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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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Most admired

I’d picked up a copy of the magazine that is specifically written about women for women. It is free, and I find it in the hospital waiting rooms where Sweet William and I frequent much too often.

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This one’s cover showed pictures of twelve women chosen as most admired in as many categories. I read the women’s stories, all of them worthy of their being chosen. They have worked hard to educate themselves and achieve success.

These are high-profile women, some of the movers and shakers of the community. They carry briefcases and they carry weight and influence.

As the days go by after reading the summary of these successful women, I begin to formulate my own list of most admired. They will never grace the cover of a magazine. Their stories may not be told in print. They will not get a make-over or a fashion consultation so their photographs look polished and professional.

But the women on my list have achieved something that ranks them in a place of honor, in my opinion.

There is woman who opened her home to an aging mother-in-law, and this after her own children had left the nest. At a time when she and her husband could have thought about travel and beginning to explore their couple-ness again, she is responsible for someone who becomes more in need of care as the years go by. She handles it with grace and dignity.

There is the woman who comes to help me in our house sometimes, the one I have called on in emergencies to let our Little Dog out when Sweet William was suddenly hospitalized. She enters our house with a smile and joy that brightens our lives. She has her own problems for sure, but she continues to work multiple jobs to help provide for her family while making sure her children get to ball practices and games, music lessons and the unceasing activities of this generation. She maintains an openness and honesty with her children in the midst of her crazy schedule. Her kids are growing up to be responsible and hard-working, following her example.

There is the woman whose grandson lives in the far corner of the country. She is his life source in many ways. Her love and devotion to him is unmistakable, and she makes the journey to him many times throughout the year. Her continuing prayers for him are evident in his young life as she sees God intervene and provide. She keeps up with his activities and his grades, doing what she can from her distant home, to see that he has every available advantage.

There is the younger woman who is taking care of her mother who has been left with a sever disability, while she has a husband and children at home. Life has dealt her some rugged blows, and she keeps walking forward, seeking different avenues to advocate for her family, making sure they have what they need.

There is the friend who checks on me, asks about my day, and willingly hears my honest raw truth coming from a fractured heart. She has her own burdens, yet she cares about me and mine.

There is the teacher, influencing lives on a daily basis, praying for her students and showing them God’s love actively while not being able to mention His name.

There is the nurse who gives skilled expertise to patients in hospitals, rehab centers and nursing homes. She cares for those unable to care for themselves while offering a smile and some cheer on many a gloomy day.

There is the woman who fosters other people’s children, giving them a safe haven when they have been removed from home, some experiencing untold horrors.

There are the women who volunteer. They teach Sunday school to the least of these; they meet weekly with middle schoolers; they have a heart for understanding teenagers. Theirs is a special calling.

There are the mothers who home-school and invest their daily time and energies into the hearts and lives of their little ones, knowing there is no other more important job. They sacrifice some of the frills of life so they can give themselves away.

There are the women who are caregivers of  children, husbands, parents, and relatives who have experienced life-changing illness or injury. Their lives are focused on another and not themselves.

There are the women who are friends to other women, loving them with a listening ear and words that encourage. They offer a comforting place to speak one’s heart and not worry about being exposed on Facebook or Twitter or to the next-door neighbor.

Women are a wondrous group. They may be described as the “weaker, more delicate vessel” in physical make-up, but they make up for it in determination and courage. They are fiercely loyal, tireless in their efforts, and they give of themselves to a fault. God endowed women with a heart like His in so many ways, their nurturing, relentlessly loving, tenacious way of holding on in hope.

Almost an entire chapter of the scriptures is dedicated to a woman’s worth. More than rubies. Priceless in value. Her characteristics are most definitely to be admired and emulated.

If I had a list of most-admired women, it would be long. The women who are are making a living and making a life. Giving and selfless. Loving in word and deed.

These women are strong. They are beautiful. And they are worthy of honor.

“Give her the reward of her labor,and let her works praise her at the city gates.”  — Proverbs 31:31

 

 

July ending

It has been hot this July at my old Kentucky home. HOT.

The 90-degree temperatures with high humidity have kept us indoors with the shades pulled and curtains drawn to keep out the heat. We prayed the air conditioner would keep running. Even Maisie was quick to come in, her tongue wagging, after a short time in her fenced yard.

July was a month of birthdays. The United States, the one and only son, and I got a year older. I shared my day with our eldest granddaughter, her celebrating the ending of high school and the beginning of a new journey. Being with my family was present enough. Their presence is the gift I always crave.

Indoor activity prompted me to read several books, including another by author Sophie Hudson. This one, called A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, made me laugh out loud. And it felt so good. I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and could not contain myself. I looked around at all the people with their phones in their faces and thought they didn’t know what they were missing.

I also read a book about punctuation. Yes, punctuation. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, was also humorous (not enough to make me laugh) and incorporated how our writing has evolved.

The question is why would I read a book about punctuation. I ask myself that. For one, it was recommended at a writing workshop I attended this year. For another, I want to be a better writer. When I was trying to get the best grade possible in a shorthand class years ago, every incorrect comma and capital letter carried grave consequences. I’d like to avoid those red correction marks.

One other book worth mentioning is Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. She is an artist with words, documenting a year of her family’s life after moving to an old farm house. I gave the book to someone who has been in a difficult transition all year. Then I bought another copy for myself so I could re-read the book slowly and taste every delicious phrase.

I’ve started doing word-search puzzles. Admittedly, I’ve not been fond of them. Since it may be good for my brain, I will make the effort. Keeping my brain young is important as the birthdays keep accumulating.

I made peach jam from the biggest and sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted, right out of Alabama fields.

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I’ve enjoyed precious time with friends, shopped the thrift store and found a few bargains. I welcomed my piano students back after a month break. I made gallons of sweet tea and more cups of coffee than I will mention. Because for the record, it is never too hot for a cup of coffee.

I watched both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. I heard lots of promises and plenty of demeaning remarks. I pray for my country.

The butterfly bushes and the morning glories are blooming, a sign of late summer. They require nothing of me. They simply do what they are designed to do.

As August begins we enjoy one more month of summer. It will most likely be hot. The lazy days of the season must be a myth as I heard talk about busy, busy schedules from too many. Schools will open their doors to teachers and students who may or may not be glad for routines to resume.

I plan to attack the yard with a vengeance and my weed sprayer because it’s a jungle out there. My little hand surgery, the recovery time, and the heat have given the weeds a chance to flourish. But their heyday is over.

Sweet William and are looking forward to fall this year. Cooler days and nights when we can open the windows. Flannel shirts and warm blankets to snuggle us. The changing of the leaves from green to golden, maroon, and copper. Listening for the sound of geese and crane flying overhead for warmer climate. Roasting some hot dogs and marshmallows on our homemade fire pit in the side yard. Inviting the neighbors to come sit and talk awhile. Being thankful for all the good days and bounty of blessings God gives.

A good cup of coffee will be nice as temperatures drop. Because the weather is always just right for a fresh hot brew.

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Dealing with our grief

I’m reminiscing today, thinking back, remembering.

It was a year ago this very day when we took our Little Dog to the vet. After the shot, Little Dog quietly died in my arms. I remember the rain reflecting my tears, the heartbreak I felt at placing our beloved companion of 13 years into the earth.

I’ve passed that little grave and its marker at the corner of our yard countless times as I’ve walked my quiet lane. A small tree grows there now as a memorial to a faithful little friend.

Now Maisie lies beside me in the early mornings as I sit in my rocker for some quiet time with the Father. She is so different from Little Dog, in size and color, in personality and demeanor. They are not alike at all, yet both have places in my heart.

Reading a book recently, I remembered other losses as the author wrote about her miscarriages.

I dealt with that grief twice. Those many years ago there wasn’t much written about it as I recall. My experience in the hospital at the first miscarriage was made more emotionally painful because I had to share a room with a new mother whose baby was brought into the room regularly. The curtain was pulled between us, but when I heard those infant noises and my arms were empty, I thought I was going to die right there at that very moment.

Procedures had changed by the second miscarriage, and I was placed in a different section from the new moms. Thankfully, someone realized women were dealing with a death to be grieved, that is was not just a medical procedure.

Today I am thinking of a young friend who is facing the one year anniversary of her mother’s untimely death. I can identify with her, recalling the first holidays, birthdays and family events where my mother was strikingly absent. My friend’s grief is still in process.

In some ways mine is too.

We sustain other losses like losing a job or a friendship that ends suddenly. When our health fails or disease threatens, life changes dramatically. When my family who lived in the house next door pulled out of their driveway on a September morning in a big yellow moving truck, the loss was almost more than I could bear.  That loss resurfaces often, especially when we say our good-byes after time together.

Grieving is a process. It takes time. It has its stages but it is not orderly. Sometimes those stages circle and repeat. They may swirl and come back to slap you in the face when you thought you were done with that one.

Tears well up unexpectedly at a thought of someone we miss and long for. The flood of memory and emotion can surprise us.

One person’s grief can’t be compared to another’s. We each have our way of working through it. It is a road we travel alone in some ways. While we can share our experiences and grieve with those who grieve, each person deals individually with their own emotions and pain.

Hopefully, eventually, we come to a place of acceptance and healing.

Having endured many losses of one kind and another, I’m not sure we ever “get over” them. We move on. We learn different ways of doing life. We call it our new normal. But we don’t forget what it was like before.

The open wound closes but the scar is a mark of our heartache.

We remember. At the remembering we cry and we smile. When we can talk about the experience and the one who is gone, we relive the joy of having loved, even through we have lost.

I read Revelation chapter 21 and see the picture it paints of a day when there will be not more death, no more pain, no more crying. God himself will wipe away the tears from our eyes. And He will dwell with us in a way we only faintly understand now.

God will make all things new.

I look forward to that. In the meantime, I find comfort in knowing the truth, that while we suffer here, God does not waste our suffering. He comforts. He restores. He brings beauty out of ashes and gives joy to replace sadness.

Death reminds us that we are not in Eden any more, the garden of perfection God planted. And somehow we know it is not the way it was supposed to be.

We grieve but not without hope. We hope in God who promises a new order of things.

And so we wait, expectantly, for that day.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

Photo by MaRanda Houston Green

 

Slowing

Because summer should be slower, right?

I know it’s not necessarily true. It has not always been for me. However this year, June has been restful as I am giving myself time to heal and recuperate and, let’s be honest, be a bit lazy. The word used to be like a curse word to me. Don’t call me lazy!

Lazy is not in my genes. It was not the way I was taught or what I caught from my parents. But I don’t remember them being frantic and over extended in the same way we are today. They were industrious, but they also knew how to enjoy life. They took long leisurely drives. They visited people, talking for hours. And they sat on the deck watching a storm move in.

Technology is part and parcel of our lives in the 21st century, but it should not rule us or be an extension of our hands with a cell phone constantly being the boss of us.

So here’s a blog from The Life Project you might like to chew on.

Hurry Up!

 

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