What if?

Life has been a roller coaster ride for me. I have had so many life altering events happen  I thought I would never get through because I felt like I was drowning. There were seasons where each time I thought I was through it, something else happened. As a Christian, I believed  bad things weren’t supposed to happen to me. When they did, I prayed for how I wanted the prayer to be answered. Sometimes I got what I wanted, but many times the answer was not what I asked for.

Faith is a journey we take with the Lord. He hears our prayers and answers them according to his plan for our life. But it is his plan, not ours.

Each one of those bumps in the road were part of the plan  for making me a better person.  Through life events such as divorce, betrayal, tragic accidents, unemployment, work place bullying, health issues, financial difficulties, and deaths, the pain was real and it didn’t go away immediately. At times, I felt abandoned by God or sometimes I even felt anger toward God. However, most of those events changed me.

 I have looked back and wondered – what if? What if he had answered all What if-those prayers that I poured out? What would life be like if I took a different road?  Garth Brooks even has a song called Unanswered Prayers. Sometimes the best answer is no.

I have come to the same conclusion as the song. Those prayers that weren’t answered have helped me become a stronger Christian. There was a reason I needed to go through those seasons.The Bible contains countless stories of the struggles of ordinary people who grew stronger in faith to do extraordinary works with God’s help for his purpose.Through love,  God helped them to do more than they could imagine themselves doing.

Now I don’t look back and try to figure out any what ifs of the past. The past can’t be changed. Looking to the ahead,  I think more in future what ifs. What if I write that book? What if I take that trip? What if I read the Bible? What if I join that Bible group? There are so many things ready to explore. I ask God for wisdom in all things knowing he is faithful and will lead. I never have to worry that he will abandon me.

Diem

What if you put your trust in him? It won’t be easy, but it will be an adventure. There is still time to do amazing things and travel new roads. You may be glad you did.

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Vacation Reflections

Retirement has been a great time to travel to see the places I have only read about or seen on television. When I was teaching, vacation was a time I just wanted to sit and relax on the beach. Now I just want to travel and see sights.

As a child we never traveled due to the fact that our family was large and we didn’t have the money to do it. My dad wasn’t big on it either. All my traveling was done through a book and most of the time in my imagination as I read. I loved to do my United States puzzle and dreamed of going to all of the states. I am not sure that will happen, but I am delighted to say that I have traveled a good bit with my family. Traveling with grand children has been exciting.

My recent trip to the Grand Canyon was memorable. I have always wanted to go there. Despite the crowds and the heat, it was well worth the trip. I had prepared physically because I knew with age and elevation, I would have to be careful. What I wasn’t prepared for was the view.

Looking out over the canyon, I stood in awe of the beauty. It looked just like the pictures I had seen but seemed surreal. All you could do is stand there and try to take it all in as the guide explained what was across and below. There are many points of interests and opportunity to individualize the trip. My daughter and grandson biked and even walked part way down toward the canyon floor.The shuttle makes it easy to go from point to point. I saw a group of elk go by as I sat in the lodge having a cup of coffee.

We traveled to the canyon on the train which we took from Williams, Arizona. It was easier than driving and AARP does have some nice benefits and packages when traveling. The time on the train was spent in conversation, playing cards, or eating. It was worth it.

The group across from us explained to the photographer that this trip   marked the first visit that a member of their family had made to visit them since they moved to Arizona 22 years ago. Both couples were much older than me and fell asleep several times on the trip. It made me wonder why they had waited so long to visit? I wondered if they really could enjoy the canyon because they had difficulty getting around. I hope so.

This was not the only part of our vacation. We went to Santa Fee, saw the meteor crater, stood on the corner in Winslow, ate at the famous Turquoise Room in Winslow, and made it down to Sedona to see the beauty of the red rocks.

I have decided, this is the best time in life to plan visits that may have been postponed or to go to the places you have dreamed about. There’s time to make new memories. I am glad I did! But I have still have more to see and do. As Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go says, there are so many more adventures to go on.

 

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Wounds or Scars

Easter is always an important day in my Christian walk. Not everyone believes in Jesus or that he died on a cross for our sins, but the fact is for over 2,000 years that story has been told. History is full of stories of wars and struggles over religious beliefs and proof of his existence.

When Jesus appeared to people after his Resurrection, he was not the same bloody figure last seen on the cross. His appearance was the same as it was before his horrific crucifixion except for the fact that his wrists and feet had scars from the nails the Romans had used.

For Christians, his death and resurrection bring hope of eternal life in heaven. He paid the price for our sins and established a new covenant with God the Father in heaven. Easter is a time to reflect on how tremendous his sacrifice was. What we believe should be reflected in our daily life.

Once this season is past, it is easy to forget that message. But Easter was a model on how we are to live life. Jesus had scars, but they weren’t open wounds. Life wounds us the wounds should become scars like his were. He taught forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and reconciliation.

The events that took place last week have shocked our nation. They have triggered more violent events. Tempers are out of control and more people are getting hurt or killed.

How do we heal these wounds? It won’t happen overnight. People need to grieve and all we can do is be there for them. Their pain is real and can’t be minimized. We can pray to one who can help and try to model what he has taught us.

I saw a simulcast last night of an upcoming movie called Ben Hur. It is coming out in August and is a remake of a famous movie I watched years ago. I think it has a powerful message that speaks to reconciliation and forgiveness which is a very timely message.

I recommend this movie to all movie goers. We need to come together as the great nation that we are and help heal our nation. We are all wounded by these tragedies and now we need communicate on how we can close these wounds so we can heal. This will be a long process, but it a process that all of us should help in. If we don’t, the wounds will never heal.

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How is your garden growing?

There is something about digging up soil that is so therapeutic. Digging and planting new plants is a reminder about how beautiful life is. I love planting and watching them grow, but they do need nurturing if they are going to make it. That is what takes the time and retirement gives me more time to take care of them properly. The weeds are pulled out a little sooner now and I also seem to have more time to simply enjoy them.

Iris

Iris 2016

Over the years I have changed the way I garden. Instead of buying mostly annuals, I have switched to more perennials. Using the Internet, I try to buy plants that bloom at different times so that there is always something new blooming. Additionally, I created a

Fairy Garden2

Fairy Garden 2016

Fairy garden under our front tree. It’s not exactly the way I want it yet, but it sure has been a way to use my creativity.

Gardening is a lot like life. Each season of life brings something new. Sometimes we can plan it and sometimes we can’t.  Looking at the calendar, I realized this year is almost half over. I stopped for a moment to see if I was taking time to tend to my life and start new things that will help me grow. The answer is yes. I have challenged myself to continue to read the authors that I admire and want to learn from. Joining a The Jerry Jenkin’s Writer’s Guild has given me many opportunities to expand my own craft. Even though as a teacher I taught writing, I have a lot to learn.  I had a Twitter Chat discussion about writing with Book Baby which was very informative. I also have joined groups online to talk about writing and books I was reading. I am learning a new program for my pictures called Canva. That has been  such fun! I also have been blogging for our local Pregnancy Resource Center.

Nurturing my own growth also means my spiritual health. Retirement has given me the time I need to grow in my relationship with God. He’s given me so much and I just take time daily to thank him for the many gifts he has given me. There are so many ways to do Bible study online. I just completed my second one with Faithgateway and  am so excited that they will start a new one in a couple of weeks. We watch a video online (weekly) and do the study on our own (or with a small group). Once  a week we join the group online to discuss the questions (which lasts for an hour). I wasn’t sure I would get much out of doing a study like this, but I am here to say it was amazing and I learned so much from the others in the group.

Gardening also reminded me that I need to tend to my own body, too. Age seems to bring many new aches, pains, or changes that can be become challenging if we lose control (like balance and strength) . I started a new 21 day fitness challenge and am on day 14. What a difference! Just go at your own pace, with approval from your doctor, and listen to your body. My body said ouch more than once. But I didn’t stop because being retired and older means you still need to keep in shape. Exercise is something that we don’t always look forward to, but the benefits outweigh the pain.Those friends who don’t exercise seem to have more health issues.

Lastly, retirement can be a time to be more generous. Generosity can come in many different forms. Maybe it means sending an e-mail or text with encouragement. It might mean having a cup of coffee and listening to a friend in need when you would rather be doing something for yourself. Sending a card to someone who is alone may lift their spirits. The flowers in the garden might be a great gift for a lonely widow. Gently used books could be a comfort to someone who is bedridden or perhaps for the ICU waiting room. Of course, money is also a way to become more generous. I like to do it anonymously.  The possibilities are endless.

So how is your gardening going? Are things blooming or are the weeds choking the new opportunities out? Try some new things. You will see how much you will grow and how fulfilling life can be.

 

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A Journey of Faith

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t believe in God. I was brought up in the Catholic faith and never doubted that there was a God. My great grandmother instilled in me a healthy reverence and fear of God. Going to church was something you did witGreat grandmah out question. Each Sunday and special holiday, we would walk to church together.  In her home, she prayed constantly. My childhood wasn’t filled with material things, but it was filled with faith,family and love. One regret that I have is that I never thanked her for showing me what really was important.

Life has brought many trials and difficulties, but one thing that has been a constant is my faith. I can’t remember a time I didn’t go to church, but as I look back I realize that going to church doesn’t necessarily mean you are Christian. There were seasons where I went to church out of habit. My prayers were quick rote prayers or a laundry lists of my needs that I wanted God to help me with. I found God to be the closest when I was in the middle of a crisis. He didn’t always answer the way I wanted him to, but with his help I dealt with divorce, being a single mom, poverty, and many serious health issues. When I searched for him during my dark times, I found him and I grew stronger as a person.

There are many Bible studies available to study and help in the faith journey. The Bible is God’s word to us and is meant a guide to how to live as a Christian. To truly understand it, it helps to do it in a group.

I started serious studying after my children were grown. As I went deeper in the word, I just wanted to learn more. The hunger to study is fueled by the fact that instead of just learning about God, I am learning about myself. Some of it is good and some of it is bad, but we have a merciful, forgiving God. All he wants is a relationship with him and attending church for an hour a week isn’t enough. He is a big God and deserves more. What happens between Sundays and how you deal with everyday challenges with God’s help is your faith in action. His help and guidance should guide our daily living.

Retirement has given me more time to study the word of God which is how we know how to live as a Christian. Small church groups are only one way to learn and grow in that area.

This season has been a time where I needed to study at home. Perhaps, you can’t study with a group outside of the home either. I have done online Christian book clubs on Facebook with Karen Kingsbury. Recently, I have have joined Bible study groups on Faithgateway and in June I will do a study with Beth Moore through Lifeway. All of them are amazing opportunities to grow. These are just a few samples of studies that help deepen relationship with God. Although I don’t actually see who is responding, their insights about God and the Bible have been invaluable.

I believe life is a faith journey and each person has a story to tell. Our stories are meant to be shared. Consider joining a group of some kind. Your life story could help someone who is in a rough season of life find faith in the darkness or perhaps, they may help you find hope. The possibilities are just a click away.

It all goes back to legacy, too. What do you want people to remember about you? It is never too late to start a relationship with God.

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A Writer’s Manifesto

What is this blog about and why am I writing it? As part of a 7-Day challenge I am taking, I am looking at those questions and will answer them as honestly as possible.

I love writing and creating. In a recent Beth Moore  Bible study I did, she encouraged us all to use our God given creativity. She went on to say that we have all been given creative skills and it is our choice on how or if we use them. I have found this to be true. Writing is one way I  can be creative and I love it.

I have to admit that as a child, I did not always enjoy writing. Writing a report or a term paper just seemed tedious. I was a great procrastinator and yet, I still got great grades. The only type of writing I enjoyed was creative writing because it seemed less restrictive and anything was possible.

College was something I did later in life. I didn’t write for over ten years and I missed it. Although attending college meant more term papers, I was pursuing my goal to become a teacher so I really put more effort into them.

Being an elementary teacher gave me an opportunity to encourage my young students to be creative in their writing. As they wrote, I wrote. We created many class books together and I encouraged them to continue to write daily. I think that sometimes educators actually stifle creativity and young children have great imaginations.

Retirement has given me a chance to spend more time writing creatively. I have taken writing classes, done webinars, and have taken part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) twice. Participating was challenging, but so exciting. I have two Christian novels in rough draft form and am learning how to edit. This blog will share some of my writing experiences as I continue to learn and because I think it can help others.

My blog is also meant to encourage others to continue to explore creative endeavors, to keep active,  and to share individual God given gifts. Sometimes I don’t think people really just exist after retirement and others could really use their help.

I also want to recommend some incredible books that I have read that really have a powerful Christian message. Books that are treasures even if they aren’t on the best seller list.

I want to build a community for anyone who is trying to find purpose in life, not just people who are retired. My message and legacy is one of faith and hope in our creator as we take a chance in life.

 

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Gift of Time

For most people the beginning of the year  means resolutions. Looking back we find things or activities that we want to make a real effort to improve or start this year. By the end of January, most people have already given up on them.

Life after retirement and kids doesn’t mean you’re past wanting to try something different or do something better. I can even use my time better. It is MY time.

This period of my life is very different from my earlier years although age is irrelevant for me. I am open to new activities, new dreams and new learning. I like to be engaged in life, but am picky about what I do with my time because I have more urgency about the legacy I want to leave. When I was working and raising my children, I did not have “me” time often. I treasure the earlier parts of my life, but had things I put on my “wish list” until now.

My faith belief is that time is a precious gift from God and  to be used wisely.  I have a list of things I want to try or accomplish this year. So actually scheduling things I want to do and setting deadlines for myself makes me more accountable. Putting things off usually is a sign of fear, at least for me. Things like writing or trips I want to take are put on my calendar. My volunteer activities are all done on one day and don’t really change from week to week. Spreading them out on different days usually meant I had time in between that I wasted. I am very consistent with my exercise and Bible study time, but still have plenty of time to do the writing  I enjoy and never had time for before.

Quality time with loved ones is also a priority. There are so many digital ways to communicate and it doesn’t take much time. Always having time with friends and family is part of the legacy I want to leave.

My advice to anyone in this stage of life is to find something you really enjoy doing or wanted to try and schedule the time to do it. Don’t put it off any longer. There are many creative activities to try or causes that need help.  Now is the time to go for it. You have gifts to share with others that you might not even know about. Agencies and museums have many opportunities for volunteers.

Pick up the paper, look at the activity section and try something new. Or think about the dreams you have put on hold and go for it. Don’t wait! There is a world of opportunity just waiting for you.

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Legacy

Retirement has allowed me to think more about the legacy I would like to leave behind. Reading the newspaper each day is a reminder that that we live in a violent, unsettled world. The obituaries are filled with deaths of people much younger than I am. One thing is for certain, time is precious.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we all are remember things we are thankful for in our lives. But shouldn’t we be thankful each day that we live? It is so easy to focus on the wrong things. We are so busy being busy. Family times are great times to think about what important values or memories we want to leave them with.

Early in my career as a teacher, I received some professional development on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. All of the habits were useful for life in general or with a career in mind The the second habit stuck with me.  I learned “to begin with the end in mind.” One of the most interesting thoughts in the book was envisioning and attending your own funeral. The book takes you through who you would want to speak and what would they say about you.

Whatever stage you are in life you are in, it would be a valuable activity to spend some time thinking about. We all have a legacy to leave to others. What do you want them to remember about you?

It is never too late to change. Legacy is more than money. It is anything that is handed down. Each new day is a chance to add to the legacy. Write down those family stories, put those pictures in an album, write down those family recipes, reconcile with estranged family members, volunteer to help out at church or an agency, invite someone over for coffee, spend time with your family or write that letter to a loved one. The list is endless.

You don’t need to wait for retirement to think about your legacy. Don’t put it off.

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Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my new blog about my life as a retired teacher. For some people, retirement might mark the end of a life of work, nothing left to do but collect your pension, travel, or volunteer. Excitement may be gone because the job is finished, the family is grown up, and the passion is gone. I am here to tell you, it may be a new beginning with great things to come. I have been retired for three years, but I find myself very busy with creative new things.

Looking back at my life, I can see choices that were made which lead me down different roads. I can’t say I regret some of the most painful ones, because I believe who I am now is because of where I have been. Poverty, divorce, rejection, betrayal, cancer, and bullying leave scars. My life has been like a rollercoaster, with many ups and downs. But I can truly say that faith brought joy in the midst of the suffering and has helped me to survive despite the circumstances. And I didn’t just survive, I grew as a person and achieved many of my childhood dreams and then some.

Because I put such passion in teaching, retirement came way too quickly.  I really enjoyed helping students develop a love for reading good literature and become creative in their writing. I meant it when I told them they should be lifelong learners. There was no greater accomplishment as a teacher than having eager learners who couldn’t wait to get to school.

And were they creative! I learned just as much from them. In fact, one of my students gave me a hardcover book for Christmas. It was a story she had written in class and she had it made into a book. She was so encouraged about writing when she did that. That inspired me and since retiring, my goal is to have a book published. I have taken classes and have novels I am working on.  Boy, do I have stories to tell.

Retirement brings just another fork in the road with decisions to be made. I plan on making it being another adventure with God full of growing and learning. There are many things I would like to try. Life is meant to be lived with passion. There are so many people in history that did their greatest achievements in their seventies. Winston Churchill and Grandma Moses are just a few. There are still many things I want to do before I am finished in this life. I believe the best is yet to come for me.

That is why I am writing this blog. My days are full of creative projects. So here I am in Life Part Three and there is so much more to learn and do. Hopefully, I will be able to help you find inspiration in my personal reflections on faith, family, reading, and writing. Maybe they will spark the learner.

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