Love. Really love

loveSometimes we need a gentle reminder of what we already know, or think we already know, or don’t know at all. 

This much I know…

I was blessed to be married to my Bill for 45 years before He went to be with my Jesus five years ago.

The words “my Bill” and “my Jesus” all in the same sentence. I like that. It makes me smile.

Wow…did I say  five years? Sometimes it seems like just yesterday. That’s not a cliché. That’s what loving someone for 45 years does—survives the test of time.

Loving someone that long covers years of happy and sad, laughter and tears, commitment and recommitment, the best of times and the worst of times, wonderful memories, and not-so-wonderful memories, brokenness and healing.

Loving someone that long stretches, bends, straightens, matures, blesses, teaches, and fills you.

Loving someone that long expands your capacity to love beyond measure—in pain and suffering, through disappointment and disillusionment, with heartache and sorrow.

I am who I am today because of my Jesus, and my Bill. I am eternally grateful that they both live in my heart. Bill’s love for me was a springboard to my being able to move forward after the devastation of losing him. Jesus’ love for me is why I have joy, peace, and contentment today.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

So go on, love someone, really love someone—for a long, long, time….

May the love of Jesus fill your heart this Valentine’s Day.

From my heart to yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

The Messy Tree Next Door

rakingIt’s intrusive and messy.

Huge limbs that reach out in all directions not only hang over the wall in my back yard, they also shed leaves that I have to rake up, along with small branches and pieces of bark that I have to pick up. Every time the wind blows or the season changes, leaves, small branches, and bark come tumbling down to mess up my well-kept little yard.

Sometimes I get frustrated and angry, and imagine cutting it down in the middle of the night, or picture a bolt of lightning striking it to the ground. Either way would suffice to take care of the problem.

One day, I decided to change my attitude about the messy tree, and give it a little grace. Especially since I couldn’t control the situation and had to live with the clean-up.

I began to appreciate the shade it provided in my yard. I noticed the hummingbirds that visited my flowers would go back to their nests on the limbs of the tree. I realized the cool breeze I enjoyed came from the long leaf-filled branches. Maybe the trade-off wasn’t so bad after all….

Then I began to think about the people in my life who are a lot like that tree. Their lives are messy, and sometimes their needs intrude on my well-planned day. I find myself trying to pick up the pieces of their brokenness that fall over into my own life. I try to imagine ways I could help take care of their problems, but then realize I am helpless to change or control their situation.

But then I remember–God has given me a lot of grace when I haven’t deserved it. The least I can do is to give a little grace to those who happen to fall into my life. It is a privilege to come alongside a friend in need and help pick up the pieces of her brokenness with the comfort of God’s word, committed prayer, and a listening heart. Friends have certainly picked up my pieces in my time of need. No, I can’t solve or fix their problems, but I can let them know I’m here for them with outstretched arms. Friends have opened their arms wide for me when I came tumbling down.

You see, all of our lives can be messy, even on our well-kept days.

God picks up the pieces of our brokenness. He will “intrude” and make His presence known in the middle of our mess.

Susan Miller signature

Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from eight to fourteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                       

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up and laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.

Hold hands, and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself: your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

Susan Miller signature

Run the Race

run the race“I’m going to run in the Pat Tillman race,” she said.

“That sounds great,” he replied.

“It’s only 4.2 miles. I know we could do it,” she continued.

Running had become a bond between a brother and sister as they grew up, and as they got older over the years.

Even though they lived in different states, there was a competitive edge between them when they trained for a race. “I ran 5 miles today,” he would say. “I ran 5 ½ miles,” she would respond with a smile. It was the motivation needed to reach a common goal together. Their claim to fame had been running a half marathon and crossing the finish line side by side.

“I’ll be traveling with my family that weekend, so there’s no way I can be there,” he explained.

“Oh, okay,” she answered, with a hint of disappointment.

On the day of the race, she got up at 5:00am to get ready and quietly slip out of the house while her family was sleeping.

Her phone beeped. It was a text that said, “I’ll be thinking of you this morning. Good luck in the race.”

She smiled. His text was the encouragement she needed as she got in the car and drove to the city to find her place among thousands of runners.

An hour later, she was at the starting point when her phone beeped again with another text.treadmill

The words simply read, “I’m with you this morning. Check out the treadmill. Have fun.” She took a closer look at the picture. The numbers displayed on the treadmill read 4.2 miles.

Tears came to her eyes. He had gotten up when she did, gone down to the hotel workout room, and ran the exact distance of the race!

He had run the distance to encourage her on to victory, and indeed he did.

My daughter, Ginger, finished the race in record time, and my son, Bill, had been right there for his sister,  like so many other times over the years– in spirit and support.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to “be there” for us, believe in our ability, or come alongside us when we need encouragement to reach a goal, push through circumstances, or take the next hard step in life.

Take a minute and think of who you know that needs an extra measure of kindness and thoughtfulness today. It could be as simple as words in a text or a caring gesture that expresses your support.

It just might spur them on to the victory line.

Susan Miller signature

Right Under Your Nose

mother and daughterWhen I was growing up, mama used to always say, “It’s right under your nose, Susan!” In our family that always meant, what you are looking for, or what you need to do, or say, is so obvious!

The other day I had a “right under my nose” moment. It was so obvious, that I almost found myself saying, “Duh!” I acted on it immediately, and reaped the reward of being spontaneous and flexible with a dear friend.

So—what are some of the things that are “right under your nose” this year? Maybe it’s an old habit you want to change, or a new habit you want to cultivate. It could be a word you want to leave out, or perhaps add to, your vocabulary. You might want to write a note to someone encouraging them through a difficult time, or write an overdue letter asking for forgiveness. Is it something you’ve always wanted to take the time to do, a dream you want to make a reality, a promise you want to keep, or a phone call you need to make?

Perhaps you’ve been looking in all the wrong places, and making all the wrong choices this past year—to fill a need, to avoid the obvious, to cloud your judgment, to distract you from what’s important, to keep you from doing the right thing—when it’s been right under your nose the whole time.

Susan Miller

Six Words Worth Repeating During the Thanksgiving Season

wordsI’m getting a little bit crazy with the holidays coming.

Calendar getting full… schedule time with friends… ministry is busy… thinking about turkeys—the ones on sale… stuffed or unstuffed this year?.. remember to find recipes… make list of ingredients… pull fall decoration boxes from garage… take a deep breath… Christmas boxes are next to them.

Say it isn’t so. Really?

It is obvious that my mind is like a merry-go-round, whirling with things to do. You are probably not far behind me. Let’s take a minute from this craziness before it consumes us. You and I both know there is so much more than the tasks and to-do lists of the holidays.

Simply put, Thanksgiving is all about being thankful.

I stop and get off the high horse I am riding. I refocus from doing to being. I let my thoughts drift to the people who matter in my life. My heart begins to overflow with thankfulness. My mind is flooded with gratitude. I need to tell them how much they mean to me. I need to share what I feel through my words, in the midst of showing them I care through my actions.

This is how I will begin…

I LOVE you because…

I APPRECIATE you for…

I VALUE you because…

I ADMIRE you because…

I RESPECT you for….

THANK YOU for…

How about you? Now is the perfect time to say what you’ve been meaning to say for a long time—to your spouse, your children, your family, and your friends.

From my heart to yours,

Susan

An old bench filled with memories

the old bench

One of the sweet memories I have of my daddy many years ago, was sitting beside him on a hand-made, hand-painted bench in our back yard. He made it out of scraps of wood from his wood pile, and it has remained strong and steady for over 40 years. He built it with the skill of a fine carpenter, although he only referred to himself as a handyman around the house.

The weathered green bench sat in mom and dad’s back yard for many years. Anytime I came home to visit, I would watch from the kitchen window when daddy was raking the back yard, and wait for him to take a bench break, then I’d head for my spot next to him.

We would sit together and talk about anything—from the birds and the squirrels scampering around in our wooded back yard, to the rising cost of living, to how hot the weather was, to stories of the years he served in the military and what the Bible says about how to live life. My daddy was a quiet, gentle, soft-spoken man of few words. The bench seemed to spark magic conversation between us.

When mom and dad went home to be with the Lord many years ago, my brother and I sorted through the keepsakes we wanted. I took the bench. It traveled from Florida to Arizona, and sat on the front porch of three homes, and then finally ended up in the back yard, all the more weathered.

This summer, as I walked by the all-but-forgotten-bench, I stopped, and ran my hands across the rough surface. I sat down thinking that it might not hold me, but it held firm. The memories of sitting on it with my daddy, my husband, Bill, my children, and my grandchildren, flooded my heart and emotions.

stripping the paint

“It is time to restore this bench,” I said to myself. I became excited about stripping and sanding it, filling the holes with wood filler, nailing down any loose wood, re-painting it a different color, and adding a cushion for the finishing touch!

Moved to a special place, the old-but-new bench continues to spark conversation magic. I watch my daughter and my grandchildren find a spot to sit next to me, and then we talk about many things….

Five lessons learned from an old bench:

1. Seize the moment to sit awhile with someone you love.
2. Talk about lots of things—important and not so important.
3. Share stories and recall memories.
4. Listen and remember.
5. Never forget that something old can be a treasure, and sometimes, can be restored to new again.

finished bench

Susan Miller

 

Knee Deep in Lemonade and Life Lessons

Cousin CampCamp NanaPapa, better known as Cousin Camp, has come to an end for another summer. Every July, I look forward  to having all six grandchildren, ages seven to thirteen, together for a cousin reunion. They make crafts and bake cookies, play board games and kickball, swim and bike ride, take long walks and watch movies. They laugh and cry, scuff knees and feelings, stay up late, and sleep in, drink gallons of lemonade, and eat countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love every minute. I watch, participate, listen, and learn. I have captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God continues to teach me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought I would share a few things God taught me at Cousin Camp this summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is so unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies, and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from seven to thirteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                        

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group.

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them, and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for?  Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?”

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up, laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for two hours!”  I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.                                                                                                                           

Hold hands and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself—your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands, and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget. Humble me all the more…

Susan Miller