Legacy: Timeless Treasures Passed Down to my Children (Part 2)

Happy Sunday! Today’s message in church was entitled: Leaving a Legacy. Our Pastor reminded everyone that we’re all leaving some kind of legacy and it’s either a good or bad one. My thoughts returned to this series, and I’m so thankful of the good legacy I’ve been left to pass on to my children.

This is the second of a three part series narrating my family’s living legacy. I love sharing the timeless treasures I learned from my grandmother, taught my adult children and am currently teaching the last babe at home. Grandma represents four generations of faith. What an incredible testimony! Today I present more sage wisdom from my family’s practical, down-to-earth matriarch. Enjoy her witty, southern twist on city living:

MAINTAIN THY CASTLE

4.  Be ready for visitors. My grandmother really loved having guests! That meant you kept the living and bathrooms tidy and coffee on the stove. We got a jump start on the day by making the bed as soon as we got up. “You see,” she’d say, “that’s one thing done today.” Years later, I would collapse with exhaustion (and relief) into the plumped pillows and cool sheets of my pre-made bed after an endless day of running behind infants and children. Today when my older children visit and make their beds right away I smile and whisper, “one thing done for today!”

5.  Wash, hang, iron…repeat. I didn’t have dirty clothes growing up. Okay that’s a stretch, but my grandmother had a remedy for every stain, rip, or missing button. She fixed them, and taught me how to do it myself. I had church, school, and “play” clothes with shoes, and knew the difference! Nothing was replaced unless I grew. She taught me to do my own laundry, and hang it outside on the clothes line. Times have changed, but I like grandma’s mindset. My children learned to do their laundry and iron in middle school, and mend and tailor their clothes in high school. Their father and I purchased the essentials, but they were responsible for the upkeep until they outgrew their clothing and gave them to younger friends or relatives.

6.  What’s for dinner? Chicken. As a child I never asked, “What’s for dinner?” It was always ready after school, and I ate it! If I became hungry in the evening I had a snack or a piece of fruit. My colleagues find this amusing, but friends and family know the truth: Grandma cooked every day and every day she cooked chicken. While other proteins were available I can say with certainty we ate chicken for dinner 99.9% of the time during my childhood. As a working Mom I treasure the dinner hour with my family, and taught them to make it their priority too. It’s hot and usually ready to be set on the table at 6pm, and no cell phones are allowed. I’m a stickler for serving vegetables, but yes a lot of times it’s chicken!

Stay tuned for the final installment of my grandmother’s lasting legacy!

Blessings,

CED

Photo credit: Four Generations: my grandmother, mother, and daughter with me in North Carolina. 1993. Used with permission.  

Legacy: Timeless Treasures Passed Down to my Children (Part 1)

Spring’s here! I love how our tiny, green island awakens from cool and windy slumber as the refreshing rains come. It gets warm a little earlier than on mainland Japan, and my beloved cherry blossoms have already bloomed and faded away. Spring brings happy memories of waiting with my Grandmother for the blossoms arrival.  They make their annual presence sometime around Easter in the U.S., and fill the nation’s capital with their pink and white delicate beauty.  Grandmother loved spring and gardening, and passed her passion on to me. We’d talk about so many things working in her garden, and later sitting on the porch admiring our labor. When my children came along I kept the tradition alive as we gardened together, talking and sharing, sweating and laughing. Here are some treasures I learned at my Grandmother’s knee and passed on to my babies:

KNOW THYSELF

1. Apologize (and mean it). Sincere apologies are good for the soul.  No one’s perfect, I’d remind my children when they were frustrated with a friend or classmate. This includes us. When we commit an offense we should quickly say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness.  “Don’t let your pride get in the way of saying you’re sorry,” Grandma would encourage me.

2. Manners matter most.  The military didn’t teach me to say yes Ma’am/no Sir, please, thank you and you’re welcome. I learned at home and taught my children early on. Recently a young man held the elevator for me, and in relief I greeted him, “Good morning Sir, and thank you so much!” Visibly shocked he mumbled no big deal. When we reached his floor I called out have a great day. He turned around, smiled and replied you too Ma’am! “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” Grandma would say. That’s a southern way of saying “bee” kind!

3. Have a genuine, personal relationship with God. I’ve always been fascinated by behavior, but not many adults wanted to be scrutinized by a quiet, little person. Grandma didn’t mind as I watched her cook, clean and garden. She had these daytime conversations with God, sang songs from church and prayed for family, her friends or people I didn’t know!  God was important to her, and she loved spending time with him. Each day began and ended the same, on bended knee at her bedside. Long after she was crippled with arthritis and the pain was visibly unbearable, she’d clasp bent fingers together and give thanks for another day. I wanted that kind of special relationship with who she called the Holy One of heaven and earth. “If you let Him, God will lead and guide you through life’s journeys,” she promised.  She lived to see me choose Him for myself, and offer the same gift of choice to my children.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my grandmother’s lasting legacy.

Be blessed,

CED

Photo credit: Cherry Blossom Festival. Washington, DC. 2014. Used with permission. 

Overcoming Thoughts of Defeat

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 New International Version (NIV)

Through the years this verse has given me comfort and strength. It’s a reminder to hold on tight to my faith during personal trials, and to keep going after crashing and burning professionally. During the darkest periods of my life it would bubble up and out of my spirit, and I’d pray until I felt steady again. Does that make sense?

There was a period as a young adult when I stopped going to church, and foolishly told myself it was because for the first time no one was forcing me!  As the deacon’s grandkid, I was raised in the Baptist church. Sunday school, midweek service, baptisms, communion…you name it! So when I moved out on my own and had the choice to please myself or continue following God let’s just say I did not choose God, and my new “all about me” persona had the uncanny ability to say the wrong things, hurt feelings and cause offense. It bled into all areas of my life and drove my friends and family crazy!

The decision to return to God and never look back occurred in a new church I  attended sporadically.  A visiting pastor called up parishioners toward the end of service. I watched him from the back of the sanctuary as he began to pray and speak words of encouragement. Thinking back on that day, I remember feeling so defeated. The pastor gently called me up and began to pray with me, and said close to my ear:

“Don’t be discouraged daughter. God will bless you with another child.”

I lost my collective mind. Who said I wanted another child? We already had four: a baby, a toddler, one in kindergarten and the oldest in second grade! We were so broke, and lived paycheck to paycheck. Money problems started arguments which had our marriage resembling the movie Fight Club. What was this man talking about? As I looked at him I began to cry, no correction, I started wailing. AT THE ALTAR. God was so unfair and this pastor was crazy. I hid that word in my heart, because I couldn’t mentally or spiritually comprehend it at the time.

My out of character response that Sunday deeply affected the regular pastor too, because he and his wife began to spend more time with our family. They prayed with us and checked on us more often. Women in church reached out and I made new friends. My family started attending regularly and eventually I joined the choir. With time and through faith my defeated thinking became clearer and more focused! Many of my family relationships and friendships were restored, and professional success followed self-discipline and mentorship. But the biggest surprise of all? Ten years after the pastor’s prayer I delivered a bouncing, baby girl!

Today I KNOW I am a blessed woman of God. Despite too many medical procedures, an adamant doctor who repeatedly told me I was infertile, and a third who would perform emergency surgery to rule out cancer, our daughter arrived healthy and right on time.  She is my gift, a masterful centerpiece in a jeweled crown God sent from heaven. When I held her for the first time God firmly placed in my spirit that “this is the fulfillment of my promise. NOTHING can EVER separate you from My love!”

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 (NIV)

Love and blessings,

CED

Photo credit: http://www.Pixabay.com. Free for commercial use.

Obedience and Destiny

Happy Sunday.

Autumn’s arrived and brought along changing leaves and cool, crisp mornings. Wait a minute! Over the summer we moved across the globe to a tiny island with two seasons, and humidity and sweltering heat play a large part in both.  After the initial sensory overload my family’s settling in nicely and embracing the opportunity to slow down.

In addition to moving, I’ve spent lots of time bringing my requests to God as the Word says we should.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

As followers of The Exceptional Life, you’ll find this and other encouraging verses because I love good news! The response to a summer immersed in prayer has been amazing.

So I brought God my laundry list of requests. Lord please cover my marriage, bless my kids, heal my body, and provide favor over my career. Sound familiar to anyone? When I didn’t sense a breakthrough, I called in the prayer warriors.  For my non-Christian friends these are like-minded men and women of faith who petition God through corporate prayer. From the season of prayer two truths became crystallized in my spirit.

First, in my spiritual walk there must be an unflinching obedience to God. Even when it’s unpopular, and especially when it’s uncomfortable. In order to gain wisdom and live a life of excellence my priorities have to be in order. In the past when I experienced setbacks, I would be crippled by discouragement, and discouragement undermines vision. God revealed there will be no shortage of critics to my dreams, so I have to toughen up and learn to stop questioning myself whenever they come around. The book of Exodus has been an incredible testimony that me plus God equal the majority, and now I quickly move forward in faith when prompted. Bad grammar, but you get the point. No more paralysis by analysis!

Second, I am called to write, speak and lead. It’s my destiny and what I was designed for when God created me in my Mother’s womb. She actually birthed three writers but that’s a story for another time. Trust me when I share that whenever we turn away from what we’re created to do, the Lord brings us right back to our purpose.

Friends, do you know why you’re here? Are you curious as to what you were placed on this earth to do specifically?  Don’t confuse your true worth with your sense of worth.  Our feelings don’t always line up with the truth. I too struggled with self-worth for quite a while. Be encouraged and seek God through His Word.  Today could be the day you pray as I did, and ask for clarity in your life.  It’s time to walk into your destiny!

Love and Blessings,

CED

Saturday Scripture – Redeemed

Israel’s Only Savior

1 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV

Prayer for Today

How excellent You are Heavenly Father! Thank You for creating, redeeming and calling us by name. In the many seasons of life, and in all the unspeakable situations we find ourselves in…You are there.

Today I lift up my Exceptional Life friends and ask that You fill them with wisdom, understanding, and great comfort in knowing that as Your redeemed they were bought at a great price! As we commit to learning more of Your ways, I stand in agreement to whatever changes needed: spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Lord bless us richly as we seek to live out lives that are pleasing to You. To God the Father be all glory and honor and praise. Amen.

Blessings, CED

Photo credit: https://www.quotesgram.com

Video credit: Redeemed by the Skit Guys.  I have no copyrights to the song and/or video directly above.

Visions and Dreams

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…

No, I’m not even going there except to say thank you to an icon who’s recently passed away. Thank you for a lifetime of sharing yourself with the world, and for leaving your vision of art and sound for generations to enjoy. From childhood I was captivated by Prince’s prolific songwriting and phenomenal musicianship. If you’ve ever seen him live in concert then you understand he wasn’t so much a skilled musician, but the guitar and piano OBEYED him, producing classical, jazz, or R & B scores at his command. Social media’s exploded with dedication tributes, and I’d like to share my all-time, favorite song from the album Around The World In A Day. At 13 year’s old I thought hard about the chorus, and where I was in life:

Everybody’s looking 4 the ladder
Everybody wants salvation of the soul
The steps U take are no easy road
But the reward is great
4 those who want 2 go

Everybody’s looking for the answers
How the story started and how it will end
What’s the use in half a story, half a dream
U have 2 climb all of the steps in between

-Prince, The Ladder

You wouldn’t be exaggerating if you called that period of my life a “hot ghetto mess.”  My family was literally falling apart at the seams with my parent’s separation, added to that we lost our home, and I had to leave my church, school and all my friends to start over in a new city. Crying hot, angry tears at my last bible study, our youth leader asked to pray with me. We bowed our heads as he quietly asked the Lord to keep me, bless me and shower me with His love all my days.  I still remember that prayer because of its simple sincerity. Afterwards I felt calmly reassured, and had what’s now a reoccurring vision where I’m speaking to and encouraging millions of people.  Even then God began to reveal His plan for me!

If you knew me then you’re laughing because in school I was the LAST ONE picked for anything involving public speaking.  Math club, yes. Chess club, double yes. We moved around alot, and in first grade alone I attended three schools! With a horrible lisp that made it hard to pronounce complex words, and really crooked teeth that stuck out even when I tried to close my mouth, teachers rarely coaxed me to read aloud in class. International public speaker…um, no thanks Lord.

Grandma Chelle and Crys
A Rare Smile…11 years old with my Grandma and Baby Sister.

Fast forward ten years. I played hard, and lived as self-destructively as possible. Braces fixed my visible issues, but only God’s love and forgiveness could pierce my heart and fix my spiritual brokenness. Through all of life’s ups and downs the Lord has never left me, He’s kept me and continues to bless me, just as the young bible teacher asked long ago!

CED Promotion Norfolk
Promotion Day! Tearfully Celebrating with Parents:)

If you’re wondering “but what about the vision?” I not only travel the world speaking and teaching, but also use those hard experiences from the early years to mentor and encourage other women through a local non-profit organization. Nothing is a wasted experience when we give it to God.  It seems that my tears, relationships, and embarrassments have become useful learning experiences to prepare others for GREAT success!  In the last five years God has added the most wonderful dreams to my vision, and I recount the verse:

 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;  Acts 2:17 (ESV)

Today would you consider this next question? What great thing do you dream about for your future?  Is it help overcoming personal struggles from your past, or do you dream of having your own business where you control your financial legacy, or perhaps you want to have healthier and happier personal relationships? Maybe you seek a deeper spiritual relationship, and want a sense of purpose and connectedness.  I believe that’s what Prince sang about in The Ladder!

When I was a child my problems seemed unsolvable. They loomed as big as a harvest moon on a clear night sky. Growing older certainly put things in perspective. Troubles didn’t go away, but my response to them changed dramatically. One night while sailing on the South Pacific, I looked up and there a full moon.  It was magnificent and as I stared at it intently, I imagined I was holding it between my pointer finger and thumb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A Full Moon on the Pacific Ocean!

My shipmates thought this was hilarious, but this is my perspective in life. Yes, it’s a fact that the moon is enormous, but from earth it’s so small it fits between my two fingers. In life even your biggest obstacle don’t stand a chance against a great God and His plan for your life when He says Amen.  It is finished!

 

  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (ESV)

Blessings, CED