The hope of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbly yet with the air of royalty. This man is different, unlike others before. He holds crowds sway with His words of authority. He speaks and dead men live again, the lame walk and the blind see.
He confounds the wise with His stories and calls out the motives of the powerful. He walks on water and calms the wind like a restless child.
He keeps company with an unlikely and rowdy bunch, parties with publicans and tax collectors, and has intimate conversations with outcasts.
As he rides into the city amid proclamations of Messiah, knowing that their honor will be short lived, He sees the heart of the matter. He perceives the thoughts and intentions of those giving Him praise now.
While the parade proceeds, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of year-old sheep are being chosen and affirmed Passover lambs. One lamb for each family, it is marked for death in just a few days. As households gather for their annual celebration meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, they will tell the story of their deliverance from Egypt and hope for another Deliverer.
Do the people fully comprehend that here He comes, riding on a donkey? This One was proclaimed Lamb of God by John at the river Jordan. He is the One Abraham prophesied, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” On this Sunday, designated now as Palm Sunday, He is marked for death in just a few days. Crowds will gather at the foot of the cross as His blood pours out for whosoever will.
He is Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come to set us free.
Rising earlier than usual, the stillness envelopes me. The house is warm with the season of spring, needing no furnace or gas logs. I open the window next to my chair, and the distant sound of birdsong filters in. It’s too soon for the winged creatures to begin their pre-dawn chorus. And yet, there is one, out in the little woods, and he sings to me.
Sweet William breathes the heaviness of sleep in the back bedroom. Maisie checks that I am OK, then trots back to bed, her sleep-in habit.
The morning quiet is mine alone.
After awhile, I hear a sound, in the wind, in the trees. It’s the sound of rain in the distance. Did I miss that weather prediction? I listen carefully because I know the music of raindrops.
Memory takes me to decades before when I sat on the upper deck of my parents’ house, us facing the west, watching as the dark clouds hung low and rain moved toward us, over the hills into the field beyond until the spattered drops were heard on the tin roof above us.
It’s a sweet remembrance, me a young mom sitting with my mother and dad talking about whatever was on our minds. I shared a lot with them in those days, but I still kept a certain part of me hidden. Things that seemed unsolvable were closed off from everyone, kept under lock and key lest anyone might know what really troubled my heart.
Those hidden parts would be the death of me.
Another memory invades my thoughts. This time in a room other than my own, displaced and fearful of the future. An open window near a borrowed bed and somewhere a bird sang through the night. Its melody brought comfort to a weary mind, me with the uncertain days ahead, with a taunting fear rearing its ugly head.
In the middle of that torment, my Heavenly Father sent a bird to sing me to sleep.
Eventually, the doors of my secrets were pried open. Brought into the light, a gentle Savior would reach for all of it with a promise of restoration. “Believe and see the glory of God,” He whispered into my tears.
It took time for healing, for broken things to be repaired, for beauty to come from ashes. It took hard work, confession and forgiveness, a path turned in a different direction.
The sound of bird and patter of rain remind me that God is always near, always working, always has a plan.
And His glory is revealed in the song of a bird and the sound of the rain.
March bursts with hope. Spring officially begins, signaling fresh life after winter’s cold, grey days when the only color is a darting red cardinal in the stark little woods. Birds sing in chorus early dawn. A myriad of sprouts push through hard soil. Even the dreaded daylight saving time that subtracts an hour from me and won’t be recovered until fall gives me more light in the evening hours. It is a month of hope and a time for singing.
As March began, I started an eight-week Bible study with an incredible group of women. Kelly Minter’s studies are some of my favorite. Working our way through No Other Gods, we discover the internal workings of our hearts, how even a blessing and gift from God can become an ultimate thing to us, and then false god.
Meeting weekly to discuss what we’re learning doubles the rewards. One week we answered the question, “What are you afraid of?” The women answered: “being left alone;” “who will take care of me?” “will the retirement account last?” “will my children keep the faith?”
Speaking aloud our fears was courageous and somehow took the sting away. As we face the unknowns, we recount the faithfulness of the God we serve, His everlasting love, His strong arm to keep us and those we love. We are assured, once again, that greater is He who is within us than he who is within the world.
I’ve been playing piano and keyboard with the worship band at my church. It’s nice that they let this silver-haired senior join a great group of musicians. I’m practicing a lot and enjoying the experience and camaraderie.
A neighbor’s little dog has taken to wandering to our house when he gets loose. When Maisie and I are out, she is delighted to see Boone and wants to play. Boone has the advantage of running free while Maisie is tethered to her leash. They enjoyed their little frolic, but I feel her sadness as he trots home.
I’ve notice people using the word organic a lot these days, and not necessarily when talking about vegetables. Apparently relationships develop organically and businesses grow organically. Words and their meanings evolve over time. It’s interesting how culture shapes definitions.
I’ve been reading poetry despite that I find it difficult to comprehend the poet’s intention sometimes. So I’m choosing a series of “Poetry for Young People” from my library. This month it was Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou. It helps if I read the poems aloud. It helps that there are hints to understanding the poem on each page of the book. And it helps that I’m learning like a youth, which is fine with me.
While browsing my library, I happened upon a couple of books about downsizing, took them home and then I wonder what that is about. Is it our time? Many of our friends have dared to purge their belongings and move somewhere smaller and more manageable. They’ve let go of life-long collections and lightened the load of a former lifestyle. They talk like it is freeing. I’m not sure we are there yet, but apparently I’m thinking about it.
My granddaughter and I had a “chat” via text about gardening. She remembers the mint in my herb garden, spearmint, apple and chocolate. She bought some for herself and sent pictures after she planted them in clay pots. It’s endearing to know she has good memories of our time together when she was young.
I invited my four-year-old neighbor to help me prepare a pumpkin patch between our houses. He came with his boots and gloves. We laid cardboard on the ground to kill the grass and put wood chunks on top to keep it in place. He talked about all sorts of things as we explored the yard and lake, discovered bird’s nests and watched geese sitting on eggs. We picked daffodils and grape hyacinths for his mother, gathered sticks and collected rocks and pine cones.
I remembered when my grandchildren were small and living next door, how they loved to come and be in the yard with me. It didn’t matter what we were doing just as long as we were doing it together.
After the work and the walk, my little neighbor and I went into the house to fix coffee for his dad and Sweet William who were now visiting on the deck and hot cocoa for him. He said, “You make the best hot cocoa,” making me smile. When I added some cookies to the tray of coffee cups, he exclaimed, “It’s gonna be a party.”
Taxes are prepared, filed, and crossed off my March list, along with a number of other goals. April has its own agenda: cleaning out the garage and moving tender plants to the fresh air and sunshine; oiling and sharpening garden tools; cutting a tree that succumbed to the windy storms. The yard is calling to me. It’s time to get to work.
My body moves slowly and I know gardening is going to be a challenge. I notice my hands when I’m teaching piano, the raised veins and pronounced wrinkles of living a long time, and I wonder how I got this old. Sweet William said it happened one day at a time. Sometimes he is profound.
I would not go back to youth unless I could retain the wisdom I’ve gained, the one advantage of age. I’ve received several hard-fought degrees in the School of Hard Knocks. I’m working on my Ph.D now. My dissertation will be the end of my life and the legacy I leave behind. I hope it is a good one.
I’ve decided April is the new January. After essentially hibernated during the first months of 2019, it’s time for adventure, for anticipating spontaneity and serendipity.
The season of Lent will end and Palm Sunday, Easter and Passover are holidays to celebrate. It is a time of holy preparation, a time to remember and rejoice, to expect a miracle, to believe and see the glory of God.
The gas logs burn in the dark of dawn, and I snuggle under the quilt, sitting in my rocker, sipping hot coffee. It’s spring they say. The cold chills me. And the bird song filters in through the closed window in the morning hours.
Maisie and I walk, me bundled in my corduroy coat and a scarf at my neck. Buds on the forsythias are peeking yellow. I cut some long branches, put them in a vase of water, hoping for spring to bloom in the house.
A redbud tree sustained wind damage a week ago, the multi-part trunk broken and a piece of it lies near the ground. I’ve done nothing with it yet. It makes me sad, this beloved tree I planted to commemorate the first grandchild’s birth almost 22 years ago.
While the geese move in pairs, one female already sits on her nest, like she’s trying to get a jump on the others. Her head is bent low and curled into her body as she tries to stay warm. Her mate swims and eats grass, always near but still living his goose life. She sits faithfully in the waiting.
The moon is full in the night sky. It will wane and wax as the season of Passover approaches. I observe its phases this time of year and remember the familiar story in Exodus.
The Israelite people, in Egyptian bondage, clothed in their slavery, crying out for deliverance, wondering when it would come. In their waiting, God was moving to bring his plan to fruition. A Passover night would symbolize their deliverance and point to their future.
We all wait for something. We do it patiently in hope or we live with frustration and anxiety. It’s my choice.
I wait for spring to fully form. I wait for prayers to be answered. I hope in the waiting, knowing that God is strong and God is good.
I became acquainted with Christie Purifoy when I read her first book, Roots and Sky. The story of her moving to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, with her husband, three children and one on the way, moved me, and I gave copies of the book to friends.
The writing is lyrical, sentences and paragraphs creating song and melody. As Christie describes the places she and her family lived, she tells a story of life and loss. And she talks about trees.
Chapter titles are named for them: Citrus Grove, Pine Tree, Saucer Magnolia, Honey Locust. Because making a place you call home is not just about the building where you live. It is about the city, the neighbors, the parks, the church family. It’s about settling in and calling this place home for however long you are there.
I’ve not lived in as many locations and states and Christie. My homes have been within less than a fifty-mile radius from birth to present day. Yet home, with all the meaning I can give it, is significant. Memories evoke the places where they occured. The yard where I celebrated a birthday with childhood friends. My teenage upstairs bedroom with white cape cod curtains. The carport with wood neatly stacked ready to be carried inside for the fireplace. The kitchen where my mother taught me to cook and the one where I orchestrated thousands of meals. The lane where I walked to visit a neighbor. The gardens where I planted herbs, vegetables, and flowers, bending low to pull weeds and cultivate something akin to beauty.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Placemaker:
“Making and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. It is a holy pursuit.” “Every place made by God is loved by God, and that includes every place where His people dwell. If we are willing to look through the lens of His love, then we will see that every place has some particular magic.” “The trees know what we struggle to accept: it is right and good to love my neighbor as myself. My fate, and my neighbor’s fate, are bound up together. No human and no tree are an island.”
Placemaking is making a place, whether that is creating a comfortable home for husband and children, making room for friends at the table, getting to know the neighbors and looking out for one another, or opening one’s heart to love and be loved.
We’ve all been given places to inhabit and to tend. Christie Purifoy tells us her story in her own beautiful way.
[God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:26b
Maisie and I walk a half lap of the lane. The temperature is cool, the sky overcast.
The make-shift wooden bench, salvaged from the neighbor’s garbage last year, sits at the edge of the yard. Maisie wants to wander still, but I stop, not needing to rest, but needing to be still.
I gaze at the lake across the road, the geese as they swim and waddle ashore. The gander follows her goose as he leads her to the nibbles in the grass.
I begin to breathe deeper, something I don’t do enough. More often my breaths come in quick succession, enough to keep oxygen flowing through lungs and heart, blood carrying it where it is needed.
The deep breaths are cleansing and I feel myself relax in the quiet. Birds sing their evening song, a last hallelujah for this day, to the Creator who has provided for their needs.
As I turn loose of responsibilities and things on my list for tomorrow, my head clears and I listen for the voice of God. He speaks in the still, smallness of my awakened sense to Him.
He plants a question, His way of turning my awareness to my heart, to search out the deep recesses of my soul, to open doors that I often close and latch from the seeing world.
As I rise from my bench, Maisie restless to move on, the question lingers. I will ponder it in days ahead. I will come again to this place and sit to rest from my weariness, to hear and discern the voice of God, to gain understanding and insight.
For this is my Father’s desire: to draw me away from bustling to the place of quiet rest; to speak tender words of love to the tenderest parts of me; to reveal Himself once more so I can know Him even more.