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March ending 2019

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.

Prepare. Remember. Rejoice. Expect. Believe. It’s time.

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August ending 2018

What can I say? August is just hot. And it’s going out like a firecracker. Except for a couple of days that teased us with cooler temperatures, we have endured. Because August is about enduring to the end. I’ve been thankful for a fully functioning air conditioner, cool clean water, and ice cream.

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Among the books read this month, one of special interest was Quiet,  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain writes as an avowed introvert herself. She explored research and studies describing how introverts and extroverts are wired differently, how they function and cope differently, and how an introvert can thrive in a culture that often applauds extrovert personalities.

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As a child and teenager, I heard the comment more than once, “Peggy, I wish you wouldn’t talk so much.” It was meant to be facetious, because I was not talking. I suppose the person meant me no harm and hoped to elicit my participation in the conversation. But it didn’t. It actually wounded me, making me retreat even more into my reserve.

Growing up shy was painful sometimes, especially in junior and high schools. I have since learned to cope in a talkative, gregarious world. I’ve even developed the ability to speak publicly with a fair amount of confidence, though I over-prepare and sweat it out days before. My comfort zone is to be quiet and in the background. I suppose it is what makes me a good listener. I crave periods of silence and time alone when I can re-energize.

Quiet was revealing and affirming. It showed the positive characteristics of introverts  and how the world benefits from people like me. Understanding myself brings comfort and reassurance that I am OK after all.

I also discovered that I am an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, confirming my introversion and other personality traits. While I’m still trying to understand the letters and meanings, apparently I am not as unusual as I sometimes felt.

In August, it becomes obvious that the days are getting shorter, though it started on June 21. It isn’t nearly as hard to get up before dawn. My tiny wren in the little woods now sings at 6:45 am with fewer birds joining him these days. It’s the last songs of summer.

I had one especially busy week this month, with multiple appointments on six of the seven days. I began to feel stressed as the week progressed. I used to thrive in that environment, keeping all the spinning plates in the air without daring to drop a single one. They were not my best years. Without fully realizing it, I lived in a state of tension, trying to maintain a pace I imposed on myself, trying to please everyone, not knowing how to say “no.”

I’m walking a slower gait these days, pacing myself between activity and rest. I more carefully consider commitments. I plan down time after heavy activity. I enjoy and look forward to a Sabbath rest each week. But this week proves sometimes I forget.

This month I kept a “Done” list , jotting down tasks I completed during the day that never appear on my To Do list. Things like fixing a really good breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen after meals; washing and folding loads of laundry; practicing piano; watering the plants. It was an interesting exercise, seeing the value of everyday activities. I probably won’t continue the practice, because it’s just one more thing to do. And that I don’t need.

I’ve shopped the local Farmer’s Market this summer. My own garden has not yielded decent vegetables the past couple of years. So instead, I’ve enjoyed wandering the booths at the market and meeting people who do well at growing tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, peaches, fresh eggs and sausage from happy chickens and pigs. It’s my way of supporting the hard-working farm families in my area.

 

 

 

In the spring, I planted sunflowers around the lambs ear and white violets. The seeds produced well, stalks with multiple blooms. I pass them as Maisie and I walk, and they remind me of a friend whose husband died this year. As his illness progressed, she prepared a “Sunshine Room” for him with a sunflower theme to brighten his last days. I’ve thought of my friend as I passed the big yellow flowers. It’s been a long, hard summer for her.

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It’s a jungle out there in the garden, the weeds flourishing in the heat and unusual amount of rain. I finally took the weed eater to the garden and  sprayed weed killer with a vengeance until the yard looks relatively well under control as I write. There is still much to do to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I’m waiting for a break in the weather. Even with the weeds, late summer flowers are glorious.

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Sweet William and I have found ourselves cheering for our high school volleyball team. We got free passes for all the county sports events just because we are seniors. I love senior benefits. It makes getting older almost worth it. We will take our seats on the bleachers at several schools to applaud and support family and friends who play ball, and instruments, on the field and the court.

August ending means summer is ending. Children are back in school, parents are back on schedule, and big yellow buses create additional traffic.

 

As always when August winds down, I’m ready for fall. There’s a gently used, flannel shirt from a summer yard sale I want to wear. I need to raise the windows and let fresh breezes blow. I’m ready to snuggle under the quilt at bedtime and hear the night creatures instead of the constant whirring of a fan. The summer decorations  are being put away. Pumpkins are on my mind. I have a yellow mum blooming on the front porch with the promise of another whose colors will be a surprise.

August is a month of enduring, of getting through the summer and its persistent heat; of cutting grass and pulling weeds; harvesting the last of crops; and being ready to finish these jobs for the year.

There are things in my life that feel like August. They simply have to be endured. Some are niggling irritations; others are painful thorns in my soul. We endure grief, we endure health conditions, we endure a longing for those we love. We wipe our brow as we work through the struggle, and sometimes we cry. We pray for relief. The answer we receive most often is “Trust Me.”

On a video I watched recently, Jennifer Rothschild said something like this: “True contentment comes in the midst of difficult circumstances.” The Lord knows how I’ve sought to learn contentment and fought for joy.  She also said, “Thorn removal is not sufficient. Only grace is sufficient.”

Sufficient Grace. It is my song and my theme. I know it to be true. I depend on the Lord’s sufficiency and not my own. But sometimes I forget.

The beautiful and enduring hymn, It is Well With My Soul, reminds me to sing praise when the scorch of trials burn my flesh and weary my heart. Even when all my circumstances are not going so well, my soul can still be well. It is well with my soul, because I am safe in the arms of Jesus.

This is more than just enduring. This is victorious living.

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All God’s colors

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for listening to me to share my thoughts.}

Few experiences are as pleasant as reading to a child. It was a favorite activity when the grandchildren were young. One of them climbed into my lap, I opened the book, and memories were made.

They each one had their favorites. Cinderella and Good Night Moon were among them.

I especially like board books for little people. They can touch and handle and no one need worry that pages will tear or a book will be ruined by small hands.

All the Colors That I See, by Pamela Kennedy, is a delightful board book in a just-right small size for little fingers. It offers a bright and attractive beginning reading experience. As the title implies it is multihued. The left side pages are a single color with the color word written in the middle of the page. On the opposite side are cute illustrations, by Holli Conger, and a verse about the color with an action suggested for the child to pick out, point to, circle or count the particular shade.

“Blue sky, blue sea,
so much fun!
Count all the bluest blues
under the sun.”

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The opportunities to learn words are on every page, making it interactive and fun.  A multi-striped chameleon appears throughout the book, and God’s creativity is honored as the book ends with:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
–Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

It’s just a pretty little book with lots of possibilities. I like it and would gladly read it to my four-year-old next door neighbor. In fact, I just might.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of All the Colors That I See  provided by B&H Publishing Group, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.

 

 

 

 

Rainbows tell a story

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

The Rainbow was God’s idea first, a symbol of promise, a sign of beauty to remind us that He is a covenant-keeping God.

And so I was intrigued to receive and review the Rainbow Study Bible, Christian Standard Bible from B&H Publishing Group.

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Opening the pages, I see color throughout, twelve different hues, distinguishing portions of Scripture with the goal for the reader to better understand.

“The design is according to a layman’s perspective to make teaching, studying, and categorizing as simple as possible.

“Generally, verses are marked as they make up a major passage containing an overall collective thought.”

The colors divide thoughts into these categories: God, Salvation, Sin, Evil, Love, Family, Prophecy, History, Discipleship, Commandments, Faith, and Outreach.

There are three pages giving details and explanation to help familiarize the reader with the topics. In addition, at the bottom of each page of Scripture is a color code making it easy to reference quickly.

Additional study helps in the book are impressive: the books of the Bible in Biblical order as well as alphabetical order, multiple maps and illustrations, table of weights and measures, ancient versions of Biblical text, 365 popular Bible quotations for memorization and meditation, a one-year daily bible reading calendar, harmony of the gospels and more.

From the 365 popular Bible quotations, I looked at the verse for today, and wouldn’t you know it. It was just what I needed to hear. So like the Holy Spirit to speak through the pages of God’s Word.

The Rainbow Bible is hardcover with a ribbon page marker. Print is large enough that I don’t have to strain my baby blues. And of course, the book is beautiful with its colorful pages.

My only concern is that the color hues are very close in shade, and sometimes it was challenging for me to decide into what category the verses actually fit. Someone who struggles with color-blindness would find it difficult to distinguish the colored categories.

Overall, it is a very nice Bible, one that offers a lot of help to a Bible student. The color alone, makes it a pleasant reading experience.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of CSB Rainbow Study Bible, provided by B&H Publishing Group, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.

 

 

Opening the door

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

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Hospitality. What sort of images does the word conjure in your mind? Lavish tablescapes, beautifully arranged place settings, a house full of people we hope to impress with our home, our recipes, and our entertaining skills?

Or could it be this: a warm smile, a listening ear, an open heart, and a place of comfort and peace.

Jen Schmidt writes about her experiences in practicing hospitality in Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation.

I loved reading this book. It came to me on the heals of participating in a four-month series where we gathered at the table and learned how Jesus did life at the table in the Scriptures. Jen Schmidt’s book was like a festive dessert after a sumptuous meal.

Jen grew up where inviting people in was common, and she determined to do the same when she had her own home. She tells her varied experiences like the days when they lived small and had little. Money was a consideration when thinking about guests. In the chapter “Elephant in the Room,” she tackles this issue and urges us to open the door anyway, offering suggestions when the budget is tight.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “When we least expect it, comparison sneaks up like a thief and attempts to rob us of all joy, especially when it pertains to things as personal as our home.” (Ch. 2, Trickle Down)
  • “You are the one who can meet the need of another today if you just open the door.” (Ch. 7, The Power of One)
  • “An open home, like an open table, is the overflow of an open heart.” (Ch. 9, The Potluck: Risks and Rewards)
  • We’ve allowed the imperfections of our friendship to strengthen us. A sisterhood of the imperfect.” (Ch. 10, Come as You Are)

Each chapter ends with an appropriate question from a reader and Jen’s answer, plus suggested ideas pertaining to the chapter’s topic.

Just Open the Door is about planned events and spontaneity; big gatherings and intimate tea parties; long-term guests and taking hospitality beyond the walls of home; celebrating everyday moments and deciding who really is my neighbor. It offers optimistic incentive to the novice and those more practiced in opening their doors.

The Bible abounds with examples of hospitality and instructs believers to practice it regularly. Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, will helps us grow and feel more comfortable doing it in our own personal way.

Jen Schmidt is a lifstyle blogger at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. 

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.

 

 

 

 

Ending and beginning

I woke up with anxiety this morning realizing it was February 1st and I had missed writing a “January ending” post.

Yesterday was a full day. I had three potential writing projects I wanted to complete. I had piano lessons. There were the dailies: cooking, laundry, clean-up as always. I worked on what I thought was the most important in the afternoon. By evening, I was spent and writing does not come as easily then. I turned off the laptop and went to bed.

Thus my anxiety this morning. I began to talk to my inner self, reminding her that I am the boss of my blog. There are more important things than writing a post. I let myself off the hook, gave myself some grace and went about my day today.

There. I feel better getting that off my chest.

January 2018 was cold, and then it was warm. It snowed causing canceled appointments and kept us home-bound. Then we played catch up. It’s Kentucky. What can I say.

I bought a leather journal for the new year, first time I’ve ever had one so nice. After viewing all my journals in their various shapes and forms, I decided it was time to treat myself to something special since, obviously, my journaling is not a passing fancy.

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Sweet William gave me a custom-designed fountain pen for Christmas. It is my journal pen. I love the way it lightly scratches across the paper and the flow of the ink. I hope the rumors I hear are untrue, that cursive writing is out of fashion and obsolete in this keyboard generation. Cursive is an art form, one we should hold close and not throw aside because something new seems better, faster. Recognizing the writing style of friends and family or seeing a signature of a loved one is a sweet pleasure. Let’s don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

I am a whirling dervish in January, going through drawers and closets, cleaning out and repurposing things to the thrift store. It gives me a lighter feeling to let go of too much stuff as I head into the new year. It has caused me evaluate my thrift store “addiction” with a determination to use caution and restraint this year.

Sometimes I organize myself into a corner and forget what I’ve done with things. Like the jar of hand cream I still can’t find.

Sweet William and I celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary quietly this year. Take-out Chinese was our lunch menu, eaten in the comfort of home. We’ve celebrated lots of different ways these many years. In this cold, snowy month, I think to myself, “Who gets married in January?” We did.

Let me mention a couple of good books and movies I enjoyed while snuggled in at the Wright House.

Between Heaven and the Real World is by singer/song writer Steven Curtis Chapman. We’ve been a fan of Chapman’s music for years. In his book he revealed an honest look at a family who achieved fame and success, who struggled with real life issues of marriage and children, who faced unbearable tragedy, and who still believe in a good God.  I appreciate the words to Chapman’s songs even more now.

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Church of the Small Things, by Melanie Shankle, was not what I was expecting. But it was entertaining and made me giggle. Melanie has a funny writing style, while telling great stories of life. She’s been a blogger for years and has written other books, some that made the New York Times Bestseller List. I will look for her again.

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Finding Normal was a DVD from my library. It was family friendly, and I just like Candace Cameron Bure.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered was another movie we enjoyed with a redemptive theme, because sometimes I want to feel good after I’ve spent two hours of my time.

And now February begins with more weather weirdness, temperatures fluctuating from 50 degrees this morning and plummeting to the teens tonight, rain that turned to snow while my piano students wish for another snow day tomorrow. The good news is, as some celebrate the prophetic tendencies of the Groundhog tomorrow, winter will be half over and on the downslide.

Stores display their Valentine reds and pinks, and I wonder if the second month of the year could truly be dedicated to showing kindness and love? We are all fellow travelers on this earth, and the road can get rugged and long. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “on the good days and the bad days and the mad days, the happy and the sad days,” we could use some courtesy and forbearance, a little patience and tenderness.

If we try, if we make a concerted effort, February might turn into a gentle reminder that sweetness is not just something covered in chocolate.

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I love to hear the stories

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Let me dig right into this book review because sometimes something comes to me and I wonder where it has been all my life.

CSB Christ Chronological provides a unique way for readers to experience the life of Christ in chronological order with each Gospel writer’s account of events side-by-side. Featuring a parallel format, commentary notes for each section to provide background and context, and color-coded text to differentiate between the accounts in each Gospel, readers are able to gain fresh perspective on the life and ministry of Christ. “

 

As a long-time student of the Scriptures, I love the way this book brings continuity to the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each have their own perspectives on the life and events of Jesus Christ, and their stories are written in their unique voices.

I have often searched through my Bible to compare Mark’s version of a story with Matthew’s or John’s, thumbing through the pages to find and read each one. CSB Christ Chronological has brought the same stories together in one place. Here are Jesus’ stories side -by-side.

In CSB Christ Chronological the gospels are color coded in the text and at the bottom of  each page.  A topic is introduced, noting corresponding chapter and verses from the gospels where it is recorded. Brief commentary precedes each section.

During the seasons of Advent and Lent, I often read Jesus’ story in each of the gospels in order to see a more complete picture. I end up with four bookmarks in my Bible as I go from one writer to another. The CSB Christ Chronologicall has done this work for me.

This book would make a wonderful addition to a Bible teacher’s library or to anyone who wants to know their Lord and Savior more.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of CSB Christ Chronological provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

 

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