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June ending 2018

June is summer beginning, more hours of light that makes a day spread out like a road trip. Going to bed while the sun shines becomes normal. And waking before the birds is a challenge indeed.

June is:

  • Rising even earlier while it is still dark just to hear the first bird song.
  • The smell of fresh-cut grass, moist musky soil, and fragrance of flowers.
  • Birds in happy flight, finding nests in trees, seeing babies reaching scrawny necks for mamma’s offering.
  • Trying to keep my fingernails clean even though I wear my garden gloves.
  • Hot, humid afternoons when a cool house becomes a reason to give thanks during prayer time.
  • Rainy days that give me permission to stay indoors, the contentedness of being home.
  • Maisie panting on a short, slow-paced walk as the sun blazes, and me looking for the shade along the path.
  • Wild rabbits in the yard taunting her because they know she can’t get to them.
  • Brilliant day lilies in amazing colors and variety, remembrance of the friend who shared them with me.
  • Unexpected blossoms springing up where they want to.
  • Queen Anne’s lace in landscape because one man’s weed is this woman’s flower.
  • Mowing machines running almost daily here or there.
  • Children’s voices at play, motor bikes zooming on our lane, families sitting under trees and on porches.
  • Fireworks exploding late at night, even though it’s not July yet.
  • Baking sour dough bread and sharing it, because it’s what I can offer to those who are hurting, hoping it expresses my love.
  • Having a month of no piano lessons with relaxing evenings, but now beginning to anticipate my students’ return with plans for beautiful music.
  • Remembering my dad on Father’s day, and celebrating my daughter-in-love with a birthday box carried by postal service.
  • Forgetting to make plans for my own Sweet William and son on Father’s Day and them graciously forgiving me.
  • Watching fireflies twinkling in the night sky through the bedroom blinds when all is still.
  • Time slowing on these long, hot days of summer.

I’ve enjoyed library books and movies this month in the coolness of the house after hot work in the sun. Sweet William and I saw the movie, I Can Only Imagine, for the first time this week. It was a moving story. I also read the book by Bart Millard, by the same title, and of course, the details of his life are more fully disclosed in the written word. A movie can’t give the full, or even an accurate, picture. If you want to really know the miracle of Millard’s life and God’s redemption story, I encourage you to read the book.

Sweet William and I attended a class at our library and learned to make paracord bracelets. His is orange and mine is blue. We are now in the process of making more in a variety of colors. Learning new things is so good for our brains. Plus we can wear almost 10 feet of strong cord around our wrists just in case there’s an emergency, whatever that might be.

I’ve relaxed this month, sometimes even feeling lazy. That goes against my nature, but I’m learning it isn’t necessary for me to be ever-moving and always productive. Rest is good.

The highlight of every month is the time spent with people. I track it in my bullet journal because this is the true measure of our lives. We’ve sat for long hours in hospital rooms, waiting for words that would offer hope. We attended funeral homes where we wept with those weeping, shared their grief and hopefully helped shoulder their burdens.

The time we gathered at our kitchen table with our people, the times I met someone at Panera Bread or Starbucks and was a gentle listener, the time spent with friends and loved ones, no matter where it is, is the most precious time of all.

Because time is the gift we give. Listening and being present are how we love. Each month. Every month. Until our days on earth are no more.

 

 

 

 

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May ending 2018

May is green and shades of emerald were especially beautiful this month. On many days it seemed spring just skipped away like a rabbit, leaving place for summer heat. The air conditioner has run. While I love the fresh breezes blowing in open windows, by noon many days, the sashes were closed and shades pulled to keep the house cool.

The grass grows tall along with weeds among the flowers. I’ve decided to dub this place, “Where the Wild Things Grow” since there’s a lot of that going on.

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My garden work had to be done early in the morning, three hours being my limit. I came in soaked with perspiration and red-faced, longing for a cool shower. I accomplished quite a bit working just those few hours at a time, and the front yard looks like someone actually lives here now.

There are still areas that need my attention, and I will be busy in the coming month. That’s what summer is about for me. I shall take it in stride, move at my pace, and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Deer sightings in the little woods have been frequent this year and it is truly delightful. The pièce de résistance was early in the morning this week when Maisie alerted us to activity on the edge of the yard. There stood a doe and a spotted fawn, easing quietly into the dark protection of the woods. It was a gift, simply a gift.

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May was recital month, always a celebration. This year one of my students was graduating high school and she played five difficult pieces for her senior recital. She’d been my student since she was seven years old. That hasn’t happened for me often as a piano teacher. To have spent that many years next to her at the piano is weighty as well as a privilege I don’t take lightly.

I put her file away today, and I am still emotional about it.

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Our oldest granddaughter celebrated a mile-stone birthday in May. She is grown up in so many ways, beautiful like her mother, taking on adult responsibilities. Yet in my mind, I still see that little girl who sat at the stool across from me in the kitchen and drank hot cocoa early mornings. She talked up a storm. We shared so many special experiences and a bond that is strong in spite of the miles that separate us. I wonder if she knows how dear she is to me?

Time with people has been varied. I have been a listening ear, a helping hand, one who weeps with those who weep, and part of the applauding audience who cheered young talent on stage. Being part of people’s lives means we give something of ourselves, and loving one another comes in a variety of opportunities.

This last day of May, Sweet William and I purchased android smart phones. For. The. Very. First. Time. I know! I’ve been holding out, not wanting a phone that would become an appendage. I suppose I feared addiction to the thing. I don’t want to be held captive to a cell phone.

But there comes a point when you know the time is right. And today was the day.  We bought simple and efficient because we live a simple lifestyle. The learning curve will be interesting as we teach our brains new things and get current with the rest of the world.

The sales people were kind and patient with us. (They were young enough to be our grandchildren.) They asked how long we had been married. Perhaps there was “an old married couple” persona about us or the fact that we were enjoying the experience together and laughed a lot.

I’ve been living in Philippians for the past month at least. I finished a study on my own but can’t seem to get away from Paul’s letter. His joy and rejoicing are everywhere in this short book. I long for the wisdom he seems to have learned.

I read something this month that is sticking with me. The author decided to stop saying, “I have to [do whatever]” and instead began saying “I get to [do whatever].” To me that is profound, and I’m trying to change my mindset.

One night when I was having trouble falling asleep, I lay in bed thanking God for all the appliances I have because I get to do laundry and I get to clean house and I get to fix meals and I get to work in the garden. Because I have clothes and a home and food and a yard. I am so blessed, so very blessed.

Such a simple change of phrase makes my life look beautiful and full of good things instead seeing my responsibilities as burdens that weigh me down. And I feel joyful and want to rejoice. Paul was definitely on to something.

There are so many things for me to learn and experience. I want to be a forever student of life no matter my age. I believe God has lots He wants to teach me yet.

Because I am confident of this that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

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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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Friends

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Friends. I have the best, and I hope you know who you are. If I began to count the ways I’ve been befriended and loved, it could take all day.

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Friendship is what we crave.  But it can be hard, especially among women for so many reasons. Never Unfriended, The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, by Lisa-Jo Baker, made me cry when I first began reading it.  It seemed to be speaking directly to my heart and my experiences.

Baker writes:

“Fear makes me want to hide. Fear makes me afraid of my own gifts and name. Instead of sharing them with the world, fear makes me want to dig a hole and stuff all that I am and all that I love deep down into the dark where no one can get to them. Fear is a terrible friend.”

I have felt that fear, especially as a young woman trying to figure out who I was, comparing myself to others and never feeling like I measured up to the standard.

“Into us God breathed the desire for companionship. Into us God breathed the gift of community. Into us God breathed all the capacity for believing the best about each other, loving others more than ourselves, and making ourselves wildly vulnerable without fear of betrayal.”

The dichotomy is apparent. There is the breath of God and there is fear. Which will reign supreme? Will we live with fear dominating our existence, the decisions we make and the resulting despair, or will we be guided by the life-giving breath of the Creator who has ordained a hope and a future for us?

Baker offers a unique opportunity to dig into her book at different parts, depending on where you are relationally, or if your one who likes looking at the back of the book first.

Part 1: What Are We Afraid Of?

Part 2: What Can’t We Do About It?

Part 3: What Can We Do About It?

Part 4: Where Do We Start?

I began at the end, Part 4.  “This is for the sisterhood, the motherhood, the neighborhood, the misunderstood,” Baker writes. We start where we are now, whether we have the best of friends or if we have been hurt and are afraid to open our hearts again.

The chapters in Part 4 are entitled “Practice Being a Good Friend To Yourself Today” and “Practice Being a Good Friend To Someone Else Today.” Because don’t we have to accept ourselves, be good to ourselves, and love ourselves, before we can be a good friend?

Never Unfriended ultimately assures us that God’s love transcends all of our hurts, all of our self-inflicted wounds, and all the ways we have managed to offend others.  His love is not fickle. We cannot change His unchanging love, compassion, and mercy toward us. He will never unfriend us.

I am blessed with friends, all ages, sizes, colors, genders and backgrounds. They are treasures I cherish.

The Author of relationship invites our friendship and then demonstrates how to love with a heart bigger than the universe. Love is patient, kind, not envious or proud, not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs and does not take offense easily.  It protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

And that is a recipe for a great friendship.

 

NOTE:   I received a copy of Never Unfriended, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Sunday grace

The trees in the yard take their own sweet time bringing forth. Some already have leaves of lovely spring green. Some still wait.

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It is the same each year. The autumn olives leaf out early while the oaks stand tall and naked, just recently dropping last year’s dry growth. The evergreen cedars are unchanged, their forest green looking dull against the hue of this season.

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We all grow and bloom at our own pace, so why do we compare ourselves to one another? Comparison kills relationships and stagnates us as we try to be like someone else.

Your strengths balance out my weaknesses. Your gifts bring blessing to the family of God. Your uniqueness is just what the world needs.

The saplings stand near the 30 foot maple. The small flowering fruit tree is so close to the elm, their roots must intertwine. All are in different stages of growth. Their bark, leaf shape, fruit, and root systems are diverse. Yet there they stand, together, offering me their beauty, a protected nest site for the birds, a jungle gym for the squirrels.

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How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity, accepting one another in love, using our talents and gifts as the Holy Spirit distributes them according to design and purpose.

The body functions best when all its parts are functioning as they should, strong and healthy.

Let nature take her course in our little woods. Let God have His way in each of us. He is the author of our lives, the One who perfects us and finishes what He started. He will complete the work just as He planned it.

Be who you were made to be, the irreplaceable creation of the Creator. The real you. Honoring the God who gives you life.

Let all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  And may we live to the praise of His glory.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

She sat next to me at our table and asked with intense eyes that said she really wanted to know: “How can I pray for you?”

I could barely choke out the words, “Pray for endurance and strength.” It was all I could say. I’ve been weary in the well-doing.

Life can beat us up sometimes, knock us down and begin the count.

God sees and He knows what we need. He is the completely sufficient One who supplies all.

God gives us one another, a friend to halt the count long enough to jump in the fray and give us a helping hand so we can stand erect again.

Her sincere prayer at the end of our visit was enough to bring me to tears. I heard her call our names to our Father in Heaven, talking to Him as she would a friend. For she is a friend of God.

We need each other. God gives what God enjoys. Relationship.

On earth it is less than perfect with our personality conflicts and self-centered ways, but it is still the gift of One who provides for emotional needs as well as physical ones. He gives us each other.

For when one falls down, another can help her get up, dust off the dirt, bind up the wound, look into her eyes and say “You can make it with God’s strength. Let’s walk together for a while.”

Pity the one who has no one to help her up.

Strength for the journey sometimes comes through the hand and a prayer of a friend.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9, NIV

Sunday grace.

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We are in this together

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

We met for an early morning coffee chat. She’s young enough to be my daughter. Our friendship began at a chance meeting, the two of us at a women’s event when the Spirit brought us face to face.

She shared her recent life events and then asked about me. I could not speak for a couple of seconds, emotions tightening my throat. She waited quietly until I was able to talk about things that concern me. Nothing big, just the small pebbles that can pile high and begin to look like a mountain.

I told her how I sometimes say “I’m good,” when asked, but hiding underneath the cheerful face is sadness I can’t account for. It’s not that I mean to be dishonest, but I don’t think most people want to hear my litany of complaints. She’s not most people. She’s my friend.

Lying on the table between us was a book I brought to share with her. As she expressed her concern for me, she pointed to the front cover and smiled. The subtitle read, “because women need each other.” And that is exactly right.

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When I chose Giddy Up, Eunice as my next book to review, I was intrigued by the title and what might be waiting for me within the pages . Sophie Hudson picks out three Biblical friendships and shows the vital important of relationships between women.

“. . . there’s no getting around how much women need each other. The heart of the gospel is relationship, and God has hard-wired each of us with a longing to be seen, to be loved, and to be known.”

A woman understands this at her core. Her DNA shouts it. Hudson challenges women to look beyond their “same age, same stage” groups. She points out that women who are ahead of us (the older generation) and the ones behind us (the younger generation) are rich friendship opportunities.

The title of the book comes from 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul remembers the faith of his youthful protegé Timothy, how it began in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.

Hudson writes about three inter-generational relationships: Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, and Lois and Eunice.

She suggests there are women already in our circle who may be a potential friend. She says,

“In fact, in each of these three pairs of women, there’s already a built-in cross generational connection. That’s important, because it reminds us that we don’t necessarily have to take on anything new; we may just need to open our eyes and look around at the people in the places where we already are.”

That’s a relief, not having to add more to my plate. I don’t have to sign up for a new ministry or start attending another small group. Our own family members cross the generational lines to be a source of support and encouragement. If I simply look at the places I live, work, and serve, there are women on both sides of my generation, and we can share our journeys. We can help each other grow.

“We would say that we want to be women of great faith, women who pass on the ‘sincere faith’ of 2 Timothy to the younger people in our sphere of influence. We also want to be women who learn from [the older women] in our lives.”

I am thankful for friends who are my age and stage of life, who remember when the Beach Boys first came on the scene and when television was small, black and white. We share similar life experiences. We understand each other so well.

I am equally thankful for those older women who nurtured me and advised me when I was younger. They were my role models, the ones who paved the way for me. I hope I always have an older woman in my life until I am the oldest one around.

And my young friends, they are career women and mothers. They home school and they serve in the community. They have babies, toddlers, teenagers and husbands, and their lives are full and running over. They help me remain hopeful for the future.

Giddy Up Eunice speaks to me, not so much as an instruction manual but more like a friend across the table where we laugh a lot and get really serious and talk for hours.

Sophie Hudson is a Mississippi girl and southern oozes from her pen. She is expressive and funny and often exhibits excitement with her ALL CAPS WORDS as she tells personal experiences that illustrate the truths she is presenting.  While this was my first time reading her work, I am already looking forward to reading another of her books.

NOTE:   I received a copy of the book Giddy Up Eunice, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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