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Sunday grace

Sometimes life takes a U-turn unexpectedly.

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We go about our days, attending to needs, keeping appointments, socializing with friends and colleagues. Then suddenly, we are knocked off our feet, a flash-flood event changing our landscape.

I vividly recall when it happened, more than once, to Sweet William and me. At one shocking declaration, I was glad for a door frame to fall against, lest I land on the floor.

What do we do when life throws a curve ball, twisting and turning out of control, and we cannot catch it in our hands?

Adrenalin kicks into the human body helping us fight for our loved ones and ourselves. Even as our thoughts do somersaults, somehow we get the presence of mind to think about what must be done now. Right now.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator to respond to crises.

While we act as quickly as possible, we pray. We call on the faithful God who always has His eye focused on us, who loves us with an everlasting love, who has a plan and a purpose for all things.

We call others to pray because there is strength in numbers of the believers. We depend upon their prayers and their bearing our burdens, helping us carry a heavy-hearted load.

And we lean into a Savior who has already gone before us and prepared the way.

Life is uncertain and fragile. Amazingly crafted, we humans are still fallible. In one quick moment, we realize just how frail we are. Like a flower that grows and blooms we flourish, but this present place is not a permanent fixture. Not here on this earth.

Our hope and trust and confidence is in the eternal, things not seen with the eye or heard with the ear. We look to Jesus, fix our eyes on Him. When it all goes out of focus and we strain for clarity, He alone is our vision.

When life takes a tumble, when catastrophe strikes, when darkness overtakes and we cannot see the step ahead, we fall into the arms of Jesus, grasp his nail-scared hand, and trust Him to lead.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.
Naught be all else to me, Save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, By day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

 

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April ending 2018

Spring has finally sprung at my old Kentucky home. The trees have filled out and I no longer have a clear view through the little woods. One day last week, I saw two young deer wandering through. Maisie barked, of course, and the young buck began to stomp his feet at her. It was humorous to see them face-off each other. Never mind that a chain link fence divides their territory.

If I was going to talk about the weather it would be that in April we experienced a little of everything: sunshine and warm days, rain, sleet, snow, that kept me in my corduroy coat and a scarf. I saw Facebook pictures of men dressed in winter wear cutting their grass as snowflakes fell. Even this morning there was frost. After finally moving the plants from the garage to the outdoors this weekend, I had to cover them to prevent frostbite. It’s been a bit crazy.

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With all the growth going on, the yard calls to me. I’ve worked a few days doing the clean up required after winter. I dig, hoe, gather, pull, clip, and hope the fruit of my labor is rewarded. I know my body sure aches at end of day.

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We had some girls visit during the week of spring break, and the house rang with chatter, laughter, singing, and musical instruments. We craft and we eat and we sit at the table and enjoy the fellowship of the young who help us feel a little more alive.

We got to spend some time with our Mississippi relatives who came for a few days visit. Sweet William’s nieces, with their families, are real southerners, their accents delightful. We don’t get to see them often enough.

We celebrated the 16th birthday of our youngest grandchild in the way we can. I packed a birthday box to mail with surprises I hoped would please him. This year I sent vintage ties. Yes, the boy likes to wear a tie and has practiced different knots. Two of them had belonged to his great-grandfather and one was worn by his dad in high school. When we talked to him on the phone, our grandson was thrilled. And I told myself this is why I save things.

Family means so much, it is heritage and memory, our past and our future. We can neglect a lot of things in this life, but family should never be one of them.

Sweet William and I visited our first official yard sale of the year, and now I see them popping up everywhere. I’ve already had a talk with myself about stopping too often and buying things I don’t need. After my semi-annual garage clean-out last weekend and the things I threw away or put in the give-away box, I need to be more discriminating.

One of the books I finished in April was Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth. Its theme is simplicity, family and faith. I can testify that a simple life is better We can complicate it with too much stuff, too many commitments and too much doing rather than being. Having been there and done that, I don’t intend to buy the T-shirt from that yard sale. The message of the book was a good reminder.

I’ve been reading memoirs lately and how-to-write-memoir books, as if I think I might. But the ones I’ve read recently are about people with very disturbed lives. I’m sure there are other reasons to write about one’s life then to tell how horrible it was. My life has not been that disturbing, so I probably won’t be writing my memoir.

I don’t often recommend movies, but we watched one worth mentioning this month. (And let me say we’ve “kissed a lot of frogs” in the form of movies which is why I prefer to borrow from my library. If I don’t want to finish it, it’s no big deal, and if Sweet William falls asleep during, that’s OK too.). Same Kind of Different as Me is taken from true events and contains an uplifting  message.

After a day digging in the dirt today (my fingernails are proof), the sun is beginning to set, and I hear the birds from my rocker by the window. They sing at end of day as well as at its beginning. These musical creatures have a rhythm to their simple lives. Nests in bushes are tended by hovering parents gathering worms, with the robin being the fussy one, until the young are old enough to be on their own.

There are four goslings on the lake across the road, their parents swimming before and behind them in single file. One goose sat for weeks through all kinds of weather, faithfully tending her eggs. I watched her, admiring her tenacity. Then last week she was off the nest and gone, the eggs broken and scattered by some critter, I assume. It made me sad as I stood and looked at the remains, and I wonder if she grieved the loss of her young the way we do.

Loss has been part of this month, us visiting the funeral home too often this entire year. Is it the stage of life we are in, where those we know are aging? I’m not sure. It never gets easier no matter how many times we stand at a casket, hoping our presence offers some little comfort.

April has spoken of life, newness, and Easter resurrection. And though we have bundled up against the cold, we expected the sun to shine warm.  We find hope in this place, in this time, casting off the bleak bareness of winter to enjoy rebirth.

And this is life. Birth. Living. Death. It comes full circle whether we plan and prepare or if we just skip along unconscious and unaware of how precious each day is.

While the days grow longer, the warmth of the sun boosts my mood and gives me energy. I read in John 1 how Jesus came as the Light giving Life to all who would receive Him.

Life. Light. It is what I crave. I choose it gladly.

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Sunday grace

The grey days of February stretch long, endless. The temperature on my outdoor thermometer registers cold. Yet . . .

I hear the bird chirp as the sun’s brilliance begins to lighten the sky, ever so slightly. Others soon join the song, echoing from the little woods. And they know something. In their rapidly-beating hearts, there is a sense of season.

Whether the birds anticipate that spring is near, I know not. But their voices resonate my own longing.

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
— Song of Solomon 2:11-12, NKJV

I acknowledge that winter is not yet past. There are weeks of uncertainty when rain may turn to ice and snow, when temperatures will chill my bones, when the gas logs will flicker to warm us in the house, and when we will bundle up to brave the outdoors.

But there is hope.

Hope. The confidence to look toward, to look beyond, to see with eyes of faith.

Though the winter is long and harsh and I am chilled to the bone;
Though the nights are dark too long and I wait for daybreak;

Though the winds blow branches from bare trees and I feel the breaking in me;
Though the grass is withered brown and I experience the strain of life;
Though the earth looks fruitless and I struggle to bring forth;

Yet I will hope in God my Savior.
I will take His offered courage, cling to His “fear not,”
And choose the joy in His salvation.

For God the Lord is my confidence, and He will lead me through the valleys and upward where the air is sweet and His strength becomes my own.

And spring will come.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Selah.

What an unusual Hebrew word in Scripture. It is one which scholars cannot completely agree upon the meaning. Some say it is a musical term, others a liturgical signifier.

Often it is interpreted as “pause and think about it.”

We aren’t much to pause in our vigorous culture. We rush. We multitask. We move from one assignment to another, sometimes on auto-pilot. We accomplish much and travel far, but pausing is not on the agenda.

We fall into bed at night, exhausted, hoping to sleep just enough so we can begin the race again tomorrow.

What if we paused more often? Paused to view the sunrise in the morning. Paused to taste breakfast. Paused to listen to more than the words being spoken. Paused to give thanks for being able to move and work and think. Paused enough to enjoy the blessing of sleep. Paused to hear the still small voice of the Spirit.

Life is not an emergency, though we treat it as if it is sometimes.

 

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Music needs a rest to emphasise the notes played. The rests in music make the remainder of the song more beautiful.

Today, pause. Rest. Take a deep breath. Worship with your heart in it. Sing your song out loud as you move to its rhythm. Hug your people long. Look into someones eyes and hear what the heart is trying to say.

Selah. Pause and think about this good life God has given you.

Sunday grace.

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Ending and beginning

I woke up with anxiety this morning realizing it was February 1st and I had missed writing a “January ending” post.

Yesterday was a full day. I had three potential writing projects I wanted to complete. I had piano lessons. There were the dailies: cooking, laundry, clean-up as always. I worked on what I thought was the most important in the afternoon. By evening, I was spent and writing does not come as easily then. I turned off the laptop and went to bed.

Thus my anxiety this morning. I began to talk to my inner self, reminding her that I am the boss of my blog. There are more important things than writing a post. I let myself off the hook, gave myself some grace and went about my day today.

There. I feel better getting that off my chest.

January 2018 was cold, and then it was warm. It snowed causing canceled appointments and kept us home-bound. Then we played catch up. It’s Kentucky. What can I say.

I bought a leather journal for the new year, first time I’ve ever had one so nice. After viewing all my journals in their various shapes and forms, I decided it was time to treat myself to something special since, obviously, my journaling is not a passing fancy.

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Sweet William gave me a custom-designed fountain pen for Christmas. It is my journal pen. I love the way it lightly scratches across the paper and the flow of the ink. I hope the rumors I hear are untrue, that cursive writing is out of fashion and obsolete in this keyboard generation. Cursive is an art form, one we should hold close and not throw aside because something new seems better, faster. Recognizing the writing style of friends and family or seeing a signature of a loved one is a sweet pleasure. Let’s don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

I am a whirling dervish in January, going through drawers and closets, cleaning out and repurposing things to the thrift store. It gives me a lighter feeling to let go of too much stuff as I head into the new year. It has caused me evaluate my thrift store “addiction” with a determination to use caution and restraint this year.

Sometimes I organize myself into a corner and forget what I’ve done with things. Like the jar of hand cream I still can’t find.

Sweet William and I celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary quietly this year. Take-out Chinese was our lunch menu, eaten in the comfort of home. We’ve celebrated lots of different ways these many years. In this cold, snowy month, I think to myself, “Who gets married in January?” We did.

Let me mention a couple of good books and movies I enjoyed while snuggled in at the Wright House.

Between Heaven and the Real World is by singer/song writer Steven Curtis Chapman. We’ve been a fan of Chapman’s music for years. In his book he revealed an honest look at a family who achieved fame and success, who struggled with real life issues of marriage and children, who faced unbearable tragedy, and who still believe in a good God.  I appreciate the words to Chapman’s songs even more now.

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Church of the Small Things, by Melanie Shankle, was not what I was expecting. But it was entertaining and made me giggle. Melanie has a funny writing style, while telling great stories of life. She’s been a blogger for years and has written other books, some that made the New York Times Bestseller List. I will look for her again.

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Finding Normal was a DVD from my library. It was family friendly, and I just like Candace Cameron Bure.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered was another movie we enjoyed with a redemptive theme, because sometimes I want to feel good after I’ve spent two hours of my time.

And now February begins with more weather weirdness, temperatures fluctuating from 50 degrees this morning and plummeting to the teens tonight, rain that turned to snow while my piano students wish for another snow day tomorrow. The good news is, as some celebrate the prophetic tendencies of the Groundhog tomorrow, winter will be half over and on the downslide.

Stores display their Valentine reds and pinks, and I wonder if the second month of the year could truly be dedicated to showing kindness and love? We are all fellow travelers on this earth, and the road can get rugged and long. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “on the good days and the bad days and the mad days, the happy and the sad days,” we could use some courtesy and forbearance, a little patience and tenderness.

If we try, if we make a concerted effort, February might turn into a gentle reminder that sweetness is not just something covered in chocolate.

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Sunday grace

Life is brief, even at its longest. Even with the accumulation of many years, it seems not nearly enough.

We are a vapor, spending our minutes, hours, days, and years, then wondering where they went so quickly.

The breath of the Creator blew life into clay and we became eternal, the longing for true vitality and essence imbedded in our DNA. We are connected to Him who gave of Himself to bring us into existence. Is it a wonder, then, that eternity is set in our hearts?

How then shall we live?

In self-seeking pursuits? In pride of accomplishments? In looking out for number one?

In gathering to ourselves houses, lands, stuff that we think will satisfy?

Knowing there is an end to our beginning, how do we live to pursue the worth of a life?

Love God. Love one another.

Be honest. Be fair. Be trustworthy.

Share your wealth, your belongings, your heart.

Be real. Don’t hide your true self. You are fearfully and wonderfully made to be unique and precious in God’s sight. Live out your true potential, exercising the gifts within you.

Show kindness at every turn, to every person. Practice patience just as you hope to receive it. Learn to be content in this present situation.

Forgive. Give mercy. Let your heart be moved with compassion.

Seek the Creator who gave you breath. Accept the love He freely gives, the grace that is a gift through Jesus Christ.

He gives us value and worth because He loved us first.

Sunday grace.

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Photos by Elena Walls

Living my life

“Happy New Year” is past and January 2018 is well on its way to become mid-month. Sweet William and I waited for the predicted winter storm to move from warning to reality. It took half a day to get here. We have milk, bread and coffee.

I’ve been quiet on this blog since December, enjoying the rhythm of moving gently into another year.

Many were the feverish years when goals were written in categories, along with steps to achieve them: work, house, personal, spiritual, physical. I was regimented and orderly. These days, I am tending toward becoming a student of slow and steady, like the tortoise.

I enjoy the days where nothing is penciled into my planner. I guard myself  from my natural tendency to fill up a week in a lickety-split minute. This is a different season of life, and I want to live it well.

I am task-oriented, and I know it. Even now I must be purposeful in the commitments I make. Too often I’ve been quick to say “yes” without considering the consequences of time and energy, without understanding every “yes” equals a “no” somewhere else.

Our little girl, Maisie, teaches me about living at a slower pace. Life is simple for her. She likes to eat, sleep, play, and take walks. She sprints ahead of me with pure joy, then lingers long with her nose to the ground. This is her job after all.

101_1314My 2018 bullet journal is filled in, the pages bearing calendars and lists and things I’d like to accomplish in the next twelve months. I have a page titled “Bucket List” which includes learning to play the ukulele, something Sweet William is trying to help me do.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read advice about the new year. I’ve done this so many times, and often I drove myself to accomplish much. Did I think it would make me more valuable, more worthy, more acceptable? Perhaps.

I know my year will include meal preparation and clean up that together take longer than eating the good food. I will do loads of laundry and fold and re-fold the same shirts, underwear and socks for the zillionth time. I will dust and vacuum and make up the bed. I will prepare at least 365 pots of coffee. I will shop for groceries, pay bills, and file papers.

I will drive to doctor and dentist offices more times than I like.

I will invite people in to share our table, and I will accept invitations from others. I will attend church, Sunday school, and Bible study and pursue relationships.

I will play the piano, tend the gardens, and watch the sunrise as I drink my morning coffee. I will walk with Maisie, slow to her pace and appreciate each one of the seasons.

I will kiss Sweet William good morning, and join him as we pray for people on our prayer list.

I will seek to hear the tender voice of the Spirit and ask to grow deeper in wisdom and understanding, compassion and mercy, love and forgiveness.

This begins another year of my life. I want to accomplish things and cross them off my list. I want to make a decision, move on, and learn something new. I want to keep trying and grow in so many worthwhile ways.

I want to live this wild and wonderful life I’ve been given. I want to help someone along the way, be a blessing, help bear a burden, let someone know she is loved.

I’ve not written all that in my bullet journal. Some things cannot be measured by list and accomplishment. Isn’t it the intangibles, the investment of time and attention we make in a life that takes more than 52 weeks to complete? And yet, it is the weightiest act of living.

The year lies ahead. The opportunities are before me. They will come one day at a time.

 

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