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Welcome sweet springtime

The calendar recorded the first day of spring this week, but it seemed Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

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Sweet William and I bundled in coats and scarves to run errands on Tuesday. Then Wednesday it snowed for hours. Wet and heavy, it continued to pile higher on the deck railing and hung on branches of trees until I wondered if the cedar tree in the back yard would break under the load.

 

 

Daffodils huddled under a blanket of white, and the yellow forsythia blooms peeked through sadly. The shapely Bradford pear looked as if it had already bloomed, the tips of branches coated with white.

It was stunning to look at from the warmth of the house.

In the early dawn of a frigid morning, I heard the birds singing their spring song. They seemed undisturbed with this minor setback. They know what their tiny beating hearts know.

Spring is coming.

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song by that title, months after his young daughter was tragically killed in his family’s own driveway. I cannot imagine the pain, the dark depression, the long winter of the soul he endured. He must have grasped for something bigger and stronger than himself during the heaviness of grief to have penned such hopeful words.

“And my heart’s heavy now
But I’m not letting go of this hope I have that tells me
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we’ve been hoping and longing for soon will appear”

I played the song again and again when my own heart sat in the darkness of gloom and despair. Its message of hope sings to me even now and offers something more. Something more than sinking in sorrow, more than allowing fear to swallow me, more than feeling hopeless and alone. No matter the heartbreak, as winter lingers longer than we think we can bear, spring is coming.

It is God’s order and plan, the movement of seasons, the rotating of sun and moon, the earth setting in its perfect orbit for all of us to live and breathe and thrive.

Eventually we all will experience what feels like a long, cold winter, and we become desperate for change, for life to spring forth from hard ground, to see beauty come from ashes.

Hope itself is like a star  –  not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.
  —  Charles H. Spurgeon

The season of Lent is a waiting and hoping for redemption. Moving toward Palm Sunday, the passion week, and Resurrection day, I am impressed how nearly half the content of the Gospels is dedicated to the last couple of weeks of Jesus life. It was that important to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is that important to me.

Without Jesus, hope is illusive, a mere wish for something better than now. No one else did what He did for me. No one loved me this much. No one paid the full penalty of my sin with His own life. No one else promises me His indwelling presence now and a place in Heaven with Him simply because I believe He is the way, the truth and the life.

My hope is built on nothing less 
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, 
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

He is the perfect Lamb of God sacrificed for me, the Mercy Seat of a holy God where I run for forgiveness, compassion, and consolation. He is my Redeemer and my present Helper. This is my living hope.

Snow is still piled on the deck though the sunshine is melting it with a warmth that hints of spring. The trees have shaken off the heaviness of their winter burden and bear buds ready to burst forth. Daffodils and forsythia are recovering beautifully.

Spring is coming and hope is alive in me.

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Sunday grace

The grey days of February stretch long, endless. The temperature on my outdoor thermometer registers cold. Yet . . .

I hear the bird chirp as the sun’s brilliance begins to lighten the sky, ever so slightly. Others soon join the song, echoing from the little woods. And they know something. In their rapidly-beating hearts, there is a sense of season.

Whether the birds anticipate that spring is near, I know not. But their voices resonate my own longing.

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
— Song of Solomon 2:11-12, NKJV

I acknowledge that winter is not yet past. There are weeks of uncertainty when rain may turn to ice and snow, when temperatures will chill my bones, when the gas logs will flicker to warm us in the house, and when we will bundle up to brave the outdoors.

But there is hope.

Hope. The confidence to look toward, to look beyond, to see with eyes of faith.

Though the winter is long and harsh and I am chilled to the bone;
Though the nights are dark too long and I wait for daybreak;

Though the winds blow branches from bare trees and I feel the breaking in me;
Though the grass is withered brown and I experience the strain of life;
Though the earth looks fruitless and I struggle to bring forth;

Yet I will hope in God my Savior.
I will take His offered courage, cling to His “fear not,”
And choose the joy in His salvation.

For God the Lord is my confidence, and He will lead me through the valleys and upward where the air is sweet and His strength becomes my own.

And spring will come.

Sunday grace.

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What’s saving my life right now

I read it on someone’s blog post. It got me to thinking.

“What’s saving my life right now?” 

A few things:

February 2 marks Groundhog Day and the middle of winter, and the mere thought that we are on the other side of Jack Frost’s influence makes me happy. I keep watching the morning sun rising but cannot quite perceive it being much earlier. While I enjoy all of the seasons, once I’ve bundled up in sweats, sweaters, coats and scarves and had a beautiful snow that kept me homebound, I’m good. Let’s move on to spring.

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The mantel arrangement is somehow life-giving to me this year. I went for primarily white, using some of the small trees from Christmas. The addition of some blue pieces is perfect, because I have always, always been a blue girl. When I sit at the table and glance toward the mantel, it gives me a fresh breath, something akin to peace. Simple. White. Blue.

I saw a robin redbreast on the fence in the backyard this week. It seems early for him. When I was a child the first robin was a sure sign that spring was coming, as if its very presence ushered a warming. I know that’s not true, but the sighting of that sweet bird made me glad.

Strong coffee is keeping me sane in winter’s grey days. But then good coffee always keeps me sane. I do get extra pleasure when it’s served in my “Baby it’s cold outsidered mug, a gift from a friend last year.

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Sweet William and I are learning to play the ukulele. Actually he is already much better than me. Being a long-time guitarist, he has the finger moves. I, on the other hand, wonder how my left hand is supposed to twist in such a fashion so that my fingertips press the correct string.  Doing it together doubles our fun. I think it might be good for my brain, too.

When it isn’t frigidly cold, I walk with Maisie. Dressed warmly, wearing my cute white hat and two mismatched leather gloves (one green, one brown), we escape the house. I like the chill air and the feel of sunshine on my face, and Maisie gets to smell everything in her path.

One day it warmed enough to produce a gentle rain as we walked, and I remembered a children’s book my mother read to me when I was a little girl. The Make-Believe Parade was about a group of children walking to school in the rain, pretending what they would be when they were grown. The book was a favorite, complete with my name written inside in my mother’s familiar script. She read it to me often, and I read it to our son and then his children. It is tattered by love, much like the Velveteen Rabbit.

While snow and cold have kept me indoors, I don’t mind. I love being home with time to work on projects and creative endeavors.  My cousin and I painted with water colors this week. She had a great stash of supplies for us to use. After looking at my finished painting, I think I need to take a class.

Enjoying an hour or two with friends is saving my life. I spent the morning with someone this week, us sharing breakfast at a favorite restaurant. We drank a gallon of coffee and talked until the lunch crowd began filling up the tables. My spirits were lifted when I walked out into the cold fresh air.

Stay sane, friends. Find joy in this season. Learn something new. Spend time with friends, face to sweet face. Give thanks in all circumstances, for we have a Heavenly Father who gives good gifts in every season of our lives.

Now, what is saving your life right now? I’d love to hear from you.

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Spring fling

Spring weather just teased us as winter holds tight a little longer.

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The trees are flowered and daffodils have bloomed. I enjoyed it while it lasted. Now the mornings find me in my rocking chair with the gas logs burning to chase away the chill. I crack the window open when I can to hear the first bird sing. Whoever that little soloist is, he delights me. Soon joined by a chorus of birds, the woodland symphony captivates me as I  walk out to the deck, coffee in hand, snugly throw around my shoulders.

It’s Spring Forward weekend. I’ve already set all the clocks an hour ahead, and I wonder why “they” keep doing this to me. My internal clock is not so easily adjusted. I’ve set my alarm an hour early several days this week in an effort to trick myself so that in the morning I will not feel so sleep deprived.

A nap is in my future tomorrow.

Weather predictions can say what they want. Spring will come. It always does. The Creator planned it to be. And He is faithful and true.

With the season comes lent which is already in process. Those who practice it, their foreheads ashen marked, have determined some sort of fast during the forty days leading to Easter Sunday.

While my spiritual experience has not always included a season of lent, I see the value of preparing our hearts to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. His victory over death is what separates Christianity from all other religions. We have reason to celebrate.

And we have reason to prepare our hearts. For Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world was no small event in the history of the world. From creation, all things led to it. And from the day of resurrection all things flow from it.

To remember is a command. Jesus told His disciples as He handed them bread and wine, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is my commission also. Remember.

I shall not take His incarnate life, His death, and His triumph over the tomb for granted. This month I’ve been reading the Gospels, anticipating the last weeks of Jesus’ walk upon the earth He created. I don’t want the story to grow old or so familiar I lose sight of its majesty.

I will think on His teaching, the hard sayings that call for humility and courage.

I will wonder at His miracles of healing and forgiveness and will believe that they are still real in the 21st century.

I will ponder His suffering for my sake, to offer a redemptive price for my sins and the sins of the whole world.

What great love, what abounding mercy, what amazing grace.

Springtime offers the perfect picture. Death tries to hold on but it cannot. It lost the battle, and the grave was swallowed up. Life has come from the tomb because Jesus lives.

I am setting my heart toward recollection and reflection of this special season. I will call to mind the great things God has done for me and give Him thanks. I will pray that the Word will be fresh bread feeding my soul and that the Spirit will spring up as a fountain of refreshing.

And I will remember to worship the living Lord and Savior of my life.

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February ending

The topic of conversation in February has been the weather. It has been unusual to say the least. We had icy temperatures and days that felt on the verge of summer, breaking records as the sun shone on us warm and cheery. I saw someone cutting grass with a push mower. Really.

Flowers are blooming, trees are greening, birds are singing, and it feels like mid-March not the end of February. It was glorious, though strange, as if something is up. Makes me wonder what will be next.

The geese in the lake across the road paired up and felt frisky. Maisie and I were entertained during our walks as the males dominated and tested each other. Let’s just say there was a whole lot of honking going on. There is one lone goose among the several pairs. I read that Canadian geese are monogamous, staying with the same mate for life. I felt sad for the single goose, wondering what happened to his gander, hoping that another single one would come along and they would find each other.

I spotted two hawks in the back of the house where the little woods are. They are a rare treat. Whenever I see them, I stop what I’m doing and just watch until they fly out of sight. I’m really hoping for some nestlings right in my back yard this year.

Sweet William and I hosted a Cousins Lunch here at the Wright House. We have become the “older generation” now, all of us baby boomers. It was a fun and entertaining afternoon. We are strong-willed, opinionated and not afraid to express ourselves. At the same time we share core values we hold dear, fundamentals, like our faith in Christ. Plus we are all good cooks.

We celebrated Maisie’s one year adoption anniversary by having her teeth cleaned, shots renewed and a few test and an exam. Now that I think of it, that wasn’t much fun for her. After we picked her up from the vet, she was wiped out for the rest of the day. Bless her heart.

I’ve not finished many books this month, probably because I’m reading too many at one time. I tend to do that, having one devotional book for early mornings, an easy novel at bedtime, and another to pick up at odd times during the day. I don’t know why I do that. I read recently of one blogger who is trying to read one book at a time, instead of several like me. I probably need to try that myself.

I had the distinct privilege of reading to some delightful kindergartners and second graders at a local school. The librarian invited a number of guest readers that week. The librarian is a younger friend of mine. My first memory of her was when she came with her her mother to bring the older sister to my house for piano lessons. My friend was just a young child, her long, dark, pony tail bobby along. Our paths crossed over the years. She was in a youth group I worked with for awhile. Later I was her supervisor at the YMCA. Finally we were on the same level, adult to adult, and the fruit of friendship developed. When I think of the progression of this precious relationship, I am deeply grateful.

I got to hear Liz Curtis Higgs live spreading her gift of laughter. What a joy-filled person she is, her humor infectious. She lives life with a smile and a funny story. The evening was made all the better by having girlfriends alongside me.  I know Mrs. Higgs’ life is not all fun and games. She tells the sad and disappointing parts, but she looks for the grace and the blessing and sees the world through eyes of hope.

I had a couple of teen girls visit one Saturday afternoon. We ate Pizza and had cookies and ice cream for dessert. It was a delightful couple of hours, our words flowing back and forth, around and around. The young women are intelligent, articulate, caring, and respectful. My hope for this generation bumped up a few points after spending time with them.

Sweet William and I finished a few small projects during the month. Some of them have been languishing for much too long. We needed to set our minds to the task and just do it. So we did, and then I wondered why we let them go all those months.

I began memorizing Scripture in earnest with a friend, us holding each other accountable and spurring one another onward. I’ve not been so diligent about memorization since I was in children’s church and prizes were given for it.  I wasn’t even sure my brain could do it at this age. But I am doing it. What is even more surprising is what a rich and rewarding experience it is. As the Word is truly hidden in my heart, it comes forth in a fresh and meaningful way.

In the middle of February I remembered the anniversary of my mother’s death and was staggered to realize I’ve lived half of my life without her. When she died at 62 years old, I thought it was too soon for her to leave us and I didn’t know how I would live without her. But I did. I lived and grew and stretched and learned to depend on God even more. He is sovereign and I will never fully comprehend His ways. There comes a time when I have to stop trying to understand and simply trust His purpose, His wisdom, His goodness.

February has never been one of my favorite months. It is sandwiched between the month of new beginnings and the month of spring. But this year, February offered so many good things to me. It’s probably been like that every February, but this year I had eyes to behold them a little clearer.

Oh that I may have such clarity every day of the year.

 

 

Sunday grace

After days of warm sunshine on my face and the wonder of an early spring, I am greeted with ice crystals and chilly breath clouds as Maisie and I walk in the early morning.

Such is life.

We receive blessing after blessing from God who gives grace upon grace.  Yet the chill of winter’s grasp pulls us to reality. We are not in Eden anymore. There are still mountains to climb, dark valleys in which to walk, trials to endure, temptations to avoid.

Still, the gifts abound in the middle of frosty days and long, uncertain nights.

This morning I am thankful.

For a warm hat, scarf, coat and gloves as I open the door and face the cold.

For gas logs that quickly warm the morning haven of home.

For strong coffee with half and half cream.

For a hot pad at my back to ease away the aches.

For Sweet William, my one and only, sitting in the rocker next to mine.

For little girl Maisie, with us almost a year now, learning obedience step by step.

For daffodils from my yard gracing our table this week.

For home filled with familiar things accumulated through our years together.

For family gathered at our table this week and for friends who feel like family.

For prayer that reaches Heaven being only a breath away.

For the daily dose of Scripture that gives me courage and turns my eyes to the Savior.

For the Word hidden in my heart that cannot be taken away.

For grace boundless and mercies new each day.

For assurance that winter lasts for a season and then comes spring.

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Sunday grace.

 

 

 

Sunday grace

The grace of a new day, ’tis sweet. Day follows night and the world keeps on turning.

The wind blows the tall branches of naked trees, them in waiting for newness and life to rebirth.

I wait with them.

The faithfulness of God astounds me. Words on a page from One too awesome for words, speaking love in the loneliness, peace in distress, assurance in faintness, and strength in the struggle. Praise exhales as breath.

Words that aim at my heart like an arrow sent from a sure bow, my spirit latching on to eternal certainty.

Cold winds threaten and taunt me  with, “You are hopelessly lost in winter.” But the Word that spilled into fertile heart soil heart says otherwise. The promise of spring and renewal casts down the imaginations of my enemy; anticipation, faith energizes me.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday grace.

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