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Go gently

The calendar tells me I’ve entered the second week of November already. Time flies when we are having fun. And life is a blast, this I know.

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With the final session of a ten-week Bible study completed this week, something that consumed much of my thoughts, I am setting myself a goal to go gently into the remainder of 2018. We’ll see how that goes.

Endings always bookend with beginnings. I anticipate God has something else in store. I can’t wait to see what it is.

As I consider the last two months of this year, I hear the siren song to enter into a season of frantic activity. It’s grasping fingers began reaching out as school supplies were replaced with Christmas decorations on store shelves, and my eyes wandered to the embellishments of the holiday, stirring desire.

But do I really need another ornament?

I recall the years I was crazy with activity. Not this year. This year will be different. I will be different.

Sweet William and I have already talked about celebrating with less stress, less of an agenda, less on the To-Do-List. Contrary to popular opinion, Thanksgiving and Christmas are founded in faith. They are deeply spiritual times for me.

In my effort to stay focused on the important thing, I’ve renewed my daily discipline to list gifts in my Joy Journal. The more I focus on the goodness of God, the more I see His presence all over my existence. His blessings abound. Thankfulness and contentment permeate the atmosphere.

I’m committed to keep the fall russets and burgundies, along with the mantel arrangement, through Thanksgiving. It deserves its on ceremony. I won’t rush it out the door, only to replace it with glittery reds and greens. I take the challenge to give thanks in all circumstances.

I want to be aware that these year-end holidays can be the most difficult for some who will deal with an empty place at the table. Loss and grief cannot be stored in the closet with old decorations. It will be hard, remembering past years and wondering how to make new traditions with a loved one missing. While bliss may be filling some hearts, may I be sensitive to those whose eyes fill with tears.

Weighing how I can honor the year-end holidays, I evaluate what I can let go, what I want to keep. I desire to focus on what is truly important. To fret less, to love more.

One suggestion I intend to honor is rest. “Schedule a rest day each week during the busy holidays.” This is not an option. When every day includes appointments and activities, with no down time for family to relax and refresh, stress levels rise and the enjoyment of said activities decreases. This year, I will choose carefully when to say “yes” and when to politely say “no.”

I will choose my people over my scheduled projects. How easily I can lose sight of those around me when I have lots to do. When all is said and done, what I want to remember, and what I want others to remember of me, is that we had time for each other. That we looked at faces when we talked. That we listened with the heart. That love was the main thing.

Go gently into the days and weeks ahead. Mark what is eternally valuable. Then do that.

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On being busy

I’ve been wanting to write a post on busy-ness for over a week, but I’ve been too busy. And I chuckle at myself.

Pondering busy for days now and how I relate to it, I’ve considered the then-and-now practices of spending my one wonderful life. Just recently my good neighbor said, “You’re always so busy,” after I offered to help her with a sewing project. My response was: “I’m busy because I find things I want to do. . . . I’ll probably die busy. At least I hope so.”

A number of years ago, a close relative – who will remain unnamed – suggested I might want to start a support group for busy people. It was said in jest cloaked in a measure of truth. You recognize the underlying meaning of those comments when you hear them.

I’ve been an actively engaged woman, no doubt. When I was employed full-time outside the home, out of necessity to provide for my family, I also tried to keep the homes fires burning. Involved in ministry and volunteer positions, my adrenaline pumped hard. I went from one appointment to the next, with a daily list of things to accomplish. I seemed to thrive on it, even boasted a bit about how much I could get done.

I was playing the role of Super Woman without the cute costume. I didn’t allow for a Sabbath rest. I was burning my candle at both ends.

I remember when God dealt with me about rest, how I needed to allow it and plan for it. I was in an extremely difficult season of life, a place of utter dependence on God.

Desperation has a way of opening our ears to hear.

My weekly rhythm needed a change. I determined to do all I could the six days leading to Sunday. Then, after church, I closed my planner and chose rest for the remainder of the day. It was life changing. And I’ve been a cheerleader for rest ever since.

Still, I’ve continued to lead a busy life because this is who I am.

My mind works routinely at high speed. I think of projects I’d like to do along with the everyday tasks of life we all  must accomplish. I like to create, experience new things, organize, read to learn about the world and the people in it. Often when I sit to watch a movie, my hands have something to do.

This season of a lively life is different from a few decades ago. These days my weekly list usually includes time with people, scheduled or impromptu. I love that kind of busy. Opening the door to friends and family who gather around our table brings a richness and flavor to Sweet William and me. Preparing a crock pot of soup with toasted bread and fruit, setting the table, and the clean up afterward call for a certain amount of busy.

The rewards are well worth the energy expended.

 

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It has been an active week for me, actually several weeks of being hard at it and on the go. This morning I woke knowing I had no pressing obligations and the house to ourselves. It’s what we need today. It’s the rest required after the busy.

So I catch up with some paperwork, anticipate leftover soup or spaghetti pie for lunch, and stay in my pajamas a little longer than usual. I put off running some errands until tomorrow so I can retreat and take refuge.

Today I rest and reflect, and I finally have time to write this post and cross it off my list.

The overcast skies have already given a little rain, making it feel like a day to snuggle in. Maisie and I wandered the lane this morning in the mist. I admired the color changes emerging slowly this autumn and she kept her nose to the ground.

I’m about ready to put on another pot of coffee and relax as I sip its warmth it. Because I’ve learned the art of rest. And it’s a beautiful way to spend a day.

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Work was never the curse from the fallen days in Eden. Work was given as a blessing. A day of rest was also given to bless us, restore us, and help us realize we are not super beings. We can’t keep going 24/7.

God is the one who never slumbers or sleeps. He is omnipotent and needs no time off. He is ever vigilant and watchful. He is always working.

We find our rest in the Creator, the Lover of our souls whose work in us goes on without end.

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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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June begins

June, the month of summer. Children are out of school, and I hear them across the fields at their play.

I remember being a kid in summer, constantly outside in play and adventure. We swam until we got hungry. We played board games on the porch at my aunt and uncle’s house when the sun got too hot. I don’t remember ever getting bored. There were fields to roam, projects to construct, neighbors to call for ball games in empty lots, and dinner with the family each evening.

There was church on Sundays and mid-week when one of my friends could come stay with us a few days and then return at next service time. Our annual church convention brought an overnight stay in a motel, a sort of vacation for us. And there was a week at youth camp, up in the mountains where the days were sweltering and nights made us pull on the blankets. Open aired cabins with bunk beds were the places for making friends. The girls wore their hair in curlers all day long, our heads wrapped in scarves, so we could look pretty for church at night.

They were wonderful days.

Some call it the lazy days of summer. Having grown into an adult, I’ve not lived a lazy life. Circumstances beyond my control loaded me with responsibility. It has been my lot to move, to get things done. I stayed on task and accomplished as much as possible in a day, often falling into bed exhausted just to set the alarm to begin it all over again tomorrow.

This month of June seems like an invitation, like a Sabbath calling me.  There are no piano lessons this month. An upcoming procedure will keep us close to home. No travel plans ahead. My calendar is looking strangely blank.

Something calls to me to rest, to sit idle, to be still. My body feels it, the pull to nurture myself; to wander instead of power walk; to tread gently in the gardens and enjoy the summer beauty without focusing on the weeds; to spend time with books and to play the piano for the pure pleasure of it.

I am reading Wendell Berry’s New Collected Poems. He is a Kentucky native and a lover of the land, like I am. He writes:

“The aged voices of a few crickets thread the silence. It is a quiet I love, though my life too often drives me through it deaf. Busy with costs and losses, I waste the time I have to be here–a time blessed beyond my deserts, and I know, if only I would keep aware. The leaves rest in the air, perfectly still. I would like them to rest in my mind as still, as simply spaced.”     — The Sorrel Filly

This is what I am craving – the quiet I love. I’ve lived under pressure many days. I’ve rushed from one appointment to another, driving in the fast lane. I’ve made the long lists of things that needed to be done, and I’ve checked them off one by one.

It will be challenging for me to slow. I hesitate to even write it here, like I’m making a promise, a promise to myself. It is my nature to do things, and there is always, always something to do. But I am compelled to pursue what pursues me. Perhaps it is the Spirit calling me to come away, to listen for the hushed calm, to be still and know my God.

[Jesus] said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many people who were continually coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.”  — Mark 6:31, AMP

I can linger on the deck in the early morning, before the thermostate rises high enough to send me indoors. I can sip my coffee slowly, because it never get too hot for coffee. I can listen carefully without distration. I can be observant, looking deeply at the flower or at the face in front of me. I can hear what my heart has to say.  I can ponder the questions that mystify me. I can be quiet.

I can choose to make June a month of rest, a Sabbath. And I shall see what joy awaits me that I might have missed in my hurrying.

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Sunday grace

God planned rest for the weary soul, the one whose energy is spent, whose mind is full to the brim with responsibilities, cares and burdens, and a to-do list that runneth over.

He gives us Sabbath.

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For the Jewish people, preparations are made the day before; work will be laid aside. The candles will be lit at sundown and Sabbath declared as the prayer is recited:

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who hallows us with mitzvot [commands of God], commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.

Sometimes the running to and fro, the busy schedules, the work that simply never gets finished become more than we can bear.

Sometimes the cares of life, the search for happiness, the seeking after something else, something more, pulls our minds into the darkness, and the road ahead looks fearful.

Sometimes the effort to be perfect or, at the very least acceptable, and the striving to be all things to all people weighs us down.

We realize we cannot finish the tasks. We are depleted.

We forget Adonai our God is Sovereign Lord of the universe. And Sovereign Lord over us.

And so Sabbath comes to offer rest.

This day, take off the backpack of overload. Rest in the completed grace of Jesus’s full salvation. Trust the Father with the ones you love. Believe He has a plan and is working all things for your good and His glory.

He is the Shepherd and we shall not want. He is our Peace and our Righteousness and offers Himself to us. He is the God who sees us right where we are. He is the One who loves us with a tender compassion and mercies inexhaustible.

Rest today, dear one. Rest in Him.

 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens. –Matthew 11:28-30, Living New Testament

Sunday grace.

 

Sunday grace

The roller coaster ride of activity is exciting, the adrenaline pumping hard, heart rate accelerating, and we fly. Keep going. Stay on the coaster for another round.

But sometimes we need to get off, sit on the bench and eat ice cream.

God gave the Sabbath as a gift to man.

Rest is good. It is necessary. Sleep is restorative. Our bodies, our health depend on the stops we take.

Let your mind rest. Jesus completed all the work necessary for your salvation. He said, “It is finished.”

Let your soul rest. You are greatly loved and accepted through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Let your body rest. We are three in one, and what happens in our flesh affects the whole of us.

Honor the Sabbath somehow today, this week, and acknowledge the gift of God. He is the one who never slumbers or sleeps. He is the one who carries the weight of the world. He is the one who plans and brings those things into  existence.

Exodus 33:14 “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

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Recovering

Since my little hand surgery, I’ve been practicing recovery.

The shoe has been on the other foot for one who has been caregiver more than care receiver. I’ve experienced gifts of grace and kindness from hither and yon.

It’s been a long time since I was on this side of the sick-bed. I’ve learned some valuable lessons about pre-surgery and after.

My preparations were beneficial. I got a haircut, put food in the freezer, had a full refrigerator and a relatively clean house. The haircut was especially helpful because it is a challenge to fix my hair with one hand.

I had to relax and let things go. The weeds in the garden are flourishing along with the flowers. Let them fight it out. I just can’t garden now. The yard is not so pretty this year. I will work the soil again and reclaim it.

Food was always a welcome kindness. While being one-handed, having a meal that was already prepared was a relief for the chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. Sweet William was very glad too.

A card and a call are simple gestures but they meant a lot.

I said “yes” when someone offered help. One friend said she was coming on a Wednesday and would do whatever I needed. What a blessing that was.

While I wished to be able to do things on my own, I could not always. Those who gave themselves revived my soul and ministered in a way I cannot quite explain. It was like having sweet incense poured on my head.

Sometimes I had to ask for help. It is humbling, yes. But I found people were more than willing to lend a hand.

I realized jewelry was not necessary. It was difficult to put on and I was comfortable without the added embellishment.

My elastic-waist pants were my friends, so much easier to maneuver as I tried to be as independent as possible.

I gave into my inner creative self, sitting at the table for a couple of hours working with paper, markers, buttons, and a frame. The finished piece continues to speak the message to me, “Quiet your heart.”

I rested a lot during this month, and I almost began to feel lazy. No, I did begin to feel lazy. I’ve been a mover and a shaker for so many years. During recovery I allowed myself to rest, read, sit quietly, watch the birds, take leisurely walks. I’ve not started or completed any major projects or unnecessary tasks. It has been good. And the world kept right on turning without all my hurry and flurry.

I became more attentive while not speeding through the day. I noticed wild flowers growing and remembered sitting in the grass as a child making clover chains for my neck and wrist.

I saw bees buzzing around flowers and a wren building a nest in the bird house on our deck. I watched rabbits nibbling grass in the evening. I bent to admire the beauty in flowers and plants that thrive in spite of my neglect.

I heard the wind in the leaves of the great oaks and enjoyed their shade. I stopped underneath during the rain and was sheltered.

I stayed connected with people but I fought the impulse of too much social media. When there is nothing on the list for the day, the temptation to waste it online is real.

It’s been relatively calm at the Wright House for a month now. I feel strength coming to my hand and arm and the urge to get on with it, to pick up the pace a little and get back into the game.

This time of quiet reflection and rest has been a gift in lovely ways. It’s been a vacation at home, an extended Sabbath rest for me. I was like a boat on the river, turning loose of oars and rudder, floating where the little craft would take me. Where the Spirit led.

It’s been a beautiful excursion.

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