You Don’t Know What You Got, Till It’s Gone

“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” I’m sure you’ve all heard that one before. There’s even a song with that title that I absolutely loved back in the day that was sung by Cinderella. Ha! Remember those guys? That was a good song. How many of you hate that phrase because someone said that to you and then hated it even more because they were right? Well, I’m here to tell you, today I’m eating those words. In fact, I’ve been chomping on them for the last several months.

As many of you know, I lost my mom this past May. It was a tough time. She spent her last days in our new home that we had just moved in. She had multiple myeloma and had to be put on hospice. We happily took her in, but it was one of the hardest times I’ve ever faced and I’m still facing with each passing day.

My relationship with my mom growing up was a very tumultuous one. Some people may know that, but for those of you that don’t, life for me as a child had many roller coaster rides. I didn’t have a father and grew up living with my grandparents and my mom. My mom had long running streaks of being there, times where she was in and out, and times where she was just completely absent. When I was young, around six, she was involved with someone who was an alcoholic and he took her in and out of our life. Because of that relationship, I was sexually abused by a friend of this man, something that I will never, ever forget as long as I live. I can close my eyes and still see it happening, play by play. My mom eventually ended that relationship and was back home with us at my grandparents and it was great.  She was a good mother for years. But, something was missing. She devoted all her time to my brother and I and worked hard, but she didn’t have anyone to share her life with, romantically. I think about this now and I imagine it did kind of stink being a single parent with no relationship and not seeking to find any relationship either. I can most definitely relate to the single parent thing. I hated being a single parent, but she did it for quite a few years. She was selfless.  My mom, up until the day she died, was selfless. She always thought of everyone else. She was a giver.  I think that may be where I get it from.  She was the PTA mom, the mom that was always doing something for the school, she took me to all my violin lessons and concerts, she was always doing something extra for work or the military to show her love and support of the troops. She was very patriotic. But, like I said, something was missing.  She didn’t have a significant other to share it with. And then, one day,  she did.

 Around the time I was in the 8th grade, my mom met an older gentleman at her job. She ended up marrying this man. He was 17 years older than her and his kids were grown. This was such an adjustment because my brother and I were so used to having our mom to ourselves and she was doing all these wonderful things, and then, here comes this man who only wants to take her away. Jealousy, of course, sank in, which is the typical reaction for kids who come from broken families or are subject to divorce. You’re used to having your mom all to yourself and here comes some joker that just wants to steal her away. My mom’s last serious relationship was bad. I didn’t really know what a good relationship looked like because I never had a relationship with my father and neither did she during the times when I was younger. I am just a product of a man who committed adultery and happened to get the woman pregnant. He was never really in my life and never really wanted to be. Anyway, all I knew of her previous relationships was the one I mentioned earlier from when I was around 6 or 7 and all I could think of was “not again.” I didn’t want to give my mom up like I did then. Too many bad things happened during that relationship that I just did not want to relive and risk them happening with another one.  I felt like I had just got her back and the years of her being there just flew by. I didn’t want to share her or all our good times to end.  I won’t go into all the details, but this was a very difficult time for both me and my brother. This man did take her away. He treated her great. He took her on trips and was nice to her, something she wasn’t accustomed to, but when I say he took her away, he did just that. He took her away. My mom wound up quitting her job and devoted everything she had to offer to this man to the point where we became second in her life. She would leave us with our grandparents for months, sometimes a year at a time. She would come home on a Friday and when Sunday came, she would say, “I’m going to the store,” and I would not see or hear from her for six months or more. It was hard for me and it was hard for my grandmother.  My grandmother would call all over trying to find her. She would call his kids or people that were mutual friends to no avail. I can still see her sitting in the recliner, holding her address book up and making multiple phone calls. We needed clothes or we needed things for school. My grandparents did the best they could to raise us and I am forever indebted to them. But,  I remember long drives with my grandparents to South Carolina to the last known places that we knew they lived and arriving only to find they were not there. I also remember a day where my brother and I went to find her at one of their homes. We just showed up and got lucky.  But, then we were asked to leave after only being there five minutes. I can remember crying the whole way home because I just didn’t understand.  I remember lonely Christmas mornings waking up with just me and Mema to open my presents because my brother eventually went to live with my uncle and my mother remained absent in our life.  I, too, bounced around living with an uncle and another aunt on two separate occasions for the purpose of school. These were very difficult times. I felt so lost and rejected. I am not trying to make my mother sound awful because she wasn’t. If she was, her absence would not have hurt me so much. We loved her and just wanted her there. These times would eventually wreak my mother with guilt to the point where she would never forgive herself. She spent the remainder of her later years trying to make up for it. She did.

She eventually came back around, but I was grown then, with a daughter of my own. She remained married to this man and as they both got older, their hearts got softer.  They eventually moved right behind where my grandparents lived and were always around. Our relationships with both him and her began to mend. I was thankful. My mom and I still had ups and downs thru the years due to the scar that remained deeply embedded on my heart from all that I had to endure.  There are many details that I just cannot write about due to it would turn into a novel. But, at the end of the day, all I wanted was my Mama and I finally had her. She was a wonderful Mom and Nana to my daughter and my brother’s son. She loved them both very much. My mom made it clear how much she loved us in these later years, but even with all the love we gave her, she never really recuperated from her past. I knew that from the time I got to spend with her.

I spent many years trying to repair our relationship. I always loved my mom so dearly and tried my best to make her know and understand that she was forgiven. I forgave her a long time ago, but sadly, even until her dying day, I don’t think she ever forgave herself. During the last month of her life, I spent hours sitting at my kitchen table talking with her and just soaking up everything she had to say because I knew my time was limited. I found out so many things. Things I didn’t know, about her, about others. These were such cherishing times that I will never forget. We spent many days looking at photo albums and talking about days gone by. We laughed a lot. My mom was growing weaker by the day, but she still seemed like her old self, which still makes it hard to swallow that she is really gone. How can someone be so normal in one day and then gone the next? It baffles my brain to no end.  All I ever wanted was my mom and here she was in my house. She was sick, but she was here and it was an honor to take care of her. I hope she knew that.

Today, I am dealing with something new. A thought that I just cannot seem to escape and it penetrates my soul more deeply than anything I have ever felt. Words cannot depict the scattered emotions that I feel these days. Today, I feel more alone than I have ever felt. My mom would call me constantly every single day to the point that some days it would drive me crazy. And now? Nobody calls. I have one cousin who calls me regularly and we talk for hours on end. I’m grateful for her. But, what I am feeling is a different deliberation of loneliness. The kind you feel where everything you know and everything that was once closest to you is gone. My grandparents, who were like my parents, are gone. My dad, who I tried to reconnect with a few years back, died while I was attempting to do that. My mom’s husband, is also gone. My brother and I never see each other or talk much. Life just happened and drove us apart. My daughter just left to go back to college. And now my mom is gone too. I told my husband that I have never felt more alone in the world. It is an indescribable feeling. Even at 40 years of age, I truly feel like a lost child in this big world that someone just left. It is the weirdest thing I have ever perceived. I have family and friends, but it’s just not the same. I’m even close to most of my family, but it does not fill that void. I am so thankful for my husband because if I didn’t have him, there is no telling what would be going on in this head of mine.

One of the things I hate to hear the most is for someone to say, “I know how you feel.” I know that everyone has something they can relate to with someone else. This is true. The situations may be the same, but the feelings are not. You do not and will not ever know how I feel because you, my friend, are not me. And vice versa. You may know or have heard of the major scenarios that went down during my life, but you didn’t live them like I did. I don’t mean that to sound harsh. I know it’s a common thing to say that because we all have gone thru things and have felt hurt that derives from similar situations. But, I guess, at this time, it is still just too soon to say something like that to me. It is just an unacceptable phrase for me right now. My emotional wounds are still very much open and it just feels like someone is adding salt to them when they say that. I know that will change in time. I know there are countless times that I have said that to someone going thru a difficult time. I struggle to say anything when those times arise. Sometimes, silence is just golden and needs to be treated as such.

I know I will see my mom again, but for now, it hurts. My feelings are catching up to me these days. I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts and that’s okay. These days are equipping me to help someone else. I know this is what God has called for me to do in my life, to be there for others. To all my cousins who I am close to and who are the children of the original four aunts in our lives, this day will come for you too. I don’t mean that to sound so insensitive, but it’s just reality. It’s a sad reality.  I keep telling myself that I really think this happened to me first so I can be there for the rest of you. Most of us cousins have already lost our fathers, but none of us have lost our mothers, aside from one other. As much as I hate that I was the first one to lose one of the Harman daughters, I know there is purpose behind it.  You all know that I am always there for you when I can be and I pray you always know that. There isn’t a whole lot I wouldn’t do for any of you.

My advice to anyone is this. Just like the song, you really don’t know what you got till it’s gone. You don’t realize how much you will miss someone until they are no longer available to you. Feelings that you never thought you could feel will erupt like a volcano. Embrace every moment that you can with the people you are close to and never take for granted the fact that one day, those moments will someday be just a memory.

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These Days Are Ours

“Be kind, please rewind.” Remember those little stickers from back in the day from the movie rental store? They would place them on the VHS tapes so people would remember to rewind. Those were the days! I still remember when we got our first VCR and couldn’t wait for the weekend to come because we knew we were headed to the video store up the road from our house to get movies and popcorn. I remember when microwave popcorn came out. I also remember when Orville Redenbacher came out with sour cream and onion and cheddar cheese microwavable popcorn. Those were certainly the days. Days when life was so much simpler.

Today, there are no VHS tapes. Well, there are, but I don’t believe any or many are produced these days to market and sell. Video rental stores are now a figment of your imagination.  And you’re not likely to see the classic Orville Redenbacher commercials where the air popper machine is overflowing with those addictive kernels that when watching a movie, it’s just not the same without them. Today’s movie rental consists of a vending machine outside of a store or live streaming right from your home.

I’ll tell you, we just keep getting lazier and lazier as time goes on and life is constantly made simpler for the everyday person by geniuses who dream up and market new ways to make things so we don’t have to lift a finger. I’m so guilty of this. I’m on social media. I’m on it a lot. I share my pictures, videos and constantly update people on mine and my family’s life. I probably get on people’s nerves, but I want to share my moments so my family and friends can see them because guess what? People today are slaves to that form of communication. They are certainly not coming to my house to pay me a visit and catch up. They are not coming over to check out my family photo album because all my photos are all online. They are not coming to see what I have for dinner because I post it online. Getting people together today is like nails on a chalkboard. You ask someone over and they may make a face you would see someone make as they are ripping off a band aid. They are all just too busy. I don’t want to totally bash the internet. It’s what’s enabling you to read this right now. I’m grateful for it. It’s also an awesome tool to keep up with my daughter who is away at college or any relatives and friends who are far away. The internet does have a way of bringing people together. It has it’s benefits. In most cases, it’s the only way to bring folks together. Remember the home interior or Tupperware parties you would get invited to and you would actually go to someone’s house? No more, my friend. You can have an online party now, right in your pajamas.  I know it’s convenient, but I miss people. Don’t you? I mean, how did we get here? People act like they can’t do anything anymore. Are we ignorant to the fact that we didn’t always have the internet and we did life fabulously without it?

Getting back to the good old days, yesterday I had three incidences that just ignited something in me that brought on nostalgia. My husband and I went to a store and there was an elderly man in front of us checking out and talking to the cashiers and he was so friendly. He was peppy and had a lot of energy lined with a lot of happiness and smiles. When he turned to leave, he told the ladies “God bless yall, I love you.” I thought to myself, how sweet! He must come in here a lot because the ladies were smiling and engaging in conversation with him. Then, Ed and I checked out and headed out the door. He was standing outside the store waiting on the guys to load up a couch on his truck. I made eye contact because it’s what I do. As we passed he said “How yall doing today?” I replied with a smile, “fine, how are you?” He said “I’m good. God bless yall, I love ya.” He said it as we were walking. I didn’t respond because it caught me off guard and our backs were already turned away from him. I can still hear this man saying it in my head right now. He was not crazy. He downright meant it. He said it with conviction. As we were walking to the car, I felt regret for not going back and chatting more. I knew I had let an opportunity pass because how often do you get people like that cross your path?

So, Ed and I pressed on with our day and decided to have an early dinner. We cruised on over to Marco’s pizza to have some of their delicious pizza. No, they are not paying me to say that, but Marco’s if you’re reading this, feel free to endorse my blog. Ha! We never eat there, but our house is no longer in their delivery jurisdiction anymore, so we graced them with our presence for a change. This was around 4 in the afternoon, so nobody was really in there. It was just Ed and myself and an elderly lady sitting alone. She had ordered a small pizza for herself. She couldn’t eat it all. In fact, she ate very little from what I could tell. She had trouble walking and used a cane as she did. She was getting ready to go and asked for a box. The young employees there were so sweet to her and gave her a hand as she struggled to collect herself and carry everything. I stepped up and offered to help as she was making her way to the exit. We engaged in small conversation as she was leaving. She told us that she loved their pizza, but couldn’t eat it all. She said she had plans to go to her daughter’s for the weekend in Greenville and had thought about making them some cookies to take up there, but she had changed her mind. She told us she was in the process of moving there. She mentioned everything was already there except for herself and her cat. She made mention of her husband, but she talked so low, I could barely understand her. We could only assume that he had already passed away and now she was going to be staying with her daughter. I asked once again if we could please help her, but she kindly declined. She wanted to do it herself. When she left, I turned once more to see her walking to her car and it broke my heart. I turned to Ed and my eyes were just welling with tears. I can’t help it. Situations like that stab me in the heart. I cry at everything. I was thankful she was going to live with her daughter because I’ll bet she is lonely. I was so happy that she had initiated conversation with us because she probably doesn’t get to talk to many people.

Later in the evening, we decided to shoot on over to our hometown favorite, The Pink Dipper. If you have never been there, the trip is worth it. It’s an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, complete with the old table top video games, an old bottled coke vending machine, and décor that will certainly take you back in time. This place has been around since I was a kid and even longer than that. Every time I go there, my eyes always seem to fixate on the stereo that they have in there. For some oddball reason, I HAVE to look up and ensure my mind that it is still there and that they did not get rid of it because every time I glance up at that thing, it takes me back to my childhood. I have no idea why, but it does. I will sit there and stare at that thing and think of childhood birthday parties that will held there. I think of summer days that were spent making mud holes with the hose pipe and Mema yelling at us to stop because we were tearing up the driveway and making huge pot holes and Papa’s car was going to hit them when he came home. The people who own the Pink Dipper have done a fantastic job by not changing a thing thru the years and keeping old fixtures and have had very little if any modern updates. I love that about that place. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? Even that old stereo still works.

I was so blessed by the adventures of today and wanted to share them because it just took me back to a time when things were simpler and people were friendlier. Days like today are small treasures that spark up nostalgia and for a split second, allow you to revisit old times.  Days like today are a reminder that there are still good people in the world. These days are few and far between. We need to change that. We need to remember when life was simpler and people appreciated each other and things a whole lot more. We need to act on those feelings when we are graced with them. Don’t just embrace them. Act on them. We have gotten so far away from engaging with actual people that pretty soon, we will all be in quarantine.  Moments like these are huge blessings. They are huge blessings because moments like these are rapidly becoming non-existent.  Slow down. Go see people. Don’t just watch them on social media.

Be kind. Please rewind.

You’ve got questions? I’ve got the answer!

I felt led to write this because my heart is heavy. I feel like someone needs this. If you’re reading this, maybe it’s you.

There are so many people facing difficult times. We are living in a difficult world right now. I’ve been thru and experienced many hard times in my life. You could probably name it and I’ve been thru it. Abuse, check. Alcohol, check. Drugs, check. Divorce, check, check, TWICE! Separation, check. Loneliness, check. Depression, check. Fatherless, check.  Abandonment, check. Sickness, check. Assaulted, check. Sexually abused, check. Robbed, check. Lied to, check. Cheated on, check. Been to jail for no car insurance, check. Had my car repossessed once, check.  Pregnant in high school, check.  And the list could go on.

People see me today and think my life is wonderful. Well, that’s because it is. I’ve never been a bad person, but I have been thru some pretty bad things. You may have drawn a conclusion about me by reading the list above. Think what you will on each subject, but I chose not to elaborate on each circumstance. I don’t have to do that because that’s not my life anymore.  I cannot stress this enough to people I encounter who are going thru stuff.  This is the greatest piece of advice you will ever receive from anyone. To quote Cummings, “This is the root of the root and the bud of the bud.”   Whatever you are going thru, whether it’s good, bad or ugly, if you don’t know Jesus, you will always be lost.  Do NOT take the sentence you just read lightly. I’m not talking about you just praying a prayer every now and again. I’m not talking about you believing in God. I’m not talking about you just going to church. Anyone can do those things. I’m talking about truly knowing Him. And you may claim you know Him. But does He know YOU???  You can call me a Jesus Freak, a holy roller, or whatever. I will wear those titles with pride because I possess something so priceless and awesome. I am rich beyond measure!  Sure, I go thru hard times. I worry. My mom even has cancer right now. I have some personal issues, sure. But you most likely wouldn’t know that because I try to choose joy as much as possible. I lean on the Lord. He is my strength and refuge. Times do not seem so hard when you have Him always. A lot of people will go thru life and never experience that joy because they feel it’s a waste of time. They can’t see past their own darkness to find that glimmer of light and hope. Some just choose not to expose themselves to it, maybe out of fear or shame.  My suggestion to you and what I tell a lot of people is to try Jesus. If you don’t like Him, the devil will ALWAYS take you back. I promise.

I see so many people who don’t know God or who don’t take the time to understand and get to know Him and wonder why they go thru things. I used to be on that band wagon too and I will tell you this, my life stunk then. Watching people without Jesus is like watching someone ruin their life doing things that they know are wrong and hurtful to both themselves and others. They experience so much physical and mental pain that they have no clue where to begin to redeem themselves.  You just want to shake them in hopes they will wake up and experience the happiness that comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve had so many miraculous things happen to me, unexplainable things that could not have happened except by God’s grace. I have seen His work in my life and in others. And it’s amazing. I look at people without Him and sure, you may be having a great time doing the things you love. You may have all the money and friends and good times, but at the end of the day, you couldn’t be lonelier.  You know the path you are going down is wrong and you suffer in silence and find yourself alone in your thoughts, reflecting on your life. I know how you feel because I was that person many years ago. It’s a lonely place to be. It’s a prison sentence. But, I must admit, the only pardon is Jesus. He is the hope you are looking for. He is what is lacking in your life. The quicker you acknowledge that, the better your life will be. Finding the Lord in my life was like a revelation that no words can ever depict or bring justice to it. It’s just like scripture says, “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14.  ONLY A FEW find it. Look at our world. Do you see a lot of people following Christ? Sure, there are a lot, but believe me, it’s nowhere near as many as those who don’t. But, when you’re one of those people who DO find that narrow road, it’s awesome. It’s like when Dorothy found Oz. She knew she was going home, FINALLY! This place is not our home. It’s not. Live it up all you want, but you will eventually have to suck it up because, “As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.” Romans 14:11.  This place is only temporary and life is extremely short. Do you know where you going when you leave it? I’ll say it again, do you know where you’re going when you leave it???

I know there are people who desperately want things in their life. Some people just want a simple life with someone to love them. You must love God and yourself first before that joy will ever come. Again, I am speaking on my own experiences and the journey that I have been on thus far. I know everyone’s life and situation varies from person to person. But I can’t help but see the same things happening over and over again. People making the same mistakes and not learning anything and ending up with the same old result. Heck, I did it too! Everyone has a chance to live and learn. But, you have to WANT to change your life and with that comes work like never before. The results are worth it though. But, God has to play the most significant role of all. He gave you your life after all. Don’t you think He needs to be a part of it?  No one on this earth can shake my thought process on that. I’ve been thru too much to believe otherwise. They say the best way to tell someone about God, is to tell them what He has done for you. He has done so much in my life. I have the greatest husband ever. I have been so blessed by our marriage, but God is at the center. That’s why it’s so great.  My life is not perfect by any means of the word, but I’m happy with the imperfect. I can deal with the imperfections because I have Christ. I have a daughter who is beautiful on the inside and out and has chose to make the Lord her foundation for her life. And with that, she has had a fabulous life. Has she had hard times every now and then? Sure. She’s human. But, she is not like any young woman I have ever encountered. She is unique and different, but we are called to be set apart and that’s why her life is so wonderful. She hasn’t had drama because she simply CHOSE NOT TO HAVE IT! I envy the mess out of her. I wonder how a person like myself, who went thru so much, can be capable of producing such an individual. Yeah, I’m proud. I’ll say it again and don’t care….I’M PROUD! I’m very fortunate that given the situations that she and I were both in that she has turned out so well.

You were made to be different. You were made to be unique. You were made to stand out. Don’t resemble the world. Any average Joe can do that. Billions do it daily. Be your own individual, but make sure God is a reflection in the mix of it all.

I have never forced Jesus on anyone. I don’t even think I’ve ever truly witnessed to anybody. I honestly don’t know if I would even know how. I am no biblical scholar. But, I can love. I can be a friend. I can be loyal. I can be kind. I can lend a helping hand.  I can smile until I can’t smile no more. I can laugh. I can draw others to me by them seeing Christ thru me. And when they ask why I’m so happy, I can tell them my joy comes from what all God has done for me. Life can be simple. But, we choose to make it hard all too many times. Life will never be the easiest journey, but it sure is a lot harder when you don’t know God at all. That, I know.  I haven’t been a Christian long. I’d say maybe close to 15 years or so. I knew God, but there sure was a time when He didn’t know me. But He knows me now. And He wants to know you. Like I said before,  I’m no biblical scholar. I don’t have all the answers. I just know the most important answer. You can too. You just have to ask the right question.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

By now, I’m sure you have noticed that extra pep in everyone’s step, as well as the overly exuberant extending of kindness that you wouldn’t normally see except for this time of year.

Have you ever wondered just what in the world makes people act like this from the end of November thru December and the other months just seem like something from another planet? If you ever just go out into your community to mingle or people watch this time of year, it is honestly like the moment when Clark Griswold tries to get those lights to work one last time. Drumroll……. and, boom!!! The world is suddenly, a brighter, happier place!  I have pondered this many, many times as I have watched and observed people around me. I have also been paying attention to myself and my own actions, and yes, I’m doing it right along with the rest of the world! So, why do we do this?

I have been in stores and people say hello. Employees are more friendly and willing to help you. They are probably reacting to the pleasantries of the customers because they are not used to the friendliness of the patrons. I was in an aisle one day and I was looking for something and I had two different customers on that aisle and a store employee helping me look. Willingly! And they were happy about it! We shared stories of our family traditions and recipes. We laughed.  I loved every minute of it! It was a good time.  And as crazy as this sounds, I could have stayed and hung out with these people a little longer. And there it was. The answer. Right there in the middle of the grocery store aisle surrounded by a variety of pasta noodles, I found the answer to everything.  People.

Some of you may not know this about me and I don’t share very many personal details about myself, but I am a depressed person.  To be formal, I am a diagnosed depressed person. If you met me or my family, looked at our pictures and videos on Facebook or hung out with us, you would wonder how on earth that could be possible. She is so happy and funny all of the time!!  It is a demon that I battle daily, secretly. I won’t elaborate on the subject in this blog post. You can buy my book when it is finished! Ha!  But, I struggle with loneliness an awful lot. I am well liked and have plenty of friends, but I feel alone. Again, I can’t go into much detail or I will derail us from this most wonderful time of the year which is of course, Christmas!  But, I genuinely believe that it is the people who generate this feeling of excitement from within us. We get excited because we know those kids are coming home for the holidays. We get to give those grandbabies all the sugar in world in forms of kisses and chocolate! We know vacation is coming and we get to be with our families, people who love us the most. We get to see the people who we probably only get to see this time of year. These are the people we are most comfortable with. They are our family. They know us or should know us better than anyone. I know I am most comfortable and more myself around people who know me best. But this brings me back to the store. I know what I feel inside and the things I struggle with daily in terms of loneliness and I know just how happy it made me to strike up a conversation with strangers about the excitement of the holidays because I knew “people” were in my future. People who love me and want to see me.  People who I know for a fact that on December 25th are coming to see me. But soon the holidays will end. Then what?

Please don’t think I’m trying to be a scrooge in the midst of all this holiday cheer. I love the holidays. This is indeed my favorite time of year and it does spark up excitement. But, I’m a people pleaser and think it should be the most wonderful time of the year for everyone, not just this person or that one. Our pastor brought up a good point one Sunday. Our congregation is pretty large and you can easily get lost in the crowd. He said there were a lot of new members and we need to always make sure that even though we may not know the people who surround us, we should always make it a point to try to speak to someone and make them feel welcome.  This is so important because the last thing someone wants to feel like is just a number. I’ve been there. It’s so easy to wear a smile and even go as far as exchange smiles and feel like you may be a part of something by making that small connection, but still go home and feel like you’re not a part of anything. That hurts. I have been a part of large groups. I have been the center of attention. I have been the person that people would come to for answers. I have been the person that people praise and love. Then, I come home and feel more alone than ever. You just never know what’s going on in the lives of different people. That’s why it’s important to really get to know someone on a personal level. We need each other. One of my favorite Christmas songs out there is “Grown Up Christmas List”.  There is a line in that song that I can’t help that each time when I hear it, the tears will come.  The line states “And everyone would have a friend.” Even typing that hurts. But there are people out there who feel like they don’t have a friend. We should really consider that. It must be pretty important if someone felt the need to incorporate it as a lyric in a well-known song. There are a lot of people out there who want just that. A friend. So, be a friend. A real friend. Not just an acquaintance.

I decided this year to open up my home to my family for Christmas. Our family is huge. I was raised by my grandparents and lived with them all my life. Each Christmas, the entire family was at our house. I always looked forward to that day and I remember as a kid having a check list. I would write every family member’s name on it and I would check them off as they came. I don’t recall many names that didn’t get checked off.  Thinking about that always restores a smile to my face. Since Mema and Papa have been gone for several years now, traditions have changed. I don’t expect many, if any, to come. I know times change and people have their own plans and busy schedules. I did this because I could not entertain the possibility of someone being alone or not having anywhere to go. I would encourage you to do the same. Loneliness is not fun. And there is a lot of it in this big world. Christmas intensifies this feeling because it’s supposed to be a special time. A time that nobody should be alone. So, if you know someone who may be alone or needing someone, open your heart to them. You never know what impact you could make. God has equipped each and every one of us with the greatest gift any of us could ever receive. Love.

From my family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

 

Some of you may have noticed that I have not written anything in a very long time. My blogs were already sporadic as they were. I was already in a state of only writing when things moved me. For those who follow me, you may have begun to think that my thoughts were becoming near obsolete.  I do apologize. My old laptop, well, there you go. There is the answer in just those three words. My old laptop.  That sums it up. I don’t know what in the world happened to that thing. It bogged down and caught who knows what, so I had nothing to write on, but my trusty smart phone. And, I am sorry, but several months using only a smart phone to work with, people were already wondering if I had forgotten how to spell and formulate appropriate sentences. So, that is why my blog site has been a bit inactive. My super sweet husband bought me a nice brand new one for my birthday last month, so I am now back in business! Again, have a very Merry Christmas!! God bless!!

 

 

 

 

Aside

Jealousy

We’ve all had it. We can’t deny it. That little green monster that engorges us with straight up envy.  I’m talking about jealousy.

I won’t deny that I’ve had it.  I won’t even deny that I haven’t felt it here in recent times. I’m hoping by me writing this, it will bring reassurance to myself as well as others that we don’t have to be jealous of one another or of anything.

You may notice that my blog postings are few and far between. This may sound weird to some of you, but the things that I write about, I feel like I am told subconsciously to write about them. I don’t just sit at a computer and say “Hey! I think I’ll write about this today!” It doesn’t happen for me like that.  I have shot straight up out of bed from sleeping to get up and write. You can ask my husband. You should have seen the thank you letter I wrote my husband’s boss dragging myself out of bed at 3 a.m.  after he lost his job in Kennesaw. It was exquisite. I was proud of it. Did I send it? No. God don’t like ugly, not that it was ugly. I thought it was brilliant and very informative and would have most definitely left an impact on that man in a positive way later on in his life. I should have sent it because I had “that feeling” that compelled me to write it.  I should frame it! Ha-ha! Okay, I’m off topic. Anyway, sure, I may ponder on ideas prior to thinking about writing something, but I always get a “feeling” that pushes me to rush to the keyboard and for some reason jealousy has been weighing on my heart and mind quite heavily. I don’t know why exactly, but I feel led to speak about it.

What is jealousy? Well, duh! That’s a no brainer. Webster’s dictionary defines jealousy as an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has. Pretty obvious to all of us, especially since some time or another we’ve all experienced it. We are no stranger to it at all. It starts at a young age. Kids see things that other kids have and want them too. I’ve been one of those kids.  I’m willing to bet that some of you were too.  I will go ahead and admit to all of you with no shame of some of the things that I have been jealous of. I have been jealous of other women’s figures and sizes. I have been jealous when I see groups of girls on Facebook getting together and hanging out as friends, and I’ve been jealous of pregnancy and birth announcements. Those things have derived something within myself here lately.  Why do I let these things consume my mind? Sometimes, I don’t think we mean to, but we do it involuntarily and can’t help it.  Why don’t I just change things?  I do have the power to make changes in my life. I always have, just like anyone else including the people I have admired and find myself comparing myself to. I can lose weight if I want to. I’ve done it before. I can find friends. There are lots of people in the world who desire friendship like I do. The baby situation, well, that’s out of my control at this particular time. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not telling people that they should hide their joy from people like me to spare my feelings because let me tell you, if I ever get the opportunity to announce that I am pregnant, it will be a scene bigger than a Fourth of July fireworks display at Disney World!  I’m very happy for those people who are blessed and able to conceive or adopt a child. I truly am. But, I won’t deny the fact that it stings a little bit that it hasn’t happened for me and my husband yet. For those that may read my blogs, but don’t know me personally and are thinking, “wait, don’t you have a daughter?” I do, but my husband and I do not have any children together and we both desperately want that.  I’m overly anxious, mainly because I am getting older. But, the point to all of this is to remind myself and whoever else may be experiencing some type of envy that you don’t have to feel this way. Easier said than done, I know, but in reality, it’s silly to be jealous over what other people have.  A lot of people are jealous of people’s houses, their money, their status, their ability to sing, their ability to dance, their ability to play sports, their ability to play an instrument, their ability to fix their hair perfectly, their ability to excel academically, their ability to care and be there for others. I could go on and on and on and on!

Why do we do that?  The Bible says in James 3:14-16 ” But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”  Lord have mercy! Forgive me!  That makes you want to change your way of thinking with a quickness. That’s why it’s important to stay close to the word of God, especially in these days. We tend to want to be in control of ourselves, but without God, you can almost guarantee chaos. God’s word is the best tool to keep ourselves in check.  But I will tell you, I have seen some people who straight up hate other people for what they have and do it in nonchalant ways.  They have a tendency to show it in some way, shape or form. To those people, if you are doing that, you are not fooling anyone, but only hurting yourself. It’s a lot of work and heartache to carry such hatred in your heart. Why would you want that burden?  Especially people who claim they are Christian. I’ve seen it many times. It’s sad. Before you start saying “who does she think she’s talking to?” Well, if the shoe fits, as they say, wear it. I’m not singling out anyone.  I’m Christian and I just admitted to being jealous myself. I’m wearing my very GREEN size 9 shoes. Am I proud? No. I’m ashamed.

We get mad and angry at others for what they have. The word “hater” is a very popular term these days. I hate the word hater. Pun intended. It is like nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s overly used and, in my opinion, has worn itself out like a song with a catchy verse that you absolutely hate to get stuck in your head.  I will admit, I have jokingly a few times used the phrase “haters gonna hate”, but mostly for comical and entertainment value. I see so much about haters, it drives me almost bonkers.  There are even some people who love for others to be jealous of them. They feed off of it. It’s what keeps them going in life. To the braggers, hey, you better believe I am one of them, especially when it comes to my daughter. She is my greatest accomplishment.  I believe you have and deserve the right to brag on the things that you succeed in, especially when it’s your children. We all want to be proud of their accomplishments because after all, they are a reflection of you and your parenting. I believe that a little bragging does give us the encouragement, motivation and determination to excel even further. But, if you’re doing it just so someone can idolize you and be jealous, you’re an idiot with ill intentions in your heart. That’s evil.   Then there are people who brag about the things they do for others. The Bible clearly states “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. …”  Your only reward is with the people you boasted about pleasing by serving them in some way, not in heaven. You have received your reward in full by them, not by God. Jesus makes this pretty clear in the book of Matthew.   If you want do something for someone, just do it. It’s what we are called to do. Help one another. Be there for each other.  Don’t do it to display for everyone to see. If you are going to boast, boast in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:31.

We live in a world today that is slap full of laziness.  Each one of us has the same opportunities to go out and get the same thing if we wanted it bad enough. Let me tell you, sitting around talking does nothing. Nothing from nothing leaves what? NOTHING! God gave us all free will to choose which way in this life we want to go.  He gives us all the ability to work hard.  Proverbs 13:4 says “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”  It takes a lot of hard work to accomplish life. A lot of hard work. It’s not easy, but with God, anything is possible. I truly believe that.  Anybody can work hard to afford the material things.  One of the greatest things is to see someone set a goal for themselves and watch them achieve it. You appreciate things a whole lot more when you earned it honestly for yourself due to countless hours of hard work that you put in. This builds character and integrity.

I didn’t write this to make anyone feel bad. I wrote this for myself as well as other people who may be feeling jealousy or  provoking jealousy, and want to stop it. All I am saying is that if you’re a jealous person and you just can’t seem to stop feeling that way over something, pour that energy into yourself and do something positive for YOU that will also honor God. Don’t waste that energy on someone else. Nothing good comes from feeling this way.  For those who provoke jealousy, I hope you keep in mind that this world is going to go away some day and I assure you that the material things of this world will not be going with it.  God is not going to judge you or any of us by how many blessings you received from Him during your time here, but by what you did with what He blessed you with. Stay humble. Appreciate what you have and always share with others when you can. Love one another. Build each other up. Don’t tear each other down. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God, not man.  Remember that God is jealous for us. I know that sounds contradictory to what I have talked about here. I read an article that explained that to make better sense.  That article stated that God is jealous when someone gives to another something that rightfully belongs to Him. We are all His. We belong to Him. Keep that in mind.

I love everyone. I pray that in some way that you will be blessed by this message and find your own way, not someone else’s. We are all unique, beautiful and wonderfully made. We each have something  great to offer. We should all appreciate whatever that is in everyone, not envy it.  God bless.

Diet, Exercise and God

Well, hello everybody!  Hope you all are enjoying the fall season thus far.  I’ve enjoyed mine to the fullest, I would say. I’ve enjoyed football, the fair, the one week of actual cool, fall weather that we got.  I’ve been doing a lot of painting, spending time with family and friends, going to church, reading and trying to write more.  But, let me tell you what! Nothing compares to what I decided to do three weeks ago.  Three weeks ago, I decided I would go on a low carb diet.  I must be crazy. What was I thinking?? I could not have picked the worst time to start a diet. I mentioned earlier that I went to the fair. We all know what adults go to the fair for. The food!! Man! I walked around that place several times with all sorts of deliciousness permeating thru the air!! The funnel cakes, the french fries, the corn dogs, the fried Oreos. They had fried everything, including, get this……wait for it…….FRIED BUBBLEGUM! I couldn’t believe that! What the heck is the point of eating fried bubble gum if you can’t even swallow it??!!! I have no idea!  I’ve got to hand it to those people though.  That was ingenious. People probably paid five bucks just to try it.  Amidst this wonderful smorgasbord of appealing aromas filled with yumminess and calories, I partook in none of it.  The only thing I had was a smoked turkey leg and I couldn’t even eat all of it.  I’m pretty proud of myself. That was hard! But, who said dieting was easy?

As time in my adult life continues to march on, I find that my weight has fluctuated a lot. It’s been up. It’s gone down. But, the older I get, I’m finding out that the more my weight seems to go up, the harder it is to get it to come back down. Our metabolism slows down and it does get a little harder to shed the weight. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I am at my heaviest. I can’t stand to see pictures of myself. I look at myself sometimes and think, “Kristi, you are so pretty. You have such a beautiful face, what about the rest of you? What are you doing to yourself?” So, three weeks ago, after watching my best friend doing the low carb diet and exercising, I decided I’d try it too.  She’s had success, why not at least give it a whirl? What have I got to lose, but the weight, right?!  So far, this is my third week and even though the scale isn’t reflecting any weight loss just yet, my clothes are. I feel different. I have a little more energy. I even took a Zumba class and I lived!! I survived y’all!!    And let me tell you, that lady tried to kill me, I swear! It was a small class. I’m not too shy of a person, so being in the front row, piece of cake! I used to love to dance. I’ve got this!!! Well…..let’s just say this lady, who was probably 10-15 years my senior, gave me a run for my money!  I shook everything my mama gave me, with a large, wall-sized mirror staring right back at me!  It took me four days to recuperate from this class. FOUR DAYS! My body hurt in places I didn’t know it could! So, I rested up.  I did stretches and exercising at home that was more my pace.  My clothes are still getting a little looser the more I keep at it. That is my motivation.  I also went walking and incorporated a little jogging into it the other day. This may sound crazy, but it felt great to lose my breath and get my heart rate up. It was addictive almost. I couldn’t wait to catch my breath and try again. I felt energized.  It was incredible!

One thing that I know about myself is that I’m routine. I live my life in continual habit. I cannot break my daily rut that I have myself in because it throws me off.  I’m just an orderly type of person.  I have an order when I take a shower, the time I brush my teeth, how I put my make up on and style my hair. I even have an order I go in while washing dishes!  I can roll with the punches should things get in disarray, but I absolutely hate a wrench being thrown into what I consider normal everyday tasks.  Try living with two people who are care-free and go with the flow. “The house is burning down, but look at those pretty flowers, let’s smell them! We have insurance!”  Haha! My husband and daughter are the two most laid back, chill people in the world. They take things as they come and nothing, I mean, nothing really gets under their skin at all. Me? I like things to go as they’re supposed to go. I really wish I could be like them, but I can’t help it. It’s the way I had to live my life growing up. I had to maintain control of things because I had to be independent a lot. Now, I know that it’s okay to be like I am because I know I’m not the only person like this. We do balance each other out. I love the fact that I know my family relies on me for the important things and that they know I will take care of them the way a wife and a mother should.  They also bring out the free spirit in me and make me feel comfortable to let my hair down every once in a while.

Anyway, back to my point.  Being in a daily routine isn’t all that bad. Now that I am in this daily diet routine, it’s hard to break. I see things I want to eat so bad, but I feel like if I eat them, it will just break this habit and I’m so OCD that it will hinder my whole thought process. I’m the kind of person that I can be sitting in front of a shiny, polished work desk and see one speck of dust or piece of lint and I will focus on it until it is removed. Yeah, I’m that girl! I have picked the lint off of people I have barely known because I will not hear anything you say until that little fur ball is gone! I like things to be in place.  Every time I start something new, I have to merge it into my day to day life. One year I lost 50 pounds in one month from walking every morning, every evening and maintaining a 1500 caloric intake. I was single then, so it was a little easier. But, I got into that habit and I just couldn’t break it. I was in the best shape and feeling good then.

So, what about God?  Where does He fit into this equation?  I thought long and hard about this the other day and I had to ask myself something. Why is it that we go to church, get all pumped up and feel good when we leave and then within a day and sometimes hours, we just forget about everything we got so excited about in the first place? How come we don’t experience the same guilt when we pick up that cookie and eat it as when we see our bible sitting on the table and just walk right past it instead of opening it up?  Why is He not in our conscience as much as the food we eat?  I’m dead serious. I mean, I’m struggling here you guys. I struggle every time I open my cabinet or refrigerator and see things that I know I can’t have. I admit, I will sometimes debate myself to find justification in having just a little something that I know I shouldn’t be eating.  Thankfully, I haven’t given in to that temptation yet.  In the book, which I’ve mentioned before in my prior blogs, there is a quote that says “God meant the Bible to be bread for our daily use, not just cake for special occasions.” Honey, let me tell you, the only way I’m going to get thru this is with God and myself. He is my refuge and strength and He will have faith in me even when I don’t have faith in myself. I strive to always start my mornings out with Him and in prayer because it’s part of my “routine” as I mentioned before.  And if I break that routine, my whole day can be thrown off.  So, I guess having a routine isn’t so bad after all. But, I’m serious. Think about what I said. What if God gave you today what you gave Him yesterday? Would you be satisfied? Think about all the times you may have tried to do something and you may have even succeeded for a while. You started out by praying for it, you sought God’s direction and the minute things got comfortable and cozy, the more absent God became. The good lasts for a while and then all of a sudden, everything starts to crumble. Then, you want to ask God why. Make no mistake in which one moved.   Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Please pray for me. This is going to be a hard journey, especially with the holidays approaching. I’m a baker. I love to bake and give baked goods as gifts.  Baking with my daughter is a traditional thing that we look forward to each year.  I really need to lose some of this weight for health reasons. It’s really important that I stay on track. I hope that when I write more, I will have positive, encouraging updates that will provoke lots of praises of my journey. By me publicly sharing this, I already feel held accountable because I feel like I would let folks down, but most of all myself if I don’t achieve anything. So, I welcome your prayers and if any of you are on this road like I am and just need prayer or encouragement, don’t hesitate to ask me. I will be happy to do that for you. That’s another habit that I feel like I can’t break. If I see folks who need prayer, or ask for prayer on social media, I feel like I can’t continue without stopping a minute and lifting those people up because I would hope they would do the same for me.

In the meantime, I wish you all well and I look forward to hopefully sharing some awesome achievements with you in the future!

SEASONS CHANGE

Well, here we are. Another season is upon us. Ready or not, here comes fall.  Soon, there will be a cool crisp temperature in the air and the leaves will turn to vibrant oranges, browns and reds. While I love all the seasons, this time of year is always my favorite. I like cold weather. People think I’m insane, but I like to cover up this body! I would probably like spring and summer a little more if I were still in my twenties and still had the shape I had then. I’m trying to work on that, but taking my time! Ha! But, aren’t you glad that God chose to give us four different seasons, each one different than the next? Each one brings some form of change to our environment and gives us something to look forward to. I couldn’t imagine having just one season the entire year.  I know that in some parts of the world, the seasons feel the same as each one passes.  I consider myself blessed to live in a place where you can see the changes that come with each spring, summer, fall and winter.

Our lives also change with the seasons. If you think of where you were this time last fall, I’m willing to bet that something is dramatically different. For me, it’s my location. This time last year, I was living in Atlanta. Today, I am in South Carolina. We just never know what each season will present in each of our lives.   Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reads:

    There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 Gracious! That pretty much covers everything! All these verbs have an opposite to counteract with the other. Just like the seasons, each one can go from one extreme to the next. Some we have control over. Some we don’t.  There is a phrase in a song from back in the 90s that I’m sure you all know. Well, most of you. Surprisingly, it was the “jam”, if you will, back in the day for people in my age group. It was a funny song. A lot of people liked it and listened to it, myself included. I won’t even try to lie.  The song is “I’m Sorry Ms. Jackson,” by Outkast.  In that song, there is a phrase that I have used quite a few times when the time was relevant. “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”  Now, as crazy as that song was looking back, it still had this hidden gem within its lyrics. A simple truth. You CAN plan a pretty picnic, but you CAN’T predict the weather. This warrants us to be prepared for all things, because anything is always possible with every agenda. For every action, there is reaction. It can be positive or negative, but you have got to be equipped to handle whatever comes your way. This is not easy for any of us. Sometimes there is just no time to prepare. Things happen and occur unexpectedly. I don’t have to tell any of you that. It’s common sense.

I have learned over the past several years that life can change at the drop of a hat. I have went thru times of wedded bliss to dreaded divorce.  I’ve had days where I didn’t know how I was going to afford to pay bills and days where my cup runneth over with blessings that came from out of nowhere. I have experienced the joy of birth as well as the loss of loved ones who I thought I could never live without.  I have moved to different cities. I have changed jobs quite a few times due to moving. I have found friends. I have lost friends. Throughout all the changes in my life, only one thing remained constant. That was and is God. I have testimonies that would send chills up your back. There is one in particular that I experienced just yesterday. I only shared this with my husband and I was going to keep this treasure to myself, but it is too powerful not to share. It would be selfish of me to do that. 

I am currently in a new season in my life in more ways than one. I spend my time with the Lord when I am home alone when it is just me and God. I may have told some of you this personally or written about it in prior blogs. I like to sit down in the mornings on my couch with a cup of coffee and just talk to God about anything that is on my heart at that moment. I tend to get very emotional some days to the point of tears and I sometimes begin to cry out. Yesterday was one of those days. I poured my heart out and begged for God to reveal his purpose for me. After I did this, I sat in silence for a long time. With tear filled eyes, I glanced over at my mantle where I keep my Jesus Calling book on a little easel. For those of you who do not know or have ever heard of Jesus Calling, it is a daily devotional written by Sarah Young. It has a passage for each day of each month. It has gained huge popularity thru the years.  It reads like it is God Himself speaking to you. Also, at the end of each passage, it includes scriptures that you can look up that pertain to the message. This book has offered up a lot of encouragement to me and my husband during different seasons of change in our lives.  I do not read it every day, but I swear on the days that I do pick it up, it is relevant to what I am experiencing at that time. I won’t go into detail of my thoughts and prayers yesterday because they are personal and between God and myself.  I do want you to know that when I held that book up, something fell out the back. It was my daughter’s passport photo from Walgreens. My daughter’s little photo was on the inside of this bi-fold type envelope, but on the outside at the very top of this thing was the word “SMILE” in big, bold capital letters. Why or how on Earth this thing was in the back of my Jesus Calling book, I don’t know. There is no way on earth I put it there. Why would I do that? I have been looking at this book on and off for days, picking it up, putting it down, carrying it here and there. But, this thing fell out right then and there. I began to feel peace and comfort and more humble than I have ever felt because I had asked God to speak to me in some way or another.  My tears of sorrow immediately turned into tears of joy. God was telling me to smile!  Even though I felt like I didn’t even deserve it, but once again, here was God extending his grace to me and letting me know that He was there. He wanted to wipe my tears by telling me to smile. I was in complete awe.

After I calmed down, I then looked up the scripture that was referenced in my book and one of them was Psalm 5:3 which says:

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.

Whoa! If this does not get your blood pumping with excitement, I don’t know what will.

Whatever season you are in right now, whether it be good or bad, I encourage you to lean on God always. He will never leave or forsake you. I have always like Galatians 6:9 which says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” I’d like to encourage you today to not give up. Let this be a message of hope and encouragement to you as it was to me. Please know that as long as you’re still walking this earth, your life has purpose and meaning.  God hasn’t and will never give up on you. He has plans to give you hope and a future. He doesn’t want to see you sad. Seasons change. They come and go, but God will always remain the same.

From my family to yours, I pray many blessings over you and your families. We extend our warmest wishes to you and hope you all enjoy this beautiful Autumn season that is upon us!