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Timing, Training, & Trust

The Lone Marine

Imagine being informed that you are the one chosen to walk a very long red carpet, fully flanked by sword-bearing soldiers of another nation, while protecting the First Couple. It’s a long walk, and if anything happens to the president and the first lady, both of whom you are now solely responsible for, well, it’s just you to handle the situation. Hopefully, your inner Jason Bourne or 007 kicks in at that moment.

Now imagine the thoughts going through your mind, step by step…keenly aware…anything can happen. And for heaven’s sake, don’t stumble, trip or step on the robe of the guy in front of you. You basically hold your breath until you reach the carpet’s edge where friendly forces and personnel are waiting to join you.

Now, I realize that sounds a bit dramatic, but that’s exactly what happened for one lone marine in full dress uniform on May 20, 2017. Ironically, it was Armed Forces Day. That Marine will go down in history as the lone military personnel selected to walk the tarmac and whose charge was the first couple. An unknown man, forever entrenched in the optics and the imagery, he unwittingly found himself the poster child for this day to be sure.

His children, family, unit and more will brag on him, and that they knew him, for generations to come to be sure.

When you stop to think about it, what gets a person to this kind of appointment—or moment? How is the one who is chosen for that incredible, terrifying honor? How do you get there?

As much as we’d like to think he grew up with that moment in time as a goal, that would be highly inaccurate. No one could have predicted this trip or that scene. You just can’t write that stuff. It’s about timing, training, and trust. What do I mean?

Timing: you can’t predict being in the right place at the right time. Those things just aren’t in your control.

Training: the marine in that iconic photo is living the dream to be sure, but if you could sit down with him and hear his story, you’d probably hear about daily runs and grueling workout, hours and hours of weapons handling and skill work, battle study, and so much more. He would tell you of times where he almost broke, or quit—but didn’t. He made it one more step. That step that would take him closer to his historic appointed time.

Trust: his men, his colleagues, his leadership all must have trusted this man implicitly. He was the shoe-in for this spot. The perfect man for the job, or the man who had worked his way into this position, and when the protocol fell to him, he was ready. Very fitting, as Semper Fi, the Marine Corp Motto, means “always faithful.”

It’s a fitting tribute this weekend, as we pause to remember and thank those who have served and those who currently serve.

As you go through the coming week when the moments come that seek to stall you, frustrate you or beg you to quit. Don’t. You just never know, perhaps this is when the stars will align, and all of your efforts will fall into place and come to fruition.

Just my thoughts

—S.

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#marinecorp #unitedstatesmarines  #nomanleftbehind #SemperFi

Card from my dog…

So it’s Mother’s Day. And, if you’re not a mother, or perhaps your own mother is no longer with you, it can be a hard day. It’s a day, for which many folks whom I personally know, choose not to attend church or other festivities—as it just makes the day all the more difficult.  With that, I thought of something that might make you smile should that be the case for you on this day.

As I was driving back from the hardware store yesterday with Bosco in the way back, I got to thinking. What if he could send me a card on Mother’s Day…If he could, what might that say?

Dear owner/mom:

Thanks for letting me hit you with my big red ball when I am trying to get your attention and make you play with me. You never get mad at me and I am so happy. I especially love when you throw it and I chase it.

I am glad, too, that you don’t get too upset when I run up to the top of the hill, hide in the trees, bark, and don’t come down when you call. I just think that is so funny. You always give me a treat when I finally do come, and I want you to know that I like that very much.

Thanks too, for how you brush me and clean me up when I come back up after racing around and playing in the yard. You don’t just wipe the mud off my nose, you get a damp towel so it comes off easier and nice.

And thank you for the other leather chair that sits next to yours. I like sitting with you each morning while you have prayer time and coffee.

The big green chair in the living room is my favorite. But you know that. You’re always nice to open the blinds so that I can look out when you leave the house and while you are gone. And I like that you try to keep me from being lonely, by turning on the TV that has music. Sometimes. You do seem to forget that lately. 

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. It’s a dog’s life, as they say. And I am lucky to call your house my home.

Thanks and Happy Mother’s Day.

Your dog, forever.

—Bosco

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This is It?

It was one of those moments that is a bit surreal. The kind where you remember the sun coming through the windows, exactly what you were wearing, and where you were. The odd thing was, I was simply in the parking lot of a grocery store. Nothing life-changing. Or, so I thought.

That is when, for some reason, this thought hit me, “This is it. This is as good as it gets.”

I have to admit, I couldn’t quite translate the moment. Or understand what that meant. But it was swirling around me like a mental breeze, and I knew it was a moment in time that I would remember for many days to come.

So, what exactly did it mean?

Well, if all of my life, I have working for “some day”, this was it. This was my some day…

Let me try and explain.

When we’re children, we can’t wait to get into high school, drive a car, and date. We think that day will never come. Then, when it does, we can’t wait for the next step in life: graduating, choosing a college, perhaps landing that amazing job, finding our mate, and starting a family. When those moments in time happen, we think ahead to the next benchmarks: making sure we have enough money in the bank to send our child to college or take our family on that fabulous trip or landing that huge promotion, or some other wonderful wish, dream, or goal.

The point is, we never seem to realize when we are “there.”  Those moments are exactly what we were running toward. And then, one day, we wake up to realize, “Wow, I am ‘here’. This is ‘it’.”

That’s a bit of what I felt while sitting in my car, with Bosco in the back, on a lovely sunny day, ready to make a quick hop into the store.

My mind drifted back to an odd college memory. While I was practicing the piano one day in Watchhorn Hall at the University of Redlands, one of the rather “unique” music professors and her protege (who I now refer to as her “mini-me”) opened the door. She walked into my practice room, pointed her boney finger at me and said, “Be here.” Then, as if on cue, the faithful mentee stepped forward, mimicked her impeccably, and then they walked out. For years after that, I never understood what on earth they were trying to channel as a message into my co-ed brain.

Now, I get it. I was never in the moment. I was always racing for and working toward and pondering the “some day”. I didn’t know what that someday looked like, but that was all I thought about. I rarely realized, or embraced, the beauty of the here and now.

A few days after my store lot moment, as I stopped in to see a vendor that my company works to serve, my main point of the visit was to check on her white labrador, Hank. Things had not been going well for the quadruped, end of life discussions had been going on with the vet, and I had been praying for the dog’s healing.

When I asked her gently for an update, she mentioned the pathology work would be returning soon. She also pointed to the pain in her neck and proudly stated she’d told her massage therapist it was due to cuddling with Hank during the night. She looked at me and said, “Live in the moment.” It hit me like a brick.

We agreed. This is it. Enjoy it. Make the best of it. I finally started to truly get “it”.

So many times in life, I have not been “there” or truly just allowing myself to enjoy the moment. I have been focusing on another day in the future or some unmet goal. Ironically, I am now there. It is this moment in time. Where I am now. Who I am now. This is “it.”

I hugged Bosco a bit tighter this week. I didn’t get as frustrated when he brought me yet another shoe from down the hall, or barked to go in and out repeatedly. I sat on the deck and listened to the birds a bit longer. I stopped to talk to that neighbor, and a few other things along the way.

If this is it, and it is, I want to make the best of today as I can. And I can bet many of those things I have been putting on hold until…some future particular day, or when the stars align? I imagine those items will move up the to-do list to the top sooner than I’d planned.

I wish for you the same.

—Just my thoughts.

S.

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Did You Celebrate Arbor Day This Weekend?

This was blog was originally published in 2010. It has been brought back to commemorate a holiday we may not all be too sure about….

As we walked the sidewalk back to our corporate offices, I can remember being so impressed with this colleague of mine who had actually, at one point in his life, gone to work in Manhattan each day. I was fascinated by his stories and couldn’t get enough. It was the stuff that made for television scenes and movie episodes that not only danced in my head but are familiar to us all.

Little did I know, that one day, I too, would be stepping in and out of Manhattan on behalf of the company for which I worked at the time. I loved that job. It was my all-time favorite to this day. But alas, all good things, as they say,”must come to any end.” And so they did.

During those fabulous trips to the Big Apple, I marveled at the concrete culture the city dwellers seemed to revel in, if not literally-cherish. I, on the other hand, as I headed out for each trip up north, would take in the vast green lawn and the squirrels skipping about as I backed out of my driveway. In addition, I would suddenly catch myself saying out loud to my house and those beautiful 40-year old towering trees, “Stay right there. I’ll be right back!” It became a private tradition of sorts. And, a few days later, I always kept that promise, celebrating it on my deck with Ole Judge, while looking out at the foliage that takes up the entire embankment of my backyard.

Did you know? Arbor Day is the last Friday in April each year?

Sure. New York was great. But there was just something about the green, and the grass and the…trees. Even a job possibility that came my way in that “city that never sleeps” couldn’t quite lure me (and the dog) to the apartment lifestyle of “The City.”

That’s why ARBOR DAY, I guess, is such a big deal to some folks. Those of you Alaska dwellers, or Michigan and Colorado types, might not quite relate to the importance of such a holiday. But for those folks in the land of pavement, you can see how it can be a pretty big deal.

ARBOR DAY (the Final Friday in April) is actually a real holiday- if you didn’t know. But it’s not, as you might think, only celebrated in the USA. Nope. It’s pretty international. And it’s not too new. It was actually founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morgan of Nebraska. It’s a Civic holiday, mind you. A tidbit for you infophiles.

And, here’s some trivia to take with you to that upcoming board meeting or coffee chat this week: On the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted.

And there you have it.
Just my thoughts.
S.

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Not so fast…

Sometimes in life, things happen that look permanent. You can’t imagine anything good coming from the situation. No hope at all. But then, something amazing happens.What do I mean by that?

I was sitting in a most lovely Tenebrae service this past Friday at my church. It was the usual profound story, but then, a poignant moment struck me.

Imagine a very wealthy, powerful man in your community who has spent time and money commissioning his family gravesite out of a stone area. The skilled craftsmen have been cutting, chiseling, smoothing, all by hand. It’s a luxury most of us will never have. We will, most of us, most likely be placed in a box that goes into the ground.

Then, picture this man, approaching the authorities in a most clandestine fashion, asking for the body of the most notorious criminal, recently executed with government authority, and placing that dead body into this new, private tomb.

That’s what Joseph of Arimathea did. With the help of Nicodemus. They were devastated. The person who they had recently come to believe could change the world they were living in, make it better—the one who had “answers” …was suddenly and violently taken from them.

Fear. Anxiety. Feeling lost. Forlorn. Plan A was gone. But what would Plan “B”…be?

Thankfully, they didn’t have to worry for too long, and they didn’t have to come up with one.

That Sunday morning, Jesus made surprise visits to those near and dear to him. Friends, family and disciples alike were able to see Him in person. Alive and very well.

Something wonderful had happened. The impossible. A miracle. And the world has never been the same.

If you are facing something that appears unfixable…if you are scrambling for answers or a plan…I invite you to place your thoughts, prayers and hope in the one who conquered death. It’s a very simple, yet complex belief. But just like for Joseph and Nicodemus, you too will come to see, there is a Sunday. And it will be very, very good.

Happy Easter friends.

He is risen…

—S.

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Moments that make you wonder…

I’d never heard of the university. It had an odd name, and I thought the request for my client to speak there was something that would fade away. An interesting gentleman who kept calling and emailing our offices, however, had other plans. He persisted, worked his contacts, and in time, the date was scheduled and our flights were booked.

That week, Gonzaga University would make the cut for the playoffs in the Final Four. As I packed my luggage for our trip the next morning, I was able to watch the very game that the Zags would not only win, but that would send them to Phoenix. It was exciting.

This was all happening during March Madness. And it was historic. Since opening their doors in 1887, Gonzaga U had never had a national championship. It was a miraculous time for them, to say the least.

Once on their campus, I enjoyed absorbing the environment that had produced this stellar team and student body.”Why would I have the privilege of being a part of this amazing week for them?”  And too…”What is God doing or thinking when moments like these, so serendipitous, occur?” I knew I would jot down my thoughts as soon as my schedule calmed down.

Upon returning home, I was able to watch them win again. This game now sending them into the Final Two. As we had received some lovely “swag” from the university upon our arrival, I could now cheer them on in style.

Earlier that morning, the lawn service had come to the house. I had randomly googled, then called, a company the day I returned home from my trip. They said they could come on Saturday as they would actually be in my area. Imagine my surprise when after finishing my yard, they also mowed the house two doors down to my right, and then another house two doors down to my left before heading off to their next rounds. Ironic? Serendipity again? I think not.

I am truly amazed at those moments where God intervenes quietly, and I have no idea how or why. But I just know that He did “it” or handled something for me. Not because I was a good girl that week, but simply because He chose to show His power—and I may never know the answer as to the “why?”

One thing I do know, it’s an opportunity to be reminded of how big He is, how indiscernible He is, and to simply offer gratitude and thanks.

If you experience a “God” moment this week similar to what I have described above, why not write it down? Make note of it. And if you can, continue to make note of those moments in the coming days. I have a lovely journal that I simply jot a line in when those moments occur.  I try to write down at least one or two each morning. I list those things that I know only God could have orchestrated. And to simply give thanks. It’s a wonderful way to start the day. Just so you know, I call it my Book of Gratitude. I hope you will consider starting one of your own. Even if it’s a google doc on your cell phone. 🙂

Just my thoughts.

S.

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It’s Just Not Right!

We were simply working through the preparation stage of the editorial process with an author when we learned some very unexpected news. Apparently one of the catalysts for the book we were reviewing came from a disturbing situation. The author had learned that for 8 of the 10 years they had been married, their spouse had been cheating on them.

Other than expressing the usual, “Oh, I am so sorry…” we just didn’t know what to say.

It’s just not right. It’s a statement that you and I probably say out loud at least once a week. But I have to admit, I say it more these days then I did when I was young. It seems the world has gone plumb crazy.

That same week as a friend and I squeezed into a tiny table at a small Italian eatery, she poured out her heart. I was saddened to hear her latest business connection, whom she had known for only a week, had offered to take her to Paris as recompense for not returning her call in due time. He was so sorry, and this was his attempt to make things right. Bizarre. Presumptive. No words.

With that, I had to remind myself that this would-be-new-phenomenom of “odd behavior” is simply just not that—new! Things haven’t been “right” for quite some time.

Take this story for instance: imagine being anointed king of a country, while the current one is sitting on his throne just a few miles away. That’s what happened to David centuries ago. Just a shepherd boy at the time. You know he had to wonder…

Then, to turn around and learn that after he had lived in the palace, at the king’s invitation, had been good to the king’s son, and had served both well, the king wanted him dead—and made orders to that effect.

It just wasn’t right.

But that’s what happened.

First of all, the sitting king must have said when he found out, “Why would God do that to me? It’s just not right. I am the King!”

The young boy would say, “Why does the king want to kill me when I have been nothing but kind and obedient? And let’s be clear, I didn’t ask for this. It’s just not fair.”

But the truth is…everyday life is like that. And for some reason, when things go wrong, we act as if we have been stunned by the event. We feel as if things should just, well, be “fair” in life. That things should be “right.” People should behave. And you know, they can and they should. Sadly, they don’t.

Human nature and life events tend to collide. We can’t explain it, and we can’t control it. We simply have to buckle up and ride it out.

It reminds me of a time, years ago. I was driving around town with my grandmother who had come for a visit. It was very dark at one particular place where we were. The lighting was very poor. When I turned out of the parking lot into what I thought was the lane, we learned suddenly it was a huge ditch. My amazing  grandmother reached over, grabbed onto me, and commanded, “Ride it out, honey! Just ride it out.” We did. We survived. And, thankfully, so did the car! To this day, I don’t know how we got out of that ditch in the pitch black. That was truly a ride of a lifetime, and one I hope to never repeat.

You can’t control life. Even if you want to. And we certainly can’t understand what God sees or what he is doing when we are in the dark and life hits us squarely in the face.

God reminds us in His Word:

Isaiah 55:8-9New Living Translation (NLT)
 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Now let me be clear. I am not saying in the least that we sit down and let wrong persist. We should fight for what is right. When it is, however, in our power to do so. You may be familiar with the phrase, “Evil persists when good men do nothing.”

What I am talking about here, is, when things that you can not control happen, and just do not seem fair, when you wonder if justice will ever be served…fighting and fretting those moments…is not the answer. I would suggest prayer is the best prescription at that point. Ask for wisdom. Ask for protection. Ask for direction. And hold on for the ride.

I promise, you’ll come out on the other side. You are going to be OK. This too shall pass…just.hold.on.

—Just my thoughts,

S.

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Southern Snow

As Bosco and I made our way to the kitchen for our morning ritual, I flipped the switch on the coffee pot and reached for the dog bowl in order to prepare his breakfast.

When I opened the cabinet to extract my coffee cup and looked out the window, it started. There it came…snow…in March. Big, fluffy, lovely snowflakes fell to the ground and began covering my deck and yard. It was just as my neighbor had predicted the night before.

As I stepped outside to take it all in, the birds began chirping at me as if to say, “Hey, lady, you’re going to need to feed us today. It’s snowing, you know.”

When you think of the South, the first thing that comes to mind is definitely not snow. It does, however, grace us, but not enough for the state to warrant purchasing, maintaining, and storing a fleet of equipment to manage the roads and more. With that, snow in the south is taken very seriously. At least, here in the Nashville area. One inch has been known to shut down certain areas of the city.

But snow in Spring is just not known to happen. So when it fell on the blooming tree outside my window, I decided to light the candles, grab my laptop, and settle in for a lovely, what we call here, “snow day.” Bosco seemed to agree with the idea.

And then, as quickly as it came—it left. By 2pm it had melted and the dreamy, grayish morning had morphed into a sunny afternoon.

It reminded me that life events are like that. Some good. Some not so good. “Things happen,” is a common saying these days. When they do, we can either shut down, get upset, or simply settle in and ride it out. The sun will eventually come out. It’s just a matter of time.

I experienced that exact situation on my snowy morning. The day I had planned was hijacked by a “moment.” I fretted and strained, only to realize later that afternoon it was working towards resolution due to the graciousness of a third party. Just like the snow that was melting on my deck, the problem at hand was slowly disappearing as well.

I wish I didn’t let “life” get to me like it does. I am old enough now that I should know better. However, human as I am, I find myself still working on the “basics.”

If you are stressing over something today, I hope this passage will encourage you.

By the way, I didn’t feed the birds. They’re out there now in full force, and they seem to be doing just fine.

Selah.

—Just my thoughts.

S.

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My Latest Anti-Aging Tip

While on the phone with a teammate the other day, I found myself laughing at her take on certain projects we were currently navigating.

Her ways of thinking and how she expressed her response to the challenges at hand simply tickled my funny bone, as they say, to no end. I realized how fortunate I was to have so much laughter in our work environment. And happiness. I recall days in my corporate life where I was miserable, and so were the people around me. I don’t miss that world.

It was comforting to know that I currently live and work in a peaceful place. We work to remove and keep out the toxic and negative. It lifts my soul and more. And, as a result, I simply feel good.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” We also know the one that says, “You just have to laugh.” (Either that, or cry, right?)

Perhaps you’ve heard of studies where the ill or aging were told to watch funny movies or read funny books only to experience a “healing” of sorts in their conditions after they carried out the prescription. Throughout the Scriptures one reads where we are encouraged to “be joyful in all things.” There must be a reason, or something deeper behind that, I figured.

So, I was quite pleased when I learned a statistic that actually backs up this train of thought. Not only that, it proves that laughter, happiness, actually makes you “young!”

Here is what I discovered…

Every time we laugh, the “Youth Hormone” increases by 87% in our bodies. This is the hormone that slows down the aging process. It keeps us younger, revitalized, and fresh.  

(Forget the anti-aging cream, I think I just found my new youth serum.)

It got me to thinking. People who don’t laugh much, or who tend to be cranky, are usually not the type of company I find myself wanting to hang out with. If you consider the people in your world who perhaps take life a bit too seriously, or have to be “good” all the time, or feel the need to work hard and not goof off in any way shape or form, you may have found they just aren’t fun to be around. We tend to avoid those folks. They make the surroundings uncomfortable. Tense. They’re usually complaining about something, or making a negative comment about someone, and well—it’s just tiring.

If truth be told…I bet they tend to look a bit, well, old?

Think of the people you know who just look “young”. If you really take a moment to consider them and their lifestyle, I bet you will find that they are happy people. Or, at the least, they work to make the most out of life and to take the high road even when things get somewhat low. Angry, bitter, uptight people, however, just don’t seem to have that youthful glow.

Just another proof, I’d say, that the Bible is full of truths that we don’t always understand upon first reading. For instance:

King Solomon said, “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverb 17:22, Amplified)

I have read this passage all my life, it’s nice to see some science that explains it in further detail.
With that, I hope you begin to notice how often, or little, that you laugh, or smile even, this week. I also hope that you will take a look at those you tend to spend time with. Are they smiling? Telling a joke? Saying nice things and or being encouraging? If that’s the case, make a commitment to more time with them. Add them into your routine. It will be your fountain of youth, per se, if you do.

The best part about this regimen? It’s free of charge! It will only cost you the time you invest in, well,…HAPPY!

Just my thoughts.

S.

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Delays and Disruptions: Divine Appointments/Hidden Blessings?

Heading over to the gun range, I was a bit excited, and apprehensive, at the same time. Having not practiced for what seems to be about a year, I knew my familiarity with my Bersa 380 and my skills were both quite rusty. But my basket was packed and was holding my pink eyewear, my gun case, and my rolled up targets. I at least looked like I belonged. I think. Somewhat. I imagine the pros could spot me a mile away and were thinking to themselves, warning: rookie on deck. 

It was a new location to me. However, when I saw the lounge, the free coffee, the cold beverages and the big leather chairs, I knew I’d come to the right place. I headed to the counter to reserve my range, settled in for the safety video, signed the online waiver, and then waited.

Once all of the above were completed, I realized the clock was ticking and I’d better head over to select my ammo. After a nice chat with the man at the counter, I headed back to the lounge. And waited some more. I took that opportunity to watch some YouTube videos on my particular gun piece, some loading tips, and then realized…I have been here an hour and a half. What’s up?

With that, I headed back to the reservation area. “You can remove my name from the waiting list,” I stated. The not-so-eager or helpful assistant asked my name a couple of times and seemed to be annoyed. It was then he realized in his system how long I’d been there. “Oh,” he suddenly offered, “I can get you in now.”

Really? Why now? I mused.

“No thanks. I need to go,” I replied rather flatly.

With that I turned to head to the ammo area to return my would be purchase. That’s when he stopped me and said, “Wait!” He was scrambling for something and was offering it to me. “Here’s a free range hour on us.”

I paused, then received the small card. “Ok, thanks.” I then left. I was not a happy camper.

That’s when it hit me.

Why are you upset? Sure, you waited. But you just got a free trip to the range! That’s cool You may have spent your time today in a way you hadn’t planned, but you got quite a bit accomplished during your visit. (The ability to work remotely on our phones these days can be a blessing for moments such as these.)

The steam began to cool and my shoulders lowered as I drove away talking myself into a namaste calm.

That’s when the point was driven home.

Why do we get upset when delays or disruptions happen? It doesn’t solve the problem at hand. And, too, showing our emotions can, and often does, ruin the moment. Or the relationship.

I was reminded of a story where a couple that were moving a mattress were in the elevator heading down to the street when it stopped. They were delayed over an hour waiting for help to come. When they finally got outside, they looked up only to see a 3-year old playing on a balcony above them. They tried to talk the toddler inside, but the autistic child could not understand their words. He came tumbling down—right after they’d hurriedly moved the mattress under his playing area, only to catch him—just in time.

Now, if they’d fumed, and demanded their way, or been ugly, imagine how silly they would have felt only to realize, that exact delay was what turned into an opportunity to save a child’s life.

Coincidence? I think not.

The point?

Maybe delays and disruptions aren’t something to look at as negative or so awful. Maybe we need to just ride them out and look forward to something good to happen on the other side.

For me, staying calm, at least on the outside that day, landed me a free trip back to the range. If I’d thrown a fit, that may not have happened. And truth be told, I needed time to check out the new facility, learn the ropes there, and get reacquainted with my neglected firearm anyway.

For that couple who were moving, they unexpectedly kept a family from tragedy.

I hope this thought will carry into this week with you. If you have a divine delay or disruption, I’d love to hear about it.

Email it to: info@stephaniehuffman.org

—Just my thoughts.

S.

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Fishy Taxes

As I sat down across from my accountant this month, he greeted me with the usual, “Well, how did we do this year?” I slid the report across the desk facing him and he quietly and methodically reviewed it.

After punching my numbers into his system, he turned and asked, “How much did you say you put away for your April 15 taxes?” When I gave him the amount again, he looked back at his screen, then back to me, and stated, “That’s about exactly what you owe this year.”

I just smiled.

It’s tax season here in the good ole U S of A. At least, for many of us. (Some do their reporting later in the year.)

But for those of us who know the April 15 date all too well, it looms once January hits.

Over the past 12 months, I was thrilled that for the first time in my business I was at a point where I could actually pay all of my estimated taxes.  Beyond that, during that same period, I was even able to set aside twice that amount in preparation for what I imagined I might owe.

The company had a good year. And, per our current tax structure, as happy as I was, I knew the day was coming that I would “pay” for that success. Sadly, the better you do, the more you owe. But I am not complaining. I was actually excited.

When I shared my accountant story with the #2 at my company, she paused and said, “That’s just creepy!”

I laughed. Then mused…Noit’s just God.

It reminded me of the story of Jesus, the disciples, a fish and a coin. If you aren’t familiar with it, you need to check it out.

Basically, it goes something like this: the religious Temple tax collectors came calling. Yes, you read that right…the men of the faith were asking if Jesus and his followers were going to comply with what they owed the place of worship. Now, Jesus did not agree with this practice. It was not a civil tax, nor was it even a tithe, but rather, a religious tax on the Jewish members. Sheesh! And I feel over taxed?

Here is how The Lord handled the matter—and directed his team: “…we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”

And so it was.

The point? A miracle transpired that met their current financial needs. It just happened. It happened for me this month, and many months and years prior in my life, if truth be told. And, it can happen for you.

If you are feeling the financial pinch lately, and a bit concerned, I hope this passage, and my personal story as well, will be an encouragement to you.

Others might see it as a bit, well, “fishy”, but when the money comes through, you and I will both smile, and nod. We’ll know what really went down.

Just my thoughts.

—S.

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Idealistic vs. Realistic

While sitting at a business lunch, across from a gentleman who works at a university in the alumni donations space, the conversation turned to recent events in our country. Unless you have been living under a rock, there’s been a lot of unrest, to say the least.

That is when this particular college representative made a flippant comment. He seemed to feel very proud of his point, stating in regards to the current issue at hand,  “What would Jesus do…?”  This statement was to be an indictment on laws being debated on topics that pertain to immigration, free speech and more. He seemed a bit inspired that students at his very conservative university were even wanting to be involved in the protesting. (I wondered how his donor base might feel about that.)

What struck me at that point was a number of things.

However, to answer his question, if only in my mind and not aloud at the table, I instantly thought of the Scriptures that share of the story of Jesus being approached on the issue of taxes. Basically, Jesus told them to abide by the laws of the land. Obey the authorities at hand. (Ironically, when it came to religious laws, he and his disciples were known to break those left and right!)

It was at that point, I realized this individual, who is a representative of higher learning, was not only unaware of the laws of our land that are currently on the books (and not being followed), he was showing our table he truly didn’t know the depths of the Bible. His institution being that of Christian by name, left me very much wondering.

But back to “What would Jesus do?” The passage I referred to earlier may be familiar to you,”Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Basically, “If it’s the law—obey it.”

The New Testament calls on believers to support their governments, even when harsh or when they don’t agree. It NEVER encourages Christians to rebel, to destroy, or to tear down what is in place.

As my mind wandered, and as the speaker for the luncheon droned on, I kept wishing I could have discussion with this tablemate. But alas, sadly, in today’s climate, no one knows how to debate. They just scream, pound the table, demand their way or get angry if you don’t agree with them. My colleague sitting next to me pointed that out when we looked at each other after the lunch and had the same thought. How we wished for sober conversation for both sides. But, alas, that won’t happen. At least not in today’s climate.

I then mused about people who have security detail, or who live in gated or walled areas. I was surprised to think of how many of them are against a “wall” and are pro gun-control as well. Being that they themselves are personally secure at all times (or so they assume), the power of the issue for those who are left feeling not-as-secure—alludes them.

But let’s get back to ideal vs. real.

Idealism: My dog thinks the world is a great safe place. He doesn’t like it when I tell him what to do or thwart him in regards to his will or wishes. I keep a short leash on him, as they say. What he doesn’t understand is that dangers, and evil people, do, in fact, exist. Visit any prison, or hospital or vet where abuse has been clearly dealt upon a victim.

Realism: We have laws in order to be able to live in peace with each other and to live protected. Order is a good thing. Look at any third-world country, and I hope you can see that. If it is OK for me to hit you, break into your home, crash your car or steal from you, then you can’t live in peace. We can’t have lives of liberty and happiness with no rule of law, or order. That would be a life of fear and anxiety.

Fact: We do live in a wonderful country. It’s amazing, and if you have traveled at all, you know exactly what I mean.

But, reality is this: simply trying to believe that evil doesn’t exist if we don’t want it to, and that by thinking good thoughts, and believing people are good, will cause that wish to be so?  That isn’t realistic. It isn’t truth. It’s just an idea. A thought.

That being said, we all know thoughts are indeed powerful. It’s important to think “good” thoughts and to avoid the negative and toxic.  Climbing into a hole, however, isn’t the answer. Closing the door while the fire is burning in the front yard, is not going to solve the problem.

So, what’s a person to do?

Why….start with obeying The Golden Rule, of course!  Do unto others as you would have them do to unto you.

You can read it here: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

And too—Follow the rules…It’s best for all of us.

I end with some words that have always been encouraging to me. I hope you find them comforting as well.

Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.

—Just my thoughts…

S.

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Call the question, will ya?

When I first moved to Nashville, in an attempt to meet more people and at the encouragement of my grandmother, I joined a club. Those people were a wonderful group who not only became friends, in time they became like family. We shared many happy and amazing memories together, and there were moments where we had the privilege of experiencing and witnessing some very historic events.

But to my point. I ended up on the board of this illustrious group and I must admit, many times their talents and abilities left me feeling quite inadequate. Not only could they debate, quite well, they knew Robert’s Rules of Order. Parliamentary Procedure was something I had heard of often in my life, but as to what it truly was, or how to follow it in a meeting? I had no clue!

At some point, during any of our meetings, there would always be a moment when someone would “Call the question.” For years, that term alluded me. We are sitting here discussing a decision that needs to be made and people are arguing both sides. What on earth is the question? I would think to myself. My brain just couldn’t seem to wrap around the meaning. Those were my thoughts. Until lately.

The power of that simple “rule” hit me recently. Isn’t it funny how years later, dots just seem to connect and things that once weren’t clear suddenly make sense? Yeah, that happened.

So, Calling the Question? It’s a moment in discussion that is truly a remarkable blessing given to civilized nations.

Basically: when discussing a topic, at some point, debate needs to end. You need to agree to end the debate and move toward the vote. You vote to end the discussion. Then, after the vote, that is when you ask the question: “Will we or won’t we do, or agree to, this or that?”

In regards to the topic at hand, you are asking which of the two options on the table are best. Unfortunately, when these rules aren’t followed, one person in the room usually ends up pushing their opinion and demanding their way. Or, pouting when they don’t get it.

These days, we could use a bit of decorum, or at least a return to structure, in our conversations or dialogues. It seems we have forgotten how to share our point of view in a pleasant or positive way. Protocol or discernment seems to be a way of the past. But more importantly, rather than asking questions, people just state their opinions. No one “asks” the other person to explain. Then, allows them the time and dignity to do so.

What has truly been lost is looking at an entire situation at hand, weighing the facts on both sides, having healthy debate, then, deciding what is the best decision…for the good of the order. “Should we go with Option A or is Option B best at this point in time?”

I’m reminded of situations in my life where I wish I would have asked for more facts before rushing to judgment, or where I wish the person angrily sitting across from me had acquired some truthful information before making their attack on me.

You may know what I’m talking about. You may even be in the middle of a situation at this time that drives this lesson home or at least brings it to mind.

All Ears!

With that, let’s commit this week to:

  • Not jumping the gun before truly looking at the facts,
  • Not pushing our viewpoint on someone before we ask for the other side,
  • And not blocking out or ignoring the opposing party when it’s their turn to talk.
  • Then, once all of the facts are on the table, and all sides have thoroughly been heard…

—let’s call the question.

The best answer, at that point, might actually surprise us.

—Just my thoughts.

S.

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Until the Cows Come Home

Imagine looking up only to see something you lost awhile back, coming up your driveway, arriving on a cart that’s being pulled by cows. Sounds strange, but that’s exactly what happened to the children of Israel after they once lost the Ark of the Covenant in battle.

Long story short, while at war with the Philistines, which was quite often, during one particular battle, the bad guys captured the Ark. During its stay in enemy territory, this coveted piece of temple furniture, began to wreak havoc on its captors.

At one point, they placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. The next morning, when they came in, the huge statue of their god was lying face down on the ground. Seemed odd, but they weren’t too concerned, so they propped it back up. When they returned the next day, they found the stone idol shattered in pieces on the floor.

That’s when they began to worry. Boils, plagues, and a few other uncomfortable issues later, the Philistines realized they’d bit off more than they could chew. They were up against a God who was on a completely different level. Basically, they were out of their league and playing with dynamite.

That’s when they began strategizing a plan to return the now despised trophy. Here’s what they came up with:

  • Place the ark on a cart
  • Hook it up to some cows, then,
  • Point them in the direction of its original home
  • Pray they find the cows find their way there on their own

The result? It worked.

One day, some months later, the Jewish people looked up only to see their beloved ark coming up the drive with the cows “lowing as it went.” Quite a spectacle indeed!

Now of course, this is a very truncated version of the entire story, and you are certainly invited to do some careful reading on your own, but there truly is a point here to be noticed.

Maybe you made a mistake and you lost something in the process. Perhaps an enemy of yours was able to obtain something that was very precious to you. Or, on the flip side, let’s say you won a battle fair and square, but the consequences are now staring you in the face. Regardless of the situation at hand, you’re hurting and something that is rightfully yours is gone—or the victory isn’t working out like you planned.

Is it the end? Perhaps not.

If you feel that thing you lost can’t be restored, or what you won isn’t worth the cost…I hope this story will be an encouragement to you.

Let’s face it, the Israelites were beaten in their battle fair and square. What the Philistines didn’t realize is that they were tampering with God’s people. Not something for the faint of heart to try and do. God’s children are just that—his kids. And God protects his children. And if He gives them something and that He wants them to have, people who try to take it away from them should be careful. Life may not bode so well for the taker.

If you are the person with the loss here, again, may this story shed a new light on your situation and bring you a bit of hope. Battles between humans are one thing, but when a person throws a grenade at you and God steps in between? Buyer beware. Remember the god Dagon and his demise—the boils, the plagues, etc. Don’t be surprised if you find your tormentor one day saying, “Uncle. Here. Take it back. I’ll even send it to you.” Maybe it won’t return on a silver platter, but hey, if it were even to arrive via cows, I don’t know about you, but I’d take it.

Just my thoughts on a cold drizzly Sunday.

– Stephanie

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They Believe in Him Now…

I was listening to a story being told, and found myself drawn in with each passing sentence from the orator. It was a story of a boy who came from a home where the father was absent, and if the mother was not in a psychiatric ward, she was in jail, or with a boyfriend. Apparently, she even left her son at a bus stop one day to be with her boyfriend. Many times he was homeless and had to steal food to survive.

A school counselor began to sense the problem and took a strong interest in him. When he dropped out of junior high, she began praying for his return. Two years later, he walked through the doors again to begin 9th grade.

In time, he found a job mowing the lawn of an elderly couple. As they learned his story, they opened their home to him. When they discovered he had musical talent, they encouraged him to begin entering contests and more—the woman of the house was always present and in the front row with her bible.
What shocked me to learn was this person was country artist Jimmy Wayne, known for the hit song “Do You Believe Me Now”.

Stories such as these can truly put your problems into perspective, and too, encourage each of us that any adversity or problem, can, in time, be overcome.

If you’re struggling today with a situation or circumstances that seem impossible, perhaps this life story will be an encouragement to you.

—S.

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Peel Me a Grape

There’s a jazz song that is titled, “Peel Me a Grape.” How do I know that? Because I sang it when I was with the jazz band…many moons ago.

That being said, I had a dream last night—about grapes.  Well, I had quite a few dreams, actually. My mind doesn’t usually stop much. But the final dream was of a ginormous cluster of purple grapes. They were the size of bowling balls. Each grape, that is.

When I woke, I was reminded of  a story in the bible. The children of Israel had finally reached the promised land, and before they went in and took the land, they sent 12 spies to check it out. One man from each tribe.

While the men secretly scoured the area, they became increasingly dumbfounded by what they found. 10 of them returned with a negative report They carried on and on about the size of the people (there were giants in the land and cities with magnificent walls). Two of them, however, came back with a very different take. They couldn’t believe the size of the produce. To prove their point, they had cut down one cluster of grapes, put it on a pole, and carried it back between the two of them. It was that huge.

Now, I’d certainly love to think my dream was prophetic. That my year will be momentously fruitful…and who knows. It might be. But I am also old enough to know—life happens. And when it does, just buckle up and ride it out. You WILL get to the other side.

That being said, I decided to do some quick research on the subject, and found something interesting about grapes. I was reminded that most grapevines don’t produce fruit until their third season. Basically, saying, that grapevine in your backyard that you have been nurturing can take up to three years before you are able to pluck some grapes. Now, be sure to take into account environmental factors and the care of the plant. But those factors? They are: sunlight, well-drained soil and proper pruning. Selah.

So, what’s my point?

Perhaps you have had some personal grapevine in your “backyard” that you have been working on of late. Take hope…with a bit of time and great care, you’ll see some fruit. Now, probably not like exactly like that species of grapes that came from the land flowing with milk and honey, but then, one never knows. If anything, you’ll certainly see something blossom and that will put a smile on your face.

With that, I’d like to wish you and yours a fruitful and productive 2017. May you drink the fruit of your vine, and may your year be blessed beyond measure.

—S.

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The Woman Behind Thanksgiving

Looking for something “new,” or, screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-11-04-13-ambetter yet, something besides politics to chat about at Thanksgiving dinner this year? Why not throw this patriotic piece of trivia into the table conversation mix.

While listening to our pastor at church last night (Thanksgiving eve) I was interested to learn that a woman may have been behind our beloved 4th Thursday in November proclamation made by President Lincoln.

Apparently, Sarah Josepha Hale may be the “woman behind the man” in this particular holiday instance.

Hale, a native New Englander, grew up celebrating Thanksgiving each year and was known for writing published works about the holiday. However, you and I will remember her mostly for penning the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”—which in time became a song we grew up singing.

Yet her writing was not merely literary. She was so passionate about this concept of giving thanks that she lobbied state and federal officials requesting they consider passing legislation of a national day built around it. The impetus was in hopes that by doing so, the act would bring the country’s citizens together and help alleviate the cultural tensions of the day. Alas, a Civil War soon followed anyway.

pieYou can read more about her story. (I am sure you will have some time to google it today.) But for now, just know you might have a fresh talking point to go with that pie and coffee.

Thankful for you readers, and wishing you a lovely, peaceful and restful day…

-Cheers!
S.

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A Long Way from Mason Street…

img_2143-mason-street-schoohouse-stamp

Mason Street Schoolhouse Old Town San Diego

When I was a young girl, living in the San Diego area (Escondido, CA), my maternal grandmother was devoted to making sure I had a healthy view of the world. Not only that, she was adamant that I learn culture and that I be exposed to it. She was also extremely keen on my being politically aware. All of the above passions, I can proudly say, she passed along to me.

On one of our usual excursions, she took my mother and me to Old Town San Diego for the day. There I experienced a step back in time, to another era, and another America really. I recall being stunned by what I found. Not the room or the desks, but what was nailed to the wall is what burned into my memory and my mind. What am I referring to?  The framed Expectations of a Teacher and the Punishment List which featured the exact consequences poorly behaved attendees would face.

mason-street-schoolhouseLong before I would attend night school to become a credentialed teacher myself, I learned that educators of yesteryear, and our country, were now a far cry from the schools I knew of even my day. In that early pioneer environment, however, there was not a lot of flexibility or room for discussion, as we will see below.

It’s hard for us to imagine, when you review the 1872 Instructions for Teachers, that someone would commit their life to that standard. But they did. Inspite of what folks today might cry out as “horrific” or “abusive,” amazingly, we as a nation survived, and evolved, and the rural students who attended got some good educations.

It’s even harder still to imagine, in the world of today, that those mean, cruel teachers would actually carry out the punishments that were tacked to schoolhouse walls without parents screaming for them to step down or be removed. But they didn’t. They supported the teacher.

Now, that being said, I don’t condone the teacher who slapped my paternal grandmother’s hand with a ruler because she used her left hand! Thank the Lord we have moved past that bizarre mindset.

If you don’t know what I am referring to, and if you haven’t had a chance to visit a place like the Mason Street Schoolhouse, here is a quick sharing of what I am referring to….

1872 Instructions to Teachers Mason Street School

1872 Instructions to Teachers

1872 INSTRUCTIONS TO THE TEACHERS
1. Teachers will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks each day.

2. Each teacher will bring a scuttle of coal and a bucket of water for the day’s use.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs for the individual tastes of children.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings if they go to church regularly.

5. After ten hours in the school the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible and other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reasons to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.

8. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay — providing the Board of Education approves.

Mason Street Schoolhouse

1872 Punishments

Punishments
1. Boys and Girls Playing Together: 4 lashes
2. Fighting at School: 5 lashes
3. Quarreling at School: 5 lashes
4. Gambleing or Betting at School: 4 lashes
5. Playing at Cards at School: 10 lashes
6. Climbing for Every Foot Over Three Feet Up a Tree: 1 lash
7. Telling Lyes: 7 lashes
8. Telling Tales Out of School: 8 lashes
9. Giving Each Other Ill Names: 8 lashes
10. Swaring at School: 8 lashes
11. For Misbehaving to Girls: 10 lashes
12. For Drinking Spiritous Liquors at School: 8 lashes
13. Making Swings and Swinging on Them: 7 lashes
14. For Waring Long Finger Nails: 2 lashes
15. Misbehaving to Persons on the Road: 4 lashes
16. For Going to Girls Play Places: 3 lashes
17. Girl Going to Boys Play Places: 3 lashes
18. Going to School with Dirty Faces and Hands: 2 lashes
19. Calling Each Other Liars: 4 lashes
20. For Wrestling at School: 4 lashes
21: For Weting Each Other Washing at Playtime: 2 lashes
22. Scuffling at School: 4 lashes
23. For Going and Playing about the Mill or Creek: 6 lashes
24. For going about the Barn or doing any Mischief about the Place: 7 lashes

It truly is interesting to revisit and reflect upon our history. And too, to review it against where we are today. What parts of what we see are good and worth keeping, and what areas might need a refresher course or gentle reminder of things that are better or best? Whereas our country was more on the same page in those “olden” days, and seemed to fall in step, in today’s world, we have moved more to personal truths—not a core or foundational truth shared by the masses. So, I guess, this conversation would be more objective these days.

Whatever the case, taking stock personally is where it all should, and actually does, begin.

In the coming week, let’s challenge each other to view what part of this  history lesson encourages us, inspires us or lights up our passion. If you would like to share, I’d love to hear….info@stephaniehuffman.org. Or, just leave a comment!

With that, just my thoughts.

S.

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