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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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Sunday grace

Oh Lord, You know me well, better than anyone else.

You know my grace-filled ponderings. You also know when I am anxious, angry, disgruntled, unbelieving.

You have a window into my heart that no one else has ever seen. The place where I battle to bring every thought into subjection to You.

I want to dwell on things that are pure and lovely, honorable and true. Sometimes I struggle.

Oh Lord, You love me like no other, even though You know me so well. How is that possible, that Your love goes beyond my ability to be lovable?

I don’t understand Your ways. They are too high, too deep. I cannot grasp Your affection for me. You give love like an ever-bubbling stream, a fountain of fresh life. It washes over me, calling me to climb higher and dwell peacefully in hope.

Why do I worry and stress when I am Yours and You have me in Your hands, working out Your perfect plan? Why do I let anxiety get the best of me? You are my Lord and Savior, my Redeemer and the God who sees me.

You are the Lover of my soul, the Shepherd who leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.

Still my apprehension and my fear as I put my trust in You.

Sunday grace

About Valentine’s Day

Culture will try to tell us what to think and how to act. The media, in all its various venues, formulates ideas they want us to accept. If they say it often enough, we tend to believe it is true, especially if it is on the internet.

How does that relate to Valentine’s Day?

We are told the day is for lovers and sweethearts, couples and spouses.  We must buy things, like candy and cards.  Spend money on jewelry and flowers.  If you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something costly, well you just must not be loved.

Please, don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  It is His essence, who He is. Anything good in this world, any smidgen of kindness, any beauty, any joy comes from the Creator of good and perfect gifts who first initiated love.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my Sweet William’s embrace, in the smile of a friend, and in the strength to take care of another.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with grace all day long, gifts like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, finding our Maisie who was lost, and a phone conversation that encourages.

But the very most extravagant love God ever demonstrated was the life of His Son to a world that did not recognize Him, did not welcome Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in this fact: He loved us when we were unlovable, unfaithful, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He gave love. He lavished it on the ones made in His likeness, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His beckoning arms of forgiveness and mercy.

Stories and legends abound about the man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving, and so we celebrate him with a special day. We call him a saint. We are enticed to spend money in his honor.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing our own wants for someone else.

Love forgives and doesn’t hold grudges. Love does not get offended easily.  Love is patient and kind, not jealous or prideful.  Love causes us to consider another first and act in loving ways, no matter what.  Love longs for truth and doing the right thing.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when words wound.  Not when distance or misunderstanding or unresolved conflict separates. Love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from His love.

This love is worth remembering and celebrating on a day in February and every other day of the year.

Revised and reposted from February 2015

 

 

Once I was lost

It’s coming upon a year since we adopted our little girl Maisie, a dog who was recued from the streets. We have watched her turn from a timid, sad creature to a happy and healthy furry friend.

I got home late one night this week and walked Maisie when the sun had already set, and any lingering daylight was almost lost in the clouds of a rainy day.

We met a neighbor and her dog as we headed toward our house. In their tussled greeting of each other, Maisie pulled free from her collar and my heart went to my throat. She is a fast runner and had escaped from the house a few times, but I had been able to retrieve her after a few minutes. As soon as she was loose  from the collar and leash, she sped away in the direction of a cat we had passed a little earlier. I could hear her yelping go farther in the distance as she was on the chase.

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . ” Psalm 119:176

I hurried to the door of the house and called for Sweet William to bring the treat jar. I’ve enticed Maisie to me on other occasions with a shake of the jar.

I went toward the sound of her yelping, calling her name and shaking the jar. This time it was not working.

My neighbor put her dog in the house and came to our yard to help me. We could hear and see glimpses of Maisie’s white hair as she ran through the little woods that surround our house. Our calling was lost on her. She was intent on finding the trail of that cat.

My neighbor thought Maisie was close enough once as she lunged for her, then fell flat on the ground. Our efforts were failing.

Maisie came out of the wood, nose still to the ground and ran around our house. She was headed to other houses, other neighborhoods, the busy road just beyond. I went after her knowing she has no sense about traffic. If she went to the road, I feared the worst, that she would be hit by an oncoming car. If she left our neighborhood, there is not telling where she would end up.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? —Luke 15:4

It was dark by now and there were no glimpses of my little girl, no sounds of her bark. My dread was that she was gone. Gone too far for me to find her tonight. I would have to look tomorrow when it was daylight.

Maisie could not know that the only food she might find out there in the raw world would be trash, her water would be stale and muddy. She would search for someplace out of the weather to sleep and she would be cold. There would be no kibble provided, the kind that keeps her healthy and her coat shiny. She would be unprotected where coyotes roam and people with shotguns are not afraid to use them. She would not have a fence where she could run and play and still be under the watchful eyes of Sweet William and me.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. –Luke 15:16

She did not realize that we are the fountain from which her every blessing flows.

As I headed to the house where Sweet William was praying for her to return, I heard him call me, “She’s in the fence.” How in the world?

My neighbor had enticed Maisie with one of the treats we were both carrying in our hands, and she had lured her inside the fence behind the house, the fence we put up just for Maisie. The fence with both gates open for her to run into.

The kindness of God leads us to repentance. –Romans 2:4

I gathered up the wet, muddy mess she was, carried her to the bathtub and began to wash her. I found a bloody place on her neck where she had probably tangled with the wild blackberry brambles throughout the little woods.

As I rinsed off the sudsy water, I leaned my face down to Maisie’s face and I cried, tears of relief and thankfulness that she had come home to us. She does not know how much she is loved; how much trouble we went through to bring her home; how we choose her and paid the price for her; how we continue to love her, provide for her and look out for her best interest.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. –Jeremiah 31:3

I dried her off and put medicine on her wound.

He anoints my head with oil. — Psalm 23:5

I did not even try to explain the dangers of the outside world to Maisie. It would not have done any good. She thinks like a dog and acts like a dog because she is a dog.

Surely I was sinful at birth . . . –Psalm 51:5

I could not make her understand that the limitations we have imposed on her are for her good, to keep her healthy and to protect her, to give her a long, happy life with people who love her and want good things for her.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. — Isiah 55:8

Maisie is on house arrest for now, and she wears a restraining collar when we walk outside. It’s not meant to hurt her, only to keep her in my control. This discipline is for her good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119:71

She is a little subdued today, and perhaps a little worn from her heyday of perceived freedom. What she thought was pure bliss would have ended badly had it not been for the persistence of people who cared about her. She has to remain within our boundaries, not because we are being mean, but because we love her.

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Now remain in my love. John 15:9b

Maisie once was lost, but now she is found. And so was I.

When family comes together

Sweet William and I are mostly home bodies. Partly out of necessity but also because we just enjoy being at home.

While we’ve had dreams of traveling to far countries, of cruises to the islands, and seeing other parts of the world, travel is arduous for us now.  The baggage and effort are heavy duty.

We are still in the learning process, learning to be content where we are planted. We have comfort of home and nature’s beauty around us. We know all our neighbors and can call them when we need assistance. Maisie and I walk our quiet lane safely, watching the wildlife and waving to passing cars.

On the occasion we do travel, it will usually be to visit the family, our dear ones,. Such was the case last week. Our eldest granddaughter graduated high school, and July was the opportunity for her family to gather to celebrate her accomplishment.

Sweet Home Alabama

The trip took us to Sweet Home Alabama, the place of our daughter-in-love’s heritage and childhood memories.  Alabama is hot in July, the air thick with humidity. The skies are the bluest blue and the clouds fluffiest white (I always find a poodle somewhere in the sky).

The Live Oaks are just amazing. Crept Myrtles grow like trees and color the landscape in pastels and deep hues.

Southern is spoken there, y’all.

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The evening of the party, tables were set in white with flowers and candles. Food was abundant and iced drinks helped keep us cool. We fanned ourselves like a group of old-time tent revival attenders.

Children, teenagers, middle-agers and older-agers (is that even a word?) congregated to congratulate our granddaughter for another milestone completed. She looked beautiful and was the princess for the evening. The next journey she takes will be as a young adult. She will try her wings and see where they take her.

Elyse's graduation july 2016 (2)

Family is God’s plan, His idea from the very beginning. We are born there and other times we draw people to us and call them kin. Either way, we are blessed to be connected to others in deep relational ways.

Our strengths combined help us accomplish much more than we could on our own. Our weaknesses are quickly evident, and we learn to forgive and be forgiven. We challenge one another to grow and to become our best selves.

Iron sharpens iron. And in the family, we rub each other the wrong way and then pat each other on the back. We get on each other’s last nerve and jump to the defense if someone is threatened. We don’t see eye to eye as we all have our opinions. We can even talk politics or religion and still love each at the end of the day.

As extended family, we may not be together often enough, as often as we would like.  But we do whatever it takes when one of us is in pain, when death takes one of us home. And we drive the distance to celebrate the triumphs.

Joy and sorrow bring us back together once again. For whatever reason, whatever the event or need, we show up because we love each other.

It is the love that is God, the love that he lavishes on us, the love that makes us family.

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Photos were taken by different family members.
As the one and only son said so aptly, “I love these people.”

 

Sunday grace

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. So says the Word.

How often have I found grace in the eyes of the Lord? Numberless times ten thousand.

Looking into the eyes of God we find grace for today. Mercies are new and compassion does not fail to appear.

The Lord longs to be gracious to us. He rises to show us compassion.

He rises.

He actively pursues us, reaching His loving hand to the depths of where we are.

He longs to be Father to us, wanting to release the chains of our self-inflicted prisons, yearning to offer a healing balm to sin-sick souls.

He rises.

He offers grace. It emanates from His being. Because He is a gracious God, a compassionate Father, arms outstretched, inviting us to come.

When I turn toward Him and look into His face, I find grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

Sunrise in Kentucky, photo by MaRanda Green

Winged gifts

One morning this week, I found Sweet William sitting on the edge of the bed looking out the window.  He had spotted a Pileated Woodpecker on the plumb tree in our side yard.

I eased over quietly to see it, not only because it’s a rare occurrence around here, but because I had been wishing-praying-asking God for this very thing.pileated-woodpecker

A bulletin board hangs in the kitchen where a monthly calendar counts off the days. There are a few other things posted there. Like is a card someone sent with a drawing of two little girls in dress-up cloths.  It reminds me of my grand girls when they were young. There’s also a cutout of a little dog with the caption, “Wag more. Bark less,” a reminder to consider the words and attitudes I freely share with Sweet William.

Up in the corner of that hanging board was a picture I had cut out awhile back, the very woodpecker with its brilliant red-head feathers. It was a wish, a desire, a dream to see this creature up close and personal again.

(Photo from myrustichouse.com/)

Years ago, when the grandchildren were very small, I spied a woodpecker on the utility poll that connects electricity and phone lines to our houses. Those were the days when our family-too-far-away lived in the house next door, and it was a joyful arrangement.

The woodpecker was pecking that pole as if it were alive and he was going to find some treat in its battered surface. That’s the last time I recall seeing a critter like him around our area.

We have lots of birds making their homes in our yard and surrounding little woods. They build nests in our bushes and houses on poles, and they generally help keep the insect population under control as they swoop and flutter about. They serenade the morning dawn and entertain me throughout the day with songs and antics.

We are blessed to live across the lane from a lake that is home to a number of Canadian geese. This spring there are two pairs with three little goslings each, and Little Girl Maisie and I often see them waddling along or swimming in line as we take our walks.

My little corner of the world is full of blessings, especially the winged ones.

But it was a woodpecker I longed to see.  When I cut out the picture, I just decided to ask for one from the God who gives good things to His children. Of course, it was not a necessity for me to survive, but it was something I really wanted. Why not ask Him?

The morning I sat on the side of the bed with Sweet William and watched the woodpecker, waiting for him to make his way around the tree so I could see all of his foot-long frame, I was thankful for this gift, a gift I had asked for and had been lovingly, graciously granted by a good, good Father.

Some might think it just coincident or happenstance or the way fate destined it.

I choose to believe it was from my Heavenly Father’s hand because He delights in seeing His children enjoy the life and world He made just for us. His Word says, “He has filled the hungry with good things,” not just food to keep me from starving to death, but rich and tasty, good and pleasurable.

I pulled the picture from the bulletin board and pasted it in my journal, a reminder of this day’s joy.  Is it significant that the woodpecker sighting came at the time I was in an emotional skirmish?  I think it is. That bird appearance was a gentle hug from above.

And I think I may have heard a voice deep within me say, “Now what else do you want?”

I’m not a name-it-claim-it kind of believer. I don’t think I can influence the universe or bring things into existence by some power within me. Truthfully, none of us are that strong.

There is a sovereign Lord of lords who will do whatever He pleases, and I’m far from being wise enough to know what is best. I find the most effective prayer I can pray is “Not my will but Thine be done.”

Yet, there is a God who has given all good things for us to enjoy, given us opportunity to know Him and to become His child. He invites me to come and somehow when I do it gives Him pleasure. That’s impossible for me to understand because I’m not always the best company.

Do we shortchange ourselves by not asking more, knocking consistently, seeking until we find? Do we expect that suffering is all there is, resign ourselves to this lot in life so that we never expect deliverance, victory or joy? Do we fail to pray for big things from the God who is more than able to do what we cannot even imagine?

Perhaps I limit God by my small requests and thus minimize Him in my own eyes.

He fills the universe and beyond. He counts the hairs on my head. He stores my tears in a bottle. He keeps a journal on me. He loves me more than I can comprehend. He asks for my friendship, my time, and my attention because He desires me.

Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name forever!

He longs to be gracious to me and rises to show me compassion.

I will ask for my daily bread. I will pray for those who are sick and suffering. I will seek His presence and wait for Him, wait on His timing, wait for His “Yes” to my requests. I will trust Him when the answer is “no” and believe that He has something significantly better in mind.

And I will look for the next surprise gift He has planned just for me.

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