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Breathe

It’s been a full-plate kind of week, me reminding myself to breathe. We’ve had places to go and people to see, things to do and plans to finish. I’ve been up and down the stairs of our house too many times to count.

My morning devotion reminds me I am blessed. Blessed to be a blessing.  I know this in my head. Sometimes my heart forgets.

In the season of holiday frenzy, we tend to pour out, giving gifts of time and energy, until we are depleted and empty of soul.

“You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself,” says Ann Voskamp.

Running on fumes, I call it. Sweet William reminds me to fill the gas tank in the little black Honda before it gets to a quarter tank. It’s not good for the engine, he says.

Running on fumes is not good for me either. I need to refill, refuel, reignite with the passion of love that is true Christmas.

I cannot face the day well if I have not first faced my Savior. He came to bless me with His presence.

Immanuel, God with us.

And His presence is the present I most need, the gift I want more,  the one thing I cannot live without.

In the still dark of early dawn, I quietly rest and inhale Him who is life. I absorb the Holy Word and breathe in His truth. His peace, beyond all understanding, fills my lungs. Before the day’s agenda unfolds, I am assured that I am adored and redeemed, chosen and called. I am blessed beyond counting. Blessed to be a blessing.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  — John 20:21-22

The Creator breathed into Adam’s lungs and he became a living soul. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive.” The Holy Spirit, the very breath of God, has come to me, to be with me, to live in me, to give me power to serve and be a blessing.

I remind myself to breathe.

Christmas grace.

 

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On being busy

I’ve been wanting to write a post on busy-ness for over a week, but I’ve been too busy. And I chuckle at myself.

Pondering busy for days now and how I relate to it, I’ve considered the then-and-now practices of spending my one wonderful life. Just recently my good neighbor said, “You’re always so busy,” after I offered to help her with a sewing project. My response was: “I’m busy because I find things I want to do. . . . I’ll probably die busy. At least I hope so.”

A number of years ago, a close relative – who will remain unnamed – suggested I might want to start a support group for busy people. It was said in jest cloaked in a measure of truth. You recognize the underlying meaning of those comments when you hear them.

I’ve been an actively engaged woman, no doubt. When I was employed full-time outside the home, out of necessity to provide for my family, I also tried to keep the homes fires burning. Involved in ministry and volunteer positions, my adrenaline pumped hard. I went from one appointment to the next, with a daily list of things to accomplish. I seemed to thrive on it, even boasted a bit about how much I could get done.

I was playing the role of Super Woman without the cute costume. I didn’t allow for a Sabbath rest. I was burning my candle at both ends.

I remember when God dealt with me about rest, how I needed to allow it and plan for it. I was in an extremely difficult season of life, a place of utter dependence on God.

Desperation has a way of opening our ears to hear.

My weekly rhythm needed a change. I determined to do all I could the six days leading to Sunday. Then, after church, I closed my planner and chose rest for the remainder of the day. It was life changing. And I’ve been a cheerleader for rest ever since.

Still, I’ve continued to lead a busy life because this is who I am.

My mind works routinely at high speed. I think of projects I’d like to do along with the everyday tasks of life we all  must accomplish. I like to create, experience new things, organize, read to learn about the world and the people in it. Often when I sit to watch a movie, my hands have something to do.

This season of a lively life is different from a few decades ago. These days my weekly list usually includes time with people, scheduled or impromptu. I love that kind of busy. Opening the door to friends and family who gather around our table brings a richness and flavor to Sweet William and me. Preparing a crock pot of soup with toasted bread and fruit, setting the table, and the clean up afterward call for a certain amount of busy.

The rewards are well worth the energy expended.

 

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It has been an active week for me, actually several weeks of being hard at it and on the go. This morning I woke knowing I had no pressing obligations and the house to ourselves. It’s what we need today. It’s the rest required after the busy.

So I catch up with some paperwork, anticipate leftover soup or spaghetti pie for lunch, and stay in my pajamas a little longer than usual. I put off running some errands until tomorrow so I can retreat and take refuge.

Today I rest and reflect, and I finally have time to write this post and cross it off my list.

The overcast skies have already given a little rain, making it feel like a day to snuggle in. Maisie and I wandered the lane this morning in the mist. I admired the color changes emerging slowly this autumn and she kept her nose to the ground.

I’m about ready to put on another pot of coffee and relax as I sip its warmth it. Because I’ve learned the art of rest. And it’s a beautiful way to spend a day.

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Work was never the curse from the fallen days in Eden. Work was given as a blessing. A day of rest was also given to bless us, restore us, and help us realize we are not super beings. We can’t keep going 24/7.

God is the one who never slumbers or sleeps. He is omnipotent and needs no time off. He is ever vigilant and watchful. He is always working.

We find our rest in the Creator, the Lover of our souls whose work in us goes on without end.

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Sunday grace

Thinking. It seems we hardly have time to or even need to. All questions are answered quickly with a Google search or a response from Alexa or Siri.

The twenty plus volumes of encyclopedia, bought when we were newlyweds and taking up an entire shelf on the bookcase, are long gone, gifted to a thrift store because no one would buy them.

Attention span is short, us flitting from one sound bite to another without retaining much of any of it.

Information comes at light speed through multi-channels of technology. There are online articles and blogs to read; news feeds to keep  me current; one thousand channels to surf on TV; CNN and FOX news telling me over and over the current condition of the world; and NOAA weather advising me if I should bring my umbrella or not.

I hardly need to think at all. And yet I must.

I seek solitude and silence, turn off the constant flow of information, in order to give my mind time to slow down and contemplate.

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I easily say “yes” to too much without thinking it through. Then I find myself in a dither, a flurry of activity, feeling the stress rise and wanting someone to stop the dizzying merry-go-round so I can get off.

No wonder we struggle to wind down, our calendar spaces filling, adrenaline pumping.

Slow down.  Breath.  Be quiet.  Listen.  Think.

I need to hush my fast-beating heart, think my own thoughts, clear my mind of the world’s voices.  Then perhaps I will hear what the Spirit of the Lord would say to me. His voice is softly gentle, easily drowned out by the shouts of a culture that wants more and entices me to join its throng.

Be still my soul. Lift your eyes to the heavens. See how the Father provides for His creatures, how lavishly He splashes beauty everywhere. Observe His sovereignty  over all things.

I will think about all you have done; I will reflect upon your deeds!
— Psalm 77:12 NET Bible

Think on what is lovely.  Just.  Honest.  Pure.  The good report.  Think on God’s promises.  His faithfulness.  His compassion and goodness.  His love.

And be still my soul.

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This, another year

I’ve been quiet on the blog for the month of May. The Wright House has been busy, my mind full to overflowing. I’ve written in my journal, but there was nothing pressing to say out loud. So I let well enough alone, ignoring any self-imposed obligation. When there are no words, what’s the point?

But today, I write.

The approach of a holiday that is difficult for me creates a storm of emotions. I felt it coming for weeks. I make an effort to push thoughts aside and focus on pressing events ahead. Tears erupt without warning and sometimes I give them release. I connected with those who share common sentiments. Understanding brings some comfort.

I plan my Sunday. I will be good to myself this one day of the year, giving myself grace. I reserved movies at my library. Mom’s Night Out will give me the gift of laughter. Sarah, Plain and Tall will give me permission to cry.  Sweet William will do whatever he can to make me happy.

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My to-do list is full for the weekend. Recitals will fill the air with music and celebration. There’s a lot of work yet to do. I love this time of year, joyful in the accomplishments of budding musicians and being amazed that I get to be part of it.

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The weeds in the gardens mock me and I have paid them no heed. Walking through the yard, I am astounded at how quickly what shouldn’t be there grows tall and lush. I need a downpour of rain to soften the earth so pulling wayward growth will be easier. I gave myself one hour outside today so it doesn’t look like the occupants have up and moved. My back pays for it.

The green of the trees in the little woods is especially beautiful this year. The warmth that has finally arrived refreshes me, and I take my chance to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee when I can.

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Two pair of geese at the lake have babies. I look for them when Maisie and I walk. They are attentive to their young during this season, these little ones being their only focus. They will not fly to other possibilities during summer. They are rooted and purposed to be the providing and protecting parents until goslings are fully grown in the fall. I watch the process and remember my mothering years.

This month of my planner is full of people and places and events. How does a life get so full while I’m not paying attention? It’s not even the middle of May and I’m already anticipating a slowed-down June. If I’m not careful, I will miss today while I look forward to tomorrow. If I let it, life can pass me by and I will not have savored the sweetness of it.

Today is a gift, the precious present. God meant for it to be lived with fullness of joy and with thanksgiving. He understands my tears and is near to the broken. He rejoices over me with singing, and He delights when I am filled with thankfulness.

No matter the circumstances, I shall give thanks for this is His purpose in Christ Jesus.

His purpose for me is to look for the gifts and enjoy what He has given, in every season of my life. What I perceive as good brings delight. What I perceive as difficult teaches me endurance, compassion, and patience. It is all for the conforming process of becoming  more like Jesus. A life conformed will shine like stars in the night sky and it will be for the glory of God.

May it be so.

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December beginning

I think perhaps we’ve had a bad impression of Martha for too long. Not Martha the American mega-business woman. Martha from the book of St. Luke.

We’ve chastised her for being a busy woman. There are a lot of busy, hard-working people whom I admire. They stick to the task. They get things done. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty. They keep at it until the job is complete. We can count on them.

Have we equated being diligent with being un-Christian?

Our first introduction to Martha is in chapter 10 of Luke, ” . . . a woman named Martha opened her home to him [Jesus].” She had the gift of hospitality and she welcomed Jesus and his followers.

When we bring people into our homes, there are things to do. Martha set herself to the task of feeding a group of hungry men.

We see the problem arising a couple of verses later: “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Ah, the distractions. I have walked in Martha’s sandals.

Other versions of Scripture say she was worried and troubled, disturbed by all her responsibilities. I especially like the rendering of the Message:  “Martha was pulled away by all she had to do . . . ”

I have been pulled away too. Pulled away from sitting at Jesus’ feet, pulled away from what is important by what seems urgent, pulled away from the people I am to serve by my need to finish all the preparations.

As I see it, herein lies some of the problem with the Christmas season. It has become complicated, full to overflowing, demanding, over abundant. We have become distracted by all the preparations. And we have been blinded to the beauty of Christmas.

Martha lost sight of her Lord, the very nearness of His presence in her home, while she became engrossed in the work at hand.

Her distraction and worry brought on accusations and demands. “Don’t you care?” she asked Jesus. “Make Mary help me,” she commanded Him. The audacity.

I have found myself guilty of Martha’s sin. I have wondered if God cared. I have stomped my feet like an angry child who didn’t get her way. I have been distracted, troubled and worried by the tasks and the schedule and have overlooked the reality of Emmanuel.

How can we approach Christmas with a work ethic like Martha and a heart like Mary?

Jesus said Mary chose the best, the place of sitting quietly and listening. Her attention was focused on His words that were Life to her.

That is the challenge. We live in a culture of extravagance, and our schedules fill quickly as we try to do more and be more. Yet we are not called to do everything or be all things to everyone. We are called to be still and know our God first. Then we are called to serve.

We cannot walk in power and peace if we lose connection with the Prince of Peace.

It will take determination, imagination even, and a made-up mind to spend some quiet time with Jesus each day, especially in December. So many voices call after us seeking our attention. We have to make a decision what is most important to us.

If you wonder where to begin, seek out someone you know who has developed the discipline of quiet meditation each day. Or simply ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. It is His specialty.

In the quiet of His presence, we will hear Him speak. We can take a deep breath and feel the calm infuse us. We will get a clear focus on what is important. And we gain wisdom from God who gives it liberally.

His plan for my day is always better than my own.

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Sunday grace

It’s been such a busy week. I already feel caught up in the vortex of coming end-of-year celebrations.

Thanksgiving is a few days away. December is on its heels, and the roller coaster wheels are turning. I see colored lights already blinking on porches and in windows as we push toward The Holiday Extravaganza.

Thanksgiving deserves its own day at least once during the year.

A local store mailed me an advertisement last week.

BLACK FRIDAY
FIRST PLACE TO STOP. BEST PLACE TO SHOP.
(IN STORE AND ONLINE)
STORES OPEN THURSDAY AT 6 PM

When did a day of thanks and a time to gather with family become a strategy to get the best deals, save the most money, and beat out other shoppers by camping on sidewalks until stores open?

Have we lost something in our 21 Century living? Are we more focused on accumulating additional stuff than on being grateful for what we have? What are we teaching the next generation about the value of human contact, the art of face to face conversations, and simple pleasures of enjoying being fully present at family gatherings?

Thanksgiving Day has been a federal holiday since 1863, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,”

We have made it into something else.

The Almighty God is the originator of thanksgiving guidance, instructing His people to remember the goodness of God, to recall His deliverance and grace, to count the blessings He bestows lavishly on this earth.

Do we become more self-centered if we bypass being thankful? Shall we not pause to recognize that there is a Great Benefactor of all good gifts? We are not islands unto ourselves, making our own pathways through life, accomplishing our goals and becoming successful through our efforts alone.

There is a God who sends rain and sunshine, who causes seed to grow, earth and planets to revolve in their orbits, stars to shine, and seasons to comply with His plan and direction.

He gives the very breath we breathe, created the body to function like a beautiful machine, made our minds to think, reason, create, relate, and remember.

He gave His Son that we might become children of God. That alone is reason to thank Him.

As the week moves forward, can we give thanks to our great God? Can we pause amidst the  lines in grocery stores, the hurry of projects and the hustle of food preparation to remind ourselves Who is the source of our every blessing? Could we hug those precious people whom the Father has brought into our lives to love and cherish and remember they are gifts from a benevolent hand?

“It is a good and delightful thing to give thanks to the Lord,
To sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”  — Psalm 92:1 AMP

Sunday grace.

 

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Normal Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post 1943

 

 

 

 

Let’s continue on

Completing one more Bible study is not just another notch in our belts.

A group of women and I finished Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild, and we celebrated this week. Seven weeks of meeting together created a bond of friendship that happens in the middle of opening God’s Word together. It’s amazing how we learn from the Scripture and how we learn to love one another. It’s special.

The challenge now is to continue the daily time of study and simply be in the presence of our Savior Jesus. How do we shut out the world for a few minutes each day and sit at His feet like Mary did?

We are good at being Martha, bustling about to accomplish tasks. That in itself is not bad. But in our “Martha-ness” we can become distracted, frustrated, critical and fussy. As we compare our own work load with another, we make demands and question our Lord. We lose our contentment in the gifts we have been given, gifts meant to bless others.

Our culture encourages us to work hard and find efficient ways of doing more. The “being” part is often left out, and we are left wondering how to do that.

We’ve somehow lost the art of being present, of being still.

So let’s try this. Dedicate fifteen minutes for some quiet, meditative time with the God of the Universe. Uninterrupted time. No multi-tasking. Press the pause button on your To-Do List. Turn off the smart phone. Take some time to pray, and then to listen.

Can we do that? Just fifteen minutes a day? There’s a very good possibility that the dedicated fifteen minutes will strech into thrity as we get lost in the Presence.

When we set aside a portion of our time, it becomes sacred. It becomes holy. And we find the Holy One has been waiting for us.

And in the holy stillness, our hearts will open and we will see God.