Of Only Happy Things

Today is such a beautiful day that it is fitting that I should only write of happy things.

Snow is gently falling and my family is safely tucked inside the warmth of our house.  No where we need to go today.  The pantry is stocked full, a warm fire glowing in the fireplace, and plenty of wood to keep us warm if the power should go out during this winter storm.  It reminds me of God.  He keeps us safe from the dangers.  Sure, we all fall at times, but we only need to reach up and take God’s hand and He will lead us someplace safe.  So, today I reach back into my thoughts and remember the happy times, this being one of them.

There are bits and pieces of memories and images, of sandy shores and glorious mountains, of running through the fields with child-like freedom, holding my newborn son, celebrating all the birthdays along the way, and smiles of achievements won.

We should store these times in the front of our minds and think of them often, so we can easily reach them when we need to, when the not-so-good times come too.  Grab hold of the good memories and God’s hand, and He will lead you through.

God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

I have been reading the book of Psalms as my daily devotional this year.  I have never read it straight through like this before, but it is the most uplifting and encouraging book I have ever read.  It should be on Amazon’s Top 100 list.  Simple but pure, no fancy gimmicks, and it’s all free.  God had a specific reason for giving us the Psalms, to encourage us to seek His refuge and peace.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.  Psalm 5:3

Guy Lomabardo childhood memory

This is one of my favorite childhood images, listening to this record of Guy Lombardo and the children’s choir, while holding the album cover in my hands and wondering about the people inside those windows, safe and warm, happily singing carols.  I recently found the album again on Amazon, and today is a wonderful February day to play it and listen and dream.

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Shopping for Jeans

Shopping for jeans in the wintertime is about as depressing as shopping for swimsuits in the summer.  I’d be happy to stay with my comfortable old jeans, but now that I can wear jeans to work, I thought it might be worth the adventure to the mall for a new stylish pair.  I tried on jeans with all the embellishments and some mystery called “skinny jeans”, until  a young sales woman approaches me and says with a smile, “Are you actually going to try that on?”  That should have been enough to make me run to the nearest gym, but instead I run back to my familiar store where the sales associates are over the age of twenty, and I buy a couple of pairs of my favorite jeans.  Maybe next summer…

It was a long time before I was able to write something like this with humor instead of tears.  I wasted so many years of my youth obsessing over my weight.  Then having a child of my own began to change my focus to what is really important, and I finally realized that nothing in my life had ever been won or lost over a few pounds.  True joy, true confidence, and true beauty really do start from within.

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Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30little feet

Half a year

Half a year has already passed by.  Do you ever think back to January around this time of year and wonder at how much has changed or transpired in just half a year?  I do, and I am always amazed at the things I discover that I didn’t know then but I know now.

I began my running journey this January, conspiring to run and think my way through the last 20 years of my CD song collection that I loaded on my mp3 player.  I have temporarily laid aside my mp3 player for this particular part of my running journey.  Like running, life can sometimes take us down different paths.  Two of my fellow running comrades have recently passed away since the beginning of this year, both too young and too sudden.  And I have lost others too, in the sense that after more than a decade of seeing them almost every day at my job, running with them, taking coffee breaks and talks, they will be leaving as part of unexpected job layoffs.  So I have traded my mp3 runs at the moment for a few remaining running and work conversations, and precious talks that are of the most urgent and non-committed kind.

I have also just returned from a week of traveling in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, where my morning runs took on a more silent, spiritual ritual all of their own, as I reflected on this half of a year.  I began to look forward to this time alone, and to take in the beauty and “sounds of silence” that only God’s nature can speak to.  We all need these times where we put down the mp3, forget, and just listen.  So today, here are pictures, and not so many words, from my morning runs in Yellowstone.

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Running at the top of the world.

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No grizzlies on today’s run, but I did run across this guy.

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Do I walk past him at the end of the trail or turn around and go back?

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My favorite ~ blue dragon flies.  In the simplest and smallest of things, life is amazing!

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The Grand Finale of morning runs – WOW!

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And of course, Old Faithful

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What a unique creature! Wonder what he is thinking?

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If one ever doubts the existence of a magnificent God, then a trip to Yellowstone is a must-see for a lifetime!  It will make you believe, or nothing will.

And a magnificent God will lead us through the second half of the year too, no matter what may come.  Life is precious.  I sit here now, waiting in a hospital for a family surgery, the same hospital where many things began for me so many years ago… lest I ever forget what God has done in my life.  I am in His Hands, which is the best and only place to be.

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A Beautiful Masterpiece

To see myself as beautiful as God sees me.” 

It’s a little twist on words, isn’t it?  I like to say this short prayer as part of my morning daily prayers.  I have tried for years to obtain beauty, never quite meeting mine or others expectations.  And then it occurred to me.  God sees His children as beautiful; He created us in His Image; and God saw all that He had made and it was very good.  We are a masterpiece, God’s Masterpiece!  If I could only retrain my thinking to see myself as God sees me ~ with tender, loving, compassionate, caring thoughts, with no harm ~ wow, what a difference that would make!

Quite simply said… negative thoughts do not come from God.  So where are we getting negative thoughts from?  God’s thoughts are only precious toward us, filled with blessings of the spiritual kind.  So the next time you are wishing for a beauty makeover,  think on this:

To see myself as beautiful as God sees me.”
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus.
  Ephesians 2:10

unbeauty                 masterpiece
beauty?                                          Beautiful

Lessons from the Sea ~ how much do I really need?

I like to pack lightly – a selection of feel-good music, flip flops, running shoes, and of course, my books.  I don’t need much else when going to the sea.  It is a time to shed the layers of clothes, worries, and the to-do lists of our busy lives, and to realize just how little we do need instead of how much.  Rather than accumulating the latest of things, it is a time to let go of some things.

My road trip down to the sea follows the same pattern.  As I leave the big city behind, my body begins to relax a little as I drive through the pleasant, flat farmlands of South Georgia, passing nothing but signs for pecans, peaches, and boiled peanuts.  I always turn on the radio about now, partly to pass the time driving through the miles of farmland, but also because I know I’ll find that classic radio station playing the old songs from the 60’s and 70’s – of a time gone by.  Memories of the past occupy my mind for a while as I begin to leave the present worries behind.

Then I start to smell the sea air and see the palm trees in the distance and know my destination is close.  The sea is a wonderful mystery to me.  I am still amazed every time at its vastness.  My first thought upon seeing the ocean is always the same – Wow, God is big!

After settling in and a good night’s rest, I put on my running shoes and head to the beach in the early morning.  I take in all the beauty and mystery of all that God has made for us.  God has hidden such wonderful details and awe in everything He made, from the smallest design in a seashell, to the numerous sands, to an ocean full of underwater sea life.  The sea provides the food that sustains us in our meals, in livelihood and jobs, in recreation, and it was also a central gathering place in Bible times.  I look at all of God’s beauty around me, that which we often cover up with our belongings and stuff, and all the things we miss while we hurry along, and I think that God must sometimes feel like someone who has prepared an elaborate banquet with all kinds of food and delicacies and provisions for his guests, and yet the guests do not appreciate it.  Let us stop for a moment today to say thank you to God for his overflowing abundance that He has given us.

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19
JM beach 3   JM beach 2
JM beach 1

(photography courtesy of my son @ facebook.com/JohnMcCuskerPhotography)

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