Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aging, me.....

I admit it, I am completely sure that I am aging more than I had previously thought.

My story a quick one....

I have wanted to by a cook book for sometime now (like a year), its called, Williams ~ Sonoma French.  I have plenty of cook books and really didn't think it wise to spend the money on another at this time.  The recipes are those of Diane Rossen Worthington whom I am familiar as I actually own , The Cuisine of California that is hers as well.

Well several days ago I looked up a book someone had mentioned on their blog and while on the Amazon site they reminded me that the cook book I've been wanting is still in my cart :-)  Oh, what the heck, I'm going to order the one so I might as well get that cookbook out of their cart, right?

I have to admit, I was so excited yesterday when it arrived.  I quickly opened it ran my had over the yummy photo on its cover ready to dive in.  But, first things first.  I try to always put my name inside all my books as soon as I get them, so that I did.  Made myself of hot cup of Earl Grey tea and settled down to see just what it was I  might be making soon.  Thirty minutes later or so, I closed the book quite happy with my purchase and into the kitchen I went  to add it to the shelf along of other cook books.

I stack my books according to size so I slipped it in to a couple of spots before I found the one that was just right...yep, I would say it was the perfect fit.  Turns out, I already had the book on my book shelf.....REALLY glad I put my name in it right away as to not  be confused with the one on the shelf owned by someone with the same name as I !

Yes aging me, that is what echos from my heart today....we gotta laugh at this stuff folks!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sleeping Bag and a Guitar

Saturday morning I was on my way to a day of team building with my fellow Women's Ministry ladies.
I had offered to bring some french bread to have with the chowder my friend that was hosting was making.  I pulled in the parking lot, worried about the time I hurried toward the store.  My pace slowed when I heard the sound of music.  For those who know me well, I love music of just about every genre. It is something I could never imagine my life without.

When I looked up my eyes first saw a sleeping bag very neatly rolled ( I was a Scout, I notice those things) and this gentleman standing next to it playing his guitar.  His eyes slightly closed as if he too were part of his own audience.  A gentle smile rested on his face as though it was put on that way and never changed.  I thought to myself, this man may be without a home, I mean why else the sleeping bag?  I stopped in my tracks pulled out my check book where I thought I had stashed a dollar the day prior.  What I first saw was a ten, I knew without question it was to be given to him, I knew he needed it more than I.

African American man playing guitar

Now I don't generally tell how much money I have given or to who....nothing ruins the act of giving a gift more than a big boast to someone of what you gave.  I tell you because  though I knew I was to give it,  I also heard, are you crazy? You just did the bills and you know you better give the dollar.  I gave with the same faith  that has always taken care of me in the past and reminded myself that God has always and will always meet my needs.

I handed this gentleman the money and said God bless you, which caused him to literally jump for joy, with a smile that was bigger than I thought his thin face could handle.  He said very loudly, "oh my, thank you for such a generous gift, thank you so much!" As I turned to walk away these two large high school football like teens were walking toward him with money in hand.  I knew they had seen him on the way into the store and purposed to bring some money back to this guitar playing gentleman.  They too had the biggest smiles as they heard him thanking me and knowing themselves they were about to add to his joy.

Can I tell you what it meant to me to see this young boys enjoying the act of giving?  It made me think a little better of this world I live in, being reminded there are still good people out there.  I  thought as I shopped, about the extreme joy so little gave this guitar playing man.  I then thought about what he gave me so early on this Saturday morning with his gift of music. As I walked in a parking lot his gift put a smile on my face.  He was touching lives with his music.  I was reminded that despite his current living conditions he had a smile on his face.  What could I possible frown about on any given day?

I arrived at my meeting wanting to share with the gals my early morning experience.  I was still so moved by it I chose not to share it as I didn't want to get emotional.  Fat chance of that not happening if you know me, none the less I chose to forgo the story telling.  I poured myself some coffee, as we all took a seat out on my friends patio with a beautiful breakfast she had prepared for us.  Someone immediately made note of the beautiful view we had on this very warm January morning and how lucky we are to have it.  I took a look around at the five women I was sitting with and again filled with emotion as I told myself how very lucky I am to have women such as these in my life. Yet another smile.....

Saturday evening when I returned home my husband and I  had dinner and watched the movie "The Soloist" quite by accident on this particular day. Its a true story about a very talented man living on the streets who was an accomplished musician and had in fact had dropped out of Julliard due to schizophrenia.  It tells of a reporter who became his friend unintentionally while writing his story.  His name was Nathaniel Ayers and still today is living on the streets of Los Angeles, still playing his cello for those around him to enjoy.  After the show I shared with Bob about my guitar man that morning and how possibly I had stumbled upon my very own Nathaniel and just as in the movie, we brought each other joy that morning.

Sunday morning our Pastor spoke to us about money and how we are to use way was to use it as a tool to help others.  I'm thinking I was really suppose to be reminded of the responsibility we have in helping others and the complete joy you experience when you do.
This is what echos in my heart today as I am reminded of my guitar playing gentleman..... :-)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brian Ray Stevens

Brian and big brother Mikey

Brian Ray Stevens, my youngest son,  was born on Sunday January 20th 1980, Super Bowl Sunday !  His Dad and I  could not agree on a name for him, so when the nurse came around asking for names she first went to the woman in the other bed.  I was trying to think of a good name quickly...I felt a little pressure that I had to be ready when they came to me.  (The other new Mom chose Brian) The nurse arrived at my bed and I said that sounds good, his name is Brian......Hmmm, lets see, a middle name?  Easy, I will give him my Fathers name, Ray :-) So that is how he was named..... what can I say, It was just a a nice name I hadn't  thought of using and it seemed to fit him  :-)

  Brain didn't care for school at all.  He made his Poppa (my Dad) promise to stop by the playground everyday to see him.  My Dad did just that on his way home to eat lunch. Poppa could be found daily talking to his grandson with a chain link fence between them.  I think he must have thought we were considering leaving him there so Poppa was his mid day assurance we hadn't abandoned him.  He preferred going to the beach everyday or staying home playing black jack, yes at age four! 

Happy near the beach, nothings changed.
With brother and cousins Amanda and Summer
Poetry Night 2nd Grade
Long hair on Brian ?
Brian second from the right .....

The Man he became "-)

Brian was very quite, the TOTAL opposite of his brother Mikey.  I had my next door neighbor watching him before he started school, she was in her late 70's, her name was Julie.  She would tell me he never talked to her throughout the entire day.  He would find a book, hand it to her and climb up on the couch next to her waiting to be read to. He loved Julie and she him, he just wasn't a talker :-)

  Brian used to get so excited at the grocery store when we went down the diaper isle...."bipers!" he would shout out for all to hear, as if they understood his excitement.  I would often find a piece of bologna under his bed, with a bite out of it....Or a block of cheese with a bite of it.  A whole new meaning to, a "bite to eat".

I had to cut all tags out of his shirts, underwear, pants etc.... He would not wear his socks up like boys do, he wanted them folded neatly down like anklets.  He hated when I blew his hair dry before bed.....he was a fan of Cindy Lauper when he was four or five, so I told him if he didn't let me dry his hair he would wake up and his hair would be standing straight up like hers and it would stay that way.  Never another complaint about the hair dryer.

Brian was one of those students that always wanted A's and always got them and perfect attendance was also very important to him.  Brian is a Manager at a local specialty store called  Trader Joe's.  He loves the company and takes his job very seriously. He has a great work ethic that he credits to my Dad, his Poppa.

Brian knows the kind of man my Dad was and he has made many life choices based on what Poppa would have done.  I love that about him, just one of the many things I love about him.  Brian and I have breakfast once a week and I treasure that time with him and find myself looking forward to it every week.

My baby is thirty one today and we had lunch together to celebrate. Next week we will have a family dinner, birthday boys choice of what we have to eat.... Today as I sat across from him at lunch he said many things that made me fill with pride.  He is a good man indeed and I am so happy he came into my life all those years ago on Super Bowl Sunday.  I reminded him he watched his first football game with his Mom, on the day he was born.....
This is what echos from my heart today.....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sew, Today I Found Some Treasures !

Sewing Box Dad made ...
Today I was sorting through everything that came out of my guest bedroom.  I was deciding what would be going back in it, what would be given away and what to toss.

 I came across the  sewing box that my Father made in the 7th grade, something I of course treasure.  I took a seat on the couch to see what it was I had stored in it.

I came across a church camp photo from the early 70's, lots of young men with long hair and young high school girls with long blond (for the most part) hair parted down the bangs.  Made me smile thinking of the great times at Cedar Lake Church Camp.

I then pulled out this little sweat shirt that was my Son Mike's (he's soon to be 34).  It looks bigger than it is, it's  only about 11" long.  I thought to myself that I would have to make sure my grandchild (due to arrive in August) whom we are referring to as "taquito" for the time being will one day wear it too.

I'm accenting my guestroom with red....when I pulled out my varsity letter and graduation tassel I thought, I could surely use that big red "R" somewhere in the room.  Probably not.

I went to Redondo High in Redondo Beach CA.... I loved my High School and the four years I spent there.  I was awarded the varsity letter for my three years of keeping football stats for the team.  As I type this I am also reminded that my senior year the Varsity team went 0-9.... :-(
Some very quite bus rides home on the team bus!

My favorite finds were the Valentine cards I had saved.  This one with the little dog on it was the best.  I opened it thinking it was from a classmate in grade school, possibly.  Nope, it read;
 To Deb ~ Love Dad . Oh my, can I tell you how glad I am that I saved this little Valentine.  Tells you how much I loved my Dad, as a grade school kid I made the choice to save it!!  Yep, I'm still smiling ......

This next Valentine was from my youngest son really filled my heart to read the front..... I was indeed his first Valentine :-) Such a cute little boy he a good looking young man. Is this getting to mushy????

We can change the mood.
This card is from my son Mike on a Mothers Day.  He crossed out one name and and wrote Bill Clinton :-)  That's my Mike for those of you who don't know his humor. I mean come on, taquito??? On the inside he thanked me for folding his laundry when he came over to do it and for letting him eat here from time to time....those little things  done by a Mom don't go unnoticed..

This one was such a sweet find, and again, sooooo glad I kept it.  This is a kleenex rolled up and tied with a yellow piece of yarn.  I unrolled it to read; I love you Mom, Brian....

Last but not least this collection of my son's baseball pins that I the Mom occasionally wore on a coat to their games..
Think I will turn these over to them so they can share some good team stories with their children someday.

This was not a find but it is a bit of a treasure.  These are the drawers from the dresser in my guest bedroom that Bob is in the process of painting. This was his dresser as a child, yes,  I asked him if that meant it was an antique?
No comment....

Was such a great day full of memories I could touch!

This is what echos from my heart today....

Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Coat of Paint .......

I'm in the early stages of redecorating my guest bedroom.  I'm changing four green walls, two very dark green, two that are a backpack green,  to a pale yellow though not as pale as intended.( By the way and note to self again, the rule with yellow paint is always go a shade lighter than the one you want)

Everything has been moved out of the room, tarps are covering the rug, tape runs along the edge of the window. Holes have been patched, filled and sanded, base boards wiped down. Bob and I have managed to get two coats of fresh paint applied. I'm so excited to see if the plans I've envisioned  for my  guest bedroom turn out as planned.  I'm hoping that upon completion my guests will feel drawn into it and feel as though its a true place of retreat. A soft place to fall, a safe and comfortable place to lay their heads...

When I'm done my guest bedroom will still be my guest bedroom, it is just slowly changing into the retreat it was meant to be for my guests,  a place to feel at home and rested.  This process made me think about the work in progress I am in my walk with God.  Before making Him my priority in life, I was similar to the dark green of my walls....very little light or brightness in the body of that room!  I  was lacking the kind of peace that provides the light that now shines through me.  That light is the Spirit of God in me.

Like the room when I started this project, God takes us just as we are, with holes that need to be filled, rough spots to be sanded,  a little tape and even a good wipe down is in order.  We don't have to fix all these areas that have fallen to the way side over time before we can approach Him. Those holes in us that might have been made long ago, the ones we feel even God couldn't forgive let alone fill.... He can and He will.   If we would take the time to study who He is we would discover all that He has promised each of us. There is this notion that we have to change before we come to Him, well, its just that, a notion.

Most of us don't think of ourselves as sinners but we are, each and everyone.  If you were to read the 10 commandments you would see that you and I have likely failed at more than one of them.  It doesn't mean we are bad people, it means we aren't perfect and are in  need of forgiveness. With that comes the promise of an eternal life, one other than what we are living at this time, in this world.  There is something after death, I mean seriously, after all that was created and intended for us to enjoy, this world we are living is not all He has for us.  He has provided us with a retreat of our own  and it is with Him.

God is the one who will slowly fill those holes, sands the rough edges, wipes the dust off and reveals a person of beauty that He calls His own.....that would be us!  So He can fill the holes, He is the light that then shines through us. Others will notice the change in place of the once dark walls, the little holes of our past are now filled and we are shining bright and new because of it. We become a light in this world of darkness so that others might see it and come to know Him too.

Similar to the results I'm hoping for in my guest room, I too hope that others can see God's light in me.  It is where He is, with Him that I am drawn to.  He is my light in the darkness, my place of retreat, a soft place to fall, a safe place to lay my head.

 I'm reminded that God is the painter (artist) and we are His canvas.  He will make the needed repairs and  apply a fresh coat of paint .... Our past forgiven and forgotten, what once was old becomes new!

Like my guestroom, I am a work in process. Also like my guest bedroom, God had a plan in mind when He envisioned me in a specific way, I hope that I turn out as He planned.. So when I go to the retreat He has prepared for me I will hear that He is pleased.  This is what echos from my heart today......

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Centered in 2011

So, I'm trying to remember when I became aware, I mean really started to notice, just how self centered so many people have become.  It troubles me how people so "naturally" think of self before anything or anyone, regardless of the type of relationship. That others would come second and  it seems not to matter anymore that second place was our spouses, children, parents, siblings, cousins, parents, friends, acquaintances and the stranger on the street. The norm seems to be "me", "I" or "us"  first and then there is "them", "they", "he" and "she", if there is any of us left to give. SELF.

I don't think of myself as being self centered however, there are of course times I have the thoughts of "self". How could they, he, or she have hurt me in such a way? What about me? So, I do think of me in response to hurt/pain I might feel... followed by  the thought of how and why would they treat another person in such a hurtful way? Hurting another person is not something that sits well with me, and I would not purpose to do so (not to say I never had the gut reaction to do so).  I have indeed hurt others in my lifetime.  If I'm aware I have hurt someone I can't apologize quickly heart is heavy that I have hurt them in any way or if they ever thought to be intentional. Since I was a child I can tell you, I've had a heart for others. I was never one to hold a grudge, would never intentionally cause someone to hurt. I can easily apologize and have done so even when I may not have felt I had done any wrong, an apology was due...In order to not think of me,  I had to give it as it could help remove a hurt perceived by another as intentional.

 Self centered is,  selfish, that's what it is. I made a a couple of decisions in my younger years that were totally selfish, I made decisions with myself ONLY in mind. I didn't spend much time thinking how my decisions may have hurt another person(s), I was only concerned with what I wanted.  I am not proud of these decisions and I can say immaturity and selfishness had everything to do with them, and that eventually I saw how selfish I was. As ashamed as I was by my selfishness, I was accountable to those involved, I asked and received forgiveness and  I chose to leave that behavior behind!

This doesn't mean there haven't been times it hasn't been about ME since. I don't know how normal it is or if there is even a way to know for sure, but after the loss of my father, other than my Mom's future all I could think of was me, the emptiness in me and the sorrow that had taken over every aspect of my life.  In the months that followed as I carried this pain and sorrow, I couldn't think of much of anything else but how I was feeling.  To wake up daily in disbelief, that the loss was real and the ability to think beyond the moment had left me.

I can't speak for anyone else but I'm guessing it was very much the same for them.  Self, actually caused hurt feelings, and even division in the family after losing Dad. Everyone thinking about self.. We often become selfish without realizing we have. Speaking for myself, in my brokenness I raised my voice at my husband,  and ashamed to say, my Mother who had lost her husband! Saying that I am not proud of this doesn't begin to touch how badly I felt. At times, I couldn't think of anyone but me and how I felt in the moment(s).  I was spending much of my time with my Mom packing up a house full of memories, and found that I was saying whatever I had to say louder, well, it had become my new yet unconscious attempt at releasing the pain that I wanted to leave me. I had great difficulty finding a way to grieve, help pack up their house, get my Mom through a day at a time, moved and unpacked her in a place she did not feel at home....all the while angry we were without him.

I can say in the process I had many, many meltdowns to which she was on the receiving end. I could see in her how lost she was, how sad and scared she was... I felt I had to deal with her hurting,and be their for her which added to my thinking about why all this?... and ....What about me? How do I help with her pain when my own had overtaken me? Self.   I was always sorry, and always apologized to her at the end of each meltdown.  My apologies didn't take away from the wrongness of the action be it unintentional or not, yet it was important for her to know how truly sorry I was. This me, I discovered, this was me in pain. In turn, she understandably had meltdowns of her own, that she too apologized for, saying things that came from her pain and grief. Though we each understood why the other was melting down, the apologies came easily in order to move forward with the "process". We managed to get through it .....sharing our pain and loving each other through lots of forgiveness, when we were thinking of self.

So, there are two examples of "selfish and self centered".  We can make decisions without thinking of how another may be hurt by our choice..selfish. We  can become self centered in circumstances we are in with no intent of hurting another, yet is the result of self first thinking.  Selfish or self centered, I'm so glad I was accountable in both instances, asking forgiveness of those I hurt unintentionally, as a result of thinking of my wants and to those I hurt by thinking of my feelings, when  this pain was running rampant, in fact taking over what was once my family.

My Father, never would he have purposely hurt another person, never would he have held a grudge. He occasionally raised his voice in anger or frustration to another, and in that I learned he was not to proud to say he was sorry.  I believe during our time of grieving  he knew where our anger was stemming from, because he knew what he meant to us.

I doubt there was ever a time he made a decision without thinking of how it might affect others first.... he was many things but he was not selfish. I  always wanted my Dad to be proud of me and oddly enough it has meant increasingly more to me since his passing... I purpose to behave in a way he would remain proud of me. His job as a parent was well done and  I can reflect, mirror what he taught me in how I live my life and how I treat others.  I speak of this often because it is that important to me. The fact he always thought of others first and his heart toward others are how he is remembered by many.  I hope the same to be said of me one day.....

As 2010 was winding down I began to think more and more about thinking less about me and more about others.  I love all the people that are a part of my life as I do those that are not, stranger or acquaintance. I sense in many an abundance of loneliness,emptiness, sadness and pain. Gods greatest commandment, above all others, is that we love one another.  Part of being successful at loving others is taking our thoughts off of ourselves.  Today I read what love is in I Corinthians 13;

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres........and now these three remain; faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

In another book I was challenged to, in place of the word "it" in the above scripture, I was to read it and put my name in "its" place. That in itself was pretty enlightening, I hope you will read it yourself using your own name.  So, in trying to think less of me, I hope to be able at some point to say, "it" is a description of me.

For me personally,God being the center of my life is my only chance at me being centered and not, self centered. We can attend a place of worship, we can read our Bibles, we can claim to be a Christian to all the world.  If we aren't living it, if our actions don't reflect it, if we don't walk the talk, we are not doing ourselves or our faith a bit of good. Its important to know, you may fool others but you can't fool God. So be what you say you are... If my focus is on loving others, by putting debi in place of "it" may in fact become a true description of me. All things are possible!

Love is a verb.  This is what echos from my heart today......