Sunday grace

With just a few days until Thanksgiving day, my mind turns to the tasks at hand.

I wrote my list of food to prepare, grocery items needed, and made a plan. Wednesday is marked “Cooking Day” in my bullet journal.

Sweet William and I visited Wal-Mart yesterday, filling our baskart with staples for the pantry, while maneuvering around other shoppers with the same agenda.  The perishables are on the list for next week so they will be fresh, meaning another day in the food isles.

I anticipate the short trip to my cousin’s house on Thursday where tables will be beautifully set and aromas will greet us at the door. I can’t help but think of those who will not be at the table this year, and my heart longs for them as always.

In the pre-dawn, I sit in my rocker and read the Psalms and other verses, struck anew at the generosity of God through Jesus Christ. Such lavish love poured into my heart. Such amazing grace reconciling me to become a member of God’s the family. Such hope that does not disappoint because the Holy Spirit within me is a deposit and a guarantee of more to come.

How can I not give thanks?

For God has done great things for me, from the small to the gigantic, from the simple cup of strong coffee in the morning to the very breath I take without thought; for shelter, food, and clothing to precious relationships of friends and family that  enrich my life; from eyes to see and ears to hear to the beauty of a world created for my enjoyment and comfort; from the privilege of making requests in the very presence of the Holy to miraculous answers to my prayers.

From being an outcast with no hope to being adopted and accepted, blessed and delivered, the promise of a future with Christ forever.

So I will praise my Lord with all that I have. I will sing and make melody. I will write my thanksgiving list, making it thoughtful and lenghty. I will rejoice in answered prayers with my prayer partner on an early morning phone call. I will remember the goodness of God.

And astonishingly, my thanksgiving will please the Father’s heart.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord . . . “

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The cold crispy morning compels Maisie and me to dress in our warmest. The sun is barely rising, and frost covers the ground. Fallen lives crunch louder under Maisie’s feet and blades of grass look sugar-coated.

Taking our normal route on the lane, I spy the flag. How can I miss its enormity? My neighbor, a veteran, hung it from an upper deck of his house, it all unfurled in the glory of a freedom it represents.

How can I know the cost of what is free?

I recall the stories my dad told of his time in Europe for 25 months. He knew exactly how long he was gone from home and loved ones. He told the funny tales and the times when God intervened for him. I don’t remember so much him telling the dark side of war.

War has a dark side, and every veteran in combat experiences it to some degree. I sit in my warm house and walk freely on my lane because some put on the uniform and gave their best.

I want to thank them all, thank them for their service and their sacrifice. I want them to know that I value the price paid when giving themselves costs more that I’ll ever understand. I want them to feel my appreciation for every effort they made to secure the life I have.

Is saying, “Thank you for your service,” when I see a soldier even enough? Does that convey my gratitude sufficiently? I doubt it does. But at least it’s something I can do.

And so I say it with a heart of thanksgiving. Thank you for your service. May God shed His grace on thee.

Sunday grace.

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Go gently

The calendar tells me I’ve entered the second week of November already. Time flies when we are having fun. And life is a blast, this I know.

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With the final session of a ten-week Bible study completed this week, something that consumed much of my thoughts, I am setting myself a goal to go gently into the remainder of 2018. We’ll see how that goes.

Endings always bookend with beginnings. I anticipate God has something else in store. I can’t wait to see what it is.

As I consider the last two months of this year, I hear the siren song to enter into a season of frantic activity. It’s grasping fingers began reaching out as school supplies were replaced with Christmas decorations on store shelves, and my eyes wandered to the embellishments of the holiday, stirring desire.

But do I really need another ornament?

I recall the years I was crazy with activity. Not this year. This year will be different. I will be different.

Sweet William and I have already talked about celebrating with less stress, less of an agenda, less on the To-Do-List. Contrary to popular opinion, Thanksgiving and Christmas are founded in faith. They are deeply spiritual times for me.

In my effort to stay focused on the important thing, I’ve renewed my daily discipline to list gifts in my Joy Journal. The more I focus on the goodness of God, the more I see His presence all over my existence. His blessings abound. Thankfulness and contentment permeate the atmosphere.

I’m committed to keep the fall russets and burgundies, along with the mantel arrangement, through Thanksgiving. It deserves its on ceremony. I won’t rush it out the door, only to replace it with glittery reds and greens. I take the challenge to give thanks in all circumstances.

I want to be aware that these year-end holidays can be the most difficult for some who will deal with an empty place at the table. Loss and grief cannot be stored in the closet with old decorations. It will be hard, remembering past years and wondering how to make new traditions with a loved one missing. While bliss may be filling some hearts, may I be sensitive to those whose eyes fill with tears.

Weighing how I can honor the year-end holidays, I evaluate what I can let go, what I want to keep. I desire to focus on what is truly important. To fret less, to love more.

One suggestion I intend to honor is rest. “Schedule a rest day each week during the busy holidays.” This is not an option. When every day includes appointments and activities, with no down time for family to relax and refresh, stress levels rise and the enjoyment of said activities decreases. This year, I will choose carefully when to say “yes” and when to politely say “no.”

I will choose my people over my scheduled projects. How easily I can lose sight of those around me when I have lots to do. When all is said and done, what I want to remember, and what I want others to remember of me, is that we had time for each other. That we looked at faces when we talked. That we listened with the heart. That love was the main thing.

Go gently into the days and weeks ahead. Mark what is eternally valuable. Then do that.

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Sunday grace

As the fog clears from my brain early this morning, I remember her. It’s her birthday.

I plug in the coffee pot and turn the numbers on my perpetual calendar to November 4. And I think of that day 18 years ago when she entered this world.

I missed being at the hospital, thinking we had plenty of time to get there. Her three-and-a-half-year old sister was brought to us in the night while mommy, daddy, and the second set of grandparents hurried to labor and delivery.

I carried a pager in those days, and that was the thing that alerted me to the news. I listened to the message of “we have a baby girl,” with a mixture of joy at her arrival and disappointment at missing this important moment.

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I suppose I made up for that one time not being there by being here in the house next door to hers. For ten years she lived close enough for me to hear her playing in their yard, to see her wave and shout, “Hi Grammy.”

I found two pictures recently of the lane in front of our house, and I wondered why I had taken them with no apparent reason. Then I spied three tiny figures walking toward our house. With a magnifying glass I could see them, my three grandchildren, ages three, four and seven on their way to Grammy and Papaw’s for who knows what kind of adventures. Hot cocoa, dress up, games, books – these were possibilities. She was the one out front, skipping along while her older sister held the youngest by the hand. Sweet remembrance.

They always brought the sunshine when the door opened to them, whether they came by one or by three.

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We two are miles apart now. I miss getting to celebrate with this special young woman today. Our connection is the Birthday Box I priority mailed to arrive in time. It contains items I hope will please her, and a sealed zip bag of my special hot cocoa mix, because that is a memory we hold and my Happy Birthday wish across the miles.

She’s a busy girl now, with school, choir, friends and family activities.  She’s beautiful and graceful, funny and creative, loving and her own unique self. I’m happy that she is happy, flourishing, and becoming.

But I miss her. Especially today. On her birthday.

So I pray a blessing to the Father who knows no distance. Whose hand reaches mine and touches hers. The One who holds her life in His strong hand and knows the way He plans for her to go.

I trust and believe that He hears my prayers for her. His heart is tender towards mine and the longing I feel. He sees the tears that gather in my eyes even as I write.

My Father’s heart is tender towards her too, His love far greater than mine can ever be. He has a future for her, and He will guide her to it.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. 
Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have Breath.”
Psalm 116:1-2, NLT

Sunday grace.

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October ending 2018

October is two days gone and I’m already behind. It’s like being on a speeding locomotive, the months of this year moving so quickly. Before I twirl around a couple of times I will have whizzed through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it will be next year. Stop! Slow down, please.

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Kentucky weather is interesting if nothing else. I had to grab my corduroy coat, complete with scarf, hat, and gloves for my morning walk in October. Maisie wore her purple “Woof” sweater. It was way too soon for both of us.

woof sweaterThe few days that were warm enough for me to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee were especially enjoyable, maybe because they were rare. Isn’t it like us to finally appreciate  what we’ve had a-plenty but now long for? We become satiated and lose the enjoyment of the abundance we possess.

Having dismissed the yard work for the season, I did plant a couple of tiny trees in my cousin’s yard. It’s what I can do for her and her husband after a summer of dealing with illness and recovery. I’m praying those little saplings dig their roots deep into the earth and flourish next spring. New life speaks the language of hope.

Sometimes in our enthusiasm, we want to do great things for God, large and far-reaching. With the wisdom only living gives, I perceive it is in doing the simple and ordinary that we descern the pleasure of God. “Do what is in front of you.” “Do what you can with the gifts you have.” “Do the small things well with love.” Yes, that is the guidance presented to me.

I got to visit my younger friend in an adjoining county. Going alone this time, I was quite confident with my trusty Gypsy (GPS) telling me where to turn. Even at her directions, I passed the drive to my friend’s house, which happens every single time. The trees and telephone poles all look the same along that stretch of highway.

Arriving at her house, she showed me her latest project. She’s always got one in progress. Her home is comfortable and beautifully decorated. We ate and chatted about family, faith and things familiar to us until it was time for me to go. I’m so thankful she reached out to me a couple of years ago, just a message on Facebook that lead to a connection and friendship. God does amazing things when we are open to His leading and then open our hearts.

The book most impacting me this month was Hiding in the Light , autobiography by Rifqa Bary. Her story was in the news in 2009, a Muslim teenager who found Jesus as her Savior, with the resulting conflict in her family. It was a gripping story, a glimpse into a different faith and a young woman’s courage, and a striking contrast of God’s grace. Highly recommended.

Sweet William and I played old hymns at a dinner for the widows at church. It was an elegant and detailed event to bless the women and show them love and support. The songs stirred up memories for all of us, I think.

It was satisfying to be at the keyboard and guitar once again. There were years Sweet William and I joined the band every single Sunday, playing loud, playing long, worshiping God with the gifts He gave us. We reminisce about those good years of serving, how our hearts were tuned in to the worship, how the Lord showed up in our praise and blessed as the Spirit moved among us.

There’s one song I’ve been remembering and singing. My favorite version of “Ain’t No Grave” is by Russ Taff. His excitement is contagious, and I want to celebrate with him. I notice that when I talk of my age I’m speaking in decades now. My years are adding up swiftly, and I’m trying to come to grips with its brevity.

My body feels the affect of living long in a broken world. I move slower. I am concerned about balance and the risk of falling. I pray to stay strong and for my knees to last. I do things I hope will keep my mind sharp. I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned through books and experience.

If Jesus tarries coming for His bride, one day my life here will be over and I will go by way of the grave. There’s no fear or concern in that. I’ve rested my hope in a risen Savior who defeated death and handed that victory to me. It will be glory. And there “ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down!”

Bible study has been a major part of the last two months.  The women who gathered at our table each week, have no idea how they bless me. We are hungry to know God, stretching our faith to Believe Him. I’m coming out of this study richer for the fellowship as we journeyed together. We bond as we open God’s Word and share our hearts with each other.

The month of October has been busier than usual. I’m still trying to figure out why, hoping to plan a quieter, less stressed November. I think it is possible, even in a culture that presses me to believe enough is not really enough.

Time has limits, the same as my body, my finances, my resources, my years.  Autumn reminds me to slow, to observe, to turn loose, to draw upon the blessedness of my existence and believe my Creator has it all in His hands. Contentment continues to call me with an alluring voice. “Come, be filled with joy in the abundance of God’s bountiful gifts.”

He is good. He is strong. He is enough.

 

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Sunday grace

Our ten-week Bible study is winding down. On Tuesday this week we will begin the final journey. The last seven days are always melancholy.

I review my index cards. Beth Moore encouraged us to write Scripture verses on simple 5 by 7 inch cards and keep them within arms length, helping us memorize, helping us remember.

The last couple of weeks I have considered my life, once again, remembering the work of God along our pilgrimage together. As I walk the lane that is so familiar, memories rush in from every house, yard, tree, and mailbox of my neighborhood. This place has been home to me for decades.

I witnessed the changes that brought both joy and heartache. I recall prayers prayed and prayers answered. Faces of my family emerge from the recesses of my mind, swallowing me up with the enormity of a God very present in a life like mine.

The years add up, and Sweet William and I sometimes grapple to recall a word or name that is familiar and on the tip of our tongues. I pray for my mind to stay strong, to be healthy, to be able to call to mind things that I learned, events from days past, what I know for sure.

I pray for the Lord to help me remember.

As we took part in the Lord’s Supper this morning, the simple act of taking bread and juice, eating and drinking, are for the purpose of remembering our Lord Jesus who gave Himself completely. Such a simple practice reminds me: Don’t forget.

“The Counselor, The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”         — John 14:26

I’m believing those words, recorded in my Bible and written on one of my index cards. I’m keeping both of them close to my hands and my heart.

I don’t want to forget.

Sunday grace.

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On being busy

I’ve been wanting to write a post on busy-ness for over a week, but I’ve been too busy. And I chuckle at myself.

Pondering busy for days now and how I relate to it, I’ve considered the then-and-now practices of spending my one wonderful life. Just recently my good neighbor said, “You’re always so busy,” after I offered to help her with a sewing project. My response was: “I’m busy because I find things I want to do. . . . I’ll probably die busy. At least I hope so.”

A number of years ago, a close relative – who will remain unnamed – suggested I might want to start a support group for busy people. It was said in jest cloaked in a measure of truth. You recognize the underlying meaning of those comments when you hear them.

I’ve been an actively engaged woman, no doubt. When I was employed full-time outside the home, out of necessity to provide for my family, I also tried to keep the homes fires burning. Involved in ministry and volunteer positions, my adrenaline pumped hard. I went from one appointment to the next, with a daily list of things to accomplish. I seemed to thrive on it, even boasted a bit about how much I could get done.

I was playing the role of Super Woman without the cute costume. I didn’t allow for a Sabbath rest. I was burning my candle at both ends.

I remember when God dealt with me about rest, how I needed to allow it and plan for it. I was in an extremely difficult season of life, a place of utter dependence on God.

Desperation has a way of opening our ears to hear.

My weekly rhythm needed a change. I determined to do all I could the six days leading to Sunday. Then, after church, I closed my planner and chose rest for the remainder of the day. It was life changing. And I’ve been a cheerleader for rest ever since.

Still, I’ve continued to lead a busy life because this is who I am.

My mind works routinely at high speed. I think of projects I’d like to do along with the everyday tasks of life we all  must accomplish. I like to create, experience new things, organize, read to learn about the world and the people in it. Often when I sit to watch a movie, my hands have something to do.

This season of a lively life is different from a few decades ago. These days my weekly list usually includes time with people, scheduled or impromptu. I love that kind of busy. Opening the door to friends and family who gather around our table brings a richness and flavor to Sweet William and me. Preparing a crock pot of soup with toasted bread and fruit, setting the table, and the clean up afterward call for a certain amount of busy.

The rewards are well worth the energy expended.

 

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It has been an active week for me, actually several weeks of being hard at it and on the go. This morning I woke knowing I had no pressing obligations and the house to ourselves. It’s what we need today. It’s the rest required after the busy.

So I catch up with some paperwork, anticipate leftover soup or spaghetti pie for lunch, and stay in my pajamas a little longer than usual. I put off running some errands until tomorrow so I can retreat and take refuge.

Today I rest and reflect, and I finally have time to write this post and cross it off my list.

The overcast skies have already given a little rain, making it feel like a day to snuggle in. Maisie and I wandered the lane this morning in the mist. I admired the color changes emerging slowly this autumn and she kept her nose to the ground.

I’m about ready to put on another pot of coffee and relax as I sip its warmth it. Because I’ve learned the art of rest. And it’s a beautiful way to spend a day.

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Work was never the curse from the fallen days in Eden. Work was given as a blessing. A day of rest was also given to bless us, restore us, and help us realize we are not super beings. We can’t keep going 24/7.

God is the one who never slumbers or sleeps. He is omnipotent and needs no time off. He is ever vigilant and watchful. He is always working.

We find our rest in the Creator, the Lover of our souls whose work in us goes on without end.

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