Maisie and I walk a half lap of the lane. The temperature is cool, the sky overcast.
The make-shift wooden bench, salvaged from the neighbor’s garbage last year, sits at the edge of the yard. Maisie wants to wander still, but I stop, not needing to rest, but needing to be still.
I gaze at the lake across the road, the geese as they swim and waddle ashore. The gander follows her goose as he leads her to the nibbles in the grass.
I begin to breathe deeper, something I don’t do enough. More often my breaths come in quick succession, enough to keep oxygen flowing through lungs and heart, blood carrying it where it is needed.
The deep breaths are cleansing and I feel myself relax in the quiet. Birds sing their evening song, a last hallelujah for this day, to the Creator who has provided for their needs.
As I turn loose of responsibilities and things on my list for tomorrow, my head clears and I listen for the voice of God. He speaks in the still, smallness of my awakened sense to Him.
He plants a question, His way of turning my awareness to my heart, to search out the deep recesses of my soul, to open doors that I often close and latch from the seeing world.
As I rise from my bench, Maisie restless to move on, the question lingers. I will ponder it in days ahead. I will come again to this place and sit to rest from my weariness, to hear and discern the voice of God, to gain understanding and insight.
For this is my Father’s desire: to draw me away from bustling to the place of quiet rest; to speak tender words of love to the tenderest parts of me; to reveal Himself once more so I can know Him even more.
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.
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.
Waiting rooms are on my list of least favorite places. I always bring something, a book, a magazine. I can update my planner or return text messages. Don’t waste the minutes. Never let it be said that I sat with nothing but my thoughts.
And perhaps herein lies my issue, listening to my own internal talk.
Waiting is a necessary part of life, common to all humanity. I waited for Christmas as a child, waited for the birthday when I’d turn 16, then 20. I waited to get married, to get pregnant. Then waited nine months for that sweet baby boy to be born.
I wait for the cake to bake, the soup to simmer, them needing time for flavors to mingle and textures to form that please the taste. In the waiting, the recipe becomes what it was meant to be.
Soul, are you listening? In the waiting, you become who you were meant to be.
In the quieting of my frantic soul and the calming of my fretful mind, I learn to wait with hope. I remember I am not alone on this journey.
The Psalmist breaks into his own song as he waits:
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (27:13-14)
Waiting in confident faith, waiting to see the good things of God, here is where my endurance increases and courage rises for the days before me. I learn to trust the One who knows the end from the beginning, who patiently waits for me to become who He meant me to be.
Waiting can be a good thing. Maybe I could even become a fan of it.
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.
I’m a keeper, this I know for sure. I don’t swing to the side of hoarding, but my family will tell you I hold onto things. Like the grandchildren’s animal-shaped sippy cups, though the three of them are practically adults. Like the dolls I played with when I was a child. Like our son’s cub scout shirt. Like my dad’s hammer and my mother’s girlhood autograph book.
And then there are the cards people sent. These are difficult to part with. They hold deep sentiment and recollections of people who have been important to me.
I have a small file cabinet in the upstairs office. It contains things saved: trip maps used recently, Bible studies I’ve taught, my high school report cards and resumes of my work history, among many other things, filed alphabetically of course. Those drawers hold pieces of my life, and somehow remind me who I am as much as the photos organized in boxes.
I determined I would go through the file cabinet while this year is still new and throw out what I can, to lighten the load of stuff kept. And there were piles of papers that went into the trash.
Occasionally I will come upon something special. As I was finishing this final organizing project, I found a 3-by-5 inch lined index card with a simple eight line poem written in my mother’s handwriting. She’s been gone from this earth for 36 years, but I know her penmanship well.
She was such an example of faith to me. I watched her live it out through many hard places. As she faced death, I asked her if she was afraid. She immediately replied “No.” She had learned that Jesus is faithful through her years, and she didn’t worry about her future.
There is no author to whom I can give credit for this simple verse. But it is worth sharing.
Doubt sees the obstacles Faith sees the way. Doubt sees the darkest night. Faith sees the day. Doubt dreads to take a step. Faith soars high. Doubt questions, Who believes?” Faith answers, “I.”
I’m reading a book about the ageless soul, written by someone well past my years, who talks about aging vs being old.
It is the perfect time of life to think about aging. I see the signs in the mirror and feel it when I walk up the steps, when I kneel down and then try to get up.
This body of mine bears the marks of the life I’ve lived. I can hardly wrap my mind around the nearness of the next decade. Only five months away from what seemed ancient when I was a teenager. And now it is on my doorstep.
The decade markers are weighty, and my candle burns.
Seventy years. Maybe eighty. My dad lived past ninety. Will I? I’ve been here a pretty long time already. What is before me? How much time is left on this earth?
Aging happens to all of us, even my four-month-old littlest neighbor is growing, changing, becoming something different. He is aging.
Old is not the same as aging.
Aging brings experience, knowledge, wisdom. It is life-giving. My true self emerges and continues to grow strong even while my body, which is the tent, lacks its former vigor.
” . . . we emerge in our older years with the beauty and wings of a butterfly.” — Thomas Moore
I love butterflies, the way they float with the gentlest breeze, stop to nibble a flower and sip the lifegiving nectar. They move unhurried, enjoying the brief life they are allotted.
In the quiet of the early morning I looked backward, into the years gone before. I muse on the hard places, events that changed life as I knew it. I observed how God used the tests and trials, the joys and victories to teach and mold and conform me. I have aged. My soul has been nurtured. I have participated and found purpose in my life.
I considered my years, the number of them left on this earth in a body that is temporary. I will not be afraid of my tomorrows, however they come. There is a loving hand, a true heart, a purposeful Father who guides my years, my days, who gives my every breath. He was always there. He is here now. He will be where I am going.
So I will watch the days of the calendar tick off one by one. I will live in the newness of life in Christ Jesus my Lord. I will love life and sip the nectar it offers.