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October ending

In the first week of October we took a much-anticipated trip to see our dear ones. I brought my Carpenters CDs so I could sing along.  It makes the miles go faster and keeps me awake.

This is the music of my youth, and I remember what my life was like by the lyrics of each track. “It’s Yesterday Once More” as I recall my life flying by.

Though the distance is long, the faces that come out the door to greet us are the ones we want to see. I never mean to cry, but I do. We spent the time just being together doing simple things: playing games at the kitchen table, visiting a coffee shop and some thrift stores, watching movies, talking and laughing. One evening we went to new/old-fashioned soda fountain where I experienced my first Egg Cream, which by the way, does not have eggs or cream in it.

Maisie was in dog heaven with the family’s two spaniels to romp with. The first day she kept looking at me with a dog-smile as if to say, “Thanks for bringing me here.” Playing is her favorite thing to do.

Our grandson, the youngest of our three grands, prepared pancakes for us our last morning. He patiently stood at the stove frying one large cake at a time until all were fed. Then he fixed one for himself and sat down with us. I commented on his kindness, and he said, “That’s what mom does.”

Two deaths this month hit me hard. I found out about them while we were traveling and away from home. I had wanted to see both of these friends one more time and was planning to be in touch when I returned. We never know when we will look at a face for the last time. It makes every interaction with each person important.

With the cold weather sweeping in, I moved outdoor plants inside the house and garage. Some tender perennials would not survive if I didn’t shelter them.  It’s the task that  follows a clean-out of the garage to prepare for them to sit by two windows where they will reach for the sunlight during the winter months.

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Maisie and I walk the lane and I smell fall. It’s hard to define, but I know it when it’s in the air. It’s a mixture of mown grass, musty soil, and wood fires burning. I breathe in long and my senses tell me the changing of seasons. The  leaves are scattered in the yard, the red twig dogwoods look especially red, and berries cluster on branches, food for the birds. Darkness settles early in the evening, and I find myself wanting to snuggle in and drink hot cocoa.

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Unusual for us home bodies, we traveled again at the end of the month to the  state of Mississippi, the place of Sweet William’s birth. The youngest daughter of his deceased brother was being married, and it was important for us to be there. We caravaned with Sweet William’s older brother and his wife.

It was a time of remembering for all of us as we drove familiar roads around town and saw the house where Sweet William’s parents once lived. On another street we passed the home of his favorite aunt and uncle, all now gone from this earth. Life is brief at its best, like grass that is here today, then withers and blows away tomorrow.

We visited and had lunch with his 93-year-old step-mother who still gardens and irons. She is a sweetheart of a woman, and we cherished time with her.

The wedding on Saturday evening was lovely and the bride was beautiful. She and her sister kept saying they were glad we made it. And so were we. It was one of those times when showing up was what really mattered.

Image may contain: car, sky and outdoorPhoto by Louise Wright

This quote came home to me from The Art of Simple: “I show up because I believe in the power of presence. Life is really freaking hard–but we don’t have to do it alone.

The latter trip was perfect for enjoying the glow that is Autumn. I needed a box of 64-count Crayolas to help me describe shades. As we drove through the corridor of trees on Natchez Trace the colors were brilliant. Forest and olive greens, burnt orange and mellow gold, mahogany and bittersweet. It could not have been a better weekend for peak beauty.

Travels done, we arrived at home-sweet-home, unpacked, and washed clothes. I caught up with messages since I’d been off-line and disconnected to internet for three days. It was a bit of relief.

Settled into my regular routine, I discovered another of my good neighbors will be moving soon. It was only a week or so ago when the for sale sign appeared in their yard, and I expressed my  sad feelings about that.

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They sold their house quickly, even before the first open house. I’m happy for them; this is what they wanted and prayed for. But my little world is changing quickly, and I have to adjust. I want what is best for them, the will of the Lord. And so we pray for them and for the new neighbors who will be moving into our quiet community. I hope we can be friends.

With the ending of October we merge into the two busiest months of the year. Holidays and celebrations will abound. If we aren’t careful, we will blink our eyes and it will be next year. If we are not purposeful, we will miss the most important part: time to focus on family, an opportunity to listen with the heart, a chance to look at faces we love and be there, very present, with nothing else on the agenda.

Filling our lives full is a cultural temptation. But it doesn’t mean we will experience the pleasure of it. Perhaps we should think carefully about the activity level and our commitments in the coming months.

A full life and life to the full are two very different things.

http://holleygerth.com/faith-missing-out/

As the holiday season approaches, I don’t want to rush through it. I want to savor the smells, the sights, the sensations. I want to enjoy the people who sit with me at the table and around the Christmas tree. I want to really be there in all of it.

Don’t you?

 

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Showing up

It’s was a week. Actually it was a couple of weeks, maybe three. Really, it seems to be this whole year thus far.

The days swiftly roll by, one after the other, and I find myself shocked at the date on the calendar. How can it be nearing the middle of October, and Sweet William’s birthday is upon me, and I don’t know what to get him?

Tempus fugit.

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We traveled to see our dear ones last week, a long hard drive, there and back.  It was our first opportunity this year. Seeing the faces of my son and his family was reward enough. I don’t get to be with them as much as my heart desires. Time spent in their presence is cherished.

The visit with those I hold most precious was filled with laughter, shared experiences that will fill our memory banks in the days to come when we are miles apart. The conversation, the touch, the hug will be held close in my heart.

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I heard of two deaths while we were away, friends with whom I had only recently talked. Gone from this world. And I cried. I wanted to see them both just one more time.

The brevity of life occupies my thoughts the week after our travel. We are only here on earth for a short season, no matter how many years we live. It’s a reminder that interactions with people are always full of purpose, full of meaning. Not to be taken lightly.

As I remember my two friends, I was glad for the times recently when I showed up in their lives. That morning I picked her up from her apartment and we went for coffee and I paid the tab. That day I drove into the hospital to see her and we shared a vanilla milk shake her son brought to the room.

Thinking of what I’ve accomplished in my life, job titles that brought fleeting pride in the moment, the myriad of projects I thought I finished well, I realize it was when I reached out to a fellow human being that was most valuable.

The telephone call made to check on someone. The card written to say “I’m thinking of you.” The coffee date shared for a couple of hours. The quiet listening without trying to fix anything. The tears rolling down our cheeks over shared struggles. The long hard drives to be where they are on a special occasion.  The minutes, hours, days given away.

It is the giving of myself that has counted more than anything. I see it now. Because those who have given themselves to me have marked me and given meaning to my life.

I’ve missed a lot of opportunities to make a difference, to give my support, to be an encouragement, to be a good friend. To show up. I regret the many lost chances for connection.

I attended the funeral today of my 93-year-old friend. It was a glorious celebration of her life. Her family filled the front row. Another row was filled with women who had sat under her teaching at Sunday school years ago.  All those faces reflected the investment she made into their lives, a legacy of her life, her love and her belief in a Savior named Jesus.

She showed up again and again. She showed up in my life.

Time ticks away too quickly. The moments we have today will be gone tomorrow. Will they be wasted on the unimportant or invested in the eternal?

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current.  — Marcus Aurelius

I don’t want to forget what I am learning this week, this art of showing up and giving the gift of myself. Busy-ness will try to side-track this wisdom. Voices pretending to be urgent will reach out to grab for my attention. Distractions will always be there to pull me aside. Hopefully, I will remember that life is uncertain and brief at best. This day is the present I have to offer.

I hope I can be more aware and quick to evaluate the importance of my life in someone else’s life. I only get one chance at this life. Let me live it well.

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Home to stay

Things on my to-do list were moved to another day. There are book reviews I need to write that will wait. I canceled a lunch this week and rescheduled piano lessons.

Some days are like that.

My friend died the first of this week, her battle with a dreaded disease now over. But for those who loved her, it is not over. We are left with a gaping hole in our hearts. Her husband, children and grands are wondering how in the world they will live without her.

I remember that aching feeling when my mother died, me in my early 30s. How could I go on living without her not there to talk with me, to pray for and counsel me, to laugh with me and pour me a cup of coffee at her table?

This week my heart has been raw and my memories tender.

My friend was just a year older than me. She and her husband were married just a few years more than Sweet William and me. She had grandchildren close in age to mine who lived states away, just like me.

Sometimes when a friend grows more dear, I try to remember when the first spark appeared between us. When was it we connected, when we learned we shared interests and had things common in our lives? At what moment does friendship take root and begin to grow?

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It was not so long ago when it happened with her.  Sweet William and I were struggling with health issues and decisions that would be life-altering. I called her to talk because I knew she would understand. She and her husband came to our house, sat at our table, drank our coffee, and shared their experiences. They opened their hearts to us.

And I think that was the moment. That’s when our friendship ignited and began to burn brightly, and it warmed us both.

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You know how it is when someone finds a place in your heart. You want to spend more time with her, to know her better. She and I had those opportunities in a few short years as the Lord gave moments of communion.

In the days of her sickness, we talked honestly about life and death. She was not afraid of dying. She was concerned about her husband and her family left behind, how they would cope. Her heart was wrapped around those dear ones.

She told me she wanted to finish well. And she did. She loved to the end. Her countenance reflected the glory of her Savior. She witnessed to those around her that Jesus is indeed Lord of all.

Her funeral was a testimony of a life well lived, though her years seemed too short for all of us who her knew and loved her.

The Heavenly Father alone appoints our days, and when our work is over, He will call us Home. My friend got to go Home this week. I can only imagine the glories she is enjoying now in the presence of the One who gave His life for her and stretched out His hand to escort her Home.

My friend loved home. Hers reflected her art, her creativity, her nurturing care for those who entered. Today she no longer resides in the temporary earthly dwelling; she is really Home to stay, the place prepared for all eternity.

I miss her already, her bright smile, her twinkling eyes, her kindness, the way she laughed. I can’t imagine living without her.

There are days of great joy during this earthly life, and there are days of heaviness, pain and sorrow.  We all experience both. Hopefully, I remember to be grateful for days full of sunshine and flowers. Equally, I want to grow stronger in my faith, develop endurance when the days are hard, and know even more that all things do indeed work for my good. In all of my days and years I want to reflect the beauty of Jesus, to spread the fragrance of His love, like my friend did.

One day I will see her again when my work here on earth is over. I’ll hear my Savior call my name, and He will escort me to glory.

Then it will be my turn to go Home to stay.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

 

 

July ending

July is full on Summer. Hot and humid. Walks with Maisie left us both panting for water. The occasional reprieve of temperatures and a summer rain were welcome relief.

On the very first day of July, I realized my driver’s license was missing. Nothing else in my wallet was gone, so I did not suspect theft. But how could I have lost it from a place that takes an effort to remove it?

I was troubled over it for a while, but then I let it go and gave Sweet William the wheel. Fortunately, this was the year to renew and July is my birth month. Plus, my old picture was pathetic. So Monday morning, July 3, Sweet William drove me to the Circuit Court and I waited in line. The colored backdrop for the mug shot greatly improved the outcome, and my silver blond (aka, grey) hair and fair complexion were not completely washed out.

I look happier on my new license. The one from four years ago was taken on a day I felt forsaken and alone, and my face reflected it. What possessed me to go and have a photo taken, I don’t known. Each time I looked at it, it reminded me of that awful day in my life. I’m glad it’s gone.

I broke a tooth in the middle of the month, chewing on a cherry pit. I knew that pit was in there, so why? I endured an hour and a half in the dentist’s chair, griping my lip balm for dear life and reminding myself to breath. I felt some pain mid-way through the procedure and got an extra dose of numbing meds. It took a long time before I could smile normally with both sides of my mouth.

I celebrated my birthday for a number of days before and after the fact, and I sent a birthday box to the one and only son who shares my birth month. I wanted him to have Nutter Butter cookies because they are his favorite. Since I couldn’t be with him to make a peanut butter pie, cookies would be the next best thing. I purchased from Amazon and didn’t realize how many cookies I was actually ordering. Apparently it was a lot. I may not have to send cookies next July.

Creation explodes in summer. The cucumbers from my vines flourish. And nothing is quite like a summer tomato on tuna melt sandwiches.

The day lilies bloomed their last as the rose of Sharon bushes and giant hibiscus unfurled themselves. I have Shasta daisies this year, a reminder of the friend who shared them with me. They are the flowers of my bridal bouquet.

 

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The pink ladies surprised me one morning, piercing the ground in random spots like arrows. Queen Anne’s Lace has popped up in the landscape and I let them be. Though they are considered a weed, I consider them lovely. One woman’s weed is another woman’s pleasure.

Two plants are new this year. A purchase from the County Extension Office plant sale in spring produced a charming morning glory in my favorite color, blue. And my gardener friend gave me starts of Spider Plant that make my happy.

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As I sometime bemoan the fact that there are many weeds for me to tend to, I am blessed to have many flowers to delight me. I will take the trade-off and enjoy the bounty of blooms.

Summer sounds of the cicadas in trees greeted us by late morning when we sat long on the deck. The night twinkled with lightning bugs in the little woods. I discovered they eat other pesky insects which makes them more delightful to have around.

This month I read autobiography, fiction, and a book about writing. One interesting read was Blink by Malcomb Gladwell. What gave me the most pleasure was discussing the book with a young man who is a former piano student. He came to see us before heading back to college.

I participated in a Bible study group and enjoyed being a class member. Meanwhile I was also studying 2 Corinthians in preparation to lead All Things New by Kelly Minter in the fall. This will be the first study I lead this year. Twice last year I doubled up and did the same study at two different locations at the same time. It was crazy. I learned my lesson that I am not super woman.  (Actually I think I keep having to re-learn this lesson, over and over.)

I was surprised by the death of a family member toward the end of July. Too young, too soon. When I attended the funeral service, where there was literally standing room only, I saw the glory I have been looking for. As the song I Can Only Imagine played, people stood, and the husband, whose wife lay in a casket in the front, lifted his hand in worship. I watched from the back and asked the Lord, “Is this the glory?”

When we bow the knee in reverence to the One who gives and also takes away, this is glory. When people who have gathered to mourn, can rise and sing of Heaven’s hope, this is glory. When our hearts are torn, when we don’t understand any of it, when we prayed for a miracle that didn’t come the way we wanted, and yet we still believe in a good God who gives good gifts to those He loves without measure, this is glory.

There was a tremendous outpouring of people who came to show their support and concern to this family. The influence one life has on another brings this kind of response. Memories of a life lived joyfully and loveingly, all these are evidences of God’s glory in the everyday moments of life and even death.

Funerals make me think of my own mortality. What will I leave behind? What sort of seeds am I planting in the hearts and lives of those God brings in my path? Am I nurturing with love? Am I watering with prayer? Am I tending relationships with compassion?

Christy Purifoy speaks of it in Roots and Sky:

“What will we cultivate with the moments and resources given to us? I want to grow a living home. Something as vivid and as alive as a bed of flowers. I want to create something that shows the way. A signpost of the good things God has planned for us and our world.” 

Summer makes one consider sowing and reaping. We all sow in one form or another. The law of the earth says we will reap the same, only more of it. It would do us well to consider what seeds we are scattering.

I have not blogged much this month. Chalk it up to being hot and muggy, or call it the lazy days of summer. I’m not sure why, and this from Edda Walker makes it feel acceptable:

“Lovely night, warm, and filled with gentle summer noises. I don’t feel like writing . . . Instead I am going to listen to the whispering trees.”

Through all kinds of weather, in sunshine and storms, I have listened to summer’s song in July, the echoes of a faithful God. And its music has been captivating.

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The glory of today

It is a practically perfect day in my old Kentucky home.

Late last night I sat on the deck, the blustery wind blowing in what is today’s low 60 degree temperatures. Humidity moved out and gentle breezes are left this morning. The sky is blue with puffs of cotton ball clouds.

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I sit long this morning, the second pot of coffee brewed and in my cup. The yard could use some attention, but it is a practically perfect day. I will “waste” the morning in quietude, contemplation, writing in my journal, and pondering life.

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But my heart hurts today. A cousin died this week. Sweet William and I will attend a funeral tomorrow, and a young husband feels like half his body has been torn away from him. Two children are left behind, and they are too young to be without a mamma. I know that feeling.

The young woman who died was born the same year as my son. And how does a mother deal with that kind of loss?

My cousin’s struggle with cancer was hard-fought and faith filled. Yet she is gone and we are left with our grief. And our questions.

Life is hard.

I talked with a friend last night, one who is closer to my age. She also battles cancer. I listened as she expressed concern for her husband and for the grandchildren she loves. She fears she will not see them grow into adults. She faces the uncertainty of her life with courage. I admire her for that, for her openness as we talk about the days ahead.

She probably does not see the strength that is in her right now. It is the strength that is made perfect in weakness, when the power of God rests on a life He holds in the palm of His hands.

I visited another friend yesterday. She is dealing with a different grief and struggle. We drank coffee and tea, chatting as tears filled our eyes. I shared my own battles and my crises of faith, hoping it might help. She texted later that it had.

This morning, as I recall painful experiences in my life, I see opportunities God has given me, just this year alone, to offer an understanding heart. My heartaches identify with someone else’s heartache. And I wonder if this is part of the redemptive process?

The comfort I was given from the God of all comfort is tenderly held out to another through shared experiences, the sweetness of His Word, and the promise of hope.

And do I see some sort of beauty rising from my ashes? Is this a way God redeems the hard places that tested my endurance, when I felt like there was nothing in me to go one step further? Is this the chance to give my testimony that the strong arm of the Savior was holding onto to me all along, when the rope I tied a knot in to hang on for dear life frayed to its very end?

I recently read again the story of Lazarus, his sickness and then him dying while Jesus waited days, not responding to Mary and Martha’s appeal to come heal their brother. His actions seemed callous, uncaring. Haven’t I felt that way about Him myself?

” . . . it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” Jesus told the disciples (John 11:4).

How often I am self-focused, centering on my pain and my problem, left wondering why this is happening to me. After all, isn’t it all about me, even sometimes?

What if the road, strewn with rocks and entangled with thorns, where we are led to walk is for the glory of God? What if these times are meant to point to a higher power, an omnipotent, all-knowing God who has a plan so enormous that we cannot possibly comprehend? What if these things we wish had not  happened or would go away are like arrows pointing us to a Savior who took on our flesh and blood and walked the hard places Himself and says to us, “I know. I know how you feel,”?

What if this life I live is about the glory of God?

Jesus preached an upside down gospel, after all. He said things like the first shall be last. Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you. If you want to be great, then serve. Give to others without expecting anything in return. Forgive. Love. Believe.

He was the Master who stooped low to wash dirty feet of those who would betray, deny, run away, and lose their faith. Jesus lived a contrary-to-what-we-think kind of life.

If I could begin to see with spirit-eyes, beyond the present suffering and into another dimension where death becomes life everlasting and tears are wiped away for good, perhaps it would change things for me.

If I could grasp the finite-ness of my earthly days and compare them to what comes afterwards, perhaps I would be less concerned about the cares of life and the problems here that trouble me so.

Perhaps I would arise each morning with the hope of seeing God’s glory in the daily events of an ordinary day.

My cousin seemed too young to die. There was too much living yet to do. Yet this very day, she lives in a way I can’t even fathom. She sees what I long to see. She knows things I want to know. She understands what I wrestle to understand. Her faith has become sight and the questions, they don’t matter any more.

And I am envious of that.

I want to see the glory, to perceive beyond the surface and into the deep things of God, things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined. These are the things God has prepared for those who love him.

I pray to see His glory, to endure with faith today and live with hope for tomorrow.

Lord, show us Your glory!

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Sunday grace

My friend texted me late last night: “Karen left this world at 6:50 pm tonight.”

Karen, a woman who has battled cancer that ravished her once healthy body, left this world of pain and suffering. Karen left this world and went Home.

There’s no place like home. I look forward to coming home at the Wright House. The old and familiar things comfort me with memories. I recall family and friends gathered at the table, filling the rooms with their sweet presence.

We’ve fought battles here and shed tears. We’ve bent over in laughter and shared joy and victories. We’ve found comfort in each other’s embrace here and weathered storms as we prayed for peace. Here at home is where we built our lives.

Home is where my people are.

Paul describes it so eloquently: Being absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. This is our true home. To be with Jesus will be home like no other place I’ve ever dwelled.

The tribulation and trial that are part and parcel of this earthly existence will fade away. No more suffering. No more weaping. No more death. God Himself will wipe away our tears.

As the years add up, I find myself longing for home more and more. I see that this life is temporary, that my body is aging, that I am susceptible to ailments and pain. I look forward to corruptible putting on incorruptible. When perishable will put on imperishable.  Life will swallow up death.

And I will be Home. In Heaven. With Jesus.

I will hear the familiar words I am longing for, “Welcome Home.” And I’ll run into my Savior’s arms.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]