Rising earlier than usual, the stillness envelopes me. The house is warm with the season of spring, needing no furnace or gas logs. I open the window next to my chair, and the distant sound of birdsong filters in. It’s too soon for the winged creatures to begin their pre-dawn chorus. And yet, there is one, out in the little woods, and he sings to me.
Sweet William breathes the heaviness of sleep in the back bedroom. Maisie checks that I am OK, then trots back to bed, her sleep-in habit.
The morning quiet is mine alone.
After awhile, I hear a sound, in the wind, in the trees. It’s the sound of rain in the distance. Did I miss that weather prediction? I listen carefully because I know the music of raindrops.
Memory takes me to decades before when I sat on the upper deck of my parents’ house, us facing the west, watching as the dark clouds hung low and rain moved toward us, over the hills into the field beyond until the spattered drops were heard on the tin roof above us.
It’s a sweet remembrance, me a young mom sitting with my mother and dad talking about whatever was on our minds. I shared a lot with them in those days, but I still kept a certain part of me hidden. Things that seemed unsolvable were closed off from everyone, kept under lock and key lest anyone might know what really troubled my heart.
Those hidden parts would be the death of me.
Another memory invades my thoughts. This time in a room other than my own, displaced and fearful of the future. An open window near a borrowed bed and somewhere a bird sang through the night. Its melody brought comfort to a weary mind, me with the uncertain days ahead, with a taunting fear rearing its ugly head.
In the middle of that torment, my Heavenly Father sent a bird to sing me to sleep.
Eventually, the doors of my secrets were pried open. Brought into the light, a gentle Savior would reach for all of it with a promise of restoration. “Believe and see the glory of God,” He whispered into my tears.
It took time for healing, for broken things to be repaired, for beauty to come from ashes. It took hard work, confession and forgiveness, a path turned in a different direction.
The sound of bird and patter of rain remind me that God is always near, always working, always has a plan.
And His glory is revealed in the song of a bird and the sound of the rain.
Maisie and I walk a half lap of the lane. The temperature is cool, the sky overcast.
The make-shift wooden bench, salvaged from the neighbor’s garbage last year, sits at the edge of the yard. Maisie wants to wander still, but I stop, not needing to rest, but needing to be still.
I gaze at the lake across the road, the geese as they swim and waddle ashore. The gander follows her goose as he leads her to the nibbles in the grass.
I begin to breathe deeper, something I don’t do enough. More often my breaths come in quick succession, enough to keep oxygen flowing through lungs and heart, blood carrying it where it is needed.
The deep breaths are cleansing and I feel myself relax in the quiet. Birds sing their evening song, a last hallelujah for this day, to the Creator who has provided for their needs.
As I turn loose of responsibilities and things on my list for tomorrow, my head clears and I listen for the voice of God. He speaks in the still, smallness of my awakened sense to Him.
He plants a question, His way of turning my awareness to my heart, to search out the deep recesses of my soul, to open doors that I often close and latch from the seeing world.
As I rise from my bench, Maisie restless to move on, the question lingers. I will ponder it in days ahead. I will come again to this place and sit to rest from my weariness, to hear and discern the voice of God, to gain understanding and insight.
For this is my Father’s desire: to draw me away from bustling to the place of quiet rest; to speak tender words of love to the tenderest parts of me; to reveal Himself once more so I can know Him even more.
Waiting rooms are on my list of least favorite places. I always bring something, a book, a magazine. I can update my planner or return text messages. Don’t waste the minutes. Never let it be said that I sat with nothing but my thoughts.
And perhaps herein lies my issue, listening to my own internal talk.
Waiting is a necessary part of life, common to all humanity. I waited for Christmas as a child, waited for the birthday when I’d turn 16, then 20. I waited to get married, to get pregnant. Then waited nine months for that sweet baby boy to be born.
I wait for the cake to bake, the soup to simmer, them needing time for flavors to mingle and textures to form that please the taste. In the waiting, the recipe becomes what it was meant to be.
Soul, are you listening? In the waiting, you become who you were meant to be.
In the quieting of my frantic soul and the calming of my fretful mind, I learn to wait with hope. I remember I am not alone on this journey.
The Psalmist breaks into his own song as he waits:
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (27:13-14)
Waiting in confident faith, waiting to see the good things of God, here is where my endurance increases and courage rises for the days before me. I learn to trust the One who knows the end from the beginning, who patiently waits for me to become who He meant me to be.
Waiting can be a good thing. Maybe I could even become a fan of it.
January has been different. It’s the only way I know to describe it.
With health concerns in the forefront of our minds, Sweet William and I began the month on the road, heading west to be with our precious ones. We needed the comfort of being with them. It’s the way we weather the storms of life sometimes, because we’re better together than apart.
Time spent with those we hold so dear was sweet, and the outcome of a surgery was positive. After a week, we headed home feeling relief and giving thanks to God for always providing His grace for our needs.
This trip we left Maisie at home with a house/pet sitter we trusted. Being our first experience, it created a little anxiety for me. I kept texting the first few days to see if everything was OK. It was beyond OK. Maisie got to play more than usual, and the house was freshly clean when we came home. It was an incredible welcome after long hours on the road, unloading the car and beginning the task of laundry and putting everything away.
I’ve been reclusive this month. Maybe it was the cold weather and too many grey-sky days. Maybe it was a case of the blues as I tried to iron out unruly thoughts. Maybe I needed the calm after the bustle of Christmas and the unexpected of New Year.
I journaled pages, scribbling and sorting through what troubled me. It’s like a free counseling session as I get emotions out of my system and onto paper. It is my hope that whoever may read my words one day will give me grace for being human and understand that I was in a difficult place.
I busied myself with inside projects and recognize it as a mechanism I use to deal. When something is out of control, whether that be me or circumstances, I do what I can control, like cleaning out a closet.
I’ve been between a rock and a hard place of trying to hygge with lit candles, snuggling in quilts, and cozy fire sitting while, at the same time, Marie Kondo prescribes that I tidy up my surroundings and turn loose of anything that does not bring me joy.
I briefly “read” (more like scanned) a book about minimalist decorating and decided I am not a fan. The pictures of rooms looked like no one lived there with their grey industrial walls and bare surfaces. I am fond of my stuff, the things I willingly dust around because each one reflects back to me a person, a memory, or simple beauty. I can find balance with my belongings without being overtaken by them.
During my January organizing, I went through old photographs, finding some treasures. One of my granddaughters recently developed an interest in studying her ancestry. I was happy to share pictures and stories with her. And one of these days, I really am going to put the black and white images in albums, especially now that someone will treasure their history.
Among the photographs, I found a couple of V-mail letters my mother had written to my father during WWII. The handwriting was tiny, but I recognized her familiar script. Her words were sentimental and romantic, a new bride of two years who longed for her husband far from home. It was poignant to read, witnessing my parents tenderly young and deeply in love. They were beginning their lives together, dreaming of a future when they were together again.
I’ve sort of recently discovered podcasts, and I have a few favorites I enjoy listening to as I do some task. In one interview, a man spoke about his life spiraling downward with overwork, alcohol abuse, and depression. He realized he had to change his habits and wrote a book about it. One of the habits he recommended was meeting with a friend for an hour every week. That sounds simple enough, but is it? We are busy folk, distracted, multi-tasking gurus. Or perhaps reclusive. It takes intentionality to set aside time, to turn off technology, to focus and quiet the heart for a face-to-face with another. I have found it worth the effort and one of the most refreshing things I can do for myself.
Another book of interest this month was The Language of God, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins. Collins is renowned for his leadership in the Human Genome Project. The book was deep and made me think outside the box regarding science and faith, which often seems to be at odds with each other. I appreciated his unbiased approach, presenting the facts and then asking the reader to think for herself.
This quote from Albert Einstein has meaning for me: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” I understand better now that faith and science do not have to be in conflict with each other.
The last couple of days of the month, the electric company appeared on our lane with heavy equipment. Sweet William and I heard the noise of the machines and strained to see what was happening. To my horror, they began to cut a 50 foot tract through our little woods, ripping brush and saplings, crushing everything in the path. I drove the car down the lane and saw the devastation.
I enjoy my little woods. It has taken years for the trees to grow and fill in the area. I wanted to cry.
The electric company had every right to do their work. They purchased that stip of land years ago, underneath the high wires that run from east to west. My trees were sacrificed for the greater good of having electricity in my home and the homes of my neighbors, close and far. On the frigid days of January ending, I have been thankful for a warm house. Still I grieve the loss.
Many times as I have driven to town, I noticed yards along the road where branches have been cut to prevent them from tangling with wires. It looks butchered to me, the branches severed, trees lopsided, nothing esthetic or artful. They stand in their naked brokenness.
Yet spring and summer reveals their continued vigorous growth, leaves filling out the cut and jagged places. Often when I observe them, I think of the pruning in my own life, things cut away, often severely, leaving me feeling lopsided and naked. Is it somehow for the greater good?
Only God will tell me the reasons one day. I expect in some way or another, He will explain life to me, the whys and the wherefores of pain, suffering, loss, the cutting away that He knows is necessary for a more fruitful life. He knows the purpose He has for me and others.
Until then, I must learn to trust Him, knowing He is wise and good. This life is not about me, after all. It is about Him. Perhaps this one wild life I live will in some way point others in His direction. Perhaps God will shine through the cracked and jagged places in me. Perhaps the pruning will result in more fruit than I could have imagined.
Perhaps in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, He will produce something beautiful in me, something that will give joy. Perhaps I will even reflect His glory to the world.
The small fiber optic tree on the corner table, a loan because I could not make the effort this year, twinkles its changing colors. All is calm, all is bright.
Friends have graced table, us sharing joys and sorrows, memories and hopes mingled. Learning to be content with less takes time. Learning that Jesus is enough is my calling.
In the season of giving gifts, I receive what God gives for it is alway perfectly suited, though sometimes it melts me. The molding and pressing and changing of a life into something more akin to the Son, it can be a painful process. Yet there is no other way to reflect His light, His love.
Jesus is Lord. Lord over all. Lord of my days and my years. Lord when I laugh and when I cry. Lord and King, benevolent and gracious, always bestowing the gift of Himself. The greatest present. His presence.
He is the with us God, Immanuel.
The mystery was revealed and angels gazed in wonder.
The prophecy foretold was fulfilled.
The Promise became living, breathing Infant. Child. Savior.
The Creator surrendered to the constraints of creation.
The Lawgiver fulfilled His own law.
The breath of God, His very Word was formed into flesh and tabernacled among us.
The unutterable name of YHVH was wrapped in a blanket and called Yeshua. Jesus.
The 400 years of silence was broken by a newborn baby’s cry.
And thus . . .
The lost is found.
The prodigal gets to go home.
The impure is cleansed.
The sinner is called righteous.
The ugly is redeemed, clothed in beauty.
The war-torn is offered peace and a place of rest.
The needy receives grace.
The orphan is welcomed into the Father’s house and invited to call Him Abba.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” — Psalm 20:7 NIV
My Bible study sisters and I are Believing God is who He says He is. At last week’s class, we did an exercise that has become one of my power tools. I say it often when I need a boost of faith, when I need to turn my eyes off my problems and onto my Lord. It changes my focus and makes a believer out of me.
I call it the ABCs of God’s name. He is:
A – Alpha
B – Benefactor
C – Comforter and Counselor
D – Deliverer
E – Eternal
F – Faithful
G – Good and Gracious
H – Holy
I – Immanuel
J – Just
K – King of kings
L – Love
M – Majestic
N – Name above all names
O – Omnipotent
P – Peace
Q – Qualified
R – Righteous
S – Savior and Son of God
T – Trustworthy
U – Unmatched
V – Victor and Victorious
W – Wonderful
X – eXcellent
Y – Yahweh
Z – Zealous
There are many ways I could describe Him. Saying God’s character names reminds me once again that He is more that I can imagine, more than I will ever comprehend, more than I need for every situation.
He is greater than anything. He fills the universe. He comes to fill me.
I will trust and not fear. His name is the hiding place where I am safe.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. ” — Proverbs 18:10
The first Sunday of September stirs thoughts of fall, though the meteorologist dashes my hope with his prediction of 90 degrees.
Maisie and I walk early, before light invades the darkness. The sun is not yet visible, but its rays tinge the grey clouds with shades of pink. Stillness envelopes the beginning of this new morning.
New mercies await me.
My thoughts turn to a new Bible study beginning next week. Women will gather at the Wright House, and we will study the Word, stretch our faith, and learn anew to Believe God.
“Believe” is a word that has profound meaning for me. A number of years ago, God spoke in my desperation, me on my knees at the couch heaving sobs. My heart was broken. My future looked frightful. This was not how my life was supposed to be.
Through my tears and brokenness, He spoke words to my heart:
“Believe and see the glory of God.”
What? Where’s the glory in this ugliness? How are You going to turn chaos into splendour?
The very next day I received a letter from someone who knew a part my struggle. She wrote on the outside of the envelope these words:
“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” — John 11:40 NIV
A verse written on paper by my friend, Jesus’ spoken words lettered red in my Bible, and the Holy Spirit’s echo of courage as I knelt – His holy word was inscribed on my heart. I grasped it like a life raft. I feebly exercised my believing and waited to see His glory.
His glory finally came. It was miraculous, like the dead being raised to new life. I could not have imagine what my God was about to do.
That memory stirs my soul as I enter the season of Believing God once again. I long for my theology to become my reality, as Beth Moore says. I desire to walk in victorious faith, to actually live like I’m more than a conqueror, to receive the blessings God wants to give me.