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What’s saving my life right now

I read it on someone’s blog post. It got me to thinking.

“What’s saving my life right now?” 

A few things:

February 2 marks Groundhog Day and the middle of winter, and the mere thought that we are on the other side of Jack Frost’s influence makes me happy. I keep watching the morning sun rising but cannot quite perceive it being much earlier. While I enjoy all of the seasons, once I’ve bundled up in sweats, sweaters, coats and scarves and had a beautiful snow that kept me homebound, I’m good. Let’s move on to spring.

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The mantel arrangement is somehow life-giving to me this year. I went for primarily white, using some of the small trees from Christmas. The addition of some blue pieces is perfect, because I have always, always been a blue girl. When I sit at the table and glance toward the mantel, it gives me a fresh breath, something akin to peace. Simple. White. Blue.

I saw a robin redbreast on the fence in the backyard this week. It seems early for him. When I was a child the first robin was a sure sign that spring was coming, as if its very presence ushered a warming. I know that’s not true, but the sighting of that sweet bird made me glad.

Strong coffee is keeping me sane in winter’s grey days. But then good coffee always keeps me sane. I do get extra pleasure when it’s served in my “Baby it’s cold outsidered mug, a gift from a friend last year.

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Sweet William and I are learning to play the ukulele. Actually he is already much better than me. Being a long-time guitarist, he has the finger moves. I, on the other hand, wonder how my left hand is supposed to twist in such a fashion so that my fingertips press the correct string.  Doing it together doubles our fun. I think it might be good for my brain, too.

When it isn’t frigidly cold, I walk with Maisie. Dressed warmly, wearing my cute white hat and two mismatched leather gloves (one green, one brown), we escape the house. I like the chill air and the feel of sunshine on my face, and Maisie gets to smell everything in her path.

One day it warmed enough to produce a gentle rain as we walked, and I remembered a children’s book my mother read to me when I was a little girl. The Make-Believe Parade was about a group of children walking to school in the rain, pretending what they would be when they were grown. The book was a favorite, complete with my name written inside in my mother’s familiar script. She read it to me often, and I read it to our son and then his children. It is tattered by love, much like the Velveteen Rabbit.

While snow and cold have kept me indoors, I don’t mind. I love being home with time to work on projects and creative endeavors.  My cousin and I painted with water colors this week. She had a great stash of supplies for us to use. After looking at my finished painting, I think I need to take a class.

Enjoying an hour or two with friends is saving my life. I spent the morning with someone this week, us sharing breakfast at a favorite restaurant. We drank a gallon of coffee and talked until the lunch crowd began filling up the tables. My spirits were lifted when I walked out into the cold fresh air.

Stay sane, friends. Find joy in this season. Learn something new. Spend time with friends, face to sweet face. Give thanks in all circumstances, for we have a Heavenly Father who gives good gifts in every season of our lives.

Now, what is saving your life right now? I’d love to hear from you.

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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

 

 

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.

 

 

Friends

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

Friends. I have the best, and I hope you know who you are. If I began to count the ways I’ve been befriended and loved, it could take all day.

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Friendship is what we crave.  But it can be hard, especially among women for so many reasons. Never Unfriended, The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, by Lisa-Jo Baker, made me cry when I first began reading it.  It seemed to be speaking directly to my heart and my experiences.

Baker writes:

“Fear makes me want to hide. Fear makes me afraid of my own gifts and name. Instead of sharing them with the world, fear makes me want to dig a hole and stuff all that I am and all that I love deep down into the dark where no one can get to them. Fear is a terrible friend.”

I have felt that fear, especially as a young woman trying to figure out who I was, comparing myself to others and never feeling like I measured up to the standard.

“Into us God breathed the desire for companionship. Into us God breathed the gift of community. Into us God breathed all the capacity for believing the best about each other, loving others more than ourselves, and making ourselves wildly vulnerable without fear of betrayal.”

The dichotomy is apparent. There is the breath of God and there is fear. Which will reign supreme? Will we live with fear dominating our existence, the decisions we make and the resulting despair, or will we be guided by the life-giving breath of the Creator who has ordained a hope and a future for us?

Baker offers a unique opportunity to dig into her book at different parts, depending on where you are relationally, or if your one who likes looking at the back of the book first.

Part 1: What Are We Afraid Of?

Part 2: What Can’t We Do About It?

Part 3: What Can We Do About It?

Part 4: Where Do We Start?

I began at the end, Part 4.  “This is for the sisterhood, the motherhood, the neighborhood, the misunderstood,” Baker writes. We start where we are now, whether we have the best of friends or if we have been hurt and are afraid to open our hearts again.

The chapters in Part 4 are entitled “Practice Being a Good Friend To Yourself Today” and “Practice Being a Good Friend To Someone Else Today.” Because don’t we have to accept ourselves, be good to ourselves, and love ourselves, before we can be a good friend?

Never Unfriended ultimately assures us that God’s love transcends all of our hurts, all of our self-inflicted wounds, and all the ways we have managed to offend others.  His love is not fickle. We cannot change His unchanging love, compassion, and mercy toward us. He will never unfriend us.

I am blessed with friends, all ages, sizes, colors, genders and backgrounds. They are treasures I cherish.

The Author of relationship invites our friendship and then demonstrates how to love with a heart bigger than the universe. Love is patient, kind, not envious or proud, not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs and does not take offense easily.  It protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

And that is a recipe for a great friendship.

 

NOTE:   I received a copy of Never Unfriended, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Sunday grace

She sat next to me at our table and asked with intense eyes that said she really wanted to know: “How can I pray for you?”

I could barely choke out the words, “Pray for endurance and strength.” It was all I could say. I’ve been weary in the well-doing.

Life can beat us up sometimes, knock us down and begin the count.

God sees and He knows what we need. He is the completely sufficient One who supplies all.

God gives us one another, a friend to halt the count long enough to jump in the fray and give us a helping hand so we can stand erect again.

Her sincere prayer at the end of our visit was enough to bring me to tears. I heard her call our names to our Father in Heaven, talking to Him as she would a friend. For she is a friend of God.

We need each other. God gives what God enjoys. Relationship.

On earth it is less than perfect with our personality conflicts and self-centered ways, but it is still the gift of One who provides for emotional needs as well as physical ones. He gives us each other.

For when one falls down, another can help her get up, dust off the dirt, bind up the wound, look into her eyes and say “You can make it with God’s strength. Let’s walk together for a while.”

Pity the one who has no one to help her up.

Strength for the journey sometimes comes through the hand and a prayer of a friend.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9, NIV

Sunday grace.

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The memento box and Thanksgiving

I’ve had a box in the garage for a long time. When I stored it away, I wrote on the box an identifying mark, MEMENTOS. I’ve added to the box through the years.

memento – 1. something that reminds one of past events; souvenir (thefreedictionary.com)

Perhaps some of you will understand. I’m a saver, a keeper of memories. Often I keep things too long and end up with a banker’s box full of cards, letters, notes, etc. that were just too precious to throw out at the time.

So I tossed them in a box. And now it’s filled to the brim.

During my semi-annual clean-out-the-garage day, I determined I really should go through the box of mementos. I would look at the things saved one more time and throw them away. After all, one can only keep so much stuff.

My children will thank me one day.

As I am going through each item and reading hand-written messages, I travel back in time. There are birthday cards, valentines, and thank you’s, the happy sentiments with sweet messages of endearment. I smile as I read.

Then there are the other messages, ones sent during sickness, operations, long months of illness, and seasons of tribulation common to us all. These take me back to a different occasion, the difficult times when the prayers of others held up my hands during the conflict and the struggle.

I linger over the handwritten words, remember each precious individual who took time to choose a card, write their thoughts, address and stamp the envelope and mail it to the Wright House. I consider the effort and cost.

I am reasonably addicted to the quick email, the Facebook message, or the text sent on the run. I appreciate the quick way of notification and staying in touch. Often those messages convey appreciation and care.I like sending and receiving those fast and efficient communications. But I can quickly loose them as the phone memory gets full or other messages take their places in chronological order.

So to be able to read again the thoughts of those who cared enough to send their very best, I am touched anew by their demonstration of love.

I chuckle at some of the cards. One particular couple sent Sweet William get-well cards regularly during the years of suffering with his knee. So often they were funny quips with the wife’s dry wit of humor thrown in for extra emphasis. We needed a reason to laugh. And so I do laugh again as I re-read them.

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There are notes from piano students now grown up and pursuing adult endeavors. The “thank-you” for being a good teacher from young students is rewarding.

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Some of the cards were from the grandchildren when they were small, their childish scrawl and penmanship evident of their different ages. Those unstructured letters spell more than words. It took effort for those tiny hands to hold pencils and crayons and write a few simple words or draw pictures. They are love to me.

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I read beautiful prose from my daughter-in-love, her artful way of using language. Short notes written in my one and only son’s familiar script are equally dear.

Sweet William’s cards were always well-chosen, him looking for the perfect printed words that conveyed what his heart wanted to say.

A faithful friend’s remembrance of me shows up in the annual birthday greeting. Another friend wrote a note on half of a card, making it a post card. I love that about her. She and I like to re-purpose, re-use, and as she wrote “re-mail.”

I discovered a copy of a nomination for Mother of the Year written by my one and only son when he was a teenager. I cherish his tender words even now.

I dug down deep into the bottom of the box looking for the oldest of the contents. The treasure hunt produced the funeral book when my mother died over 30 years ago. It contains a record of people who paid their last respects, people who loved my mother dearly. Inside the book was a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson that was read at mother’s funeral. I have wondered where that poem went, and it was pure delight to find it.

This isn’t death – It’s glory! It is not dark – It’s light!
It isn’t stumbling, groping, or even faith – It’s sight!
This isn’t grief – It’s having my last tear wiped away;
It’s sunrise – It’s the morning of my eternal day!

As I read again this treasured poem, I am aware that some who wrote me have died. They also have seen their eternal day.  At 30 years past, I am nearer mine, and it does not seem fearsome at all but pure glory.

I’ve just touched the surface of the box of Mementos. This is going to take a while, because I simply must read each card again.

I consider these people represented by saved mementos, some who came into my life for a season, and others who came to stay. Both are vital to us as human beings. Relationship is the gift God offered in Eden and once again at the cross.

As Thanksgiving week implores me to remember my blessings, I count my friends and relations. I am blessed indeed to have people who care about and love me. I am equally blessed to be able to reciprocate that love.

Jesus told his disciples, “I have called you friends.”

Friends walk with us in this journey of life. They help us carry our burdens. They laugh with us, cry with us, pray for us, and sit in silence with us when there are no words. Without them we would be poor indeed.

I am thankful for God’s gift of people. They show me how to love.

 

Investing for the future

Since my one-handed typing is slow and tedious like everything I do these days, I want to share some places I visit that often lift my eyes and heart upward.

This one from Proverbs 31 Ministry is on point. We may not be able to change the world but we can influence one person. Ask God who your person is and then start investing for the future.

Hope you enjoy . . .

THE QUIET IMPACT OF ONE WOMAN

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