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Showing up

It’s was a week. Actually it was a couple of weeks, maybe three. Really, it seems to be this whole year thus far.

The days swiftly roll by, one after the other, and I find myself shocked at the date on the calendar. How can it be nearing the middle of October, and Sweet William’s birthday is upon me, and I don’t know what to get him?

Tempus fugit.

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We traveled to see our dear ones last week, a long hard drive, there and back.  It was our first opportunity this year. Seeing the faces of my son and his family was reward enough. I don’t get to be with them as much as my heart desires. Time spent in their presence is cherished.

The visit with those I hold most precious was filled with laughter, shared experiences that will fill our memory banks in the days to come when we are miles apart. The conversation, the touch, the hug will be held close in my heart.

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I heard of two deaths while we were away, friends with whom I had only recently talked. Gone from this world. And I cried. I wanted to see them both just one more time.

The brevity of life occupies my thoughts the week after our travel. We are only here on earth for a short season, no matter how many years we live. It’s a reminder that interactions with people are always full of purpose, full of meaning. Not to be taken lightly.

As I remember my two friends, I was glad for the times recently when I showed up in their lives. That morning I picked her up from her apartment and we went for coffee and I paid the tab. That day I drove into the hospital to see her and we shared a vanilla milk shake her son brought to the room.

Thinking of what I’ve accomplished in my life, job titles that brought fleeting pride in the moment, the myriad of projects I thought I finished well, I realize it was when I reached out to a fellow human being that was most valuable.

The telephone call made to check on someone. The card written to say “I’m thinking of you.” The coffee date shared for a couple of hours. The quiet listening without trying to fix anything. The tears rolling down our cheeks over shared struggles. The long hard drives to be where they are on a special occasion.  The minutes, hours, days given away.

It is the giving of myself that has counted more than anything. I see it now. Because those who have given themselves to me have marked me and given meaning to my life.

I’ve missed a lot of opportunities to make a difference, to give my support, to be an encouragement, to be a good friend. To show up. I regret the many lost chances for connection.

I attended the funeral today of my 93-year-old friend. It was a glorious celebration of her life. Her family filled the front row. Another row was filled with women who had sat under her teaching at Sunday school years ago.  All those faces reflected the investment she made into their lives, a legacy of her life, her love and her belief in a Savior named Jesus.

She showed up again and again. She showed up in my life.

Time ticks away too quickly. The moments we have today will be gone tomorrow. Will they be wasted on the unimportant or invested in the eternal?

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current.  — Marcus Aurelius

I don’t want to forget what I am learning this week, this art of showing up and giving the gift of myself. Busy-ness will try to side-track this wisdom. Voices pretending to be urgent will reach out to grab for my attention. Distractions will always be there to pull me aside. Hopefully, I will remember that life is uncertain and brief at best. This day is the present I have to offer.

I hope I can be more aware and quick to evaluate the importance of my life in someone else’s life. I only get one chance at this life. Let me live it well.

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Home to stay

Things on my to-do list were moved to another day. There are book reviews I need to write that will wait. I canceled a lunch this week and rescheduled piano lessons.

Some days are like that.

My friend died the first of this week, her battle with a dreaded disease now over. But for those who loved her, it is not over. We are left with a gaping hole in our hearts. Her husband, children and grands are wondering how in the world they will live without her.

I remember that aching feeling when my mother died, me in my early 30s. How could I go on living without her not there to talk with me, to pray for and counsel me, to laugh with me and pour me a cup of coffee at her table?

This week my heart has been raw and my memories tender.

My friend was just a year older than me. She and her husband were married just a few years more than Sweet William and me. She had grandchildren close in age to mine who lived states away, just like me.

Sometimes when a friend grows more dear, I try to remember when the first spark appeared between us. When was it we connected, when we learned we shared interests and had things common in our lives? At what moment does friendship take root and begin to grow?

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It was not so long ago when it happened with her.  Sweet William and I were struggling with health issues and decisions that would be life-altering. I called her to talk because I knew she would understand. She and her husband came to our house, sat at our table, drank our coffee, and shared their experiences. They opened their hearts to us.

And I think that was the moment. That’s when our friendship ignited and began to burn brightly, and it warmed us both.

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You know how it is when someone finds a place in your heart. You want to spend more time with her, to know her better. She and I had those opportunities in a few short years as the Lord gave moments of communion.

In the days of her sickness, we talked honestly about life and death. She was not afraid of dying. She was concerned about her husband and her family left behind, how they would cope. Her heart was wrapped around those dear ones.

She told me she wanted to finish well. And she did. She loved to the end. Her countenance reflected the glory of her Savior. She witnessed to those around her that Jesus is indeed Lord of all.

Her funeral was a testimony of a life well lived, though her years seemed too short for all of us who her knew and loved her.

The Heavenly Father alone appoints our days, and when our work is over, He will call us Home. My friend got to go Home this week. I can only imagine the glories she is enjoying now in the presence of the One who gave His life for her and stretched out His hand to escort her Home.

My friend loved home. Hers reflected her art, her creativity, her nurturing care for those who entered. Today she no longer resides in the temporary earthly dwelling; she is really Home to stay, the place prepared for all eternity.

I miss her already, her bright smile, her twinkling eyes, her kindness, the way she laughed. I can’t imagine living without her.

There are days of great joy during this earthly life, and there are days of heaviness, pain and sorrow.  We all experience both. Hopefully, I remember to be grateful for days full of sunshine and flowers. Equally, I want to grow stronger in my faith, develop endurance when the days are hard, and know even more that all things do indeed work for my good. In all of my days and years I want to reflect the beauty of Jesus, to spread the fragrance of His love, like my friend did.

One day I will see her again when my work here on earth is over. I’ll hear my Savior call my name, and He will escort me to glory.

Then it will be my turn to go Home to stay.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

 

 

Sunday grace

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for the women, for the ones who touched my life and left their fingerprints.

For the women who lived before, fighting battles and suffering long that I might live free and equal, and be considered a person and not property.

For the women in Scripture who stood tall and brave in the face of adversity, who spoke prophesies and championed soldiers, who stood between kingly decrees and their children, who faithfully followed in terrifying conditions and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

For the women who taught me through word and example, who told Bible stories and expounded the Truth, who lived lives of grace and mercy, who were faithful to their husbands and loved their babies.

For the women who saw my untamed talents and the beginnings of my gifts and nurtured them in me, smiling their encouragement and applauding my progress.

For the women who authored books that made me laugh and made me think, who pricked my heart and seemed to know my story, who did not condemn but showed me how to move toward healing.

For the women who were my grandmothers, leaving their impression on my parents, passing along the inheritance and blessing of their goodness.

For my aunts who loved me and treated me like one of their own.

For cousins who have been like sisters.

For my dear mother, my mother-in-law, my step-mother, each one so different yet profoundly impacting my life.

For my one daughter-in-love who continues to teach me about loving  a husband and training her own brood to fly.

For the friends who have become like family and kindred spirits, and for daughters-of-my heart who have their own special place.

For the women, O Lord, who have been your vessels and have poured into my life, who opened their heart and welcomed me into their circle, who have laughed with me and cried with me, who have held my hand and hugged my neck, who have prayed for me and inspired me to take courage.

For these women, daughters of Eve, tough and tender, warriors all, leaving a legacy of love and devotion, being the beautiful crown of creation and housing the light of Jesus. They cause me to give You thanks on this Mother’s Day.

Thy have left their fingerprints on my life.

Sunday grace.

 

My list

A friend invited me to read James Herriot’s books, the ones he wrote in the mid 1900s about his experiences as a veterinarian in England early that century. I’ve always loved animals and considered becoming a vet when I was young, so his book was enticing.

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I checked out All Things Bright and Beautiful at the library and understood my friend’s love for Herriot’s books and language.

Reading Herriot’s description of the people and animals he encounter was often funny, sometimes sad, but always entertaining. Herriot wrote frequently about his wife, them only newly married in this particular book.

Herriot said of her, “She was always kind.”

That description stayed on my mind for a while. “She was always kind.” I would like to be remembered that way.

In 2007, a movie called The Bucket List was shown in theaters across the country. It was a comedy-drama starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Two terminally-ill men shared a hospital room, and because their lives were nearing the end, they decided to do and experience things before they “kicked the bucket.”

It became their Bucket List. As a result of the movie’s popularity, people began making their own lists of goals, dreams, experiences, places to visit, and people to meet, with nothing being too lofty or extravagant for the list.

There are websites that will help you understand, envision and make your own list.

I understand the idea. If we never set our sites on something, we will never try to reach the goal. I’ve been a list-maker and a goal-setter for a long time, so I get it, and I appreciate the focus required to strive for something.

I made a simple bucket list once, thinking outside my ordinary box to dream big. Through the years, I’ve crossed off some things as achieved, some as not-gonna-happen, and some that are no longer important to me.

As my years add up, what I think of more often is the legacy I will leave behind. I’m not talking about bank accounts, houses and land as an inheritance in monetary terms. Instead, I think about what people will say when I’m gone. How will I be remembered?

“She was always kind,” would be on my legacy bucket list.

There are some other ways I would like to be remembered.

  • She was a good listener and a safe place to express oneself.
  • She was real, not a fake.
  • She prayed for you when she said she would.
  • She was the kind of wife whose husband trusted in her, and she spoke well of him.
  • She loved her children and grandchildren unconditionally.
  • She was a loyal and true friend.
  • She gave of herself and her resources.
  • She had real joy in this life and hope for the next one.
  • She knew Jesus and her life reflected Him.

I’ve walked by many caskets in funeral homes. I’ve heard stories of the deceased and told some of my own memories. It is sometimes serious and sometimes joyful, and a combination of both, remembering the life lived.

When it’s my time to die, and all of us have that appointment, I want to have lived out my days with joy and gladness. I want to have loved with abandon. I want to have treated people right, with respect and honor. I want Jesus to shine brightly through me.

And I want to always be kind.

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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.

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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.”

 

The stepmother

She introduced herself as the Wicked Stepmother to my friends and colleagues.

We can thank Disney for that stereotype.

She married my dad after my mother died when she had been widowed herself for 15 years. She’d had other marriage proposals and told us she never intended to remarry. I guess my dad was more persuasive than the rest.

She was independent, feisty, and had a quick wit. She saw life in a unique and fun way. She laughed easily and walked into a room with a “here I am” swagger.

She loved my dad.

She did card tricks and made origami birds and could fold a dollar bill into different shapes.  She had a treasure of family heirlooms and could tell the stories of each one.

She was a child of the depression who salvaged, reused and re-purposed before it became popular. She knew how to make a dollar stretch until it squealed.

She loved food, especially my sour cream cake. She enjoyed gathering with people at the table and had her own method of involving her senses in the process of eating, slowly relishing each bite.

She became a minister and performed marriage ceremonies for about a bazillion people, some of whom would only have been welcomed by Jesus himself. Her stories of those experiences were both touching and hilarious.

She had been our neighbor when I was just a little girl, and she was my mother’s friend. How ironic that my dad would spend his last 30 years living next door to the house he built for my mother and me.

She re-entered my life while I was still in the depths of grieving for my mother. It was a hard dance at first, us trying to find our rhythms in a new normal.

Our one and only son who was only ten years old wanted to call her Grandma from the beginning. She soothed a fresh wound in his heart left gaping from the death of a grandmother he loved dearly.

We welcomed her into our lives, celebrated her on her special days, and she became part of our family’s holidays and everyday events. It was like grafting on a new branch to a tree whose deep roots were already well planted.

She was a friend to Sweet William and me. She was the grandmother of the groom when our son married and became Grandma to his sweet wife. She was the great-grandmother who held their babies on her lap. She was the woman who gave meaning and purpose to my dad when he didn’t think he could live without my mother.

She endured hardship during her 88 years. A tragic sudden death of her first husband. The murder of a close family member. Her own children living cities and states away from her. Stolen assets and property. A devastating house fire. A caregiver for my dad in their home until his death.

She encouraged others going through tough times, reminding them to trust God as she recalled His faithfulness in her trials.

She witnessed with her words and her life. The message on her telephone answering machine was “Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready to meet Him?”

No one can take another’s place, and my step-mother never tried to become my mother. Instead, she made her own place in my life, in our family. We were not blood related but joined by heart and by spirit.

She prayed for us. She loved us by her actions. She claimed us as her own. She was our family and we were hers.

She died yesterday and we are left with a hole in our hearts.

Gramps and Grandma.

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Investing for the future

Since my one-handed typing is slow and tedious like everything I do these days, I want to share some places I visit that often lift my eyes and heart upward.

This one from Proverbs 31 Ministry is on point. We may not be able to change the world but we can influence one person. Ask God who your person is and then start investing for the future.

Hope you enjoy . . .

THE QUIET IMPACT OF ONE WOMAN

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