On the Horizon

This current season of life brings many thoughts about the future. Especially the futures of our three children. I want them to experience contentment in today as they plan for tomorrow. Not an easy combination.

Next week, our family will celebrate both a high school and college graduation. Preparation for these events leads to many conversations concerning the future.

Our youngest son, Ryan, plans to start college in the fall. Our daughter, Rachel, will begin teaching next school year. Both plans require a commitment to the present, finishing the work at hand.

These are exciting times in the Morris household! And this past weekend, more excitement was added. Our oldest son, Robert, proposed to his girlfriend, Erin! ❤ We are beyond excited!

Several months back, Robert created a plan and got to work. He needed to purchase the ring, talk to her parents, choose a time and location. With everything in place, it was time.

Gart and I knew last week that he planned to propose over the weekend, but we did not know the details. And that was ok. This was his plan.

Then one night my phone rang. It was Robert. A call instead of a text usually means something important. 😉 Nervously he asked if we would like to drive to Dallas for a family lunch after the proposal. Yes! Of course!

Soon after that conversation, Gart walked in. I relayed Robert’s invitation. We smiled, both a little teary-eyed. ”We are going to have a daughter-in-law, ” he said. ”I think we did ok, Mama.” “I think so too.”

So here we are. Excited to see Ryan begin working toward a degree in animation and 3-D modeling. Excited to watch Rachel embrace a classroom full of new students as a special education teacher. Excited to witness Robert and Erin begin their journey together.

Gart and I will be their cheering section. Always here when they need us. And as we prepare for big changes on the horizon, we will remain content in the present. At least, that is our plan…

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

A Little While

“…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

How do I balance living in the moment with wisely planning for the future? If thinking only of today, will the future take care of itself? My heart says, “I know I’m not guaranteed another day.” My actions do not always match.

This is my tenth year as a public-school teacher. I’ve been in my current building for nine years, my longest stint in any job. Equal to the number of years I was a stay-at-home-mom. Cue feelings of restlessness.

Next week is spring break, followed by the final nine weeks. A flurried push to end the year strong is filled with activities. The toughest part of the year.

I am tired. Thoughts of, “How many more years can I do this?” begin to play over and over in my head. A desire for change creeps in, negatively affecting my mood. This describes my mindset for the past couple of weeks.

Suddenly, in the middle of the tiredness, a fleeting thought. Quickly dismissed. Did not write it down, afraid to say it out loud. But this thought would not leave me alone.

What if I continued teaching for ten more years?

I could look back and say, “Wow! I taught elementary school for twenty years!” An accomplishment I would be proud of. Imagine how many students would cross my path. But it sounds like such a long time…

Trust me, these ideas reflect the complete opposite of my recent list of wants:

  • Spend more time playing the piano
  • Search out new accompanying opportunities
  • Teach piano lessons again

At least, I think those are the things I want to do. Truthfully, at this moment I don’t know what I want to do. And that is ok. Maybe “not knowing” is a safe place to remain for now.

Whether I teach one more year or ten, I must give it my best. Allow some new life to be breathed into my teaching. Somehow James 4:14, “…a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” makes that feel possible. It may not be logical, but such is faith.

Feels like I have walked in one big circle. Now back at the beginning, I need to listen, reflect, and rest. And trust that is enough.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Waiting Rooms

Waiting rooms are interesting places. I’ve visited several different ones over the past few days. Some appointments for myself, others for family members. Each waiting room full of people, all there for different reasons…yet all waiting. Waiting for answers, for relief, for some news.

Certain waiting rooms bring a flood of memories. Such was my experience this morning. Some of the memories were sad, but the sadness mingled with sweet faces and comforting voices. As I thought about past events, encouragement from others is what I remembered most clearly.

Other circumstances came to mind throughout the day. A room full of family and friends during my mom’s mastectomy. A dear pastor friend visiting when my father-n-law had surgery for prostate cancer. A phone call during an emergency room visit…the same emergency room I waited in today.

Today’s visit for my sweet mother-n-law was not life-threatening, but the many text messages from friends eased the waiting. Waiting is never easy, but I’m beginning to understand that it does have purpose. Waiting forces us to slow down. Forces us to place our focus on someone else. Reminds us that we are not alone.

Precious reminders come with each visit, phone call, text message, prayer.

Or in a quiet whisper…

“…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

…even when you’re just waiting.

Lessons From the Birds

“I know every bird in the mountains…” Psalm 50:11

On a recent road trip, I noticed a bird hanging in mid-air. Located just above the trees, its wings fluctuated rapidly up and down, side to side. This feathered friend appeared to be in an unstable situation, possibly caught in a wind current.

As I watched the bird, assuming it was struggling to find balance, I thought of a tightrope walker. I could just imagine an invisible string pulled tight underneath, its tiny claws grasping to hold on, fighting for control.

How often might I be described in this manner? “Have you noticed Kelley lately? There’s so much happening, she appears to be holding on for dear life. She seems a little scattered and frantic. I hope she’s ok.” Probably more times than I’d care to admit. 😉

Our drive continued, the bird no longer in view, yet I thought of it once again. Was it possible the bird wasn’t struggling after all? Perhaps it was simply resting in the current for a moment, allowing the wind to move its wings as it wished. This thought provided a different perspective. One which brought thoughts of security and rest.

Maybe there’s a simple lesson to be learned from these contrasting views. What if I apply both perspectives to my own life? When the strong winds come, and they will come, I will have two choices.

One-I can fight against them, grasping for control, trying to find balance on my own tightrope.
Two-I can relinquish control, allowing the winds to move me where they may, trusting that God will be there with me when I land.

Viewing my own life in this manner might also influence the way I see others. Perhaps making me less likely to analyze and more likely to offer help.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27

I wish I’d been able to watch that bird awhile longer. What happened next? How long did it remain in that current? Did it eventually soar off to new heights? I guess I’ll never know.

Lifting My Head

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

I have not considered this verse in a long time. Reading it in the past always reminded me of the song, “Thou, Oh Lord,” by Lisa Ireland. I’m not sure when I first heard or sang this song, but the beautiful overlapping melodic lines and powerful words are easy to recall. I can hear them in my head right now…

Take a listen. https://youtu.be/_aYRfUmGpmo

When this verse popped up on my phone today, I thought of the song for a moment, but then my thinking took a different direction. Three clear ideas came to mind-birth, sickness, and death. These notions shifted my focus to the last phrase “lifter of my head.” It’s an unusual phrase, certainly not one you hear every day.

The first thing that came to mind was a newborn baby. I pictured new parents, cradling the head of their precious little one. The baby does not yet have the strength to hold its head up. The mom and dad are the shields, protecting until the child grows stronger. I’ve experienced this feeling of responsibility with my own children as I held their tiny heads in my hands, keeping them safe.

The sweet image of newness was quickly followed by the idea of frailty and illness. Many of us have taken care of someone who is sick. Too weak to even lift their head, needing assistance to take a sip of water. If you have had the opportunity to help in this situation, you know it’s not easy. Here I’m reminded of my mom’s battle with breast cancer, and the assistance she required following surgery.

Finally, I pictured the end of life, the process of dying. A time when we are once again reminded of our weakness and frailty. If ever we need someone to lift our head, this is the time. What a comforting gesture, providing a shield against our fears. This one is the most difficult, one our family faced together as my father-n-law bravely battled cancer to the very end.

“The lifter of my head.”

In each scenario-birth, illness, death-this sweet phrase brings much comfort. Such reassurance in knowing there are people in our lives who love and support us during critical times. Even more so the knowledge there is a God who is concerned with each of these moments. And that He places people in our path to demonstrate this love.

While at my weakest, I do not have to be afraid. When I am unable to lift my head, help will come.

St. Henry’s Christmas Bazaar

I’ve been attending the annual St. Henry’s Christmas Bazaar for almost twenty-five years now. The first one I remember took place a few weeks after our car accident and before the birth of our first son., Robert. That was a special one. We were greeted with smiles and tears. So many expressions of thankfulness that we were ok.  (See post Struggle for Control)

This event takes place at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Owasso, OK. The home church of my in-laws and the church where my husband grew up. We have many happy family memories associated with the Christmas bazaar, especially our kids with their Grandma and Papa.

If you arrived early enough there were homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. But if you missed those, no worries. Frito chili pie and tamales were on the lunch menu as well as pie. Any kind of pie you could possibly want! It doesn’t stop there, oh no. We also had to visit the bake sale section before heading home.

The kids could expect to be spoiled by their Papa at the bazaar. He always bought too many desserts. Plus, there were toys, books, Christmas ornaments. I still have a pair of green earrings he helped Robert sneak around and buy for me one year.  The kids also witnessed Grandma making crafts or baking items for the event in the weeks prior, and we always enjoyed looking for her items on display.

Probably the only thing Papa bought more of than desserts were the raffle tickets! Sometimes the kids would get to help draw names out of the wire basket and call out the next winner. Such anticipation and excitement followed by a celebration for the lucky name called.

Looking back on the happy memories associated with our family through this church, it’s funny how nervous I was about meeting my sweet in-laws for the first time. My husband was raised Catholic and I was raised Baptist. Seemed like a big difference at the time. Not only that, I had been married and divorced, which would affect his membership in their church.

I was not excited about Gart sharing this information with his parents when we were dating. How would they respond? Would they understand? Of course, my worries were for nothing. They loved me like a daughter from the very beginning.  And we’ve had many occasions over the years to attend services at both Catholic and Baptist churches all together as a family.

Today I think about the special place in my heart for St. Henry’s Catholic Church and their annual Christmas bazaar. Tomorrow I will go once again, look at the crafts, possibly buy a Christmas gift, eat lunch with my mother-n-law and of course, eat pie! My father-n-law, my kids Papa, will be missed as we reminisce over times past. But we will continue to make new memories and form new relationships.  

Who would have thought so much joy could be found in a simple Christmas bazaar?

I hope I can get there in time for cinnamon rolls this year…

Stuck in the Mud

Have you ever felt stuck?  You take a step, suddenly realizing it was the wrong step to take. I remember having that literal experience once as a kid. My cousins and I were playing kickball, a common activity when we were together. Someone kicked the ball into a ditch, and I went to get it. The minute my foot sank into the mud, I knew I was stuck.

For a brief moment, I felt a sense of panic. It seems a bit ridiculous looking back now. What could possibly have happened? Maybe I’d seen too many television portrayals of people sinking into quicksand. You know the ones. A bystander yelling at the would-be victim to be calm and still, yet panic sets in and they proceed to sink until their hand finally disappears.

All I needed to do was stand still and call for help. And of course, help came. With a group of cousins around, I certainly was not alone. One of them assisted with pulling my foot out of the mud. The only casualty that day was my tennis shoe.

Many steps taken in this life are much less literal, yet come with much more significant consequences. So what happens when a step is misguided or poorly chosen? Certain decisions in my teen and young adult years left  me feeling trapped, afraid my life was messed up permanently.  Regret and guilt crept in, causing me to feel like I was sinking further down in the mud.

Thankfully I eventually discovered ways to counter those fears. Simply choosing to be still, although difficult, was a start. If I could just wait instead of panic, maybe another bad decision would be avoided. Next, it was time to call for help. That help came in different forms. A prayer, a simple phone call to a friend or family member-often both.

“Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” I Peter 5:7

“…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

A friendly listening ear often guided me toward a fresh perspective. There was not always an easy or instant answer, and that was sometimes hard to accept. Yet in spite of unavoidable consequences, with some guidance and faith, I was able to take a step in a new direction, no longer feeling stuck in the mud.