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Sheltering trees

The first tree to begin a color change is in my neighbor’s yard. I notice is as I walk.

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I love trees, and I’m still planting them. At my age, I know there is a chance they will not mature into their full height before I am gone, gone from this house or gone from this earth. Still I plant.

Just this week, I planted five little saplings, weeping willows and curly willows I started from cut branches. They have been happily growing in a pot by the walkway until this fall season when I hoped we might get steady rain. With the dry summer heat predicted for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be carrying water all over the yard.

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I have planted a number of the trees during the time we have lived here. I’ve watched them grow, and now I enjoy walking among them. One dear to my heart is a 22-year-old Bradford Pear. It has lived its lifespan. I read that it is not a favorite tree anymore because of the shortness of its life. Yet it grows bountifully here.

We planted it at the gravesite of our beloved poodle-mix dog who lived to be 18 years old. She was the pup our son grew up with. She died the year he married. The tree is as old as his wedding anniversary date.

It blooms beautifully in the spring, spreads its arms wide in the summer, and rewards us with golden-red leaves in fall.

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Two oaks on either side of the yard were grown from tiny seedlings. There are others the squirrels planted. They stand tall and straight, established and stable.

Some of my trees were nature planted. Thank you, sweet birds. Then there’s a crooked little apple tree close to the lane that bears small tart apples in a good season. Years ago my dad noticed it sprouting up in the lawn and protected it from the mower.  Perhaps it started from a tossed apple core. I trimmed it this week, its branches sprawling in a unique formation. I think of my dad and how he loved all things green.

As the seasons change and leaves fall, I discover bird nests in the forks of branches. Environmentalists say trees encourage wildlife on the property, offering food, shelter and a place to build a home. The trees are my offering to them.

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There is something comforting when I walk among the trees. I especially like to walk under them, in the shelter of their branches.

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When Maisie and I take our daily walks down our lane, we pass a group of tall oaks growing on the edge of the little woods. We’ve stopped there when it was raining and been protected from the downpour. In the heat of summer evenings, I’ve felt the coolness drift toward us in that particular spot, the green leaf covering changing the temperature ever so slightly. It catches me off guard, a curiosity I stop to enjoy.

My friend texted me this quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and I so identify:

“Friendship is a sheltering tree.”

My friends have come from varied places and in different ways, some in the form of family members and others randomly placed in life’s pathway. Relationships formed by what seemed like an accidental meeting. Other times the friendship developed as the result of being sought out and purposely planted. I’ve found friends at school, in neighborhoods, at church, in the community. These are people I treasure and are as varied as the shapes and fruit on my trees. And I love them for their unique qualities and how they enrich the soil of my soul.

They shelter me, these friends of mine. I find consolation from their presence and our conversations. They offer encouragement when I need it. Their words are honest. Their hearts are true. Their prayers strengthen me. Their love makes me a better person.

In the beginning, the Lord God planted a garden. He called it Eden.

While Eden is no longer, there is still a garden where friendship flourishes. A relational God created us for relationships. We desire it, crave it, need it. It is His gift to us.

Friendship takes effort. It takes time. It takes investment. It requires nurturing. If neglected, it can flounder and we will find ourselves lost without it.

Cherish the people God brings into your life. They are more important than jobs or possessions or bank accounts. God has planted eternity in the human heart. As we honor our people, we find them to be our wealth, the true and lasting riches we long for.

Friendship is a sheltering tree.  Hold dear your friends. And be a shelter to someone else.

 

 

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All things pumpkin

I’m just in a pumpkin-y kind of mood!

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? The lovely weather here in my old Kentucky home is perfect for fall, and it puts me in the mood for harvest, flannel shirts, and walks in the cool of the evening.

I went to one of my favorite discount stores this week and walked over to the isle where the fall items are on display. I’m still resisting a purchase that I don’t really need. Then I saw the flavored candles. I don’t need a candle. I made a mistake when I lifted the lids of the jars and began to sniff.

The Cinnamon Pumpkin flavor went in my cart. Who can resist? And don’t I want my piano students to smell autumn when they come in the door each week? Of course I do.

On Facebook I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake from DinnerAtTheZoo.com. It sounded so delicious I had to try it. And oh my goodness, it is good! Hot from the oven, it was a taste of Fall Heaven. Here is this easy and wonderful recipe. You’re welcome.

101_1725.JPGThere’s only one piece left. It’s tragic.

As I pass McDonald’s on my way to the interstate,  the marquee shows Pumpkin Spice Latte is back on the menu. I’m really not a sweet-coffee drinker. A little too much froufrou detracts from the coffee taste for me. It’s just my preference to have it strong with half and half. Nothing more. But I do not judge those who are doing a happy dance about the seasonal offering.

Pumpkin spice

 

As I was driving my cousin home this afternoon, I saw a sign at a local farmer’s market that it’s pumpkin patch time. We can go to the field and pick our very own, the size and shape that fits our needs. I’ll take two pie pumpkins, please.

I found a new package of Scentsy Pumpkin Roll bar I purchased from a former piano student who is now married and mamma of two. Time flies and now she is my go-to Scentsy consultant.

I broke off three cubes for my warmer. A lovely aroma is wafting through the house as I type. The sweet goodness is making me hungry. And there is only one piece of the gooey cake left.

God created the seasons, and He gives us all good things to enjoy. I am finding pleasure in what He has made as fall begins. I honor Him when I pause to notice what He has done, and then give Him praise.

Thank you, Lord, for pumpkins.

 

August ending

August seemed to linger. Maybe it’s because it is the end of the summer. Maybe because the days are still rather long, though daylight is shortening.

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August weather was unusual this year. The expected hot days of the season were few. Milder days and cool nights enticed me to open the windows. Several evenings I was lulled to sleep with sounds of night creatures in the little woods.

The solar eclipse on the 21st was a Big To Do on TV, in classrooms, and at the Wright House. I was glad I didn’t live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The anticipation of it lasted longer than the actual event.

While there were about two minutes of total darkness in the center path of the eclipse, our location experienced a light temperature change and the sensation of dusk or storm clouds gathering. The solar shades I got from my public library made looking at the sun not only safe but so very cool!

I noticed that nature seemed to still as the sun darkened. When the moon moved on and sunlight began to return, the birds began to flutter and sing like it was a new day. All in all, it was fun experience.

Sweet William and I visited the state fair and a family wedding. The events were totally unrelated, but both were delightful in the good old summertime.

My neighbors’ chickens have started laying eggs regularly. The first morning Sweet William and I heard one of them cluck over her effort, we looked at each other and said, “What was that?” It was a new sound. Now I smile each time I hear it. Charming little chicken, you should be proud.

Maisie is in training, dog training. Actually, we are all in training since it’s the humans who need instruction. We began our six-week course in beginner obedience classes. Dogs from 8 weeks to 12 years old gather with their owners, all of us trying to accomplish the same thing, a well-mannered, furry companion. After three weeks, we are coming along nicely. Of course, we think Maisie is the cutest and smartest one in the class.

And just let me say, it’s all about the doggie treats. I am impressed at what Maisie will do for a treat.

As always friends are part of each month. I got the opportunity to visit a young man who was in our youth group years ago. He reminded me I was also his first boss at the YMCA. He is living the grown up life now, helping me navigate the inner workings of computers, way beyond what I can understand. It was a treat to be in his home and experience his hospitality.

My neighbor and her little boy came one afternoon for a sewing lesson. While we sewed, the little guy hung out with “Uncle Bill” in the room next door. I enjoy passing along a skill I learned so many years ago; at the same time I enjoy my neighbor’s company and watching her little one play with the old toys I cannot bear to get rid of.

I had a live phone call from someone who lives a couple of hours away. As I sat on the deck in the cooling day, she and I chatted and caught up with each other. We attended a retreat together over ten years ago, and it was a bonding time for us. Though we are miles apart, our friendship is still fresh.  We both remarked that sometimes we just need to hear a real voice. Texting and messaging are quick and convenient, but they do not replace the human connection we crave.

A surprise hibiscus bloomed unexpectedly near the end of this month. That it appeared and is thriving is a marvel, since I thought this lovely plant was lost when it didn’t appear at all last year. The garden can be such a wonderment.

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The children are back in school and school supplies have been replaced with Halloween paraphernalia in the stores. Really, already? As I talked with my last piano student tonight, we both remarked that we are ready for fall. August gets us ready.

September invites me to settle down, to clean and sharpen the yard tools and put them away for the season. Cool days and cooler nights await us, falling leaves and bare  branches, and the autumn sky that has its own patterns.

THE MAGNOLIA JOURNAL MAGAZINE 2016, INSPIRATION FOR LIFE & HOME, PREMIER ISSUE.

I have a fall issue of Magnolia Journal I’ve been saving for September. And the latest Mitford novel by Jan Karon, To Be Where You Are, will be coming out the middle of the month.  Two invitations to relax and enjoy the season

 

We never know what life has in store. Each day offers blessings, surprises, and much grace. Let’s don’t let our busy schedules keep us from experiencing the abundant life God has offered. It’s there for us, with all of its ups and downs, sideways and crooked turns.

No matter what a day or a season brings, God is in control. He is a faithful and good Father, and He may surprise us. There will be beauty arising from what seemed lost and redemption just when we need it most.

His ways are good. Believe it.

 

September ending

This month breezed in with sweet temperatures that only teased me. A few days of coolness were temporary. Then the heat of summer grasped the heel of September for dear life and would not let go.

I was disappointed.

But as the month comes to an end, fall is in the air, and I am happy as a duck on the pond. Windows were flung open to bring in fresh, gentle breeze. I pulled on my fuzzy socks, my flannel shirt, and have even enjoyed chill bumps on my arms.

Ahh, Autumn. I’ve been waiting for you.

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Maisie and I walk in the early, brisk morning air, and she is excited like I am. The bird sounds are different; some of them have already flown south. The sky has an autumn look about it, and there is just a hint of color beginning in some of the trees. The last of the summer roses bloom, and the goldenrod is tall.

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I am enjoying more sunrises and sunsets since the days are getting shorter. Our walks converge easily with dawn and dusk.

I started leading a Bible study in September, actually two of them. Same study with one in the morning and one in the evening. I know. Call me crazy. Two precious sisters offered their homes for us to gather, and our time is sweet in both groups. When we do Bible study together we challenge and we encourage one another. We need each other. God made us that way.

I had never really studied the book of Hosea in depth until now. He speaks poetically and in contrasting themes. Harsh judgement and tender compassion nestle close in a matter of a few verses. God urges His people to return to Him, the One who has been their strength, their provider and their glory. But they were not satisfied.

Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was not satisfied with her new life either, though her husband rescued her from the pit. He gave her a home, children, safety and a new identity.

I see myself in the stories in Hosea. I have been given so much; yet sometimes I want more or I want something different. How easily we become discontent with our blessings and look for love and satisfaction in all the wrong places. Like sheep, we are led astray and wander from true Love.

Sweet William and I traveled to an adjoining county this month to visit a friend who recently moved to the country. She and her family have acres of ground now after moving from the suburbs. Her hospitality was like a deep cleansing breath to me. While our visit only lasted a few hours, it took my stress level down a few notches.

I’ve been reading The Walk series by Richard Paul Evans this month. I am into the second book, living in this fictional story of Alan Christoffersen, a man whose life suddenly turns upside down. He determines to walk from Washington state to Key West, Florida. Evans describes the experiences and the people Christoffersen meets along the way. The messages in the books are thought provoking.

“I do not know what lies beyond the horizon, only that the road I walk was meant for me. It is enough.” — Richard Paul Evans

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I learned something about communication this month, or perhaps renewed my understanding. Though we quickly send words and messages – texting, facebook, email – there is no substitute for sitting across from another and talking face to face. I want to see the expression of the eyes, hear the inflection in the voice, observe the crinkle of a smile or the gathering of tears. I think we cheat ourselves today in our effort to be efficient and get a lot done. We are missing the deeper places of the soul by not giving attention and focus to those we hold dear and those we want to know better. We miss the connection.

I had the opportunity to give back this month, to help as I have been helped, to offer compassion as God has shown compassion to me. It gave me joy, proving that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

This week I invited a friend for brunch who is a fellow gardener. I was embarrassed for her to see the pathetic shape of my yard and what was supposed to be the gardens. But I knew she loved me and would not judge. What totally surprised me was how, after our meal, she went to her car and retrieved her garden gloves and tools and began to clear out weeds. I joined her and before she left, portions of the yard began to take shape and look more like a garden than a jungle.101_1094

Sometimes friends completely surprise me with their kindness. I see the goodness of God in people. While there are troubles everywhere, we need only look a little bit more to see how God’s love and compassion infiltrate the world.

This month I was reminded of Psalm 73:25-26: Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I had written in my Bible that I wanted this as my 2016 goal. Somehow I forgot and went my own merry – or perhaps more aptly, my unhappy, discontented – way. I focused too much on what I didn’t have than on the numberless blessings and gifts surrounding me at every turn. My heart failed a little and my strength weakened.

How gently God led me back to the place I left. Like Gomer left Hosea and like Israel left their Lord, I am also prone to wander. But God comes for me, always, and takes my hand and brings me back home.

And home is my comfort and the place I most want to be.

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August ending

Another summer month has been scorching hot. I have endured August, the month with no holidays. While it moves toward its end this year, I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go.

September entices me to come and enter in.

Sweet William and I went to the Kentucky State Fair, and we recalled it was there we had our first real date. When we were young and starry-eyed, we met at church, talked and got acquainted. We might have sat beside each other during the services. But he actually came to my work place to take me with him to the fair. I remember what I was wearing. I rode the Ferris wheel for the very first time. With him.

This year’s fair experience was so different from that day long ago when we were on the cusp of being adults. We thought we knew what it was all about; we really didn’t have a clue. Life has taken us on a wild roller coaster ride. If we had not been buckled in tightly, covered by God’s hand, we would have been thrown into the blue yonder.

Now that I think of it, we’ve come pretty close.

Our Maisie girl endured the heat with us. We’ve walked together morning and evening, both of us fading quickly. She escaped from the house – the fourth time since we rescued her – and all on my watch. She slipped through the open garage door running straight toward the geese in our yard. I think she’s been wanting to chase them since she got here. But this time, she came back quickly with the shake of the treat jar. It was not so much her running from us, her people, as it was a fun romp that got hearts pumping, the feathered friends’ and ours.

My cousins met for lunch in August, the ones from my mother’s side of the family. All but one of our parents have gone to be with Jesus now. The aunt who joined us for lunch is still going, though not quite as strong as before. She still sets an example of keeping healthy and being busy about living. She plays the organ at her church each Sunday.

I enjoyed time with the cousins. Though we live within a 30 mile radius of each other, we all have our own schedules, families and responsibilities. A couple of hours together is precious. We laughed about our experiences growing up. We talked about current concerns. We recounted our aches and pains and the medications we take. We are family and we delight in the pleasure of what that means to us.

I’ve worked in the yard when I could for as long as I could on these hot days. I came in wet to the skin, face flushed, heading for a cool shower to lower my body temperature. I accomplished some tasks yet not nearly enough to be satisfied. I contemplate how to simplify the gardens, not knowing exactly how. I must if I am to enjoy the yard next year instead of it being a noose around my neck.

I read a James Herriot book for the very first time, recommended by a friend who shares my taste in books and authors. Herriot was a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England during the 1940s. His experiences with the animals and their owners are both touching and humorous.

As August ends, I look back over 2016, reading through my journal. I realize I am dealing with something internal, indescribable. Not a disease, but something just as real and uncertain. I don’t know what to make of it. I see some of my words, and I want to understand myself, the message written at this particular juncture of my life.

I am seeking the face of God, the Spirit who lives within, the One who is with me always, to discern what I am supposed to learn in this long season of emotional ups and downs. I don’t understand it right now. I hope to soon.

September beckons. Leaves will change to jewel tones. Days will shorten and nights lengthen. Harvest is here and pumpkins will appear. Birds will ponder south-bound flight.

I want to put away garden tools for the year. I want to snuggle into what is familiar and safe. I want to connect with family and friends. I want to drive down a country road with Sweet William, us together in heart and mind. I want to hear a fresh word from the Lord who makes Himself known to me and makes His overtures toward me. I want to hear His music in my heart. I want to dance to His rhythm.

September’s autumn awaits. I am ready for it.

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Simple graces for the journey

Sweet William drives and I look.  He watches the car ahead and I read the map directions.  He is the pilot and I am the co-pilot.  We make a good team.

Sometimes a drive in the country is just what the doctor ordered.

The beauty is all around for the taking in.

Brushstroke clouds that turn to cumulus and then hang heavy amid blue sky that shouts but later whispers.

Trees that are just beginning to trend toward their true colors.

A flash of red amidst green, a little show-off in the trees.

A chipmunk scurrying and I wonder why I think he is so cute but not his country mouse cousin.

Safely navigating our way with an assurance; underneath are the Everlasting Arms.

Darkening skies, shortened days, reminding me that earth’s seasons change and so will mine.

The earth is full of God’s glory, there for the beholding of it, for the pure enjoyment of its splendor.  If I am not careful or if I am too care-filled I might miss it.

I don’t want to miss it.  Not a single moment of His grace.

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September ebbing

Fall has officially arrived and the season is gently settling in here at my Kentucky home.

Nights are cool and opened windows call for an extra blanket on the bed.  Days are warm with incredibly blue skies and the whitest of clouds.  The sun shines and begs for me to come into the yard to enjoy summer’s last flower offerings.  I hear whispers that there are jobs still to do outdoors.

Many of my morning singers have flown away, yet I still sit in my rocking chair at day’s dawn with the window cracked open hoping for a little song.  Sometimes I am rewarded for my hope.

Jeffrey-Jeffrey, the calico cat who seems to have adopted us, now expects breakfast and dinner each day.  He meows for companionship, just a touch or a pat, and I oblige.  I rub his soft fur and wonder where his people are.  I used to see him coming through our little woods from another neighborhood, but now he is here much of the time.  And I wonder if he is missed by someone.

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I miss our little dog, gone from us now two months.  He filled a place in our hearts and our home.  My early morning routine is just not the same.

The morning glories bloom gloriously on the deck.  They were a surprise this year.  Their dormant seeds decided to grow and bring their purple beauty back to me, a gift to be enjoyed.101_0558

My flannel shirt is out of the closet, my sweaters and scarves looking more inviting.  Soups and chili and pumpkin spice lattes are calling my name.  I need to bake a pumpkin pie.

I bought gourds at a craft fair last week and they put me in a seasonal decorating mood.

Summer holds like the leaves still clinging to trees.  I hold on to summer with one hand while reaching for the coming season, not really wanting to let go but knowing there is something else, something new, something to discover and revisit at the same time.

Seasons come.  Seasons go.  There is a time for each one.

It is in the seasons that I see the faithful God, the One who created the plan and holds me in His hand.

All things change.  But He remains the same.  And I am thankful.

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