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Sunday grace

The trees in the little woods are greening and absorbing spaces. It’s becoming harder to see through the spiky saplings as I scan the depth for a deer sighting.

The small tree attached at its root to the larger Ash is blooming full and brightens my view out the kitchen window.

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The weather warmed and dried out enough that I donned my garden clothes and bush hat to start a little clean up in Maisie’s fence and around the side of the house.  Sweet William helped me sharpen my tools, making my work easier by far.

The bushy hedge behind the house and along the sidewalk to the outbuilding always gets a shave and haircut each spring. Between raindrops, I went at it until I discovered nests tucked into branches on either end. Blue eggs belong to a robin, and she flew out and fussed at me each time I came near. A mourning dove nested on the white eggs on the other end, her calm sitting undisturbed by my pruning.

My cutting stopped short to leave concealing  foliage for each of the tender mothers who are protecting their precious progeny.

On a walk-about at the lake, Maisie and I were nearly attacked by a male goose this week, him rising up in the air waving feathers and clawed feet in our direction. Apparently we were getting too close to his gander who sat faithfully on her nest of eggs at the water’s edge.

The few days of warmth and sunshine this week were encouraging and enticed me outdoors. It is spring, even when grey days appear again and I concern myself for apple tree blossoms with forecasts predicting freezing temperatures once more. Yet I will not lose hope.

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God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

Not that the world is all right. It certainly is not. Nightly news would fill me with dread. But my hope is not in this world and its treasures or its future. My hope is in God alone who is sovereign ruler over all.

And He is my Father. He loves me and has His eye on me. He watches my every breath and has planned for my future.

While I wait for spring to fully flourish, I know what to expect. The fullness of its beauty lies ahead.

The beauty and glory of God’s completed plan draws ever nearer for me. He designed and arranged it, and His intention is to redeem. Until that day comes, I will wait for Him.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100:5

If it had not been for the Lord’s mercy, where would we be?

When we faced each other 46 years ago, me dressed in ruffled white and you, so handsome in your dark tux and ruffled shirt, we made promises and could not anticipate how they would be tested, how we would be tested.

We climbed high mountains and crossed troubled waters, wondering if we would come out alive. We did, but we bear the scars.

We tread the daily, the mundane, the getting up each morning to work and take care, to build and repair, and then the next day we did it again.

We have lived years as the two made one. More than two-thirds of my span of days has been spent with you. We are intertwined, you and I, like vines on a trellis.

We are different in so many ways, me the quiet reserved one, you the friendly talker. You are punctual and I am not, and you quote Brad Paisley’s “Waitin’ on a Woman” with a patient smile on your face.

We have loved and lost. We fought for faith when the Lord gave and when He took away. We have shared experiences that are ours alone. We have come far and learned life lessons on the journey together.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without you beside me these years. You are still the one, my only one, Sweet William.

For the Lord is good, His mercey is everlasting. He has been faithful and full of compassion to us.

And today is full of grace.

Sunday grace.

 

 

Traditions come and then they go

 

101_1310Not long ago a friend asked me about our holiday traditions. I went back 40 years and remembered Christmas morning breakfasts of waffles and syrup at my parents’ home.

Married only a few years, Sweet William and I lived close enough to walk if we wanted, but there were presents to carry and eventually a small boy in tow on a chilly day, so we drove the truck.

We entered through the walk-in basement of their home and ascended the stairs that led us into the kitchen. It was warm and fragrant of coffee and bacon.  The old familiar red and green printed cloth was spread on mother’s round table for the morning feast. Homemade syrup was heating on the gas stove. In the adjacent living room was a tree dressed in red ornaments and birds and laden with presents planned with love. Those were such good days, fondly recalled, bringing a smile to my heart.

Life moves on as unavoidable change affects us. My mother and dad are both gone now. The first Christmas after my mother’s death was so difficult for me. I knew there would be no waffles at her house that year. We had to do something different because Christmas would never be the same again without her excitement, smile, warm hugs, and loving presence.

Yet there was this small boy who needed some normalcy, needed to celebrate Christmas when I didn’t want to that year. I muddled through it somehow. Eventually I had to learn a new way to honor the holidays and life as we now knew it.

I enjoy hearing people talk about their family traditions. When they throw in phrases like, “We always . . . ” or “Every year we . . . ,” it tells me how meaningful special rituals are in the life of a family. Traditions help stabilize when the world is crashing around us.

We bring our traditions with us into a new family unit or we build new ones into the holidays on purpose. But then something happens that disrupts everything. An accident, a divorce, a death, a move, a job loss. Even blessed events, like marriage and children, affect how we will amend what we did last year. We have to adjust or risk making ourselves and everyone around us miserable.

Traditions are wonderful but they are not laws set in stone.

Much has changed for Sweet William and me over the past decade. I recall the traditions we held precious when loved ones were near. But we don’t celebrate the same way now.

More than one family is dealing with a holiday vastly different from last year. What are we to do? We may grieve while treasuring what was. We must move forward into the altered present. Learn to roll with the punches, go with the flow, modify and accommodate.

If we can’t move beyond our expectations, we strain at the bit and potentially hurt ourselves and the ones we love.

Our lives are being refined by the daily events of life. We often put importance on what seems huge and memorable. We may not comprehend how the small day-to-day incidents can clarify, purify, hone and polish us to be conformed into the image of Christ. Humbly submitting to changes with a settled joy may be part of the process of reflecting His countenance.

Change is inevitable. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see the transformations going on. The hair is whiter, the laugh lines deeper, the eyeglasses have three vision areas. And let’s not even talk about what’s going on with my body.

And yet . . . there is a changeless One giving me hope.

In Him there is no shadow of turning.

He is from everlasting to everlasting.

His faithfulness remains even when I am faithless.

Before the foundation of the earth, He is the Lamb of God.

He is a High Priest forever.

He declares the end from the beginning.

He is Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

My tradition of reading and meditating on the birth of Christ remains with me. Though He dressed in humanity, was brought forth as an infant, and submitted to earthly limitations and suffering, He was still God. He is still God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we have seen his glory.

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A Christmas prayer

Reading the first few chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke are a yearly tradition for me in December. The words are ancient and familiar, yet like a drink of pure spring water they quench my thirst. And this morning I was parched.

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I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah the aged priest who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.

I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again, the one for a child, a son from his loins.

Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.

God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.

The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

What prayer? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I quit hoping to be answered in the way I was expecting? The prayer that would have been in a timetable right for me? That prayer?

Zachariah and I, we have things in common.

The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?

How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it by my prescription and on my schedule.

Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would be answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not go unheeded.

After so many years they became resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs must have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.

And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

 

God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He says He answers when He gets good and ready, because He alone knows when the time is right and all things are in place.

So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep being faithful. Keep going on your knees. Keep trusting that your God hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.

Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.

And it will be spectacular.

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As we come to the table

Just a few days left before we celebrate Thanksgiving in all of our varied and crazy ways. Relatives and friends of all shapes and sizes will gather with food dishes that range from vintage recipes to gluten-free concoctions.

101_1203 I’ve been making my efforts at having a thankful heart during the month. I’ve tried to be disciplined to write three things that brought me joy at the end of each day. At least I’ve tried.

I started my annual Joy List this morning, counting God’s graces one by one on paper. There are so many, I could write forever. I had to stop for breakfast with the promise of “to be continued.” Tomorrow my prayer partner of many years will call on the phone, and we will look back at the prayers prayed and how God answered them this year. Our voices will be full of “thank you’s.”

From Old to New Testaments, we read instructions to remember how God has been  faithful. It’s easy to forget sometimes when we are in the throes of difficulty, tragedy, or grief. And honestly, sometimes it can be simple neglect or a lack of contentment.

Just as our menus will be different, not everyone will do Thanksgiving the same way. I read one blogger who thought making a daily count of grace was too regimented, and she was definitely not putting kernels of corn beside each place settings for a round robin of being grateful. She preferred more spontaneity and daily mindfulness. She did her thankfulness in a different way.

There isn’t a prescription for how to have a grateful heart, but we are told to practice it regularly. And in the same way God’s commands are good for us, being thankful brings joy to our lives.

The method is not as important as the message. It’s the heart of the matter that matters. Be thankful in your own sweet way, dear friends.

This year has brought much loss to my friends and family. I feel it in my own heart, the tears flowing unexpectedly this morning. At many holiday tables this year, there will be an empty place.

Life can be hard during the holidays. Especially during the holidays.

And yet God is good even in this present circumstance. His grace is still sufficient. He remains the God of all comfort who gives us comfort in all our troubles. His presence in our days continues as a promise.  He still walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death. And we are never, ever alone.

If there is nothing else today or this year, there is Jesus who is God’s love demonstrated in tangible, relatable, identifiable form. He wrapped himself in skin and bone and showed us the glory.

Give thanks with a grateful heart. And have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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Sunday grace

I awake, move toward the coffee pot in the kitchen. I open the window over the sink, as is my habit. Coolness flows in.

The day dawns glorious as night must give way to the day. The sun will not allow darkness to remain.

I read the Word, seeking comfort. I want music this morning, something to soothe the ache in my heart. I put on a CD in the player, the piano solo begins, and this is my testimony:

In my moments of fear, though every pain every tear,
There’s a God Who’s been faithful to me.
When my strength was all gone, when my heart had no song,
Still in love He’s proved faithful to me.
Every word He’s promised is true. What I thought was impossible
I’ve seen my God do.
He’s been faithful, faithful to me.

He’s Been Faithful    by Damaris Carbaugh 

I lift my hands in honor and worship to the One who has been faithful to me. In every situation, both joyful and painful.

He was near when I felt Him and when I didn’t.

He was with me when I laughed and when I cried.

He was present in the moments of my conception and He will take my hand when I breathe my last breath.

He has been there in the good, the bad, the ugly, and the glorious.

I look back and see His faithfulness. I look forward with faith in God my Savior.

Sunday Grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

 

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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