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Monthly Archives: May 2008

Going away for a few days. My husband has an adoption seminar in Jacksonville, Florida. Be home by Sunday! Pray for us-we’re starting out exhausted (as usual.) Hugs to all-Lonnette

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“Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.” Igor Stravinsky

Isn’t that the way with so many things in life as well? We often get comfortable in a certain routine, profession, way of life, etc. We don’t really like change. Sometimes we may consider it, but we quickly talk ourselves out of it. Too many dragons stand in our way, and it’s just not worth the effort. We find ourselves reasoning this way far too often as we age.

But the only thing worse that ending a thing too soon, is not ending it soon enough. I find that in my life, God has to force me out of my complacency. It’s almost like he tilts my chair, and I find myself on the floor, wondering what happened. I never would have exited the chair, left to my own devices. It was cozy, and I was happy, no–comfortable there. (If the truth be known, I  might have often contemplated change, and even felt a stirring inside, that signified that it was time to move on. But there was no graceful exit that I could think of, and that would leave me wondering what to do next.)

Exactly. But if we really believe that God has a plan for our lives, then we have to be willing at any moment to go down a different road, to have faith that there is something He is leading us toward, (or away from.) The older I get, the more I trust this. I have seen too many times when it seemed that my world had ended, only to find a new, and better direction. The ending of one thing is the beginning of something else. If only we could grasp that truth. And so shall it be until we leave this earth.

I rather welcome the opportunities now.  (Someone said recently, “When God closes a door, He pushes you out a window.”  🙂 Actually there’s a lot of truth in that.) It’s exactly what the mother eagle does when she wants to teach her babies to fly. She shoves them out of the nest, and then at the last moment swoops down to catch them. And she does this continually until they get a feel for flying. It might seem cruel, but actually it’s just the opposite. Eagles were meant to fly–to soar on the currents of the wind–not to stay in the nest, however cozy it might be.

One of my favorite sayings is on my stove-top in a picture frame. It says, “A sailboat in harbor is safe, but that’s not what sailboats are for.” I continually have to remind myself that safe is not always fulfilling. Safe is rarely our destiny.  What would life be without risks? Love is one of the greatest risks we take. But who would deny its pleasures? Anything that we desire to do in life requires risk. And we often make the mistake of thinking that there is only one thing we are called to do. And like the song that should have ended sooner, we hang onto what we know for dear life, because we are afraid of what we don’t know. We keep trying to make music when the song has ended.

I believe there is a time and a season for everything. Fruit out of season is not very good, is it? Clothes out of season seem strange. God has a perfect timing and season for everything in our lives. I believe we are called to a purpose until we die. That purpose may change forms, but it will be congruent with our destiny.

So listen closely to the music, be aware of the pauses, and of where the song should end. Remember there are many more songs to be sung, more dances to dance, and more wisdom to receive and impart. Never be afraid to bring down the curtain on one thing, and raise the curtain on something else. Be led by the peace in your heart, not what others try to tell you. Don’t let circumstances alone guide you into change. Listen to “The Still, Small Voice” that will never lead you off course. If He tells you to go…go, and if He tells you to wait…wait…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

Lately, I have been overwhelmed with the pain that so many people experience in their lives. I cannot seem to get away from it, and in a strange way I am drawn to their experiences, trying to see if there is a commonality between those of us who suffer.  It seems that the ones who have faith inevitably go through a “faith crisis” when death, tragedy, illness, or unbearable pain arrives. I have heard that people can endure almost anything if they understand the reason for it–if it makes sense. But when it makes no sense, and no matter how we try to make the pieces fit, they won’t–we’re left with a feeling of betrayal.

Most of us amazingly survive anything short of the death of a loved one. Ah yes, that is the one that trips us up so badly. That is the one that we cannot resolve, or make better. That is the pain that rips our flesh, breaks our heart, and brings us to our knees. And yet ultimately, we survive that one also. But it changes us. We now know that life can deal a blow that completely knocks the breath out of us, and forever we are left gasping for air. We still react to pleasant things, but our smile is not quite as sincere at times, or our laughter as hearty.  Death robs us of something deep within. Perhaps it is the innocence of believing in happy endings. Yes, that must be it.

The human spirit is very strong.  But death is a thief that snatches the ones who are our history-a part of our story. Its icy cold fingers take away the “they lived happily ever after” part. (The story wasn’t supposed to end this way.) Evil seems to have won, and we are left numb and shocked, full of questions, and accusations–even against God. The knife in our heart keeps twisting, and we struggle to awaken from the nightmare of reality.

Until death touches our lives in a close way, we still believe in happy endings. Death is the cruelest part of living–not necessarily for the dying, but for those left behind. We have no solution for it, we have no pain reliever for it (other than the very slow passage of time.) Applying time to death may lessen the intensity of the pain, but it never eradicates it. For there will always be the abandoned chair at the table, the empty side of the bed, and the silence of their absence. Time cannot erase these things, nor the vacant sadness in the survivors’ eyes.

But in time, we drop our fist and run into God’s arms, because without Him, how can we bear this unbearable misery? Only His arms are big enough to soothe a broken heart. Only His shoulders are wide enough to bear this burden of grief. Only in His embrace do we find even momentary peace, and renewed strength for the journey ahead. When we are exhausted, and completely weary, He will carry us…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward. For it is there that you have been, and it’s there that you will always long to be.” Leonardo DaVinci

There are so many ways for a soul to fly, and most of them are without earthly wings.  But once you have flown, you will always desire to fly. To succeed at something you’ve put your heart into, is to soar.  But so is to give of yourself unselfishly. To persistently pursue your dreams is to fly, but so is to help someone achieve theirs. To rise above the superficial is to glide on air, but so is to pull someone from the mud (even though you get dirty yourself.)

To write poetry and prose is to float on the breezes, but so is to read to a child. To sing and dance, and run freely, is to be released from the bounds of earth, but so is to care for the elderly, who can no longer do any of those things, except in their imagination. (You can take them there.)

To see the face of God in heaven, seems the greatest flight, but for someone else to see Him in you is even greater. He will give you spiritual wings to transcend the things of this earth, but He will always send you back, to teach someone else how to fly…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

“Barn’s burnt down–

 Now I can see the moon.”       Japanese poet Masahide 

What does it mean? I see so much in it that I can hardly contain all my thoughts. I see tragedy (the burned down barn), but I also see hope (I can now see the moon.) Apparently the moon was not visible while the barn was standing. Barns are certainly nice, but if they block the moon…

I also look at it another way. The barn burned down (tremendous loss), but now I see the moon (something is gained.) Even though something horrible has happened, something good came out of it. I see optimism in the statement.

Another way to interpret it is: I thought the barn was so important, but I didn’t realize that it was actually hiding the moon. What treasure is hidden from our vision? What have we failed to see? What have we missed? Sometimes we are so busy building structures, that we don’t realize what we’ve blocked out, or walled off.  It takes tremendous material loss sometimes, to appreciate the transcendent things of life.

But then there’s the grief. The barn burned down, and now I can see the moon…but I really miss the barn. We’ve all been there. Trying desperately to find anything that can assure us that our loss is not as bad as we think it is. While the moon will provide a beautiful light for awhile, it cannot erase the sorrow we feel over the loss of the barn, and all that it represented–warmth, security, protection, and shelter. It can only lessen our pain temporarily.

The lesson? When your barn burns down, look for the moon. Enjoy it, see its beauty, and believe in the hope it brings, but do not forever repress your grief over the burned down barn…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As long as we have hope, we have direction, the energy to move, and the map to move by. We have a hundred alternatives, a thousand paths, and an infinity of dreams. Hopeful, we are halfway to where we want to go; hopeless, we are lost forever.”  Hong Kong Proverb

The power of hope is an amazing thing. It means “to expect with confidence.” It can be the difference between living and dying. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.” Hope gives us vision, and without a vision, we perish. That may be why so many people (particularly men) die soon after they retire. They’ve lost their purpose. God created us to have a purpose-to have goals, and to anticipate good things.

Notice that the definition meant “to expect with confidence.” Hope has a positive attitude. There’s no room for negativity with hope. The very nature of hope is to believe in something good. The Bible tells us, that as a person thinks in his heart, so is he. If we think positively (relying on God’s promises) we bring positive things into our life, but if we think negatively, negative things come our way. Job said, “The thing I feared has come upon me.” Fear will act as a magnet for bad things. As you begin to dwell on what might happen, you create an acceptance in your heart for it to come to pass. You start to focus on the negative, and before you know it, fear cancels all hope. When you lose your hope, you’ve lost everything.

Audrey Hope (yes, really) wrote, “Change your point of view and everything changes. Hope is the space we jump into, when the next step would be the cliff.” Hope is much more than a Pollyanna outlook, that pretends everything is always fine. Hope enables us to keep believing even when everything is not fine. And yet, we believe that everything is working together for good. Let’s face it–not everything is good, but God can make good come out of the bleakest situation. What Satan intends for evil, God can use for good. Doesn’t that make you feel strengthened? You see, with God, the end is not the end. He can always do more. It seemed too late when Lazarus died. He was buried and decaying, but it was just a chance for God to do a greater miracle. Never forget that–God can always do a greater miracle than you had expected. Don’t limit Him in any way.

Hope gives us energy to keep going forward. Hope tells us that there are hundreds of ways that God can fix our dilemma, or solve our problem, if we just don’t give up. Before your circumstance can change, sometimes your attitude needs to. Everything that is wrong is subject to change! Isn’t that good news? God is not always obvious about His plan, but He is always working behind the scenes to bring it to pass. The Bible also tells us that “Without hope it is impossible to please Him.” God is pleased by hopefulness, not pessimism. Don’t mope around like there’s no reason to live–rejoice in hope. That’s your faith statement–there’s always hope.  Look for things to look forward to. Believe big! Dream big! This pleases God.

Remember-whatever it is that you’re believing for–with hope, you’re halfway there. Miracles can happen when you believe…

See other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

“I always read the last page of a book first, so that if I die before I finish, I’ll know how it turned out.” Nora Ephron

There is only one book that I want to know the ending to in advance, and that’s the Bible. I am glad that I know we win, and Satan loses. But to know the ending to any other story is to lose much of the excitement of the tale.

This is true in life also. If we knew the ending, we might not be motivated to continue. What if we knew who won every contest in advance? No one would ever compete. What if we knew the moment of our death? It sounds good at first, but I suspect it would take a great deal of the joy out of daily living, knowing that time was running out, or even that it wasn’t. It’s the not knowing that makes life an adventure to be lived in moments, not years.

Knowing the ending makes the middle far less exciting.  In wondering every day if we’ll find love, or experience loss, we start from a different perspective, than if we already know the outcome. It’s like already having the answers to a test, and then having to figure out the questions. (Not nearly as much fun.)

It’s the urgency of life that spurs us on toward our goals. And in our youth, it is the feeling of being indestructible, that allows us to take risks that sometimes enhance our lives. For to be too cautious, is to lose our free spirit.

As we grow older, it’s thinking that we still have time left that gives us hope, and makes us persist toward our unrealized dreams. Many discoveries would never occur if we knew there was little time left. We would simply give up on living. But being aware of our own mortality is a great motivator also. (But it’s counter-intuitive to know the approximate date, place, or time.)

Often, if a person is told they are dying, they will die very quickly. But if they’re not told, they will often live far past the predicited time of death. I believe that’s because there is a resignation when you know you have a terminal disease, and your expectation is to die. But if you don’t know you’re dying, you can hang onto hope. And sometimes hope can bring miracles, when it turns into faith. (And sometimes it can’t. But what have you got to lose by hanging onto hope?) You have everything to lose by giving up.

If you knew the sad ending to a love relationship, perhaps you would never chance it. But then you would have missed all the goodness that it brought into your life–all the happiness, and fulfillment. Surely there was sorrow also, but would you want to have missed the joy?

Our Creator knew that life had to be open-ended, and that man does best, when he does not know the ending.  Suspense and surprise is what makes life grand. Knowing the ending just ruins the book for most people. And this is as it should be. For we would always avoid pain, if given the opportunity. But in so doing, we would also miss the pleasure of the dance…

(There’s some interesting information about the rodeo rider in The Dance, Lane Frost, that can be found here): http://www.lanefrost.com/8seconds.htm

Please see other articles that I have written here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”  Benjamin Franklin

Change–an inevitable part of life. But we resist it, don’t we? Have you ever wondered why? There are many reasons, but one is that we become comfortable in our current situation. We know what to expect, and what not to. We feel better able to conquer known demons, than the unknown. So we stay in our snug ruts, afraid to venture out into something different. But sometimes change is thrust upon us, and we have no choice. That’s when we want to grit our teeth, dig in our heels, and refuse to budge. Excitement, advancement, and fulfillment are waiting around the next bend, but we have to be willing to go around the curve, instead of camping on the highway. To go forward, we have to shake things up a bit. While a predictable routine may be comforting, it can also be stifling. If we feel that life is boring, we’ll lose our creative edge. Accepting change can be the difference between really living or simply existing.

Still, change isn’t easy. I found another great quote that really resonated with me:

“It’s not the change we fear. It’s the place in between the trapezes. It’s like Linus when his blanket is in the washing machine.” William Bridges

I absolutely love, love, love that quote, don’t you? That’s exactly what it’s like when we’re going through change. It’s like when you let go of one trapeze, but you haven’t grabbed hold of the next one. And yes, it’s like Linus–having to let go of his beloved blanket (his security) and not knowing what to do without it. Change-that place of uncertainty where we’re caught in the middle. Letting go of the old and reaching for the new. We’re free falling without a parachute. We’re way out of our comfort zone, but something propels us forward.

For me, midlife has been a time of tremendous change. I lost my biological dad and my step-dad (since I was 7) very close in time to each other. I have had to change my entire lifestyle to accommodate the care of my elderly, not well, widowed mom. Just as I was being released from the responsibilities of being a full time mom (my daughter moved out), I was thrust into being a fairly full time caregiver. While my mom does still live independently, she requires a lot of supervision and no longer drives. This means that my days are filled with doctors’ appointments (a different doctor for each body part), pharmacy trips, and all the things that make up daily life for a middle aged baby boomer with a family, and an elderly woman. This was a change that was thrust upon me unexpectedly, and one that has taken awhile to adjust to.  However, we have bonded in ways that never would have happened outside of this change in our lives. Even though I sometimes resist the reality of my life at the moment, I hope that I have become a more caring, compassionate, and less selfish person through this turn of events.

So, while change sometimes brings negative circumstances, there is always something good to be gained as well. I think that the older I get, the more I realize that life is comprised of changes. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Only death can stop change. It will be with us until we leave this world, and possibly after. (Surely you didn’t think we’d spend all of our time on clouds playing harps, did you?) 🙂 God probably has lots of things for us to do, along with worshipping Him.

Life is always evolving, and if we are going to survive, we must evolve with it, always adapting to what lies ahead–learning from the past, but not living there. Just remember that whatever you are going through, it is not likely to continue forever (at the intensity of this present moment.) This too shall pass, and you will gain strength from it, and be able to go forward. There are so many devastating losses in life, but there are also so many delightful surprises if we just don’t give up. So look to the future, live in this moment, and adapt to the changes that come your way. It’s all a part of this thing called life…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

 

 

 

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

 

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

Maria Robinson

 

 

Today I chose two quotes, because they both speak of making the most of your life right now. They’re about living in the present moment, and breathing in all that life has to offer. As the Maria Robinson quote says, we can’t really change the “Once upon a time…” part. But we can change the “And then…”

Life is precious or people wouldn’t fight so hard for it. Think of all the people in the world fighting to live–engaged in a battle against cancer or some other disease. They are willing to go through a lot just to have one more day. One more day with their loved ones, one more day to sing and dance and laugh and cry. And most of us just take it all for granted.

Yes, life is complicated; life is messy. You can’t jump in its mud without getting dirty. But then there are those refreshing showers of grace that wash over us, and those moments (just moments) when all is right with the world. God must have put that will to live within us–the determination to fight for our time here on earth. As we get older, we begin to wonder where the time went. Didn’t we have the rest of our lives to do all those things? To say the things we needed to say? And then someone close to us dies, and we realize that there are no guarantees at any age. We truly only have this moment–this priceless, never to be had again moment. What will we do with it?

This generation is one of the first to have children still at home, and aging, sickly parents to care for. Until our daughter moved out recently, I fit into that category. My stepdad (who was like my father, since age 7) suddenly died, almost 3 years ago, from complications of triple bypass surgery, and it was a horrendous way to go. (On a ventilator, gasping for breath, unconscious and unable to communicate, for the most part.) And all we could do was be there day after day, praying that he wouldn’t die, but feeling woefully certain that he was going to. (And sadly, he did.)

At that moment, I lost myself. No, actually I lost myself about 16 years ago when I adopted a beautiful 3 year old daughter. It was not at all what I had imagined, but I learned some of the greatest lessons of my life, and suffered some of the deepest pain. It was never easy or comfortably predictable, but I gave her my love and my life.

I thought that perhaps I would now retrieve it (my life, that is), but silly me, I should have known that life was going to throw me another crazy curve ball, and it certainly did. Suddenly I was more or less responsible for my mother. I thought that I was responsible for her happiness, and for keeping her alive. It was an awesome burden to bear, and I finally had to learn that I could not give her immortality or happiness. Her length of life would depend on God, and her happiness had to come from within. I really struggled with that, and almost drove myself crazy for a couple of years, until my body pleaded with me to give the job back to the Lord, or die myself. I reluctantly at first, (and then with great relief) surrendered my cargo, and a great deal of my anxiety. It felt good not to be God, and to just be myself again.

I came to terms with the fact that when my mom does die, she says she is ready. She still wants to live on her own, and even if it is risky, it would be my wish also. (She is an insulin dependent diabetic, who sometimes goes low.) The sorrow I carried for her, at the loss of my dad, was so heavy that I almost could not think of her without getting a piercing ache in my heart. (Often, I still do.) And having gone through all that with her, it did leave me with fears of my own, which I continually have to battle, and try and shake off.

So that brings us to the topic once again. Life–such a gift, such a treasure–and we throw so much of it away. So many days spent angry at things that have no significance, worried about things that rarely happen, and procrastinating about truly living our life.

The first quote says to “fight for your dreams.” Fight for them. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You have a dream. Don’t pack it away in an old, musty suitcase. Take it out, and shine it up, and fight for it. Modify it if you have to, but keep on dreaming it. Don’t lose yourself in the monotony of everyday living. Be unselfish and giving, but take care of yourself also. How can any of us give what we don’t possess? We have to find that place within that is real and genuine. The place that validates our uniqueness, in a dime-a-dozen world. Express who you are in writing, in singing, in dancing, in art, in fashion, in poetry, in style, and in your surroundings. You are a gift, and a gift needs to be opened, in order to be enjoyed. Open yourself to life’s possibilities and opportunities.

Find the beauty, and not just the beast. (Or find the beauty in the beast.) Don’t stifle your personality, don’t hide your light, and don’t conform to things that take away your ingenuity. Be creative, be childlike, and be a seeker on a journey. If others won’t dance to your song, dance by yourself. But never give up dancing.

It’s true that you cannot change your “Once upon a time…”, but you can start today, and make it a happy ending…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.htmlhttp://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

 

 

 

Most men sell their souls and live with a good conscience on the proceeds.
Logan Pearsall Smith, American-British editor and essayist (1865-1946)

All of my life I have had a conscience that worked overtime. I can remember only two lies that I told as a child (though there may have been more–but I don’t remember any.) Both involved getting into something that I shouldn’t have, and fearing to tell the truth about it. The first was my mother’s colored bath oil beads. I was fascinated by the beautiful rainbow colors, and must have put some in the tub (it’s all rather fuzzy.) But when I was asked, I declared that I did not. The other time was when I put M&Ms into a coke bottle. Much to my shock, the candy caused the drink to foam over like a raging volcano. My stepfather, who I was greatly afraid of at the time, inquired if I had put anything in the drink, and once again I denied my actions. I guess I still remember those times because they were so contrary to my nature. I was a very compliant and trustworthy child, who did not make a practice of telling lies. In fact, to this day, if I tell a willful lie, I will start to throw up, until I tell the truth. (A very good deterrent to lying, I might add.)

I believe that trust is essential in relationships. It means that I can count on you to demonstrate consistent, reliable character over time. I can depend on you, and place my confidence in you. And while none of us are perfect, if I trust you, I know that you will not purposefully deceive or hurt me. I think marriages, and most friendships, are built on that kind of trust.

People who are not trustworthy will continually break your heart. As they engage in lies over and over, their conscience becomes seared. It is easier and easier to tell a lie, because they have pushed down that inner voice for so long. It becomes a matter of just turning off the switch, and repressing the feelings that guide what is right and what is wrong. They say that animals do not have a conscience, and indeed, man becomes an animal without one.

It is also necessary to explore where the rules (that guide the conscience) have come from. I imagine that a great deal of what we describe as “listening to our conscience”, is actually living our lives based on what we have been taught is right or wrong. Certainly we could become very liberal in our thinking, based on society’s morals, and convince ourselves that what we want to do is okay. We could also come to feel that something perfectly acceptable and good, is not okay.

But that’s where I think the real conscience kicks in–and it resides deep down below the noise of society or oppressive religious bondage. There is a knowing instinctively about what is right and what is wrong. I think that God places it there, and when we become believers, it is the Holy Spirit, who becomes our truest Guide–more reliable than our own conscience. The Bible says that He leads us into all truth. When we come under the conviction (not condemnation) of the  Holy Spirit, it is an unmistakable feeling. Though we certainly can choose to ignore (or override) that voice, which is often a still, small voice.

As a society, we certainly need to find our conscience again. As a child of the 50s, I remember that all our friends and neighbors had basically the same ethics, (religious or not). A parent didn’t have to be afraid, generally, of what another family would expose their child to, because there was a common belief system about right and wrong, and what was appropriate, and what wasn’t. There was a basic morality that was shared by most good and decent people. (But today, those kind of neighborhoods are hard to find.)

It seems that nothing is black and white anymore. Situational ethics rule, and there’s always some kind of rationalization for breaking the formerly acknowledged rules of living. It has left some unsure of their moral compass. God can’t go to school anymore, and political correctness is our new Constitution.

As I consider all these things, I’m glad that I grew up when I did, and I’m glad that lying did not come easy for me. I’m grateful that my conscience worked overtime, and that it still does…