* Community

What is community? Google says it is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Don’t laugh but in the past year I have just started going to our local senior center for exercise classes. The other day at class during a water break, I noticed how people were connecting with each other, laughing and talking together, and just having a bit of social time. They’ve found community with people their own age who are doing their best to stay in shape and age gracefully.

Another class I like to attend is yoga. The whole concept of yoga is about creating community and drawing strength from the energy of others. Yoga has taught me to let go of myself and just be in the moment. It’s in the letting go that you learn how to connect with others.

We all have other places and ways we find community whether it’s the neighborhood where we live, the church where we attend and worship with others or the friends we connect with for life. I just recently returned from a bucket list trip to Greece with two of my college friends who’ve known me for over 40 years. They’re my people, my community, and they know me and love me anyway. Community is a blessing; I pray you find yours.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Perspective

Have you ever seen one of those pictures where when you look at it one way it’s an old woman and then look at it another way and it is a young girl? It’s kind of cool how they both seem to exist in the same picture and it really boils down to your perspective when viewing the picture. I am notorious for dropping my medicine on our hardwood kitchen floor and the pill is hard to find because it blends in with the wood. If I only look from the perspective of where I’m standing when I drop the pill, I rarely find it. But if I turn a different way and look, I will typically find it right away. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective and in the case of trying to locate the pill, I have to change mine. 

Aren’t major life events like that as well? When we hear the word cancer, death, divorce, or any word most of us feel comes with a negative connotation, we automatically want it to change or go away because we think only bad things will happen. And it’s true, many times bad things do happen when we experience life changing events. But not always. What if we changed our perspective and looked at the things these adverse events can teach us? Here’s a warning though, it’s not always easy.

Cancer has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life but it’s taught me to cherish EVERY day, to love with all my heart, to give to others who need my time & resources, to say yes more to make plans with friends and family and to speak up about what’s right for me. These are all positive changes because I decided to change my perspective. Yes, it is hard sometimes, but it’s oh so worth it!

Changing your perspective is hard because we all want to view things as we see them in our own little world. Guess what? It’s a big world out there with lots of things to see and learn. God can use our pain and heartbreak to help others. He can use it to change our heart… for good.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Blessings, Cindy J

* Life’s Chapters

I do love a good chapter book. When I’m reading one, I always want to get to the end of the chapter before I put in my bookmark and leave it. It’s a good stopping point and it gives me closure for that reading session but I know I’m not done with the whole story yet.

I recently heard an interview with Christian music artist Amy Grant and she was talking about the chapters in her life.  She said that each chapter does not define us but works together to create the story of our life. Some chapters are good and some are bad but the total is what makes our story. What very wise words.

When I think about some of the chapters of my life, I wish I could go back and change a few events or decisions that I made. However, if I did, would I appreciate the chapter I’m living right now? Each chapter has made me the person God designed me to be, flaws and all. In fact, some of the hardest and saddest chapters have been the ones where I grew the most as a person.

I hope I have a few more chapters to live and write. I want to travel some more and spend time with my children and grandchildren. The beautiful thing though is that when I get to the end of my story, the last chapter, I already know how it ends. No, I don’t know exactly how my life will end but I do know when it does, I will be in heaven with Jesus. Now that my friend, is the perfect ending.

Blessings, Cindy J

* What’s In Your Toolbox?

When a construction worker heads out to a job site, they always carry their toolbox with them because they never know what situation might arise and what tool they may need to fix the problem. In short, they are prepared for the task at hand. Wouldn’t it be nice in life if we had a toolbox full of what we need that could take care of everything we encounter? If we could pull out just the right actions or words to help us through each circumstance?

Here’s a challenge for you, start filling your toolbox with things that will help you get through life. The most important thing we can carry in our toolbox is God’s Word. Even if that was the only tool you had, I promise there is advice in the Bible to deal with every circumstance you might come across. Trusting in Jesus and letting His words speak to you in your daily life is the most powerful tool you can possess.

Another tool you might consider is surrounding yourself with people who truly care about you. There are lots of people we see at work, church, our neighborhood and even our family sometimes who know us but don’t take the time to be a part of our lives. You can change that. Get to know people better and spend time with them. It helps you want to be there for them in times of need and in turn, they are there for you.

Lastly, take time to care for yourself daily. Pray, meditate, practice yoga, go for a walk; whatever it is, just spend some time unwinding and letting go. Do something that brings you joy! Preparing yourself mentally will help you be ready for the challenges you will face.

A good toolbox is all about organizing the right tools. Get your toolbox out today, examine it and then fill it with the things you need for the life you live. Remember to be prepared for emergencies, for they will come, and understand that the better we plan, the more we are able to deal with our problems. So, what will you put in your toolbox?

Blessings, Cindy J

* Misunderstood

As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word misunderstood means wrongly or improperly understood. Boy what a powerful word that is! So many times, we get upset with people because of how we perceive their actions. We find them to be rude, possibly offensive or just plain uncaring. I have found many times that people I didn’t think I like usually have a story that makes them act that way. I admit that even when I know their story, I still may not like them but I do have more patience and tolerance for them. My reaction to them was based on the fact that I misunderstood them.

As an elementary school librarian, I learned that the worst behaving kids were often the ones with the most dramatic stories. You can’t excuse their behavior but you can have more compassion when you understand the why of the behavior. We can all do a better job of being tolerant of those who are misunderstood. That will help us get through the times when we ourselves are misunderstood.

Compassion, Tolerance, Patience…. these words are the key to change in our society.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Only Leave Footprints

One day as I was leaving the beach, I saw a sign that read only leave footprints. The purpose of the message was to remind you to take everything back with you that you brought out to the beach. It should remain clean and beautiful for the next people who come to visit and safe for the wildlife that lives there. Your footprints should be the only reminder that you were there.

As you walk along the beach, you can look back to see your footprints in the sand and know where you’ve been. You can see the footprints of others as you walk knowing that you are not alone in the world. Take comfort in that knowledge and understand others will pass along in your footprints.

What if we made a point to leave things as we find them in this world? To respect the Earth and its’ beauty. Sometimes we have to fix the mess that others left behind but that’s okay, too. It shows we care and that we’re responsible. Go spend time in nature whether it be the beach, mountain or trail. Enjoy the beauty God has given us and then, only leave footprints.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Paying the Toll

If you travel at all, you are very familiar with paying tolls to use a certain road. Usually access to this road provides you with a more efficient way to get to your destination. In many places these days, you don’t even have to go through a toll booth. A camera takes a picture of your license plate as you enter the road and a few weeks later, you get the bill or you have an EZPass mounted to your cars’ front window and the toll is instantly paid. The point is, that either way, you have to pay the toll.

Life is very much like that as well. To get to where you want to be in life, there are tolls that must be paid from time to time. To qualify for the job you want, sometimes you have to go to college. To have a relationship with people, you may possibly have to compromise. In order to understand what wellness looks like, you might have to deal with sickness, either firsthand or through someone you love. To receive forgiveness, you have to say you’re sorry.

Let’s face it, no one likes to pay a toll!  So how do we make tolls work to our benefit? Accept that they are a part of life, pay them and move on.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Who Am I?

I have always loved to read biographies. When I was a child, I think I read every single one in our elementary school library. The lives of other people fascinated me, especially when I learned about many of the issues they had to overcome in order to accomplish great things in life.

In Viola Davis’s autobiography Finding Me, she tells the story of actor Will Smith asking her who she was? She answered by telling him he knew her work as an actor but he persisted and asked again, “But who are you?” That’s when she realized she was still that scared little kid who grew up in poverty. Reading that brought me to tears with my own realization of who I really am. When things scare me and I don’t know what to do, I’m still the little chubby girl in elementary school who no one wanted on their kickball team. That’s where I go when I am unsure of myself. That little girl still lives inside me and until I accept her and deal with her fears, I’ll always go back there.

I need to let that little girl know that she is okay and that she’s a lot stronger than she thinks! She may not have been one of the popular kids, but she was smart and she was a survivor for enduring all that hurt. That survivor instinct has helped her become a cancer thriver who pushes on in spite of the pain and hurt.

As we begin a new year today, stop and ask yourself, who am I? Don’t focus on who you were, decide who you are and go be that person for today and the future.

Happy New Year! Cindy J

* Christmas Joy

One of my sweet “daughters-in-love” gifted me a book of devotions to ponder this Christmas season and told me that she also had a copy she would be reading. The title is Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always by Ruth Chou Simons. The funny part of this story is that unbeknownst to her, my other “daughter-in-love” asked for this book for her birthday. So, all three of us are reading the same devotions each day which I think is a very neat thing for our families. (*Note- I call my daughter-in-law’s “in-loves” because I want them to know just how deeply loved they are as my son’s wives.) Already, the daily ponderings have been such a blessing to me.

My expectations for Christmas can sometimes disappoint me when they don’t come to fruition but I am already learning through this book that what I think is not important. It’s what I do and give to others that matters. I need to focus more on “the good portion” which is loving Jesus than worrying about the busyness of Christmas. Being generous with my time and resources is the best way I can honor God’s generosity to us. I can also honor him through prayer and thanksgiving for the joy of God’s gift through his only Son, Jesus.

I pray this holiday season that you can indeed find your Christmas joy and focus on the beauty of our Savior’s birth. God made us on purpose for His purpose.

Merry Christmas! Cindy J.

“No man ever errs on the side of giving too much honor to God the Son.” -J.C. Ryle

* Another Surgery

As I write this post, I am still recovering from yet another surgery I’ve had related to issues caused by my cancer treatments. It seems each time that the surgery gets a little more complicated and the recovery process is much longer. This particular time has been a doozy! I have always said that cancer is the gift that keeps on giving; at least for me it has been. Everything that was done to save my life (and don’t misunderstand me, I am so grateful for these lifesaving treatments) has also caused lasting damage to my body in other ways. This time the issues were caused by radiation. Post cancer life is not pretty.

I think back on all the surgeries I have been through since my initial cancer surgery and it is mind boggling. My body has been through a lot and yet each time, somehow, I have recovered. Not necessarily better than before but at least not dealing with the problem anymore. Will this be the last one? I certainly hope so but if not, I pray I’ll be able to gather the strength once more to handle it.

Do I go it alone? Absolutely not! My husband has become my chief cheerleader and caregiver. I have a wonderful group of friends & family that encourage and look out for me plus I have an amazing church family that prays like you wouldn’t believe. So, I’ll just keep staying the course until another surgery comes along or God gives me a completely new, healed body in heaven. Either way, I am one lucky girl.

Blessings, Cindy J