Category Archives: Contentment

Travel Advisory – Narrow Road Ahead

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Travel Advisory – Narrow Road Ahead

I had been out of sorts all weekend and now I was stepping off a flight, still in a funk.

I’d been in this airport before; it was familiar though not the least bit comforting.

It was barely October but the northeastern air was cold as I exited the terminal toward the rental cars. “At least I know my way around” I thought as I trudged in that direction, pulling luggage and balancing a heavy computer bag on my shoulder.

I settled into a sedan and drove away from the airport, remembering the first time I flew into Manchester. That time, the luck of the rental car line-up afforded me a Mustang convertible. I had put the top down in spite of the chilly temperatures.

One wrong turn transported me into a fragrant forest of trees. Realizing that I must be off course, I navigated onto a side road to turn around. The sound of the gravel under those tires and the earthy scent of the trees reminded me of places I love. Even now, the memory calmed my heavy heart a bit.

I passed the spot of the errant turn and smiled to myself. Maybe a cup of coffee would perk me up, I thought. I spotted a new Dunkin’ Donuts just before I reached the on ramp for the interstate; in just a few minutes I had a steaming cup and was on my way to the hotel that would once again be home for the week.

After a quick call to let my hubby know I was bound for my destination, I reflected in silence as I drove the mostly deserted highway.

I’m too old for this.

I am too tired for this.

I can’t do this.

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I recited a litany of reasons and excuses – all well-rehearsed over the past few days. Weariness set in as I sipped my coffee and focused on the road.

I had forgotten the natural beauty of the drive south toward Boston. It was overcast, but even under gray skies the glorious colors of fall brightened the landscape. The birch trees stood tall, their white bark like dress whites crowned with colorful leaves.

I noted one of those highway signs that marks a famous landmark. Robert Frost Farm. The client had mentioned it on my last trip and suggested it might be worthwhile to stop and explore on my return to the airport. Ever the worried traveler, I didn’t dare risk missing my outbound flight.

But now I was in no great hurry to reach an empty hotel room. There was no mystery or excitement or even concern about finding it. I’d stayed there before and it was just the standard place to rest after a long day.

Only days before an Amazon box awaited my arrival home after work. I opened it with curiosity, since I didn’t recall ordering anything. To my great delight, my sweet hubby had ordered a stack of books recommended for writers! Among them was Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. And so I had just read and underlined these words:

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things,
to go places and explore.”

“I’m a writer”. I had only recently mustered the courage to make that declaration and in the moment I felt a fresh determination to walk in that. I took the exit and navigated to the tiny, unassuming farm.

frost-home-window

I shivered as I exited the car and approached the barn. A lone man sat just inside. After greeting me, he quietly waited as I explored the artifacts and books displayed.

“Would you like to view the video and tour the home?” I hesitated only a moment. Writing was a great excuse to explore this place that had inspired Frost to write. For the next half hour, I settled under an afghan on a rough wooden bench and watched a poor quality film about the life of one of America’s most beloved poets.

I toured the home; the simple farmhouse was anything but inspiring, but as I peeked out windows and imagined life there in the early 1900’s, I realized that inspiration comes in the ordinary moments of everyday life.

I purchased a small paperback collection of Frost’s poems, said goodbye to my tour guide and walked the grounds, collecting damp leaves as I wandered. The question hung in my heart and mind. “What am I doing here?”

There was small stone wall; I stopped to rest a bit despite the chill. Opening the small book, I found Frost’s famous words:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.[i]

Frost’s reference to a road less traveled reminded me of the words of another who had this to say about choosing a path:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it. ~ Jesus, Matthew 7:13-14

That chilly afternoon, I realized that I choose a path every day.

The wide road is so appealing. I want easy. I long for wide lanes and smooth terrain. I stand at the fork and want to choose for my comfort, for my peace and for my convenience. Me, me, me.

fall-leaves

I lingered for a bit, considering the week before me. It was not the road I wanted to choose. It was hard; it was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But it was ordained. It would stretch me and at the end of it, I would be spent. And that is exactly the way I long to live: poured out and used up for the reasons I am alive – to love God and to share his love with others.

I stood and walked back to the car, my steps lighter. I breathed the autumn air deeply and paused again to look back at the homestead.

It was going to be a great week. I was sure of it.

Navigating the road less traveled,

lorraine

[i] The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

 

Are  you looking for a safe place to seek encouragement?

Hopelively is a private community for women desiring to find and keep their Hope. For women seeking encouragement in their wellness pursuits or recovering from loss. Our goal is to promote a spirit of hope in the midst of struggles, both physical and spiritual.

Find us on Facebook.

Administrators: 

Jami Amerine of Sacred Ground Sticky Floors,

Lorraine Reep of Grace and Graffiti,

Rebecca Huff of ThatOrganicMom 

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Learning to Love My Scars

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Learning to Love My Scars

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

It was in the early 1960’s that my aunt and uncle and their daughter, my beautiful cousin, came to visit our big family in Florida. At the time, there were probably five of us. Two rambunctious older brothers inspired my younger sister and I to run and jump and test our limits.

There was a three by five foot step at the front door of our home with a cement patio surround. Our house was situated on a corner lot – there were no neighbors directly behind the house. A right of way for power lines towered high above the wide strip of land that my parents referred to as “the field”. Even with all of that space to roam and play, we spent hours in the front yard.

That step was a perfect place to hone (and test) our jumping skills. We set goals to leap higher and longer and never once thought about the consequences of falling on our faces and losing a tooth or worse.

I don’t remember the details, but I remember the reaction. Cousin Jan fell and skinned her knee. She was appropriately upset by the sight of her own blood and her mom and dad (as all moms and dads do with their first child) rushed to scoop up their one and only. I was nervous and anxious because I’d never seen that sort of reaction to a skinned knee. Most of ours were not reported and typically discovered during bath time when the washrag lathered with dial soap found the spot and the victim yelped.

I had never heard about scars, but quickly realized they were a big concern. It was her first skin injury; her parents were worried that she would have a scar. I didn’t know much about scars, but it seemed like a really bad outcome.

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The phone just rang. I knew by the caller id that it was my dermatologist’s office; the call was expected. Several days ago they scooped flesh from six spots on various parts of my body for biopsies. I surrendered to the procedure with routine dread, knowing too well that delaying the process only makes matters worse.

Three of the six were nothing – benign something or others and whatever. Get to the others, I thought to myself as I rifled through my bag, looking for a pen and paper. One is a basal cell carcinoma. Surgery required, she said. Frozen section, so plan to stay with us all morning, she said.

The other two, squamous cell, but thin so we can “just” treat them with Efudex. The mean cream is the pet name they’ve given it. It’s a topical chemo that slowly kills the cancer cells until the area is angry; red, oozing and painful. Awesome. I scheduled the surgery and turned back to my work.

I couldn’t really focus though. I kept thinking about having yet another surgery scar on my chest. A tear threatened to escape and I scolded myself. “You just heard about a friend’s loved one with a terminal cancer diagnosis – this is nothing! Get some perspective!” (I’m so much kinder to others than to myself at times.)

post-op-patchesIn late October I had the most invasive surgery yet. MOHS surgery removed the skin cancer and left a hole in my face the size of a quarter. Following the excision, another surgeon grafted skin from my shoulder to make a patch to cover the hole. The process was traumatic, but it’s over. I need only glance in the mirror for a reminder to wear my sunscreen. That one has been hard to love.

Scars. They mark our bodies with the evidence of a wound.

But what if I look at that with a new perspective? Every scar is also evidence of healing. The hurt place is again whole.

Scars are evidence that we have lived. They are beautiful because they give hope of healing. Scars don’t form on the dead.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection he willingly showed his scars. He was recognized by them because they were evidence of his humanity.

Do you have a scar that is bothering you? He is wild about you, dear one. Settle into him and let him whisper to you the beauty that he wants to place in your heart.

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.”
Psalm 45: 11

christy

Just one day after MOHS surgery, I met Christy for the first time. A great blogger friend and beautiful woman, she reassured me of my only unfading beauty – the work that He is doing in me.

 

May you always know you are beautiful,

lorraine

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I’m reading this amazing book and I think you would love it as well. Use the link below to preorder it today!

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Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

 

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

 

 

Birthday Greetings from the Future Me

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Hepburn People

Oh, to reach back in time and speak to my fifty year old self…there are some things I wish I could have known. Maybe you are in approaching a big milestone birthday. Go ahead, eavesdrop; I’m good with it.

Welcome to your fifties, girlfriend! You just completed an amazing period of your life. Appreciate it; you were in your peak! In case you need a recap, your forties were eventful.

Perhaps you found your dream job. By now you are beginning to realize that, but hang on because you are going to love it even more!

Or became a grandma and occasionally when you were out alone with the cherub people thought you were the mom. You are rocking the grandma gig.

Your nest may have emptied. You discovered the joy of long walks and occasional suppers on the sofa. Life was less demanding and you had more time to build your marriage and pursue your passions.

Of course there were some hard times, but bless your heart, you grew through them because they revealed the cracks and flaws. It was an awakening; you paid attention. You experienced the sorrow of loss…of people, things, and maybe even a dream or two.

You learned that life is fleeting and precious and you moved forgiveness way up to the top of the list of your first responses. You discovered that the greatest gift you can give yourself is the forgiveness of another. There is so much freedom in letting go!

Here you are, a new decade stretched out before you. You are anxious. You’ve seen hard and scary things happen to women in their fifties.

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In spite of your public declaration that you are middle aged, you privately reckon with the harsh reality that not many live to be one hundred.

All of the over the hill jokes are now in your own backyard and you are not amused. And the truth is – your body might just be showing some signs of age.

One Friday night you will be scrubbing the sink like a boss and you’ll hear a strange pop. The searing pain in your shoulder must be related, but how and why?

You will spend the next six months and way too many of your flexible spending dollars on specialists who will tell you it can’t be fixed. The indentation in your shoulder where a muscle used to fire is the new normal. For the first time, you hear the phrase “When people get to be your age….” Get used to it.

One Sunday morning you’ll be strutting down the preschool hallway, slightly over confident because some sweet young momma just mentioned your grandma hotness…and you’ll turn that cute wedge sandal over and break your foot. Just like that, you go from cute wedges to an orthopedic boot. You’ll think to yourself “Six weeks. I can do six weeks.” No one warned you about delayed bone growth after fifty. For the record, THREE MONTHS.  IN THE BOOT.  But you rocked that boot, sister. Walked all over Disney World, pushing strollers, because MAGIC. And because you are more determined than ever to prove that you can.

One night as you prepare for bed you’ll take a long look into the mirror and realize you are gazing into a face you don’t recognize. She has wrinkles and a few gray hairs are peeking out around her ears. She looks familiar, alright, but more like your mother than you. And you’ll resolve to smile more because you have great teeth. And use sunscreen.

Yes, the next decade is going to introduce some new challenges, but there are so many good reasons to embark on it with joyful hope:

  • Grandchildren. You are going to be smitten, my dear. You are going to rearrange your life for these little ones and you will love every minute.
  • Menopause. You will move from always being cold to fighting the urge to disrobe in public to escape the fiery furnace of your body in a hot flash. Don’t worry, though, by the time you are sixty they’ll be mostly over. And no more monthly visitor; trust me, you won’t miss it!
  • Wisdom. You prayed for it in your twenties. As a young mother you read every related Bible verse and even tried clicking your heels together while reciting said verses, hoping for it to come. Soon you’ll discover that wisdom was not so much a gift to be received all at once; rather a package to unwrap. With each ribbon loosed, bit by bit it is yours.
  • Courage. You will try new things and stretch yourself for no reason other than knowing that you can. Your dreams have a shelf life. This is the time to run after them.
  • Opportunities to invest in others. Volunteer, mentor, and serve. You have more to offer than ever before.

If I may, just a little advice from the wiser side of the decade:

Be kind to yourself. If you judge yourself harshly, you’ll be tempted to mete out the same to others.

Get honest with yourself. Do you really want to run a marathon? If you do, get after it. If not, stop beating yourself up and set some realistic goals.

Celebrate. You won’t regret choices to carve out special moments with the people you love. When a friend wants to have coffee after you’ve changed into your pajamas, for the love, put on some yoga pants and go. When that grandson wants to talk to you about Minecraft or Star Wars, remember that you’ve listened intently to many adults who were far less interesting.

You are alive for a reason. No one knows the sum of our days but God. Go forward with confident hope, my dear, for your Lord has prepared you for the days to come.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a Godly life.
Better to be patient than powerful, better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.”
Proverbs 16:31-33 NLT

Jalapenos Take My Breath Away

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Jalapeno Banner 2I had looked forward to it all week. Family members, my women, would be together in our home for a meal. The simple menu met dietary restrictions and individual preferences while allowing time for me to visit with the girls. It had been a full, busy week and I didn’t want to be bogged down in the kitchen.

I was relieved when my sister Martha arrived early enough to prepare the jalapenos for the poppers since I am hypersensitive to them – even handling them in the store leaves me with burning skin but my daughter loves jalapeno poppers and they were perfect for our casual supper. Once the seeds and ribs are removed I can handle them without much distress and I love the flavor they add to so many of my favorites. As she was removing the ribs and seeds we both began gasping and coughing. It was good to finish that task and have the air clear by the time the girls returned from a shopping trip.

It was pure joy to see these women I love around my table, to hear them laugh and catch up. In fact, I was so caught up in the fun I didn’t notice that the pot of shrimp was foaming up and boiling over. I quickly reacted to the spewing mess and decided it was time to serve.

Surveying the choices of serving dishes and appetizer plates in the cupboard, I recognized a familiar discontent building. Nothing there was nice enough and barely adequate; a quick glance back at the table and I realized that I hadn’t really planned the table setting or meal presentation. Why hadn’t I given more thought to this? Anxiety rose up as I internally chastised myself.

I looked over my shoulder at the girls. They were seated around my bare table, sipping drinks and chatting happily.

I was on the verge of missing it. Even as joy was filling the room, the nagging notion that this simple supper wasn’t enough was on the verge of choking it right out of my heart. Thankfully, I turned again to the faces of the women around the table, women I love, and I remembered that this exact scene would never again happen. There will be other times, I’m sure; other meals around other tables, in other places. But this present moment was too precious to miss.

As I took down a few perfectly adequate plates and began setting them on the table in front of these people I love, I recalled this verse:

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Proverbs 11:25 NIV

I’m almost certain no one gave a second thought to the serving dishes as they peeled St. Augustine shrimp and ate jalapeno poppers. In the midst of the laughter and love and talk of family trees I doubt they even noticed.

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