Monday, August 29, 2005

Back to School! Posted by Picasa

Back to School

In the last week or two, multitudes of parents have dropped lots of cash on back-to-school clothes and school supplies. Backpacks and lunch boxes have been conscripted for another year of dutiful service. Children of all sizes are starting back to school.

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

Aging with Grace

Another birthday just rolled around for me this month. Birthdays have a way of reminding us that we are not as young as we once were. However, just a look in the mirror is all I need to see that the years are adding wrinkes to my face and gray strands to my blonde highlighted hair.

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:

Ageless Beauty
By Marlene Depler

My soul need not shrivel
nor passion for life diminish
with the passing of time.
Agility of heart.
Quiet wisdom.
A steadfast hope.
Resilience amidst struggle.
Character finely chiseled.
Priorities no longer obscure.
No senseless conformity.
Pretenses diminishing.
Truth embraced without shame.
A spirit ever expanding and deepening:
Ageless beauty—my desire


(c) Marlene Depler

Monday, August 15, 2005

My "unplanned" bean patch! Posted by Picasa

Not as Planned

It was past the optimal time for planting a garden. Nevertheless, I still wanted some fresh produce before summer's end, so I headed off to one of our local garden stores. I picked up some tomato, pepper, squash, and watermelon plants. Then I headed for the seed packets, grabbing green beans, beets, and zinnias.

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
(The Message)

(c) 2005 Marlene Depler

Friday, August 05, 2005

"Choosing a Frame" (Two more prints in need of frames.) Posted by Picasa

Choosing a Frame

I was delighted to find two unframed prints I thought would be great for the bathroom I am sprucing up. The colors seemed just right to blend in with the green and pink shades of the new towels. Now they needed frames!

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