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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

“Have I lived enough? Have I loved enough?
Have I considered right action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?”
                           — Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

Jesus warned us that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

So why do we spend our lives working feverishly to accumulate more stuff? So much stuff that we then have to clean out closets and have a yard sale or donate to Good Will. I preach to myself.

Love God. Love others.

Jesus’ teaching was that simple. Putting it into practice is not quite so simple because we are pulled away to other things. Distractions. Cares of life. Being too busy. Selfish interests  The craving for physical pleasure and for everything we see. Pride in our achievements and possessions.

These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

Having food and clothing, let me be content. But wait, that is contrary to the American way.

I seek to be content, learning what that looks like day after day. In this present circumstance. Where I am called to walk. In the place I am appointed to serve.

Have I genuinely lived my one precious life to the best of my ability?

Have I faithfully loved those God has given me to love?

Have I been truly grateful for His abundant blessings?

Have I looked for and recognized His grace in and through and over all the hard and easy places?

I’m still working on it. By His grace.

Sunday grace.

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Happy Birthday to me

My birthday is tomorrow. I started celebrating yesterday.

My philosophy about birthdays is this: The older I get, the longer I get to celebrate. It works for me. So this year I started early.

Sweet William took me to get my birthday present, two pots of lovely yellow knock-out roses. They remind me of a primrose blossom. I have a spot picked out in the garden that will be just right for them.

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Next was the grocery where I had a birthday epiphany. Ice Cream. Let the celebration begin! I found peanut-butter-chocolate on sale and headed to the cookie isle for a generic Nutter Butter cookie. After lunch, Sweet William crushed the cookies and mixed the ice cream with them – I love that man – and we had our own version of a Blizzard.

This morning I baked biscuits, from my mother’s recipe, and topped them with jam made by a friend. I think of my mother in the days leading up to my birthday. I miss her especially when the day arrives. She taught me to cook and cook well. And for that Sweet William is very thankful.

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Today I made a Plum Cake, pulling the recipe from my stash of those tried and true. Everyone should have a birthday cake, even if she has to make it herself.

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Tomorrow, we will visit a church where a younger friend is a member. She is scheduled to sing in the service, and I love her and her voice. Then we plan to visit a young man in rehab who needs to know he is loved and that prayers are being lifted heavenward for him. No agenda. No message to give. We simply want to show we care.

I’m trying to figure out being this age. It’s taken a lot of years to get here. My experiences are showing on my face, fine lines deepening more than I like. My silver hair seems to be even lighter and a bit thinner. I have aches and pains regularly and especially after a day in the gardens.

I am changing eyeglass prescription more frequently, and the trifocals make me squint sometimes, just trying to find a place of clarity. My hearing is still good and my mind is clear, thank the Lord.

My figure is fuller than it used to be and in odd places. And that information about gravity pulling everything down? It’s a real thing.

I can’t put in the same hours of work I did a decade ago. That’s frustrating. I’m not as busy I as I used to be. I’m OK with that.

I wish I had kept a journal more consistently when I was younger. Those events I thought I would remember easily? I don’t. When I read old journals I am surprised at what I’ve forgotten.

Life is still sweet. I appreciate the simple and the small. Friendships are deep, us having been through years of trials and loss, blessing and triumphs together. New relationships are exciting now that I am more comfortable with who I am. I can be myself, and I don’t have to strive to impress.

I’ve learned to be a better listener without trying to fix the problem.

I’ve found God to be trustworthy through these years. I do not understand Him or His ways, and I’m coming to accept that more. He is beyond comprehension. I still wonder why He loves me like He does, and how His grace can be so inexhaustible.

I still treasure the Bible and believe it to be true. In an ever-changing world of science, technology,  medicine, philosophy, and the latest idea, the words of Scripture are reliable. They speak a steadfast truth in a world that constantly wants to change the meaning of truth.

I’ve never wanted to live my life over. Why would I want to go through all that again? We often wish we knew “back then” what we know now. Wouldn’t that be a lot simpler? But I think we only get the wisdom to understand as we live through this life. I’ve learned through the living.

If I had the chance, what would I say to my younger self, the one who was in her twenties, thought she knew most of the answers and didn’t have a clue?

  • Slow down and smell the roses. Pay attention to the little things.
  • Don’t worry about the dust on the furniture. It is not a life and death issue.
  • Invite people over more without cleaning the house first.
  • Play with children and welcome them into your life. They show us how to live in the moment.
  • Laugh a lot. Sing out loud. Move to the rhythm.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. It is healing to your body.
  • Put those photographs in good albums that won’t fade the memories.
  • Slow dance with your husband.
  • Listen well to your friends and family and neighbors and anyone who needs an ear.
  • Save some money and spend some money. Plan for the future because it is coming.
  • Buy quality not just what is on sale. It will last longer.
  • Memorize Scripture while the brain is young. Memorize poetry too.
  • Let go of hurts and don’t hold grudges. Forgive and get over it.
  • Don’t worry about what other people are thinking of you. They aren’t. They are thinking about themselves.
  • Take good care of your skin. It’s got to last a long time.
  • Disregard the size of your dress or jeans and what the scale reports. They’re only numbers and not the value of your life.
  • Respect yourself and respect others. Speak up for yourself when necessary.
  • Slow down when you eat and enjoy the flavors.
  • Pay no heed to your critics. Instead, hear the people who care about you.
  • Pay attention to your elders. They have been where you are.
  • Stay in church. There are people there who need you. You need them too.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. Pray for patience if you must. It does not bring more tribulation as you may have heard.
  • Don’t whine. It is not attractive.
  • Smile a lot. It brightens the face and makes it more beautiful.
  • Don’t let the rich and famous be your role models. Some of them are not doing so well themselves.
  • Love yourself, the unique gift you are to humanity. Explore your talents and enrich them however you can. Then use them to bless the world.
  • Love others well and freely without expectations. Expectations kill relationships.
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are one of a kind, made in the image of your Creator who makes no mistakes.
  • Be thankful. Always. In all circumstances. Everything is working for your good.

Life is a precious gift. The years mount up and I wonder how many birthdays I’ll have to celebrate. But that is not my concern. My God is in control of that, and I rest in His divine plan.

Tomorrow I will be 68 years young. I feel every bit of it. I have lived it, laughed in it, cried through it. I have been loved greatly and have learned to love in return.  I have experienced the miracle of salvation and felt the ocean of grace all around me.

I don’t know what my future will look like. I trust my Father with that. He’s been looking after me all these years, and He will continue to keep His watchful eye on me.

I do believe the best is yet to be.

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THE RECIPES

Mother’s Drop Biscuits

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening or oil
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup of milk – use buttermilk if you have it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put about a tablespoon of vegetable shortening or oil in a skillet or griddle. (I prefer a cast iron griddle.) Put this in the oven as it heats up. You want the oil to be a little hot so the biscuits will cook crispy on the bottom.

Measure flour into a large bowl. Pour the oil into a measuring cup, then add the milk on top of it to equal 1 cup of liquid. Stir the liquid into the flour and mix.

Drop by large spoonfuls onto the hot oil.

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until the little peaks of the drop biscuits are browned.

Serve with butter and jam. Oh my goodness, they are good!

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Plum Cake

This is a simple cake with a spicy flavor. It is very moist and looks lovely baked in a bundt pan setting on a footed cake plate.

  • 1 cup of oil – or for richness use butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 small jars of plum baby food. (I’m having trouble finding plum baby food these days, so a dark fruit substitutes well.)

Combine oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time.

Mix flour and spices together. Add to oil/egg mixture and combine well.

Add baby food and continue to mix.

Pour into a greased and floured bundt or tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour.

ICING

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine all and pour onto warm cake, poking a few holes in it to allow the flavor to infuse the cake.

ENJOY!

 

Finding rabbits

A friend texted me after being away for a week. “Are you free Wednesday or Thursday.” I replied, “I can be.” Trying to be true to the promise I made to myself, I am living free as a breeze in June, going where the wind of the Spirit blows me.

My June calendar remains strangely empty, and I wonder what surprises the days hold for me.

So my friend and I went on an adventure, wandering trails, resting awhile on a bench, eating our lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, and we talked. I climbed a circular staircase inside a silo, huffing and puffing a little too much, but still making it to the top where the view was worth the climb.

Another day this week my neighbor came for a visit in the late morning. He’s three years old.

While his mother and I drank coffee and ate chocolate cookies, my little neighbor played with the old Matchbox cars he loves, the ones that have seen two generations of boys in this house. We went to the room that has the small table and chairs left from days when the grandchildren were small. I brought out the basket of tea party things, and he placed dolls in the chairs. Most of the play food was placed in front of the boy doll, his obvious favorite.

Later he and I went outside and wandered the garden in the back, looking for the rabbits. These rabbits are stone and plaster, weathered by the years, looking a little crumbly but intriguing to one who sees life through eyes of wonder and everything in it is something to be discovered. He picked a few flowers, filled a small bird bath with water, and gave the plants a drink.

Holding that small hand in mine as we walked down steps to the sidewalk, I remembered other years, other children. When my grands were small they came to our house often. There were a few years when the gardens went begging. Weeds grew with abandon as I gave my time to these precious little ones.

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I’ve never regretted that. Flowers and weeds still come and go each season, each year. But those sweet children have gotten tall and are doing grown-up things, leaving behind the dolls and tea parties.

As my little neighbor and I stopped for a moment, I reached down to pull up grass shoots from the flower beds saying to no one in particular, “I could spend all day every day pulling weeds.”

Yes, I could do that. Or I could take a small hand in mine and go look for rabbits.

 

 

Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]

Christmas 2016

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Social media. It’s the way we get our information. We communicate through the internet and cell towers rather than penning letters and going the snail-mail route. In a few years will we even recognize the familiar handwriting of family and friends? Perhaps not.

We have instant gratification, instant information. Photos just snapped are quickly downloaded for our friends to see. And all those “friends?” Who are they really?

Even as inventions pass each other in the bigger, newer, better isle of advertising, life for us moves at almost warp speed. If we are not careful, we will miss the people in front of us as we bow face down into our smart phones.  As we video each of those important activities, we may miss the pure pleasure of simply experiencing them.

As we rush through December headlong toward Christmas Day, perhaps a pause is needed. Pause to listen. Pause to be thankful. Pause to pray. Pause to meditate on grace and mercy. Pause to enjoy. Pause to remember.

Stop the madness long enough to bring your thoughts and your mind back to the present. Right here. Right now.

One of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp, says, “Life isn’t an emergency.”

Let’s don’t treat it like it is something to be rushed through so we can get to the next event, next activity, next day.

Carpe diem. Make the most of the present time. Tomorrow will come soon enough.

Pause for a few minutes and imagine if Mary and Joseph had lived in the 21st century.

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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