Reflecting and Projecting

At the end of each calendar year, I do this thing in my head. I ponder the year just ending and dream about the year ahead.

I think back over the past and I imagine the future … in context to today, the present. Keeping it in context to the present is important, because inevitably the past year’s impact has changed me in some way, molding me into who and what I am right now. Maybe not a better or worse “me” … but different. There is no status quo because we’re all constantly morphing as we’re affected not only by circumstances within our control, but also those outside our influence.

I’ll clarify for you. Simply put, I do some in depth soul searching of the immediate past, present and future. This process isn’t written down. It’s not a structured format I follow on paper, though I’m pretty sure there are great books and articles available to guide someone through a similar {and probably better} process, but this works for me and has done for many a year and I’m too seasoned to change now!  Lol! 

My thinking goes something like this ….

Looking back, how was my 2018 year overall? Did I accomplish what I envisioned? What did I learn? How did I grow? What could I have done differently, or better? Was it a good, bad or so-so year? And what was it about last year that has brought me to where I am in this present moment?

Next, I examine where I am and what my thinking is today, right now at this moment in time … and how did this past year impact me and bring me to this point? After answering my own questions, I will have gathered plenty of information about myself, who I am and what I did or didn’t accomplish last year … and most importantly who and where I am today, in relation to my life’s journey.  What did I learn? How can I do better? Do I like who I am? Am I proud of myself? Did I fulfill my purpose?

Keeping those thoughts in mind, it’s time for me to imagine 2019. Hallelujah! It’s a blank page. A fresh start. I can write my own story … or can I?  What do I want to accomplish this year? How will I do that? What actions must I take? What decisions will lead me in the direction I want to go? What do I want my lifestyle to look like during my pursuits? Who do I want to become in pursuit of what I want? What goals align with my dreams for 2019? Am I clear on my purpose?

And thus, I prayerfully consider the future.

This is a fun process in many ways. It’s a definite learning curve and a creative way to measure and evaluate performance under the scrutinous eyes of my own judgment. I’ve also learned that, as the year plays out, it’s rare for things to go exactly as I envision and plan. Life can and does throw unexpected curves. Sideswipes, darts and arrows at times! The straight and narrow path, leading to the envisioned destination, consists of twists and turns, and hidden intersections along the way, all demanding a choice be made. 

Then sometimes God interrupts our plans with His plan. Extenuating circumstances out of our control change the equation. Goodness, there are so many variables and annoying distractions in daily life! Our lives can change course in the blink of an eye, so it helps to be resilient.  Stay focused on your direction but be ready to change gears. Sometimes you must go with the flow.

Knowing all of this, is the reason each year I pick a “word” and a “saying” for the incoming year. It helps to ground me. My saying is usually a scripture {or something really profound} that sticks in my mind and won’t leave. I accept it as a gift from God, who knows the greater plan He has for me in the coming year. A plan which will undoubtedly trump anything I have in mind for myself … every time! I generally have no specific reason for selecting the word or the scripture. I just think deeply about my previous year, where I am and where I want to go in the coming year, and a word comes to mind as a result. Same with the scripture. It pops up and resonates with me. Somehow, the word and scripture are always appropriate for the year ahead.  

Take my choices for this current year of 2018. Last December 2017, I had no idea what I would face this year. I went through the reflecting and projecting process and had exciting big plans in mind. I envisioned I’d seriously start writing my book in early January.  I would also expand my health and wellness business … among other lofty goals. I selected the word “constancy” and my scripture was “Be still and know that I am God”.  I blogged about this last December and published it Jan 2 of this year. This is the title.  My feet, My faith. His will, His grace

Little did I know at the time of choosing how significant that combination would be in my 2018 journey, although I had sensed the year would be different.

I had barely stepped into January 2018 when God interrupted my plans with His plan. A phone call from my Dad on Jan 12th, his 97th birthday stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes you just know without a shadow of doubt you’re called to a particular action. I knew I was called. I felt it in the pit of my stomach and my whole being understood the bidding. When you get that strong of a call from God, obedience is the only choice. On 17th of January I was on a flight to be with my dad. My funeral dress was packed. Like I said, when you know, you know with conviction! After six wonderful days of our togetherness, my dad passed peacefully in his sleep on 24th January.

I buried all my sadness, disappointment, anxiety and fears in those few significant words. Those words of assurance and the unfailing support of my family and friends were instrumental in my making it through the challenges of the year. Only God knew the depth and breadth of how I needed them to get me through an epic year of highs and lows. To carry me through the grief and loss, to encourage me forward with new plans in the face of disappointment, at being unable to execute my original plan. To calm my anxiety for all required of me to settle my dad’s estate. And to embolden me with faith in place of the fears that would often rise to the surface during the months we spent in England, sifting and sorting belongings … almost 100 years of accumulated “stuff” … then shipping some family treasures to the US, readying my parents house for sale and dealing with the necessities of probate.

Each time I looked at what seemed to be insurmountable tasks, I commanded myself to “be still”. Stop fretting Anthea.  God’s got this. And miraculously I remained constant. Constancy. Knowing the power of God kept me sane and my mindset in the right place. Each time I felt myself stressing, I let go and let God. His faithfulness, my family’s unwavering support and encouragement, and with my man by my side, we made it through the year. Lord God, what an amazing ride you gave us this year. All glory to You.  

This Christmas, our family played a game that encourages conversations. We each had to rate the past year on a scale of one to ten. To everyone’s surprise, I rated the year a TEN! It was nothing like the year I had planned, but a memorable year of great magnitude. A year of huge personal growth, spiritual maturity and, although I was late in starting my book, at least I’ve begun. And while our business did not grow at all, and we lost traction, the blessings of the year were so much greater than I ever could have imagined.

It was a meaningful year of epic proportions and abundant blessings. A monumental year on all counts. Not of my own doing in any way, shape or form, but rather a gift from God. His grace. His mercy. His strength. His infinite love. I am your grateful and humbled servant. 

Now 2019 lies ahead. An unknown entity. I’m excited. As my vision unfolds, the associated plans are forming. Our family, our business and writing my book will feature prominently in the picture. I’m smiling as I wonder what God’s plans are. Only He knows for sure. We must wait and see. Meanwhile, I will go forward with my goals and, with great expectancy, I will pursue my dreams for the year.

But I will remain resilient. Watchful. Open and obedient.  I am filled with hope for the future. Here are my words for 2019 ….

Discernment.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”   2 Timothy 1:7

The Reluctant Participant

I slowly opened the envelope and stared intently at the words on the invitation while a flock of conflicting thoughts flew hither and thither inside my mind.

There was a minute or two of pure mental chaos! My first thought was to accept and go to the party, but ……….

Here it came! The dreaded “but”.  Of course you know the sentiment that follows a “but” usually contradicts what precedes it. The words after “but” seem to be more powerful and they often cancel out what was previously expressed.  Like “I really like holiday parties but ….”.   

In this case, an entire family of “buts” rushed into the white space in my head.

Disguised as excuses and reasons not to attend, these “buts” began to compete for my attention, talking over each other and rudely interrupting one another as they competed for dominance, using my head as their battleground.  Worse still, the clatter from these thoughts began to dull my initial desire, which was to respond in the affirmative!  The “buts” planted seeds of confusion causing me to doubt my positive reaction.  I was already fully booked during this holiday season, should I commit to one more thing?  Should I go, should I not go?  What would you do?

As for me, I took charge of my thoughts and quickly sent the “buts” packing.  I RSVP’d in the affirmative and squeezed one more event into my bulging holiday schedule.

“I can do this! I want to go! Well, don’t I?” I found myself saying.

The day of the party arrived. It was one of those days! I wasn’t exactly sitting around primping, pampering or painting my nails to look pretty for the festivities. My original plan for the day had sadly gone awry and I found myself on mental and physical overload.  Pretty much chasing my tail all day thanks to one or two unexpected side swipes that threw me behind the power curve. So, as I drove away from my last commitment of the day, all I could think about was getting home to sit by the cheery bright Christmas tree. That was a comforting thought on this cold December evening. To slouch on the couch with my honey, staring aimlessly at the flickering fire while sipping some hot mulled wine was an attractive proposition. I was ready to put my feet up, relax and be home!

As I pulled into the garage, I suddenly remembered! The invitation … the party. OMG! Anthea, you’ve got to show up at that party tonight! You accepted the invitation, you can’t bail out now. 

And so, the internal struggle with my racing thoughts began … once again! 

Another tug-of-war rant raged in my head! The battle of the yay and nays was in full force. Yay … go!  Nay … stay! My gut was encouraging me to go, but I was jaded from the demands of the day and not enthusiastic about turning my social switch on when I felt unsociable.  Nor did I relish the thought of braving the cold night air again.  While my instinct was saying “go”, the “buts” tuned in with … “ but your hosts will understand!”.  

The ‘buts’ pressed the point. “With the day you’ve had, it’s justifiable to call in your regrets. There’ll be plenty of other people there, they won’t even notice your absence. It’s a cold windy night, not a good idea to risk your health in this weather. They wouldn’t want you to overextend yourself. It’s okay to stay home.”

Then my conscience weighed in with my gut and the buts! Thanks a bunch for yet another voice in my head.  I really needed one more point of view, didn’t I?  Another opinion! This time a should! The worst kind of guilt accompanies a “should” doesn’t it? Don’t you just hate the parental tone coming at you?

Anthea, you should always do what you say! You should keep your commitments! It’s who you are. You were raised to be responsible! You should step up and go. You should, should … SHOULD!! 

Ugh! I screamed in my head! Okaaaaaaay!!  I’ll go.

“Darn it” I thought. “Goodbye to the tempting vision of tranquility and a night at home”. I took a deep breath and headed to my room to freshen up. I was raised to do what I say I’ll do. If anything is true of me it’s that I am one to keep commitments.  I knew I had to go … so I bucked up, dressed up and showed up.

But, you might say I was the reluctant participant. Sorry to confess, but true.

The chatter in my head continued as I drove to the party. I scolded myself on the way for being so quick to accept the invitation in the first place!  I chided myself for not listening to the “buts” point of view, which provided me with plenty of valid reasons not to go when I first received the invitation. 

I wondered who would be there and where conversations would go. Truthfully, my expectations of enjoying the evening were not that high. Not because of who would be there, or what we’d say to each other, and certainly my low expectation was no reflection on my delightful hosts, whom I dearly love.  No, it was everything to do with my own poor attitude, internal struggle and the infernal reluctance. I took another deep breath as I slowly cruised past their brightly lit home looking for a parking spot.  Too late now Anthea, you’re here, I thought. You must park and go in. 

I got out of my car with the host’s gift in hand, adjusted my attitude, marched up the driveway, rang the door chimes, and was greeted with a warm welcoming hug and a blast of Christmas spirit that smelled of gingerbread, pine cones and hot apple cider all mingled together. I crossed over my friend’s threshold … and stepped into one of the most enjoyable evenings. 

Can you relate to this experience?  Has it ever happened that way for you?

You accept an invitation and then when the time arrives, reluctance sets in for a variety of reasons. You look for excuses not to go, you argue the pros and cons of bailing out. You’re really torn by the argument in your head. You may even succeed in persuading yourself to skip the event.

Human nature can be strange at times. If I’d not gone to the party, I’d have missed a really, special time that included meaningful conversations with friends both old and new. Not just superficial chit-chat but deep conversations that blessed me, while I had opportunity to touch others in a special way. One never knows where one is destined to be … to touch someone’s heart and make a difference, or to receive a blessing that impacts one’s life … long after the party’s over.

The moral of this story is to conquer reluctance and enjoy life full out.  Decide to be the eager participant! Overcome the annoying chatter in your head and force yourself to boldly embrace all of life’s invitations. That opportunity may never come again. You may well discover the most wonderful time, as I did that night a few years ago.  Maybe the best time ever … because you were right where you were destined to be. 

What are your thoughts?

“There is a strange reluctance on the part of most people to admit they enjoy life.”  William Lyon Phelps

And the Dust Returns to the Earth as it Was

And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

The three times I’ve experienced death up close and personal, there has been no shadow of doubt in my mind that the spirit, and very essence of life, departs in an instant, leaving its human body, an astoundingly empty and lifeless vessel. As a Christian who believes in a loving, living God, I experienced both sadness and joy at that moment … simultaneously. Extreme sorrow from the loss that was overshadowed by an amazing sense of joy … joy that the spirit of my loved one returned to God.

My parents, who had almost 72 years of marriage, had requested that once they were gone, their ashes be scattered together. They didn’t designate where. They simply specified ‘together’. Since they met in Scotland during WWII, I thought it would be fitting to spread their ashes at the place they met and where my dad proposed marriage to my mother in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee Scotland.  

Their homecoming to Broughty Ferry was the very reason 8 family members joined Chuck and me for a memorable holiday in Scotland … for some a first visit to my country of birth, for others a nostalgic return, and for my cousin and her husband, who reside in Scotland, it was to honor my parents and enjoy a few days of family togetherness.

So here we all stood on the furthermost pier by Broughty Castle.

Photograph credits to David McIntosh

Mum and Dad had arrived from England, hand delivered by courier, the day before the gathering. This was to be a joyful laying to rest of their remains.  And indeed it was. 

Tuesday 9th October, was a cold, wet day and there, out on the jetty by the castle, the waters of the Firth of Tay, where my Dad often landed his seaplane, lapped all around us. The place was completely deserted. We were there alone. Perfect.

The privacy was greatly appreciated and, with the wind chilling us to the bone, we formed a circle around the urns containing our loved ones. Each holding two red roses tied in togetherness, and with the love of my life officiating, we honored my devoted parents with endearing passages, read by their three grandchildren and followed by words of remembrance from those who chose to share. 

With a beautiful acapella rendition of Amazing Grace still ringing in our ears, and a quick check on the wind direction, Chuck and I opened the urns and sprinkled my parent’s ashes into the swirling waters of the Firth of Tay, while roses flew in the breeze, landing with the ashes and floating randomly and beautifully in the current.


A final resting place, their dust returned to the earth, their souls long since abiding with God. Final closure feels wonderful. A few moments of reflection and we left in search of warmth and our celebration dinner. 

One fleeting last glance back over my shoulder as I wondered where the roses would end up, revealed two lone seagulls together, bobbing on the waters just beyond the roses, the only remaining onlookers.

Oh how God delights my heart and fills my soul.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”   Ecclesiastes 12:7

Heartfelt thanks to granddaughter Holly Tripp who captured the video portions of scattering ashes and tossing roses. 

Do Roses Grow in Heaven Dad?

Happy Father’s Day Dad. It’s been 5 months since you left to be with Mum and I rejoice that you’re together for eternity.  I’ve been thinking of you all week and find my mind wandering … and wondering … upward to heaven.

The weeks have flown by and 8:00 a.m. each day has come and gone and the phone sits there … silently. I miss your familiar ring and our daily chats and even though I know full well you’re not here to call me, the habitual phone call of so many years has left an imprint of expectancy … that we’d be talking, so I thought I’d dial you up in heaven and share some thoughts.

I’m so grateful for those last six days we had together before we had to say goodbye. I’ll never forget our little chats … and meaningful glances that spoke loudly of understanding. No words necessary. I’ll always remember the gratitude you expressed for the life you led and how you reminded and assured me of all the good times we’d shared, and then just hours before you passed I mirrored some of those good times back to you. I still bask in the sunshine of the smile that lit up your face momentarily.

Oh Dad, do you now know how God so favored your life? He surely blesses mine.

I’m wondering. Do roses grow in heaven Dad? Do you still love them or have you discovered a more beautiful heavenly flower?  More vivid, more fragrant and more alive? My fanciful mind races with these unanswered questions, yet my heart believes that heaven, by all accounts and promises, is indescribably beautiful, so why wouldn’t roses bloom there … with every other flower known and unknown to us here on earth?

As I write this I have only to turn my head slightly to catch a glimpse of red roses arranged in one of your skillfully-crafted pottery vases, adorning Nannie’s writing bureau. In the past, a bouquet of real flowers would catch my eye in the store, but too often in the busyness of life, I walked on by, or I talked myself out of buying them. No more! While my garden doesn’t produce an abundance of fresh flowers and dozens of roses, as yours did, I shall buy them regularly and keep the vase replenished with the beauty of fresh flowers … including roses.

I’m doing really well Dad … I thought you’d like to know.

Everyone in the family is healthy, busy and happy, and we are so grateful for many blessings. I trust you know how greatly you and Mum are loved and missed by us all. I had intended to create a commemorative video of your life for Father’s Day, but alas, it would not have done you justice {nor lived up to my standard} for lack of time prevailed and I decided to pace myself and place no deadline on its completion. In spare moments, I’m scanning old family photos into files for preservation, some of which I’ll include in the forthcoming video.

I want you to know that the New House sale has completed and although it was sad to let it go, you’ll be relieved to know that a lovely couple are moving in to make a happy life there. Guess what? Like you and Mum, they returned to England after living in Australia. What a coincidence!  Dad you’re smiling now because you know what I’m thinking!  Yes, it’s too coincidental … more likely it’s by design, part of God’s greater plan. Incidentally, the lady remarked on the abundance of rose bushes in the garden … and I shared the reason why there are so many.  So you see, your stories live on!

Everything we packed up and shipped here arrived in good condition. It is like Christmas as we unpack the old familiar paintings, pottery and other meaningful and sentimental family treasures you left for us. We’re so grateful for the memories each item brings and thankful you used your God-given talents and creativity to the fullest.

All is well Dad.  Each day is full and rewarding. My thirst to live life with passion has never been stronger. My faith in God grows daily. I place my hope and strength in Him. When the inevitable arrows of this world hit hard, He is my rock. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. Gratitude fills my heart and my soul sings … my cup overflows with joy.

Do roses grow in heaven Dad?

If they do, will you gather a bouquet today?  Consider them a gift from me to you … I wish you Happy Father’s Day … and I thank my Heavenly Father that you’re my Dad!  

Sending love to you and Mum from all the family!

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; Psalm 103:13

It’s Time to Go Back to the Future

There’s no going back – or so the saying goes, but I beg to differ.

I’ve found there are times in life when you must back up in order to free the space required to maneuver from where you’re stuck. I’ve found myself in that very place in recent days … needing the space to maneuver upward and onward.

It’s not so much physical space like a parking spot, but rather that coveted, precious white space in the mind and soul where peace and understanding dwell.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the past since January.  Memories of all kinds have dominated my waking moments, crowding out the present at times and forestalling any thoughts or plans for the future. I’m not saying it’s been bad, or was time wasted … I’m simply stating reality.

When life hits hard, you do what you must to navigate through the maze of challenges and emotions you’ve never experienced before, in order to survive unscathed … and hopefully emerge stronger and wiser than before.

But now it’s time to go back to the future.

I’ve always been a forward thinker and very future driven, while striving to live in the present, but in the aftermath of my Dad’s passing, I was swept backwards into the past … and despite the desire and effort to extract myself, circumstances held me captive and I’ve been helpless to escape the magnetic pull of all that belongs in yesteryear.

I mean how could I free myself? The reminders engulfed me like a shroud. All the artifacts, photographs, books, letters, the old familiar inanimate objects, scents from long ago, and of course a bazillion memories … happy and sad ones … all reached out and sucked me into the vortex of the past.  I finally succumbed.  I decided to let go and see where this sojourn back to bygone days would lead. I let go and let God.

There’s peace in surrender.  

This last visit to my parent’s house to empty the few remaining items in readiness for its new owners was freeing in a way I never expected. I thought it would be hard, that I’d be sad to leave. I even half expected my jangled emotions to lay strewn all over the map in full view, but to my surprise and delight, a few days prior to leaving, I found myself looking eagerly toward this next chapter in the book of life.

I don’t know what changed. Perhaps it was about timing, or maybe I reached a level of acceptance, or something magically released me from the hold of the past. Some things are meant to remain a mystery so it’s not for me to question the how or the why. 

What really matters is I’m thankful for today … for my life. I look back to the past with love and gratitude for my parents … and I will carry forward loving memories of beautiful bygone days. My spirit sings with joyful hope and expectancy. It’s time!

It’s time to go back to the future.

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” Winston Churchill

A Celebration of My Dad’s Life

John Anthony Shipperlee, whom we all know as “Tony”, was born in Leigh-on-sea, Essex, on 12th January, 1921. He was an only-child with an enthusiastic and adventurous spirit, whose loving parents encouraged him to play the piano, sing in the boy’s choir and join the boy scouts, where he was a drummer in the band and participated in numerous Drumhead parades in the Oxford area. Athletically inclined, his favorite sport at Southfield School was rugby and he was also an avid train spotter, but his artistic talent was undeniable. He loved to draw and he was rarely without a sketch pad, or far from his easel and paints. Continue reading →

Christmas is Here! Breathe Easy.

As so often happens when I express what’s in my head and on my heart, the words take on a life of their own and run away with me … and I’m led into something much deeper {and lengthier} than I first intended. This is a continuation {part 2} of my last post called “The Holidays Are Here! Just Breathe!”

The original post was intended to be a short blog entry not a book, so I decided to turn it into a two-parter. Lol!  Thanks for sticking with me and my random ramblings about the holiday season.  I’m hoping the forthcoming message helps you in some small way.

Continue reading →

One Minute to Contemplate

When I’m at home in my oh-so-familiar surroundings, the busyness of life so easily captures my attention and it’s easy to succumb to it. I find myself being pulled here and pushed there, sometimes swimming upstream against the current, at other times I’m carried by the strong undertow of today’s fast-paced world.  Occasionally I’m running down several paths at once, caught up in the doing this or that, and going hither and thither. 

Can you relate?   Continue reading →