Honoring the men in our lives

girl-1641215_960_720As Father’s Day approaches, we tend to think of ways to honor our dads, or people in our lives who have been like fathers to us.  But because not all men have had the chance to become fathers, I propose that Father’s Day be a time to honor all men in our lives.

The question is: how can we best honor these men?  Giving flowers or going out for a special meal are great ways to make the women in our lives feel special, but what speaks respect to men?  I decided to ask.

Here are some of the things men said about what makes them feel respected:

  • I’ve always felt ‘listening’ to be very important. Many men feel that if they don’t have ‘a voice’ or ‘influence’ in a matter, then they are not respected.
  • Taking time to express that you understand and value who they are and what they do. 🙂  Acknowledging their competence.  I believe the man is mostly honored if he is appreciated for his work and/or his influence in others’ lives.
  • Acknowledging that you are aware of and grateful for the sacrifices your dad made out of love for you.
  • For me, it is when I ask my kids to do something and they do it right away even if they don’t like or want to do it. That shows respect to me.
  • Helping me to become what I was designed to be in Christ and to have his image formed in me.

Some of the women I asked suggested the following:

  • I think a simple note with heartfelt thoughts and gratitude. I’m guessing they would be so happily surprised and touched! Me, too… I agree that a personal note would mean a lot!!
  • Always food 🙂  A gift card to his favorite restaurant.
  • Allow men to do for you. Men like to do things for women.  Let them do it, instead of trying to prove that you can take care of it yourself.
  • Men like to find solutions to problems, so ask them for input when you need it.  And don’t go with a solution in mind that you’ve already decided upon. That will make them feel disrespected.
  • Express confidence in a man’s ability to provide and care for you and your needs.  In a team setting: “Your style of leadership makes me feel heard and watched out for.”   In a relationship: “I feel cared for and safe with you.”
  • Believe in them no matter what; encourage them; be honest with them, speaking the truth in love; support them along the way
  • Express confidence in their ability to overcome or having overcome a challenging situation.

God admonishes us to encourage one another as the day draws near.  So as Father’s Day approaches (unintentional pun :-)), let’s take a little time to not only honor our fathers or husbands, but other men God has placed in our lives!

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Reflections on Good Friday

It is Good Friday.  The day Jesus walked to Golgotha and died on the cross for you and me.  The story is familiar.  Most of us have heard it all of our lives in one form or another.  But how seriously do we take what Christ did when it comes to our every days?  How much do we overlook those multiple little indiscretions we commit as inconsequential to our standing as a good person before God and man?

Sure Christ died for my sins, but this one little thing isn’t really a sin… or that one… or even that one which is a little closer to the line…  Taking supplies home from my workplace… Drinking a little too much… Sleeping with my boyfriend now and then… Pointing out what my children or spouse did wrong to motivate them to be better… Sin?  Those aren’t sins, just what’s normal in today’s world.  Sin?  That’s the big stuff like cheating on your spouse or stealing from a stranger or hurting someone intentionally… I don’t do any of that!

But we have it all wrong. The whole premise of walking with God is not a checklist of things we shouldn’t do, but a lifetime of discovering and experiencing all that we were created for.  The one is a burden too heavy to bear and the other is a lifetime of freedom and joy.

God created us to live in harmony with Him, each other and with nature.  He set up guidelines to help us live within healthy boundaries that make life fulfilling and satisfying.  He gave us the option of building our lives on a solid foundation that will not give way when storms and troubles touch our lives.

But we circumvent these things, thinking we can do it better on our own.

That is the sin Jesus died for: Our attitude of independence and self-sufficiency.  A declaration that we don’t need God; we can do it ourselves, thank you!  That attitude separates us from God like an endless chasm that cannot be spanned by the positive things we do to balance it out.  No matter how good we are, our efforts fall sadly short.

Jesus died in our place.  His suffering made a bridge for us across that chasm.  We walk over His beaten and bruised body every time we approach God.  Bruises he suffered for our attitude of “I can do it better in my own way, on my own terms.” It is the attitude of our hearts that determine our actions.  God is interested in our hearts first.

As I reflect on this picture, I wonder… how many times have I come before God pouring out my dissatisfaction with the way things are and telling Him how He should be doing things instead?  Was I even aware of the bridge I had just crossed to get to Him?  Did I even notice the black and blue, tortured body I was walking across?

No, I was totally focused on what I wanted… what I thought I deserved.

Ouch and double ouch!

God doesn’t promise us a free and easy life.  But He does give us joy that springs from the depths of our being, in spite of our circumstances.  He gives us His Spirit, who is like a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  He makes us new from the inside out.  And His provisions and gifts don’t stop there.  In fact, He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness!  He only asks that we humbly turn to Him with our hearts and lives.

And why wouldn’t we want to do that?

 

(for more info on knowing God, go to:  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/knowing-god/

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Just a moment…

Yesterday I headed for a doctor’s appointment and as I neared the end of the driveway, the brake pedal went all the way to the floor…hmmmm… that doesn’t seem right… but I kept going because I was going to be late… tested the brake several times down the side road… maybe I better stop at the mechanic’s…

“Don’t even need to take it out on the road…

“these brakes are shot!!!” he said.

No brake fluid…

but there were no puddles anywhere…

Would it be safe to drive 30 miles and back, if you filled it up?

No?

(sigh)

“The brakes would go out before you got anywhere near your destination…”

Gosh…

My mind sped to all the things I had thought about doing in the last few days, but nixed because the timing just seemed off, or I didn’t feel like it… If I had gone… I hate to think about what awful things might have happened!  They were momentary, random decisions…

But they had saved me… I had been spared once again!

And that was no small miracle, as in the last four months I had faced a totaled car accident, three very different, but very real cancer scares, and now this brake failure.  And yet they turned out not to be what they could have been.  In each case, I hardly suffered a scratch!

So I got to thinking… God is protecting me from harm… I really can’t think of any other reason that I would be spared these things… but why go through them then?

It certainly makes me very aware and grateful for health and safety.  Things I can take for granted very easily when everything is going my way or just plain well.  And it makes me want to praise God for His protection and undeserved favor.  Because I know He doesn’t owe me health, wealth, or happiness.  But for some reason, He is choosing to bless me right now…

But equally important, it also reminds me to make the most of this moment and this day.  Not just in terms of production and getting a lot of things done, but in terms of spending time on things that really matter in the long run.  The fact that good can turn to difficult and ugly in a matter of moments is in front of me once again, so why spend a lot of time worrying about something that won’t matter at all next year?

For me spending time with people I care about and just stopping to enjoy the little things… like sunshine through an icicle or wild animal tracks in the snow are what I come back to at times like these.

And like the decision to not go on a long trip with (unbeknown to me) failing brakes, they only take a moment… but make a difference for a lifetime.

 

 

 

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Not that home…

dscn7968This weekend was all about getting the house back in order… my mom’s house… but in my order…  So weird to live in a familiar place, but now changing it to suit my taste!

Friends have helped me pack things up that I don’t want in the rooms, but can’t decide if I want to totally divest of yet… and they also helped me move furniture around, in order to find the best blend of mine accumulated over time and mom’s that we grew up with… very strange sensation to be in a place I called home, but it is now not that home… it is a new home… the same and yet very different.  I guess it is all part of letting the past go and embracing the new.

I don’t think I like letting go.  And yet the anticipation of the new and unknown is exciting!

What stories are waiting to be told between these thick, old wall?  Happy, joyful ones.  Scary, sad moments.  Deep and pensive ones.  Peaceful days and nights.  Excitement, weariness, hope, discouragement.  Embracing friendships, casual conversations, welcoming warmth, Christmas cookies, pizza parties, progressive dinners.  Creative moments, learning moments, discovery moments…

There will be good in each day… for circumstances are just the backdrop.  The attitude of heart makes the difference.  May mine remain thankful and rejoicing.

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Life in the Woods…

A little while ago, I took refrigerator leftovers way out back for the stray cats, racoons and assorted other creatures lurking in the woods nearby.  I figure it will be like a banqueting table for them, so why not give them something to smile about, too?

Which reminds me of a story from a few years ago.  I had burn piles in several places in the yard from cleaning up stray branches of trees that were removed from around the house.  I left them smoldering overnight.

The next day I noticed large dusty grey spots in the yard in random places…  what in the world could that be?

As I approached the burn piles, I had to smile… wild turkey tracks!

wild turkey dustingTurkeys love rolling in dust to clean their feathers…  and this was the top of the line… very fine grained AND warm, too…  Whoa… the Feather Spa of all Feather Spas was right there in their backyard!!!

I could just picture the turkeys when they came upon it…

“Guys, guys…. do you see what I see???”

“No way!!!  I’ll race you…”

“I get that one!!!”

And then in their euphoria, they rolled around in other parts of the yard to shake off the ash… rising and strutting off with sparkling clean feathers once again!

Animals can be so funny sometimes…

Which reminds me of the raccoon that I caught sleeping in Daniel Boone hat form… on top of my chimney…

But that’s a story for another time!!  🙂

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transition misfits

img_4824On Wednesday, thirty miles from my house, in the middle of a snowstorm, I adopted two cats.  I like cats because they are independent and self-sufficient.  You give them a cozy, tiny warm place to bury themselves, bottomless dish of dry food and endless fountain of dripping water and they happily purr their way through life.  Occasionally they come out and demand a pat on the head or a few minutes of entertainment with some crinkly paper or a plastic tie from a loaf of bread, but for the most part they ignore you and img_4878-bgo their merry way.

So why have them?  Because they are companions going through life with you on a parallel plane.  They don’t demand affection, yet give it when you least expect it.  They are not a burden, but a light-hearted addition to a busy, single-focused life… generally…

But not these guys… they are, like me, transition misfits!

Suddenly being uprooted from a loving home or from a shelter with lots of other cats to play and socialize with is a shock.  And they voice it!

One talks all the time and rubs herself around my legs anytime she can get within a foot of me.  (I really don’t like it when cats smother me with affection like that.)  The other one sits in the far bedroom in moody quiet.  I call to her and she reluctantly comes over and after a few minutes of stroking her fur, gives me a quick growl and a swat to express her displeasure.

Not the pleasant companions I envisioned!

But they did cause me to think about transition.

Because I feel just like them.  I am in new surroundings, trying to figure out where things are and how things work in this setting.  Things are familiar, and yet they are not.  And some of the time, I find myself on edge and uncomfortable… behaving in ways not characteristic of me.

As with the cats though, time and patience is what it takes.  Deep down inside, they are calm and cute and independent… And they, like me, are on their way to finding that equilibrium again.

In the meantime, we all enjoy the little fun things around us, like… snowflakes floating softly to the ground; seeing the craters of the moon through a telescope set up beside a lake outside; sunshine making the snow sparkle like diamonds; a newly discovered twisty on the floor; a note from a friend from long ago; a spur of the moment movie date; a new year’s party a week after the fact…

 

 

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grace unveiled

This morning I was reading the thought for the day and it got me excited.  About grace…

Usually when I hear the word “grace,” I think “undeserved favor.”  ie there are no strings attached.  God gives me something I did not or could not hope to earn.  Of course, the biggest one being a face-to-face relationship with Him.  But grace also shows up in a new friendship, or an unexpected gift, or an accident where no one got hurt.

That is one side of the spiritual coin.  The other side is working hard to please God.  Whether I admit it or not, there is a list in my head of things I need to do in order for God to be happy with me.  That list is a taskmaster.  I don’t like that list.  It means hard work and doesn’t have too much to do with grace.  It is about making myself do the things that need to be done.

But today’s Bible verse made me see it differently…  I have never thought about grace as also teaching me to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passion.  Or about it leading me to live a self-controlled, upright and godly life.   (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

But it makes sense.

Yes, God set me free.  He opened the door to a life of walking with Him that I could never have worked hard enough to deserve.  But He didn’t stop there.  He didn’t say, “now  you have access to Me, so live like you deserve it.”

Instead, the grace that set me free is also my teacher!  I can’t experience the freedom of grace, without also allowing it to teach me to be different than I was.  Hmmm!

So, He did not give me a harsh list of do’s and don’ts, but the kind and gentle teacher of grace!!!

That makes me see grace as a kind shepherd, guiding me, his precious lamb, in the way that is the safest and warmest and most loving path he can make for me.

WOW!

No more lists of things to watch and do, but a freedom to walk in a 360 kind of grace.  One that freely gives what i don’t deserve, but also kindly teaches me what it means to walk in that grace so I am not hindered by the icky stuff that bombards me from inside and out every moment of every day!

What a great way to start 2017!

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Hello world!

Welcome to The Joy Factor… random thoughts about life.  Life is an adventure with many twists and turns.  People can be interesting, challenging or tiring.  Places are always full of surprises!  I am looking forward to sharing my take on some of these things with you!

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