Monday, November 23, 2015

Polishing Our Faith

Hi everyone!

As the month dedicated to giving thanks culminates this week, people are also in the process of preparing for Christmas.  I have spent the past year sorting through a lot of things in my life, both material and internal, dusting off treasures from the past and looking forward to the future.  

In the process I found my faith, sitting alone in the midst of the fragrance of potpourri.  I am reminded of how our faith is often with us, but if we are not careful it can get lost. 

Love & Hope, which at first I thought may have been lost, needed to be brought back into my life.  They had been broken long ago, but I knew it was time for them to once again be a part of my Faith. 

When things like Love & Hope rejoin our lives there is a warmth and a newness to it all, but what I noticed when I placed them next to my Faith, was that my Faith had grown dim, worn, and weary from all that life had put it through.  Don’t we all have times such as this, where we don't necessarily lose our faith, but where it grows dim from weariness? 

I needed to revive my Faith, polish it if you will, so that it could embrace and welcome back in Love & Hope.  In the process I was reminded of the mustard seed.  God tells us that all we need is the faith of ONE mustard seed.  When you look at all of the tiny mustard seeds in the little bowl, what an incredible thing it is to realize that all He asks is that our Faith be the size of just ONE.

Sometimes, before we can start to decorate the outside of our lives, whether that be by putting up Christmas lights, building a writing cottage, or having an extreme physical makeover, we first have to dust off and clear out the things in our lives that have led to our Faith becoming dim.  Maybe that entails letting go of hurtful words that have held us back, or betrayal, or maybe it is just a matter of learning to be comfortable in our own skin.  Learning that our Faith was with us all along and sometimes in the battles of life it will get dim, not because we lost our Faith, but because in every battle that we must fight dust and dirt will fly so that we can win the fight.  

A soldier’s uniform gets dirty as he or she fights to save the freedom that we hold dear.  Our Faith can also get covered in dirt, not because it has grown weary after all, but because we have been in the trenches fighting the good fight.

So as we give thanks this week and start to write out our Christmas lists, I think the most precious gift I can give to myself and those around me, is to finish what the Lord has started in my life, polish up my Faith, surround it with Hope & Love and see what beauty results on the outside in this coming new year.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Birthday Blessings

Hi everyone!

Well this is it, THE big day – THE BIG 50!!  The thing is though, age is just a number to me.  

Yes, it is a BIG day, but not because of the date, but because of the INCREDIBLE adventure that begins today in my life.  It seemed only fitting as I celebrate the day of my birth to look at the AMAZING women that have helped to make me the woman that I am today.  

My life has been an adventure to say the least, but as Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  I can honestly say that I live this every single day and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My return to school was instilled into both my brother and I from a very young age.  Our Meme always taught us that education was something no one could take away from you.  I have kind of taken that to the extreme, but I get that is what us computer geeks do. 

Meme’s compassion and love for us and her friends definitely passed down to me.  I am so very, very blessed to have the INCREDIBLE people that I do in my life.  Their friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought in any store.  

My grandmother was such a beautiful woman, both when she was young and when she was older.  She was never afraid of growing old and I think that trait she also passed down to me as well.

And then there is JANE.  For those of you who knew her, you know exactly what that last sentence meant.  My mom, Jane, was a spirit that the world could not contain.  Her spirit of adventure lives within me.  God needed her way too soon, but it is through my writings that she continues to live on.

This picture of her and my Aunt Mary Lee so reminds me of some of the adventures that I now have with my friends.  Thank goodness those two didn’t have access to smart phones back in the day!!

I spend countless hours on the phones with friends, who I have nick named the Posse, because they have grown very protective of me over the past several years.  As we ponder not only life’s questions, we also share what God is doing daily in all of our lives.  

To watch Him move in the lives of such an adventurous bunch makes our spirits dance even when life throws one of us a curve ball.  We literally laugh and cry from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep at night.  I know how blessed I am to be surrounded by such an incredible group of people. 

So now I will load my friends up in a car and off we will go to celebrate my day – and perhaps find a few new things to add to my books!!

As I close, I leave you with this – CELEBRATE, celebrate all that life brings your way, both the good and the bad.  The tough times cause us to grow in our faith and as a person.  The good times let us treasure the people, places, and progress that we make in our lives.   The combination…well that is what allows us to give our spirit wings to soar and become all that God intended for us to be all along…sometimes we just get sidetracked and go down roads that He never meant for us to begin with. 

He always steers us back in the right direction…and for now, you will just have to trust this new 50 year old woman with that!! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Making Room For My Sunshine

Hi everyone!

Wow, it has been over 7 months since I have written on my site, but now it is time to share my incredible new adventures with the world once again.  It has been such an amazing time in my life with doors opening that I thought had long since been closed.  

As storms move through the area today I am reminded of how the storms of life, no matter how severe, always pass and the sun does always shine again.  What we often do not realize while we are in the storms is that when God has things fall apart in our lives, it is to make room for what He truly meant to take place in our lives all along.  

When we experience heartbreak it allows us to know that we do have a heart and it allows us to treasure the precious beating hearts that God does send into our lives, be they fellow students, colleagues, friends, a soulmate, incredible children & son-in-law, or a precious grandson. 

For years I lived with regret of not finishing my Ph.D., but God opened that once closed door and I am now about to complete my first semester.  It is THE most challenging, rewarding, and exciting adventure to date.  I am beyond blessed and thankful for this gift & second chance that I have been given.

For years I have wanted a writing cottage and creative space of my own in my little corner of the world and now I will celebrate my 50th birthday with that dream also becoming a reality.  I am so very thankful for the incredible circle of family & friends helping me make this dream my new reality.

For years I have wanted a home where I could celebrate life with family & friends, where Curiosity Cottage wasn’t just a name on a website or business card, but the very essence of my existence.  That has now come to pass as well.  I am so very thankful for the cheerleaders in my life who have stood behind me as I have brought my vision to life.

For years I dreamed of being a Meme and the New Year will bring with it my precious baby Eli.  I am so very thankful for this incredible gift that God is bringing into our lives and it makes me even more thankful that I had such an amazing Meme as a role model. 

My life has changed so drastically in a year and through it all I have watched God’s hand at work & I continue to watch Him work on a daily basis.  I can’t help but smile when I hear Adele’s new song Hello.  I just want to tell her, “honey, move on.  He so wasn’t worth it.”  

Sometimes we search for answers we know we will never get, but when the storm passes we realize that we never really needed answers at all.  When the storm passes we are left simply wanting to send a thank you note out into the world – thank you for teaching me to embrace life again & dance to the sound of the rain; thank you for not being who I thought you were; thank you for the storm; and thank you for showing me what love was not so that God could show me what love truly is.   The reality is that sometimes when someone sets out to break our heart they inadvertently end up helping us discover where our heart was meant to be all along.

I celebrate this season of thanksgiving appreciating every little tiny treasure that God has given me and seeking to share all of His goodness & blessings with this hurting world.  As I bring my dreams to fruition I want to now write about this process on my site so that you can also hold on to hopes & dreams that maybe you thought would never come to fruition.  

God will give you the desires of your heart, no matter how long ago He whispered them to you.  Never doubt that and if need be take hold of your mustard seed to remind you of His promises daily.  

Always remember, sometimes the storms must come so that He can make room for your sunshine!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hold Out For The Rainbow

Hi everyone,

The time has just flown by since Easter.  What is so wonderful is that when our lives move past our winter season and into spring the blessings and the beauty seem to just come so incredibly fast.  I left winter in the cemetery where it belonged and instead have found life.  

As the honey suckle blooms and fills the air with its sweet aroma, as the fireflies dance under the stars, as the flowers bloom even though they have endured numerous storms so do I find my own life coming into a season that I have never known.  

Yes, it is much more fun to dance in the rain while we wait for the storms in life to pass and when the rain stops, the rainbow does appear and when it does appear, it makes everything else so worthwhile.   

Always hold out for the rainbow – you will be so glad you did!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Resurrection means HOPE

Hi everyone!

Though the rain is rolling in, nothing can put a damper on this day.  For this is the day the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad.  The stone has been rolled away and with that hope was given to this world.  This is the time of year to reflect and leave some things at the graveside so that we can move into all that the Lord has planned for us. 
Sometimes this isn’t so easy.  Sure, there are some people that walk into our lives and in just 6 months we can barely remember anything about them and then there are those who come into our lives, touch our lives and stay with us for a life time.  The important part to both experiences is that both good and bad are in the past and if we don’t know when to leave the past behind and roll the stone away we can find ourselves trapped in a grave of the past. 
Easter is about resurrection and hope; it’s about new beginnings and leaving the past at the graveside so that we can come into all that the Lord has planned.  As I have watched dreams that I thought were buried for good rise up to meet my future; as I watch new doors opening all around me, I embrace the hope and new life that this new season is bringing into my life. 
Change can be tough and fulfilling our dreams can mean lots of work and perseverance, but with each step that HE illuminates it makes all the effort worthwhile.  HE is pushing me farther in the hope of bringing me farther than I have ever gone in my life.  Knowing that this time is leading me to fulfilling the most important race of my life makes me so thankful that HE has risen so that HE could guide me in a time such as this.

Happy Resurrection Day and my prayer is that you too allow HIM to be a lighthouse in your life and raise you from the dead.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Detours and Destiny

Hi Everyone,

Spring begins tomorrow and it is so symbolic of the new season that is beginning in my life.  Three years ago today my life took a detour.  Really all of us have detours in our lives – some take us down exciting new paths we have never seen, while others can take us to unpleasant and often scary places.  What is exciting about both the good and unfortunate detours that we find ourselves faced with in life is the comfort we have knowing that eventually construction is complete and the detours end. 

My dear friend Jen Smith took this photo of the OK Allen Bridge in 2011 at the point when the “season”  of winter first begin in my life.  Sometimes we find the “seasons” in our lives do not correspond with the dates on the calendar – winter can last for years instead of months.  

However, what God so beautifully revealed to me once again in my life in the past two weeks is that He does listen to the deep desires in our hearts and even when we think the doors of time have been nailed shut in our lives, after the detour ends, He will also allow for the “season” in our life to change from winter to spring. 

My heart is giddy with excitement – yes, I just said “giddy” – with respect to the doors that are being opened and the new paths that have resulted from my life’s detour.  Metaphorically speaking, the sunroof is open and the music is loud because this “season” that the Lord is taking me into I never thought would come again.  Wish me well!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Helping a Heart to Heal

Hi everyone,

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches several things have come to mind.  While some fellow broken heart-ed souls dread this day, I cannot help but want to search for something more.  A Hallmark Channel addict, I am just not one to let my broken heart become a bitter heart.  So as usual I set out on my quest to research and find out more about The Day!  

Our Lady of the Rosary Library shares with us the Story of St. Valentine.

"The story of Valentine's Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr.   The emperor was Claudius II.   The Christian was Valentinus.

Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians.   But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs.   He was arrested and imprisoned.

During the last weeks of Valentinus's life a remarkable thing happened.   Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons.   She had been blind since birth.   Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind.   Valentinus read stories of Rome's history to her.   He described the world of nature to her.   He taught her arithmetic and told her about God.  She saw the world through his eyes, trusted his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.

"Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?" Julia asked one day.

"Yes, my child, He hears each one."

"Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night?  I pray that I might see.   I want so much to see everything you've told me about!"

"God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him," Valentinus said.

"Oh, Valentinus, I do believe! I do!"  She knelt and grasped his hand.

They sat quietly together, each praying.   Suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell.   Radiant, Julia screamed, "Valentinus, I can see!  I can see!"

"Praise be to God!"  Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.

On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God.   He signed it, "From your Valentine."  His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory.   He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome.   It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave.   Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.   On each February 14, Saint Valentine's Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world."

By taking the time to research the story behind this day I now come away with something so much sweeter than chocolate and so much more beautiful roses.  For what I have learned is that Saint Valentine was not trying to make a name for himself or become a saint.  This was a humble Christian man who listened to The Lord’s calling on His life and was willing to go where the Holy Spirit led him, even if it meant death.  How many of us are willing to truly listen to the gentle whisper of the Lord and follow it, even if the end result could possibly mean death.  Kayla Mueller was also willing to listen to The Lord and wanted nothing more than to help others, even though it meant that her young life would be cut short. 

How many of us are willing to help others at any cost?  How many of us love our fellow man, even to the point of death?  How many of us are patient enough to listen to The Lord's answers to our prayers?  And how many of us have the faith of Julia?  The kind of faith that Matthew 17:20 tells us about:

"if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."  

So as Valentine’s Day comes near I encourage you not to focus on the flowers and candy, but rather on what do you have to offer those around you that are hurting and need to know you care.  A note to let someone know that you are praying for them may be the only Valentine they receive, but you never know, it just may be what The Lord knows they need in their life - it may be their "mustard seed."

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Legacy We Leave

Hi everyone,

I do not know about you, but I love running into people who may be in town visiting family or those I have not seen in a while during the holidays.  This happened to me during the week of Thanksgiving as Sam and I went grocery shopping for my step-father.  I ran into Mrs. Ruth O’Quinn, my high school Honors English teacher.  It has been over 30 years since I took her class, but she still looks exactly the same.  As people in small Southern towns often do she gave me a hug and also asked about my brother, whom she also taught.  She then proudly announced to me, “Well you do know that I am 90 now.” 

I could not wait to introduce Sam to this lady who has touched so many young people’s lives in our town.  But when I went to introduce Sam to her, something else took place.  Sam had been in another part of the store when I first encountered her, so when I went to find her again she was talking to a very sweet lady in a scooter.  She asked me if I remembered Mrs. Miller, who taught at the local junior high school, and while the name sounded familiar, I had not had her as a teacher.  Not missing a beat Mrs. O’Quinn turned to Mrs. Miller and said “Oh, but you would know her grandmother.”  “Oh, and who was your grandmother,” Mrs. Miller asked me.  To which I replied, “Catharine Mattis.”  “Oh heaven sakes, EVERYONE knows Catharine.” 

Now keep in mind, it has been almost 12 years since my grandmother passed and yet, her legacy shines just as brightly today as it did many years ago.  I come from a long line of educators and have been blessed to have incredibly strong women mold me into the woman I am today.  But this simple conversation in a local grocery store during Thanksgiving has been on my mind for weeks now.  It made me ask myself the question “What kind of legacy am I leaving to my children?  And I think it is the PERFECT question we can all ask ourselves as we start off this New Year.

What kind of LEGACY are we leaving behind?  Webster defines legacy as either 1) a gift by will especially of money or other personal property or 2) something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.  What I am talking about here has NOTHING to do with money, because let’s face it; everyone knows that educators are some of the lowest paid professionals in our country.  Not to mention that some of the strongest women who have the biggest impact on my life lived very simple lifestyles on very modest incomes.  I have watched money destroy so many and yet I have watched those that have so little in terms of financial means have the greatest impact both during and after their time here on this earth. 
So what kind of legacy does a woman leave that still has people talking about her almost 12 years after she has left this earth?  This is what I wanted to know and this is what I wanted to examine in my own life.  It is not just a simple cut and dry answer either, because this question then caused me to look at some of the other amazing women that have guided me along the way.   

A common thread among all of the women who have left an impact on my life was their faith.  They all seemed to belong to different denominations, but their faith was strong.  Several of the women that had such a strong influence on my life where single moms before there really were single moms, so these women dealt with much more in terms of peer pressure and the glaring eyes of society than we could ever imagine having to do today.  Some had college degrees and some did not, but what they all held in common was a strong work ethic.    Some of the things that I embrace in my own life were very foreign to them, call that a change in the times or maybe it was just a result of the personalities of these often very different women coming together in a melting-pot kind of way with me.  I think it may also be hereditary to some extent.  For example, I share so many similar personality traits and creative talents with a great, great aunt and yet I did not see her much when I was a child. 

These women taught me to laugh, honor The Lord, dance, create, hug, love others, embrace education, read my bible, pray, and know that things always happen for a reason.  The legacy that these women left me did not involve anything monetary, but what it did to mold me into the woman I am today is priceless.
So what do I want to leave to my three children?  Well, while all of my children know The Lord, I want them to have more than that.  I want my children to see the relationship that I have with The Lord and this to be something that their hearts long for.  They know I have faith that can move mountains and they know that I love to tell people what He has done in my life.   My faith is dynamic and real which is something that I want them to see and experience, because there is just nothing in this world that can compare.  I am an educator, that is what The Lord has called me to do and I LOVE what I do, but that also means that when my time here on this Earth is over my children will not be made rich on my account.  If I can show them all the INCREDIBLE things that I am blessed with on a daily basis, instilling in them the desire to have a dynamic relationship with The Lord, well then there will be no greater legacy that I can leave them.  

I encourage you to take some time and think about this in terms of your own life.  This is not something that we often do in our fast paced world, but what better way to start the New Year and examine where we might all want to make changes.  After all, what kind of legacy do you want to leave?


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