Friday, February 26, 2010

"The Lord Will Bless You"

I’ve gotten so much done in the last couple of days. And I am really, really happy about that. I work with small businesses and do marketing from home. Some days I get a lot done, and some days, not as much as I'd like. The last couple of days, though, I’ve taken on some extra projects for a colleague who has some quickly arriving deadlines. She called and said, “Vanessa, HELP!”

I learned she was doing well with her projects until an emergency with a young family friend, the age of her children, needed her – and in a very desperate way. My friend, always ready to help someone in need, made herself available at her own risk, believing she would find help in some way. So, she called me, hoping I had some time to pitch in to get the projects completed. I was delighted to help.

As I met with her this past week and listened to the story she shared, I was moved by her compassion and love for this young person in need. In the midst of all of her own work deadlines and her own family concerns, clearly the needs of this young woman were on her mind.

As we finished our meeting and I started to leave, I remembered my mother telling others so many times, “The Lord will bless you.” Whenever someone shared with my mom and was bewildered about what task they had been called upon to do for someone or why they had been asked to help in some way, my mom would always smile and say, “The Lord will bless you.”

That simple phrase still speaks so much to me. It means that we are called to help sometimes; there are no coincidences, only connections. God intends for us to be there, to help each other when we’re needed.

So, I told my friend how my mom used to share that simple phrase. She smiled good-naturedly and probably hoped that she would feel blessed. At the time she was still feeling pretty stressed. I know I have already been blessed by helping my friend. I have already gotten done more than I would have otherwise, and I have in the process taken a little pressure off someone who needs to be present for someone else. Yes, the Lord has truly blessed me!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some Thoughts About My Mother-in-law

This is a photo of Bob & Jane Brower, Ken's parents. We're not exactly sure when it was taken, but think it was about 1995....

A Facebook friend posted a comment Friday afternoon about a Dr. Phil show focusing on ‘in-law’ issues (in particular those involving mothers-in-law). Since I'm not a usual Dr. Phil watcher, I was watching the 5:00 edition of our local news. I’d already heard all I wanted to hear about Tiger Woods’ apology on the noon news that day, however, so I was all too happy to turn the channel to see the program Trish was referencing.

So, I changed the channel and got an eyeful! My goodness! A daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law were verbally lashing out at each other with their husband/son smack in the middle of the feud! After watching it for a few minutes, I wasn’t sure who I pitied most: the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, or son, as they all seemed to have major issues to resolve.

I can tell you how grateful it made me, though, for my in-laws. I am so blessed and I know it. Kenny’s mom, my mother-in-law, is Jane, and she is wonderful! I love my mother-in-law. When grandchildren came along, she became known as "Nana," and that is what I always call her. I don’t talk with Nana often, but I know if I need her, all I need to do is call her. Through the years she has been supportive and loving and treated me from the beginning like one of her own children. With her I genuinely feel loved and cared for.

For my wedding shower my mother-in-law gave me a beautifully framed piece of art. It’s an artist’s rendering of a lovely young woman, dressed in yellow. It appears to be a southern belle and the following verse is written underneath: “…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I Peter 3:4

As much as I would like to think my mother-in-law saw me this way, I certainly never saw myself as such, so I could hardly think she would. (It must have been wishful thinking on her part!). I can tell you, though, that it is how I see my my mother-in-law. It's true; I am one of the lucky ones. You will never hear me telling negative stories about my mother-in-law, about how she interferes or tells us how to run our lives, because she doesn’t, and she never has; it’s just not her style.

I love many attributes of my mother-in-law. Here are just a few of them:

1. Jane loves the Lord and is a true example of someone who is Christ-like. She is an inspiration and a wonderful model of what it means to live as a Christian today.

2. She has shown me a mother’s love. I have known the love of two mothers and for that I am so grateful.

3. She is full of grace. In how she handles herself, greets people, speaks on the phone and just about every way I can imagine, Jane is truly a graceful person. She is never pushy, overbearing or burdensome in any way.

4. She allows her children to be who they are. This is one of the attributes I most admire about Jane. With 5 kids, she has learned well that each child has his or her strengths, differences, likes and dislikes. More than any parent I have ever seen, she never fosters jealousy or pits one child against another in any capacity. She truly accepts each child for the unique person God created. What a gift she is to her children!

5. Children flock to her. I believe kids see “the gentle and quiet spirit” I mentioned before. She draws them like a magnet!

6. She is reassuring. When Matthew was a baby and we had “baby questions,” Jane was often my first source for answers. She was a wealth of information.

7. She never interferes. If we want to go to her, she makes herself available, but she never inserts herself into our business or affairs.

8. She, along with my father-in-law, Bob, raised my wonderful husband. I am so grateful for Jane’s influence on him and for the example she set for him. He is the most amazing person, a true gift from God. I credit his mother so very much for helping make him the man he is today.

Yes, I am blessed, and I know it! I love you, Nana!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I've Been Thinking of You....

I have been delinquent in writing a thank you note to someone, and the thought of it remaining unwritten hangs above my head like the caption of a cartoon.

Do you put off such tasks? Clearly we know the importance of thank you notes. A thank you note sent to a gift giver allows her to know her gift was received and appreciated. Of course, it is equally important to send thank you notes to others to tell them how much we appreciate them for some service or gift in kind they have provided.

Just as importantly, I find are ‘Thinking of you’ notes. Aren’t those wonderful to receive? E-mail is terrific and Facebook has been a real joy, but nothing and I mean NOTHING takes the place of a handwritten, snail-mail note from someone I love and who loves me. And when I say a 'Thinking of you’ note, I don’t care if the message is relayed on fine stationery, a Hallmark card or notebook paper ripped out of an old notebook! I just love to know that someone thought of me!

So, I have decided that I am going to begin a writing campaign to tell many of those I love how much I think about them by sending them a note (to inform them of this!) by snail mail.

Whom do you need to write today?

• Is there a college student who would love to hear from you?

• How about a service member, far away from home who would take comfort in knowing that he or she is thought of daily?

• How about a friend or neighbor from some place where you once lived?

• Is there an older friend you haven’t seen in a while or someone missing from the pew in front of you in church on Sunday?

• Do you have a favorite aunt or uncle you remember fondly but rarely contact?

• Maybe you need to contact a parent or close relative with whom you’ve lost touch? Life is far too short to let trivial issues get in the way. Be the first to write (or better yet, in this case, even call!) and say, “I’m sorry, and I’ve been thinking of you.” You’ll be so glad you did.

Someone, somewhere, would love to hear from you today! So grab your stationery or that old notebook paper and get writing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

To The Love of My Life

(This photo was taken on our anniversary when our dear friends took us out to celebrate. This year we will celebrate 26 years of marriage...)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13: 4-8

When I was 6 years old, my mother accepted Christ. She later told me that it was at that time that she began praying for the husband that I would have one day. And God gave me Ken (although he claims it’s the other way around). I have always believed that because of my mother’s faithfulness to Him, God honored her prayers for a loving, devoted, Christian husband for me, her only child.

I have come to realize that Ken was a gift for all of us. God answered my mother’s prayers, I believe, because she was a faithful servant and true believer. And my, did she love Kenny! Before we went out on our first date, she told my dad, “She’ll marry that boy.” My dad could hardly believe what she was saying, especially since we had not even gone out, yet he knew my mother knew things.

My dad, who believed in God at the time, but had not accepted Christ, loved Kenny for different reasons. Daddy was grateful to Kenny for being such an outstanding worker and provider for his family; he knew Ken took great care of me (and later Matthew as well) and that gave my father great comfort. Both my parents came to love him more and more through the years. He was everything they hoped for in a mate for their only daughter and so much more. They felt so lucky and they had every right to feel that way.

I am grateful to Ken because not only has he been a wonderful husband, but he has been an incredible father for our son, our only child. He is a God-fearing man and has been an incredible example as a father, being patient, loving and kind. He is also an affectionate father (although not too much!) and one who has always been available to Matthew – and his friends. He has coached Little League baseball and Team One Basketball and even played in a pick-up league with our son and his friends (along with some of their dads). In fact, he played even after breaking his hand playing and long after his bad knee gave out. That’s what good dads do – they continue to support their kids even when it’s not convenient for them as individuals.

Beyond all of that, I am appreciative of the husband he has always been to me. I once read the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. I understand that because it means setting an example for them. And Ken has certainly done that. He sets a wonderful example for our son and if Matthew hasn’t learned how to treat a lady, it’s not for lack of a wonderful role model. Ken treats me with the utmost respect, ALWAYS opens car doors and places a high value on my opinions and wishes. He never cares how much I spend, what I want to buy, or how many people I want to have in for dinner. He is considerate of my feelings and how I feel physically. He genuinely loves my cooking (or at least he says he does!), yet he asks me every day if I'd like to go out for dinner or have him stop by some place for take out.

He is just as generous with his compliments and his wallet in purchasing gifts for me. He starts asking me weeks before my birthday or Valentine’s Day, Christmas and even Easter, what gifts I would like. What’s not to love about this man? He is truly patient with me and has always been supportive of my goals – whether to stay at home or to pursue something outside of home and family.

Beyond that, Ken has set an example as an incredible leader in a sometimes ‘swim with the sharks’ business world. I remember those who worked for Ken crying (including grown men) when we moved from North Carolina to Ohio, telling me, “There’s nobody like Ken.” Well, they didn’t have to tell me that. I knew a good thing once I’d found him!

Although I know it will sound quite mushy, I write today to wish my husband, Ken, a Happy Valentine’s Day. He truly is the gift of a lifetime and if anyone embodies the spirit of I Corinthians 13: 4-8, this man does.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13: 4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey. I love you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dealing With Hurts and Disappointments

How well do you deal with disappointment? Do you take it in stride and face the world with confidence or do you curl up and retreat?

We’ve all been there. We have one disappointment and probably handle it fairly well (depending on what it is). Then we’re hit with a second disappointment and well, it turns out to be a less-than-perfect day. And then someone we love and care about hurts us or lets us down, and well, that’s the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

And that’s the true test of character. How do you deal with that kind of triple-whammy? I’d like to say I embrace the challenges and accept them with grace. Yes, I’d like to say that. But that would not be true. Unfortunately, that’s not been the case as of late, especially.

My dad used to give me fatherly advice about life issues that seemed too big to handle. He would say, “That’s what makes life so enjoyable,” talking about working out problems and dealing with things. He embraced challenges and loved working through issues. I guess I’ve never shared his enthusiasm of dealing with such things. I’d prefer life to go along smoothly. I don’t need the challenges my dad so enjoyed.

My mom, on the other hand, took a different approach to mentoring me. She would say, “If we don’t experience the valleys, we can’t truly appreciate the mountain tops.” And while this adage made a lot more sense to me growing up than appreciating the curves life throws us, I still preferred those mountain tops she referred to. But I suppose most of us do. I’ve been feeling like I’m climbing up that mountain and when I gain a couple of steps I fall back a few more. Know what I mean?

I recently heard someone say that God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. Now that makes perfect sense to me, too. Clearly God has much to teach me and my character needs a lot of improvement. I’m not sure I’m learning the lessons as quickly as I need to. I’ve had several personal hurts and disappointments in the last few weeks and I have to admit that I am not dealing with them as gracefully as I would like.

When I feel this way I remember a line from Steel Magnolias (that someone else probably said first): “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Let’s hope I get stronger and stronger and my character becomes more Christ-like. It appears I have a long way to go.

How do you deal with disappointments and hurts? Do you retreat or take the bull by the horns and accept the challenge with vigor? What is God trying to teach you in this molding process?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Life As A Series of 'Bullet Points'

If you thought about your life as a series of bullet points, what items would make the cut? I have been thinking about that over the last couple of days as a result of reconnecting with a friend I met my freshman year in college, but had lost touch with in the years afterwards. Once again through Facebook, I have had the opportunity to connect with Brenda, a fun, sweet gal from all those years ago. What a treat!

In order to update Brenda on what’s happened with me in the last three decades (wow, that’s a LONG time!), I had to give the stepping stones of my life a little thought. These are the items that come to mind as I continue to think about putting the last 30 years of my life in print (in bullet form, no less):

• Graduated from college in 1983
• Attended graduate school and got married in 1984
• Moved 12 times with my husband (in the years from 1984-1997) for his work
. Moved here, to Orrville, in 1997
• Had one child, a son, Matthew who's now a college freshman
• Lost both parents
• Held positions in the areas of banking, real estate, customer service, event planning, fundraising, marketing and public relations among others
Etc., etc., etc.

And while all of these are true and are a partial representation of my life in the last 30 years or so, these are NOT the things I would want people to remember about me when I’m gone. I don’t, for example, want my tombstone to say Here lies Vanessa, a former marketing director!!

No, what I want people to remember is that I LOVED others, cared about their needs and welcomed them into our home; that I shared with them, by example, the love of Jesus. In short, the legacy I would like to leave is the kind written about in the song titled Legacy, written and performed ny Nichole Nordeman. I have written about these lyrics before and they continue to inspire me to be the person I would like to be, the characteristics I hope will be remembered about me, long after I've left this world.

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all who's who and so-n-so's that used to be the best
At such'n'such ... it wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an 'Atta boy' or 'Atta girl'
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthly list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy

Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred
Just want to hear instead, "Well Done" good and faithful one...

~~Nichole Nordeman

What would be the bullet points of your life? Do they represent what you want remembered about you? If not, there’s still time to make changes, make amends, start anew. Why not start today?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Janet!

From Left: Jace, Dan, Nate and Janet

Today I wish a very Happy Birthday to someone I love and admire: my sister-in-law, Janet.

My husband, Kenny, is one of five kids: he has an older brother, Keith, who lives in Cincinnati; a younger brother, Kevin, who lives in Germany (and is in the Army); a younger sister, Janet, who is celebrating a birthday today, lives in Missouri; and the youngest sibling, Judy, who lives in North Carolina.

Janet, who is a beautiful mother of two, is a stay-at-home mom. She has a degree in accounting (at least I think that’s what her official degree is in….) but chooses to be home with her two boys, Nate and Jace.

Janet’s husband, Dan, travels a lot with work. In fact, they, like us, have moved quite a bit in the years they have been married as a result of Dan’s work. Although she misses Dan terribly when he's away, Janet is no shrinking violet; she's an independent sort, making do while she and the boys are on their own. I know she has been involved in mothers’ groups in the past and has even helped organize some in areas where she’s lived.

Even when the boys were small, Janet never let being alone with them keep her home. She would put those boys in her SUV or on a plane and away they’d go to visit family and friends. That spirit of independence has always impressed me! Janet is small, but she’s mighty! Janet enjoys the fall season and has always loved animals. She also has a passion for living near the water. I know her dream is to live in the southeast again one day, where they can once again enjoy water sports with their boys on a regular basis.

Happy Birthday, Janet! I hope your day is terrific – just like you!!

Love you!