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August ending

August seemed to linger. Maybe it’s because it is the end of the summer. Maybe because the days are still rather long, though daylight is shortening.

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August weather was unusual this year. The expected hot days of the season were few. Milder days and cool nights enticed me to open the windows. Several evenings I was lulled to sleep with sounds of night creatures in the little woods.

The solar eclipse on the 21st was a Big To Do on TV, in classrooms, and at the Wright House. I was glad I didn’t live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The anticipation of it lasted longer than the actual event.

While there were about two minutes of total darkness in the center path of the eclipse, our location experienced a light temperature change and the sensation of dusk or storm clouds gathering. The solar shades I got from my public library made looking at the sun not only safe but so very cool!

I noticed that nature seemed to still as the sun darkened. When the moon moved on and sunlight began to return, the birds began to flutter and sing like it was a new day. All in all, it was fun experience.

Sweet William and I visited the state fair and a family wedding. The events were totally unrelated, but both were delightful in the good old summertime.

My neighbors’ chickens have started laying eggs regularly. The first morning Sweet William and I heard one of them cluck over her effort, we looked at each other and said, “What was that?” It was a new sound. Now I smile each time I hear it. Charming little chicken, you should be proud.

Maisie is in training, dog training. Actually, we are all in training since it’s the humans who need instruction. We began our six-week course in beginner obedience classes. Dogs from 8 weeks to 12 years old gather with their owners, all of us trying to accomplish the same thing, a well-mannered, furry companion. After three weeks, we are coming along nicely. Of course, we think Maisie is the cutest and smartest one in the class.

And just let me say, it’s all about the doggie treats. I am impressed at what Maisie will do for a treat.

As always friends are part of each month. I got the opportunity to visit a young man who was in our youth group years ago. He reminded me I was also his first boss at the YMCA. He is living the grown up life now, helping me navigate the inner workings of computers, way beyond what I can understand. It was a treat to be in his home and experience his hospitality.

My neighbor and her little boy came one afternoon for a sewing lesson. While we sewed, the little guy hung out with “Uncle Bill” in the room next door. I enjoy passing along a skill I learned so many years ago; at the same time I enjoy my neighbor’s company and watching her little one play with the old toys I cannot bear to get rid of.

I had a live phone call from someone who lives a couple of hours away. As I sat on the deck in the cooling day, she and I chatted and caught up with each other. We attended a retreat together over ten years ago, and it was a bonding time for us. Though we are miles apart, our friendship is still fresh.  We both remarked that sometimes we just need to hear a real voice. Texting and messaging are quick and convenient, but they do not replace the human connection we crave.

A surprise hibiscus bloomed unexpectedly near the end of this month. That it appeared and is thriving is a marvel, since I thought this lovely plant was lost when it didn’t appear at all last year. The garden can be such a wonderment.

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The children are back in school and school supplies have been replaced with Halloween paraphernalia in the stores. Really, already? As I talked with my last piano student tonight, we both remarked that we are ready for fall. August gets us ready.

September invites me to settle down, to clean and sharpen the yard tools and put them away for the season. Cool days and cooler nights await us, falling leaves and bare  branches, and the autumn sky that has its own patterns.

THE MAGNOLIA JOURNAL MAGAZINE 2016, INSPIRATION FOR LIFE & HOME, PREMIER ISSUE.

I have a fall issue of Magnolia Journal I’ve been saving for September. And the latest Mitford novel by Jan Karon, To Be Where You Are, will be coming out the middle of the month.  Two invitations to relax and enjoy the season

 

We never know what life has in store. Each day offers blessings, surprises, and much grace. Let’s don’t let our busy schedules keep us from experiencing the abundant life God has offered. It’s there for us, with all of its ups and downs, sideways and crooked turns.

No matter what a day or a season brings, God is in control. He is a faithful and good Father, and He may surprise us. There will be beauty arising from what seemed lost and redemption just when we need it most.

His ways are good. Believe it.

 

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Tuesday thoughts

I left the cool of the house and went outside to do a little weed eating; the gas tank ran out before I was finished. The heat was undoing me, and I needed to stop anyway.

I roamed the yard, clipping away dead things, overgrown branches and pulling weeds. This time of year the flowers and the weeds mingle. It’s just going to be that way. The end of the season is near and we are done with it all.

Tie-dye morning glories mix with a wild vine next to the garage. Two young sunflowers – all that came up of the package of seeds I sowed – tilt their heads and look for the sun.

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I discovered a volunteer cock’s comb as I leaned over the deck’s railing. If I’d been a more careful weeder, I might have plucked it right out. Now it grows among the d’oro lilies, its red feather just beginning.  An interesting hibiscus variety is growing in the same general area with two buds ready to bloom. I only noticed it recently. It was a gift from my gardening friend two years ago. I thought I had lost it.

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The greens of the garden are giving way to golds, and I can feel the change coming.  I saw a few leaves flutter to the ground on our early morning walk. Heading upstairs earlier today while the windows were still open, I caught a whiff of summer. It smelled good. I think each season has its own aroma.

Forecasts are predicting thunder storms and cooler days tomorrow. I’ll take that. It will be the hint of fall I’m looking for. Summer is coming to an end, flowers fading, and I’m ready to pull up and trim back the rubble of what’s already had its day in the sun.

Let me buy mums at Lowes for the front porch.

There are things I want plucked up from my life.  They’re not pretty. They feel uncomfortable, even painful at times. I think they don’t belong, that they are my thorns among the roses. God has not seen fit to uproot yet. He knows the seasons’ beginnings and endings. He plans with a purpose. He redeems all that looks like failure.

He is the master gardener, the one who planted Eden in perfection. He patiently waits for growth and expects His fruit will be produced in His children. He is restoring what looks hopeless and lost. And He will make all things new again.

And those are my Tuesday thoughts.

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Tuesday thoughts

August is a different month. It is the only one in the year with no legal/religious holidays, although I found a list for some that are bizarre and unique.

In fact, today is “Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch Day.” Hum. I’ve already missed National Chocolate Chip Day and National Watermelon Day. But I could still celebrate both if I choose.

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School buses will begin running this week, the children waiting with new backpacks and supplies. Teachers will anticipate a little chaos and parents are hoping to get back to a regular schedule so “things settle down.” I’m not sure that ever happens in our rushed, over-committed kind of living.

The Kentucky State Fair begins August 17. When I was a youngster, the fair was our last hooray before school started in September. Our family always went on a Saturday. My parents, my aunt and my cousins piled into the car, arriving early and planning to stay all day.

 

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Dad liked the army displays. I liked all the farm animals. We ate corn dogs and drank the fresh squeezed lemonade. It was a fun, family activity, and we were worn out at day’s end.

One exciting event in August this year is the total solar eclipse visible in the United States, and I am looking forward to the 21st. Nothing will be on my calendar except to experience it. I’ll probably brew a pot of afternoon coffee and take my seat outdoors. The free glasses I got from my library are supposed to be a safe way to observe this phenomenon.

The eclipse and the wonder of our world brings a verse in Job 26:14 to mind,

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Though August has no holidays, there are reasons to celebrate. In fact, every day is a reason to celebrate. It is the day God has made and handed to us as a gift. We should rejoice and be glad.

I acknowledge that there are problems and heartaches, and some days we can only put one foot in front of the other. But there is a God in heaven who sees the earth He created. He is not too busy or distracted to care about each person individually.  He is involved in our daily lives and is always working out His purpose for us and through us. It’s an amazing thought and something upon which to meditate.

If we only hear God’s faint whisper, perhaps the thunder of His power is His everlasting, unchangeable, inexplicable love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son . . . ”

Something to consider. Something to celebrate.

And those are my Tuesday thoughts.

 

July ending

July is full on Summer. Hot and humid. Walks with Maisie left us both panting for water. The occasional reprieve of temperatures and a summer rain were welcome relief.

On the very first day of July, I realized my driver’s license was missing. Nothing else in my wallet was gone, so I did not suspect theft. But how could I have lost it from a place that takes an effort to remove it?

I was troubled over it for a while, but then I let it go and gave Sweet William the wheel. Fortunately, this was the year to renew and July is my birth month. Plus, my old picture was pathetic. So Monday morning, July 3, Sweet William drove me to the Circuit Court and I waited in line. The colored backdrop for the mug shot greatly improved the outcome, and my silver blond (aka, grey) hair and fair complexion were not completely washed out.

I look happier on my new license. The one from four years ago was taken on a day I felt forsaken and alone, and my face reflected it. What possessed me to go and have a photo taken, I don’t known. Each time I looked at it, it reminded me of that awful day in my life. I’m glad it’s gone.

I broke a tooth in the middle of the month, chewing on a cherry pit. I knew that pit was in there, so why? I endured an hour and a half in the dentist’s chair, griping my lip balm for dear life and reminding myself to breath. I felt some pain mid-way through the procedure and got an extra dose of numbing meds. It took a long time before I could smile normally with both sides of my mouth.

I celebrated my birthday for a number of days before and after the fact, and I sent a birthday box to the one and only son who shares my birth month. I wanted him to have Nutter Butter cookies because they are his favorite. Since I couldn’t be with him to make a peanut butter pie, cookies would be the next best thing. I purchased from Amazon and didn’t realize how many cookies I was actually ordering. Apparently it was a lot. I may not have to send cookies next July.

Creation explodes in summer. The cucumbers from my vines flourish. And nothing is quite like a summer tomato on tuna melt sandwiches.

The day lilies bloomed their last as the rose of Sharon bushes and giant hibiscus unfurled themselves. I have Shasta daisies this year, a reminder of the friend who shared them with me. They are the flowers of my bridal bouquet.

 

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The pink ladies surprised me one morning, piercing the ground in random spots like arrows. Queen Anne’s Lace has popped up in the landscape and I let them be. Though they are considered a weed, I consider them lovely. One woman’s weed is another woman’s pleasure.

Two plants are new this year. A purchase from the County Extension Office plant sale in spring produced a charming morning glory in my favorite color, blue. And my gardener friend gave me starts of Spider Plant that make my happy.

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As I sometime bemoan the fact that there are many weeds for me to tend to, I am blessed to have many flowers to delight me. I will take the trade-off and enjoy the bounty of blooms.

Summer sounds of the cicadas in trees greeted us by late morning when we sat long on the deck. The night twinkled with lightning bugs in the little woods. I discovered they eat other pesky insects which makes them more delightful to have around.

This month I read autobiography, fiction, and a book about writing. One interesting read was Blink by Malcomb Gladwell. What gave me the most pleasure was discussing the book with a young man who is a former piano student. He came to see us before heading back to college.

I participated in a Bible study group and enjoyed being a class member. Meanwhile I was also studying 2 Corinthians in preparation to lead All Things New by Kelly Minter in the fall. This will be the first study I lead this year. Twice last year I doubled up and did the same study at two different locations at the same time. It was crazy. I learned my lesson that I am not super woman.  (Actually I think I keep having to re-learn this lesson, over and over.)

I was surprised by the death of a family member toward the end of July. Too young, too soon. When I attended the funeral service, where there was literally standing room only, I saw the glory I have been looking for. As the song I Can Only Imagine played, people stood, and the husband, whose wife lay in a casket in the front, lifted his hand in worship. I watched from the back and asked the Lord, “Is this the glory?”

When we bow the knee in reverence to the One who gives and also takes away, this is glory. When people who have gathered to mourn, can rise and sing of Heaven’s hope, this is glory. When our hearts are torn, when we don’t understand any of it, when we prayed for a miracle that didn’t come the way we wanted, and yet we still believe in a good God who gives good gifts to those He loves without measure, this is glory.

There was a tremendous outpouring of people who came to show their support and concern to this family. The influence one life has on another brings this kind of response. Memories of a life lived joyfully and loveingly, all these are evidences of God’s glory in the everyday moments of life and even death.

Funerals make me think of my own mortality. What will I leave behind? What sort of seeds am I planting in the hearts and lives of those God brings in my path? Am I nurturing with love? Am I watering with prayer? Am I tending relationships with compassion?

Christy Purifoy speaks of it in Roots and Sky:

“What will we cultivate with the moments and resources given to us? I want to grow a living home. Something as vivid and as alive as a bed of flowers. I want to create something that shows the way. A signpost of the good things God has planned for us and our world.” 

Summer makes one consider sowing and reaping. We all sow in one form or another. The law of the earth says we will reap the same, only more of it. It would do us well to consider what seeds we are scattering.

I have not blogged much this month. Chalk it up to being hot and muggy, or call it the lazy days of summer. I’m not sure why, and this from Edda Walker makes it feel acceptable:

“Lovely night, warm, and filled with gentle summer noises. I don’t feel like writing . . . Instead I am going to listen to the whispering trees.”

Through all kinds of weather, in sunshine and storms, I have listened to summer’s song in July, the echoes of a faithful God. And its music has been captivating.

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Sunday grace

The day is full of color, the color of summer. Blue sky, white clouds, green trees, rainbow flowers. July is beauty in so many ways.

A friend commented on her garden, her a new farm girl this year with a barn and animals and vegetables to tend.  The season for growing is good, “everyday more and more” she said.

The earth teaches us God’s law of sowing and reaping. One seed produces many more seeds. Small efforts bring forth a larger harvest. Be careful what you sow, for you shall reap much more.

The earth shows the handiwork of God. Creation shouts His glory. The trees clap their hands, and the birds sign His praises.

An old hymn, by John Rutter, from a favored book rings this melody . . .

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r, sun and moon, and stars of light 

The gracious hand of our God spreads a table of goodness for us, for all good things spring forth from Him. He invites us to come, partake, be filled with Himself.

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

Sunday grace.

June ending

I have made an effort to fly like the breeze in June, as I promised myself. Lest one think I laid around in my bathrobe all month munching on bonbons, let me clear up that misconception. There was work to do. Cooking and washing up. Laundry and folding clothes. Sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms. Weeding gardens and paying bills. It is the stuff of life, and it had to be done. Before I sit with nothing to do, I will be transported somewhere else, maybe another planet.

But I tried to be less regimented and plan-oriented and allowed myself more spontaneity and relaxation.

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The breezy part of the month began on June 2nd which just happened to be National Donut Day in the United States of America. And I think, “What a great country this is!”

After hearing it announced on the radio, Sweet William and I wanted to honor this occasion. We just left an appointment, so we headed for Krispy Kreme where the line was long but the excitement was high. Krispy Kreme was giving away a free donut with each order.  A little girl in line behind me was focused on the confection with colored sprinkles behind the glass case. No amount of suggestions from her mother would dissuade her. I knew how that little girl felt.

I spent some time in hospital waiting rooms. They are places too familiar for me.  It was a time for me to comfort as I have been comforted. I hoped just being there would provide encouragement to friends who feel like family. We gathered to offer the gift of presence, holding on to hope after a loved one experienced a trauma no one could have expected. Sweet William and I pray daily for this family.

June 4 marked a holiday known as Pentecost, important in Jewish and Christian history. It gets little attention from my community of faith, which I find a bit sad.  I get the feeling that some denominations fear the word Pentecost, as if something weird is about to happen. If we deny the dynamics and power of the Holy Spirit, where does that leave us as believers? We cannot do this thing called the Christian walk on our own strength.

We welcomed planned and unplanned visitors in June. One morning while I was still sitting at the breakfast table in my nightgown and robe, a younger friend rang the doorbell. She came in and said she just needed a hug before she faced a trying situation. I held her and Sweet William and I prayed, for courage and a perfect strength that is always available to us who are weak. She went on her way, and I have faith in the God we love that she will endure.

I read a book called The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. She took one year of her life and decided to be grateful each day. It made me happy just reading it. The author said it changed her relationships and her attitudes about her life. She didn’t write from a Christian viewpoint of giving thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.  She wrote from a non-religious perspective, simply trying it as an experiment. Her story affirmed the truth to me once again, that God instructs us for our good. He gives us guidelines, instructions and laws, that to some seem restrictive, but actually are for our freedom and good will.

Silence and solitude were also topics of interest this month. One book was about a man who decided to keep quiet for a day. That decision stretched into two decades without speaking words to anyone, though he did gesture to get his thoughts across. I just thought that was weird and didn’t finish the book.

Another selection, A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland, was written in a journalistic approach. The author reported on people through history who have sought silence and how solitude affects us. She ventured into her own experiences of silence at a cabin, on the dessert and in the mountains. It changed her in ways that surprised her.

By far the most intriguing book was called The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel. He wrote about a man who walked away from society in his twenties to camp in the woods of Main for 27 years. He did not have a conversation with another human for the duration.  That this “stranger” could exist in the rugged elements with camping equipment and stolen objects for almost almost 30 years was amazing, but that he did not have any companionship, nor any desire for it, seemed astounding.

Letting these books influence me, I decided to take a half day and spend it in solitude at the end of the month. Sweet William was going to an early appointment and then to visit his brother, so it was a good opportunity for me to practice quietness. I was set to begin, when the phone rang, and I heard the caller ID announce the familiar number of number one son. I reset my start time and answered that call. I had the nicest chat with my boy.

I played no TV, no music and looked at no internet. There is way too much noise on-line. This is my favorite quote for the month: “The internet before breakfast does NOT lead me into paths of righteousness, but into despair. “ — 

I found it harder to be quiet than I imagined. I am an introvert by personality (though I do tend to talk to myself and that became annoying).

I spent much of the time outside, just listening and enjoying the gentle sounds of nature. Listening was a more intense activity. I realized there is no true silence when there are voices from the neighborhoods, dogs barking, cars running on a nearby highway, and an inner dialog of my own mind.

Maisie was a little confused that I was not giving her voice commands.

I found it refreshing to be still for several hours. It was a good discipline for me. I would like to do it again. Perhaps fasting from words will make me appreciate the ability to express myself and to measure what I say and how it comes across.

One other media source worth mentioning that had nothing to do with silence is the movie The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. I got it from my Free Public Library (my favorite place for books and movies), and it was delightful. I watched it twice before I returned it. It is Christian based, well done, and funny. I recommend it.

I began two different Bible studies this month. One I am preparing to lead in the fall. I am a class member in the other. I notice I am very different in these environments. It is interesting to recognize different sides of me.

As I lead a study, I am vocal and forthcoming, well-planned in how I present the topic and encourage discussion. As a class attender, I am quiet and wait for others to respond before I assert myself. The leadership role is out of my comfort zone. I recognize it as a gift from the Holy Spirit (that power source mentioned earlier) because my comfy security blanket is being unobtrusive and in the background. That just goes to show what God can do and wants to do with each individual. He gives gifts as He wills, not to make us proud or boastful or to make a name for ourselves, but to recognize the abilities and competency comes from a higher Source. It is really humbling.

June welcomed the beginning of summer, and it has been appropriately hot. The day lilies began blooming in their array of colors and shapes. Many of them were gifts from a friend who loves to share the bounties of her own garden. When the flowers bloom I think of her and am thankful for her generosity and friendship.

There were a few near perfect days this last week of June. I wistfully watch the month end. It’s been light and liberating to loosen my grip on the plan.

An email to a friend reflects my final thoughts: “I have been somewhat reclusive this month, enjoying home and the blessings God has bestowed on us. I’ve stayed inside when the weather was too hot, enjoyed rainy days from my window view. Perhaps life was meant to be more like this than the frantic way in which we spend our lives. Food for thought.”

Good-by June. You’ve been delightful.

 

 

Long hot days

I’m a morning person, but I’m having difficulty rising while it is still dark.

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Actually, it still had only 24 hours but daylight lingers more than any other day and it seems longer.

The sun has beaten down on us lately. Yard work must be done early. The heat melts me and weighs me down, sweat trickling into my eyes. Even walks with Maisie feel hard, the humidity of a Kentucky summer making the air thick.

Sweet William and I have a list of serious prayer concerns we remember daily. I consider those who must feel the heat of blazing trial, draining their strength and sapping their energy. When all one can do is sit and wait beside a loved one in a hospital bed, the day stretches long and tiresome. Medical professionals busy themselves tending the patient. But families often sit. And pray. And wonder how long.

Heavy hearts endure what feels like an endless season. We long for a break, a change, some news that it soon will be better. Sooner not later. Where is the cool breeze that relieves the burning frustration, the what-if questions, the whys of this situation?

We need a cool drink of water for the parched spirit.

The seasons sometimes seem endless, but they come and they go, changing in diminutive increments. We must believe that relief will come.

We must believe that God is near, that He has a plan, that He is working.

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This morning the clouds moved in. Soothing winds started to blow in the tops of the trees. A gentle rain began to fall. Temperatures cooled. And the earth is watered.

Even so, may it be for those who long for their thirst to be quenched.

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