The Gift of Time

Christmas is a time of giving. It’s easy to remember to give to the less fortunate when we see Salvation Army bell ringers at every store, church outreach missions soliciting donations, community service projects in action, and other worthwhile charities requesting our contributions.

Though charities depend on the generosity of people in order to collect dollars for their individual causes, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we took things a bit further.

The definition of charity according to the Random House Dictionary is “generosity towards the poor.” I believe this goes beyond monetary gifts.

I’ll admit that there have been times in my life when I have felt uncomfortable when I’m “out of my league” in social situations. I would bet that the poor often feel the same way. As I thought about this, I came up with a few ideas that would force me to give a little of myself to someone less fortunate, as well as material gifts to my favorite charities. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  • When possible I should offer my assistance to someone in need, such as  babysitting occasionally or driving someone to the doctor.

 

  • When I can afford it, I should consider hiring someone looking for work to do odd jobs for me, such as cleaning or yard work. Not only would it help them financially, it would help me keep my own life in perspective as I get to know them.

 

  • The elderly are often on fixed incomes. Gifts of a warm meal and a visit to their homes could make someone’s day. Many elderly persons live alone and find it hard to cook for one. I can think of several older friends, many who are still active, but would enjoy a home-cooked meal delivered to their door.

 

  • Many senior citizens don’t have the means to get out much. The next time I take a drive to my old stomping grounds I should ask one of my older friends who lived in the same area to ride along and reminisce.

 

  • Most importantly, as a Christian I should give the underprivileged the gift of friendship, just as I would want to be treated if the situation were reversed. A simple “hi” or an invitation to my house could mean the world to someone down on their luck.

Now comes the hard part—actually living out my own suggestions. Here’s where I need to go to God in prayer and ask Him to give me that nudge to remind me to treat others like Christ treats us. Especially the poor and down-trodden.

What Will We Sacrifice?

When it comes to baseball, you don’t typically think of tear-filled moments, but this past Sunday at Target Field, before the Minnesota Twins home game, that moment happened.

38,000+ people watched from the stands as two young sisters raced around the bases, stopping at each base to dress in over-sized baseball gear. Then after donning caps and shoes at third, they ran toward home, toward the mascot, TC Bear.

TC stepped aside …

… and there stood their father, Master Sergeant Robert Buresh, back  home from Afghanistan only hours before. The girls were taken completely by surprise, bringing tears to the majority of the crowd.

(To watch the video, first grab some tissues, then click <here> for story and video)

It got me thinking about how truly fortunate–how blessed my kids and I are. My husband may periodically have to work more than 40 hours per week, but still he’s home nearly every night. He’s home on the weekends. He’s here teaching the kids, playing with them, spending time with them. He takes time off work so our family can spend an entire day watching an Avengers movie marathon that culminates with the new The Avengers movie at midnight. 😀  Talk about precious time.

That time is so easy for us to take for granted.

And it makes me appreciate our military troops all the more. They’re not only risking their lives for our country’s freedoms, but they’re sacrificing time with their families–just as the families have to sacrifice. Like time, those sacrifices are too easily taken for granted by those of us who don’t have a spouse or parent serving.

Just as it’s easy to take for granted time with our Heavenly Father. He’s there for us 100% of the time, waiting with open arms for us to race to Him, but we’re often too busy. He’s already sacrificed for us …

What will we sacrifice for Him?

 

 

Atypical Reading List

My summer reads consist of:

1. Page proofs.

And not even official page proofs. Unofficial page proofs and looking for darling words to cut from my beloved Rodeo Dust, book 1 in my Texas Rodeo series releasing in October with Heartsong Presents. Though I turned the book in just under the word count and kept the count under through two edits, it wouldn’t fit into 176 pages that all Heartsongs must be. This happened with White Roses also. With WR, I had short chapters, so I combined chapters making fewer page breaks and only cut a few words. With RD, I’d already learned to make my chapters longer, so it wasn’t an option. I ended up going line by line. If a chapter only went over a few lines onto the next page, I cut mere words to get rid of lines. The book will now fit onto 176 pages with only a word cut or changed here and there.

2. 1st draft of Rodeo Hero.

This is the 2nd book in my Texas Rodeo series. I write in layers. My first draft is mainly dialogue, character thought, and emotion. As I read the first draft, I look for places to add in setting and character movement. I plan on keeping it well under the word limit, so I don’t have to ax words later. It’s due August 1st and the deadline for book 3, Rodeo Ashes is due Nov. 1. Now you know why have an atypical reading list.

3. Writer’s Market

I’m currently shopping for an agent. I’m tired of treading the waters of publication alone.

4. Let’s Name the Baby

It’s not what you’re thinking. I use it to name characters.

5. The Bible

It keeps me sane.

I keep hoping one of these days, when we do our What We’re Reading posts, I’ll be at a spot in my writing and life where I actually have time to read my toppling to be read pile.

I MISS MY TIME WITH YOU

It’s been a busy week.

Time has been in short supply

Finally, I sat at my desk, trying to get inspired to write about “time.” We’ve talked a lot about the passage of time and all the things that are behind us. We’ve talked about how time flies. When we’re young, we think it drags. Memories of times past, both good and bad, assail us when we think about time

But wait. Time goes both ways.  What about the here and now? What about the time that is looming before us?

When I hit the big 4-0 a few years back, I found a renewed sense of dread for the unknown. I wondered, in approximately half my life, had I accomplished what I had hoped to do by now? What does the future hold? Have I made good use of the time God has given and will give me? Have I been and will I be all I need to be to my husband? To my children? To my parents? To my Lord

And why was He the last on the list?

So, in the interest of skittering away from a conviction that I had somehow neglected my walk with Christ in the interest of not having TIME, I started looking for songs. After all, this week’s category is “chatterbox,” isn’t it? Not devotional! But this week, at this time in my life (there it is AGAIN!), it’s the topic about which I want to chatter, so bear with me.

Back to song lyrics. I can always be inspired, it seems, by a good song. In a lyric search for songs about “time,” I found old disco favorites, songs by the Carpenters, country and gospel songs, and then, though it wasn’t on the list, my mind wandered to a song recorded, probably in the 80’s, by Larnelle Harris.

I Miss My Time With You.

I remember a former minister of music singing that song, accompanying himself at the piano one Sunday night several years ago. It stuck with me. It convicts me every time I hear it, every time I think of it.

It’s an imaginary look at how God must feel when we rush by him, going hither and yon as we try to “do our best,” and do “good things” in the name of serving HIM.

I think of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha was rushing around, angry at her sister and speeding through her evening with Jesus, while Mary stopped and sat at Jesus’ feet. Did He perhaps whisper the words of this song to Martha, as He whispered it to me?

Here’s a bit:

I miss my time with you.
Those moments together.
I need to be with you each day
and it hurt’s me when you say
you’re too busy.
Busy trying to serve me.
But how can you serve me
when your spirit’s empty?
There’s a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you.
It’s true,
I miss my time with you.

I Miss My Time With You

The same person who inspired me with that song, so long ago, also once told me not to have any regrets. Wise words, but hard to abide by. I do regret wasted time on all fronts, but I know that the more time I spend walking with my Lord, the more He takes those burdens on Himself, leaving me with a lighter load. He’s just that kind of Savior. He’s worth a little extra time.

Just Another Five Minutes…

This week I’m more aware of how quickly time can get away from you than I have ever been before.  I’m getting married this weekend, and there are a million little last-minute details.  I have lists to help me keep up with everything that needs to be done, and a list to help me keep up with the lists.  All this for a tiny little, private wedding!

Every single day, though, I wish that I had just five more minutes to get something more done.  Five minutes would five me more time to pick out the clothes I’m going to wear for the day (rather than just wearing the first thing that my hand lands on when I step in the closet).

Five more minutes would mean a little extra sleep in the morning.  And there’s nothing like that stolen five minutes after the alarm has gone off and before the moment of “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m still in bed…I’m going to be soooo late.”

Five more minutes would mean that maybe I could stop and think clearly enough to remember to call the kids, answer the emails that are piling up, double-check that all of my deadlines are lining up properly so I can enjoy the the days ahead.

For the moment, though, there are not five more minutes.  Every minute of the day that I’m not sleeping is filled with something.  And if there does happen to be five minutes that’s not scheduled, I’m sure I can fill it with all these other things that still need to be done.

I’m not worried about it though. I’ve heard many times in the past that you shouldn’t hurry through life.  “Life is too short.” “Take the time to smell the roses.” “Never be too busy for your kids.”

All of those are great sentiments, but we all live in real lives in a real world, where sometimes the world demands more time than you have to give.  Those periods of busyness should be short lived though.  For me, the chaos ends this weekend.  Sometimes, the busyness lasts for a few days or a few weeks, rarely does it last more than a month or two, and when life slows down again, that’s when I can take time for me.

Dauphin IslandThat’s not to say that I’m not regularly re-energized by the stolen moments that come along.  This past weekend, it was a brief moment while I was painting a window sill and the breeze blowing through the open window carried the sweet scent of the blooming orange trees in the back yard. Today it was a glimpse of the Mobile Bay during a hurried lunch hour.  Saturday it will be standing at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, bare feet covered in sand , knowing that for the first time in my life God is at the center of a relationship and not on the outer edge.

For me, the trick to managing time—to not being overwhelmed when life’s chaos kicks in—is staying focused on God.  When my focus is where it should be, then I know that nothing that comes my way is too much to deal with.  I might have to make lists, to sleep less, and to move a little faster, but it’s no big thing.  God’s got it covered, and as a reminder, he’s going to send me that little moment of “Oh wow!” to tide me over until I can take a little to relax and truly enjoy the creation that He’s provided for us.

Peace in the Middle Seat

Three years ago in the fall John and I drove out to college behind our oldest son’s black truck, moving Austin into the next phase of his life. Before leaving, our son handed us CD with songs he had picked out for us to listen to. We put the CD in and headed down the road on a two-hour trip to York, Nebraska. I was crying before I left the driveway. I bawled the whole way there and the whole way back. One of the songs is particularly haunting to me of time that goes by way too fast, “Then They Do” by Trace Adkins.

Everyone who has more than one child understands the difficulties of family politics. Things such as orderly use of bathrooms, peace keeping missions in the middle and backseats, fair share relations of toys and possessions, and guarding the no nee-ner-nee-ner zones.  The daily grinding of the nerves in these situations leave us wishing for the days to end quickly. Very quickly. But, then they do.

Time has a way of going by unnoticed. Yes we catch the concerts, sports games and yearly vacations. But what about the auto-pilot minute by minute we set ourselves on, portrayed aptly in the 2006 movie “Click”, which zooms by in a whir?

Bickering kidsA friend of mine invited my youngest son Colton and me to go with them to a new place for our kids to play. On the way her four kids were doing what all kids do in the middle and back seats. She said she would be glad when they got past a certain phase in their life. I laughed and said I no longer have that problem, I only have one left. But, I said, now it’s the quiet that unsettles me. Peace in my middle seat has occurred, but was it worth it? My head says yes, my heart cries no.

This weekend my middle son Dylan went out on a college visit, the same college my oldest went to. In a couple of weeks he will be done with high school and will graduate. In a few short months we will make that two-hour drive once again, behind a white car this time. Since he is not the music buff his brother is, we will probably not be listening to a new CD. Which is fine by me, the first one almost did me in. I don’t know how you hold back the hands of time. I have learned that those small moments that I used to take for granted I no longer do. I do more with my third son than I did with the first two because I already feel him growing up faster than I can bear.

While my middle son was doing his college thing this weekend, we visited my oldest son who now lives in that same college town. We talked, we took him shopping, helped him with a few things around the house, and then grilled out for supper. My middle son joined us to eat before we headed back home. This day is sealed as a snapshot moment in time I will always treasure.

Trace sings, “You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true. Then they do.” I can’t say I did everything perfectly, or that I was able to make the most of my time with my boys. But I do know that God made up for what I lacked in my role as mother. And what I lacked as mom, I will make up to them in my role as grandma.

Growing Pains for Mom

            Our local Pizza Hut has a clock where both hands spin constantly and fast. Above the time flying clock, it says Pizza Time Is Anytime. This is the way the clock in my world seems to work.

            Except in the publishing part of my world. The deadlines fly, but sometimes, I think that clock has stopped as I wait, and wait, and wait for my book to come out. I wish my son’s time clock would slow down.

            Time. Why does time make us think of our kids? Because time can be measured by watching them grow. And with Mother’s Day coming, it seems fitting.

            It seems only days ago, I had an eight pound, fourteen ounce baby boy. Now he’s eight and seventy-one pounds of high-octane boy.

            I’ve always been fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom. Early on, I made a rule that I’d never neglect him for the sake of pursuing my dream. When he was little, I only wrote when he was asleep or not home, which was rare in both instances.

            I remember the first writers’ conference I attended after he was born. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to go. He was eight months old and I’d never left him for more than an hour since his birth. I spent the day having drool withdrawals, and not learning a thing, except how precious my baby was.

            When he started school, my window of opportunity widened and I took full advantage. Time, suddenly I had so much of it. Still at the end of the day, I pick him up, and I’m officially off the computer. During the summer, back to my original rule, I only write when he’s asleep or not home. This has been difficult since I have deadlines lurking, but I still do it.

            Before his birth, I defined myself as a writer. I still am, but more importantly, I am mom. And I wouldn’t trade this time with him for a best-selling novel.

            Someday, I’ll have empty-nest induced writers’ block, but I’ll have all the firsts I witnessed to console myself with. So, here’s my list. The firsts have progressed quickly in a mere eight years.

 The first time he: 

  • slept through the night
  • had to get his baby shots. Hubby and I had to hold him down. He wailed, and we prayed off disastrous side-effects.
  • crawled
  • gave me a drooling kiss
  • got a tooth
  • took a step
  • saw a granddaddy longlegs
  • saw a pinecone
  • gave me his passy back and said, “I don’t want that.”
  • had a Sunday school teacher who thought I needed to leave him alone in class. He clutched my jacket and she pried him off. We both cried.
  • spent the night with his grandparents
  • went to daycare. My only child had to learn social skills.
  • went to the emergency room with bronchitis. After treatment, we were getting ready to leave, and he thought we were leaving him there. He tried to be so brave.
  • went to preschool. I cried, he didn’t.
  • wrote his name
  • wrote his last name, Vannatter. Numerous adults still can’t spell it right, but he could at four.
  • lost a tooth. Hubby and I couldn’t bring ourselves to pull it. The principal had to.
  • read me a book
  • rode a bike without training wheels
  • went to first grade at a different school, since ours was consolidated. I cried, he didn’t.
  • swam
  • caught the baseball
  • hit the baseball
  • got his weekly allergy shot
  • passed out at school. And he had to do it a week before I was supposed to go to Denver for the ACFW conference. I went and felt like a horrible, horrible mom, but only after numerous tests showed nothing wrong. After eating lunch with him at school, we decided he didn’t eat enough to keep a bird alive. We send his lunches now and he eats much better.
  • went to the bathroom in a store, without me or his dad
  • went up to the counter and ordered his own food at a restaurant.

              I’m still reeling from the last two. And to top it off, yesterday he peeled all the Spiderman stickers off his walls and announced he was too old for that.

              Topping the list, but not necessarily firsts, since people normally only do such things once, when he accepted Jesus as his savior at six and was baptized.

             I’m sure I left things out. What first times do you remember?

Handprints on the Wall

Time is a companion that goes

with us on a journey.

It reminds us to cherish each moment,

because it will never come again.

What we leave behind

is not as important as how we have lived.

~Jean Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, from the film “Star Trek: Generations.”

 While Jean Luc sees time as a companion, others see it as their enemy. Some see time as an illusion and still others believe they can save it.  One song wished it could be “kept in a bottle” and of course, “there’s no time like the present.” The Bible tells us there is a “time for every season,” and most of us are familiar with the saying, “all in good time.”

You may have guessed that in the next two weeks,  the Inkspirational Messagers will be talking about time – how swiftly it goes and how each of  us manage it.  Maybe even a little of how it manages us.

graduate

I’ve been quite cognizant of time lately. My galleys for Making Waves were due last week, and I have a deadline for book two in the Lake Manawa series approaching rapidly. But it isn’t these numbers occupying my thoughts. Let’s look at a few that are:

  •  48 hours—That’s how long I labored with my son, our first child.
  •   3 weeks- — You guessed it. That’s how far overdue he was.
  •  15 min.—How long it took from the beginning of the c-section until I heard his deep little cry.
  •   3 seconds—How long it took me to love him and to know my life would never be the same.

Almost 18 years ago, our son was born and next month he graduates from high school. In the fall, he will leave for college.  It’s hard to imagine my little boy  is a young man. How did  he go from driving Hot Wheels to driving a car, from singing “Jesus Loves Me” to trying out for chorus at college, from playing with Legos to planning his future.

And while how swiftly the time has passed shocks me, I wouldn’t change a thing. I do, like Jean Luc said, cherish each moment.  I’m very proud of the godly young man he is.

I wanted to share a favorite song with all of you that expresses these feelings much better than I can. “Handprints on the Wall” sung by Kenny Rogers, with lyrics  by Scott Innes and Claude Parish, and music by Nelson Blanchard is played in the Youtube video below. Click on the link to hear it. It is available in his Back to the Well, 2003 album. The song actually starts at 2:00, so you might want to fast forward to it unless you want to hear Kenny’s story at the beginning. 

After you listen, tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How swiftly is time passing for you? How do you do at cherishing the moments?

Handprints on the Wall, Kenny Rogers