Friday, December 30, 2005
As the New Year stretches out before us, we wonder what the next 365 days will bring. We may thoughtfully begin to make some plans for the next year, but we also realize that each trip around the sun brings with it an element of uncertainty—the unknown. Does this stir anticipation and hope in you? Or a twinge of fear? Maybe both.
In spite of the uncertainties or challenges that may lie ahead, there is something wonderful about blank calendar pages. Each little square opens up endless promise and possibility.
With this new beginning, many feel compelled to make New Year’s resolutions. Yet most of those well-intended resolutions to whip ourselves into shape end up discarded before we even turn the calendar to February.
Why is this? Often we set such global goals, so huge we can’t possibly keep them. I will exercise every day for an hour and loose 50 pounds in two months. Yeah, right!
Or we make resolutions so vague we can’t assess our progress. I will spend more time with my family. How will we know that we have achieved this?
One way to insure success with resolutions is to make them things we KNOW we will or won’t do anyway. For example:
Iwill not dye my hair red.
I will not eat liver.
I will not dust my house more than once a week.
I will love my grandchildren.
I will water my flowers, come summer.
I won’t stab anyone!
With these I’m guaranteed to succeed!
Or we can choose just not to make these yearly commitments that seem to sabotage our best intentions. For me, instead of resolutions, I reflect on my hopes and dreams. I ponder the things I value most. I consider what plans and purposes God may desire for me. Then based on these, I set a few small manageable, achievable goals.
Things like: I will schedule a time to teach my granddaughter how to use her new sewing machine. This works better for me than simply saying, “I will spend time with my grandchildren.”
OR I commit to removing my kitchen wallpaper and getting a bid on painting. If I succeed in this, there is no doubt that I will take the remaining steps to give my kitchen a much-needed face lift.
OR I will market at least two articles during the month of January. This feels manageable. And once I have done this, I will no doubt take another step with my writing.
I’ve found that I am energized by even little accomplishments. Success in small things is the impetus to move on to other things. Bit by bit I head in the general direction, I think God would have me to go, knowing full-well that he may take me on a few detours along the way.
Your calendar and my calendar are mostly empty pages at this point. May we accept the adventure of a new year with prayer for guidance, wisdom, and strength. Then take at least one step toward our hopes and dreams. As we make our yearly trek around the sun, may we also make it 365 days around the SON!
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Color my world with hues of pink.(c) 2001 Marlene Depler
Sweet pink frosting on cookies and cake,
strawberry ice cream,
fluffy tufts of cotton candy,
pink lemonade served over ice
quenching summertime thirst,
clouds streaked pink on either horizon.
Weave pink threads into my world.
Pink candles, pink ribbons, pink soaps—
bold or pastel, dark or light , muted or bright,
it doesn't matter as long as they're pink
Color my world with pungent geraniums
and sweet roses—of course, in shades of pink
I cannot imagine my world without a touch of pink!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Still my anxious heart and rumpled spirit
in your divine presence.
Release me from the self-made prisons
of my unrealistic expectations.
Help me say "no" when I need to
without feeling guilty.
Let me feel joy when I am able to say "yes."
This year with your help, I will not fix,
rescue, or control those around me.
Show me what is truly my responsibility.
Help me remember that it
isn't my responsibility to make everyone happy.
Let me honestly acknowledge my needs and my feelings.
Give me the wisdom to know how to take
care of myself in a healthy, nurturing way—
for it is only then that I can truly give
to others from a full heart.
May I enjoy all the simple pleasures around me
and fully recognize the intangible gifts
that are given to me not wrapped in holiday paper.
Give me a glimpse of the eternal.
This Christmas season I choose to rest
in your goodness and love,
and to rejoice in your Son—
the greatest gift ever given.
Oh, Lord, let me experience Christmas
in the true sense this year.
(c) 1998 Marlene Depler
Friday, December 09, 2005
Worried that my tummy might indeed turn to a "bowl full of jelly," I brewed myself a cup of organic green tea. Surely this would counteract the effects of my aforementioned indulgence! I had read somewhere that green tea was good for one's health, though I am not sure just why.
I sat down with my cup of tea to read the morning paper when what to my wondering eyes should appear! No, it was not Santa, his sleigh, nor his reindeer. Better yet—it was an article entitled, "Chocolate: New Health Food? Harvard study finds those who eat chocolate live longer."[i] Well, now! I felt better already! I knew there must be a logical explanation for my love affair with smooth, creamy dark chocolate!
The article elaborated on a study of Harvard male graduates that found that those who ate chocolate and candy lived almost a year longer than those who did not. It explained that chocolate contains phenols, which are known to be antioxidants. Even though the scientists cautioned that the findings are preliminary, I am convinced that chocolate is indeed a health food. No doubt in my mind whatsoever!
Now there is no need for clandestine encounters with chocolate. I will proudly divulge my long-term relationship with the latest health food. No more secrecy, justification, or rationalization. Furthermore, if I combine chocolate with green tea, the combination of two will undoubtedly lengthen my life even more.
To all you other chocolate lovers out there, if you were here with me now, we would lift our mugs of green tea, and I would propose a toast, "To long life and more CHOCOLATE!"
Perhaps I should leave green tea and chocolate for Santa this year! Maybe he could use a little help!
[i] "Chocolate: New Health Food?", Daily Times Call, Friday, December 18, 1998, page C8.
(c) Marlene Depler
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Creativity is not just for the artistic types. Take my husband for instance.
A huge chunk of ice had built up in the bottom of our supposedly frostless freezer. My husband and I decided it was time to defrost this sub-zero mass. I took all the frozen food out and put it in a large cooler chest and turned the switch to off. Then my husband set to work.
Later I went to see how things were progressing. I was surprised to see two blow dryers tied from strings hanging from a shelf in the freezer. Something we ordinarily use to dry our hair had been conscripted to help melt ice.
“Very creative!” I said. I was impressed with my husband’s ingenuity. Necessity had definitely become the mother of this invention.
It’s often true that until a need of some sort arises, our creativity and imagination often lie dormant. All types of problems and challenges can become the fertile soil for seeds of resourcefulness to flourish. We become willing to look at things in new ways. We are willing to ask questions and then listen. As we seek for answers, our desire for solutions propels us to try things we had never thought of before. In the process, we are stretched and also often surprised by what we can do when we truly need to.
While some circumstances call forth our best creative processes, other circumstances reveal our limitations and just how much we don’t know. In our humanity, we often come to acknowledge our need for resources beyond our own. We discover our need for God’s Divine creativity and imagination to take over where our efforts are limited or our resourcefulness fails. We seek God when we realize that we need a whole lot more than our own inventiveness.
Thus, when we are surprised by our own creativity or the creativity of others, may we thank Him. And when we are confounded by our inabilities, may we seek Him—the Ultimate Creator!
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I feel blessed! One day at a time, we have built a life together. And now I can’t imagine my life without my husband and friend.
Here is something I wrote for my youngest daughter’s wedding. It was fitting for her and her husband on their wedding day. It is also fitting for my husband and I after all these years.
Invitation to Love
By Marlene Depler
To love and be loved—this is one of our greatest human
needs.The God who is defined by love is the God who invites us to
both.He first invites us to open our hearts to his love.From that fullness, he invites us to live in love.When we express love, we reflect the love of our Creator.Love is His imprint on our hearts.Marriage is a lifetime commitment to God’s invitation of love.In this sacred union, we choose to open our hearts to receive
the love that is offered and determine to give an unending love.Love will not look the same today as it will tomorrow or next
year, yet a commitment is made to nurture that love and to fall in love with
each other over and over again.Two lives joined in the context of love have greater potential
together than individually.The constancy, comfort, and compassion of marriage provide a
nurturing environment allowing freedom to experience personal growth.Love releases us to fully live life.Love costs everything, and yet in the process we are not
diminished.Love doesn’t give up in time of difficulty or
inconvenience.Love allows for two to walk hand in hand even when they don’t
always see eye to eye.Love allows us to share our hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows,
success and failure with another.Love finds expression not just in words, but in consistent
actions and attitudes.We are invited to love, not to possess.We are invited to support and encourage, not to
control.We are invited to care without smothering.We are invited to comfort without minimizing each other’s
pain.Love invites each heart to make its home beneath its wide
branches.At the end of life’s journey, little else matters more than
those we have loved and those who have loved us.
(c)2004 Marlene Depler
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Things That Get Under My Skin:
Pouring a bowl of cereal, only to discover there is no milk.
Stepping on someone’s carelessly discarded chewing gum.
Flies, mice, and spiders—if the dare come in my house, it’s war!
Raccoons that have the nerve to raid my corn patch the night before I plan to harvest the first roasting ears.
Finally remembering to use a coupon at the store, only to find out it’s expired.
Wanting to cook or bake something and discovering that I’m missing one ingredient.
Running out of thread just a couple inches before finishing a seam.
Very loud music.
Unreturned phone calls.
The maze of phone menus!
Prank phone calls.
People who don’t at least attempt to keep their word.
Indirect communicators—the ones who always leave others guessing as to the real meaning of what was said.
Rudeness, crudeness, and inconsiderate behavior of all kinds.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Autumn Harvest Cake:
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup softened butter (l stick)
½ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-16 ounce can of pumpkin
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
½ cup chopped English walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour either a bundt pan or a 9x13 cake pan.
Mix ingredients in order given. Pour into cake pan. Bake bundt cake for 70 minutes and then cool a few minutes before removing from pan. For 9x13, bake for 45-50 minutes. Cook cake, then spread with frosting. Store in refrigerator. (This cake freezes well!)
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
½ cup butter (1stick)
1-8 ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Monday, October 31, 2005
We only had two nights and one day in the Munich area on our way home from Bosnia. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the time we had. Maybe we will be back someday.
Clock tower in downtown Munich.
Crepes with Nutella. Fresh, hot crepes with chocolate. How can you beat that?!?!?
Cab drivers. They drive fast—and take corners fast. Hold on!
Countryside. The countryside was beautiful. The fields were still green even though the trees were in their autum splendor.
Clean. Everything seemed clean and neat.
Charming window boxes filled with colorful flowers.
Cows with cowbells. The windows were down on the train to Fussen. We could hear
Castle. We saw the Neuschwanstein Castle of King Ludwig II near Fussen. It is the one that Disney used as the model for Magic Kingdom.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I remember Bosnia:
Children and grandchildren—what a treat to spend time with five of them.
Cuddles—hugs and kisses from all the kids and lots of cuddles with Jacob.
Candyland—Brent and Rachel like to play Candyland, especially Brent. We played lots of games.
Cake—two birthday cakes! We celebrated Jacob’s first birthday and Rachel’s third birthday. Paula baked the cakes, which were absolutely scrumptious.
Coffee—all Bosnians love their coffee. It is served strong and in small cups with sugar cubes. The sugar cubes are different than the American ones.
Chocolate—Bosnian’s love chocolate as well. We sampled several varieties. Yummy!
Chocolate Croissants—you can’t beat the combination of chocolate and a croissant. I like the texture of their croissants better than the ones in the U.S.
"Chivapi"—a Bosnian favorite. (I probably don’t have this spelled correctly!) This is sort of like a pita, only bigger and a more bread-like texture filled with meat,
usually beef sausage. Chopped onion is served on the side. Quite delicious!
Cabbage—every garden had a cabbage patch. Huge bags of cabbage were for sale at every market.
Cheese—Bosnians like cheese, lots of soft cheeses and white cheeses, but no cheddar.
Cigarettes—most Bosnian adults smoke.
Chess—Ray played chess with the neighbor, who used to be a city champion. They couldn’t understand each other’s language, but they could play a few games.
Coal—sold in bags at roadside stands/the smell of coal burning.
Color—the autumn leaves on the hillsides, the mums at the corner flower shops, the bougainvillea and sunsets in Croatia and the women who love to color their hair!
Clothes hanging on balconies to dry—every balcony had clothes hanging outside to dry. Electricity is expensive, more so at peak hours.
Croatian Coast—we had a short trip over the mountains to the coast of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. We saw an old fortress, Diocletian’s palace and the ruins of a city and amphitheater at Solona.
Cell phone—we helped get Jason and Paula’s second cell phone set up, so they
could both have one to stay in touch!
"CRUH" (BREAD)!!!!!!!!! Bakeries abound, and bread is inexpensive and delicious. Bosnians eat lots of fresh bread. We loved the bread!
Friday, October 07, 2005
"Children are our most valuable natural resource."
"Children are not properties to own and rule over, but gifts to cherish and care for."
"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, avoiding our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted."
"…the child who is not loved by his parents will always assume himself or herself to be unlovable rather that see the parents as deficient in the capacity to love."
- Dr. M. Scott Peck
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
By Marlene Depler
My precious child,
be patient with your dreams.
Stop rushing ahead
and pushing so hard.
good bread, great cheese, and fine wine.
Think how long diamonds are in the making!
painters paint, stroke by stroke;
builders build, brick upon brick.
Be patient while I shape you.
Do not give up on your dream.
Rose buds need no force to blossom—
Monday, September 26, 2005
In the early days of our marriage, I took in other people’s ironing to help put food on the table for our wee ones. I didn’t want to leave by babies in daycare. Thus, I opted to iron men’s long-sleeved, white, 100% cotton shirts for ten cents apiece. Baskets piled high with shirts were dropped off. Rows of freshly pressed shirts were picked up.
The task was tedious. First, I sprinkled the shirts with water and folded them back into the basket, covering them with plastic. Dampened shirts were much easier to iron. Then I would spend hours on my feet with my iron and starch.
Then came the era of polyester and double knit. Women were convinced that the days of ironing were gone forever. Yes, I was temporarily delivered from wrinkle patrol. But that didn’t last long. Polyester became a thing of the past, and it was back to the comfort of cotton.
Do I like to iron? Not really. It’s a mundane chore to say the least. I procrastinate more often than I care to admit.
However, when I think about it, I like the power I posses with my hot iron and spray starch. Wrinkles quiver as I attack and win the battle. I’m in charge! If only it was the easy to smooth out my ever-increasing facial wrinkles.
What I really want is to iron out the wrinkles of life! I want to smooth away sadness and disappointment for myself and others. And if I could only steam out wrinkles in relationships, finances, and health—press out problems of every sort. Since I can’t, I will have to settle for what I can do—pointing rumpled hearts to the Heavenly Father. He can handle the wrinkles of life that I can’t. As for me, I had better stick to me weekly wrinkle patrol in the laundry room.
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Two of my devotionals are in this book! September 26 and September 30. Three of my friends also have their work in this book.
You can search out the book while I finish a writing assignement. My deadline looms near!
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
It would be impossible for me to count the times that I was teased with that line as a young child. What no one knew is that in my mind this was not true at all. Who would have believed that this little blonde-haired girl with natural curls framing such an innocent face desperately wanted something that she could not have?
I wanted shoes—girl's shoes. Yes, there were other things that I desired, such as a hula-hoop and a "bride doll," but shoes were the foremost cause of my discontent. It was the mid-1950s, and black and white saddle oxfords with bobby socks were the prescribed fashion of the day for girls. I wore brown, clumsy oxfords—boys' shoes handed down from my boy cousins. In those days, shoes for boys and shoes for girls were quite obviously different.
I was convinced that everyone noticed that I wore boy's shoes. My embarrassment made no difference in my circumstances. My father was a young minister for a tiny church in the southwest corner of Kansas, and his pay was meager. There was no money for what I coveted most.
I went to school each day filled with shame, certain that everyone was staring at my shoes. I made a conscious attempt to keep my feet hidden under my chair. If the teacher asked for the class to sit on the floor, I hid those ugly brown shoes under my skirt. Fortunately for me, the skirts of dresses were very full in those days! My feet were the only ugly ducklings in a world of swans.
I remember being invited to Susie's birthday party. One of her gifts was a pair of plastic, dress-up, high-heeled shoes. Even her gift of play shoes was reason enough to strike a chord of envy. Sadness descended over me. It was such a hopeless plight. Lola did not get what Lola wanted.
After the second grade, our family moved to the coast of Oregon where my father became the minister for another church, slightly bigger than the previous one in Kansas. We left Kansas in our blue and white, 1955 Chevy station wagon, pulling everything we owned in a U-Haul trailer. We were off to see the world, and temporarily, I forgot about the shoes on my feet.
While we were in Oregon, my father started selling shoes out of a catalog to supplement his small income. One day he showed me a picture of black velveteen shoes in his catalog. On the glossy page, they looked simply beautiful—more beautiful than anything I had ever seen before. He then proceeded to measure my feet. The order was placed. I spent days in eager anticipation.
At last the shoes came! As I slipped my feet into their velvety, black softness, my world changed. I was a princess with the most exquisite shoes in the kingdom. My feet danced, and my heart sang. Black velveteen shoes—more wonderful than anything I could have ever imagined! From that day forward, I never wore boy's shoes again.
It's been more than forty years since then. I no longer go by my first name, Lola. (I am sure that you can guess why!) Instead, I use my middle name, Marlene.
Just yesterday I saw some shoes in a Wissota Trader catalog that caught my eye. The advertisement said, "Velvety nubuck leather casuals...." I just may order them.
Sometimes Marlene gets what Marlene wants!
(c) Marlene Depler
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
The air is cool. It smells fresh like laundry just off the clothesline. A single crow calls from a nearby tree, and crickets make monotonous, rhythmic sounds. In the distance a small plane engine drones. Cars hum over the pavement as they take early commuters to their workplaces. The trees to the east are shadowy silhouettes. Their reflection is mirrored in the two glassy ponds. A faint rim of pastel pink outlines the horizon.
The neighbor's obnoxious, diesel pick-up engine interrupts my morning meditation. It begrudgingly shifts into gear and quickly fades into the distance. Four ducks take to the water for a brief swim but then hurry back to shore. Soon they are back in the water, erasing the reflection of the trees as they swim into the cattails. Now the pale rim widens into a peach glow.
Succulent tomatoes in the garden beckon for someone to pick them before frigid fingers of frost touch them. The corn patch is in a state of disarray, giving evidence to a recent visit by hungry raccoons. Marigolds lift their bright faces to greet the new day. Tall blue spikes of salvia surround the birdbath and mingle with the sharp thorns and fragrant petals in the rose garden. An occasional weed reflects a bit of neglect on my part.
A hint of pink through the trees---now melon, then orange. Multitudes of blackbirds suddenly fly overhead, chattering and chirping their morning greetings to each other. Here she comes! The sun makes her grand entrance with such glory and grandeur. She confidently flings her magnificent robes of brilliant orange across the expanse of the eastern horizon while lavishly scattering her dazzling jewels of light across the earth. Higher and higher into the sky she rises.
There is something sacred about the sunrise. Praise to the Creator of the dawn, the daybreak. He is the giver of new days and second chances. Nourished by my morning meditation, I graciously accept the gift of a new day with both gratitude and humility.
"I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely, I will remember Thy wonders of old,
I will meditate on all Thy work,
And muse on Thy deeds.
Psalms 77:11-12 NAS
(c) Marlene Depler
Monday, August 29, 2005
This year some children will learn to read. Others will learn to write in cursive. Some will learn how to multiply and divide numbers. Others will tackle algebra. Some will learn about the U.S. constitution. Others will learn about ancient civilizations. Every teacher and every parent hopes that learning in some form will take place for each and every child.
As I reflect on the classroom, I realize that the entirety of our lives is also a classroom. We are always learning. We are often forced to relearn the same lessons over and over again---until we finally "get it." I want to learn quickly, but often I, too, must be reminded of things I thought I had already learned.
Here are a few of the lessons I have learned along my journey---things I still occasionally need to be reminded of:
1. Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you will see to go a little further. We never get to see the journey from beginning to end---just tiny increments. In other words, walk by faith and not by sight.
2. When a task looms big and feels overwhelming, get started. Do one thing and then one more. The next thing you know, it begins to seem manageable. Or as I used to tell my children, "It's a cinch by the inch, and hard by the yard!"
3. Remember to say "please" and "thank you!" Manners are never out of style. Gratitude and appreciation are timeless accessories. A grateful heart ends up blessing me more than the other person.
4. People are more important than accumulating things. Relationships take precedence over accomplishments or accolades.
5. Slow down! Enjoy the moment. Hurrying all the time creates unnecessary stress. Things eventually get done if they are truly important.
6. Don't fight back the tears. Tears are meant for our good. Let them flow when they need to.
7. Take responsibility for your own actions and reactions. Allow others to do the same. It's easy to take on responsibility that is not ours while abdicating our own responsibility.
8. Mothers who love their children always worry about their children regardless of how old they are. We try not to worry, but we do. We are just concerned for their well-being.
9. Take time for a "refill." Know your personal needs. Whether the need is physical, spiritual, relational, or emotional, take time for rest or renewal. When the cup is full, we have something to lavishly share with others.
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help! No one knows it all. In turn, also be willing to share what you have learned with other fellow travelers.
11. Pray! Pray when you feel like it and when you don't. Don't try to do life without the guidance and intervention of the Heavenly Father!
Remember, we are never too old to learn. Each day we all once again enter life's classroom. Anticipate today's lessons. Learn well!
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Monday, August 22, 2005
As women we experience tremendous cultural pressure to look younng and beautiful and stylish. The media and marketing gurus know how to tap into our insecurities at any age. We are told to "dress for success" and instructed "what not to wear." We may color our hair or try a variety of face creams. Some even opt for cosmetic surgery. But can we really compete with ever changing beauty standards or the latest styles and fashions imposed? The years will still take a toll on our physical appearance. So how do we face the aging process with grace and celebrate the life God has given us?
Most of us would agree that good grooming is a good thing. It's healthy to take a certain care with regards to our external appearance. Beyond that I want to focus more on an inner beauty that does not have to fade with the passing years. Here is what I wrote to describe the ageless beauty that I desire:
By Marlene Depler
My soul need not shrivel
nor passion for life diminish
with the passing of time.
Agility of heart.
A steadfast hope.
Resilience amidst struggle.
Character finely chiseled.
Priorities no longer obscure.
No senseless conformity.
Truth embraced without shame.
A spirit ever expanding and deepening:
Ageless beauty—my desire
(c) Marlene Depler
Monday, August 15, 2005
Within a couple of days, I had the plants and seeds nestled in the brown earth. Then I waited for the seeds to sprout and the plants to produce their first blooms. It wasn't long before the beans emerged from the soil. But soon they began to produce curly-Qs that vined around each other. This was my first clue that something was amiss. In my hurry, had I picked up pole beans instead of bush beans? I thought I had purchased bush beans. In my 35 years of marriage, I had always planted bush beans, and what I viewed in my garden was definitely not normal.
Another week went by, and I was convinced that I had indeed planted pole beans. It was too late to uproot them and plant again if I wanted a harvest before first frost. What was I to do with this mess of tangles vines? I had to figure out a way to make the best of a situation that was not as I had planned.
I went looking for anything and everything I could find to give the vines some support. In the garage I spied a few extra tomato cages. Then I spotted some decorative stakes in my flower beds. I stuck this random assortment into the ground all around the bean patch and coaxed the vines around my make-shift arrangement.
Life is often like this gardening experience: things don't always turn out quite as planned. Some choices made in good faith go awry for one reason or another. Other times things happen that are completely beyond our control. Sadness, sickness, and financial stress are never written in the script we've written for our lives. Disappointment, death, and divorce aren't on anyone's list of desired destinations. Loneliness and various losses, both large and small, aren't ever part of our plans.
My agenda never includes angst of any sort. I didn't choose for one of my children to struggle all the way through school. It was not in my plans for my daughter and her family to move to Bosnia. I wouldn't have chosen for my mother to pass away so suddenly. It wasn't as I had envisioned when a book contract that was promised for over a year never came to fruition.
What do we do when things don't go as we planned? When hopes are dashed? When we encounter the unexpected? We pray and ask God for grace and strength and wisdom. And much like my vining beans, we gather all the available support of family and friends as we attempt to make the best of the situation.
Sometimes we will never understand why certain things have happened. We just do our best to trust that God is in control. Other times we move on, and eventually we come to see a blessing in what has transpired. As I am now gathering an amazing harvest of beans, I am now thinking I may plant pole beans again next year! My unplanned bean patch may have taught me something valuable.
I'm also reminded that most of life's blessings are also unexpected and unplanned. We could never plan for such Divine extravagance. I could fill volumes recounting all the blessings God has sent my way. There was the surprise food shower given for my husband and me in our early days of marriage. And I certainly didn't expect that someone would pay my hospital bill when our second child was born. (We didn't have insurance at that time.) I hadn't planned that a writer friend would show up on my door step with a beautiful bouquet of roses on a day I was feeling less than "writerly." Neither had I planned on the outpouring of compassion when my mother passed away.
Things will not always turn out as planned. Yet as we face the unplanned and all the uncertainties of life, we can still be certain of the grace of God. May we live according to his gracious PLAN!
“...not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.”
2 Corinthians 4:16
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Friday, August 05, 2005
Hobby Lobby was having a sale on frames, so I took them both and went to look for frames. There were many to choose from. I tried this one and then that one until I found one that seemed to make each picture really "pop." I can't wait to see the finished product!
Many say that the frame is as important as the art being framed. Some frames have a way of emphasizing the beauty or colors, while another one makes the picture appear dull or unappealing. A few years ago I had a large picture in our family room matted in blues with an antiqued platinum frame. While walking through a store one day, I saw the same print matted in dark green with a gold frame. The look was so different! And truthfully, I didn't like it nearly as well.
Our lives are much the same. We get to choose the frame that encompasses our daily round. The two that I've mulling around in my mind are DUTY and DESIRE. It's so easy to look at the day that lies before me and frame it with DUTY. My first clue is my word choices. I use words like should, must, ought to, have to, and gotta'.
When we frame the day with DESIRE, our words change. We say want to! Or "I choose to...." But how do we turn our have to into want to when we don't like certain tasks?
I'm not all that crazy about ironing. I can look at it with a should mentality. But I don't have to iron. My husband and I could wear wrinkled clothes. The desire comes in realizing that I want nicely pressed clothes to wear.
The same is true of so many other things. I can choose to focus on my desire for a neat and tidy yard as I go out to pull the weeds. I can frame household cleaning with my desire for a comfortable and clean environment. I can see the care I give to family members through the frame of my desire to show them love.
But what about a job someone's doesn't really like? It to can be framed with the desire to bring home a paycheck---a desire to provide for ourselves and our families.
DUTY brings heaviness to our step.
DESIRE quickens our pace.
DUTY equals obligation.
DESIRE equals opportunity.
DUTY speaks of chores.
DESIRE speaks of choices.
DUTY is monotonous drudgery!
DESIRE is eager aspiration!
Rememeber, we get to choose the frame. So for today, let's choose to frame our lives---and our lists with DESIRE. The landscape of our day will become more vivid and enjoyable.
Note: My pictures are still at Hobby Lobby, so I can't show them to you. Instead, I will have a photograph of two other prints that I plan to frame.
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Friday, July 29, 2005
We sure take our legs for granted, I think. Without them, I wouldn't be out here walking in the glorious sunshine.
Nevertheless, I've always regarded my legs to be—well, let's just say less than satisfactory. I've never given them much respect.
Too short. One small mole. Two scars. A roadmap of spidery blue and purple veins. Thick thighs. Cellulite lumps.
In spite of my disparaging thoughts, these hinged limbs of bones and sinew, threaded with nerves and blood vessels, and covered with soft skin, have taken me everywhere I have ever been in this life.
These legs first learned to crawl—then take unsteady steps.Upstairs and downstairs, outside and inside. My legs have taken me everywhere I've ever been. How then can I be so contemptuous of them? Where would I be without them? Would I want to trade places with someone who is confined to a wheel chair? Yes, for too long I have taken for granted the mobility they provide for me.
These legs jumped rope, played hopscotch, climbed trees, and rode a bike.
These legs played hide-and-seek with my cousins.
These legs walked me down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams on my wedding day.
These legs have walked back and forth late at night comforting a colicky baby.
These legs have strolled the sandy shores of the East Coast, West Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico.
These legs have sauntered along the Thames, Seine, and Blue Danube Rivers.
These legs have traipsed through castles, cathedrals, and catacombs.
These legs climbed high mountain trails.
These legs paced the floor of a hospital's ICU.
These legs that I have disrespected have walked more miles
than I could imagine.
I know I'm not alone. I'm certainly not the only one who is a bit contemptuous of one body part or another. It seems to be a common malady. Some think that they're too flat chested or too big-breasted. Too tall or too short. Too fat or too skinny. Others hate their noses or ears or lips. We look in the mirror with disdain. Thus, we keep the revenue streaming for anyone who promises us a bit more beauty with some new "miracle" cream, liposuction, plastic surgery, Botox and collagen injections, or diet and exercise plans. (Recently, I received an email advertisement that said, "Lose weight while you sleep!" How's that for a gimmick!)
When will we learn to be comfortable living in our own skin? When will we begin to respect our God-designed bodies? As for me, it's time to appreciate these legs and to give them the healthy dose of respect that is long overdue.
Yes, today, the steady rhythm of my gait is a reminder of the gift of legs. I shall never win a beautiful leg contest, but these legs have been loyal, lifetime friends. Their fifty-plus years of service should warrant a full-blown, all-out celebration. No longer will I withhold the gratitude and dignity that they so deserve.
(SORRY! NO PHOTOGRAPH OF MY LEGS---just my walking shoes!)
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Thursday, July 21, 2005
I pulled some books off the shelf to do a little investigating. Webster defines hospitality this way:
"given to generous and cordial reception of guests"/"offering a pleasant or sustaining environment"/"readily receptive."
While perusing the dictionary, I also noticed the words HOSPITAL and HOSPICE. Isn't it interesting that these words are derived from the same root word as HOSPITALITY. Hospital and hospice both speak to me of care and comfort.
Searching a bit further, I found that the Greek word philoxenia is often translated hospitality. Philos means to love as friends, hence Philadelphia---the city of brotherly love. No doubt, love is a key component if we are to give hospitality. I'm beginning to get the picture.
Joan Chittester says that hospitality is "an act of a recklessly generous heart." Isn't that a great way to put it?
Henri Nouwen believes that listening is "one of the highest forms of hospitality." I had never thought about it that way.
After mulling over these thoughts and definitions, I am led to conclude that we must first have a hospitable heart before we can extend hospitality to others. This requires intentionality on our part. We invite people into our home and into our lives so we can provide a comfortable, caring environment where our guest then feels safe in allowing us to enter into his or her life. Yes, this is what I want to give my guests! I want to create a home in which family, friends, and neighbors are welcomed and valued.
But what stands in the way of hospitality? Sometimes we think we are too busy. Many think their homes are not clean enough or decorated well enough. Do we wait to achieve domestic perfection before we welcome another into our homes? If we wait for our homes to be immaculate, then we will miss the joy of sharing our lives with others. So don't wait for perfect!
I'm convinced that if we first open our hearts and then open our doors with a smile, our guests will surely feel welcomed and comfortable. Add to that a listening ear over a cup of coffee or simple meal and someone will leave feeling blessed---I'm quite sure of it!
"Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes." Luke 8:18 The Message
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler
Note: If anyone feels like it, I would like to know more about the places where you have experienced hospitality.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
I've also noticed that it's the little things that have great potential for bringing us blessing---that is if we aren't too preoccupied to notice. Yet all too often we wait for the spectacular while overlooking the wonder and blessing of small, ordinary things all around us. Here are a few things that bring me a bit of joy when I pay attention:
A cup for fresh brewed coffeeWhat would make your list? What brings you a smidgen of pleasure in the midst of daily living?
Fresh sheets on my bed
The first ripe tomato in my garden
A bite of chocolate
A robin preening in my bird bath
A cheery tune
A phone call from family or friends
Let's not wait for mountain-top moments when we could sip on joy in the middle of our ordinary days.
(c) 2005 Marlene Depler