I’m still finding little soft baseballs and soccer balls under drapes and in bedrooms); having “running races” all around the house; throwing things from the balcony and finding ways to retrieve them so we don’t have to run up and down the stairs.

And then…we get our ducks in a row again. When we sit (collapse) on the couch we wonder when we’ll get the kids, the chaos, and the clutter back….at which point we’ll look forward to getting our ducks back in a row…but I know this time with them is short….and I’ll take the clutter over order, knowing in between it all, my ducks will be in a row again!

 

Why Celebrating “Fall” (not Halloween) Works for Me – WOW! (Write On Wednesday! Takes 1.5 minutes to read)

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Forget…

  • ….how Halloween originated (most people don’t know; the ones who do don’t seem to really care; and the ones who do know and really hate it make it known.)
  • .….the candy (most of us say we love that part).
  • …..costumes: most people just like dressing (and acting) differently than which (or is that witch?) they really are. It actually seems to be more of an adult celebration these days….doesn’t it?
  • …..the sugar highs and headaches the next day!

But don’t forget what I’m about to share with you….please.

Having known a few families (including my own) who’ve endured some very deep and devastating hardships, it’s really hard to laugh at, enjoy, tolerate, or even look at some things that are portrayed in yards, storefronts, and on many costume counters and people who “dress up”.

If you’ve known someone who’s taken their own life (suicide) or someone whose life has been taken from them (murder), these displays and costumes are difficult to view with humor. Death, physical or emotionally harm, and their results are tragic. Some things one never forgets.

Honestly, it’s hard for me (and no, I won’t share why) and many others to view blood, guts, and heads lying on the ground – even if it’s pretend. Memories – whether imagined from a situation that was real or from viewing something really awful happening makes this time of year a bit of a challenge.

We won’t ask you to take anything down or dress differently….but just recognize that we’re out here. We aren’t laughing….we’re just getting through this season.

So what works for me: fall scents, pumpkins, fall leaves, gorgeous changing colors….and then a big dose of Thanksgiving (in part) because celebrating Halloween is finally over.

What are WE COMPLAINING about?!?!? (WOW! Write On Wednesday! Read in 2 minutes)

 

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Do you know someone who doesn’t complain? It’s not me, and it’s few people I know.

Someone in my life seldom – if ever complains. He is happy with little; seldom requests extra things; is happy with whatever food is put in front of him (and eats it!) and with few exceptions ever even asks for much. He doesn’t worry about his clothes. He wears what he has – and it’s a slim wardrobe. That guy is our son Joey.

While he has special needs, I find it quite intriguing that he is (for the most part) really content with the very simple things in life. He doesn’t seem to notice what he doesn’t have, can’t do, or what others have or are doing. Sometimes when he must join me in going places I realize how much his life is “led” by me and in some ways how few choices he has; yet he doesn’t complain about it. He just seems to take life moment by moment without complaint about now or worry about tomorrow. What lessons we learn from him!

What I most notice is that he is content; content with little; content with life.

So what about us? What if we simply paid attention in the next 24 hours to see how much we complain? AND THEN, what if we stopped complaining for the next 24 hours?

What if we simply looked to the good, shared positive things, complimented (sincerely) others, thanked others for things they did for us, praised others for worthy things, praised God for the day and how he provided for us? Instead of complaining to or about a waitress or sales person – entered into uplifting and helpful conversation or perhaps in the midst of poor service asking, “How is your day going?” (And really caring to hear the answer.)

Want to join me in a 48 hour experiment? Take whatever 48 hours you choose between today and next Wednesday….and share with me (on my Cindi Ferrini – Author/Speaker Facebook page or here on my blog) just what happened in your 2 days that is different, new, and nice…and maybe life changing!


I’m in and I’m not complaining about it! Please join me!