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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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July 2018 ending

The garden explodes with color in mid summer, heat and rain creating bookends to an occasional temperature-perfect day. The flowers are the reward for my years of plantings. And they are coming up everywhere, even in the walkway.

Pink ladies (aka naked ladies) appear in unexpected places. The first blooms of morning glories signal late summer, their vines wrapping spindles on the deck. My few tomato plants tease me with their blooms and still-green fruit. Thankfully, I have discovered a local farmer’s market where I purchase tomatoes that taste the way a tomato is supposed  to taste.

The Canadian geese have returned to the lake across the road after being gone for months. Though they look like adult geese, I think they are the family of hatchlings seen in the spring. The younger ones are smaller and the largest goose is still very protective. They all fly now, coming and going at will, forming the signature V as if they practice for a long trip southward. It’s the beautiful cycle of nature, and I get to observe it from spring to fall.

The hummingbirds have been active at the feeder on the deck. They provide entertainment when it’s cool enough to sit on the glider. Maisie keeps trying to catch one. The female sits calmly and sips. The male flits around like he is on vigil and extremely alert. Kind of reminds me of a couple I know (here at the Wright House).

As in the cold of winter, we tell our Maisie that she is a lucky dog, living in controlled temperatures and feeding from our hands. Rescued from the streets of Mississippi, she has a happy home with us who dote over her.  In addition to loving to walk the lane and investigate every smell like a roving reporter, Maisie takes her place on the deck with her nose to the lattice watching for the neighbors’ dogs or the rabbits that drive her to whimpers of longing.

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Among the books read this month, one on CD that has been extremely long but interesting, is Dearie, the Remarkable Life of Julia Child. It reminded me of seeing her on TV many years ago. Her story is amazing considering she didn’t learn to cook until she was in her thirties. The book stirred my interest in all things Julia. I checked out Mastering the Art of French Cooking, perusing the detailed recipes, and I will revisit Julie and Julia on DVD from my library. I even purchased a used copy of The French Chef, which includes the recipes of her innovative cooking show first aired on educational television in the 1960s.

I’d really like to master a few of those recipes, especially the omelet and souffle. A copper bowl many be in my future, hopefully found at a thrift store.

Speaking of, my favorite thrift store is gone. Yes, gone, lock, stock, and barrel, and without my notice. I drove there with a friend this month, us excited at what we might discover, and the store was empty. I was devastated. Where am I going to find the things I need at the price I am willing to pay? I’ve gone there several times with a list in hand, and found exactly what I wanted, walking out feeling quite satisfied with my bargain purchases.

I had been looking for a gently used percolator there for several months. As a result of my store disappearing, I went to ebay, where I found a vintage Corning Ware percolator like Sweet William’s parents used when he was a teenager. I’m always experimenting to make that perfect cup of coffee. I’ve tweaked my methods to gain that rich coffee flavor I enjoy. I’m loving the somewhat old-fashioned way of preparing the pot and hearing the familiar perk. I think of my mother and dad, the many pots of coffee made at their home and how it is part of my heritage. Perhaps that is why I often approach a new friend with “Would you like meet for coffee?”

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This month I got creative for Independence Day. I made a door hanging of red and white ribbons and lace paired with denim and buttons in honor of the Flag of America. Long may she wave! I will gladly pledge allegiance to a country that has offered me so much freedom. Brave men and women have fought and died for my rights to make choices and live free. I will honor them and my county by standing and placing my hand over my heart as I sing the Star Spangled Banner.

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I celebrated my birthday and our son’s birthday this month. In his birthday box I included copies of old pictures, black and whites of his grandparents when they were in their twenties perhaps, him with his Granny and Gramps when he was young, one of him at about seven with his dad. They stirred memories in both of us.

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Sweet William and I have been on a learning curve with our very first smart phones. We have finally gotten the hang of Google Maps, which was the main reason for purchasing the phones. GPS is amazing!

We traveled from one appointment to another last week and were uncertain of our route, so we turned on The Voice of Google Maps (I’ve yet to give her our own personal name). She directed us easily and tried to route us to a simpler way, which we did not heed, not quite trusting her yet. Later we found out she was right and we should have listened. Now she is my hero.

Sweet William and I have decided we need to trust that voice in our phones though we cannot see her and don’t understand how she can tell us which way to turn. How does she know all that?

How much more should I trust a marvelous, huge God who designed me and the world I live in, who planned from the beginning to the end, and knows the way that I take? How can I put my confidence in a voice in a digital machine, and not trust the Sovereign Creator of the universe. It just doesn’t compute.

Sometime I’ve not heeded His voice because of my lack of faith in Him. Later I learned that I should have listened to Him. He is altogether trustworthy. When He speaks, I need to pay attention.

A favorite quote this month is:

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope and as old as your despair.”
— Douglas MacArthur

Having managed to live another year old this month, staying young as long as I can is a theme. Faith, confident trust in my God, and hope seem to be key.

  • Let me live as young as my hope.

May ending 2018

May is green and shades of emerald were especially beautiful this month. On many days it seemed spring just skipped away like a rabbit, leaving place for summer heat. The air conditioner has run. While I love the fresh breezes blowing in open windows, by noon many days, the sashes were closed and shades pulled to keep the house cool.

The grass grows tall along with weeds among the flowers. I’ve decided to dub this place, “Where the Wild Things Grow” since there’s a lot of that going on.

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My garden work had to be done early in the morning, three hours being my limit. I came in soaked with perspiration and red-faced, longing for a cool shower. I accomplished quite a bit working just those few hours at a time, and the front yard looks like someone actually lives here now.

There are still areas that need my attention, and I will be busy in the coming month. That’s what summer is about for me. I shall take it in stride, move at my pace, and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Deer sightings in the little woods have been frequent this year and it is truly delightful. The pièce de résistance was early in the morning this week when Maisie alerted us to activity on the edge of the yard. There stood a doe and a spotted fawn, easing quietly into the dark protection of the woods. It was a gift, simply a gift.

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May was recital month, always a celebration. This year one of my students was graduating high school and she played five difficult pieces for her senior recital. She’d been my student since she was seven years old. That hasn’t happened for me often as a piano teacher. To have spent that many years next to her at the piano is weighty as well as a privilege I don’t take lightly.

I put her file away today, and I am still emotional about it.

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Our oldest granddaughter celebrated a mile-stone birthday in May. She is grown up in so many ways, beautiful like her mother, taking on adult responsibilities. Yet in my mind, I still see that little girl who sat at the stool across from me in the kitchen and drank hot cocoa early mornings. She talked up a storm. We shared so many special experiences and a bond that is strong in spite of the miles that separate us. I wonder if she knows how dear she is to me?

Time with people has been varied. I have been a listening ear, a helping hand, one who weeps with those who weep, and part of the applauding audience who cheered young talent on stage. Being part of people’s lives means we give something of ourselves, and loving one another comes in a variety of opportunities.

This last day of May, Sweet William and I purchased android smart phones. For. The. Very. First. Time. I know! I’ve been holding out, not wanting a phone that would become an appendage. I suppose I feared addiction to the thing. I don’t want to be held captive to a cell phone.

But there comes a point when you know the time is right. And today was the day.  We bought simple and efficient because we live a simple lifestyle. The learning curve will be interesting as we teach our brains new things and get current with the rest of the world.

The sales people were kind and patient with us. (They were young enough to be our grandchildren.) They asked how long we had been married. Perhaps there was “an old married couple” persona about us or the fact that we were enjoying the experience together and laughed a lot.

I’ve been living in Philippians for the past month at least. I finished a study on my own but can’t seem to get away from Paul’s letter. His joy and rejoicing are everywhere in this short book. I long for the wisdom he seems to have learned.

I read something this month that is sticking with me. The author decided to stop saying, “I have to [do whatever]” and instead began saying “I get to [do whatever].” To me that is profound, and I’m trying to change my mindset.

One night when I was having trouble falling asleep, I lay in bed thanking God for all the appliances I have because I get to do laundry and I get to clean house and I get to fix meals and I get to work in the garden. Because I have clothes and a home and food and a yard. I am so blessed, so very blessed.

Such a simple change of phrase makes my life look beautiful and full of good things instead seeing my responsibilities as burdens that weigh me down. And I feel joyful and want to rejoice. Paul was definitely on to something.

There are so many things for me to learn and experience. I want to be a forever student of life no matter my age. I believe God has lots He wants to teach me yet.

Because I am confident of this that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

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Tuesday thoughts

I left the cool of the house and went outside to do a little weed eating; the gas tank ran out before I was finished. The heat was undoing me, and I needed to stop anyway.

I roamed the yard, clipping away dead things, overgrown branches and pulling weeds. This time of year the flowers and the weeds mingle. It’s just going to be that way. The end of the season is near and we are done with it all.

Tie-dye morning glories mix with a wild vine next to the garage. Two young sunflowers – all that came up of the package of seeds I sowed – tilt their heads and look for the sun.

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I discovered a volunteer cock’s comb as I leaned over the deck’s railing. If I’d been a more careful weeder, I might have plucked it right out. Now it grows among the d’oro lilies, its red feather just beginning.  An interesting hibiscus variety is growing in the same general area with two buds ready to bloom. I only noticed it recently. It was a gift from my gardening friend two years ago. I thought I had lost it.

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The greens of the garden are giving way to golds, and I can feel the change coming.  I saw a few leaves flutter to the ground on our early morning walk. Heading upstairs earlier today while the windows were still open, I caught a whiff of summer. It smelled good. I think each season has its own aroma.

Forecasts are predicting thunder storms and cooler days tomorrow. I’ll take that. It will be the hint of fall I’m looking for. Summer is coming to an end, flowers fading, and I’m ready to pull up and trim back the rubble of what’s already had its day in the sun.

Let me buy mums at Lowes for the front porch.

There are things I want plucked up from my life.  They’re not pretty. They feel uncomfortable, even painful at times. I think they don’t belong, that they are my thorns among the roses. God has not seen fit to uproot yet. He knows the seasons’ beginnings and endings. He plans with a purpose. He redeems all that looks like failure.

He is the master gardener, the one who planted Eden in perfection. He patiently waits for growth and expects His fruit will be produced in His children. He is restoring what looks hopeless and lost. And He will make all things new again.

And those are my Tuesday thoughts.

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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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Summer work, soul work

While I call them the gardens, this year it seems more appropriate to say it’s a jungle out there.

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This spring and summer has not been my best time for accomplishing much outdoors. It has been the year of the dog for us, though Chinese lore designates that title in 2018. Our little girl Maisie requires walks twice a day and lots of play time in the middle. I have given that to her more often than I’ve been down on my knees in the dirt with garden gloves.

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As a rescue animal who fended for herself much of her young life, Maisie needed our attention, training, and affection. She is rewarding us with obedience and companionship. She is settling in as our dog.

Last week I was able to go to the yard a couple of days. After a downpour of rain, I pulled on my garden boots and pink work gloves, carrying the kneeling pad and a few tools. I soon filled box after box of weeds pulled from all sorts of places. The occasional cloudburst drove me to the deck to rest a bit. Then I would trudge back to the work area.

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Another day, I determinedly took the weed sprayer and began the long-overdue task of killing poison ivy and the extreme overgrowth of neglected flower beds.

Both days I finished soaking wet with perspiration because, once again, it is hot at my Kentucky home. I felt encouraged that something like a small beginning was produced in those hours of work.

However, there has been some friendly fire in the gardens. Plants that should have been left in the ground were uprooted as I pulled weeds feverishly. Some purposely planted flowers were sprayed with poison accidentally in my hurry to get more accomplished. Two out-of-control Rose of Sharon bushes in full bloom were trimmed to the point of having almost no flowers left.

It happens when I leave something neglected for too long.

It happens in my soul as well. The small roots of discontent, comparison, and unthankfulness can turn into something ugly rather quickly. While the Holy Spirit prompts me with the Scripture and His still small voice, I can ignore both and go my own way, neglecting the needed soul-work, intending to deal with it later.

It’s never a good idea to put it off too long.

Weeds grow too close to flowers and reproduce quickly. Roots entangle with each other. Dislodging the weed often results in the good plant being uprooted.

I need to learn the lesson. It’s better to address the issues that bear on my spirit promptly. It’s wise to forgive quickly. I would do well to turn loose of the cares of life and stop the comparisons that burden me down. I should be discerning the bounty of gifts that are evident every day.

I need to count my blessings.

I realize life can be hard. How well we know that. There are mountains to climb, rivers to pass through, bridges to build, and rocky roads to travel.

I am assured that God goes with me every step of my journey. I am encouraged that there will be grace enough. I am told to let patience do it’s work in me so I learn endurance and will be made complete.

Instead of pushing aside those gentle nudges of the Spirit, I want to be more conscious of His whispers and quick to respond to my need for Him in every season and at all times. He is always with me and willing to help me address the complications of my life sooner rather than later. What might seem like a more convenient time only delays the inevitable.

He is the Teacher, the Comforter, and the One who goes with me whether for a daily walk or into the jungle.

There is still beauty in the gardens despite my neglect. And God still works to produce beauty in me through His tireless love, with the goal of reflecting the beauty of Christ at the end of it all.

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Sunday grace

I planted a tree yesterday, small and green.  I dug the hole, plopped it in the ground and encouraged it with “Grow little tree.”

It will take a long time to fulfill my wish.

I may not be alive to see it reach its full height, spreading its branches to sway in the wind, offering shade and shelter.  I planted it with hope that others will see it and enjoy its beauty.

Life is like that.  We plant seeds along our journey.  At times we are allowed the pleasure of watching those seeds produce and flourish.  Other times we wonder if the seeds are growing at all.  Sometimes we never pass that way again to recognize the product of a seed of kindness or love.

I would like to keep planting throughout my life, trees and flowers to be enjoyed by future generations, deeds of kindness, words of encouragement.  Maybe I will not see the final result.  I will leave that to the Master Gardner who ultimately brings forth bread from the earth.

I’ll just keep planting.

Sunday grace, friends.

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