Encouraging Rocks

Right outside my cabin, beneath a cedar tree, I’ve used beach rocks to spell out four-letter words of encouragement. 

Throughout 2019, I spelled things like play, love, soul, sing, free, kind, nice, and able.
I had no idea that 2020 would have me spelling words like heal, care, pray, give, and cope. 
But here we are.

I can be thankful for the solitude that keeps me safe.
I can appreciate the essential stores that remain open
I can pray for the medical teams that sacrificially work.
I’m living with less but discovering that it really is more.
I could sink low, but it’s so much better to rise.
I can read.
I can talk, type, and make a thoughtful post.
I can share what is true.
I can choose to be calm.

God knows each need and He will never rest.
I don’t need to fear; God is near.
And having Him here is truly what’s best.

Good. Have. Look. Help. Hold. Glad. Hero.
There are so many four-letter words reminding me to live well.

Breaking Up Was Easy

I didn’t realize our relationship was so broken until I was left holding the pieces. 

It was then that I finally realized how controlling you really were. You made me feel like I had to have you with me everywhere I went. 
I couldn’t leave the house without you. Of course, it also meant that you’d be clinging to me even if I did try and sneak off by myself. 

I’ve read about relationships like starts out normal, but then gradually the one in control manipulates every aspect of life together....even during sleep.
You made me feel guilty with your testy reminders that I wasn’t doing enough for you. As if YOU were the only one that mattered. 
Freedom from you is the best thing that’s happened to me. This social isolation we're going through is hard, but your control of me has been worse. I just didn’t see it until now. 
Enough. I’m breaking up, and I’m not coming back. I already feel free of your bondage. 

And you can just keep all of those cheesy badges, fake golden trophies, and…

Isolation Activities

Researching my German ancestors has been a great way to use my isolation time. They weren’t famous, but they sure were gutsy wheat growers. 
In 1763, Russia’s Czarina Catherine II invited them to take a 2000-mile trek to a remote section along the banks of the Volga River. Together they built wooden shacks for their homes and constructed shared barns for their animals. 
In the center of what they named, Warenburg, they built their church. The Russian government allocated each family 80 acres of land and provided them with plows, wagons, tools, and seed, until the first wheat harvest.

If I ever complain about life being hard, please call me on it. My ancestors faced brutal winters and awful growing conditions. The worst days were when marauders would strike—carrying off young men and women as slaves. By the time America declared its independence in 1776, 4000 of the original 27,000 Germans had lost their lives.
If you catch me complaining about our government, please stop me. My ancestors …

Saddle Up

My sister really wanted a horse. But the rules of the house required lessons first. So, Mom signed us both up for classes at a huge horse ranch and arena. 
I could see my sister’s excitement, as for me, I just smelled the horses and the hay. We were led to the stables, where the instructor sized us up and matched us to our horse.
A stable hand had already saddled the horses and we led them by their reins to the arena. About six other kids joined us in an hour long lesson. This was only the beginning.
We were taught how to mount these huge creatures. I always needed help. Then we’d slowly trot around the arena. As the weekly lessons followed, my sister got more enthused and better at horsemanship. She saved every babysitting dollar she earned for her own horse.
Me, on the other hand, hoped the lessons would soon end. 
Then, just a few lessons later, we had to saddle our horses before class. This meant entering the stall, saddle in hand, lofting it up onto his back, and cinching it tight. My…

Reading is More Important (than ever)

Mrs. Martin, the school librarian, approached me as I ran my fingers over the spines of the library books on the shelf. I wasn’t interested in any of them, and I think she knew. We’d been sent to the library to find a book to read during the breaks in our annual school testing. 
“Here, take this one. I think you’ll like what Miranda does during her summer.” 
I reluctantly checked out the book and returned to class. Mandatory reading was never my thing, but neither was school testing. So, I opened the book during the breaks and I escaped into Miranda’s world. Reading didn’t miraculously change my circumstances, but it sure helped me learn about a world besides my own.
March is National Reading Month—an effort to get everyone reading more every day. With a plethora of fake news, enticing clickbait, and shocking headlines, this could be the most critical time to encourage more reading amongst us all.
It’s so easy to scroll social media and catch the quick posts and think we have the news. Bu…

It Makes a Difference

This story has been told hundreds of times in those inspirational talks….a father and son are walking on the beach and the son notices dozens of starfish washed ashore during the high tide. The son picks one up and throws it back into the sea. Then he picks up another and does the same. The father says to the son that there are so many washed up that he’s wasting his time that it won’t make any difference. The son then tosses another starfish in the ocean, and says, “It makes a difference to that one.”
So, that’s what I saw on my recent beach walk—starfish washed ashore. I thought of the boy as I placed the starfish back into the safety of the water. Then I recalled the most recent debate with the Democratic candidates for president—they all thought that investment was needed in our public schools. I think Republicans would agree. It’s just the policies that differ.

We all care about our nation’s kids—the battles are fought over how we can help.
But while the arguments are waged on debat…

Outdoor Antidote

Typically, I’m optimistic, cheerful, and have the smoothest moods. Most would probably say that I’m easy to get along with. 
But lately, I haven’t been getting along with myself. I’m feeling like I’m carrying a heavy backpack of life’s unfinished business. Being newly retired gives me even more time to overthink.
My psychology professor once told me I was too cerebral. Not only did I do my own thinking, I tried to think through things for everyone else. He had a point. 
I've recently been feeling weighed down. Sure, I could blame it on winter’s clouds and rain, but that’s never bothered me. So why now?
I tried self-analyzing, but I couldn’t seem to shrug off the heaviness.
I recalled an article from Psychology Today. The cure was right outside my door. Literally. The research overwhelming proved there is a direct correlation between being outdoors and achieving a positive mental health outcome. 
I was more than ready to go. Taking a lunch, water bottle, and an extra jacket, I stuffed it…