Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cherish your Friendships... by Nina Keegan Owens

I just returned from a nice long weekend back in my hometown, a quaint little town just south of Chicago, Illinois. It had been a few years since I had been back there, in the area where I grew up. The small town vibe is such a vast contrast from the larger, more urban metropolis, not to mention hot, city of Houston,Texas where I live now and have lived for the last 15 years. As I drove through all the little main streets that dot the way and connect each little town to the next, I could not help but notice how so many things had changed in my old stomping grounds. There were some of the same old buildings with new businesses in them, a new name plate, sign, awning or shingle, proudly displayed out front declaring the different sorts of trades each building contained. There were entirely new buildings where old ones used to be. Many things were still so familiar, it was like being transported back in time. I often took for granted the natural beauty that surrounded me as a kid. Just 3 miles from my home Was Starved Rock State Park,a huge tourest attraction with it's amazingly beautiful canyons and majestic waterfalls that have graced the earth for millions of years. The falls would freeze each winter and offer yet another breathtaking phenomenon to behold. There are miles of endless wooded hiking trails lined with beautiful trees. The canal with it's sandy bike trails that follow it's long winding river path bosts the most beautiful landscapes. Paddle wheel dinner boat cruises light up the river at night with music that echoes through the town. Then there was the local municipal swimming pool, where I was once a lifeguard still looking as if not so much as a blade of grass had changed in it's surroundings since I was a kid.

I had a wonderful time for those few days "back home" seeing the sites again and visiting with family and friends. I have some wonderful friends there, friends that I grew up with, friends that know me better than I sometimes know myself. One in particular has been my friend for over 40 years. We met in kindergarten, just a couple of 5 year olds that would begin a life long, invaluable, friendship, that is still priceless to me today. We have been through it all together, good and bad, elementary school, private, Catholic, where we got in trouble for calling boys on the phone in the teacher's lounge. We were cheerleaders together, there were slumber parties, sharing lockers, summer jobs corn detasseling, boy friend woes, spring break trips to Fort Lauderdale, french club trips to Paris, Belgium, and Holland. We were on the dance team together, there were proms, homecomings, and double dates. We went to concerts to see our favorite bands and heart throbs from Tiger Beat magazine. We took turns visiting each other's colleges for fun filled long weekends! We have been there for all the important events in each others lives, graduations, bridal and baby showers, weddings, new babies, divorce, and moving away. She is even my oldest son's godmother.
Of course we still talk on the phone often, but getting to see her and reminisce, see her children, her husband, her home, means the world to me. Just being together...laughing non stop about the ridiculous things we had done over that forty year span, things no one else would ever understand, you just had to be there, and she was! In all these years we have never missed each other's birthdays, you know you can always count on that call and the laughs to follow on the other end of the line.

It occurred to me how rare it is today to still have a best friend that long. Someone that knows you better than anyone else ever could. It's like family that you got to choose yourself! Friendships now a days often seem so fleeting, almost disposable. We take them for granted and forget or fail to give them the attention they so greatly deserve. I cherish all my friends each one different in their own ways, some you admire because they are all the things you are not and some friends you love for all the reasons you are the same. eitherway, getting together with family and old friends is one of the best reasons to always "Go home"!

Friends are like little happy gems the Lord doles out to us because He loves to see us happy! It's as if He pours friends into our lives like randomly spilling a giant bag of skittles out and watching the pretty colors roll and topple and finally land in their resting spot, right where we serendipitiously happen to meet them.
Friends are angels God gives to us ...plain and simple!

After the weekend of getting together with different friends, that just followed a weekend of visiting another great friend in Dallas. I realized how truly blessed we all are to have such dear friends in our lives. Whether close or far, a good friend will know your best treasured stories but a best friend has lived them with you! You will always know you are wealthy in this life when you have friends because without them your life would be vastly different! A friend knows you completely, inside and out and understands where you have been and knows where you are going and loves you in spite of all your flaws. A best friend is someone who walks in when others walk out. They are a constant presence, a cushioned landing pad when we are about to crash. A true friend will listen and not judge, keep your secrets and be there for you when you are either celebrating or grieving, laughing or crying , succeeding or failing. Friends will always hear what you say but a best friend will hear what you don't say...

( proverbs17:17) Loyal friends love through difficult times...

We need to take extra care of our friendships and never let the ball drop. Go the extra mile to visit, call, write! Let's keep our priorities in check and always no matter what, have each others backs. It's never to late to pick up the phone and rekindle a neglected friendship. You may make someone's day today by being that blast from the past that puts a smile back on their face or gives them the encouragement they've been needing to hear. I truly believe that when an old friend suddenly crosses your mind out of the blue, it's God's way of saying,"This is my gift to you, a friend that you need as much as they need you back, pick up the phone!" Do not let another day go by without letting your friends know just how much you love them... Life is to short, keep making and living new memories laced with all the stories that are only hilariously funny to you and of course.... Your bestie!!!!!

( Proverbs18:24) Faithful friends are a rare treasure...

Heavenly Father, thank you for all of the wonderful friends you put in our lives. Help us to stay connected and to always try to be the best friend we can. We praise you in Jesus name!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Take Responsibility For Your Actions by Nina Keegan - Owens

I remember going to a parent teacher conference for my son when he was in 2nd grade. The parents all waited in the hallway until it was their turn to go into the classroom and have a chat with the teacher reguarding their child's progress and any other concerns. While we were waiting in the hall, the parents of a child that was considered to be somewhat of a trouble maker, and very disruptive in class, exited the classroom in an angry, hurried manor using explitives and making snide remarks about how they would just yank their child out of that blankety blank school, stating he did nothing wrong and that the teacher was out of her mind.

We all sat in shock as we witnessed the blundering actions of those parents. I remember thinking that these parents were not doing their child any favors by not having him take responsibility for his actions. He deserved to be corrected for his misbehavior so that he could make improvements but instead,the family would just refuse to take responsibility, sweep it all under the rug, blame it all on the teacher, and the child would never learn from his mistakes. This would just all start a vicious cycle in the child's life of having no consequences for his actions.

Kids who are never made to take responsibility for their own actions when they are young whether it be failing grades, bullying others, or even something as elementary as not telling the truth, will grow up to be adults that will never own up to their misjudgements either. This all results in a society of people that never fully get to enjoy their lives because it is spent feeling sorry for themselves . They always feel like they just got a bumb rap, that they drew the short straw, so to speak.

Irresponsibility is a huge problem in the world today, quite honestly, "The world does not owe you a living"!!!! For many people, their belief is that the world does owe them and they have to do absolutely nothing to earn it. The fact is, you get out of something exactly what you put in to it! It's the basic law of reciprocity. Reciprocity by definition, is an exchange of privledges.You will reap what you sow! We must be held accountable for our actions.

We are never to young or to old to start taking responsibility for what we do in life, every mistake and misgiving we fail to address is one we will never learn from. Precious lessons about life are learned through humbling ourselves. When we go through life believing that it is never fair, it never will be! The truth is, we have free will and a fresh, new opportunity every day to set the record straight, own our mistakes, by doing so we become responsible for filtering positive changes into our own lives. You simply cannot change what you wont acknowledge. Own it! Then change it!!

(James 4:10) Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up!

I think in society as a whole today, we tend to have real issues with taking responsibility for our actions. We play the blame game and the ever popular game of pass the buck! We see it all the time from politics to the news. People either try to cover up their irresponsibilities, indiscretions,and failures, or lie about them and start pointing the finger in every direction but towards ourselves. Excuses, well we can get awfully creative with those little viruses that can spread in us like a wild fire burning out of control. With each excuse we pile another log on the fire. For some people, concocting the perfect excuse is a perfected art form and a manipulation tactic that breeds life into an irresponsible, insecure, lifestyle that takes on a complete life of its own!
When is that day coming when we can just say, "I messed up, it's all my fault, I take full responsibility and will remedy the situation." We need to back up our words with actions so our word actually stands for something! Do you know how much better this world would be if we could just be responsible for ourselves? We can write our own ticket! Raise the bar! Acknowledge what isn't working, change what you dont like, learn more, achieve, grow, do! Set high standards for how you want to be perceived and back it up with integrity. The impressive examples we could set for future generations would make such a difference in their lives. Kids learn what they live.

We all have the equal and ultimate God given freedom, a free will to do and say as we please in this country as long as we obey those certain laws that are put in place for our safety and designed for our well being. It seems these laws continue to get blurry over time, they get smudged just enough that their very interpretation gets skewed. The envelope gets pushed. And it's hard to stay between the dotted lines. Ater a while, bad behavior and irresponsibility numbs your reality, the lines begin to fade and eventually you can't even see those dotted lines at all anymore.

(Romans 14:12) says, Behold each of us will give an account of himself before God.

You can either be accountable now or accountable at the gates of heaven the difference is, being responsible now , living right, doing the right things, making wise choices and owning our mistakes here and now, will give us joy and peace here and now.
Live a life you can be proud of while you have the chance. Take responsibility for your actions and set high standards for yourself and an example of profound excellence for others to follow.

(Proverbs 28:13)
A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.

Heavenly Father, help us to humble ourselves before you daily and take responsibility for our actions. Help us to grow in our faith and be a better example to others as we continue to walk in faith. thank you for allowing us forgiveness while we are changing our ways! in Jesus name!

"The final forming of a person's charactor lies in their own hands...".
Anne Frank 1929-1945

Friday, June 8, 2012

Angels Among Us by Nina Keegan

A friend once told me this true story about her 4 year old niece. The girl's family lived in a two story home and the child's room was over the garage with a window that looked out over the driveway. One day the girl's mother was calling for her and got no response. She began looking for her small child. When she got to the child's room she noticed the screen on the window was torn, she rushed to the open window to find her child's tiny motionless body laying on the driveway two stories below. By the time the woman rushed downstairs, neighbors had started to gather and call parametics. The hysterical mom called to her daughter who appeared to be lifeless. There was no response, no signs of life at all. The ambulance came and rushed the tiny girl to the hospital and they began doing scores of testing on the girl, never responding she lay asleep, not moving. As the test results began rolling in, to the Doctor's amazement, she had no apparent injuries, not one, no bruising, no head trauma, no internal bleeding . The child had not so much as a scratch on her body.The doctors were so puzzled,it was virtually impossible to have fallen 20 feet on to a concrete driveway and not even have a scratch. After 18 hours in ICU the child finally woke up. The first thing she asked was "where is the pretty lady in the white dress that catched me when I falled out of the window?" The woman she began describing in complete detail could be none other that of an Angel! Had she really been caught by an Angel? There could be no other explanation as to why she had no injuries. She was blissfully happy as she continued telling how the pretty lady laid her down and smiled at her until she fell asleep. She said she was not scared at all and that she wanted to see the lady again. It was nothing less than miraculous. The doctors confirmed that there was no other possible earthly explanation for what had taken place.

We have all seen Angels in movies, or pictures of them in art history books and in historic renaissance paintings from the 17th century. Some have flowing robes and wings and halos. None however, are more famous than that of the Angel "Clarence" in the classic black and white Christmas movie" It's A Wonderful Life." In this heart warming holiday tale, an Angel was sent to earth in the form of a man to help save a desperate family man on the verge of ending his life. Clarence earns his wings in heaven by doing a job well done. I have heard and read about countless stories of how people had been helped by the strong hands of an Angel. Many of the stories are so amazing with again no other explainable explanation. I began to research Angels in the Bible to see how it is that they are sent to help people in times of trouble and if they can be indeed right here with us on earth looking just like one of us.

(Hebrews13:22) says, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for in doing so some have entertained Angels unaware.

The scriptures say there are Angels
among us helping us and guiding us each day. Angels can be right here, in disguise walking with us, comforting us, protecting us. We may never know who they are, sometimes we may just feel a calming presence, an undeniable peace that we cannot explain. This is all how the Bible describes the mysterious heavenly beings we call Angels. These Angels are sent by God to minister to those who will inherit salvation. Angels have different gifts and talents, some are strong soldiers others, talented musicians. There are even some more famous Angels that we know by name like the Archangels Gabriel and Michael.

Jesus speaks of how if he wanted to He could ask his Father to send Him 12 legions of Angels to help Him and His Father would send them.( Matthew 26:53)
This means that even Jesus would have to ask His father to command the Angels to their post, their awaited assignment. We too must go through the proper channels and ask God first to send His powerful Angels to our aid when we need them. My daily prayers often include a request for God to keep His Angels always close by my family, constantly plucking them out of harms way and gently nudging them back onto the right path. I like to visualize the Angels surrounding my children like a sturdy hedge of protection, a fortified fortress, blocking the firey darts the enemy tries to throw their way. I think the more we educate ourselves about the help we have access to by knowing the Word of God the more we can speak life into those scriptures and reap the benefits of God's miraculous personal army of Angels.

( Psalm 91) Says, The Angels God has given charge over us to guard us in all of our ways, they bare us up in their arms lest we dash our foot against a stone.

God watches out for us so closely and loves us so intimately that He does not even want us to stub a toe on a rock. God has legions of Angels that He commands to help us. That is their heavenly job, a duty, a mission they have been entrusted with. They are always on assignment, instantly ready to catch us when we fall, help us when we are desperate, comfort us when we are sad and lonely. A legion of Angels has about 6000 in it. Imagine the magnificent vision we would witness if we were actually able to see that monumental army of Angels being sent our way to help us when we need them most. They are continuously standing guard like brilliant, robust, and amazingly strong, reinforcements ready to move on our behalf at the very utterance of God.

Pay close attention to how you treat others and be ever mindful that there are heavenly beings sent by God to roam the earth, searching for us, the ones that call upon the name of God and believe that we are never ever alone, that we are loved and protected and held close during our times of need.

Heavenly Father thank you for sending us legions of Angels to protect, defend, instruct, guide and comfort us and our families everyday. Help us to treat others always in the way that will make you proud, never knowing when we may be entertaining one of your Angels. We thank you and praise you in Jesus name!

"Every time a bell rings an Angel gets his wings!"
Zu Zu

"I saw an Angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.."

"We are each of us Angels with only one wing, we can only fly by helping each other.."
Luciano de Crescenzou

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happiness Is A Choice by Nina Keegan

I was reading an article recently about the divorce rate and the sad statistics of actually staying married these days... They really are quite bleak, but what I found really interesting was that one of the top reasons stated for divorce was that one of the parties just was not happy any more, or their spouces no longer made them happy.

I started thinking about how many times I had actually heard those words from different people over the years. "I'm just not happy any more!" People act like its someone elses job to make them happy. Like someone owes them something. It is quite the opposite, we must first be happy with ourselves before we can ever be happy with another person.

Nobody is in charge of our happiness but ourselves. We can actually choose to be happy!! Yes, happiness is a choice, one we can make each and every day reguardless of what the circumstances in our lives may be.
Happiness is a by product of joy, pure joy. We get to harvest that happiness each day just by making the decision to do so.

Every day in our lives may not be happy but there is something to be happy about every day! It's all in the matter of how we view things. Our perspective of what we think happiness should be can be very skewed. Happiness is so subjective. We are all so trained through constant commercialism and advertising that our joy comes from having an abundance of the latest material items, money and possessions. We are basically taught that we cannot be happy unless we have what everyone else has. Metaphorically speaking, we always think the grass is greener in our neighbor's back yard.

Some people will go their entire lives never enjoying or noticing the blessings that were right there in front of them because they were always in the hot persuit of the so called definition of happiness. Is it a certain status? Having money? A bigger house? More friends? Vacations? None of those things can cause lasting, meaningful, happiness. While we can be happy during some of these times or experience bits of joy during fleeting, temporary, moments. The lasting, eternal, happiness I am talking about comes straight from having a close, personal, relationship with our loving Creator. It is rooted in a peace that comes from trusting the Lord to handle all your cares, worries, and problems so you can relax and have joy and happiness in His Presence. It's knowing He loves you and wants to bless you everyday if you only ask. Happiness is not a simple word that can defined easily, it is different for every human soul, but rest assured your individual, radiant happiness will begin to inhabit your mind the minute you decide it's time to be happy!
We can speak happiness over ourselves, we can declare that we will have unspeakable joy in our lives like the scriptures promise us we can have.

The Bible also tells us that our words will not return to us void (Isaiah 55:11). That works both ways, when we speak words negatively or positively over our lives, we are calling those things to be. Our words will eventually become our truths.
If you say you can or you say you can't, either way you are right !

By choosing to be happy we can start seeing ourselves the way God sees us and we will start acting accordingly .

Happiness is letting go of all we think we need or want and remembering to be thankful for all we have.

(Ecc 3:12) says, For I know there is nothing better than for man to be happy always and find joy in doing good.

Happiness is helping others that cannot do anything for you in return.
It is never letting any negative memories from the past invade your future. It does not come from mindless pleasure but from simple victories. It's endless toothy smiles and a contagious laughter. Happiness can be a result of being entirely to busy to be miserable. It is having a wonderful hobby, a charity, a purpose that motivates us to be the best us we can be. It's using all the talents God gives us in uniquely remarkable ways.
Happiness is a conscious choice not an automatic response. It is an emotional state of mind and a well being that is charactorized by being positive. Happiness is a daily attitude of gratitude, it is pausing to count our blessings and being in awe of how many we really do have. It is cherishing our time with spouses and families. It is the awareness that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that God has orchestrated an amazing plan for each of our lives.

Happiness does not depend upon who you are or what you have, but solely on how you think and your perception of life and it's vast importance. It is knowing you matter, you count! God made you with an individual higher purpose that only you have. You have unique gifts and certain talents that no one else has, by seeking God you will begin to discover these gifts. In other words, find God, find your bliss!
Happiness is like an art form where by we are the creators, we get to design our own happiness, we all have the blank canvas, and a vast assortment of brilliantly colored paints, so start painting! We can make adjustments and refine our own joy by emphasizing our strengths and focusing on the good, while simultaneously trumping the bad and the negative. The more we begin to do just that the lesser the bad becomes and the more joy you will have. By keeping God as our primary life source, we can remain focused on the good, stay joyful, and grow more and more content until being happy becomes a welcomed habit!

We need to start each day seeking God first , basking in His blessings , soaking up all the good, the beautiful, and the peaceful, thoughts we can to last us through our busy days and start declaring that on this and all of our days we will make the wise choice to be grateful and blissfully happy!

Thank you Father that we can choose You each day and let You be the source of our happiness and not what the world is offering... We are so thankful for all of our blessings we praise you in Jesus name!