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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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Finding rabbits

A friend texted me after being away for a week. “Are you free Wednesday or Thursday.” I replied, “I can be.” Trying to be true to the promise I made to myself, I am living free as a breeze in June, going where the wind of the Spirit blows me.

My June calendar remains strangely empty, and I wonder what surprises the days hold for me.

So my friend and I went on an adventure, wandering trails, resting awhile on a bench, eating our lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, and we talked. I climbed a circular staircase inside a silo, huffing and puffing a little too much, but still making it to the top where the view was worth the climb.

Another day this week my neighbor came for a visit in the late morning. He’s three years old.

While his mother and I drank coffee and ate chocolate cookies, my little neighbor played with the old Matchbox cars he loves, the ones that have seen two generations of boys in this house. We went to the room that has the small table and chairs left from days when the grandchildren were small. I brought out the basket of tea party things, and he placed dolls in the chairs. Most of the play food was placed in front of the boy doll, his obvious favorite.

Later he and I went outside and wandered the garden in the back, looking for the rabbits. These rabbits are stone and plaster, weathered by the years, looking a little crumbly but intriguing to one who sees life through eyes of wonder and everything in it is something to be discovered. He picked a few flowers, filled a small bird bath with water, and gave the plants a drink.

Holding that small hand in mine as we walked down steps to the sidewalk, I remembered other years, other children. When my grands were small they came to our house often. There were a few years when the gardens went begging. Weeds grew with abandon as I gave my time to these precious little ones.

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I’ve never regretted that. Flowers and weeds still come and go each season, each year. But those sweet children have gotten tall and are doing grown-up things, leaving behind the dolls and tea parties.

As my little neighbor and I stopped for a moment, I reached down to pull up grass shoots from the flower beds saying to no one in particular, “I could spend all day every day pulling weeds.”

Yes, I could do that. Or I could take a small hand in mine and go look for rabbits.

 

 

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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July ending

It has been hot this July at my old Kentucky home. HOT.

The 90-degree temperatures with high humidity have kept us indoors with the shades pulled and curtains drawn to keep out the heat. We prayed the air conditioner would keep running. Even Maisie was quick to come in, her tongue wagging, after a short time in her fenced yard.

July was a month of birthdays. The United States, the one and only son, and I got a year older. I shared my day with our eldest granddaughter, her celebrating the ending of high school and the beginning of a new journey. Being with my family was present enough. Their presence is the gift I always crave.

Indoor activity prompted me to read several books, including another by author Sophie Hudson. This one, called A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, made me laugh out loud. And it felt so good. I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and could not contain myself. I looked around at all the people with their phones in their faces and thought they didn’t know what they were missing.

I also read a book about punctuation. Yes, punctuation. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, was also humorous (not enough to make me laugh) and incorporated how our writing has evolved.

The question is why would I read a book about punctuation. I ask myself that. For one, it was recommended at a writing workshop I attended this year. For another, I want to be a better writer. When I was trying to get the best grade possible in a shorthand class years ago, every incorrect comma and capital letter carried grave consequences. I’d like to avoid those red correction marks.

One other book worth mentioning is Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. She is an artist with words, documenting a year of her family’s life after moving to an old farm house. I gave the book to someone who has been in a difficult transition all year. Then I bought another copy for myself so I could re-read the book slowly and taste every delicious phrase.

I’ve started doing word-search puzzles. Admittedly, I’ve not been fond of them. Since it may be good for my brain, I will make the effort. Keeping my brain young is important as the birthdays keep accumulating.

I made peach jam from the biggest and sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted, right out of Alabama fields.

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I’ve enjoyed precious time with friends, shopped the thrift store and found a few bargains. I welcomed my piano students back after a month break. I made gallons of sweet tea and more cups of coffee than I will mention. Because for the record, it is never too hot for a cup of coffee.

I watched both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. I heard lots of promises and plenty of demeaning remarks. I pray for my country.

The butterfly bushes and the morning glories are blooming, a sign of late summer. They require nothing of me. They simply do what they are designed to do.

As August begins we enjoy one more month of summer. It will most likely be hot. The lazy days of the season must be a myth as I heard talk about busy, busy schedules from too many. Schools will open their doors to teachers and students who may or may not be glad for routines to resume.

I plan to attack the yard with a vengeance and my weed sprayer because it’s a jungle out there. My little hand surgery, the recovery time, and the heat have given the weeds a chance to flourish. But their heyday is over.

Sweet William and are looking forward to fall this year. Cooler days and nights when we can open the windows. Flannel shirts and warm blankets to snuggle us. The changing of the leaves from green to golden, maroon, and copper. Listening for the sound of geese and crane flying overhead for warmer climate. Roasting some hot dogs and marshmallows on our homemade fire pit in the side yard. Inviting the neighbors to come sit and talk awhile. Being thankful for all the good days and bounty of blessings God gives.

A good cup of coffee will be nice as temperatures drop. Because the weather is always just right for a fresh hot brew.

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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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