It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Okay, I confess my little one and I are a bit ahead of ourselves ushering in the holiday season, but we’re still singing and laughing as we go up and down the store aisles, oblivious to any stares from fellow shoppers. We’re not THAT loud, and it is a wonderful time of the year.
I’m getting happy boosts every time I turn on the cooking channels, or see my one neighbor who breaks out the lights and wreaths weeks before Thanksgiving. High Five for initiative!
People are generally kinder during the winter holidays, and I have such tender memories of cooking, laughing, and family during Thanksgiving and Christmas. My Grandma would take me to church, and my Aunt would have so many friends and family over that the “kid’s table” was generally in some separate space where we’d binge our pint-sized bodies on pineapple coconut cake and sweet potato pie, among other delectable sweets.
I’m truly thankful to be alive and raising my family in the 21st century. You have to admit it was pretty different just one century ago. My Grandma’s stories of how she gathered eggs and churned butter as a preschooler, then stored them in an icebox (precursor to the refrigerator) still has me shaking my head. Then there was her talent in wringing chicken necks and de-feathering them, which left me slightly traumatized when first witnessing her technique. Yikes!
Finally, and most importantly, I’m thankful that my Heavenly Father loves me, and through His Son has given me an example of how to live a life of compassion and forgiveness in my everyday relationships. I’ve experienced both great joy and heartache in my life, but the Lord has been the source of strength in all my circumstances. So, please share with me and The Exceptional Life family this week…
What are you thankful for? Share stories, pictures, video, the floor is yours!
My visit to Vinh was interesting and bittersweet. I was born while our countries raged in conflict, and wanted to see firsthand the land I’d only read about in history books. I left with a humbled gratefulness for life, and thankfulness for the ability to have many experiences and freedoms.
As always when traveling, I reflect on the culture, the people and their family dynamic. What do people do everyday? What’s for dinner tonight? Are they happy?
“I’ve got it!” My adorable husband yells with enthusiasm. Mind you he does EVERYTHING with great joy and at full speed, whether it’s waking me from my coma like sleep with a morning song (what…no coffee?), or serenading me to dreamland with his trumpet version of America the Beautiful. My beloved is a human spark plug with an insatiable urge to fix any proverbial broken pieces of me. Deep sigh.
Then there was me, crumpled and frustrated, methodically listing each point of profound dissatisfaction I derived from work. Not just any work mind you, oh no! I was a first-year high school teacher, and we all know teaching is the honorable and most noble of professions. It’s one that molds young minds, and I wanted out, FAST! My practical mind battled with my broken heart. “Getting this far took so much planning,” I cried. Night courses to save on tuition, and many other sacrifices with the dream of one day teaching the sciences to eager young minds instead of being the one sitting behind the desk. Somehow my detailed plan had gone terribly, horribly wrong, and I was no longer in control. So there we were, Mr. Sunshine and Mrs. Raincloud, praying for answers and seeking God’s wisdom.
“Take a personality test,” he suggested, and told me there were ones that matched your personality to compatible careers. I was willing to try anything, even follow the advice of my groom, aka the ankle breaker. Mr. Charismatic had also convinced me that skiing wasn’t hard, and I was still having headaches from my concussion, but I digress. So I took the test and the results were strangely revealing. I don’t care that I’m introverted and intuitive, but am drawn to the sum of the answers which classify my personality as the Architect. Awed, I read on and discover that it’s one of the rarest personality types, with INTJs making up about 2% (and women just 0.8%) of the population. Hah! Deep sighs turn into calm, steady breaths.
With dancing and the trumpet, my handsome husband supports me as I adjust the plan to one that actually makes sense, a life of research as a scientist in environmental/public health. No longer living as Mrs. Miserable, or on the outside of events looking in at others, but enjoying life’s journey with the world’s greatest husband, our amazing children and the most fulfilling, satisfying career imaginable. This is truly an exceptional life!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
My why reminds me that there are still miracles today, and the opportunity for a fresh start tomorrow.