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Sunday grace

The temperature has warmed in February. We walk in the early Sabbath light, Maisie and me, a mist moistening our faces as we move forward and back.

The silence is broken by the singing of birds and an occasional soft honk of geese on the lake across from the house. The geese have disbanded their flock and are now couples swimming the water together, thinking about a family, if geese think such thoughts.

I’ve seen two hawks in the little woods behind us, them swooping and enjoying a freedom I can only imagine. I wonder if we might have the delight of a nest hidden in the trees soon.

Daffodil greens have pushed through winter soil, and this week crocuses caught me by surprise, them blooming by the front steps.

The maples are bulging on the ends of branches, the beginnings of spring seed pods and leaves.  The oaks still hold on to their dry brown leaves. They are like that, every winter not willing to turn loose until new growth pulsates and pushes them aside.

I wonder how many weeks before I put away the warm red hat and corduroy coat I wear to walk? When I will put my “Baby it’s cold outside”cup in the back of the cabinet until fall? How long before I pull out garden boots and tools to work the ground?

Can spring be far away, the season I love most of all? The one that holds promise of freshness, beauty, resurrection, eternity?

God is in His heaven. His dominion is over all. He rules with goodness and justice. He is faithful to His creation and His children.

His love is everlasting and His mercy endures throughout generations. I rest in His unchanging character while I watch the world transition from season to season.

Time marches on for me, the seasons of my life moving faster every year. How long before this clay vessel will be worn out?

God is timeless and He offers eternity to those who choose His love. Eternity. For me it will be ever springtime.

Sunday grace.

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September ending

This month breezed in with sweet temperatures that only teased me. A few days of coolness were temporary. Then the heat of summer grasped the heel of September for dear life and would not let go.

I was disappointed.

But as the month comes to an end, fall is in the air, and I am happy as a duck on the pond. Windows were flung open to bring in fresh, gentle breeze. I pulled on my fuzzy socks, my flannel shirt, and have even enjoyed chill bumps on my arms.

Ahh, Autumn. I’ve been waiting for you.

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Maisie and I walk in the early, brisk morning air, and she is excited like I am. The bird sounds are different; some of them have already flown south. The sky has an autumn look about it, and there is just a hint of color beginning in some of the trees. The last of the summer roses bloom, and the goldenrod is tall.

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I am enjoying more sunrises and sunsets since the days are getting shorter. Our walks converge easily with dawn and dusk.

I started leading a Bible study in September, actually two of them. Same study with one in the morning and one in the evening. I know. Call me crazy. Two precious sisters offered their homes for us to gather, and our time is sweet in both groups. When we do Bible study together we challenge and we encourage one another. We need each other. God made us that way.

I had never really studied the book of Hosea in depth until now. He speaks poetically and in contrasting themes. Harsh judgement and tender compassion nestle close in a matter of a few verses. God urges His people to return to Him, the One who has been their strength, their provider and their glory. But they were not satisfied.

Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was not satisfied with her new life either, though her husband rescued her from the pit. He gave her a home, children, safety and a new identity.

I see myself in the stories in Hosea. I have been given so much; yet sometimes I want more or I want something different. How easily we become discontent with our blessings and look for love and satisfaction in all the wrong places. Like sheep, we are led astray and wander from true Love.

Sweet William and I traveled to an adjoining county this month to visit a friend who recently moved to the country. She and her family have acres of ground now after moving from the suburbs. Her hospitality was like a deep cleansing breath to me. While our visit only lasted a few hours, it took my stress level down a few notches.

I’ve been reading The Walk series by Richard Paul Evans this month. I am into the second book, living in this fictional story of Alan Christoffersen, a man whose life suddenly turns upside down. He determines to walk from Washington state to Key West, Florida. Evans describes the experiences and the people Christoffersen meets along the way. The messages in the books are thought provoking.

“I do not know what lies beyond the horizon, only that the road I walk was meant for me. It is enough.” — Richard Paul Evans

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I learned something about communication this month, or perhaps renewed my understanding. Though we quickly send words and messages – texting, facebook, email – there is no substitute for sitting across from another and talking face to face. I want to see the expression of the eyes, hear the inflection in the voice, observe the crinkle of a smile or the gathering of tears. I think we cheat ourselves today in our effort to be efficient and get a lot done. We are missing the deeper places of the soul by not giving attention and focus to those we hold dear and those we want to know better. We miss the connection.

I had the opportunity to give back this month, to help as I have been helped, to offer compassion as God has shown compassion to me. It gave me joy, proving that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

This week I invited a friend for brunch who is a fellow gardener. I was embarrassed for her to see the pathetic shape of my yard and what was supposed to be the gardens. But I knew she loved me and would not judge. What totally surprised me was how, after our meal, she went to her car and retrieved her garden gloves and tools and began to clear out weeds. I joined her and before she left, portions of the yard began to take shape and look more like a garden than a jungle.101_1094

Sometimes friends completely surprise me with their kindness. I see the goodness of God in people. While there are troubles everywhere, we need only look a little bit more to see how God’s love and compassion infiltrate the world.

This month I was reminded of Psalm 73:25-26: Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I had written in my Bible that I wanted this as my 2016 goal. Somehow I forgot and went my own merry – or perhaps more aptly, my unhappy, discontented – way. I focused too much on what I didn’t have than on the numberless blessings and gifts surrounding me at every turn. My heart failed a little and my strength weakened.

How gently God led me back to the place I left. Like Gomer left Hosea and like Israel left their Lord, I am also prone to wander. But God comes for me, always, and takes my hand and brings me back home.

And home is my comfort and the place I most want to be.

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August ending

Another summer month has been scorching hot. I have endured August, the month with no holidays. While it moves toward its end this year, I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go.

September entices me to come and enter in.

Sweet William and I went to the Kentucky State Fair, and we recalled it was there we had our first real date. When we were young and starry-eyed, we met at church, talked and got acquainted. We might have sat beside each other during the services. But he actually came to my work place to take me with him to the fair. I remember what I was wearing. I rode the Ferris wheel for the very first time. With him.

This year’s fair experience was so different from that day long ago when we were on the cusp of being adults. We thought we knew what it was all about; we really didn’t have a clue. Life has taken us on a wild roller coaster ride. If we had not been buckled in tightly, covered by God’s hand, we would have been thrown into the blue yonder.

Now that I think of it, we’ve come pretty close.

Our Maisie girl endured the heat with us. We’ve walked together morning and evening, both of us fading quickly. She escaped from the house – the fourth time since we rescued her – and all on my watch. She slipped through the open garage door running straight toward the geese in our yard. I think she’s been wanting to chase them since she got here. But this time, she came back quickly with the shake of the treat jar. It was not so much her running from us, her people, as it was a fun romp that got hearts pumping, the feathered friends’ and ours.

My cousins met for lunch in August, the ones from my mother’s side of the family. All but one of our parents have gone to be with Jesus now. The aunt who joined us for lunch is still going, though not quite as strong as before. She still sets an example of keeping healthy and being busy about living. She plays the organ at her church each Sunday.

I enjoyed time with the cousins. Though we live within a 30 mile radius of each other, we all have our own schedules, families and responsibilities. A couple of hours together is precious. We laughed about our experiences growing up. We talked about current concerns. We recounted our aches and pains and the medications we take. We are family and we delight in the pleasure of what that means to us.

I’ve worked in the yard when I could for as long as I could on these hot days. I came in wet to the skin, face flushed, heading for a cool shower to lower my body temperature. I accomplished some tasks yet not nearly enough to be satisfied. I contemplate how to simplify the gardens, not knowing exactly how. I must if I am to enjoy the yard next year instead of it being a noose around my neck.

I read a James Herriot book for the very first time, recommended by a friend who shares my taste in books and authors. Herriot was a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England during the 1940s. His experiences with the animals and their owners are both touching and humorous.

As August ends, I look back over 2016, reading through my journal. I realize I am dealing with something internal, indescribable. Not a disease, but something just as real and uncertain. I don’t know what to make of it. I see some of my words, and I want to understand myself, the message written at this particular juncture of my life.

I am seeking the face of God, the Spirit who lives within, the One who is with me always, to discern what I am supposed to learn in this long season of emotional ups and downs. I don’t understand it right now. I hope to soon.

September beckons. Leaves will change to jewel tones. Days will shorten and nights lengthen. Harvest is here and pumpkins will appear. Birds will ponder south-bound flight.

I want to put away garden tools for the year. I want to snuggle into what is familiar and safe. I want to connect with family and friends. I want to drive down a country road with Sweet William, us together in heart and mind. I want to hear a fresh word from the Lord who makes Himself known to me and makes His overtures toward me. I want to hear His music in my heart. I want to dance to His rhythm.

September’s autumn awaits. I am ready for it.

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September ebbing

Fall has officially arrived and the season is gently settling in here at my Kentucky home.

Nights are cool and opened windows call for an extra blanket on the bed.  Days are warm with incredibly blue skies and the whitest of clouds.  The sun shines and begs for me to come into the yard to enjoy summer’s last flower offerings.  I hear whispers that there are jobs still to do outdoors.

Many of my morning singers have flown away, yet I still sit in my rocking chair at day’s dawn with the window cracked open hoping for a little song.  Sometimes I am rewarded for my hope.

Jeffrey-Jeffrey, the calico cat who seems to have adopted us, now expects breakfast and dinner each day.  He meows for companionship, just a touch or a pat, and I oblige.  I rub his soft fur and wonder where his people are.  I used to see him coming through our little woods from another neighborhood, but now he is here much of the time.  And I wonder if he is missed by someone.

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I miss our little dog, gone from us now two months.  He filled a place in our hearts and our home.  My early morning routine is just not the same.

The morning glories bloom gloriously on the deck.  They were a surprise this year.  Their dormant seeds decided to grow and bring their purple beauty back to me, a gift to be enjoyed.101_0558

My flannel shirt is out of the closet, my sweaters and scarves looking more inviting.  Soups and chili and pumpkin spice lattes are calling my name.  I need to bake a pumpkin pie.

I bought gourds at a craft fair last week and they put me in a seasonal decorating mood.

Summer holds like the leaves still clinging to trees.  I hold on to summer with one hand while reaching for the coming season, not really wanting to let go but knowing there is something else, something new, something to discover and revisit at the same time.

Seasons come.  Seasons go.  There is a time for each one.

It is in the seasons that I see the faithful God, the One who created the plan and holds me in His hand.

All things change.  But He remains the same.  And I am thankful.

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August ending

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August is winding down, and for me it is really the last month of summer.  While we may still have some warm days next month, I begin to think about snugly clothes and fires on the hearth and shorter days that signal the end of harvest season.

Each season presents its own glories.  I want to enjoy each one in the beauty it offers.

Summer gave me fruits and flowers from the garden, the smell of fresh-cut grass, birds galore on the back deck, and butterflies hovering over blooms.  It gave long, lingering days and time to visit with friends.  And it gave Sweet William and me five wonderful weeks with our three grandchildre who live away.  For five weeks they were here, running the lane with cousins, visiting former school friends and present relatives.  We had fun together, drank pots of coffee, played games, watched movies all snuggled on the couch, and time was precious.  Too quickly they are gone.

I’ve learned some things during the summer or perhaps rediscovered them.

One is this.  When life feels like it is spiraling wildly on its own orbit and I can’t stop the madness, I start cleaning out.  If my emotions are in a tornado, I will organize the desk drawer, sort paper clips by size, and put pencils and pens in separate slots.  I see all the superfluous items that take up too much room in my house and my life, and in a frenzy I start making a pile to discard.

I talk to myself through the process with such comments as: “Why do I have so much stuff?”  What in the world am I saving this for?”  What is wrong with me that I can’t let go of these collections?”  And most importantly of all, “Why do I keep accumulating more?”

With my emotional roller coaster rides, I should have the tidiest house in the world.

The stacks of discards get bigger as I look into hidden places.  The Goodwill box in the garage has filled and I really need to make another car run there.  I just realized I’ve been saving tax returns for way too many years and that the files in drawers full to the brim can actually be shredded.  Why didn’t I know that?

A couple of days after I began my frenzy, something clicked in my mind.  I organize when I am feeling stressed and out of control.  When I cannot do anything about that which troubles me, I side track and start taking control of something I can.  I’m not yet sure if this is a healthy, if it is a good coping mechanism or not.

Is it OK to focus on something within my power to do while I release my brain, even for just a little while, from the concerns that I am powerless to do anything about?

I’m still working on that quandary.

In this season of life, the Lord is teaching me to trust Him when I can’t see past today or tomorrow.  And haven’t I been around this curve before?  Of course I have.  Sometimes, I slip into forgetfulness that God is the only One in control, and that I am definitely not.  Patiently, He teaches me again.

He has reminded me through so many different avenues recently that He is big and He is strong and He is able to handle what seems insurmountable to me.  That the concerns of my heart are also a concern of His.  That the ones I hold so dear and love so deeply are the ones He loves most and gave His life for.

While I am so limited in what I can do (cleaning out a closet), He is limitless in power and wisdom, and He will do whatever it takes to accomplish His purpose in the lives of those I love and care so much about.

He is God Almighty.  His promises are sure.  He will not fail.

So as I prepare to enter the next season, I am looking into the face of He who planned seasons, controls them, and fulfills His divine purpose through them.  He loves me.  He loves them.  My prayers are heard.

And I am learning to trust Him even more.

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