Sunday grace

I never want to wish my life away, but I wanted the week to be over.

Come the morning, and I waken to newness. It is fresh, untainted. Even my journal pages are still neat without the scribbles of changed plans, check offs, and scratch-through tasks I deem unnecessary.

Just for today then . . .

I simply want to know I am loved.

I need to hear I am accepted as I am.

I long to be called, “My child.”

I must believe I am forgiven.

I hunger for the comfort of the Kinsmen Redeemer.

Hurriedly dressing for early band practice at church, I grab my music bag and purse. In the car I turn on the radio and hear love songs on the Christian station I’m tuned to. I take them as a gift, an embrace from my Savior who hears the prayers from such as I.

I am assured . . . that I am lavishly loved, accepted in the Beloved, called to be part of the family, forgiven of all my sins, redeemed with shed blood, and rescued with an outstretched arm.

Thank you, Father.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

I remember a song recorded by Kathy Troccoli in 1997, and I’ve been singing it to myself.

My life is in Your hands. My heart is in Your keeping.
I’m never without hope, not when my future is in You.
My life is in Your hands, and though I may not see clearly,
I will lift my voice and sing, ’cause Your love does amazing things.
Lord, I know my life is in Your hands.

I’m comforted by these words, a reminder that, from beginning to designated end, I am kept by the strength of the Almighty. My body is fragile in a broken world. But my spirit was made for eternity, the longing for it stirring me, looking toward it with eyes of faith. I know there is something more, something better, something glorious.

Some weeks are a wild ride, and like any roller coaster fan, I hold on for dear life with the ups and downs, unanticipated twists and turns. It speeds up on its descent, and I try to catch my breath.

I’ve carried burdens for friends and family, sensitive to the weight of pain, grief, sorrow, and the unexpected. Bearing one another’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ in me, making my heart tender and more loving, teaching me compassion and empathy.

I’ve asked for prayer too, which is sometimes hard for me. Perhaps it’s my introversion, my stubborn independence or the very real place of responsibility the Lord has placed me for many years. Admitting my own need is a practice in humility, and that is good, necessary even. If I am to be a member of the body of Christ and not just a bystander, I confess I cannot do this own my own. Prayers and loving concern from my people are soothing balm in my weariness.

My Bible reading reminded me in Psalm 55:22 to cast all my cares, throw them upon the Lord, releasing the weight to stronger shoulders than mine. And He will sustain me, provide for me, nourish me, not letting me be shaken, totter or slip away from His care. What comfort!

As another week begins fresh and new, in its first hours, I hear the birds waken with their morning song. I hear their rejoicing and want to join in. This is the day the Lord has made.

A prayer from Every Holy Moment by Douglas Kaine McKalvey seems apt.

Heavenly Father,
Prepare our souls for those sorrows and joys and celebrations and disappointments we will encounter, that every circumstance would serve only to draws us nearer to you.”

May every circumstance serve to draw me closer to Him who loves me most.

And I say ‘Amen.’

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

I read this from Emily P. Freeman, and wrote it down for my quote book:

“To control, coerce, and manipulate is not our job . . . Instead, we adapt, accept and acknowledge what we need to let go, and continue to do the next right thing.”

I thought a lot about this. Trying to control is something I’m familiar with. I am well practiced in planning outcomes, managing my environment, and sometimes gently persuading people (an honest confession). Often my efforts are futile.

In the early months of the year I lost control of many things, so I set out to control the wild gardens in the yard, a suitable substitute I suppose. As days stretch long and calendar months change, I find myself still dealing with the uncontrollable. It’s time to change my thinking.

Adapt. Accept. Acknowledge. That requires some serious thought. Instead of struggling, I can learn to accept what I cannot change and move forward to live my one wonderful life with joy.

I can acknowledge the struggle and the strain, try to adapt to the present situation, and move forward with a positive attitude rather than kicking and screaming as I’m dragged along.

My bullet journal has a page titled, What Gives Me Life? Monthly I listed what was good for me, what brought peace and comfort to my soul and a presence of grace in my spirit.

Reviewing the eight months of 2020, I see some recurring themes.

Nature nurtures. Walking outside, enjoying the changing seasons, meandering and noticing the small.
I need people. Honest conversations with friends and family, listening well and opening my own heart with honesty.
Accomplish something. Breaking large projects into small bites and seeing progress little by little is satisfying.
Music soothes. My piano students even when Zoom was challenging, playing with the band on Sunday morning at church, working hard on a new song myself, and CDs filling the house with melody.
Moving slow. Fast is sometimes needed, but slow lets me enjoy the process.
Making art. Crafting something with my mind and hands engaged, whether that is sewing, gardening, arranging flowers on the mantel above the fireplace.
Books. Bible studies and commentaries, fiction and non-fiction, memoir and biography, they keep me learning and growing.
Giving and receiving love. Checking on my neighbors, waving to the mail person and the Amazon driver, texting with my people, and having love returned by the bushel.
Counting grace. I’ve made the effort to list the blessings of God, even on the hard days. Once I get started, I think of many things He gives as daily gifts.
Quiet. Introverts will identify. I need some solitude, reflection time, a chance to process what’s going on in my brain to make sense of it.

I cannot dictate the coming days or wish away what disturbs me. I can choose to focus on what is good and holy about this world, to love and be kind at every opportunity, and to nourish myself with what gives me life in a year that has pulled and stretched the muscles of us all. The world has changed. May I learn contentment as I live out of my days.

Monday grace.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
— Philippians 4


As August ends

The month of August signals the end of summer, and it brought a mixture of emotions. Its ending marks eight months of 2020 in past tense, over half of it spent in quarantine, covered faces, and rising discord.

It will not be so different tomorrow when September begins new and fresh. Still, I will greet the new month with gladness, anticipating grace from a loving Savior and His peace in the midst of this storm.

The gardens flourish and bring me pleasure, unlike 2019. Last year’s journal records the yard out of control, driving me to despair. While I categorize my gardening style as somewhat wild and slightly unruly, like my messy hairstyle, it is agreeable enough and satisfying this year.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”The Nester, Myquillyn Smith

Surprisingly, all my zinnias bloomed pink until yesterday when an orange one opened. It stands out different, reaffirming the uniqueness of all God’s creations. The variety and colors on the deck, by the sidewalk, and on the front porch remind me why I wear myself out with yard work.

For eight months I’ve listened to Daily Audio Bible, beginning January 1, a year-long program taking me through the entire Bible. I’ve made progress by simply tuning in each day. The rewards are more than I expected, hearing the ancient words read to me, noticing details I’ve skimmed over in years past.

A week ago, the reading was in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul expounding on the resurrection. I listened to the comparison of a body to a seed buried in the ground that will rise from the earth amazingly transformed. I pictured a small sunflower seed changed into the grandest of flowers, an astonishing transfiguration. As a sower of seeds, I witness the change every summer, the death of the seeds resulting in extraordinary arrays of color and shape in my garden. How much more remarkable will our glorified bodies be?

I’ve read a lot of books this year, because, well, that’s one thing we’ve not been advised to stop doing. This month I finished Brain Wash by David and Austin Perlmutter, father and son and both medical doctors. The message seeks to direct us toward good brain health through “clearer thinking, deeper relationships, and lasting happiness.”

The chapters encouraged disconnecting from so much technology, practicing gratitude, spending time in nature, eating natural food versus processed, getting exercise, being mindful, and strengthening relational bonds. All of this with the goal of a healthier brain.

I read with rapt interest, since keeping my brain strong and vital is a real concern. One concept worth mentioning is the isolation and loneliness we experience in a society so easily and quickly connected through technology. Apparently, this is not sufficient for the human need for relationship.

The 2020 pandemic has divided us further from personal encounters. As I enter the grocery store, masked for protection, I avoid people and don’t make much eye contact. I self-check out so I am the one handling my purchases.

As I slowly began mingling with people again, piano students, friends, church, there is the hesitation to shake hands or give a hug, what was natural as rain last year and done without a second thought. Now, seeing someone to our door after a visit, we stand awkwardly, wondering if it’s safe to wrap an arm around each other. This is heartbreaking to me.

We are missing the “power of interpersonal relationships and all the benefits they confer. . . . [T]hese ties to our friends, families, and society as a whole are essential for everything,” according the Drs. Perlmutter.

It makes me wonder if the greatest threat to our world is not coronavirus, but the separateness we are experiencing because of fear, anxiety and anger. Those things register high on our emotional thermometer these days.

Our Creator is relational to the core of His being. He created us for relationship, first with Himself and then with each other. Sin brought disconnection, brokenness, and we are lost with our wounded hearts.

Jesus offers us Himself completely, openly, without reservations. He invites us to come. No reservations. No pretense. No mask. We are welcomed just like we are. He restores the fragmented pieces. He puts His love inside and we are made whole again. Whole to live and love like Him.

I am weary of the world as it is. I long for something else, for the transformation of my earthly seed into the extravagance of the incorruptible.

Until then, I am called to live my one wonderful life on this earth following God where He leads me, loving the people He puts in my path, and pointing them to Jesus, the healer of broken hearts.

Tuesday thoughts

The day begins earlier than usual, presenting its uncertainty and troubling prospects. I feel the angst within me.

Listening to the latest news does not calm me; rather it fuels the fire already smoldering.

I glance at social media. It does nothing but stir a boiling pot.

Texting multiple times, I check on my people. I want them to be safe, careful.

I consider this strange year. I pray for justice, for wrongs to be made right, for truth to prevail, for a peaceful end to ongoing conflict. But is there any peace in this dark world?

I listen to both sides of political rhetoric. Promises are easy to make, harder to fulfill. Ask any married couple.

My prayer partner calls and I confess my worried mind, my actions and words, opening my heart to her who knows my secrets and still loves me. She prays and I breathe deeply of the presence of the Holy.

Putting on my work clothes, I head outside to pull weeds, clear brush, cut stray saplings in the azaleas until the sweat pours from my face. I hope the exertion will soothe my mind, rolling like thunder before a coming storm.

My determined purpose is to pray today and not to fret. To pray and not scan the myriad of posts and opinions publicly shared. To pray and cast all my cares upon the only One who can carry them faithfully.

My life is in His hands. My heart is in His keeping.

He never promised an easy road or that we would be well-liked by everyone or that trouble would never cross our thresholds.

What He promised was His presence in and through it all. For it is in Him we live and move and have our being. He is above and below all, covering the earth with His glory. His eyes are upon the whole earth and He sees.

I will myself, with all the spiritual strength I muster, to rest in His unchanging, unchallenged, inexhaustible grace where I am safe forever.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Timothy 1:17

Tuesday thoughts

This picture is in the monthly publication of Kentucky Living, an advertisement for the state fair.

I can’t decide if this is funny or sad. I have determined that some things so odd in April this year are now the prevailing situation, a standard by which we are being asked to live. And that, I’m sure, is sad.

As I consider how the latest changes and the completely different are the new normal, I count things in my life that are anchored and familiar.

The blue sky and white puffy clouds have been especially beautiful this August. I’ve notice them more, perhaps, looking for lovely where I can find it. And lovely is everywhere if we have eyes to see.

Morning glories wind their way around deck posts. The purples come up with abandon, and I must pull some to keep them controlled. Yet, their beauty wakens the day for me.

This year I have two other varieties. Tie Dye morning glory seeds were given to me by a good friend and fellow gardener a few years ago. They flourish and are blooming furiously. I think of my friend when I see them, her good and honest friendship.

The simple flowers of summer’s end, zinnias, cocks comb, morning glory, signal the coming fall. I reflect on the seasons’ unbroken constancy, and it brings comfort.

Schools are in session, and though it is nothing like 2019 for staff, teachers and students, the routine of buying supplies, making preparation and digging into studies is part of family life. Seeing the racks of folders, markers and pencils at Walmart bring a nostalgia, and I want to buy a new notebook.

This morning I talked on the phone with my long-time prayer partner at 6:30 am. It is our weekly practice. We both marvel at God’s plan to give us this partnership and the tenacity to hang on for so many years. We admit it is a God thing and grace for sure. This weekly blessing is not affected by quarantines, and we count it pure joy.

My six-year old neighbor visited us yesterday. He is full of conversation and has the busy energy of boyhood. He is sunshine to Sweet William and me. I watched him come and remembered how our grandchildren used to meander through the same field, stopping to examine a flower or insect, how they waved their hello and good-bye. His presence in our lives and in the house next door is an exceptional gift.

While life seems to change weekly, so much of it strange, uncomfortable, even fearful, there remains an unchanging quality in the presence of God through the beauty of nature, the kindness of friends, the love we share with others, family bonds, an honest conversation, and a trusted companion.

God is still on the throne of all creation. He has not abdicated His sovereignty. He works in the quiet places of hearts. He hears our prayers, and He answers according to His perfect will.

The constancy of my Father in Heaven holds me together when I think I may be falling apart or losing my ability to cope with this crazy world. He is the Faithful One, the same yesterday, today, forever.

Always and forever beyond any normal.

Tuesday thoughts

I’ve struggled to write for weeks, not wanting the subject to be coronavirus, pandemic, social distancing, riots in cities, and daily news leaving me anxious. But here I am. My communication to friends via technology usually includes, “How are you doing in this crazy world?”

I want to move into the remainder of this year without unrest, rules that change weekly, word-wars between political parties and regular people. I don’t want to worry if I’ve been exposed to the virus and if I washed my hands before I just touched my face.

I’m tired of mob rule, authorities telling me where I can and cannot go, quarantines, and rising covid numbers. I’m tired of wearing a mask.

And yet, when I begin to count my blessings . . .

I’m eating my fill of tomatoes from my own plants. The respite of these cool August mornings are a summer surprise. Fresh herbs from my garden enhance the flavors of everyday food.

There is ink in my pen when I journal, vegetables and a note from a friend left on our front porch, and a driveway chat with a family moving their oldest to college. Friendship bread with a cinnamon-sugar topping is delicious with a cup of hot coffee.

I have my good weed eater, tools to dig and trim plants, and pots of blooming delight on the deck and front porch. I have clean water to drink.

My anticipation for bird song each morning at daybreak does not disappoint, and the little wren has the loudest voice. Squirrels perform gymnastics on the branches of trees, and I smile. Maisie greets me at the door like I’m the best thing in her world.

Sweet William and I are blessed with friends and family who check on us and pray when we need courage, those who help carry our burdens and sit with us when there’s nothing else to do.

I tune into on-line Bible studies and listen to encouraging podcasts. The ancient Scriptures refresh my spirit. Familiar songs fill my head and I sing out loud.

I laugh and I cry, and both relieve my stress. I walk on the lane feeling the sun on my skin and I sit under the shade of trees. I work my body, and it feels good to be active at my age.

I settle into a bed of clean sheets with a good book from the thrift store or my library. The fan gently hums, relaxing me for sleep. Sweet William smiles at me and we are at peace in this old house.

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We shelter at home. In the middle of strangeness and uncertainty, this is our safe place. It is solace and consolation and a reassuring comfort with memories hung like art in every room.

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In this world there will always be trouble, sometimes at greater degrees than others. Jesus said it would be. He said He would not leave us alone, that one like Him, an Advocate, would come to be with us, to live in us, to lead and teach and intercede for us.

While there are moments of feeling alone, stranded, and despairing, it is just that – a feeling. It is not truth. The truth remains like a rock foundation, unchanging, immovable. It will not be shaken.

The rock Christ Jesus is a shelter for me.

[Jesus said,] “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33 NIV

Sunday grace

Life is a conundrum. When I assume I might be figuring things out, it all changes and I think I haven’t got a clue.

Aware that half of 2020 is now in the past is weighty. What a strange year thus far, and the bizarre train is full throttle.

July is my birth month, and wisdom of the years comes from the hardest places. Memories of joy-filled celebrations gave way to take-out food, simple gifts, and texts from friends and family. Knowing I am loved and remembered is enough this year.

We arranged a retreat only to cancel. We planned events and celebrations but rescheduled more than once. The goals written in January lie somewhat dormant on the page of my bullet journal.

The gardens I labored over in spring battle for space while Kentucky fescue invades like a bully. More delicate flowers will lose if I don’t step in with Round-Up. My tomato plants wilt daily from the heat as I watch for green to turn to red.

This has become the year when taking it one day at a time is a mantra. Sweet William and I routine through our days. Mornings on the deck are a reprieve while the air is bearable, birds serenading from the little woods like they don’t know any better.

Perhaps they understand more than we do. They rejoice with song each new day, depending on food from the earth, a provision of their Creator. They build nests and raise young until little ones grow too big and must learn to fly.

Why should I worry about tomorrow or the next half of 2020? Does God feed the sparrows in my back yard, clothe the lilies in my field, send me sunshine and rain, marking seasons with moon and stars? He does.

Worry is futile, projecting into a future not yet here. The Lord made this day, preparing fresh mercies. He is more than enough for my concerns, sorrows, and burdens. He is my Good Shepherd and the God who sees me, right here, right now. He is my peace and my righteousness. His love will never ever fail me.

That’s really all I need today.

Sunday grace.

Thursday thoughts

I heard someone say this week that the life expectancy of an American is 78 years old. I had to google that and found that in 2018 life expectancy was indeed 78.5 according to World Development Indicators.

My eyes widened, and I thought, “Oh my, 78 is not that far away.”

Last year when I reached a milestone decade, I faced it with some trepidation. The day came and went and I didn’t feel any different. So much for that.

” . . . that life picked up speed, then most of it was gone — made you breathless really.” — Elizabeth Strout

Another birthday pages through my calendar, and I have mixed feelings. I suppose it’s my age. I think deeply about life, death, today, and what’s left of my tomorrows.

I remember past birthdays, some joyful and some a little sad. Some were memorably celebrated and some slipped quietly by.

When I was a child a July birthday offered possibilities, outdoor activities and swim parties with cousins and friends. We ate ice cream and watermelon, letting the juice run down our arms and spitting seeds in the yard. At this age I think it’s so hot, too hot to go anywhere or do anything. I feel like a party pooper to my own fiesta.

When my mother was alive, she made my birthday important. An only child, cherished and loved, she knew how to make a gift special, to make a day fun. I especially miss my mother on my birthday.

“No matter what peoples’ lives might hold . . . still and all people were compelled to celebrate because they knew, somehow, in their different ways, that life was a thing to celebrate.” — Elizabeth Strout

I’ve heard this quote from Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life, “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” And it seems so simple. The dailiness of living, the tasks of keeping a home, the going to and from work, the raising of children and loving a family, the art and beauty we create become the life we build. Day upon day, we make the life we have.

But what of the things that happen to us that are out of our control, like illness, death, choices others make that affect us? How we deal with it, or even choose not to deal with it, also becomes the life we have.

All life events are formative. All contribute to what we become, year by year, as we go on growing. As my friend the poet Kenneth Koch one said, ‘You aren’t just the age you are. You are all the ages you ever have been.‘ ” — Mr. Rogers.

Daily I make choices that impact myself and others, forming the life I am building. I am more thoughtful these days to my calling, my art, and my contribution to the world. I understand a little better the gifts I’ve been given by my Creator and how to use them for His glory.

When I was younger, I was not good at saying no to any and all requests. I wanted to please people and said yes more than I probably should have. Now I understand better what it’s like to move in the flow of my giftedness. Trudging along in a place where I’m not called can be drudgery.

Numbering my days isn’t about computing days but rather about drawing me to attentiveness. Life on earth is a brief sojourn–brief but not unimportant, brief but not inconsequential.” — Jean Fleming

In the last few years, I’ve compiled a list of my ten commandments (not to be compared to The Ten Commandments), a guide for the rest of my life. The first one is Be Peggy. Be who I am, not who someone wants me to be, not what culture dictates or how trends and styles try to mold me.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator, an individual with DNA like no one else. I insult the One who formed my innermost being if I continue to try to be someone I am not. It’s taken awhile to learn this.

The poem called Grab Your Purple Hat describes the stages of a woman’s life from age 3 to age 80. Age 70 says she “Looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter and ability, goes out and enjoys life.”

Yes, that is the woman I want to be, wisdom gained through years and experience, laughing much and using my abilities. I want to enjoy this one beautiful life, welcome people with open heart and listen to their stories. I want to love and be loved. I want to give myself away until my final breath.

I believe we grow old only when we stop growing. Inner stagnation leads to death before dying.” — Lois Mowday Rabey

Years ago I cut a page from a magazine with artwork by Mary Engelbreit. It is an old woman gazing at her reflection in a mirror and seeing herself as the young girl she used to be. The caption reads: “We are always the same age inside.” Isn’t that how I exactly how I feel, not in my aching bones or my aging flesh, but the real inner me?

My beginning was ordained by a good Father and He watched as I was formed in the darkness. I believe He has purposed my ending and all the in-between days, guided by His Spirit. There is nothing to fear as the years add one upon another.

This is my life. I hope I leave something good behind. I plan to walk the path, holding to my heavenly Father’s hand, and enjoy the ride.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. — Psalm 139:3 KJV

Sunday grace

Father’s Day was quiet at the Wright House. I fed Sweet William well, and he did as he pleased. No suggestions or agendas from me. He said it’s been a good day.

I remember my own sweet dad, now gone from this life many years. I miss him today. I think of two friends spending their first Father’s Day without their dads. I know it is hard.

I thanked God for the man who influenced me so much. God meant for children to have loving fathers in the home. Our culture is missing out if we negate that fact.

I honor fathers and those who walk in the role of fathers. You are important to the world. This is my tribute to you.

To the fathers who walk crying babies at night so mommas can get a little sleep,
To the fathers who are brave enough to change a diaper, change their work schedule, and change their ways for their children,
To the fathers who run alongside kids on bikes without training wheels, who sit on hard bleachers while the game goes on, who take their children to music lessons and sit through recitals and keep giving encouragement along the way,
To the fathers who teach math and science in the evenings and who teach life by their actions more than their words,
To the fathers who show their boys how to treat women with respect by doing the same for their wives,
To the fathers who show their little girls how precious and beautiful they are and that they are worth waiting for,
To the fathers who protect and fight for and provide for their families, 
To the fathers who pray for their children, who take them to church, who read the Bible in front of them,
To the fathers who are faithful to their children’s mother and treat her like she is a precious treasure,
To the fathers who offer grace when their kids mess up,
To the fathers who make mistakes, fall down even, ask for forgiveness, and pray to be more like Jesus every day,
To the fathers who love and care for other men’s children like their own,
To the fathers who become grandfathers, stooped and aging, yet still standing tall in spirit, offering wisdom born of years,
To the fathers who show their sons how to be men and dance with their daughters, 
We need you to be strong.  We need you to be men.  We need you to show us what it’s like to be loved in a small measure by God the Father.
On this Father’s Day, I pray God’s blessings on you as you stand tall and walk brave in this world.

Grace, mercy and peace to all of you from God the Father and from His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday grace.