Grandma Personified in Cambodia

Earlier this week I spent a rainy afternoon reading a fantastic blog by a fellow globe-trotting traveler, https://expeditionhobo.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/the-end-of-the-road-santa-monica-pier/.

The post took me down memory lane, and after popping through a few more country links I saw his bucket list of the most amazing  places he hoped to visit in the future.   gem

Whoa, I actually visited a few countries mentioned, and Jem…they are truly, truly, truly outrageous!  He asked for reader suggestions, and I hoped to offer some place special where he could make memories of a lifetime.  My travels have taken me many, many places, across five different continents.  I finally settled on…Cambodia.

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The Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh

What!  Wait, why?  Here’s the background:

My grandmother, God rest her soul, was known to be generous to a fault.  Not the here’s a buck until you get on your feet generous.  She was the real deal growing up people!  The stay at my house, let me feed you dear, accompany you to the doctor and pray with you until things get better type of generous woman.  Growing up there were people constantly staying with us “for a while,” and it didn’t seem odd at all that they came and went until I married and started my own family.

As a young wife and mom I changed, and became laser focused on my immediate household.  If it didn’t concern the individuals within the four walls of my home I didn’t look twice, but during one family visit I noticed my Grandma was sick and it terrified me.   She was dying, and I selfishly was not ready.  When what I later describe as a complacency fog slowly began to lift off my life, I started praying for her and noticed she was also praying for me!  My memories of Grandma were always of her serving others, praying for them and praying for me.  She would sing soft, sweet songs of praise and worship while cooking and cleaning, and talk to me about being humble and thankful for God’s blessings.  As I grieved her passing, I became closer to God by asking for forgiveness for living such a closed and selfish life.  One day during housework, I began to sing songs of praise, smiled and thought, Grandma’s here!

Shortly afterwards my travel for work increased, and I hoped for opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life.  During my travel throughout SE Asia, God answered every one of my prayers, and I returned home fundamentally changed.

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Palace grounds in Phnom Penh

Before arriving in Cambodia I knew its basic history, involvement in the Vietnam War and the genocide that claimed up to a quarter of its population.  Nothing prepared me for the realization of actually visiting and working with men and women one generation removed from those events and elbow deep into rebuilding an entire government to modern day standards.  From the humbleness of the medical students I worked with, to the gentleness and shyness of the children playing in what we would sadly describe as garbage dumps, I felt calm even in the midst of the many apologies everyone gave ME for arriving during the wet, rainy season.  As if I controlled the weather!

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Worksite in Sihanoukville

Experiencing life through another’s eyes, and seeing how other cultures, faiths and norms exist just saturated the already deep and abiding love I have for my Grandma.  I come from a long line of amazing women, and through faith and God’s grace can pass on the legacy of generosity to my children.  My Grandma taught me with her life to pray, love and give. Cambodia opened my eyes to the reality of what man is capable of: heartache and resilience,  beauty and redemption.  Hopefully that makes it worthy of the Bucket List.

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Visitor at the worksite

My prayer is that each of you has the opportunity to visit that special place, your Cambodia, where life shocks your socks and you’re forever changed.  You are valuable, so special, and created for a purpose.  You were created to live The Exceptional Life.

CED

Finding Your Why

Have you ever stopped to wonder why you do the things you do?

I’m sure you have many good reasons. Some are obvious and some may be more altruistic, such as why do you get up and go off to work everyday. Is it to earn a living for yourself if you’re single?  Perhaps you must provide for loved ones if you’re not. Today I would offer that you and I are meant for more than just working to make a living. We are created for a divine purpose!

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Gen 1:25 NKJV

On your worst day you can take comfort that you are created in the very image of God, and He sees you as good. Your life is special and it is valuable. Whenever circumstances cause my knees to buckle, I am reminded of my WHY, and know that despite what I see and what I feel I am truly blessed.

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MY FABULOUS FIVE!

My why reminds me that there are still miracles today, and the opportunity for a fresh start tomorrow.

What (or who) is YOUR why?

CED

Why I Blog!

Young funny man in glasses writing on typewriter
Young funny man in glasses writing on typewriter

Hello Friends and Family,

It’s been so long since the last post.  Where to begin?  I started 2015 as we all do with a purpose and on fire to write my story, inspired and ready to reach the masses, and then life happened.

Marriage, Mom duties, work, and university became handy excuses to take my eyes off the promise to be about my mission to pour myself out in word and song.  No more!  No more excuses not to write, no matter how tired or unfocused.

Do you believe we each have talents, gifts and abilities?  I sure do, and it’s evident in my family as writers abound. What are the odds?  I firmly believe being gifted is not enough.  We must live in obedience, nurturing and growing our God-given abilities which I think catapults our gifts from good to great!  That’s my heartfelt desire with this blog.  To have you as my friends and share funny, thoughtful and the occasional faith centered short story, poem or essay with as we navigate through life together.  No more defeated talk or thoughts concerning my blog. From now on I only confess:

I declare that…I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well…Psalm 139:14 NIV

Come with me, and let’s get back to keeping those earlier promises we made.  What are your thoughts?

CED

Photo credit: Poetry| So You Want to be a Writer~Charles Bukowski

2015: The New You

If you’re like me and almost half of Americans, you’re big on making New Year’s resolutions. What’s not to love about a fresh start? Our failures and imperfections all swept away into the ashes of last year. They’re made during the Christmas season when we’re focused on the basics of Christianity: to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul; and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Hearts of love, check. Bodies satisfied with good food, check. The icing on our spiritual cake is the promise of a new year filled with hope, potential and promise.

So what happens?

In the past, around this time each year I would reassess how faithful I’d been in keeping my resolutions so I’m not among the masses who fall off track right away. The same study from the University of Scranton reported only 8% of us actually achieve our New Year’s goals. In a matter of weeks our attitudes change from ‘I win at life’ to TGIF. I wanted off the hamster wheel of promise keeping/breaking. Recalling a leadership course I attended last summer that encouraged focusing on personal strengths instead of weaknesses, I literally had an epiphany. Why didn’t I think of that? Probably because I was concentrating on all the things I was terrible at! Remembering how I went home and immediately put some of it into practice, I decided to go for it and use the same principle for my 2015 goals and dreams. What a resounding success!

The best part is we all have strengths, or areas where we’re talented, regardless of our faith. Trusting and believing in God then couples our natural talent with His spirit endowed gifts, and life becomes more than ‘just living.’ My testimony is that I’m naturally quiet, very detail oriented, and an encourager. So I took stock of my home life. A typical day went as follows: don’t forget your keys/lunch/homework, feed the dogs, dinner at six, and yes, your cello/violin/saxophone scales sound wonderful. Not too shabby I thought, so then came the work assessment. Again, a surface look and things were progressing pretty well. My background is healthcare and scientific research. Two areas that complement me pretty well. As I began focusing on my strengths I truly allowed myself to be who God created me to be, and stopped focusing on creating an image of me I thought everyone else needed because they didn’t always align. I confess it wasn’t an easy transition, and this lifestyle requires ongoing humility checks, but by being obedient to the Lord I’m a much better wife and Mom, which makes me a more relaxed human for everyone else to be around.

Don’t deny yourself the joy of living your life to the fullest!  You were created in God’s image, Genesis 1:27. Our gifts are to be used to show His love and grace to others.  It’s not too late to make a “New You Resolution” in 2015.  As you pray to God that He reveal your spiritual gifts, I stand in agreement that they unfold before you as the pages of a book.  Choose today to believe God and change your destiny in Jesus’ name, and then watch your effort exponentially propel you forward as you stop working in the natural and start living an exceptional life.  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

Photo credit: Ladybug And Yellow Flowers. http://www.wallwuzz.com

 

Work On Your Dream

(Original post sent out 10 February 2015)

Happy New Year!  I thought I’d share a piece of encouragement from me to you.

I’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time in reflection this year.  Thinking about God’s plan for me. What’s His design for me? What’s God’s destiny for Crystal? Perhaps you have to…

I thought, “we sit in church, we tithe, fast and pray because we’re obedient to the Lord, but I was tired of being superficial “Sunday servant”, and wanted a much deeper relationship with God.  A bigger manifestation of His presence in my everyday life, and especially in my children’s lives.  I remembered that I prayed a specific Word over my son’s life as he lay motionless in the ICU for days after a horrific car accident.  There seemed to be no evidence that things would turn around, and the burn and trauma doctors gave his Dad and I little to no encouragement that recovery was possible.  So I said over and over to my son (and myself):

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ ”  (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Looking back five years later, it seems like we couldn’t have been in such a desperate place.  My Father God certainly answered all our prayers then, and continues to declare His promises and good plans for all our lives today.  I still pray this prayer over all my children, from the oldest to the youngest.  I still spend time each day with the Father declaring great promises over their lives, calling things forth not as they are but as they will be.  That horrible time is now a time of praise for my family, and my son is a living witness that anything is possible with GOD alone.

Nothing on earth is impossible with God!  Be encouraged today if things aren’t going the way you hoped they would.  My faith has shown me that the Lord can turn the most desperate situation around.  He has great plans for your life.  I agree with you today as you pray and speak life into your dreams.  Be blessed!

Photo credit: Day Dreaming Photography. http://www.gadaikansaja.com.

I Speak Life

This weekend we had the most beautiful snow fall across our town.  Not the wet, heavy stuff, but the fluffiest, softest snow I’ve ever seen.  It weighed almost nothing, and believe me there was a lot to shovel!  I found myself mesmerized as I looked out the window, letting the quiet surround me.  Times like this appeal to the introvert in me because I can just think. No work, no calls, no deadlines, just pure reflection. My mind started to circle back to the day before, and the pretty tense conversation I had with a co-worker.  From the start it hadn’t gone well, and things quickly spiraled down to the point I had to abruptly end the conversation.  We’ve all been there, in situations where we engaged “prickly” people, or maybe we were the ones not at our best. Out of nowhere words spilled out our mouths making us think “where did that come from?” I keep a notebook for such occasions because often times I won’t have peace so I write about it, pray on it and come back to it periodically to think on it when I’m not so emotionally involved.

When I was young it seems unnatural that words could wreak havoc over my life, or make the difference in my success or failure. When I was a kid I sang the song, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Then as an adult I came to realize, oh yeah, words do hurt!  Plus they seemed to have “power.”  Power to damage (or heal) emotions, and power to set a course of destruction over our very lives. What pictures come to mind when you say these words out loud: I love you; you’re beautiful; I’m sorry, please forgive me; you’re special?  Now think about words you’ve spoken to another that you wish you could take back. What emotions come to mind? More often than not feelings of hurt, shame or anger start to bubble up inside you even though the situation could have happened many years ago.

That’s why we are to guard our mouths and hearts. Proverbs 13:3 says if you’ll guard your mouth you’ll preserve your life, but if you speak rashly you’ll come to ruin (NIV). One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 4:23 which says to “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (NIV). What’s everything? Well, it’s everything including the course for your life! Those that are closest to me know that from the time I carried my children I spoke words of great faith to them, including praying and singing to them in my belly!  So my eccentric side has had spurts for a while. As children I would read to them, and continued to speak blessings and words of protection over them.  When they entered their late teen and early adult years everyone at some time or another would give me “the look.”  You know, as in “Mom, please stop,” but I never did.  My job as Mom is to constantly speak life over them, and to correct ANYONE who does otherwise.  I’ll even speak in love to them when they talk negatively over their own plans or their future.  No, we’re not perfect, but we are perfected in Christ.

There’s nothing like a marvelous Monday to start anew. Make a promise to yourself and to the Father that this week you’ll speak life into your every situation starting now. We serve a God who says to ask Him for the impossible!  We are instructed to have just a tiny measure of faith, and we’ll see the incredible!  I agree with you today as you realize that the Lord gave you your life to bless this earth, and nothing will change that.  Speak life over your circumstances: your marriage, over your children, over EVERYTHING!  Tell yourself every morning you were created for a purpose, and ask the Lord to reveal His purpose for your life. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45).