Oh Give My Husband a Brand New Wife

AmberOBrien"

My friend’s sobs echoed over the phone as she shared that her husband didn’t value the “new her,” but instead wanted to keep her back from growing into the vivacious woman I knew her to be. How sad that he couldn’t value growth and put in the effort and grow to love the “new Kelly.”  I sat down and wrote this poem after our phone conversation.

A Brand New Marriage

Oh give my husband a brand new wife
One that will serve him lovingly
Give him the helpmate he deserves
And may that “new wife” always be me

Oh give my husband a hot mistress
One that will surprise him lovingly
Give her energy and fresh ideas
And may that “mistress” always be me

Oh give my husband a new best friend
One that will listen lovingly
Give her wisdom to find the good
And may that “best friend” always be me   

So how does one protect one’s marriage as we grow individually and through the seasons of Life?

Here are some tidbits of advice that my husband and I have gleamed through the years.

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Happy 27th Wedding Anniversary to my husband!

Keep dating.
Our priest from Gettysburg College, Father Phil gave us the advice to “keep dating” when he met with us before our marriage. With each season of our marriage, life has changed, and so have our dates. A neighbor babysitter coming over for two hours a week so Dave and I could go out when our children were small, intimate lunches when we started our business, family members who watched the children so we could take a long weekend. Be creative, be proactive, and just do it.

“The best thing you can do for your children is to have a good marriage.”
This was the advice we received when we went to a day-long marriage encounter. This quote helped take away all my guilt about leaving my children to “date” their father or travel with him.  The children will grow up and share their own relationships and putting our spouse first is a way to model for them what a thriving marriage looks like.

A successful marriage is the union of two forgivers.
– Ruth Graham Bell.

Yes, your partner is not perfect. Yes, they are irritating at times. Yes, they keep hurting you.
This is what Love is about. Forgiving and seeing the overall good in your spouse. May they see the overall good in us. For we are imperfect people, who make mistakes and we can be so irritating to others. Love is a covering. Love does not “keep a record of wrongs,” so when you are angry or hurt or lonely, write down 10 good things about your husband and see if your perspective changes. Keep a record of Rights. What is right about your hubby.

This weekend seek out a way to date your spouse. What are some creative ways that you like to spend with your spouse? Please share them in the comments below.

Are You Spiritually Fit? 5 Ways to Keep From Becoming Spiritually Flabby

AmberOBrien"

So yesterday my bathroom scale confirmed what my thighs had been secretly trying to tell me. I had gained back the five pounds I had worked so hard to lose weeks before. I had gone a couple weeks without weighing in and had stopped using the Myfitnesspal app to track my food. In addition, the bible study using the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst had ended, my exercising had slowed and voila I gained 5 pounds.

Booo! How frustrating. I started to mentally blame my husband and the two pounds of chocolate covered pretzels he bought. “He knows sweets are my weakness. Why is he undermining my progress?”

Ultimately, however, I am responsible for what goes in my mouth. I have free choice, and each day I am making lots of little choices that contribute to whether the needle of the scales moves to the right or left. After all, the point is to be making healthy choices and not focus on a  number on a scale when we gauge our physical health. However, in my case the scale gave me a little wake up call that my healthy choices had diminished.  

What if there were a spiritual scale that we could step on each day? What would it weigh?

Perhaps the scale we should be most concerned with is the one that measures the size of our hearts.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So according to scripture, the amount of Love that fills our hearts is an indicator of our spiritual health.  

How are we showing God that we love Him? Are we praising Him in the hard times? Do we spend time worshiping Him? Reading His love letter to us – the word of God? What about how we love others? Do we try to see the good in others? Are we patient and kind when others are not patient and kind to us? Do we forgive quickly?

If my heart and yours were on the spiritual scale today, how would they compare to yesterday?

I have found that seeking to be physically fit and spiritually fit have similar principals. Here are my top 5 ways to becoming spiritually fit:

  1.       Spiritually exercise first thing in the morning.
    While physical trainers often advice physically exercising first thing in the morning so your metabolism has a kick start, the same is true for spiritual exercise. Make a commitment to wake up and spend time with Jesus before you look at your phone or check your emails or connect to Facebook. Spend time praying or reading the Bible before checking the headlines – read the Good News before hearing the world’s negative news. Get ready with God before looking in the mirror and getting yourself ready. Give God the best time of your day. If you must look at your phone first thing, try the free app First5.org. I just love receiving a devotional each weekday to look at first thing in the morning.
  1.       “You are what you eat.”
    Just as our goal physically is to eat healthy and nutritious foods for our bodies, we should be filling our minds with wholesome music, books, and thoughts, as well. Are you listening to a positive radio station? Are you watching TV shows that are negative or use foul language? Are you letting your friends speak negatively about mutual friends or family members? Instead, redirect the conversation and say something good about the person. Feed your mind with nutritious foods, just as you do your body.
  2.       Exercise with friends.
    When working toward a physical fitness goal, it often helps to have an accountability partner. Physical fitness is often influenced by other body conscious people and having a walking buddy or gym partner can help keep us motivated. The same is true for spiritual fitness. We need to spend time with others who are striving for holiness. Find friends who love God and who have His joy and peace; maybe a prayer partner to talk and pray with on the phone, or a small group bible study. We are to be like iron sharpening iron – let’s help each other to be as sharp and fit as possible. 
  3.       Make it fun.
    Similar to picking an exercise that we enjoy so that we continue (I love to play tennis), we should choose ways to honor Jesus in ways that are enjoyable. Following Jesus should be fun! Watching Him change lives and seeing answered prayer is so cool. Keep a journal to write down all your prayer requests and answered prayers, and spend the beginning of your time in the morning listening to uplifting praise music and singing and thanking God for all that His has done and is and will do. Be excited to spend time with Jesus – shout your praises with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Have fun praising Him for all the past gifts He has lavished on you and your loved ones. 
  4.      Spend a Sabbath day in rest.
    Rest is just as important to physical health as exercise. Often, the importance of a good night’s rest is overlooked when pursuing fitness. Just as we need to get quality sleep to improve our bodies, we also need to rest to improve our souls. I love reminding type A people that “even God rested on the seventh day.” Be sure to honor the Sabbath. God created this because He loves us and wants to prevent us from getting physically sick or spiritually flabby. Use the Sabbath as a gift to spend time doing activities to help your soul grow.

Even though our culture focuses on our outer shell, it is our souls that will last forever.  Being spiritually fit is eternally more important than being physically fit. May the size of our hearts grow as we seek to be spiritually fit and desire to be more like Jesus each day.

When you realize that Christians can’t just sit and watch the World go under… politics, prayer and the Holy Spirit

AmberOBrien"

The opposite of Apathy is Love.  Last Saturday my husband and I joined four other couples for a dinner club and the discussion around the table was anything but apathetic. Jokes about the election year and the wild ride ahead for us Americans mingled with updates on our families and local parishes. Wine glasses clinked and Italian sauced plates scraped clean as five  women and five men tried to predict how the public would soon vote and who our next president will be.  The famous quote, Never talk politics or religion in polite company” was disregarded and I believe with good reason. As Christians we care about our country, families and our churches and to sit back and do nothing would be considered apathetic. And apathy is the opposite of love.

Later in the evening when we resumed to the living room, the hostess presented our group with a challenge. Before Jesus ascended up to Heaven, He told his disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit has come down in power to help them. So for Ten days the disciples gathered together to pray and waited for the promised Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is a “He” who was sent to be our advocate; to give wisdom, help and power.  He came in the form of fire.  A burning fire of Love that enabled the disciples to boldly preach the good news and change the world.  What if we all prayed and sought the Lord for ten days as the disciples did? We could all use a refilling of God’s fire of Love, couldn’t we? and what of our families, our churches, our Country …..our World.  I’ve heard it said that we need to come daily to ask for more of God as we are cracked pots who keep leaking and God is limitless in the amount of Love He wants to lavish upon His Children.

Tomorrow  is Thursday May 5th  Ascension Thursday and ten days later the Church celebrates Pentecost on Sunday May 15th.  Our dinner group has committed to taking this Holy Spirit Novena for the next ten days. All denominations of Christians are needed to join this time of prayer and seeking, as Jesus’s heart cry was that His believers would be unified.

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you,that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. John 18: 20-21 NAB 

So if you are a Protestant perhaps to spend time each morning asking God to pour the Holy Spirit upon your family, church, Country and all over the Earth.  A pray as simple as “Come Holy Spirit, we need you, forgive our sins and pour out your spirit upon my family, community, country and all over the Earth. Show us how to burn with Love for all those you put in our lives. Change my apathy to a burning desire to share your good news so others can share the joy of knowing you.  11 Chronicles 7:14 is often claimed during election time but is as verse for all times.

And if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.

For my Catholic Friends and of course Protestant friends are welcome here  too, there is a website called www.thewildgooseisloose>com by the Franciscans with videos about this special novena.  According To Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit was compared to a wild goose. Stop a few seconds and meditate on the word “Wild”.  We need to be praying for an outpouring of fire that is not tame…..Our families need a “wildfire” of love that will spread like……… well “wild-fire”. A chain of reaction of fire that will spread from our families,to our churches, our communities, country and eventually to the entire world.  This chain begins though with each of us quietly listening alone in our prayer closets, as we withdraw for a time as the disciples did in the upper room, away from all distractions and to “be still and know that He is God.”

My dinner group will individually be praying the third decade each morning on The Glorious rosary called The Descent of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the mystery for this decade is Love.

Jesus taught that the fruit of being a Christian is Always Love.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask, the father in my name he may give you. This I command you: Love one another. John 15:16

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I believe God has the best for our families and communities.  I believe He want us to pray for godly leaders.  Instead of just complaining about politics, our families and churches, lets put love into action by first seeking and waiting to hear from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s chat again in ten days about this Sweet Sister.

Let the Novena begin.

 

When You Have Doubts That God’s In Charge: How I Met Your Grandfather

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister:

Do you delight in hearing the love story of how a husband and wife first met? I sure do! When Dave and I meet another couple for the first time, my favorite question to ask is, “How did you two meet each other?” Most often, their eyes light up as they tell the story together of how their love story began. Oh how I love to tell my story of how I met my husband of 26 years. I share this as a way to encourage the single sister that feels called to marriage but is still waiting on God to find her life mate. I share this for the married sister who needs to be reminded that God is always in control. Lastly, I share this for my future granddaughters and my great-great-granddaughters in generations to come.  How did I met my husband? I’m so glad you asked. Here you go:

Act 1.  January 31, 1986 Friday afternoon:
Alone in my freshman dorm room, I lay in my bed confused and disappointed. Tonight was the night I was supposed to perform a skit entitled, “If God Talked back” for the Intervarsity Christian Group on campus. I had practiced for hours and memorized all my lines and I was just so excited to finally use my acting skills to give eternal truths. (I performed in high school and on the Gettysburg stage during my first semester but all the effort has no spiritual message or purpose.)  When the skit was given to me over Christmas break, I was ecstatic to use my time and talent for God and to impact other students. During that Christmas break, Janice and I prayed for all those on the campus. How excited I was once back on campus to practice and perform this skit.

But my plans came crashing in when Lee Martin (the classmate who was to play the part of God) called and explained to me that he had a family emergency and needed to take a train home. This just did not make sense to me. Why would God allow Lee to leave the night of our performance? Dinnertime was approaching, but I didn’t feel much like eating or getting out of bed.

I looked upward and the poster caught my eye. In this poster above my bed, a cute plump panda happily lays on his pack in a grassy field while the words above him boldly proclaim, “ Relax, God’s in Charge.” I can still vividly remember that poster, 30 years later.

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So I had a choice to make. Would I wallow in self-pity and disappointment, or would I trust God and do the next thing which was to simply go to the cafeteria for dinner?

This one choice would change my life and if you are one of my great-granddaughters, you are alive because of it.

Act 2. The same Friday, evening:
I find a seat in the Gettysburg cafeteria at a table with my dear friend Janice. There are some new students sitting with her that I haven’t met before (she was a sophomore) and soon I am explaining my situation in true dramatic manner. I bemoaned to the group, “I have all my lines memorized for tonight’s show and then Lee who plays God took the first train out of town.” So I guess you could say I was holding onto the self-pity part just a smidgen?

Then a tall handsome young man with broad shoulders volunteered to play the part of God that night. (I had made a list years before that I wanted a husband with a good sense of humor and broad shoulders that I could cry on.) This mysterious  young man had never attended an Intervarsity Christian fellowship group meeting (despite being invited several times) and had never acted before.

You see, he also had a choice in that moment. He later explained that he had dreamed multiple times of a woman with full cheeks and lips (I once had the nickname chipmunk cheeks) who he believed was going to be his wife. She was washing dishes in the dreams (and yes I’ve done a lot of dishes in the past 26 years, but since Dave is a fantastic cook I am happy to do so).

Once he spotted me at that path-changing supper, he said I looked just like the girl in his dreams (literally). This gave him the courage to volunteer and stand in front of the intervarsity group that night.

Act 3. Later that night:
Dave stood behind me and read his lines from the script. I kneeled in onesie footed pajamas and pretended to be praying my nighttime prayers as I played an 8-year-old girl who recites The Lord’s Prayer each night without  knowing what the prayer really means.

“Hallowed? I don’t know, what does it mean?” She asks. God explains, “It means honored, holy, and wonderful.” She responds thoughtfully, “Yes, that makes sense.”  

And then she keeps on praying.   

“Give us this Day our daily bread…” and to her shock and the audience’s amusement God answers with,
“I think you’ve had enough of that bread.”  

As the girl continues to recite The Lord’s Prayer she receives help from God on how to forgive a friend’s betrayal and ultimately deepen her relationship with the Lord.

Dave enjoyed playing the part of God, and I was thrilled to perform that night to my Gettysburg peers.

The following Friday, I performed a mime as Sonbeam the clown with Janice, whose clown name was Salty, for the same Intervarsity Group.  Dave came to the meeting, and after we had hot fudge sundaes with a group at the Lincoln Diner. On the way home, with me still dressed as a clown: rainbow wig and white faced, he asked me out on a date. I’ve often kidded him that because I was a ‘mime’ clown I wasn’t able to say no. Of course I nodded  yes!

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Act 4. A few months later:
Dave and I joined the debate/forensics group on campus and visited other colleges/Universities to perform “If God Talked Back.”  But the real Act 4 is that we began to date and our love story continued. We dated three and a half years and married in my childhood United Methodist Church as our Gettysburg priest Father Phil assisted.

Dave is my best friend on this earth and God continues to guide me and bless me through him.   Our union has produced four children (three on earth, and one in heaven) and a thriving preschool business that we both enjoy.

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So dear single sister, my advice for you is to be patient and seek out ways to use your talents to honor and serve God. Join a Christian singles group or find like-minded friends. Hold out for a husband who will have self control and wait for you. You are worth the wait, my sweet sister.

To my married sister, are you sitting on your bed in self pity wondering why things are not going as you planned? Remember the panda poster and trust God that He is in control. Show this trust in your actions. Don’t hide away in your room, but let go of your tightly-gripped dreams. Release your own expectations and trust in God’s character. When things don’t go your way, repeat these three statements:

God is Good.
God is Love.
God is in Control.

When you are not sure as to what to do next, just do the next thing. Our lives are a result of our choices. Keep making small good choices for God.

To my great-grands, I love you. I am praying for you. Pray and wait for the one who will lead you closer to God.

PS.
For my sweet sister or grands who have slipped and desire to go back and start over, take heart, for it is never too late to start anew. God is all about redos and restarts.   

Love’s   Answer
(Duo for a young male and a young female)

Notarized: January 26, 2005

(Male voice)
Long ago you made a list
And gave it up to heaven
A lovely, Lonely Teenage child
Yearning for Salvation

(Female voice)
Long age you had a dream
Each night you viewed the sequel
A left-out, lonely teenage boy
Searching for the answer

(Female voice – clear and innocent)
May he be my life long love
With big and sturdy shoulders
So I can lie and cry on them
A love no tear can smolder

(Male voice)
May she be as in my dreams
With the pureness I desire
A girl who holding out for me
A love that will never tire

(Female voice – strong)
You are the shelter, who shields me from rain

(Male voice – strong)
You are the faithful friend, who finally came

(Female and male together)
Two love-sick doves, now side by side
Through every storm together we’ll ride

(Female)
You are my rock,
Sent from above

(Male)
You bring me hope,
My dream is love

(Male and female together – strong and long)
The answer
Love’s Answer
Is Always… LOVE.

5 Fun Ways to Limit Screen Time for Your Pre-Schooler

AmberOBrien"

As an onsite owner of a Goddard School (an educationally based franchise preschool with extended hours), my staff and I recently noticed that one of the three-year-old students had become increasingly tired in the morning with frequent meltdowns in the classroom. She had also become more difficult to awaken after naptime. Communication between the parents and the teachers produced the answers to the child’s change of behavior. The parents revealed that they had recently started giving an iPad to their daughter at bedtime and were letting her put herself to sleep. We explained the negative impact of too much screen time, especially at night, and encouraged the parents to not hand their child a screen for bedtime.

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In our increasingly technological world, screens are here to stay and now is the time to be setting boundaries and limits so they will be used as a teaching tool instead of taking away precious interactions with family members. The introduction of smaller and smaller devices creates more opportunities to increase screen time for children and the temptation for tired parents to hand their child a screen. Most often with parenting the ‘easy thing is often not the best thing’ and we must always be thinking about the long-term results of our choices.

As a parent of three teen children, I know firsthand how difficult it is to stop screens from slowly creeping into our home life. My advice is to set boundaries now because when your child has a cell phone it will become increasingly difficult to monitor them. Tools they learn as preschoolers can pay dividends long into the future. Setting boundaries that you and your spouse both agree on and providing many fun, alternative and enriching activities will be the key to a happy home where children are not overtired and healthy relationships can grow.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I already know that too much screen time is not healthy, what I need is some practical help. How does one limit our children’s screen time and what are some fun activities we can be doing with our preschooler at home?” I believe the answer resides with balance as we seek to provide a variety of interactions for our children and to not let too much screen time take away from other fun and stimulating activities. Consistency between the home and school is very important and our expert and degreed teachers within our classroom environments have much to teach us all.

  1. Limit your child to only 15 minutes of screen time.
    Students at the Goddard School are limited in their screen time, as the iPads and computers in the classroom are used as teaching tools and only contain educational apps and websites. A popular free website called Starfall offers educational games that a child can use at school and at home. Since students must take turns in the classroom, the students learn quickly that they cannot stay at the computer or pad for more than 15 minutes. I suggest setting your phone timer for 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, or a few minutes before; remind your child that they should be finishing up. Setting a 15-minute limit teaches your child a lifetime lesson that individuals are in control of electronic devices and not the other way around. Remember that these educational games are great teaching tools but should never replace the human interaction of snuggle time at night, to appease a tantrum, or to ‘babysit’ a child.
  1.       Make bedtime the most special time of the day.
    Not only was the use of the iPad depriving the above-mentioned three-year-old of enough sleep at night, but also precious snuggle time and the joy of sharing books with a parent. While educational games are a wonderful supplement to help your child to learn basic skills, they can never replace the joy of sharing a funny or touching book. Spending a little extra time at night to ensure that your child receives a warm relaxing bath, a chance to debrief and lots of snuggle time will most likely help ensure a happier morning the following day.bedtimestoryBedtime should be a time to unwind and slowly prepare for a deep refreshing sleep. However, studies have recently shown that the blue light on computer screens contributes to less sleep as the light interferes with the melatonin that helps one drift off to sleep. A sleep-deprived child is not a happy child and according to Charles Czeisler, Director of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, “Sleep deprived children become hyperactive rather than dozy, and sleep loss may be mistaken for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Ensuring that your child has enough sleep will give him or her a better chance behavior-wise for a more successful day. Make bath time fun with lots of bath toys and foam letters, and make storytime special as you ask questions and use different voices as you read to your preschooler. One important and clear boundary for bedtime for instance would be to not allow a TV in your child’s room and to take away all iPads or hand held games before bath and story time.
  1.       Create an imaginative play area in your home.
    At the Goddard School, the students are surrounded by so many fun, hands on activities that when their iPad or computer time ends they are excited to go on to the next activity. Look around your child’s classroom and take note. Try to include similar materials and activities for an accessible area in your home to encourage your child’s imaginative playtime. Collect dress up clothes (Halloween costumes) and your own used purses and items for your child to play dress-up. Create a “play” kitchen area where your child can imitate you as you prepare dinner close to or in your own kitchen area. Include real boxes and containers from your kitchen that you have cleaned and add some real utensils. Add an easel and art supplies so they can create and imitate the morning message that their teacher writes each day. Other ideas include a cash register so they can learn about money, cards for concentration, coloring books, clay or Floam or the new kinetic sand (that won first place in the Goddard Toy contest). Also, put in bins different types of manipulatives such as puzzles, Legos, Lincoln Logs, and other building materials. I would often give my children old magazines and child safe scissors and as they happily cut out pictures and letters their fine motor skills increased. Just as your child’s teachers put out different centers each day, take out new items and put away other items so to increase your child’s interest. The more non-electronic activities you have available, the easier it will be to hand over the iPad or stop watching TV. Moreover, if an adult comes down to the child’s level and plays with the child, the chances of a tantrum free transition increases.
  1.       Make mealtime meaningful.
    Mealtime should be more than putting nutrients in our bodies, but a time to reconnect with our family members about each other’s day. The Goddard School teachers sit at the table with the children and eat with them. The children are encouraged to wait until everyone has their food and daily learn good table manners from watching their teachers. Make sure you are reading the activity report from your Tadpole app and use this information to ask your child about his or her day. Ask about the book that their teacher read, or the fun activity they played outside, or the messy process art activity that they created during the past day. By asking questions about their day, your child is learning lifetime lessons on communicating and at the same time extending the learning made during the school day. Some families have each member describe a ‘high for the day and a low for the day.’ This is an enriching exercise for all family members to learn to both listen and to share the good of the day and also share a challenging time. “So what was something good that happened today?” I often ask my family. I want my children to realize that each day has some good in it. So one important and clear boundary for mealtime would be to turn off all TV’s and cell phones and give all of one’s attention to the family at mealtime.
  1.       Use Physical touch and exercise.
    Preschoolers need touch and fun physical interactions with those that love them. Children are just like adults who receive and perceive love through physical touch and quality time. At our last PTO meeting in January, I asked the parents for our monthly icebreaker to “describe their favorite non-electronic or non-screen activity to do with their preschooler.” Parents described with smiles playing “hide and go seek” and “tickle monster” with their children. One parent has set up tunnels and has an obstacle course in the basement and the entire family goes down to runs races and play together. Just as the children love to dance and get their wiggles at school – How about putting on some dance music and just dancing together as a family after dinner each night? Try playing a variety of music genres as we do at school. A favorite for the children is the Disney song from Frozen “Let it Go,” the dance song “Move It Move It,” and of course the chicken dance and the hokey pokey. A fun game of Freeze dance in which the music stops and everyone freezes in midair teaches concentration and produces lots of giggles and smiles. Play classic games such as Duck Duck Goose, Ring around the rosy and London Bridges. All these games include touch, whole body movement and provide social interactions that a screen can never do.

Always remember that your most important goal as a parent is to build up a healthy lifelong close relationship with your child.

May our children remember bedtime stories and playing hide and go seek more than they have memories of us as parents texting on our cell phones. Model for your child that you are in control of all media and choose to set boundaries especially for mealtime and bedtime.

Birthday Reflections: 5 Ways to Help Ensure That the Best is Yet to Be

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister:

Are you looking forward to your next birthday? Do you see aging as positive or negative? As we live in a culture that worships youth, we often tend to view aging as something to be dreaded. Some see a birthday as a reminder of lifetime milestones that have not been realized… marriage, children, or a life dream.  Others grieve the loss of their beauty, health and strength.  Anxiety concerning the future can choke the joy out of the best birthday plans.

3669896149_88b220e5d8_oIs this moon waxing or waning? Answer at the end!

Indeed, as my 40th birthday grew closer, the poet in me began to ask the “Almighty poet and creator” some probing questions. On a serene summer evening, I remember looking up at the half-moon hanging in the velvet sky and teasingly asking, “Lord, am I now waxing or waning?” Of course, I knew my physical body was waning.  However, I yearned to hear that my soul would keep waxing (growing).  Somehow, we all need confirmation at times that, like a mature apple tree that bears more fruit than a “sapling,” our lives will continue to be productive and bear more lasting  fruit with each passing year.  

I invited a few sweet sisters to come join me for a beach birthday retreat and this stanza from the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” penned by Robert Browning graced the invitation:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand who Saith
A Whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Just as Jesus saved the best wine for the “middle to end ” of the Cana Wedding Feast, I believe the Lord desires to give us increasingly new gifts and opportunities to grow and bless those around us. I asked my sisters to bring instead of a store bought gift, a positive verse or quote concerning the topic of aging.  Amazingly, these Five nuggets together form a treasure chest of wisdom on how we all can help ensure God’s promise that our time left on earth can be our very best.

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#1 Don’t Look Back
My friend Cindy shared a story concerning the importance of not holding on to the past. The character Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Sunset Boulevard kept longing for her glory days as a film star. As a former silent film star she did not adapt when moving pictures began to include sound and her life ended in tragedy as she clung to her past. This example from a “Daily Bread” devotional reminds us to see our lives like a book, and thus we need to live each chapter at a time.  If we are looking back, we can’t be creating the next chapter of our lives. Yes sweet sister, you and I need to be careful not to let our past heartaches or negative people keep us from living in the next chapter of our lives. In contrast, during the wedding of Cana, confident Mary expected Jesus to perform a miracle and save the reception. This first miracle would change her family forever as Jesus was thrust out into His public ministry. Mary was ready and willing for a new season in both their lives to begin. Do you look forward to God’s new season in your life with each birthday, confident and excited for His perfect gifts and plans ready to be opened?

  • Action:  Look up Jeremiah 29 :11-14.  Write out verse 12.

 

#2  Family First
A thought provoking quote from Thomas Jefferson was offered by my dear friend Beth.  Jefferson stated, “I find as I grow older that I love those most whom I loved first.” She went on to explain this could mean a better appreciation for all our parents did for us when we were children or an increased love and patience for our own children and loved ones.  Shouldn’t our inner circle of our family receive our best energy?  An apple tree that is strong enough to produce strong healthy limbs and fruit must first have strong roots.  So focus first on your family roots.  Do you, sister, see each passing year as a new opportunity to heal past rifts between family members? Let us ask God to give us mercy and understanding for those who have disappointed us and the grace to reconcile broken relationships. Peace can be the greatest gift you give yourself and your family.

  • Action: Call your parents on your birthday and wish them “Happy anniversary!” Or invite a sibling  or child out to lunch – if you are still alive there is still hope for stronger relationship.

 

#3  Remain in Him
Next, my cousin Laura reminded us that God’s grace is like the rhythmic waves of the ocean. Just as the waves continue to ebb and flow, God’s mercy is new every morning. She  encouraged us to spend time with God each day. Without water the apple tree will wither up and die;  just as we need to stay watered and regularly drink from the Word of God. So, to expand one of my favorite sayings, “The best is yet to be,”  we must add a preface to be accurate: “As you stay close to the Lord, the best is yet to be.” We have the responsibility to continue to make good choices every day. The most important choice is to seek out our creator and have fellowship with Him daily. I often imagine the Lord faithfully waiting to chat with me each morning. If I sleep in or miss our “morning date,” then I try to find a quiet moment later in the day.

  • Action: Find a special spot to place your bible and a journal, and pick a time that you plan to sneak away for time just with Jesus. Don’t stand Him up, He’ll be there waiting.

applephoto

#4  Fellowship with God’s Family
My friend Suzie attends daily mass most mornings and shared how beautiful the more mature members are that come to worship each day. Despite their physical ailments (waning), they joyfully come to be with God and with each other. Suzie exclaimed, “A woman in Love is beautiful!” So if we want to be beautiful in the Lord, my sister, we need to fellowship with other believers and receive God’s love and grace. Then, just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, we can in the same way reflect God’s love and beauty to those around us.

  • Action: Have you found a good place of fellowship? A small group bible study? We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). There were times in my life that I had just one prayer partner and we used the phone to chat and pray. If you can’t find a small group of sisters, pray and seek out one sister.

 

#5  Make a List
Lastly, my sister Liese shared a list of gifts the Lord has already blessed me with in my first 40 years of life. Making a gratitude list has been a tool I have used often in my past.  Usually to gain perspective when I felt down, I would list 10 good things about my life in my journal. If a person in my life had angered or disappointed me, I would write down 10 good things about that person. Grateful people are positive people.  So instead of counting the candles, count your blessings my sister. For every year that you have had the privilege of existing on this earth, write down a gift that is in you or your life.  

  • Action: Tape your list to your mirror or steering wheel. Keep reminding yourself of all your many blessings. Tell the ones who made the cut on your list about your list.

Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70,80, 90 or 100, my sister, the Lord has new plans to unfold and fresh gifts to be opened.

In short, in order for “the best is yet to be,” we need to not look back, but be ready to write a new chapter in the book of our lives. We should spend time and energy on our families, our relationships with God and within our Christian communities. When we physically write down our list of items to be thankful for, we maintain perspective and a joyful attitude.

happybirthdaytoyou

Moon answer: If you guessed waxing, you are correct. Hopefully your soul is waxing, too!

 

 

Confessions of a Survivor Application Addict

AmberOBrien"

 

Locked in our small powder room, I cling to the phone as my three children knock on the door.
“Mom, she hit me!”  They whine.
“Jacob won’t let me use the computer.”
My husband chimes in with “Amber, have you seen my shoes?”
Ignoring the interruptions I ask my friend on the line, “Have you ever wanted to go to an island and just get away?”  

So begins one of the many videos I have submitted to the reality show, Survivor. If you think I am crazy for wanting to go to a remote location for thirty-nine days and live off the land, eat bugs, wear no makeup (yikes!) and put myself in a situation of possible ridicule and failure, I don’t blame you. I have wondered the same thing time and time again.

The producers must have thought the same thing after seeing the second part of the video we submitted.  My ‘director’ husband created a scene in which I suddenly emerge out of blue sparkling water similar to the scene with Bo Derek in the movie 10. After my exaggerated surprise at being in a beautiful tropical scene, I start to walk toward the shore complete with beaded hair. Boom! My three children run into me and try to knock me down.  As I seek to upright myself I laughingly state, “Make that without children” correcting my fantasy wish.

After some reflection, I realize that the contrast between Bo Derek and me was probably too much for the judges to handle.  I still wonder if they laughed out loud or simply moved their fingers like I was crazy.

Yes, I confess to submitting videos and applications to be on the show. The poor video judges must have held their ears as I sang the Gilligan’s Island theme song complete with new words, “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, the tale of a homeschool mom…” While the words might have been clever, my singing voice has never been one of my assets.  Nevertheless, creating the videos was always great family fun.

In contrast to the light-hearted videos, the application process forced me to dig deep. One question in particular made me stop and ponder more than the others:

“Who is your hero and why?”

Quickly, I realized that my hero was not a former winner of their show or a famous actor on television.  Instead, I thought of all the unrecognized people serving and caring for God’s people.  My heroes included: parents who care for a terminally ill child or parent, an abused woman who allows her anger and hurt to dissolve into forgiveness, a husband who turns away from temptation, a woman who regrets a past decision and now helps others from making the same mistake, a family who says yes to one more child, a couple who seeks counseling to reconcile a dying marriage, an addict who throws away his addiction because it is destroying his family, the single parent who must play the part of both mom and dad…  the list goes on and on. These people give and forgive when no camera crews are watching. These true survivors endure hardship and heartache often lasting much more thirty-nine days. No odds of winning a million dollars or being a guest on The David Letterman Show. They are not ‘models’ but they model for me who I hope to become.

Despite our family’s best efforts, I never received a call to come and audition. As time went on though, my desire to try again continued. I tried to rationalize and justify my desires. Since the sociology of putting such diverse people in this situation appealed to me, I reasoned they needed a Christian homeschooling mom on the show. I mean, how many homeschooling moms have been on Survivor?  Zero! Of Course, it’s questionable how many have actually applied. I also desired justice, and hated to see someone who lied and cheated win.  I thought perhaps I could show them that the best strategy is to be trustworthy. Perhaps my mission field would consist of millions of viewers.

It was then that I recalled Mother Teresa’s famous saying, “Do small things with great love.”  I was grounded once again as I thought of all the unsung heroes listed above.

I would pray “Lord, take this desire away if it is not of you.”  I would also ask, “Is this just me?”  No, this drive seemed not to be a push from within but a pull from beyond.

Then it happened. My desire to get away became a reality when I went on a silent women’s retreat with a friend. During the 48 hours I began to refocus.  

“What is reality?” The priest asked.  

“Reality is the love of Christ.”  

We were reminded that we are on this earth such a short time in relation to eternity, and we are all called to make the most of the time we have to know, love, and serve Him. My silent retreat was away from the busyness of the day, and far from any Hollywood cameras. What a wonderful and refreshing weekend! I felt spoiled as I enjoyed the delicious food (no bugs) and listened in the peace and quiet. I will never forget how the priest began the first meditation.

“You think that you worked hard to scheme and put together this weekend, but Jesus for all of eternity has been planning this time to be with you.”  

Yes, He had been planning this weekend all along and in it I found once again the reality of His love for me.    

A Love to Last the Ages
Amber O’Brien, July 2006

Jesus and me have a date today
Gonna be half past nine
He’ll tell me I’m beautiful
I’ll tell Him Forever He’s mine

Jesus and me have a date today
He’s gonna whisper in my ear
I’ll tell Him all my worries
He’ll tell me, “Girl never fear”

For I am His
and He is mine
a Love to Last the Ages
I’ll share with Him my inner thoughts
He’ll whisper through The Pages

Jesus and me have a date today
I know he’ll be on time
He’s always been faithful
Lord help me to be ‘in kind’

For He’s waiting by the seashore
My coffee table, too
Every red light is sacred
Lord, help me to be as true

For I am His
and He is mine
A Love to Last the Ages
I’ll share with Him my inner thoughts
He’ll whisper through The Pages

Birthday Reflections: 5 Ways to Help Ensure That the Best is Yet to Be

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister:

Are you looking forward to your next birthday? Do you see aging as positive or negative? As we live in a culture that worships youth, we often tend to view aging as something to be dreaded. Some see a birthday as a reminder of lifetime milestones that have not been realized… marriage, children, or a life dream.  Others grieve the loss of their beauty, health and strength.  Anxiety concerning the future can choke the joy out of the best birthday plans.

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Is this moon waxing or waning? Answer at the end!

Indeed, as my 40th birthday grew closer, the poet in me began to ask the “Almighty poet and creator” some probing questions. On a serene summer evening, I remember looking up at the half-moon hanging in the velvet sky and teasingly asking, “Lord, am I now waxing or waning?” Of course, I knew my physical body was waning.  However, I yearned to hear that my soul would keep waxing (growing).  Somehow, we all need confirmation at times that, like a mature apple tree that bears more fruit than a “sapling,” our lives will continue to be productive and bear more lasting  fruit with each passing year.  

I invited a few sweet sisters to come join me for a beach birthday retreat and this stanza from the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” penned by Robert Browning graced the invitation:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand who Saith
A Whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Just as Jesus saved the best wine for the “middle to end ” of the Cana Wedding Feast, I believe the Lord desires to give us increasingly new gifts and opportunities to grow and bless those around us. I asked my sisters to bring instead of a store bought gift, a positive verse or quote concerning the topic of aging.  Amazingly, these Five nuggets together form a treasure chest of wisdom on how we all can help ensure God’s promise that our time left on earth can be our very best.

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#1 Don’t Look Back
My friend Cindy shared a story concerning the importance of not holding on to the past. The character Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Sunset Boulevard kept longing for her glory days as a film star. As a former silent film star she did not adapt when moving pictures began to include sound and her life ended in tragedy as she clung to her past. This example from a “Daily Bread” devotional reminds us to see our lives like a book, and thus we need to live each chapter at a time.  If we are looking back, we can’t be creating the next chapter of our lives. Yes sweet sister, you and I need to be careful not to let our past heartaches or negative people keep us from living in the next chapter of our lives. Similarly, during the wedding of Cana, confident Mary expected Jesus to perform a miracle and save the reception.  This first miracle would change her family forever as Jesus was thrust out into His public ministry. Mary was ready and willing for a new season in both their lives to begin. Do you look forward to God’s new season in your life with each birthday, confident and excited for His perfect gifts and plans ready to be opened?

  • Action:  Look up Jeremiah 29 :11-14.  Write out verse 12.

 

#2  Family First
A thought provoking quote from Thomas Jefferson was offered by my dear friend Beth.  Jefferson stated, “I find as I grow older that I love those most whom I loved first.” She went on to explain this could mean a better appreciation for all our parents did for us when we were children or an increased love and patience for our own children and loved ones.  Shouldn’t our inner circle of our family receive our best energy?  An apple tree that is strong enough to produce strong healthy limbs and fruit must first have strong roots.  So focus first on your family roots.  Do you, sister, see each passing year as a new opportunity to heal past rifts between family members? Let us ask God to give us mercy and understanding for those who have disappointed us and the grace to reconcile broken relationships. Peace can be the greatest gift you give yourself and your family.

  • Action: Call your parents on your birthday and wish them “Happy anniversary!” Or invite a sibling  or child out to lunch – if you are still alive there is still hope for stronger relationship.

 

#3  Remain in Him
Next, my cousin Laura reminded us that God’s grace is like the rhythmic waves of the ocean. Just as the waves continue to ebb and flow, God’s mercy is new every morning. She  encouraged us to spend time with God each day. Without water the apple tree will wither up and die;  just as we need to stay watered and regularly drink from the Word of God. So, to expand one of my favorite sayings, “The best is yet to be,”  we must add a preface to be accurate: “As you stay close to the Lord, the best is yet to be.” We have the responsibility to continue to make good choices every day. The most important choice is to seek out our creator and have fellowship with Him daily. I often imagine the Lord faithfully waiting to chat with me each morning. If I sleep in or miss our “morning date,” then I try to find a quiet moment later in the day.

  • Action: Find a special spot to place your bible and a journal, and pick a time that you plan to sneak away for time just with Jesus. Don’t stand Him up, He’ll be there waiting.

applephoto

#4  Fellowship with God’s Family
My friend Suzie attends daily mass most mornings and shared how beautiful the more mature members are that come to worship each day. Despite their physical ailments (waning), they joyfully come to be with God and with each other. Suzie exclaimed, “A woman in Love is beautiful!” So if we want to be beautiful in the Lord, my sister, we need to fellowship with other believers and receive God’s love and grace. Then, just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, we can in the same way reflect God’s love and beauty to those around us.

  • Action: Have you found a good place of fellowship? A small group bible study? We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). There were times in my life that I had just one prayer partner and we used the phone to chat and pray. If you can’t find a small group of sisters, pray and seek out one sister.

 

#5  Make a List
Lastly, my sister Liese shared a list of gifts the Lord has already blessed me with in my first 40 years of life. Making a gratitude list has been a tool I have used often in my past.  Usually to gain perspective when I felt down, I would list 10 good things about my life in my journal. If a person in my life had angered or disappointed me, I would write down 10 good things about that person. Grateful people are positive people.  So instead of counting the candles, count your blessings my sister. For every year that you have had the privilege of existing on this earth, write down a gift that is in you or your life.  

  • Action: Tape your list to your mirror or steering wheel. Keep reminding yourself of all your many blessings. Tell the ones who made the cut on your list about your list.

Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70,80, 90 or 100, my sister, the Lord has new plans to unfold and fresh gifts to be opened.

In short, in order for “the best is yet to be,” we need to not look back, but be ready to write a new chapter in the book of our lives. We should spend time and energy on our families, our relationships with God and within our Christian communities. When we physically write down our list of items to be thankful for, we maintain perspective and a joyful attitude.

happybirthdaytoyou

 

Moon answer: If you guessed waxing, you are correct. Hopefully your soul is waxing, too!