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June ending 2018

June is summer beginning, more hours of light that makes a day spread out like a road trip. Going to bed while the sun shines becomes normal. And waking before the birds is a challenge indeed.

June is:

  • Rising even earlier while it is still dark just to hear the first bird song.
  • The smell of fresh-cut grass, moist musky soil, and fragrance of flowers.
  • Birds in happy flight, finding nests in trees, seeing babies reaching scrawny necks for mamma’s offering.
  • Trying to keep my fingernails clean even though I wear my garden gloves.
  • Hot, humid afternoons when a cool house becomes a reason to give thanks during prayer time.
  • Rainy days that give me permission to stay indoors, the contentedness of being home.
  • Maisie panting on a short, slow-paced walk as the sun blazes, and me looking for the shade along the path.
  • Wild rabbits in the yard taunting her because they know she can’t get to them.
  • Brilliant day lilies in amazing colors and variety, remembrance of the friend who shared them with me.
  • Unexpected blossoms springing up where they want to.
  • Queen Anne’s lace in landscape because one man’s weed is this woman’s flower.
  • Mowing machines running almost daily here or there.
  • Children’s voices at play, motor bikes zooming on our lane, families sitting under trees and on porches.
  • Fireworks exploding late at night, even though it’s not July yet.
  • Baking sour dough bread and sharing it, because it’s what I can offer to those who are hurting, hoping it expresses my love.
  • Having a month of no piano lessons with relaxing evenings, but now beginning to anticipate my students’ return with plans for beautiful music.
  • Remembering my dad on Father’s day, and celebrating my daughter-in-love with a birthday box carried by postal service.
  • Forgetting to make plans for my own Sweet William and son on Father’s Day and them graciously forgiving me.
  • Watching fireflies twinkling in the night sky through the bedroom blinds when all is still.
  • Time slowing on these long, hot days of summer.

I’ve enjoyed library books and movies this month in the coolness of the house after hot work in the sun. Sweet William and I saw the movie, I Can Only Imagine, for the first time this week. It was a moving story. I also read the book by Bart Millard, by the same title, and of course, the details of his life are more fully disclosed in the written word. A movie can’t give the full, or even an accurate, picture. If you want to really know the miracle of Millard’s life and God’s redemption story, I encourage you to read the book.

Sweet William and I attended a class at our library and learned to make paracord bracelets. His is orange and mine is blue. We are now in the process of making more in a variety of colors. Learning new things is so good for our brains. Plus we can wear almost 10 feet of strong cord around our wrists just in case there’s an emergency, whatever that might be.

I’ve relaxed this month, sometimes even feeling lazy. That goes against my nature, but I’m learning it isn’t necessary for me to be ever-moving and always productive. Rest is good.

The highlight of every month is the time spent with people. I track it in my bullet journal because this is the true measure of our lives. We’ve sat for long hours in hospital rooms, waiting for words that would offer hope. We attended funeral homes where we wept with those weeping, shared their grief and hopefully helped shoulder their burdens.

The time we gathered at our kitchen table with our people, the times I met someone at Panera Bread or Starbucks and was a gentle listener, the time spent with friends and loved ones, no matter where it is, is the most precious time of all.

Because time is the gift we give. Listening and being present are how we love. Each month. Every month. Until our days on earth are no more.

 

 

 

 

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February ending 2018

While Valentine’s Day is what I think of in February, spring has been on the move.  There were record-breaking high temperatures and heavy rainfall that threatened flooding . We watched the news and watched the waters rise. We prayed for peace and prayed for neighbors who were severely affected. We renewed our trust in a God who controls wind and wave, heat and cold, rain and sunshine.

The birds started singing in the early mornings this month and my daffodils began to bloom today. I anticipate spring with joy. In the morning I open the window where I sit with coffee and Scripture, listening for the first chirp, and soon the sound of other birds echo in our little woods.

Rabbits are hoping in the yard again. Which means Maisie will want to chase them again.

The geese on the lake across our road are pairing up. There’s a lot of honking and posturing among the males. I spied a couple of blue birds flitting about the bird house in the back yard. It’s nesting time. I savour the sights and sounds of the coming season.

I heard the cranes flying overhead twice in February. It is always a surprise gift to be outdoors at just the right time. When I hear their call, I stop what I’m doing, and scan the sky for the flock overhead.

It’s one of those sounds that makes me smile and takes me back to a Sunday afternoon when the grandchildren were small and living in the house next door. The three of them were with Sweet William and me for a few hours that day, and it was warm enough to be outside. We heard an unfamiliar noise overhead and began to look for its source. On that day years ago, there were hundreds of crane flying so high we could barely see them. But we heard them. Flocks of them flew over and we watched and listened. It was one of those moments of discovery imprinted on my mind.

I am pursuing depth this year and a book by Cal Newport fell into my hands in February. I don’t always pick a word for a year but this time I chose “Deeper.” At times I’ve felt like I had mile-wide commitments with inch-deep results. I’ve lived busy for many years. Now I want to live deep in many areas of my life.

It was easy, then, for me to latch onto Newport’s book from the library called Deep Work. He offers an intriguing proposition that we are a distracted culture, multi-tasking, constantly online and connected via smart phones, attached to our social media accounts, and in many ways alway available to most everyone on our friend list.

I am evaluating how I spend my days, how often I check my laptop for posts and messages when it really is not time-sensitive. I’ve tried to make changes in the way I use technology in February so that technology does not control me. It should be a tool I use, not one that directs my day.

I also read a book of poetry, A Garden in Kentucky by Jane Gentry. Gentry’s poems were lovely and I enjoyed her way of writing about her home state and mine.

I’m not the biggest fan of poetry though I would like to be. I have often found it hard to understand. Perhaps I can blame it on my high school experience when we were forced to read an epic poem, Evangeline, which was long and made no sense to me at all.

My creative juices flowed freely this month. My cousin and I took an introductory weaving class at the library, making a simple loom from a piece of cardboard. I learned the basics, then took my project home to finish into something quite pleasing.

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I visited the  Paint Spot for the very first time. Actually it was a Christmas gift from a friend who decided that giving me a shared experience was better than another scarf. And she was so right. I relaxed while I painted my coffee cup, and it was twice as nice with my friend.

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This month, I decided I feel better when I change into real clothes even on the days when I don’t have to go anywhere. One of the perks of being part-time retired is that I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want. And some days I have. But I feel better prepared for the day if I put on decent clothes, wash my face, add a little mascara, and comb the bed head out of my hair. I’m not sure if I am more productive or not. That remains to be seen.

I finally had time to get acquainted with the newest neighbor on our quiet lane. The couple moved in before Christmas and we briefly met, but cold weather and short days kept us all indoors. As the days warmed and lengthened in February, it was the right time for coffee and muffins. My neighbor who lives in the house next door joined us at the table, and the two young women found common ground as they chatted. It was lovely to behold.

Sweet William and I visited my friend at her farm in the next county. She has created a beautiful home, and we find the miles to get there worth the trip. She fixed us eggs from her own chickens, gave us carrots to feed the horses, and showed us her latest projects. We stayed so long that she brought out lunch meat for sandwiches. And we ate again.

I gathered with a group of beautiful women early in the month for Table Life, the first of four sessions, where we are learning to do life at the table with the awareness that Jesus wants to be there with us. It coordinates beautifully with my “Deeper” work of building relationships, of savoring the moments with dear friends and family, of investing in lives and eternity rather than in things that fade quickly.

Jesus left us an example of spending time with people over a meal, demonstrating to us that the table is important. I am finding that amazing things happen when I take time to sit awhile, pour another cup of coffee, eat a muffin or scrambled eggs, and enjoy the fellowship of one another. We are able to share our lives with one another and listen to what the heart is saying.

Love  happens at the table and Christ is in our midst.

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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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