marymcleary

Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals


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Benefits of Gratitude are Scientifically Proven – Increase Your Doseage

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An article in Psychology Today listed seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:

  1. It opens the door to more relationships.
  2. It improves physical health,
  3. Gratitude Improves psychological health.
  4. It enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  5. Grateful people sleep better.
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  7. It increases mental strength.

I know all the above, yet I often pass up opportunities to practice appreciation and have had the same feeling one of our grandsons shared after opening Christmas presents several years ago.

He sat amid the shreds of red and green wrapping paper looking forlornly at a pile of age appropriate and unnecessary gifts. Feeling concerned I asked, “Didn’t you like the things you got?”

He replied, “Yes, but I was hoping for more.”

It was an honest answer and I understood because the Christmas of my fourteenth year left me with the same adolescent disappointment. There were so many things I wanted and so few gifts at hand. My ingratitude reflected my immaturity.

I’m not sure when I began seeing the glass half full rather than half empty, but I know Mother was an agent for that change. She recognized a blessing and was quick to point it out. Our trips back and forth from my grandmother’s house were full of oohs and aahs over every pastoral scene down HWY 45 South even though we’d made that trip hundreds of times. As a child of the Depression, she could have easily become bitter and negative, but she intentionally chose gratitude.

When our beautiful baby boy arrived with severe mental and physical challenges, he became my gratitude guide. Though I was a reluctant participant at first, his gleeful shrieks and unfailing persistence made me realize how much most of us take for granted. We were grateful for any hard won achievement no matter how small or how long it took to accomplish.

When he was three he woke us in the night humming Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. No words, just a perfect melody. The next Christmas Mother gave him his first of many radios that became his lifeline.

He has quite a repertoire. He will hum a few bars of one of his favorite songs then stop and wait for someone to finish the tune. It’s our version of Name That Tune most often played when we’re traveling. Recently his first request was Jingle Bells. My Bass Singer and I immediately identified that tune and commenced a hearty rendition.  It pleased Matt and when we finished he followed with Jesus Loves Me.

As we responded to that lovely song, a little blessing was revealed in the form of a sweet spirit of gratitude, laughter and joy. I didn’t “hope for more’.  This was more than I deserved.

In her journal Mother wrote, ”The only genuine source of happiness is God, and we receive lasting joy only through expressing gratitude to Him. Seek God and live as he directs you and true joy will soon follow.”

Making gratitude a daily practice confers a whole host of health benefits from improved immune systems, to feelings of connectedness.  I just have to take regular doses.

 

 

 

 

 


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Restored – Furniture, People and St. Peter

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RESTORATION: TO BE RESTORED. THE ACT OR PROCESS OF RETURNING SOMETHING TO ITS ORIGINAL CONDITION BY REPAIRING IT, CLEANING IT OR PAINTING IT. AN IMPROVED STATE.

One of my favorite words is restoration. I love old stuff and when I scan my house I see many old pieces of restored furniture.

The steamer trunk my Aunt Gina retrieved, repainted and gave to me is a treasure. My grandmother’s buffet from the 1940’s was once painted an off- white then years later touched up to stand proudly on a kitchen wall.

While having lunch with friends I was reminded that detours can be restored to direct destinations. A boy on crutches took a fall in the middle of the restaurant. He looked embarrassed, but unhurt. Before anyone moved to help, two strong hands reached down and lifted the child to his feet and in a second handed him back his crutches.

“You okay?” his dad asked.

Looking restored the boy said, “Okay!” and followed his father to their original destination.

St. Peter speaks of restoration in 1Peter 10:11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Simon Peter, the big, strong fisherman, decided to accept Jesus’ invitation to, “Follow me”.  Peter witnessed the life of the Savior first hand. He heard Him teach, pray and saw the miracles performed. Peter laughed with Jesus, ate with Him and helped Him feed a multitude.

Peter, a respected man of character with strong ties to his community, became a follower and a student of Christ. As Peter learned his role in the kingdom, he also came to know his Master. But Jesus, being God, knew not only who Peter was but who he would become. Jesus knew too that Peter would break and need restoring.

When Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus wasn’t surprised, but Peter was devastated! Our messes devastate us – not Jesus. Though our failures may set us back, they don’t disqualify us from a relationship with Him.

If Jesus is our Savior, restoration is always possible and often necessary. It usually takes place after a hard lesson and before a shinning moment.

Mother wrote in her journal, “When truly wise people turn to Jesus they can depend on Him for guidance.”

We can always be restored and not just back to the original but to something even better than before. God has something special when we’re ready.

 


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Product Marketing, Jeff Bullas and Seven Things Not To Do In Retirement

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On the way home from a totally impromptu trip to Whole Foods grocery in Memphis, I accessed my Twitter feed and found an interesting article by Jeff Bullas. He presented ideas on how to get more readers to share your blog.

I’ve been blogging for a while and it’s always good when people share a post. I was interested in the idea that people like to read and share blogs that tell them how to do something. I was feeling healthier from our recent purchases, and other pleasantries of retirement were fresh on my mind so I decided to share some ideas on how to enjoy retirement.

I asked my sweet spouse for some ideas, and his response was less than enthusiastic. “We aren’t really experts. I’d say our retirement is more a work in progress.” And with that he went outside to do battle with the Japanese beetles attacking the Knockout roses.

Unfazed, I jotted down some ideas that turned into seven things not to do when you retire. Read them with the knowledge that, though I am not an expert, I have several years of experience in the area.

  1. Don’t mistake a day full of options for one of idleness. There’s a big difference.

Psalms 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, and as my eighty-eight year old Uncle Fred says, “If I’m breathing and able to be upright then it’s a good day.  Focus on the pleasure of sitting by a window during a summer rain, grabbing your Bible and listening for a Word as you drink that second cup of coffee, taking a walk if you’re able, reading a good book, writing down stories you want to share with your grandchildren. Live in the moment and enjoy each day.

2. Don’t bring along debt. Spend your money on doing what pleases you instead.

Romans 13:8 tells us, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love on another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Dave Ramsey, a financial wiz, encourages people to live like no one else today (while you are working) so you can live like no one else tomorrow(when you retire). He also tells people never to take more than a fifteen-year fixed-rate loan and never have a payment over 25 percent of your take-home pay. In other words, be wise with your money so you can better enjoy your life.

3. Don’t reminisce too much. The old days were great – but not magnificent or you would probably still be working.

Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us not to live in the past. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” This is now one of my favorite scriptures because it is so full of hope. This time in life is full of new things that the Lord Himself has planned. Wow.

4. Don’t ruminate. Dwelling on and worrying about past mistakes only gives the devil a playground in your mind and insures unhappiness.

Romans 13:12 is a wonderful reminder that we are new creations in Christ. The old things have passed away and new things are here. A certain amount of wisdom comes with age and it is normal to have some regrets, but constantly replaying past mistakes is not healthy. When tempted to participate in the devil’s mind game, read your Bible instead. You will literally be safe under His wing and near His heart.

5. Don’t over obligate your time. You are in charge of your calendar now.

In Psalms 90:12, Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I want a heart of wisdom not one full of anxiety. For me, anxiety comes from having too much to do. If the calendar is packed it’s my own fault. Using my heart of wisdom helps me know what’s necessary and pleasing to Him. Those activities are scheduled in, but anything else is optional.

6. Don’t think of yourself as unnecessary. You are marginal by choice, but you are not unnecessary.

In Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus said come to Him if you’re tired and He will give you rest. He said, “My Yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He knows exactly where we are and will nudge us when we’re needed.

7. Don’t worry that you’ve been forgotten. Even if no one is calling in, you can reach out anytime you want to.

Mark Twain quipped, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” And that idea teams with the Golden Rule in Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

If you feel lonely, reach out to others. This is a time in life where all you’ve learned in church comes together.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Faith in Jesus means trusting Him to decide what we need and to supply that in His Own way.”

God has been faithful in each stage of my life and retirement is no different. He is doing new things and I’m grateful.

 

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A Long Winter, A New Book, A Beautiful Snowfall and (Hopefully) Winter’s Last Hurrah

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I hope some of you noticed I that I haven’t posted for a while. That’s because I finished writing my second book and was editing and rewriting. This new effort is a book for my grandchildren. There are scriptures, short life lessons, entries from Mother’s prayer journals and prayer prompts. It should be available before summer. I’ll tell you more about that later.

Here’s today’s post.

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Living in the south means a good snowfall always gets our attention. Schools are let out so buses full of wiggling children don’t accidently slide off a rural road and into a ditch. The local news channels broadcast hours of redundant footage and remind their viewers to stay home if they can.

Grocery stores love snow because people rush to the bread and milk aisles grabbing sustenance for the duration of the storm. I also grab whatever chocolate is within reach before rushing home to fill the tub with water in case the ice (that usually paves the way for the actual snow fall) breaks power lines and causes the electricity to go off. Then we “hunker down” for few days until the stuff melts.

This year February hosted two significant snow events, and I’m thinking surely this week’s snowfall is winter’s grand finale.

Nature out did herself Wednesday night with rain, sleet and finally the pristine layer of white icing so deep it covered even the stalks in last summers cornfields.

Thursday’s deepfreeze was capped off by a spectacular sunset seen from the back windows and an orange-sherbet full moon rising over the black silhouettes of oak trees in the front. The result was spectacular and caused a flurry of pictures on Facebook.

Friday morning’s sun directed its rays with the precision of Stephen Spielberg and perfectly lit each snow-covered tree so the branches sparkled like the arms of stars on Oscar night.

With a cup of coffee in hand, I roamed from room to room and as (Mama Lilly Bell would say) “mirated” over each vista.  Don was doing the same thing and from the window by his desk he called for me to come and look.

The wispy elm and birch trees between our house and our neighbors’ were liberally sprinkling glitter from lower branches to the blanket of white below. A bird lit on a nearby forsythia bush causing a bucketful of glitter to cascade from the branches.

It reminded me of the dozens of bottles of man-made glitter my students sprinkled on hundreds of snowflakes cut from folded paper and then stapled to bulletin boards every January.

But the art activity outside the window came straight from the Master Creator of the universe and the effect was stunning!

The winter scenario made me realize that any little flake can sparkle if the sun (Son) shines on it. The Son’s light is surely my only hope.

This morning we woke to an azure sky and  dozens of noisy robins devouring berries on the tree by the front porch.

I don’t know where they’ve been, but either Hitchcock is doing a remake of his spooky movie The Birds or they know winter has had her last hurrah.

I’m hoping it’s the latter.

In her journal Mother wrote, “It is enough for me to know that my name is written on the palm of the Creator of the world.”

Me too.

 

 

 


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The Wilderness Journey

Today I read from The Book, “What wonders will our Guide show us in the wilderness?” A trip through the wilderness isn’t my idea of a fun trip. I would rather go to the beach, but at some point we will all visit the wilderness.

To make the trip successfully, you need an expert Guide to help you avoid disaster and make sure you appreciate the rare sights this painful trip offers. He will teach you to live by active faith rather than passive faith because the wilderness trip demands action – claim a word, hold to a principle, and believe.

When a couple had a child with multiple handicaps, life seemed like an unfamiliar wilderness and everyday was an act of faith. The Guide was faithful and the child has always been provided for and loved. Active faith has seen him reach his fortieth birthday when the doctors said he wouldn’t reach his first.

Another dear person had to apply active faith in a heartbreaking circumstance. Passive faith said, “Just endure; don’t do anything and take the anger and pain that will come.” Active faith said, “You have learned from the experience of another so you have the knowledge and the courage you need for action.”

With active faith she walked through a wilderness that once seemed unthinkable to her and a blessing was eventually delivered in the person of her baby son – healthy, strong and born for a purpose.

A mom and dad, whose greatest desire was to see their children’s spiritual roots grow deep, packed up their belongings, put their house on the market and moved in with her parents. He left a head coaching job with a state championship team to be an assistant.

The journey through that wilderness took over a year, but little by little the journey paid off and the whole family thrived spiritually and professionally.

Active faith is not reckless abandonment. It is purposely following The Guide through unfamiliar territory while expecting Him to safely lead you.

In Mother’s journal she wrote, “Do you believe He is able to do this? He deals with impossibilities. It is never too late for Him to do this as long as that which is impossible is brought to Him in complete faith.”

When asked to make the wilderness journey, follow The Guide. He will bring you through and when the that particular journey is over, you’ll be a stronger person.

This post is from my book In My Mother’s Words. It is available on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.com.
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