Gratitude – All Year Long

I’ve written about having a spirit of gratitude before, but I think this is a topic that never grows old, so here we go once more:

Thankfulness should come more than every November. We need to live our lives with a spirit of gratitude. Imagine how your attitude would improve if you approached everything with an attitude of thankfulness: for your job, your commute, your family, your health…

Sometimes in this world, we’re frustrated with our job, marriage, family, co-workers and more. But what would happen if we approached each day with an attitude of thankfulness. Being thankful for all we have.

What if, in the midst of that frustration, we took a deep breath, and said “Thank you God for this job,” “Thank you for the abilities you’ve given me” or “Thank you God for my family, friends, co-workers.” We know there are others in this world who suffer much more than we do. So, our gratitude for our lives should be an everyday occurrence.

How would that change your attitude?

Romans 12:1 from the Message says:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.”

Do your work with a spirit of gratitude…thanking God for your abilities to do your job, for your family, for your health. Place them before God as an offering. The audience of one!

Have that spirit of gratitude every day! Something to remember when those tough days come, when you’re in a bad mood, when work overwhelms you or the holidays overwhelm you. Be thankful for the blessings, for the provision of food, gifts, decorations, plus the job that provides that.

Be blessed for the rest of this year, and as the new year approaches, think about having that spirit of gratitude all year long for 2015.

A Bunny in the Blend

(Becky’s Note: Today I’m thrilled to welcome Angela Ruth Strong to “Talking Among Friends.” She shares a wonderful story about blending her family…with a bunny. Enjoy!)

By Angela Ruth Strong
www.angelaruthstrong.blogspot.com

My youngest daughter Lauren has always loved her stuffed animals. Especially her rabbit named Steve. He became a source of security for her when her father left me and moved out of state.

Apparently she thought Steve needed to protect me, too. The first time Lauren saw me talking to a member of the opposite sex in church, she held up her bunny and said in a wee-bunny voice, “My name is Steve, and I like to murder people.”

Thank goodness I was the only one who heard her. But for the first time I realized how scared she must have been at the idea of me falling in love with another man. We talked about it. And it eventually became a joke. Steve got his own Facebook page where he displayed pictures of himself doing things like wearing a surgical mask at the dentist office when Lauren got her teeth cleaned and he posted comments about his crush on the babysitter.
But if any men tried to ask how Steve was doing, Lauren would respond with something like, “He has a chainsaw.”

Enter Mr. Strong.

Jim knew about Steve before he met Lauren. We’d gone out a couple times, and he wanted to take the kids and me to a ghost town in the mountains of Idaho, so I had to warn him. This could have been one dangerous date. But something amazing happened…

The kids didn’t want it to end. I’d learned to follow their lead, and they wanted to hang out at Jim’s house when we got back to town. He ordered Chinese food and my son played on his Xbox while the girls got artistic in his art studio. One of the girls came down with a sketch she’d drawn of the restaurant where we’d eaten in the Idaho Hotel—the only establishment still running in Silver City. Above the bar in the restaurant hung a sign with a gun. It read: We don’t call the police. Jim pointed to the sign in the sketch and said, “It should read: We don’t call the police, we call Steve.” The kids laughed and laughed.

Steve and Jim became great friends. Jim would pretend to let Steve drive his truck or help him rock out to music. He even once held him for ransom, doctoring a picture of the bunny to make him look scared. The kids loved such entertainment. And apparently they had no more need for protection with Jim around.

We bought Steve a tux for the wedding and Lauren tossed him to us during our first dance. Maybe to keep an eye on us … but we considered it a sign of acceptance.

Blending families is one of the toughest things we’ve ever had to do. It takes hard work with sometimes little to no reward. We don’t do it perfectly. But I’ve never had any doubts that Jim and I were supposed to be together. And I owe a lot of that to Steve.

That rascally rabbit helped bring us together. He’s a much loved member of our blended family.

Combine All Ingredients, Mix Well… and Add a Dash of Love

In today’s world, I’m sure all of us know someone who is part of a “blended” family — with step-parents, step-siblings, half-brothers and sisters and the like. Perhaps you’re one of these “step” or “half” relations yourself.

Sometimes these blended families don’t mix together very well. Differing personalities, choices about who’s yours and who’s mine can cause a lumpy mixture instead of a smooth one.

So what makes it work? I know of one family who has made it work, where the parents are parents and the kids are kids, and there are no labels like “step” or “half.” It doesn’t even enter their vocabulary.

Here’s their story in a nutshell: The husband fell in love and married a woman, who was a single mother to a beautiful little boy. That boy was three years old when they married. Together, this new couple had a daughter. So, already, you have a step-son, step-father, and half-sister. But they were family.

Sadly, some years later, the wife passed away. The husband remarried. So, enter wife #2, who somehow needs to blend in to this family and become a mother to two teenagers while respecting their deceased mother.

The only way this family could blend well was to mix it with love. The new wife had to learn to appreciate their traditions from before, while slowly making new traditions that they could share together. It was finding ways to blend the past and the present… to appreciate what came before, while creating the new family today.

Was this always easy to do? No, of course not. But it came down to everyone involved making the choice… they made the choice to love each other.

The kids noted their dad was happy again after the passing of his first wife, so maybe they needed to give this second wife a chance. Their new mother was different and had her own ways, but she wasn’t so bad. Again, she made Dad happy. And she was good about allowing them to have their friends over and always seemed to have brownies and Dr Pepper at the ready.

She stumbled a few times along the way. Things were not perfect. But wife #2 knew she had to make her place in this family and not be a replacement. Her husband helped her with that by making another choice…to treat her as someone who had a place in this family and wasn’t a replacement for his late wife.

As a mother, wife #2 could only learn on the job. But her attitude in “claiming” the kids as her own was this: Any mother, if they can’t be there for their kids, just wants them to be loved and well-cared for. So wife #2 figured the best thing she could do for those kids and as a show of respect to their mother, was to love them and take care of them. Treat them like their mother would’ve wanted them treated. Period. It was pretty simple once she kept that in mind. Any mother wants someone to love and care for their kids if she can’t be there.

So, this family blended together by choice, mixed together, had a few lumps along the way, but always added that dash of love. Don’t forget your sense of humor as well!

What about you? Do you know of blended families that really make it work? What’s their secret?

Please share.

As for the “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say), I lived this story I told you today, and know it from the heart.

I am “wife #2.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo credit: roshan1286 / Foter.com / CC BY

The Rollercoaster

I’ve always thought of this journey of dealing with cancer as a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down. One minute, you’re strong and you can beat this thing, and the next you’re shouting at God saying “Why me?” One day there’s a doctor sharing grim news, and the next there’s a doctor providing hope.

Living after cancer is not much different than living a “normal” life (whatever normal is). We’re all on the roller coaster of life. There are good days and bad days, calm seas, and rough ones. I guess life would be pretty boring if it wasn’t a bit of a roller coaster ride. It reminds me of that scene in the movie “Parenthood” from 1989 with Steve Martin, where Martin’s grandmother is talking about how exhilirating, frightening and sickening the roller coaster was as compared to the merry-go-round, where it just goes around. She preferred the roller coaster. Well, the roller coaster is life. I’ve always thougth you can’t appreciate the good times without going through the bad times.

So, the point of this is that I’m back on a small roller coaster ride. I went to see my cancer doc yesterday because of the swelling in my arm. Again, it’s not the side where the cancer was and where they removed lymph nodes. That’s where you’d expect some swelling, but that side looks great. It’s my other arm that is swelling. To quote my doctor, “Well, that’s weird!” Yep, it’s weird and unusual. I had the rare, unusual cancer, now I’m having a weird, unusual swelling in the wrong arm.

I’m having a chest CT in two weeks (the cancer I had is one that likes to go to the lungs, so although we believe we got all of it during surgery, we are watching things closely). My chest CT has now been modified to include my left arm. We all think I’m just retaining fluid. My hubby and I have determined that the massage therapy we learned during my Physical and Occupational Therapy already helps. So it may come down to where I have to wear a compression sleeve on that side.

That’s not the greatest news, but not the worst news. I hate my compression sleeve that I have to wear when I fly. Now, it looks like I’ll have to wear one on both arms. But if that’s the worst of this, then it’s okay. It’s annoying but not life-threatening. Just another twist and turn on this roller coaster of life after cancer.

Keeping a positive attitude is difficult somedays. But, in thinking about my attitude in recent weeks, I realized I was forgetting to pray. I was so wrapped up in my discouragement, I didn’t seek the right kind of help by being prayerful. So, as I’m getting dressed after my appointment, I thanked God for my husband, my wonderful doctor, and for the blessings of good medical care. Compression sleeves aside, life is still okay.

On another positive note, as I said, the massage we learned seems to help keep the fluid moving. So that means my hubby must massage me every day. It’s a very particular kind of massage, but hey — he’s touching me daily. And it’s become a sweet one-on-one time for us. See — there are always good things along the way!

Keep on truckin’ everyone!

I’m “normal” today!

I know the theme of this blog is the “new” normal, which is dealing with my new physical body, making decisions about reconstructive surgery, visiting doctors every three months for the next couple of years, etc., etc.

But after yesterday’s post on feeling discouraged, I realized I’m “normal,” at least for today – hee hee. I’m not alone in feeling discouraged or upset that I have aches and pains preventing me from exercising, or a sinus headache like no end this morning.

This past weekend, hubby and I attended a wedding and a funeral. As my aunt so aptly said: it was the circle of life. So, it’s part of life to be frustrated or discouraged. It’s normal today that I have a deadline for my job and am battling a sinus headache.

So, because I had cancer do I get to crawl under a rock? Nope — one has nothing to do with the other. Which is why I’m normal today. I’ll have to do what hundreds of other people have to do today — take my medicine and plow through to complete my work. Since my boss commented on yesterday’s post, I for sure better buckle down and “get ‘er done!”

But I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their wonderful comments and words of encouragement. I don’t know what possessed me to start this blog thing. It’s difficult for me to express my feelings and put it all out there. But the comments yesterday and wonderful words have lifted my spirits, and once again, showed me how blessed I am. Y’all won’t judge me forever as a negative person because I have a discouraging day. Thank you for that. Oh, for those reading me on blogger, most of my comments came via Facebook. But thank you to all for being encouragers and for your kind words and prayers.

Finally, although I’m just a normal, average person, maybe my experiences can help someone else not feel so alone. That may have been my goal in starting this, but yesterday proved that I received the blessing.

Okay– medicine taken — let’s pray the sinus headache recedes, and onward I go to complete my work for the day. This day which is a “normal” day!

Keep on truckin’ everyone! 🙂

My birthday was two days ago, and yes, having birthdays, especially at my age, leads to a reflection of your life. But this year, I was reflecting in a different way.
My husband threw me a birthday party this year! How fun! We had 30 people at our house, and the amazing thing is that we didn’t know 25 of them 8 months ago!

We’ve moved to this area almost eight months ago, and it’s been a long road in establishing friendships. I grew up in the military, so I was used to moving around, and I’ve moved several times as an adult. Change is okay in my book. However this last move, for my husband’s new job, was different. Our kids are in college, so we weren’t meeting parents of kids the same age as ours through school. I’m no longer working out of the house, but am instead working on my writing career at home, so I’m not meeting new friends via a workplace. And with church, well, we shopped churches for several months, only joining our new church two months ago.

In January and February of this year, I recall being very lonely, feeling isolated, and although I knew that feeling would change as we established ourselves in a new home, it was a difficult few months.

My birthday party was a celebration, and did it ever show what a mighty work God can do in your life if you just ask Him. In January, I would never have imagined that there would be a house full of people in my home. But there they were, from all different areas of our lives: neighbors, church friends, writer friends, a college buddy, and cousins we’re finally getting to know because we now live closer to them.

God has done nothing but bless us for this entire move: From the beginning, even when we thought we were going to another city and couldn’t understand why the doors kept closing there, all the way to our beautiful home, that was happily filled with laughter, love, and good new friends. We’re establishing our life here, and it’s going to be wonderful.

God is so good…..