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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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Sunday grace

Year ends and year begins in the splitting of a second. Night sky turns to sunrise and we begin again.  The evening and the morning are a new day.

God breathes. We are given life. How then shall we occupy our place on the planet? What legacy will we leave to those who come after us?

For we have this moment. Today.

Bill Gaither penned these words:

Hold tight to the sound of the music of living,
Happy songs from the laughter of children at play;
Hold my hand as we run through the sweet fragrant meadows,
Making mem’ries of what was today.

We have this moment to hold in our hands
and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today.

Don’t just exist. Live abundantly.

Don’t just work. Create art.

Don’t just tap your foot. Make music.

Don’t just stand there. Love your neighbor.

Be a blessing. Make a difference. Give grace.

We have this moment today.

Sunday grace.

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December ending and saying so-long to 2017

As December goes – it is the best of times and the worst of times.

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The joy of Christmas mixed with the stress of the holidays can do us in. Sometimes we sigh with relief on the 26th and breathe “I’m glad it’s over.” Been there and done that.

But December 2017 was different from years past. It seemed slower, quiet days intermingled with a manageable busy. The month started with a Christmas recital of my piano students at a senior assisted-living facility that was great fun. The residents enjoyed our familiar carols, and we enjoyed talking with them.

People dropped in to share a meal or a cup of hot tea and cocoa with us. Two days Sweet William and I had a house full of girls which made for a lively Wright House. They brought conversation, giggles, and a lot of fun to us.

We spent time with friends and family, planned and spur of the moment. I am thankful for the people in my life who enrich me in ways I can’t even describe, but I recognize it when I see myself growing, the fruit that comes from companions who make me better.

My decorating was simple this year. While the Christmas tree is not my favorite thing to do, Sweet William loves it. So it was the first thing on the to-do list. Somehow completing that one task made the rest easier. Our pre-lit tree began to shut down one branch at a time, so I made a stop at the dollar store to purchase LED lights. We added them to a fully-decorated tree, and in the spirit of Charlie Brown’s friend Linus, it was not a bad little tree at all.

My December goals were simple:
1. Learn to listen better and speak less
2. Walk in peace and offer peace
3. Purge Christmas stuff as I put it away

I’m still working on one and two. Three didn’t happen. I did a major purge last year, and it seemed to be less than I remembered. So I boxed it all up and once again stored it behind a closed door.

During the month I was reading Eve Schaub’s Year of No Clutter: A Memoir. Her efforts at emptying an overstuffed junk room and eliminating clutter in her life revealed some of the reasons we collect and keep, store and even hoard. Being the keeper of memories, I began to understand myself as I read about Eve’s issues with stuff. It helped me turn loose without guilt and to stress less about keeping what is precious and memorable to me.

Speaking of books, I tracked the ones I read this year in my bullet journal. It is an interesting discipline that now shows me the variety of material I’ve consumed. Reading was not something I enjoyed in school when I was required to do book reports. Thankfully, I have learned to love the written word, and find non-fiction as attractive as fiction.

It is not surprising then, that I am interested in bloggers who list their favorite books. I take some of their suggestions as I make my list for 2018. I check my library first. Because while I am a collector of things, books being one category, I now want to read a loaned book rather than purchase another that must find room on the shelves. (Though I am still buying books. What’s wrong with me?)

As the hours of 2017 are dwindling, I become reflective, reviewing the 365 days I spent so casually. Did I use them well?

And what of 2018? A new year emerges as a clean slate, an unwritten notebook, a fresh start. As I prepare my new bullet journal, jotting down goals, aspirations, intentions, resolutions if you will, one thing I do want is to be aware of the exquisiteness of life. It is ths gift of years, days and seconds we have been allotted. The bequest of breaths I take should count for something. It is not about filling my days full of activity and proclaiming my mantra, “I’m just so busy.” That’s no way to live.

There should be time to sit quietly, ponder and meditate;
time to listen as others speak without thinking of my response and what I want to say;
time to invite others into my life in a deep and meaningful way;
time to read good books, read again the aged manuscripts of God and learn anew;
time to serve with humility and grace;
time to work hard and do it for the glory of God;
time to be fully present in the moment, to enjoy and find joy in each one;
time to love freely and to let myself be loved completely.

Solomon said, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” There is time, and it is an offering we give back in how we use it.

The passing of winter solstice, December 21, is encouraging as I anticipate temperatures in the minuses on New Year’s Eve. The days are getting longer, though imperceptible as yet. I know it is a truth. By February it will be a noticeable reality. Then spring will not be far away.

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It is much like faith which is based on what we know is true. We trust and wait to see the faith become reality.

This is Christmas in all of its wonder and glory, faith built on truth. December is really more like the beginning than the end of a year. It reminds us to pause and reflect on the majesty of God’s love and His invitation for a fresh start, a new birth, a beginning to live real life abundantly.

As I approach a new year, words to an old song invade my thoughts, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.

Whatever 2018 has in store, I am holding to the Maker of time and years. What is even more reassuring is that He is holding me. He will not let my foot slip.

He is not caught off guard or unaware of today or tomorrow or next month. He is God and He is in control.

Rest your future with Him.

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January ending

I’ve not posted much in January, but I’ve journaled almost daily. My inside thoughts have been more prominent that my blogging ones. It’s been that kind of month.

A few sunny hours on a few days were rare, a welcome respite from the grey days. The glowing shades in sunsets were sweet because they were infrequent as Maisie and I enjoyed walking closer to 6:30 than 5:30 in the evening. The days really are getting longer.

In the middle of cloudiness, a letter from my granddaughter arrived in the mail. It brought its own version of cheer and sunbeams, eliciting smiles as I wrapped myself in her words like a comfortable old quilt.

Which is a perfect segue into the creative project I began this month. My friend is teaching several women how to make a sticks and stones quilt out of leftover scraps from her years of quilt making. I’m still a newbie quilter, this only my second, and I need the gentle instructions and reassurance that I’m doing it correctly.

sticks-and-stones-quiltHopefully, mine will look something like this when I’m finished.

January creates an organizing frenzy inside me and the house.  While removing and recycling my mess, some objects stirred memories of former joys, and I just couldn’t surrender them yet. I rediscovered a few items I’d been looking for, which is always a treat. And I gave away a couple of treasures to new homes, new owners who were delighted to receive them.

I found Venus in my night sky. At the first sighting, I stood in wonder, its brightness enthralling me. And this verse: When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place,  what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him?”

Sweet William and I attended weddings and celebrated an anniversary, and I asked a rhetorical question, “Who gets married in January?” Well, we did. Lots of memories surfaced as we thanked God for His indescribable grace to us.

I stayed glued to the TV during the presidential inauguration, the peaceful transfer of power from Democratic to Republican leadership. It was calm and dignified, an example of the freedom we live with and value in the United States. Still, the country is reeling in protests against the democratic process of making a choice through our right and privilege of voting.  We are blessed with the liberty to choose and to protest. But eventually, can we just get over it and move on?

I read several books or listened to them on CD. Two of the most impacting were Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and The Insanity of God. The first was a biography of a young Muslim man who came to know Jesus Christ. His was a deep and thorough search, a studied reasoning against all he had been taught from his childhood. He struggled to relinquish what was familiar and the connection to his family. His story moved me. In addition, I learned much about the Muslim religion and examined my own faith.

The second book, The Insanity of God, was written under a pseudonym. The author visited the persecuted church in many foreign countries and marveled how the Christians were accustomed to spending years in jail and being tortured. To them it was normal. Yet the house churches were alive and thriving in a hostile atmosphere where Christianity is condemned. The stories of the persecuted believers humbled me and I thanked God for my freedom. I questioned how much I value this privilege and how seriously I take it.

Beth Moore’s first novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus, was an entertaining read. I happened to be at my library branch at the right moment to check it out. Beth’s characters came alive in the heart of New Orleans. I’m hoping for a sequel sometime in the near future.

I said “yes” to a leadership team, surprising myself with the decision. I thought I’d done my share of this sort of thing and was through. The group of women with whom I will be serving are diverse in ages, gifts, personalities, and  experiences. I am looking forward to building deeper relationships with them and discovering where the Lord desires takes us.

The first month of a new year leads us toward what is to come. Annie Dillard says it this way:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

January is spent. February is fresh and waiting to be explored.

 

Sunday grace

Plans for the New Year. Plans for January. Plans for today.

I make them and work at them and sometimes accomplish them. But often “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” and me, crumble like a stale cookie.

I openly say it. Often. Out loud. “I don’t understand Your ways.”

My only recourse, my only peace lies in trusting the Great Planner, the One from everlasting to everlasting who knows no beginning nor ending. His plans are sure for they are in His eternal mind.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” — Proverbs 19:21 NIV

Rest weary soul from the futility of worry about the future, about today. God is working all things according to His purpose.

It shall be done, and all is well. All shall be well.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

I’m reading the book of Proverbs during January, a chapter for each day of the month.

The book is occupied with wisdom for daily living, for planning for the future, for viewing the world, for living a full and blessed life. It has much to say about words and the mouth I use to speak them.

How easily phrases and sentences leave the gateway of my mouth, and how quickly they make a mark on those who hear them. My words carry weight. They can pierce like a sword, wound and cause pain.

My words can lift the spirit of the down trodden and bring healing to the sick in spirit.

I choose the expressions and intonation, though sometimes I excuse myself when the utterances fly off the tongue too quickly without thought or consideration. And the damage is done.

If I desire to do good and show mercy, what of the thoughts and meditations of my heart? It is from the heart the mouth speaks.

So search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

 And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 AMP)

The wise woman builds her house with the fruit of her lips from a heart that has been purified by grace.

Sunday grace.

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Using the gifts

Sweet William and I attended a wedding today. Guests brought gifts for the young couple to help them begin their lives together. Their journey of two becoming one will be a challenge, and they can use a little help as they begin.

We all wish them the very best and hope what we gave them is useful. Gift cards will be welcomed as the wedded couple purchase exactly what they need.

Don’t we all love receiving gifts? There’s a thrill in seeing a brightly wrapped package or pretty gift bag that is meant just for me. I enjoy the anticipation of wondering what is inside. More than anything I appreciate that someone cared enough to go to the effort and expense of getting something he/she thought I would like, find useful, and consider beautiful.

God gives gifts to each person, talents and skills to be used to help us on this journey of life. They are to be shared and to be a blessing to others as well.

 Kelly Minter, author, speaker, and musician, thoughtfully presents a new year’s opportunity to refine our God-ordained gifts. Wouldn’t that idea help me focus myself in the coming year? Instead of spreading myself thin in lots of areas, I might concentrate on a few strengths, hone my skill set, and use my spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.

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I think it is one of the best ideas I’ve heard yet for my goal setting in 2017 (and yes, I’m still working on that). I will let these thoughts swirl around in my mind and see where the Spirit leads.

Will you join me here to read Kelly’s blog?