Hope Through Hard Times

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 21}

romans 5_3_4

It’s fortunate that difficulties and hard times bring people together.

No, that isn’t a typo.

We all go about our days, doing our “thing”, tending to our own needs and wants…and the needs and wants of our partners, kids, bosses, pets, parents, siblings; the list goes on and on.  We get caught up in the to do lists of life, and really, rightly so – there are many things that need tending in this life. But it is when it all falls apart, when it all hits the fan, that you see people step out of their own world’s and into one another’s.

We hear about tragedies each day on the nightly news.  It comes to us through our news feeds on Facebook and Twitter.  It’s discussed around dinner tables and water coolers.  But what is often the part of the story that sticks with us?  The tale of the person who stepped into the situation to help:  the man who removed his belt and staunched the bleeding of a person he’d never met after the Boston Marathon bombing; the man who walked into a burning building to rescue an elderly gentleman who lived there and could not get out.  It’s the men who band together to lift a car – a car! – off of a motorcyclist after an accident before the car blows up from a gas leak.

And we see it more acutely in our own lives and the lives of those around us.  The family that rallies when one of their own is suddenly in the hospital.  The neighbor who makes a meal for a widow a month after she’s lost her love and everyone else has gone back to their own lives.  The friend who comes and sits with the mother who mourns the loss of her child.

Of course we don’t wish any of these things on anyone.  We desire for ourselves and those we love comfort and peace, health and happy days.  But I take heart in the hope that comes through the hard times.

At Loose Ends

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 20}

I remember the first time I saw a movie in the theater that didn’t have a happy ending.  I can’t recall the movie but I do recall my feeling of betrayal.  Where was the happy ending? Why weren’t the storylines tied up in the end with a neat little bow? Why couldn’t I just leave the theater feeling good?

I went to see The Judge tonight with a dear friend.  Overall, I felt it was very well done;  it really catches its groove about a quarter of the way in and then there is no turning back.  It’s the tale of a prodigal son, returned for his mother’s funeral and then caught up in helping the father who’d turned away from him many years before.  The family dynamics are real and touching; each character’s pain is almost palpable as they are forced to deal with not only what broke them apart but also what brought them back together.  The end was not quite as I’d expected and that will have to suffice, lest I give too much away.

But I will say this:  I’ve come to appreciate the movies that leave you wondering how it all turned out or what happened next, that leave you hoping for an outcome but uncertain as to whether it will be so or not – the tales where everything is not neatly wrapped up in the end, where sometimes things are still just a mess.  Because guess what?  That’s life.  It’s messy.  It doesn’t always turn out the way we’d hope and we’re often left wondering what is next. We’re not entitled to a happy ending and it’s by no means guaranteed.  But oh how much sweeter it is then when we do find one…

Fighting the Good Fight

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 18}

I took my time getting going this morning, having a cup of tea, reading, and feeling thankful the rain had finally gone, before heading off to a sweet girl’s soccer game. I got talking with her mom afterward about some hard things they’re dealing with – really hard. It’s not a situation where I’m
able to say much or give any advice, and that left me feeling helpless. We parted ways and I headed off to run some errands.

I made a pit stop to grab a slice of pizza. Originally, I’d planned to eat it there but the place was packed and rather than feel awkward by myself, I got it to go. As I ate in my car, I started thinking about my conversation at the soccer field and how frustrating it can be to not be able to anticipate how things are going to turn out, especially when you’re doing all you can to fight the good fight, putting in the time, the effort, the love. It’s hard to dream, to set long-term goals, when you don’t know what your life will look like in six months or a year. It hard to see the silver lining when nothing makes sense and everything seems broken…yet experience tells me that in hindsight, there often is one – and it’s that that we need to hold on to.

Friday Night’s All Right

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 17}

Fridays are always a mixed bag for me. It’s often on a Friday, oddly, that I’ll stay late at work, after a long enough week, just to feel like I’ve gotten things under some semblance of control. If I don’t have any plans, I usually run a myriad of errands on the way home, simply so I won’t have as many to do the rest of the weekend. By the time I find some takeout and make it home, I’m spent.

I used to feel like being tired on a Friday night was a weakness, a detriment of growing older. But I’ve started looking at it differently. While tiredness is surely a component, a bigger part of it is simply my mind and body letting go – letting go of the busy week, the schedule, the pressure, the to do list, and preparing for an all too short respite from the work week.

Finding Rebecca

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 16}

My book club is not for the faint of heart…or the fair weather reader. We began a little under two years ago with The End of Your Life Book Club and never looked back. We’ve read more than our share of takes on World War II (Unbroken, Life After Life, All The Light You Cannot See), some throwbacks (A Time to Kill, The Pact), and even some current best sellers (Gone Girl, What Alice Forgot, The Goldfinch). We’ve shied away from the classics a bit and I’ve frankly not encouraged it. Yes, we read A Christmas Carol back in December (though, if truth be told, far fewer read it than just remembered it from watching any number of film versions each holiday season), but it’s not been a genre we’ve frequented.

This month’s selection fell into that category: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. And I’d be lying if I told you I’d had the least bit of interest in it when it was selected. I was still struggling to get through the beautiful tale of All the Light We Cannot See from last month and for some reason believed Rebecca would harken to the likes of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights…and I just wasn’t feeling up for the struggle. Yet I was just disappointed enough in myself for not finishing last month’s book in time to help facilitate a great discussion that I challenged myself to push through – and was richly rewarded for it.

The story is told from the point of view of a young woman, caught up in a whirlwind relationship with a man recently widowed. They marry and return to his estate, Manderly, where she attempts to navigate her new life in the shadow of his late wife. Fraught with insecurity and incorrect assumptions, she struggles wildly until a fantastic plot twist forces her to grow up virtually overnight as she sees that reality is not at all how she’d perceived it.

And so too, my opinion of this book. I was simply fascinated from the opening lines through to the end, thinking at once I might have to start over to really grasp it all. While I understand it to be required reading in some schools, I’d highly recommend it be added to your list, especially if you love a good “I never saw that coming!” type of plot twist, coupled with beautifully flowing prose.

Comfort Food

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 15}

It’s been another rainy day and, for reasons I won’t go into, a somewhat difficult one as well. As it turns decidedly to fall here, so my thoughts turn to warm, hearty meals – comfort food. And tonight’s meal was just perfect: tater tot casserole.

I’d had this deliciousness years ago at a friend’s and it became a fall and winter staple. It’s simple to make, generally, and I switched it up a bit tonight simply because I’m trying to eat less processed food.

1 lb. ground beef (chicken or turkey also work)
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 can of condensed mushroom soup
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag of frozen tater tots

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Gently cook the frozen vegetables according to the stovetop instructions.

IMG_6896.JPG

Brown the ground beef.

IMG_6897.JPG

Drain any fat from the meat and spread in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with the vegetables, soup, and cheese.

IMG_6898.JPG

Add tater tots and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until soup is bubbly and tater tots are crisp.

IMG_6900.JPG

Enjoy!

I <3 Facebook

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 14}

More years ago than I care to count, my youth group turned me on to a new social media platform called Facebook.  Sure, I’d been familiar with Myspace and had secretly stalked people on Xanga, but I hadn’t heard of Facebook.  All the cool kids were doing it and I thought it would be a great way to (1) keep in touch with them outside of youth group and (2) share my photos from youth group events.  I could not have imagined what an integral part of my life it would eventually become.

Sure, I get irritated by folks’ drama now and again – especially during election season or when there are hot button issues in the news.  But I’ve learned how to pretty successfully manage that for myself and the good has far outweighed the bad:

I was able to reconnect with friends from childhood, high school, and college with the click of a button.  I am certain that without Facebook, there are some people I would not have reconnected with and always wondered about.  And I’ve been so blessed to have some old connections become truly wonderful, close friends.

I’ve been able to stay in touch with some of the people I left a piece of my heart with in Romania.  I’ve ventured to mail cards and letters on occasion but my luck with that hasn’t been the best.  Even though we are in different time zones, being about to send a quick note or post has been fantastic.

I’ve been able to better manage the bad news infusion that is the nightly news, CNN homepage, etc.  I have local and national news sources in my newsfeed, as well as less mainstream outlets.  I can pick and choose what I read and when and that has immensely cut down on that oppressive feeling that the world must surely be coming to an end.  (Side note:  this is also how I primarily use my Twitter account.  It is the best source for real-time news around.)

It has been a Godsend to me in these past two years.  I connect every day with my dearest friends and family. I “talk” to some of my closest much more now than before I moved;  Facebook makes it so convenient to keep up.  We are able to share our day-to-day lives, rant in the tough times, celebrate in the good, and reflect and comment on the same articles, blogs, and devotionals from afar. I can message my friend with three boys and know that she will see it and respond when she gets a moment – even if it is at midnight or 5 AM.  It’s been a touchstone for me, a way to check in and let far away folks know I’m ok and to find the same about them. On the flip side, it’s also been a good way to get to know some of my new friends here a bit better – by what they share, what photos they post, where they check in – all points of connection, often worthy of a comment online or in real life.

And anything that brings that much good to my life, that much connection, can’t be half bad.

The Sun Will Come Out…

31 Silver Linings – A Writing Challenge {Day 13}

It’s been rainy for a few days, which never bodes well for my psyche.  This weekend was odd; I’m not sure if it was the weather, change in temperature, or what, but I was just not myself. I ran around quite a bit on Saturday but that was punctuated by coming home in between errands to rest and even lie down for a while at one point – which it never the norm for me.  I’ll run on a Saturday until I drop.  Saturday night I went to bed at a reasonable hour but woke up at 3 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep for several hours, which resulted in me staying home from church.  I’d had high hopes of running errands before church, too, and all of that was thwarted.  I got a few things taken care of in time to meet up with some friends for some Sunday Funday frivolity and then found myself with about 90 minutes until I was heading to small group.  I ran back out to check one more errand off the list and away I went.  I ended up stopping to take care of two more errands on the way home, then loaded the dishwasher and prepared lunches for a couple days this week. To say I was worn out by the end of the night would be an understatement and waking up to more rain (and even more forecast for the week) did nothing to mitigate my malaise.  I’m soldiering on, however.  I’ve got a long to-do list at work today, was required to queue up for my annual flu shot, blah blah blah…but I know that grey days like today will eventually give way to a few of these:

Pippin Hill Vineyard, October 2013.

Pippin Hill Vineyard, October 2013.

And it’s in the sunny, blue sky days to come I place my hope.