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February ending 2019

Though spring is three weeks away, signs are evident in February. Frogs croke in the puddles. Birds sing early mornings in the little woods. Geese pair up and honk loudly. Fat brown rabbits emerge from holes and search for patches of grass. Buds appear on trees. Crocuses surprise me by the front steps. Day breaks earlier, just before we ruin the natural rhythm with daylight saving time.

Maisie celebrated her 4th birthday in February. Actually, we don’t know when she was born. I’m told she was found on the streets of Mississippi with a litter of pups before she was rescued and restored to good health. We gave her a birth date because everyone needs a beginning.

Sweet William and I watched a lot of basketball, cheering our home team. Our guys are doing well this season. With the approach of March Madness, we will wear our colors with pride.

I finished a project that languished on my goals list far too long. Today black and white photographs of our families hang on the wall. Generations are represented, history is framed, and grace is revealed on faces. God has been good to us.

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My favorite movie this month was the 2018 version of Little Women, the March girls thoroughly modern set in the sweet familiar story. Near the end of the movie, when grown sisters gather in their childhood play room, I watched, misty eyed, and wished I’d had siblings.

Bathed in Prayer, Jan Karon’s latest book, is my pick of the month, and I was the very first to check it out of my library. Father Tim’s prayers, sermons, and wise counsel are grouped together according to each book in the Mitford series. Tender and sincere, the requests seek God’s mercy and strength, with large doses of the prayer that never fails* filling the pages. I’m inspired to pray better.

I cleared out a couple of file drawers that held too many papers I’d saved through the years. I went through the alphabetic folders one by one. The file marked Stress Management was full of articles and helpful technics, and I recall when my life felt stressed on a regular basis. I was always looking for something to relieve it.

Thanks be to God, I’m not there anymore. I threw away the entire folder.

A friend asked me to help her organize her quilting shop. She has a great space where she sews and gives classes to help people like me learn the art of making a quilt. She pulled everything out of cabinets and drawers so we could see what she had and decide what to do with it. I told her more than once that she really didn’t need to keep this item or that. We decided that it’s easier to get rid of someone else’s stuff than it is to let go of our own.

“Lo, the winter is past,” said the wisest man. It feels like it should be as February ends. But we’re not out of the wintery woods yet. I’m not ready to put away my warm snuggly clothes. But I can already feel my energy rising. I notice that it is still daylight when my last piano student leaves my house.

Nature knows the seasons. Sometimes I think the animal kingdom has something I don’t. When the river rose from days of rain, we drove to the bridge to see how high it was and felt anxiety rise with the water. The geese on the lake across the road were not concerned. They continued to do what geese do.

Granted, they don’t have the same understanding as I do. Yet I have knowledge of the holy, the God who feeds the birds and the geese, who controls the wind and rain, whose promise to be with me no matter the situation gives me reason to rejoice.

I gaze at the pictures of my family on the wall, some of them I never met. There lives confirm God’s plan, His grace, and His redemption, and they have left their fingerprints on my life, in some way or another.

The sound of singing is in the air, the birds sensing a change. The season of winter will pass and spring will follow. Because God has purposed it to be.

He is fully trustworthy. My life is in His hands. The faith of my fathers resides in me. I have no reason to fear.

* The prayer that never fails: Thy will be done.

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A few of my favorite things

Every time I hear the song, A Few of My Favorite Things, I picture Julie Andrews offering her musical assurance to the children she was charged to care for.

As February nears its abbreviated end, I consider what I like about the winter months. If I listed the four season in order of my preference, winter would be at the bottom of the list. That does not mean I hate winter. I don’t. I find there is beauty in each season if I will look for it.

February marks the last full month of winter, and as happens each year, I am itching for spring already. But I have enjoyed the pleasure of a slower pace and a reason to stay tucked in at home these colder months.

Here is a list of some favorite things in this season of the world and of my life.

Cozying by the fire early morning.  While it is still dark and quiet and the coffee is hot and creamy, I sit and read and write. The stillness before the day begins is life-giving to me.

Snuggling with throws and quilts. My two choices for comfort are: a Sticks and Stones lap quilt make with the help of a friend using scraps left from her years of sewing; and a a handmade fleece blanket given to me by my piano student. Both are reminders of people I love while they warm me.

Warm snuggly clothes. There are dressier duds I wear in public, and there are comfort clothes, the kind that have seen their better days but are softened by years of wash and wear. No matter the magic there is in tidying up these days, I can’t turn loose of some of the older things in my closet.

Inside projects. Without the call of outdoor chores, I’ve had time to focus on inside projects. Some were organizational, which brings me a certain contentment. Others are artistic. When I give myself to the creative process, I cease being a clock-watcher. I lose myself in the expression and experimentation of making something with my hands.

Learning the art of slowing down. You had to know me in my younger days when I was a force to be reckoned with, a mover and a shaker, a make-it-happen kind of woman. Let it suffice, I was busy. Granted I’m in a different time of life. I’ve come to appreciate and savor a slower pace.

What are a few of your favorite things this season? I’d love to hear from you.

January ending 2019

January has been different. It’s the only way I know to describe it.

With health concerns in the forefront of our minds, Sweet William and I began the month on the road, heading west to be with our precious ones. We needed the comfort of being with them. It’s the way we weather the storms of life sometimes, because we’re better together than apart.

Time spent with those we hold so dear was sweet, and the outcome of a surgery was positive. After a week, we headed home feeling relief and giving thanks to God for always providing His grace for our needs.

This trip we left Maisie at home with a house/pet sitter we trusted. Being our first experience, it created a little anxiety for me. I kept texting the first few days to see if everything was OK. It was beyond OK. Maisie got to play more than usual, and the house was freshly clean when we came home. It was an incredible welcome after long hours on the road, unloading the car and beginning the task of laundry and putting everything away.

I’ve been reclusive this month. Maybe it was the cold weather and too many grey-sky days. Maybe it was a case of the blues as I tried to iron out unruly thoughts. Maybe I needed the calm after the bustle of Christmas and the unexpected of New Year.

I journaled pages, scribbling and sorting through what troubled me. It’s like a free counseling session as I get emotions out of my system and onto paper. It is my hope that whoever may read my words one day will give me grace for being human and understand that I was in a difficult place.

I busied myself with inside projects and recognize it as a mechanism I use to deal. When something is out of control, whether that be me or circumstances, I do what I can control, like cleaning out a closet.

I’ve been between a rock and a hard place of trying to hygge with lit candles, snuggling in quilts, and cozy fire sitting while, at the same time, Marie Kondo prescribes that I tidy up my surroundings and turn loose of anything that does not bring me joy.


I briefly “read” (more like scanned) a book about minimalist decorating and decided I am not a fan. The pictures of rooms looked like no one lived there with their grey industrial walls and bare surfaces. I am fond of my stuff, the things I willingly dust around because each one reflects back to me a person, a memory, or simple beauty. I can find balance with my belongings without being overtaken by them.

During my January organizing, I went through old photographs, finding some treasures. One of my granddaughters recently developed an interest in studying her ancestry. I was happy to share pictures and stories with her. And one of these days, I really am going to put the black and white images in albums, especially now that someone will treasure their history.

Among the photographs, I found a couple of V-mail letters my mother had written to my father during WWII. The handwriting was tiny, but I recognized her familiar script. Her words were sentimental and romantic, a new bride of two years who longed for her husband far from home. It was poignant to read, witnessing my parents tenderly young and deeply in love. They were beginning their lives together, dreaming of a future when they were together again.

I’ve sort of recently discovered podcasts, and I have a few favorites I enjoy listening to as I do some task. In one interview, a man spoke about his life spiraling downward with overwork, alcohol abuse, and depression. He realized he had to change his habits and wrote a book about it. One of the habits he recommended was meeting with a friend for an hour every week. That sounds simple enough, but is it? We are busy folk, distracted, multi-tasking gurus. Or perhaps reclusive. It takes intentionality to set aside time, to turn off technology, to focus and quiet the heart for a face-to-face with another. I have found it worth the effort and one of the most refreshing things I can do for myself.

Another book of interest this month was The Language of God, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins. Collins is renowned for his leadership in the Human Genome Project. The book was deep and made me think outside the box regarding science and faith, which often seems to be at odds with each other. I appreciated his unbiased approach, presenting the facts and then asking the reader to think for herself.

This quote from Albert Einstein has meaning for me: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” I understand better now that faith and science do not have to be in conflict with each other.

The last couple of days of the month, the electric company appeared on our lane with heavy equipment. Sweet William and I heard the noise of the machines and strained to see what was happening. To my horror, they began to cut a 50 foot tract through our little woods, ripping brush and saplings, crushing everything in the path. I drove the car down the lane and saw the devastation.

I enjoy my little woods. It has taken years for the trees to grow and fill in the area. I wanted to cry.

The electric company had every right to do their work. They purchased that stip of land years ago, underneath the high wires that run from east to west. My trees were sacrificed for the greater good of having electricity in my home and the homes of my neighbors, close and far. On the frigid days of January ending, I have been thankful for a warm house. Still I grieve the loss.

Many times as I have driven to town, I noticed yards along the road where branches have been cut to prevent them from tangling with wires. It looks butchered to me, the branches severed, trees lopsided, nothing esthetic or artful. They stand in their naked brokenness.

Yet spring and summer reveals their continued vigorous growth, leaves filling out the cut and jagged places. Often when I observe them, I think of the pruning in my own life, things cut away, often severely, leaving me feeling lopsided and naked. Is it somehow for the greater good?

Only God will tell me the reasons one day. I expect in some way or another, He will explain life to me, the whys and the wherefores of pain, suffering, loss, the cutting away that He knows is necessary for a more fruitful life. He knows the purpose He has for me and others.

Until then, I must learn to trust Him, knowing He is wise and good. This life is not about me, after all. It is about Him. Perhaps this one wild life I live will in some way point others in His direction. Perhaps God will shine through the cracked and jagged places in me. Perhaps the pruning will result in more fruit than I could have imagined.

Perhaps in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, He will produce something beautiful in me, something that will give joy. Perhaps I will even reflect His glory to the world.

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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