Category Archives: Random Ramblings

Maxey Memory #7: Christmas Events in the Sunshine State

I am still adjusting. I thought I had this figured out. After all, this is our second Christmas in Florida. Last year we went to the Christmas parade in short sleeves and we were so excited to be here. Now this year, I expected it to be more familiar, this Christmas in the tropics.

largo-tree-lightingwp_20161203_19_12_45_proBut last weekend we had another new experience. We went to the annual tree lighting event in Largo, a little town just south of Clearwater.  It was in their city park. The trees were dressed in lights and there were lighted displays everywhere. They had a small train running through the park that was decorated and took on passengers to see the sights.  Not that much different than what we’d experienced in Des Moines over the past decade. Except for one big difference. We were walking around outside with temperatures in the 70s after dark. It was still a magical experience but where were the mittens and stocking caps?  I still haven’t gotten used to this new climate.

largo-tree-lightingwp_20161203_19_38_41_proWe really had a wonderful time. It’s so much fun to be experiencing Christmas through the eyes of children. My grandchildren still have that sense of awe and anticipation about Christmas. Of course, they get caught up in the flashy parts of the season but they are also well trained in the real meaning of Christmas.  They understand the significance of that baby born in a stable.  Watching them reminds me to take a moment and allow God to give me a fresh excitement. A renewed anticipation about the celebration of His Son.

Last night I was in the living room alone, which is a rarity in this houseful of people. There were no lights on except the Christmas decorations.  There was soft Christmas music playing.  I was enjoying the experience after a busy day.  As I rested in the peaceful atmosphere I took time to recall the scriptures announcing the birth of Jesus.  It was just what I needed.

 Luke 2:10-11  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Going Home and Coming Home

I’m writing today from Iowa. My first trip back since we moved last December.  I’ve done this before. I knew what to expect the first visit back. I clearly remember how I felt going back to Ohio after moving to Iowa in 2005.  It was a bittersweet feeling. The sense that I’d come home…but not.

That trip back to Ohio was so filled with emotion and with grieving the life I’d left behind that I could barely stand it.  I was so homesick! So when I got back to Iowa I began praying that God would make Iowa home.  And He did.

Little did I know that I would have to experience the same tearing away again. Leaving Iowa last year was so hard! It didn’t help that I was leaving a son behind.  I’d left one behind in Ohio too but there had been family there for him. My Iowa son was left on his own with no family within 600 miles.

So now, 10 months later I’m back. Back to visit my son and dear friends that I love and miss so much. Only a week to see everyone and experience all the things I miss about Iowa. To enjoy the beautiful Iowa countryside in the fall. To feel the crisp fall air. Such a joy!wp_20161008_09_27_47_proI keep comparing this visit with the one to Ohio long ago and finding similarities but also many differences.  This time I came back to the same house that I’d lived in for 10 years. It’s my son’s home now. He’s made it his and I’m glad, it’s beautiful and fits him.  But it’s hard. Hard to be in my home that isn’t my home.wp_20161010_14_45_51_pro

Hard to be in my church that isn’t my church. To see friends that I’ve missed and see so much that has changed in their lives in just these few months.

It’s clear that this season, my Iowa season, has passed. Now I’m in a new season and if I cling too tightly to the old things, I can’t grow and experience what God has for me now.  I remember learning that lesson with the first move.

So, I’ve tried to be in the moment. To enjoy the reconnection with friends but I’ve also tried not to allow myself to “go back”.  You can’t go back. Even if God would call us to one day move back to Ohio or Iowa it would still be a new season, not a continuation of an old one. Life moves forward. Things change, people change.  Sometimes I hate change.  But I’m learning to let go and allow God to guide my steps.

Update: Now I’m back in Florida and finally finding time to finish up this post.  It was a great trip. But it’s good to be home.  In fact, I am happy to even say that it’s beginning to feel like home.

Yesterday I went to the beach with the grandkids. We had a wonderful day playing and enjoying the beautiful weather. I felt a peace that I’ve learned to recognize as God’s gift to me. A special sense of contentment even though there are always challenging issues all around me. I know I can find that peace anywhere, but being near the water, which I’ve always loved, makes it even more of a blessing.wp_20161013_14_18_24_pro

Isaiah 66:12 says For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.wp_20160811_11_04_55_pro

It’s no wonder water makes me feel at peace!

 

More Memories To Be Thankful For

Last month we celebrated the life of Randy’s Uncle Harry.  We drove to the Atlantic Coast and attended his military funeral service and then spent a couple of hours with Randy’s cousins.  We were also thankful for the opportunity to see our son Jared and his girlfriend Rachel, who came from Iowa for the service.

Funerals are such difficult events but if you look past the sadness, they also provide a special opportunity to gather with people you love and don’t see as often as you’d like. I think that is part of God’s design. The sadness of knowing we will miss the one who has gone on ahead of us is eased by the joy of the chance to hug the necks of loved ones we haven’t seen for too long.  The reunion is a reflection of the grand reunion we will all have one day in Heaven.  What a  time that will be as our mourning is turned to dancing!14063885_10153931112866909_8693240004585967550_n

Having Jared come down was a special blessing. It was so hard leaving him behind when we moved last December. To have him come and be with us even for just a weekend was wonderful.  We took Jared and Rachel to the beach and they saw dolphins in the open water for the first time. We crammed as much as we could into the 2 days they were here and were glad to learn that they plan to come back for Christmas. We already have a whole list of things we want to do with them when they come back.

So, that was Maxey Memory #5.

Memory #6 happened last weekend.  Saturday was National Museum Day. Randy and I got free tickets to the  Ringling Museums in Sarasota. resizedwp_20160924_11_55_23_proWe spent the day exploring the history of the circus and got a dose of “culture” as we wandered through the huge art museum. The Circus Museum was quite amazing. Randy tried his skills on the tightrope exhibit.resizedwp_20160924_13_37_00_pro

I really enjoyed the huge display of the circus in miniature. So much to look at!  It reminded me of memories of my childhood and the fun we had going to the circus. A time when life seemed less complicated.resizedwp_20160924_12_33_41_proI have a new appreciation of all the work that went on behind the scenes to provide that fun experience we enjoyed.

After a full day we had dinner at Der Dutchman, an Amish restaurant that has a location in Plain City, Ohio. A place with fond memories of our years living in central Ohio.resizedwp_20160813_19_19_48_pro-2

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  Have you made any memories lately?

5 Things (At Least) That I Thanked God For Last Night

It happened again. Something very simple, that most people (including me) take for granted, was turned upside down. I was reminded to be thankful for something very necessary but something I don’t think I have ever actually voiced thanks for.

I came home from church last night excited about how the women’s Bible study had gone even though I had struggled through the evening because I have been having ear issues again. Sometimes my ears fill up and I feel like I am on an airplane. The yawning trick doesn’t work. Nothing works. I just wait it out. It, along with progressive hearing loss, is part of what people with Meniere’s Disease deal with.  As I sat working on my computer, the fullness in my ears that I’d struggled with at church seemed to be getting worse, loud ringing made it hard to concentrate. Then I turned my head…bad idea. The room began to spin and I knew instantly what was happening. A full blown Meniere’s attack. The first and only other major attack I’ve had was when I was first diagnosed in 2005. Generally I just deal with mild dizziness and not this overpowering vertigo.  I took some motion sickness medication,  had Randy help me get into bed and then I tried to lay as still as possible. He had put a bucket beside my bed just in case!   As I tried to relax, I started talking to God. I’d learned in our study at church that God’s strength is greater than anything  I can possibly face in my life. I started thanking Him for His presence. And I also began thanking Him for everything else I could think of. It helped to focus on being thankful and not on whether my stomach was about to rebel.

So what was I thankful for last night?  The first thing I thanked God for was my balance.  I’ve taken balance for granted. I shouldn’t. Last night was debilitating. I couldn’t move by myself at all. Even with help, it was very difficult. Today things are a  little better.  I took a shower by myself this morning. Do you ever thank God that you can take a shower without help?

The next thing I thanked God for was that I can hear. Even though it’s gotten progressively worse, it’s been 11 years since I was told I could lose my hearing and I can still hear!

I  enjoy a quiet house where I can turn on whatever music I choose and can listen from every room while I move about the house.  I could do that yesterday because the house is quiet.  It’s quiet because all the little people have gone on an adventure in Ohio.  I’m thankful for the quiet.

But I miss them. I will be glad when they return. Even a quiet and peaceful house is no match for the joy I get interacting with my grandchildren on a daily basis. Some days I long for peace, but when I have it, I realize it comes at a great cost. The precious moments I have with my Treasures are priceless.

I’m thankful for the special relationships I’ve built with each of these little ones. Gwenny comes in each morning and asks to smell my candles then asks, ” may I have a little lotion?”  I give her just a dot of lotion on her tiny hand and she rubs her hands together and grins.  It’s our special routine that I miss when she’s gone.  And the little boys come ask me to read some books to them.  And I find on my pillow, little folded up papers taped closed that when I finally get them open say, “I love you Grandma! Love, Ian.”  And the times spent with the older girls doing tea parties, crafts and reading together are so special too. So many wonderful memories being made every day. I am so thankful for this season!

And finally, as I lay there wanting so much for the spinning to stop, I thanked God for the opportunity to practice what I was learning about His strength. Thanked Him for reminding me that in the midst of this latest trial, His strength is still available. He has not changed. He is still a very present help in time of need. For this, Lord, I am truly thankful!

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

 

 

 

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Hello, Hermine!

My first experience with a tropical storm. Well, not exactly. Last August when Alex, my youngest, and I were visiting Florida we briefly thought that Ericka was going to pack a punch but she fizzled out and didn’t do much at all. Then we had a little visit from Colin this spring but that wasn’t too bad either. The weather experts didn’t get too excited.

This week has been interesting as the experts watch the storm develop and make guesses as to what will happen. Not unlike the way they tracked blizzards in Iowa, actually.  It still amazes me how many people expect the meteorologists to have perfect forecasts.  And how nasty people can be when the predictions turn out to be off the mark.  How did we become a society that doesn’t allow for mistakes and adjustments?

Yesterday we got over 5 inches of rain. It rained all day. It was actually only about 75 degrees which was a nice change from the constant 90s we’ve experienced all summer.  We even opened the windows for a while. The smell of the rain was wonderful!

As we heard reports of road closings and church and school cancellations we knew it was time to take action. The growing pond in the back yard was also becoming a concern. Finally the guys left to get some sand bags and non-perishable foods incase we lose power. One discover they made was that there aren’t many choices of foods that don’t require refrigeration that don’t wear the label of “junk food.”  They managed to find sardines and tuna salad kits as well as some fresh fruits and raw veggies that will get us through if we need them. Of course, they had to make sure we had some pop tarts too!

In the afternoon, after it had been raining for hours, we realized that one of the downspouts wasn’t working. All the water was gathering at the foundation of the house.  Several of the adults went out and took turns climbing on the step ladder with various tools to try to clear away the blockage.  After much laughter and good natured teasing about how this wasn’t how they had planned to spend the day, getting soaked and dirty, the water began to run freely. There were victory whoops that I’m sure the entire neighborhood could hear!

This morning things are calm for the moment.  The rain has stopped temporarily and if you didn’t know what was coming, you might just think the worst was over.  The only indication that things are still changing is the slight increase in the wind. I guess this is the calm before the storm.  It makes me think about how life is that way too.

We can go along completely content, never realizing that the storm is approaching.  Then suddenly we are caught off guard. I guess it’s a good thing we don’t know what’s ahead all the time. God protects us from some difficult things in the future on purpose. Still, He does tell us to be prepared. He gives us many warnings about the general direction we are headed and asks us to trust Him and heed His warnings. We have things to do to prepare for the future. We would be wise to do so now, while the rain and wind are still off shore.

And Here They Are: Maxey Memories #3 and #4

This has been a busy week.  Sometimes things are moving along so fast that we can miss some important moments. This week we had one of those moments and we almost missed it but I think God prompted me to take notice and we were able to savor the making of a memory.

We’ve been in this living arrangement of 3 families totaling 15 people living in the same house for just over 8 months now.  It hasn’t been without it’s challenges. But this season is coming to an end.  Josh and Maggie are making the final arrangements to move into their own apartment in just a few days.  While you might not think it’s a big deal that we will ONLY have 13 people living here now, their presence will be missed. I will miss saying good morning to them and hearing about their workdays.  I will miss listening to them interact with a 2-year-old when she barges into their room uninvited but always welcomed.  I will miss having them at the dinner table.  That is what prompted this memory, Maxey Memory #3.

At dinner the other night we were all there. Doesn’t happen that often since a couple of the boys work the dinner hour at Chick-Fil-A most evenings.

resizedIMG_3605But this night we were all together and it suddenly dawned on me that it would be the last meal we would eat as a family sharing the same home.

To be sure, Josh and Maggie will be back and will eat meals with us in the future, but this was the night that would end an 8 month adventure that none of us will forget.  I am excited for them and their next chapter, but there is also a sadness that something is ending.  They are so happy to be finally setting up housekeeping in their own place and that is as it should be. But I  know that what we experienced, with all it’s struggles and challenges, changed us all. We will never be the same after having to learn to share our space as we have. Life moves on and the adventure continues, with a few adjustments ahead!

The other memory that I wanted to share was a once in a lifetime adventure. We had the opportunity to experience “The Beach.”

resizedDSCF0210  Not your typical Florida beach with sun and sand. This was an elaborate interactive art exhibit in Tampa Amalie Arena (usually used by the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team). They filled the floor with over a million white plastic balls and set up beach chairs and tables on the “shore”.

resizedDSCF0072 We had a wonderful time pretending to be at the beach with no water. The exhibit was only here for a month and will be packed up and travel overseas for it’s next stop.

resizedDSCF0139 We were so excited to have the chance to make this memory, Maxey Memory #4.

What kind of memories have you been making?

Moments and the Making of Memories

Perhaps I need to start something new. With so much stress and challenge in my personal life and in the world in general I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the weight of the day.

Perhaps others feel the same way. We constantly hear people say life moves too fast. Every day is busier and more stressful than the day before. We get so busy just trying to maintain the pace that we lose track of the moments.

Moments can often be those times when something happens that is unexpected but you suddenly just decide to run with it. I would like to become more aware of the “moments” in life. To be more intentional about choosing how to spend each moment.

I don’t mean finding a way to schedule all the minutes in my day or fill all the hours of each day to the fullest. What I mean is choosing to do the things that make memories.

This morning was the perfect example.  It was raining. That’s what it does in August in Florida. It rains. We usually find indoor activities to occupy ourselves knowing that in a month or so the weather will change and we’ll begin enjoying more outdoor activities again. But this morning we woke to a steady, heavy rain.

The grandkids looked outside and began asking if they could go out and play. They wanted to play in the rain. After gaining permission to do so since there was no lightning, they excitedly began looking for swimsuits. I went back to my room content to get a few things done while they were all playing. But then a thought whispered in my ear.

“Go with them.”

I smiled and dismissed it. Maybe another time. But suddenly I stopped. Why not? What would it hurt to put my agenda aside and play in the rain?

I quickly changed and grabbed a towel. I was so excited by this time that I didn’t realize until I saw the pictures that I’d put my gym shorts on inside out!  Didn’t matter one bit!  The next 30 minutes were filled with the giggles and squeals of 6 little ones having a grand time playing in the rain with grandma.

3untitledI got soaked. I got dirty (boys love to splash in muddy puddles). But we had so much fun! When we were done I came in, took a shower and went on with my day. And I’m glad to report that I got all my clothing on right side out this time!

What would I have accomplished in that half hour? Nothing that measures up to the memories I made by choosing to embrace the moment instead of letting it pass me by.

So, here’s what I’m thinking.  This is another opportunity for God to teach me to live life more intentional.  For the past 2 years I have focused on being thankful.  I’ve kept a “thankful journal” where I write the things that cause me to say “thank you, Lord.”

Now I want to become more conscious of living in the moments. I want to intentionally choose instances where I invite God to make a memory. Today I was paying attention and now have a wonderful memory. As I collect these memories I will have more to smile about. I cannot think of a better way to find joy in the midst of the chaotic days of life.

untitledSo, with this, I offer you…

Maxey Memory #1. Playing in the rain.

Stay tuned, there will be many more to come!

And, I challenge you to do the same. Share your moments. It will be good for all of us.

 

So, We Just Had Christmas, Sort of…

This weekend was Christmas at our house. Well, not really but we had to find some way to break up the endless 95 degree days with pop up thunderstorms every day.  Listening to Christmas music helped change the mood for a while.

On Saturday we baked six kinds of our traditional Christmas cookies. We have about fifteen varieties that we make every year in December. This was just a sample. This time we had a special treat. Aaron’s girlfriend brought homemade Italian Cannoli that her father made for us. Delicious!

On Sunday, after church, we watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas and also the old Mr. Magoo Christmas Carol.  We cooked up a small sampling of the foods we enjoy at our family Christmas Eve celebration. It’s a spread of dishes made with recipes that have been with our family for at least three decades.  Everybody helps cook. And of course everybody helps eat!

After our meal was enjoyed and cleaned up  the real fun began. This year we had 16 people packed into the living room. In the middle of the room was a pile of plainly wrapped white elephant gifts. 32 of them.  We had a great time opening and then stealing from each other. Lots of laughter, lots of bargaining and mostly happy people. We had one little one who melted down for a moment when his gift was stolen but quickly recovered when he realized he could steal from someone else!

One of the things I love about our current living arrangement is that when we have these kinds of celebrations nobody has to go home! Of course there is a certain amount of chaos but by now we are used to it for the most part. What I love is that we are making memories that come as a surprise. I never imagined we’d have this opportunity. On the days when the challenges seem almost insurmountable I remind myself what we are building. I think about the memories we’ve made. Some of them have come from not such great circumstances, like the backed up plumbing

Floridians for Four Months Now

On December 12, 2015 we left Iowa and drove 1400 miles to our new home in Florida. I can’t believe it’s been four months already! It seems like we just got here but the fact is, we are pretty well settled at this point.

Our household of 15 is still functioning pretty normally.  Of course by normal I mean that there have been some rough moments.  The iron sharpening iron concept is alive and well and we’ve had some sparks flying at times.

Over all, I think we have managed pretty well. That’s not to say that there aren’t still many opportunities for lessons in maturity for all of us. I think our biggest challenge has been communication. It seems like most of the issues we have had to deal with have been misunderstandings that could be cleared up by a simple conversation. The reason the conversations don’t happen sooner and avoid the conflict is because of assumptions and expectations that we tend to make. And those assumptions and expectations tend to be birthed out of selfish motives. So, our biggest hurdle to peaceful living is of course, our inability to die to self.

I’ve been praying daily that God would open my eyes to opportunities to serve my family. I have also asked for wisdom so that my words would be received as intended and would build up my family. God has been teaching me to be quiet more and listen more. I have spent more time in prayer in the last 4 months than I have ever done before.  So even though there are still some challenging things about living in a house with this many people, people with very definite opinions about how things should go, I am seeing God bring good from it in my daily life.

There are many times that I have had to surrender my expectations to God when things don’t go as I thought they would. After having my own home for 34 years, it’s hard not to overstep my place and try to make decisions that are now not mine to make. It’s not easy but it is getting easier. At times I feel my anxiety rising because I am being stretched and then I take a deep breath and ask myself,”is this an issue worth fussing about?” The answer is almost always, “no.” It’s not easy to step away and let it go but I keep asking for God’s help and He is faithful.

We have settled into a good church and I have tried to get connected even though it’s hard for me to move outside my comfort zone.  It would be easier to just sit in the back row on Sundays and slip out unnoticed but that isn’t the best way to build community. The thing that makes this a little easier for me is that I’ve already been through it once. I had a great community of friends in Ohio before I moved to Iowa and I saw God do an amazing thing as He built new connections for me in Iowa.  I know that if He did it before, He can do it again. But I can’t stay in my shell and expect anything good to happen. I have to trust Him as I move forward.

It’s still strange to be in Florida. Randy and I still say to each other regularly, “we live in Florida,” like we’re still trying to convince ourselves that it’s real!

I keep thinking of the words God gave to Isaiah.

Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert. ( Isaiah 43:19)

God certainly is doing a new thing in the Maxey family. We are all being changed.  The key for me is to remember that even though sometimes it feels like a wilderness and a very dry place, God is working. it’s kind of ironic when I look at how lush and green my surroundings are and how easy it is to get to water! It just proves that things aren’t always as they appear.

 

 

What Do I Really Need?

This week I got an email from a friend. We’d been friends in Iowa and went through a period where both of our husbands were looking for new jobs. We were able to encourage each other as we travelled the same road.  Little did we know that the road would lead to Florida for both of us!  Both of our families moved to Florida in December. We moved in with Andrew’s family and my friend moved into a temporary apartment and began the house hunting adventure.

As we’ve both been adjusting to our move we’ve communicated about the challenges and the joys. One of the things she said in her recent email was that now that she’d moved into her new home she felt the “chains of stuff management” take hold again. I understand completely!

I mentioned in my post Learning to Be Content in the Big things and the Small Ones Too that I had downsized from our large home in Iowa to a bedroom in Florida. While that’s true, it hasn’t been as much of an issue as it could have been. God began teaching me about being content a long time ago.

But lately He’s been speaking about much more than the amount of stuff I have. Now it’s about my time and where I focus my attention. And the question comes down to this.  If God has promised to meet all my needs then what do I do with my time?

One thing this season is about is serving my family.  I have decades of experience in so many areas, I can offer to help my family in a million ways. Or…I can become self-absorbed, spending my time fussing about trying to find my place and how difficult it is to adjust to my new life.

Another thing I feel strongly about is that this season is about using the gifts God has given me. I mentioned that in my previous post.  Then on Sunday our pastor preached about the parable of the talents (Matthew 25).  One of the main points was that God gave each of us resources to use to multiply His kingdom and we cannot be faithful and “play it safe” at the same time. We have to take risks. Just like the servants in the story, we have to invest what we have in order to see an increase. We can’t just hide in our room and hope for the best. We must DO something with what He’s given us.

If you know me well, you know that I am the QUEEN of playing it safe. I don’t like the unknown. I don’t like risks. I like to know all of my ducks are in a row, even though some days I can’t find a duck to save my life.  I’m learning to trust God, but some days it feels REALLY risky to do so.  What if He has a plan that it’s just too far out there? Just too scary?

Then I look at my life and realize I have taken TONS of risks. I’ve lived through every one of them. My life is better because of them! God has never left me in a position that wasn’t exactly right when I look at it from further down the road. He has always supplied everything I have ever needed for whatever was going on at the moment. He is faithful. He is a good Father.

So the question, “what do I really need?” can be answered easily.  I don’t need a house, I don’t need stuff, I don’t need all my problems solved immediately and I don’t need to stay in my comfort zone to be happy. What do I need? Only God. That is all I REALLY need. He provides everything else.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus