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The journals

 

101_1647My old journals were stored in matching boxes, tucked in a shelf upstairs. I thought I needed to keep them out of sight, for privacy perhaps. But seldom are visitors in the upstairs room anymore.

I decided to unloaded the boxes. The journals lay around the room, their various sizes and designs an analogy of the years, each one different.

When I was a child, I often started a daily diary in January. The book had dated pages and I wrote regularly for a few weeks or a month. Then I’d skip a day or more. Being the perfectionist I am (and continue to try to overcome), blank pages meant I had failed. I soon abandoned the book altogether.

Tiny books record events from my teens when life seemed so challenging. I was navigating the road to becoming an adult. My latest crush was a common topic.

Journaling was sporadic at best when being a wife and mother was all-consuming; recording my life’s events didn’t seem important.

I would love to look back at those years now, see them from the perspective of the younger me.

My more consistant journaling began in 1997 in a simple spiral book with lined pages. Pen went to paper and took on a life of its own.

I began recording my thoughts as well as the events of my days, and I wrote when I wanted to. I was not compelled to do it every day. It was the niche I needed.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone will read all those books. My handwriting gets messy and illegible as I scribble the things in my head and my heart. The volumes hold the thankful days and the grumbling days, the sweet moments and the times I cried.

Perhaps they just need to be buried with me. Because in those pages are the honest version of myself, the view I try to keep hidden from public scrutiny. The words on the pages reveal more of what God sees than anyone else.

The journal was a listening friend, a safe place to vent, with no contradicting voices or interruptions. It was therapy as I worked out a problem, rambling on as I needed. Other times, it was an altar where I repented and where prayers were lifted to the Savior who understands me in a way no one else does.

I counted blessings on the pages. I wrote about friends and family, the treasures they are to me. I recorded the everyday and the extraordinary.

I suppose I will keep writing as long as I have pen and paper and a mind to do it. It matters not if anyone reads them. I do not write for others. I write for me. I write to remember.

When I am old and more confined in place, perhaps I will leaf through the pages of my journals and remember what a full and blessed life I lived. The ups and the downs, the sideways and crooked will be there. I will read and be grateful for all the days I was given.

The sweet singer of Israel wrote these words:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days of my life were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” — Psalm 139:16 AMPC

While I was writing about the days of my life as they passed, my heavenly Father recorded them before my birth. What a beautiful thought, that He knew me then, that He has been watchful to carry out His purpose in me for all my years.

I take a breath and consider the wonder of that kind of love.

I set all the journals up on the open shelves in chronological order. They are interesting to look at, their variety of color, shape, and size. For each year has been unique.

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In some way, my life is there on the shelf. But the plans for me are guided by an unseen hand, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

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Sunday grace

I awake this morning with a mind to read Psalm 139. It is a familiar, well-loved passage.

But this morning, I am moved to tears as the old words become like fresh bread, still warm from the oven. Their truth quenches the thirst of my heart like living water.

I have lived some years and walked some roads.  I’ve climbed high mountains of victory and been in deep valleys of despair. Sometimes I have felt alone and misunderstood, wondering where God was in my tribulation.

I’ve asked questions with much weeping, wanting answers that would somehow make sense of life. The answers I waited for did not always come in a way I could understand. Instead I saw Who was my answer, the I AM

I see once again this morning, that a loving God has been there in it all. Planning for me, creating me, watching over me, protecting me, going with me, holding me, shining light around me.

I am struck with amazement and awe at this kind of care, commitment, and love for such as I. It is knowledge too wonder-filled for me to understand.

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. . . . 
You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me.
This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

I have experienced love in a myriad of ways, gifts from a kind and generous hand. I’ve been amazed by grace.

Grace walked along side me, surrounded me, and held on to me when I could not hold on any longer.

Grace has been there with me all the time, in every circumstance of my life.

And grace will lead me home.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The deck on the back of the house is always shaded in the early morning, the sun rising at my right. As it shines, the shadows shift.

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The pole house my dad built when our one and only son was small receives the early morning sun. It leans precariously, the years taking a toll on it as the ground underneath gives in.  Each year I wonder if it will fall over.

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By evening the sun will have shifted and the deck will reflect the heat of a summer’s day. I will retreat to the shelter of a climate-controled house.

All day long the shadows change. The little woods stay dark in some places most of the time, the leaves of taller trees keeping the light from filtering in.

Life is like the shifting shadows. On any given day, the world seems bright and cheerful. Then one event can change everything. The shadow falls and we reel in confusion.

We wake to the new day and do not know what the afternoon will bring. And where do we go to find shelter?

The Psalmist asked such a question.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? — Psalm 121:1

Our prosperity will not save us. Friends and family may gather but they cannot change anything.  In our own strength we falter, our resolve melting like wax.

Where do we go for help?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1, 2

The Maker of heaven and earth is our Helper. He watches over us. His loving eyes see us in our tribulation. He gives strength to the feeble, courage to the fearful, grace to the weak.

He does not shift like the shadows of our lives. He is steadfast and sure, a faithful God who is true to His word. He shines in our darkness because He is light.

He will not leave us in despair and hopelessness. He is Immanuel, God with us.

He is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. And flowers still grow in His brightness.

Sunday grace.

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April ending 2017

I love the month of April. It may be my favorite month, and why not, I love spring.

New life popped up everywhere this month in various and sundry ways.  A cardinal built a nest outside a back bedroom window behind the clematis arbor. Three black and white eggs hatched into hungry baby birds.  When the window is open, I hear their peeps as they reach with mouths wide for parents to bring food. Daily they grow and fill their nest, and it is a gift of spring.

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The one gander who sat on her nest early last month, through the cold, hatched her eggs as the calendar page turned. I was beginning to doubt there was life in those eggs, and then there they were, five little fuzzy goslings.

Maisie and I watch for the goose family on our daily walks. Sadly there are only four babies now. I wonder how the parents feel when one is taken, perhaps by a large turtle in the lake or something wild on the bank of the river which lies beyond. Do they feel sadness? Are their hearts hurting for the one that was and now is not?

I was surprised by a batch of Mallard babies toddling along almost hidden in the grass, their little heads bobbing. I was only guessing to count them from a distance and them moving at scattered pace; I think there are eight. From what I’ve observed, mamma duck is alone. I’ve not seen her mate with her a single time.  I wonder what could have happened to him. She is a single mother trying to raise her brood. I hope she can handle it. There are so many dangers out there in the wild.

Temperatures went from cold to hot in one week alone. The gas logs burned some mornings to warm us, and the air conditioner ran its initial time this year on a different day. We experienced our first tornado warning, and Sweet William and I huddled in the hallway with our shoes on and holding tightly to our essentials. I grasped Maisie’s leash attached to her collar and imagined what might happen if we were blown away, the two of us spinning wildly in the wind. It was a madcap mental picture.

Sweet William and I visited a friend and her children at their farm in a neighboring county and shared a delicious lunch during spring break. He fished and enjoyed the company of the young son; I drank coffee and visited with my friend and her daughter, doing what we women do best – talk. We lingered so long I hoped we had not over-stayed our welcome. She said she always enjoys my company, and my heart warms by her response.

Another friend visited me on a Saturday and I was under prepared, just getting out of the shower and no muffins in the oven. I got the time mixed up. I gathered myself together, no make up and wet hair, and sat at the table with her as we laughed and remembered, and I caught up on the activities of her growing children. I understood even more that everything does not have to be perfect to enjoy fellowship with another and offer hospitality.

Yard work this month called my name, so many weeds and so little of me. I worked awhile and rested a while; worked a while and drank a cup of coffee; worked a while and read a book on the deck. At night I rubbed Arnica gel on my aching muscles. I’ve made good progress, though there is still much to do. Not finished by a long way, walking through the garden areas is more pleasant than last year when weeds flourished and I languished.

Memories are attached to the growing things in my yard. People have shared their own nature-bounty with me. The snowball bush, with its huge blooms, reminds me of my parents. The first start of it came from their home. I learned to plant from my dad, watching him dig the hole, place the plant, tamp the earth with his shoes, and then water generously. Branches of the bush with its white blossoms are in a large vase sitting on the kitchen table, a living reminder of the rich heritage I increasingly value more each year.

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Yard sale signs tempt me this time of year. I resisted the first ones I saw, and then gave in to another.  I am choosier than I used to be about what I bring home. I often admire something than say to myself, “I don’t really need that.”  It’s good to just walk away empty-handed.

Books and movies were on the menu in April. One worth mentioning is the DVD I borrowed from my library. Priceless is about human trafficing. It is gripping, heart-rending, and after it was over I wanted to do something.  The website offers an opportunity to be involved in local areas. I cannot save the world, but I can do something.

I’ve been to hospitals in April, surgeries that leave me in waiting rooms. Offering the gift of my presence is one thing I can do. Prayer is another. I’m thankful for good hospitals, for God-given healing knowledge, for doctors and medical professionals. Friends came and went during the waiting, others texted assuring us of their concern and prayers. Comfort is bestowed on heavy hearts and nerves strung taut with the uncertainty.

I had the privilege of helping prepare the table and food for Christ in the Passover event, presented by a member of Jews for Jesus.  Passover is one of my favorite holidays in the year, so full of meaning, symbolism, and truth as Jesus our Passover Lamb becomes a reality.

Passover occurred in tandem with the beauty of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday this year in April. It does not always happen that way. I’m glad when it does because the events are irrevocably joined by the life, death, and life again of Jesus Christ.

I went to a plant sale this morning, an annual event I look forward to at my local county extension office. It rained like it has for several years. Those of us who are dedicated gardeners and gardener-want-to-be’s endured grey, wet weather because we are attached to the soil and what it has potential to bring forth. A little moisture would not deter us. We are looking for growth and fruit in flower and vegetable. I filled my wagon and almost emptied my pocketbook. Now plants await me and my own dirt, those tender shoots full of promise.

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God gives the same to us. Life and promise. Hope for growing fruitful in the wind and the rain.  In the storm and the warm sunshine.  We participate in the joyful events with songs in our hearts, and we endure along with others those things that bring us to our knees in tears and prayers. Fruit is produced in us through the life of Jesus, Him living and breathing through these jars of clay.

As the hours of April slip quietly by, I yet feel the stress and strain of situations beyond my control, identifying with loved ones pressed hard and stretched thin, grieving with those who grieve. praying for relief and an end to the suffering.

I remember a story of a Shunammite woman whose son died, the son promised to her by the prophet Elijah. She hurried to the man of God, answering those who questioned her with these words, “All is well.” Her spoken faith astounds me.  Her heart was bitterly distressed for this son of hers, yet somehow she voiced her faith that all is well. And so it was. Her son came back to life by a miracle.

If I believe there is a God and that He is good and strong, that He loves me enough to die in my place and adopt me into His family, then I too should be able to speak those words: All is well.

Whatever the season, whatever the trial, in sunshine and rain, on the brightest days of spring and the coldest of winter, the Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all. He is just, compassionate, and loving in all His ways. 

All is well and all will be well.

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I wonder

I wonder if the birds in my backyard know me at all?

I feed the birds regularly during those cold months when they fluff their feathers to hold in body heat and need extra energy to stay warm.  Sometimes the squirrel sneaks in to pick up the leftovers, and I get aggravated at him and shoo him away.

In winter, it is my pleasure to provide extra food for our feathered friends.  Their variety amazes me. The personality traits can be seen in each species. The blue jays are big and bossy, always taking over. The doves are complacent, minding their own business.  The woodpecker checks out hidden places in cracks and crevices the other birds can’t reach. The cardinals come in pairs.  And the little birds – chick-a-dees, wrens, and tufted titmice – they wait their turn and pick up small seeds left behind.  And I wonder if they know I am the provider of the seed and the fresh water on my deck?

Sometimes I call to them, “Come on, birdies.” And I imagine they recognize my voice and are just waiting for my invitation.  But do they really?

If I go outside my door, the birds all scatter.  They appear more afraid than friendly to me.  But why should they be?  I like them.  I enjoy them.  I feed them.

But they don’t know me.  They just like the seed I spread out for them.

How often have I gobbled up all the Father has provided for me without noticing Him?

How much do I take for granted that He will provide?

How quick am I to say thanks?  Do I just run scared if He tries to communicate with me?

I don’t want to hide when God comes near.  I want to know Him.  Because He wants to be known by me.

That in itself is astounding.  The Creator wants the created to know Him. He reveals Himself in so many ways so I can.

His provision is just one of those ways.  His gifts come regularly.  His voice is heard throughout the earth.  He offers grace upon grace for those who will receive.

He calls to me, and sometimes I don’t even notice or pay attention.  How sad that is.

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The birds in my back yard teach me a lesson.

God loves me.  He takes care of me.  He wants communion with me.

How then shall I respond?

 

 

A light dusting

I was doing some light dusting the other day since I was expecting some company. It seems like most of my cleaning these days is light.  “A lick and a promise,” I used to hear my mother say.  I didn’t really know what it meant then. Now I say it quite often when I do a little of something with the promise I’ll do more later.

While I was lightly dusting the living room, I came to a large piece of furniture Sweet William and I salvaged years ago. It was actually an old record player in its youth, the kind that also stored records and was built into a massive cabinet. None of the works was in it when we bought it, but we could see its potential.  Bill, being the handyman that he is, put in a newer, more modern sound system. We now enjoy music that we can even control with a remote, something the original builder of the cabinet would not have dreamed of.

On the cabinet sits a number of frames holding family pictures.

 

 

There are great black and whites of the three grandchildren some years back.    

 

 

 

 There is a color of Travis and Renee before the children were born, plus another of their family of five when Ethan was still a baby in arms.    

 

 

In a smaller frame is a photograph of my mother and dad taken outside, about a year before Mother died.

Close beside it is the picture of my dad and step-mother, Esther, at their wedding day.

 

 

 

 

Recently, I added a photo of Bill and me, quite a bit younger when his hair was black and mine was what he calls auburn.  

The photos make a nice grouping of my immediate family members.

There are other things mixed in with the pictures that I realize have become very meaningful as I take in the scene as a whole. There is an old kerosene lamp sitting in the back right corner, behind the photographs.

An angel figurine that Renee’ gave me one Christmas graces the center.  

In the forefront is an item I remember being in parent’s home.   It is a small, old, wooden-looking plaque, framed in faux twigs. There is a tiny picture of Jesus on the left, you know the one that used to hang in every small church in the country.  On the plaque are printed words that have worn to a golden patina:

The Eternal GOD is Thy REFUGE.” Deut. 33:27

I pass that grouping quite often through the week, as I turn on the radio or CD player, as I walk to the piano to play a song, or when my piano students come for lessons.  I glance at those pictures of my family, sometimes stopping to examine those dear faces.

I realized this week, during my light dusting, that the display on the old cabinet is a sort of memorial.  The lamp represents the Light that shined on my parents’ pathway first and has permeated the hearts of each one of us in turn. The angel sits as a reminder that guardian angels encamp around those who fear God and have tasted His salvation and found it to be good. And the little plaque says what I know to be true, that yes, the eternal God is our refuge!

That truth has been proven to me for such a long time.  Through the thick and the thin of my days, in good times and bad, when we are healthy and when we are not, in life as well as in death, God has never failed to be the only refuge that remains stable in an unstable world.

I don’t worship there like it’s a shrine or expect that this vignette is somehow holy.  But it seems to be my “Ebenezer.”

The word Ebenezer means “stone of help,” and is explained in  I Samuel 7.  The story goes that the prophet Samuel took a stone and set it up at as a monument, something to remind the Israelites of the victory they had won by the help of their God.  He called the stone “Ebenezer.”

My grouping there on the old record player cabinet is my reminder . . . a visual of how God’s grace has flowed down.  I need to be reminded.  Sometimes I stop there and declare it out loud, “The eternal God IS our refuge.”

Too often my eyes get focused somewhere else.  Problems loom large in my vision.  Feelings overshadow my faith.  All that can block what I know to be true, that God is never far away, that He does hear my prayers, that He speaks peace to my heart and tells me “Do not be afraid.”

When I need a safe place, a strong and sure haven of protection, I can always run to the eternal God, to my Savior and Lord, who has always been, who is now, and forever will be my refuge.

  

I’m not a great photographer, as you can tell.  But I hope you enjoyed the visit in my living room.

Do you have a memorial in your home?

Still the storm passes

I’ve been listening to a lot of weather reports for a number of days now.  The muddy Salt River is high enough for me to see it out my front window.  I hear reports of people evacuating their homes, of flooded basements, of hail damaged roofs.  Tonight I see war-like devastation in the southern states where friends and family live.

And we pray. 

Sweet William and I have prayed a lot lately about the weather, asking for protection and mercy on us and those we love, naming them one by one.

And I wonder what is happening?

Is it the result of global warming?  Is this punishment from God? 

Jesus said it rightly when He warned His disciples, “In this world you shall have tribulation.”  He didn’t say, “Everything will be just great if you follow me.”  Nor did He say, “You’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise.” 

Life is hard.  We all know it is true.  Listen to the stories people tell.  Even those who smile have a heartbreaking tale to tell.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).  Bad things happen to good people.  We don’t want to believe that and act surprised when it does.  Especially if the bad things are happening to us personally.

During these stormy days and nights I have thought of a favorite Scripture verse in Job 26:14 (CEV).

“These things are merely a whisper of God’s power at work.  How little we would understand if this whisper ever turned into thunder!”

God’s power is unparalleled on this earth.  Man’s discoveries and inventions are no match for His smallest breath.  The forces of nature that were spoken into existence astonish us. 

Power belongs to God, so says Psalm 62:11.  Comforting words follow that verse telling me that mercy belongs to Him also.

I don’t know what is happening.  But what I do know is that God is good as well as powerful.  He is not willing that any should perish.  He loves men and women, boys and girls and wants them to turn to Him in their trouble, to thank Him for His many blessings, to worship Him for who He is. 

He is God.  He is in control.  He is a shelter in our time of storm.

 

What storms are swirling around you?  Leave a comment.