Thursday, May 22, 2014

Heart and Soul

Any music artist will tell you that they were compelled to become a musician because of one or more musical influences who first inspired them to love music and cultivate their talent. For me, that person was my grandmother: Gloria Giessler. Her name may not be known worldwide for her talent and impact, but there's no way to know for sure how far the ripple effect of her influence has reached! She has entertained and touched so many as she played the piano and organ for family, friends, and even church congregations. She even patiently encouraged and instructed many students over the years to play as well. I am certain that the many children and adults that took lessons from her are all the richer in character and talent because of her.

Undoubtedly, I wasn't the only one who developed the passion and talent for music because of all the heart she put into helping me love it! I can't even begin to count all the times she took me to Dave's Music Den so she could buy me music books and sheet music! Then, she told me I could play as long as I wanted when we got back to her house! You would have thought you just told me I was going to Disneyland or something because my heart raced at the thrill of what that meant to me! Getting to learn and play new things until my fingers were tired was such a gift!! All the while, she helped me learn how to do it and always told me how well I was doing (even if I thought I was doing terrible).

Beyond what she accomplished as a music teacher is what she achieved in her roles as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. She was beloved and cherished for the wonderful heart she had, the wisdom she shared, and the laughter she always brought (I can still hear her iconic laugh in my mind!). She was always so thoughtful, generous, caring, and the kind of woman you would want to make great memories with (I know I have MANY with her!).

We all love and miss such a wonderful lady because of all that she meant to us. We'll always remember her and I know that the world is a better place because of the beautiful sounds that she created in the symphony of her life! Those that she impacted will sing, play, and exhibit kindness to others because she showed us how! Thank you, Grandma! I love you!

Grace and peace to you, my friends! May we all be so blessed to have wonderful friends and family members in our lives to leave such an imprint on us in order that we may be richer in virtue and character! Praise God for those who help create those songs that make up the heart and soul (pun intended!) of our being! God bless you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God on the Greenway: Impact, Purpose, and Restoration

Nearly four years ago, I unknowingly composed what would be my last "God on the Greenway" blog post (up until now!). Even as I state that fact, I'm amazed because I'm reflecting on just how much has changed since that stormy day on the Greenway. That day had such deep meaning for me! Re-reading it now, I remember the mixture of emotions I felt because the "personal pain" that I had mentioned was the divorce that was looming in my future. I had no idea what I was in for in the coming months and years ahead. Nothing can ever prepare you for the death of a marriage; even if you mistakenly think (as I had thought) that you're ready for it.

My Greenway walks and runs have been very few since then; I've mainly been doing Team Beachbody programs. I also haven't run any more 5k races since my first initial one. I've returned to the Greenway from time to time, but this most recent visit just happened to be the one that felt special again. I was thinking about the difference between "then" and "now" as I used the Foursquare app on my phone to check-in to the Greenway. I love that app because it tells me cool things like how many times I've been there or how long it has been since I had visited a place. On this occasion, it told me that the last time I had been on the Greenway was last September; which would have been when I participated in the Steps of Faith Walk to raise awareness and collect shoes for those in Africa that don't have the luxury of foot protection (check out the group on Facebook if you would like to know how you can help!). When I saw that little fun fact, I not only remembered the blessing of walking barefoot to empathize, but the fact that I was SO GLAD that I didn't have to do that now lol! What a privilege it is not only to exercise on such a nice day, but to be fortunate enough to have shoes on my feet!

I was soaking it all in and preparing for the four mile round-trip journey; wondering what God might have in store for me because I just had that old feeling I always used to have when these special posts originally came about. I thought that my Greenway posts were a thing of the past, but for some reason I felt like maybe there might be one last one to write. Oddly enough, it was cool and comfortable; and ready to rain at any moment! Once again, I relished at the thought of being caught in a possible downpour! However, there was one huge difference; this was a "dancing in the rain" kind of feeling rather than a "weeping in the rain" kind of feeling. Three of the last four years had been really terrible, but in the last year, things had finally taken a positive turn as my faith rebounded from all the turmoil. Everything was ending back in 2010. Now, in 2014, everything is beginning as I prepare to make a new life with a wonderful Christian man that would soon be my new husband. Finally, a new and happy chapter rather than painfully having to close the book on something! God has rebuilt and restored my life! He is so good!

I felt full of energy and anticipation as I journeyed through the first two miles. I saw many different people as I walked and ran. I happened to notice an older gentleman who was wearing a "Navy" shirt and a veteran's hat. I smiled as I went by, and then wished I had given him a better acknowledgement after I had passed. After I had turned around to finish the last two miles, I saw him again. This time, I smiled once more and said, "Thank you for your service!" He promptly said with noticeable pride (as well as gratitude for my thanks) "Oh, you're welcome!" Something about his response made me tear up as I continued to trek down the Greenway. I thought about the willingness that he and countless others have had to serve our country; to knowingly put their lives on the line for the sake of EVERYONE in this great nation! For most civilians, we don't remember their sacrifices often enough or even comprehend it. That's when it made me think of how Jesus willingly laid down His life for all of US and how we sometimes don't give that a second thought either. Maybe some find it hard to truly grasp Jesus' sacrifice for us, but the men and women who are our parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, friends, etc. should be able to make us appreciate that kind of sacrifice MUCH MORE! It amazes me and always deepens my gratitude and appreciation!

The blessing of a perfect stranger would have been grand enough to share. However, there is one more person I met that blessed me even more. That person was Tony Garton. For those that live in this area, you probably already know who I'm talking about and WHY it was so nice to run into him. He truly needs no introduction and he is well-known for his service to the community (that link will make you cry lol!). For the benefit of those who aren't fortunate enough to know him, I'll simply tell you that he is a kind-hearted, giving, and friendly person. He is admired for his service as a school teacher as well as his faith and guest speaking in area churches. I'm sure I don't even know the half of what all he has done, but all I know is how much I enjoy seeing him around town, on the Greenway, and when he used to speak at the church that I went to when I was growing up. My grandma Sauers also greatly appreciated him, and I think that's what made him stop and and say "hi" to me as I was finishing up the last of my walk. I had seen him earlier as he was riding his bike and I smiled and and gave a quick "Hi, Tony! How are you?" He reciprocated equally and we both kept going at the time but now, he stopped his bicycle and we gave each other a hug (yes, even after the sweat and rain lol!). I told him I had just been thinking of him the other day because I had remembered the time he was encouraging some of us women at a Mother's Day banquet to write letters of encouragement to each other. He had said it was my Grandma who inspired him to suggest it because she ALWAYS wrote him an appreciative and encouraging letter every time he came to speak. When I told him that, he smiled and told me that he still had EVERY letter she wrote to him and that it always meant so much. He also mentioned that if she was driving by the Greenway and saw him, she would pull over so she could say "hello" to him and he would come over to the car and she would give him a peck on the cheek. That was so like Grandma! She was always so sweet and loving to everyone! I don't think she realized just how often she made someone's day; just by being "her"! We both expressed how much we missed her and he said that she was a "special lady."

As Tony and I began to part ways, I thanked him and told him how much I appreciated his preaching. He insisted he wasn't a preacher, just a teacher. I told him he was both and that we're all called to preach the gospel and that he has touched a lot of hearts. He thanked me for my words (and for the hug) and pedaled off.

I unsuccessfuly fought off tears as I finished my walk. People like him, my Grandma, and even those I didn't really know (like the Navy veteran) had touched my heart. My life and my character is enriched because of them. Whether they know it or not, they MATTER! We ALL matter! We were all created on purpose and FOR a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). NO ONE is an accident! God meant for each and every one of us to be here and to make an impact on this world! Writing letters and giving hugs makes a difference. Teaching and preaching to the young and old makes a difference too. Serving your country and sacrificing a normal life (or maybe even your life itself); that also makes a difference! Nothing is too big or too small. IT ALL MATTERS!

When I got back to my car, I felt a little tired in body, but very refreshed in spirit! I was a mess from the rain
and sweat; just as I was the last time I had gotten caught in it. The big difference this time was that instead of feeling hurt and broken, I was feeling thankful and blessed. I was reminded that God (and the people who had blessed and touched my life) had helped me become a better "me". I became a better person because of the fact that God (and many others) never gave up on me; even when I wanted to give up on myself. I had almost stopped believing that God would rebuild and restore my life the way he did for people like Joseph and Job. Thankfully, He came through! He always does! Now, my life is better and more blessed than I ever thought it could be and once again, I am finally LIVING life again instead of just existing! I'm living life on purpose and WITH purpose again! Amen!

Grace and peace to you, my friends! Remember that God is always with you in every season of your life! He's there in the calm and in the storm. He works through you, and others, no matter who you are or what your gifts may be! It all works together for good (Romans 8:28); the big AND little things. EVERYTHING leaves an make it a GOOD one! It's all going to work out! God bless you!