Lessons from the heart

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Imagine being a young woman who exercises regularly, eats healthy food and is about to give birth. And then your heart stops.

Those are the events in the life of author Julie Manning in her biography My Heart. She didn’t know the muscle that pumps blood throughout her body was failing.

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After the birth of her first child, a boy, she was given the devastating news that she was in heart failure, a diagnosis no young, first-time mother expects to hear. But this became her life.

And it changed everything.

Mrs. Manning’s story is gripping as she walks through the days after her son’s birth and the years that follow, always wondering if her heart will last long enough for her to see that sweet baby boy grow up.

She writes honestly about dealing with the shock of her health condition, wrestling with her faith in God, wondering about her and her family’s futures. Through the struggle she came to a place of acceptance and began living each day with purpose, grace and thanksgiving.

“. . .  What if women spent more time looking into the eyes of people around them and had conversations about Jesus, reading through the Bible together and praying to the One who is worthy above all else?  . . . What if we chased our children around the park and on the way home tell them that Jesus is chasing after them, and He never runs out of breath like Mommy? What if we stopped calling our minivan a taxi and begin seeing the opportunity for discipleship of the souls that are buckled into their seats with no place else to go? What if we actually shared the gospel with our children instead of rushing them through life?

“May we turn into a generation of women who live with constant intentionality. Not just for the sake of being intentional but for the sake of living like Christ. May we also be a generation of women who dares to dream of how God might just use our lives tomorrow while we are in the trenches of today.”

My Heart is a gripping story. It made me look at my own soul-heart, to examine my motives for living out the rest of my days.

I want to be part of that generation of women who lives with intention and purpose, investing in the lives of people around me.

It will not happen accidentally.  It is a choice I must  make.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of My Heart, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Sunday grace

The trees in the yard take their own sweet time bringing forth. Some already have leaves of lovely spring green. Some still wait.

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It is the same each year. The autumn olives leaf out early while the oaks stand tall and naked, just recently dropping last year’s dry growth. The evergreen cedars are unchanged, their forest green looking dull against the hue of this season.

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We all grow and bloom at our own pace, so why do we compare ourselves to one another? Comparison kills relationships and stagnates us as we try to be like someone else.

Your strengths balance out my weaknesses. Your gifts bring blessing to the family of God. Your uniqueness is just what the world needs.

The saplings stand near the 30 foot maple. The small flowering fruit tree is so close to the elm, their roots must intertwine. All are in different stages of growth. Their bark, leaf shape, fruit, and root systems are diverse. Yet there they stand, together, offering me their beauty, a protected nest site for the birds, a jungle gym for the squirrels.

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How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity, accepting one another in love, using our talents and gifts as the Holy Spirit distributes them according to design and purpose.

The body functions best when all its parts are functioning as they should, strong and healthy.

Let nature take her course in our little woods. Let God have His way in each of us. He is the author of our lives, the One who perfects us and finishes what He started. He will complete the work just as He planned it.

Be who you were made to be, the irreplaceable creation of the Creator. The real you. Honoring the God who gives you life.

Let all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  And may we live to the praise of His glory.

Sunday grace.

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March ending 2017

March roared in like a lion that came to stay for a while as frigid temperatures made me rethink an early spring.

One pair of geese at the lake across the street nested this month in spite of the cold. Maisie and I walked to the edge of the bank where we could check on her without disturbing her. There she sat, statue still, keeping her eggs warm while she must have shivered through many a night’s frost. I admire her faithfulness. The other pairs still frolic unencumbered.

It makes me think of a parent’s job in nurturing and discipling their children. It feels like such a daunting task, which it is. But that time is limited. We only have our children under foot for a few years, and then they are gone. If we could faithfully “sit on our nests,” tend to who is most important for what is really a short season, perhaps our children would be the better for it.

The cold snap and frozen ground gave me the opportunity to use the pooper-scooper in Maisie’s fenced yard. It’s a task I put off. While I was out there searching and scooping, I realized I am a woman of many talents. Many and varied.

During that no-nonsense duty (ahem), the oldest granddaughter called, and we chatted long and sweetly. She had lots of news and I was all ears to get a glimpse into her life those miles away. Our hearts are close no matter the distance, and her voice was melody to this Grammy’s soul.

Sweet William and I were asked to play music with our former pastor at a church we used to attended together. When we were all members of that particular family of believers, we were in our prime musically. Sweet William and I practiced hard to prepare, pulling from the recesses of past experience to recall the songs and the way we played them. What a thrill it was as my fingers found familiar chords and patterns. My memory bank provided pleasant flashbacks on a Sunday morning, and the renewing of fellowship with friends from years ago was sweet.

We spent time around the table with friends, as we do often. One couple is dealing with life and death issues. She talked about going through her stuff and letting go of things gathered through the years. I see her lightening her earthly load and looking heavenward. Her faith is strong even when tears fill the eyes and the voice tightens as she speaks through the emotion. Only God knows her future, as only He knows mine. Our times are in His hands.

I appreciate her honesty and vulnerability in what could be a frightening future. She is facing the unknown, living each day as if it might be the last, and trusting confidently in her God and Savior who is in control and holds her life in His loving hand.

I almost finished my second quilt, really the size of a lap throw. It needs to be quilted by my quilting friend/teacher who has a marvelous quilting machine and will make light work of it. Then I will attach the binding, requiring hand sewing. I wanted a small project I could complete before garden season was upon me. I most likely will have more mornings to cuddle with my lap quilt in the rocking chair before summer gets here.

I’ve been in the garden just a few days trimming branches and cleaning up winter wear. Cold and rain have kept me indoors where I certainly have plenty of other tasks. There is some unique hue in the green of spring. Perhaps it is because it is new and fresh and feast for my winter weary eyes.

Three of my piano students participated in a music festival where their performances were adjudicated. It was a first time event for them. I recalled doing that as a young piano student and feeling the pressure and nerves of perfecting my songs and performing as well as possible. My students were rewarded for their dedication and following careful instructions. They all walked away with superior ratings and another musical experience under their belts. I was quite proud of them.

Spring Forward left me feeling draggy for days. I had to nap three times in one week. I finally feel like my body is adjusting to the time change. And once again, I wonder why we still do this? Looking up the history of daylight savings time brought more information than I expected, how a very small percentage of electricity is saved because of it, and that a survey was conducted showing Americans like daylight savings time. And where was I when that survey was distributed?

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I got to speak to a handful of people on a Wednesday evening about investing in the younger generation, us older ones making ourselves available to be mentors and to disciple. As I thought of what I would say, I realized how blessed I am that God has brought a myriad of people into my life. A few years after my family moved from the house next door, I began to pray for older people, where they lived, to love on them the way I had. In the same breath, I hoped for young people in my life, the ages of my grandchildren. The Lord graciously and abundantly answered that prayer.

The relationships I treasure are all ages, from toddlers to piano students to a nonagenarian former pastor’s wife. This older friend’s life experiences enrich me as much as interacting with little ones and teenagers. Then there are the friends I have near my age who share similar backgrounds, memories of days gone by, and the wisdom we have gained in the school of hard knocks. I hold dear all of the precious people with whom I spend time and who bring rich blessings to my days.

I finished a few books this month, those various ones I was in the middle of reading last month. I stopped myself more than once from picking up a new book until I completed the ones already bearing bookmarks.

I discovered some new-to-me authors. Tim Tibow, the Heisman trophy winner in 2007, wrote Shaken, a revealing look into the life of a man whose faith starred on the football field. People either loved him for it or hated him for it.

Dawn’s Light‘s author is Diane Ackerman. While she and I are as different as east and west in our views of God, creation vs evolution, and the way of the world, she is a gifted wordsmith, and has the eye of a microscopic artist as she describes the details of nature in all its glory.

And then there is Phyllis Tickle, whose name alone intrigued me. She was a seasoned author and poet I only just met. The small book Wisdom in the Waiting is a description of the Lenten season on the farm where she and her family lived.  She is a natural storyteller, and I found myself looking through the windows of her family’s lives. I hope to search out more of her books as I wander through thrift and used book stores.

I began reading the Gospels during March, getting to the place of Jesus’ last week on the earth. Each writer gives chapters to the events leading up to the crucifixion. I planned to enter April with time to sit and ponder the final days of Jesus’ earthly life, the days for which He came, to give Himself in complete surrender for my sake, for my sins. I want to consider it and wonder at it anew.

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As April beckons me, I anticipate Passover, Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day. Sometime soon I will make myself watch The Passion of the Christ. It is not an enjoyable pass time. No popcorn in readiness for an evening of entertainment. But I must watch it – again – to picture what my life is worth to God. The portrayal is a Hollywood version, and I understand that. Still, who would suffer willingly for those who hated, cursed, mocked, beat, betrayed, and ran away? I see myself in them.

Only a Savior whose love is unfathomable, as high as the heavens are above the earth.

April calls for new life in the first full month of spring. The trees and flowers testify in my own back yard. New life in Christ is ever an invitation, in spring and all year long.

Sunday grace

Entering the sanctuary I see the silvery containers at the front of the church and know they hold bread and juice. It is the day to partake in Holy Communion.

My church background did not provided this sacrament each Sunday as in some denominations. Different churches have different ways. Whatever the tradition, the observance is heavy with meaning. And the remembering.

Do this in remembrance. Remembering. Ann Voskamp calls it re-membering. Living in the chaos of this world sometimes pulls me apart. I feel stretched to the limit. I can get lost and undone.  When I come back to what is important, I am re-membered.

To pause within the fellowship of believers and remember Christ’s death, His sacrifice for my sins, somehow makes the pieces fit together again, let’s my soul catch up with my whirling mind and sets my heart on the path of truth again.

I am not my own. I have been bought with a high price. Through Jesus Christ I am His beloved. I have been chosen and adopted. In God’s sight I am holy and blameless. It is the gift of righteousness by grace. Lavish grace. Undeserved grace. Amazing grace.

We eat the bread, we drink the cup. We taste it and remember the Lord’s death. We remember His life, His resurrection, and His promise of abundant living for us His children.

This is the season to remember.

Sunday grace.passover

Sunday grace

Oh Lord, You know me well, better than anyone else.

You know my grace-filled ponderings. You also know when I am anxious, angry, disgruntled, unbelieving.

You have a window into my heart that no one else has ever seen. The place where I battle to bring every thought into subjection to You.

I want to dwell on things that are pure and lovely, honorable and true. Sometimes I struggle.

Oh Lord, You love me like no other, even though You know me so well. How is that possible, that Your love goes beyond my ability to be lovable?

I don’t understand Your ways. They are too high, too deep. I cannot grasp Your affection for me. You give love like an ever-bubbling stream, a fountain of fresh life. It washes over me, calling me to climb higher and dwell peacefully in hope.

Why do I worry and stress when I am Yours and You have me in Your hands, working out Your perfect plan? Why do I let anxiety get the best of me? You are my Lord and Savior, my Redeemer and the God who sees me.

You are the Lover of my soul, the Shepherd who leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.

Still my apprehension and my fear as I put my trust in You.

Sunday grace

Moon signs

I stepped out to the deck, it all sparkles with frost on the railing ledges in the cold pre-dawn. The moon sends light in the clear dark sky.

The moon draws me this time of year. In its waning cycle now, it will take its time toward full round in less than a month. And then it will be Passover.

With fascination and memory, I watch the progress of the moon this time of year as it grows small, disappears and then starts to grow large again. Science books would explain its rotation and the shadows that block my view, but let me simply enjoy the beauty and mystery of it.

I watch the night sky with anticipation, the moon cycle signaling the Passover season which falls close to the holiday of Easter.

The first day of Passover is always a full moon. And my mind wanders back thousands of years to the first Passover when the Israelites prepared lambs for supper and brushed blood on their doorposts, following instructions they didn’t fully understand yet.

A scene from the classic movie, The Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston as Moses, comes to mind. It is the night of Passover and the moon glows full and bright. What appears to be the shadow of death begins to move slowly toward Egypt. In this particular scene, the shadow blocks the moon for a few seconds as it pushes forward.

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I wonder what it was like that fateful night, the people of God shut in their humble slave dwellings, covered by the blood, eating lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread while they waited for something. Did they know this was the night of their deliverance?

Passover was God’s object lesson of what was coming. It was the shadow of the real and tangible Savior of the world, Jesus. The people would wait long for the promised Messiah, and He would come.

The anticipation of Passover carries me toward the season of remembrance.  Remembering the promise of a Lamb that God alone would provide for the redemption of the world.

This perfect Lamb would provide our freedom. Do we know this? Do we recognize it? Do we remember it? Have we accepted Him as our own Deliverer?

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

                — 1 Corinthians 5:7

Observe the moon set in its orbit by our creator God. He is the One who promises, and He is faithful to do what He says.

 

Sunday grace

Show me Your glory Lord!

It is a prayer, my heart’s cry. I want to see Him, see Him in the splendor of who He is.

I am awed by the beauty of creation, the work of His hands. I witness the reflection of grace in the faces of Sweet William, my family, and friends. I experience the joy of salvation and the peace that passes understanding.

Oh, but I want to see more.

I read of Jesus’ transfiguration in the days when He walked with men, and for a few fleeting moments “the appearance of His face changed and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”

Peter, James and John were there at this grand occasion. They had come to pray with Jesus, but as happened to them sometimes, as happens to me, they were very sleepy. Sleepy with the cares of life, the deceitfulness of possessions, the issues of the world, the images that vie for attention and crowd out the true heavenly visions.

“But when they became fully awake, they saw his glory . . . ”

And I pray,

Lord, let me come fully awake to Your presence all around me, the goodness of Your person, the love You pour out lavishly on me. Help me to know the love that surpasses knowledge that I might be filled to the measure of the all the fullness of God.

As Moses asked it of God. I ask it of Him too: Show me Your glory.

Sunday grace.