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September ending 2018

September is gone, and I wonder where it went. Autumn is upon us. The leaves of trees are barely turning, and I anticipate a month of color.

What can I say about the weather in September? It was unusual. Hot, rain and flash flood warnings, then a break with cool breezes requiring that flannel shirt I’ve been wanting to wear.

We bought a gently used car at the beginning of the month, then took it back within the time limit. I’ve returned purchases many times during my life, but never a car. We experienced a gamut of emotions during the process, but in the end we felt the car was not for us. Sometimes we wander until we find our way.

I began a Bible study right after Labor Day with a wonderful group of women. Beth Moore’s Believing God is not new, but it is deep and rich. I love meeting regularly for Bible study. It is how many long-lasting friendships developed. Sitting together at the table, sharing what God is saying to us, and opening our hearts to one another is special and unique. I treasure these weekly sessions.

I did my semi-annual garage clean-out in September. I have to lighten the space to prepare to bring tender plants in for the winter. And I had a can of tomatoes explode on one of the shelves.

It’s the shelf next to the stairs leading to the house where I store extra food stuff and supplies. I call it my Y2K shelf because it came to be in 1999 when the world thought we would implode because we were moving toward a new century. The news channels warned us to prepare for disaster, if not mayhem. So I stocked up on food. I chuckle about it now, almost 19 years later. January 1, 2000 came in like a lamb. Sometimes the thing we fear does not come upon us.

The week before a planned trip to visit our dear ones was busy with preparation and making up piano lessons. I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going and had to refer to my lists often.  Traveling is complicated for us. We don’t do it often enough to streamline our techniques. Maybe that needs to change.

We took a new route this time, the many miles of highway to get from here to there and back again. It was somewhat stressful, since we had not been this way before. As always we had our AAA Triptik, which we referred to often. But this time we had GPS! Sweet William and I are still learning about our smart phones, but I’ve gotten acquainted with Gypsy (my name for GPS). She’s a wonder. While the AAA map gives us the full scope of the journey, Gypsy gave us step-by-step instructions. I like seeing the big picture, but I’m learning to rely on those simple instructions of “in the next 500 feet, turn right.”

Our last week of September was spent with my five favorite people and their furry friends. Maisie was in dog heaven. She played with the dogs until her tongue hung out. And she chased the cat. I was worried that she would catch it, but cats have a way of displaying their power. Claws and toenails echoed on the hardwood flooring until the dogs and cat ran out of steam and found a place to nap.

Maisie seems a little depressed now that we’ve come home to a quieter house. Maybe she needs her own friend here at the Wright House.

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I did a lot of listening and interacting with our dear ones, sitting long at meal times, lingering over coffee, hearing hearts and sharing my own. I did little writing, reading or facebooking, even taking minimal pictures, because precious faces were right in front of me and I wanted to partake of every moment with them.

I lost my watch the second day of the visit. I looked all week for it, in bags and drawers, under furniture and amidst paraphernalia. It was not to be found, and I tried not to be disappointed since it was a favorite with memories attached. But I reasoned that this trip did not need to be timed. I was on no schedule except to be present with each one of my family. I hope they felt it from me, my full attention to them and their thoughts and ideas.

We experienced their town and their new-to-them house, their quiet neighborhood where Maisie and I walked and the variety of geese and ducks at the lake nearby. We declared our last day there to be Grandparents Day, and I spent time doing something special with each of my three grands. The memories linger as tears well in my eyes. I already miss them and know it will be awhile before I look them in the face again.

in Tulsa sept 2018

I say it often, that  I don’t understand God’s ways. Why the miles, the physical distance between us and them. But my Father knows our past, present and future. I am ever-learning to trust Him with it all.

Arriving back home brings relief. The Lord kept us safe on our trip. I almost lost Maisie twice, but she is here with us. Trials come with the best of experiences, and we had those, but in the scope of it all, we had a wonderful time.

As we were unloading the car, our good neighbor pulled into the drive with a load of  pumpkins and gourds. He kept handing me more, excitement whelling up with the bounty. I will enjoy placing them around the house and on porches for the living fall decor.

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Unpacking suitcases and washing clothes is always the order of business. As I dug into a small pocket of one bag, I found my watch. I smiled and assumed it’s time to get back on schedule.

“Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” It has become my goal, the way I want to live. The light and dark of a day, the joy and sorrow that befalls each of us, all are threads of the weaving that become a tapestry of beauty.  I want to be present for it all.

Sometimes I think I want to see the entirety of the map of my life, like a AAA Triptik. More often I’m only given a simple instruction at the exact time I need it.

“This is the way; walk in it.”

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Sunday grace

We made our decision; the destination is determined. We begin here and are determined to go there.

The plan is the plan. We made it and begin the process of working it. However, it isn’t always that easy.

My limited understanding doesn’t allow for sideroads, construction zones, and detours. I get confused and assume the worse when things aren’t turning out the way I planed.

When the road is longer than expected and more confusing than anticipated, I begin to wonder where I erred.

When we longingly look for the light at the end of the tunnel or we can’t find room in the inn, I wonder where we took a wrong turn.

When the miles add up to more than the map showed, I begin to question the journey.

But when we finally arrive at our destination, all seems right and according to the plan. In my prayers I hear Him whisper, “I am here.”

Because it’s not about my plan. It’s about His plan.

And He who created a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

He knows where I am; He knows the way that I take. He has already gone before me. If I get sidetracked, He patiently redirects my steps until I am back on the path. No matter how many times it happens, He pulls me back to the road again.

And finally I will be home.

Sunday grace.

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In the desert for a few days

Sweet William and I have been in the desert for almost five days. Here in mid August, our central air conditioner gave up the ghost.

It happened on a Thursday evening while I was in the midst of piano lessons. I fanned vigorously and apologized to students coming into the house. The prognosis: We need a new unit which will cost a lot, and it cannot be installed until Monday.

My students where glad to be going home.

The heat rose in our normally climate-controlled house, rising to 85 degrees quickly. Even the August picture on our wall calendar looks hot.

By Friday, Sweet William and I were sweltering. And I wonder why air conditioners break down in the middle of summer? We kept looking at the thermometers placed throughout the house as the temperatures went higher. Fans were running everywhere and especially in our faces.

And for once it was too hot for coffee.Wendys

By the afternoon, with outdoor temperature soaring to 91 degrees and not much better indoors, we had enough. We got in the car where the air conditioner worked great, turning it down to 65 degrees and letting the cold winds blow. A cheeseburger at Wendy’s was our destination because if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen.

We ate our burger in the car with the air running full blast. Then we went to Dairy Queen for Blizzards because we deserved it.

I don’t know when ice cream tasted so good. I ate until chill bumps formed on my arms.

One small window unit upstairs and a portable unit left by the heating/air company were our only means of survival. At night we closed the bedroom door, the portable unit blowing cold air into the room. We slept like it was winter, pulling a quilt over us. But upon waking and opening the door to the rest of the house, the heat hit me, and I really wondered whether morning coffee was worth it.

On Saturday, the cloud cover lowered the house temperature a small bit. We experimented with blankets and quilts in doorways hoping to keep the coolness in a smaller area of the house where it could be manageable and somewhat livable.

I was glad we had not invited anyone for brunch or dinner. They would not have wanted to come.

Each morning we emerged from the igloo of our bedroom only to be faced with the heat wave in the rest of the house. The blanketed-off living area had to cool down again by opening up the bedroom door. We lived in the desert of hot air blowing around us during the day.

We went to the deck because sometimes it felt better in fresh air. We watched dark clouds roll in a few times and hoped for rain to change the weather. Maisie lay stretched out on the cool floor more often than curled up in her bed.

We drank cold drinks and fixed sandwiches. I didn’t dare turn on the oven. The goal was to stay calm, cool, and collected as possible.

It seemed each time I went outside and returned to the house, the same words came out of my mouth. “It’s cooler outside than it is in here.”

I’m sure if we had asked friends, someone would have let us come stay with them. But when you have a dog, the equation gets complicated. And Maisie was in this with us.

As the days went by, the outdoor temperature cooled a little, and I think we began adjusting to our situation. We were going to tough this one out while we counted down the days until the new unit could be installed.

Sweet William and I prayed that we would not let our tempers flare with the flare of our heated conditions. We found ways to entertain ourselves because TV was in the hot rooms of the house. We talked more, and we laughed. I read a book aloud.

We have come through this experience with much thanksgiving and hopefully some wisdom.

While we were hot and miserable physically, what we lacked were only creature comforts. There are others on our prayer list who are suffering more. Ours was a temporary discomfort lasting a few days. It is not so for some we know and love.

Life is complicated. Minor irritations and major trauma are assured to come along in this life. We are destined for tribulation. Sometimes we have to walk through a desert, and sometimes we must weather a storm.

But we also look with hope toward an end of the trial. We want to understand the lesson to be learned and grow in endurance. We come through the trouble with a few more of our rough places sanded smooth. The chisel and hammer are brutal to the marble. But what begins to take shape is the image the creator planned.

We are like the marble. God is the artist who continues to do His good work in us, though it be painful, until the image of His Son is revealed more and more.

This short desert trip was not on my schedule; I would not have chosen it. But having made the journey, the oasis is deliciously refreshing.

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new years

100_1778 Already well into January and I still ponder 2014.

When I was a girl, too young to know better, I made a list of resolutions and expected to keep them.  Mostly they were simple things like keeping a daily diary or some other such worthy project.

I gave up resolutions when I grew up.

In the 1990’s I began making goals, listing them by categories like career, financial, health, home.  Some I accomplished, some just went to the next year . . . and the next year . . . and the next. Some went backwards, like my weight.  One year it was “maintain weight,” then went to “lose 10 pounds,” until it now becomes “don’t get any fatter.”  Yikes.

The past several years have been such roller coaster rides of being in and out of the hospital with Sweet William, and care-giving was what I did and what took all my energy. I have anticipated many a January 1 hoping for something different from the year before.  But sometimes it just becomes the next day.  My first journal entry of 2012 went something like this: “Another new year, another new day.  It just continues from what was.  A new year does not suddenly change all of our circumstances.  They follow us into 2012, almost like a ball and chain.”

I was having a bad day.  A bad year.

Today begins a new journey for me, one I’ve anticipated for a while. Today is my last day as director of the Academy of Arts at Little Flock Baptist Church where I have spent almost seven wonderful and adventurous years.  I could not have asked for a better job during my silver season.  Challenging work.  Great boss.  Fun co-workers.  Happy environment (most days anyway).  Music everywhere.  A piano just a stroll away.

I have absolutely loved my work at the Academy.  Watching young and older students learn to play an instrument and hearing them show off at recitals twice a year has just been marvelous. I will miss it.

Yet, I feel the guiding hand of the Lord closing one door and opening another.

My pastor’s sermon Sunday challenged me to think about the days ahead.  And I pray that God will guide these next days of my life.  What does He have in store for me?  What does He want 2014 to look like?  What gifts will He daily give?  What challenges will face Sweet William and me as we fall into the Father’s arm and trust Him for sufficient grace?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know there will be fresh mercies for each new day of the rest of my life.

Psalm 16 speaks truth to me today.

“I have set the Lord always before me.   Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure.  You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”  (verses 8, 9, 11)

My life is in His hand.  My days are His to use as He sees fit.  He has preserved me in my past.  He is with me in my present.  He will guide my future and will keep me in the palm of His hand.

Amen.  So be it.

Reinventing myself

I read an article last year called “Reinventing Yourself: What you should know before setting out in search of a new career.”*

It made me think of all the different hats and titles I’ve worn during my adult years. Here are a few of them.

  • Stay at home mom and domestic engineer
  • Older adult college student
  • Secretary and Paralegal
  • Drama team co-leader
  • Office manager
  • Member services director
  • Professional organizer
  • Referring travel agent
  • Mary Kay consultant
  • Music teacher
  • Caregiver
  • Administrator

As I look at that list, I perceive that life keeps changing. Duh! It’s so easy to see that looking backward but not so easy moving forward into it at a new turn in the road.

Sometimes a dead-end forced me to branch off toward the unfamiliar and scary. At other times the prospect was a dream I had never dared to pursue.

All of them took courage I didn’t think I possessed. Many times I felt I was drowning because I didn’t know what I was doing. Often I prayed for wisdom and to learn quickly.

And I found that courage comes when we do what we fear.

I’ve learned more from the journey than I ever did in the classroom. Some things can’t be taught, only experienced.

Each hat I wore brought knowledge I would not trade, though some I certainly would not want to relive.

As an old commercial reverberates, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” And I guess I have.

I expect, and rightly so, that there will be more roadblocks, more dead ends, more Ys in the road, more choices and hats to try on, more days to learn and grow.

The fact is, I never invented or re-invented myself at all. I am a project in the making, a vessel of clay that is continually being molded and conformed, mended and repaired.

God’s hand moves the wheel of my forming, using the good, the bad, and the ugly to make me more and more into the image He wants.

It is the model of Jesus He is pressing for.

I am His project and He is committed to complete it.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, HCS)

At this place on my journey, I am confident of this: God will do what God will do. He is the sovereign Lord in charge of all of creation. If I try to resist His remaking of me, I will find myself kicking against His plan, not a place I want to be.

There is surrender in this process. A daily call to crucify my flesh and its desires. A continual seeking to know His will and the courage to walk in it even when I am afraid.

What kind of hats have your worn?  Which hat are you wearing now?

How is your journey going?

* Kentucky Living, February 2011

Life’s a journey

Life’s a journey.  Enjoy the ride” was a commercial slogan from a Toyota campaign a number of years ago. It appealed to me so much that I have made it a life motto of sorts.

I guess I was born with a personality type that tends to look at the glass half full, trying to glean the sunshine from experiences, even when it is raining.

Please don’t think I am a practically perfect Pollyanna who has mastered the Glad Game she played to deal with her disappointments.  I have had my mully-grubs, my bought with depression, my pity parties, and my “gloom, despair, and agony on me” days.

Still, the journey has been strewn with a vast array of joy, beauty, and friendships; an abundance of love coming from so many directions; and most of all the knowledge of the ever-present God.

This year, our road has taken some detours. I’ve been sidetracked and had to re-calculate my map.  There was no use trying to turn around and go a different way.  We cannot go back, can we?  Only forward.

The journey Sweet William and I have been on lately has been rocky and rugged at times, to say the least. The mountains have looked impassable and the waters too deep to cross over.  But God . . . (I love that phrase!) . . . but God has poured grace upon grace and so often given the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness.

Now we face yet another recovery process after yet another surgery this year. Complications have already threatened my plan and upset my apple cart.

While on a road trip today, taking Bill to an appointment for a medical procedure, I considered the hard journey this year.  With those thoughts begging for my attention, the Spirit turned  them and I began counting the blessings and the beauty in spite of the problems.  And so I list some of them:

The splendor of fall still glowing.

The yellow carpet of Maple leaves underneath the front-yard swing.

Our Bradford Pear tree that stands strong and tall after so many years whose leave just now turn red and are waiting to be enjoyed.

The orange berries on the shrub that grows by the garage, some of its branches cut and gracing a vase on the kitchen counter.

Roses stubornly blooming in the front yard.

Friends who call, send cards, and express their love in so many ways.

Strength in my own body.

Laughter.

A warm house and food to eat.

A washing machine that just keeps washing.

Our Maltese Buddy who greets me when I return home with the enthusiasm only matched by my grandchildren.

The newest member of the household, Gus the cat, whose purring machine turns on as soon as I reach out to touch him.

Sweet William who smiles through the pain and thanks me for all I do.

Kind, efficient, and knowledgeable medical professionals.

Family close by I can call when I am in need.

The distraction of work I enjoy.

Piano students who brighten an otherwise cloudy day.

A really good cup of coffee with half and half cream.

Hearing my Dad say he’s praying for Bill and me throughout the day.

The assurance of my salvation, that nothing or no one can ever separate me from the love of God because of Christ Jesus.

A good Word from Holy Writ, God’s personal message to me.

Being able to cry my tears, knowing my Father understands.

I could count more, and I do for they are always falling down to earth from God’s hand, mercies that are new every morning, just waiting to be noticed and appreciated.

Life will present me with more rough roads, places under construction, warnings to slow down and be cautions because danger lies ahead. Such is man’s destiny in a world longing for its own deliverance.

But the journey is not to be dreaded or faced with fear. It is journey God promises to walk with me, a journey Jesus himself paved for me. It will be filled with trials and temptations.  But it will also be filled with blessings untold.

It is a ride of a lifetime, one to be enjoyed and savored.  I don’t want to miss it.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father . . . (James 1:17)

Passover approaches

 All four of the Gospels report that Passover was approaching as their stories lead us to the eventful days preceding Jesus’ crucifixion. The feast of Passover was and is significant to the entire account.

 We associate Passover with the Israelites’ departure from Egyptian slavery found in Exodus 12.  The Lord appointed this time to be the beginning of a new year for His people.  On the tenth day of this month, they were to take a lamb, separate it from the flock, and designate it as their Passover lamb.  From the 10th day until the 14th day, the lamb would be examined for any blemish or defect, because the lamb to be slain had to be perfect.

On the 14th day, guided by very specific instructions, the people prepared a meal on the night they would be granted their freedom. The Pascal (Passover) lamb was a central element in that meal, and its blood was put on the door frame and lintel of each Jewish dwelling so that the death angel would “pass over” them.

Passover continued to be a major feast throughout the Old Testament and was very much a part of Jesus’ heritage.

As this particular Passover approached, Jesus life was about to climax.  We know from Scripture that Jesus “earnestly desired to eat this Passover” with his disciples (Luke 12:15).

As the days led up to this celebration, Jesus told His disciples that he would suffer and die. He tried to prepare them, but they would hear none of it. They protested the very thought. Jesus knew this Passover would be His last one on earth. He knew He would complete this festival through his death. The shadow of things from the Old Testament was about to be fulfilled in Him.

There were other thoughts about this Passover, thoughts from those who sought to arrest Jesus. They wanted Him off the streets and out of their hair. They were making plans how they could take Him, but they said, “It must not be during the Feast” of Passover for fear the people might riot (Mark 14:2 emphasis mine).

But the One who overrules all other thoughts and plans had a destiny for this Passover. God the Father was about to provide the Lamb that Abraham spoke about as he journeyed to Mt. Moriah to offer up as a sacrifice his only son. Isaac asked his father “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham spoke prophetically and replied, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for the burnt offering,” (Genesis 22:8 KJV)

To fully comprehend the significance of the Passover holiday as it relates to our season of Easter’s resurrection, we must see in it the picture of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.

While we don’t know the exact date of Jesus birth, we can know with certainty that His death was during Passover as the gospel writers give us the detail of the time and the season. 

We will celebrate Palm Sunday tomorrow, April 17, commemorating the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and proclaimed “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

That sacred journey almost 2000 years ago would have been the 10th day of the first month of the Jewish new year, the day each family picked out a lamb for their Passover supper.  On that day, Jesus allowed Himself to be proclaimed as the Messiah that was to come.  He essentially was “picked out” to be the Passover Lamb.

He would be examined, accused, and tried.  But Pilate’s voice still echos the truth, “I find no fault in Him.”    

Christ, our Passover, a Lamb without blemish, would be sacrificed in just a few days, a sacrific that woud ultimately “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,” (Isaiah 61) 

This is the first in a series on the Passover.  I hope you will come again.  I would love to hear your comments.