The first month of 2020 ends, and maybe we feel a little let down because we haven’t moved into the infant year like we intended. Typically we expect January 1 to offer hope and opportunity. For some it does. For others, it is the same old routine, the same hurts, the same struggles, following us into the next thirty days.
I recall years, attested in my journals, when January 1 was exactly like December 31, me wondering if I had the strength to persevere. How often I prayed, “O God of new beginnings and fresh starts, it’s me again.”
Still, I am a fan of new months and weeks, a brand new day, a new adventure. There is expectancy in an unfolding promise.
The grey days of winter have worn a bit thin. I eagerly awaited the first glow of dawn. I noticed blue sky breaking through clouds and looked for sunsets.
I lit candles early morning waiting for darkness to vanish. I turned on lamps throughout the house to brighten the atmosphere as evening descended.
Already I weary of a winter without one really good snow. I tried to notice the lengthening days, incremental though they are, anticipating spring, warmth, and sunshine. I hoped the purple crocuses beside the front walk would surprise me one day.
I hosted a bridal tea party in January, celebrating the freshness of two lives soon to become one. This young couple met at our house one evening at Bible study, and it’s a story I love to tell. In just a few weeks they will vow their forever covenant of love.
I pulled out the pretty dishes, platters and cake plates hidden in closets and cupboards, dusty from non use. Preparation for the event reminded me of days when the grand girls were young children and welcomed any excuse for a tea party. They disappeared into the back bedroom where the box of dress-up clothes were stored and emerged like butterflies. They picked out tea cups from my collection. We spread the table with cheese and crackers, store bought cookies, hot cocoa, or whatever was handy. It wasn’t about the food, it was about the event of a tea party, of being together and enjoying the experience.
I began listening to the Daily Audio Bible with Brian Hardin, joining my cousin to journey through the Bible in a year. I enjoy the daily interchange as Brian expressively reads and I hear something new in old familiar stories. It is a spiritual discipline enriching my life.
I spent time with friends this month. Some are suffering in different ways. It presses hard on them as they walk paths not of their choosing. My heart aches for people I love. I want to ease their pain. I know I cannot. My only offering is a gift of time, a listening ear without judgment, and prayers for the awareness of the the God of all comfort.
January 2020 is a memory, and in a way I don’t understand, it seemed slow, unlike my usual fleeting days, me barely aware until the months’ end appears on my planner. But not this month.
I’m pondering what made the difference. I said “no” to a couple of opportunities, trying to listen to my heart and set boundaries for myself, a skill I’m not very good at. I made and effort to work on projects, reckoning with my time and energy.
February begins, offering another new month, another opportunity, a promise unfolding. I want to live it well.
Each ending is a new beginning. I’m learning it evermore.
October felt strained, and I’ve been occupied, mind and body, with a flurry of matters. Reviewing my calendar page, I reflect as I examine it.
Journal pages record the stress of an expensive house project, days that were rushed as I went where I was needed and called, and our family’s effort at learning a new normal after death dealt a hard blow. It’s been emotional and turbulent, a difficult month.
While temperatures turned toward a fall climate, I made some small progress in the gardens that were neglected most of the summer. The tasks overwhelm. My body ached after a few hours, and I paid for it with restless nights.
I needed margin, and margins were thin. I felt the old tension of overcommitment, me running at a rabbit’s run. These days I prefer a slower tempo. An overly-full schedule does not equal the abundant life Jesus offered.
In spite of this, I was more diligent to write in my gratitude journal. Perhaps it is loss that makes us thankful for grace. I found myself looking for beauty in the midst of busy. I focused on the gift of relationships. I basked in the Presence of Jesus at a pause in my day.
As October ends with cold rain and winds that whisper winter’s chill, I am purposely evaluating my November. Each month gives me a chance to start fresh.
We enter the holiday rush, the press of activities, the pull to fill calendars to overflowing. Holy days meant for giving thanks for harvest and rejoicing over the long-expected Messiah have turned us toward excess, stress, and burdened hearts.
I want something different for the last of 2019.
Psalm 90:12 in essence offers a prayer: Teach us to reflect on the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.
Brevity of life I know about. Growing in wisdom is what I long for.
As the day dawns tomorrow, I will begin it with the Lord’s promise, a whispered petition, and a meditation for my heart.
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. — Psalm 32:8 NLT
March bursts with hope. Spring officially begins, signaling fresh life after winter’s cold, grey days when the only color is a darting red cardinal in the stark little woods. Birds sing in chorus early dawn. A myriad of sprouts push through hard soil. Even the dreaded daylight saving time that subtracts an hour from me and won’t be recovered until fall gives me more light in the evening hours. It is a month of hope and a time for singing.
As March began, I started an eight-week Bible study with an incredible group of women. Kelly Minter’s studies are some of my favorite. Working our way through No Other Gods, we discover the internal workings of our hearts, how even a blessing and gift from God can become an ultimate thing to us, and then false god.
Meeting weekly to discuss what we’re learning doubles the rewards. One week we answered the question, “What are you afraid of?” The women answered: “being left alone;” “who will take care of me?” “will the retirement account last?” “will my children keep the faith?”
Speaking aloud our fears was courageous and somehow took the sting away. As we face the unknowns, we recount the faithfulness of the God we serve, His everlasting love, His strong arm to keep us and those we love. We are assured, once again, that greater is He who is within us than he who is within the world.
I’ve been playing piano and keyboard with the worship band at my church. It’s nice that they let this silver-haired senior join a great group of musicians. I’m practicing a lot and enjoying the experience and camaraderie.
A neighbor’s little dog has taken to wandering to our house when he gets loose. When Maisie and I are out, she is delighted to see Boone and wants to play. Boone has the advantage of running free while Maisie is tethered to her leash. They enjoyed their little frolic, but I feel her sadness as he trots home.
I’ve notice people using the word organic a lot these days, and not necessarily when talking about vegetables. Apparently relationships develop organically and businesses grow organically. Words and their meanings evolve over time. It’s interesting how culture shapes definitions.
I’ve been reading poetry despite that I find it difficult to comprehend the poet’s intention sometimes. So I’m choosing a series of “Poetry for Young People” from my library. This month it was Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou. It helps if I read the poems aloud. It helps that there are hints to understanding the poem on each page of the book. And it helps that I’m learning like a youth, which is fine with me.
While browsing my library, I happened upon a couple of books about downsizing, took them home and then I wonder what that is about. Is it our time? Many of our friends have dared to purge their belongings and move somewhere smaller and more manageable. They’ve let go of life-long collections and lightened the load of a former lifestyle. They talk like it is freeing. I’m not sure we are there yet, but apparently I’m thinking about it.
My granddaughter and I had a “chat” via text about gardening. She remembers the mint in my herb garden, spearmint, apple and chocolate. She bought some for herself and sent pictures after she planted them in clay pots. It’s endearing to know she has good memories of our time together when she was young.
I invited my four-year-old neighbor to help me prepare a pumpkin patch between our houses. He came with his boots and gloves. We laid cardboard on the ground to kill the grass and put wood chunks on top to keep it in place. He talked about all sorts of things as we explored the yard and lake, discovered bird’s nests and watched geese sitting on eggs. We picked daffodils and grape hyacinths for his mother, gathered sticks and collected rocks and pine cones.
I remembered when my grandchildren were small and living next door, how they loved to come and be in the yard with me. It didn’t matter what we were doing just as long as we were doing it together.
After the work and the walk, my little neighbor and I went into the house to fix coffee for his dad and Sweet William who were now visiting on the deck and hot cocoa for him. He said, “You make the best hot cocoa,” making me smile. When I added some cookies to the tray of coffee cups, he exclaimed, “It’s gonna be a party.”
Taxes are prepared, filed, and crossed off my March list, along with a number of other goals. April has its own agenda: cleaning out the garage and moving tender plants to the fresh air and sunshine; oiling and sharpening garden tools; cutting a tree that succumbed to the windy storms. The yard is calling to me. It’s time to get to work.
My body moves slowly and I know gardening is going to be a challenge. I notice my hands when I’m teaching piano, the raised veins and pronounced wrinkles of living a long time, and I wonder how I got this old. Sweet William said it happened one day at a time. Sometimes he is profound.
I would not go back to youth unless I could retain the wisdom I’ve gained, the one advantage of age. I’ve received several hard-fought degrees in the School of Hard Knocks. I’m working on my Ph.D now. My dissertation will be the end of my life and the legacy I leave behind. I hope it is a good one.
I’ve decided April is the new January. After essentially hibernated during the first months of 2019, it’s time for adventure, for anticipating spontaneity and serendipity.
The season of Lent will end and Palm Sunday, Easter and Passover are holidays to celebrate. It is a time of holy preparation, a time to remember and rejoice, to expect a miracle, to believe and see the glory of God.
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.
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.
December ends and so does another year, and my mind runs amok with a multitude of thoughts.
The month ended in a frenzy of unexpected stress, unplanned events, things I didn’t see coming. In a way, it felt as if I were blindsided.
As I opened the Scripture this morning, seeking a word of comfort, my ribbon marker opened to Psalm 100, a short chapter I memorized as a child.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The familiar words of the King James Version came easily to my mind. I was refreshed with their ancient newness, words of assurance and love, reminding me to praise no matter what the day produces. I kept them in my heart throughout the day, believing that God is who He says He is and He meant every word that He preserved for me to read.
December was joyously spent with friends and family. Tables filled to the brim with few and many, shared meals or simply a cup of hot cocoa. Conversation was always the prime ingredient. It was beautiful, and I’m grateful for the gift of relationship that lasts all year long.
The holiday season was busy with a recital, a craft fair and birthdays added to the hustle of gift buying, cooking/baking, and opening our home every chance we got. I’m always down to the last wire getting the Christmas boxes to the post office in time for delivery to our dear ones. I have settled it in my head that I’m a late gift-wrapper. I can’t seem to do it ahead of time in spite of the wrapping paraphernalia setting out in readiness since the first of the month.
In contrast, there were quiet days for contemplation, shared devotionals with Sweet William, time to sit by the fire and sip slowly of life. I appreciate days like that. Too much, my younger self spent all her days in frenzied activity. I’ve learned that slow is a good speed for me.
I re-read an old book, Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. It’s a fictional account of Mary and Joseph in the days of their betrothal through the birth of Jesus. While much of the story was imagined, the Biblical details were accurate. I enjoyed thinking about the young couple, the love they might have shared, the criticism they endured from Mary’s unique pregnancy, and the hardships of a long trip to Bethlehem ending with birthing in a stable.
The drama came alive to me, a real story with real people living out an unusual calling. I was reminded that God’s ways are different, to say the least. His ways are higher, too profound and deep for me to completely understand. And yet, He is so near, so involved in history and our daily lives. He came to be with us so that we could know Him. Amazing.
And so we begin a new year. In an odd sort of way, I like endings and beginnings, the closing of a book cover only to open another, finishing a project with the satisfaction that I can move on to something else. It is the anticipation of starting fresh and new, like the untouched page of a new journal or notebook. It awaits the imprint of inked words.
As I reviewed my bullet journal and prepared the new one, I saw that I didn’t complete many of the major projects I’d planned to do this year. Which presents me with a conundrum. If they were not a real priority, what shall I do with them in the coming year?
I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps I’ll just go like a butterfly, take each day as it comes, feel for the wind of the Spirit and go where He is moving.
As autumn marks her days, we propel toward the end of another year. Can there only be one month left?
Ten weeks of Bible study concluded the first week of November, and it was a blessed journey. My study-sisters and I bonded through shared experiences, open hearts and vulnerability. We will keep declaring our commitment to Believe God from this day forward. The end of a study is bittersweet, the triumph of the finish line coupled with the poignancy of its ending.
Some of my piano students participated in a fall recital, and I was proud as a peacock. These three have been playing for a few years and shone like stars. As I listened to their skill, I marveled that I get to be part of this, the gift of sharing music with a child. Teaching came late to me, after years of administrative/management work. I believe I was meant to be a teacher right now, in this season of my life.
Sweet William and I watched God’s Not Dead: Light in Darkness, third in the series. It presented a balanced view of Christians who seek to follow God and yet we stumble. Sometimes we make wrong decisions and hurt people. But we hope in a forgiving God who gives second chances, who tells us to seek reconciliation, to make amends with those we wound, and to start fresh from a clean slate again. God helps us learn from our errors and grow in grace.
I’ve had a number of doctor visits this month, unusual for me. But I’m trying to take full advantage of my paid deductible. I often find I’m the only one in the waiting room with a book to read. This month I re-read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, a must read for every woman who wants to understand the men in her life.
The appointment with my primary care physician revealed I’m in pretty good shape for the years I’ve spent in this body. My doctor, who is the same age as my son, said she wanted to be like me when she grew up. Then she took x-rays of my knees. They show their age, and I certainly feel it.
Thanksgiving gave us food, glorious food. Our family knows how to put together a meal. I enjoyed the day with loved ones who are dear to me. My favorite comment of the day came from one of our youngest. This five-year-old was eating a piece of my sour cream cake and said, “This is the best cake I’ve ever tasted in my life! What is the secret ingredient?” I leaned down close to his ear and said, “Butter.”
The very next day, however, caught us off guard when one of own was diagnosed with a mass in her brain. Again we are faced with the fragility of life, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and the immediacy of prayer in times of trouble. We find comfort in knowing our God is sovereign. He is not caught off guard by troubling news, and He is very much in control when situations seem overwhelming.
The last days of November for this teen were spent in the hospital, being poked and prodded, having procedures and tests. The outpouring of love and concern, as witnessed through social media, texting and calls was heartwarming. People are our greatest resource and wealth. We don’t always realize how rich we are until something arises that saps our reserves of strength. We look around to see love being poured into us.
I began thinking about Christmas even before November began, purchasing gifts ahead of the frenzy as much as I could. Sweet William and I talked about paring down this year. It seems like that has become my theme. Do less and enjoy it more.
Years ago I had a friend who was a retired school teacher. She put Christmas in every nook and cranny of her modest home, and I loved going to her house. As she grew older, she used to say it was foolish to keep doing all of it, yet she did. And I delighted to visit her for a cup of Chrismtas tea, my eyes wandering to all the spaces filled with ornaments, elves, Santas and festivity.
There were years I tried to duplicate her holiday spirit at our house with red and green in every corner, on every surface high and low. But now I’m choosing to be content with enough. Temptations to add something else crop up when I view TV, Pinterest, and magazine covers. But I am determined to be satisfied so I can focus on what is more important. For me, less is indeed more.
I’m enjoying podcasts these days, and the ones about holiday stress are what has my ears perked up. One woman said she makes an “I Won’t List” of things she will not do that would only add to her anxiety. If I made such a list, first would be “Do not put out every single thing in those multiple Christmas boxes.”
What would I put on a “To Do List for December?” Share a Christmas devotional each morning with Sweet William. Respond to serendipitous opportunities with a friend. Attend a Christmas musical. Watch some classic Christmas movies in the comfort of home (The Bishop’s Wife,The Preacher’s Wife, and The Nativity are some favorites from my library). Read a novel set in the season. Relax and enjoy the holiday.
Perspective is everything, and it was crystal clear as we sat in the hospital waiting room. I heard my 12-year-old cousin, twice removed (or something like that; I never know) talking about something that happened “a long time ago.” How long ago, someone asked? “About a year,” he said. A year is more like a sprint to me.
As I turn the page of the 2018 calendar for the last time, it seems obvious that my year’s goals are a done deal. December is not the month to catch up on the big projects I had planned. If I deem them important enough, I’ll transfer them to next year and try again. The last month has a conclusive feeling. We are coming to the end.
Just as I view January as a new beginning, I’m seeing December as closure. The question I ask myself is this: How shall I spend these final days of 2018?
Some of my illusive, intangible objectives at the beginning of this year were to go deeper, keep trying, be creative, keep learning, listen more, enjoy this life.
This is where I shall focus time and energy as the next thirty-one days are checked off.
I pulled out the Christmas CDs from the back of the cabinet and put five of them on to play as I busy myself with the mundane today. Life is a beautiful thing and we have this day to live fully or to waste with unhealthy emotions. It’s my choice.
So let the music play. Advent begins. Sing Gloria!
October is two days gone and I’m already behind. It’s like being on a speeding locomotive, the months of this year moving so quickly. Before I twirl around a couple of times I will have whizzed through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it will be next year. Stop! Slow down, please.
Kentucky weather is interesting if nothing else. I had to grab my corduroy coat, complete with scarf, hat, and gloves for my morning walk in October. Maisie wore her purple “Woof” sweater. It was way too soon for both of us.
The few days that were warm enough for me to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee were especially enjoyable, maybe because they were rare. Isn’t it like us to finally appreciate what we’ve had a-plenty but now long for? We become satiated and lose the enjoyment of the abundance we possess.
Having dismissed the yard work for the season, I did plant a couple of tiny trees in my cousin’s yard. It’s what I can do for her and her husband after a summer of dealing with illness and recovery. I’m praying those little saplings dig their roots deep into the earth and flourish next spring. New life speaks the language of hope.
Sometimes in our enthusiasm, we want to do great things for God, large and far-reaching. With the wisdom only living gives, I perceive it is in doing the simple and ordinary that we descern the pleasure of God. “Do what is in front of you.” “Do what you can with the gifts you have.” “Do the small things well with love.” Yes, that is the guidance presented to me.
I got to visit my younger friend in an adjoining county. Going alone this time, I was quite confident with my trusty Gypsy (GPS) telling me where to turn. Even at her directions, I passed the drive to my friend’s house, which happens every single time. The trees and telephone poles all look the same along that stretch of highway.
Arriving at her house, she showed me her latest project. She’s always got one in progress. Her home is comfortable and beautifully decorated. We ate and chatted about family, faith and things familiar to us until it was time for me to go. I’m so thankful she reached out to me a couple of years ago, just a message on Facebook that lead to a connection and friendship. God does amazing things when we are open to His leading and then open our hearts.
The book most impacting me this month was Hiding in the Light , autobiography by Rifqa Bary. Her story was in the news in 2009, a Muslim teenager who found Jesus as her Savior, with the resulting conflict in her family. It was a gripping story, a glimpse into a different faith and a young woman’s courage, and a striking contrast of God’s grace. Highly recommended.
Sweet William and I played old hymns at a dinner for the widows at church. It was an elegant and detailed event to bless the women and show them love and support. The songs stirred up memories for all of us, I think.
It was satisfying to be at the keyboard and guitar once again. There were years Sweet William and I joined the band every single Sunday, playing loud, playing long, worshiping God with the gifts He gave us. We reminisce about those good years of serving, how our hearts were tuned in to the worship, how the Lord showed up in our praise and blessed as the Spirit moved among us.
There’s one song I’ve been remembering and singing. My favorite version of “Ain’t No Grave” is by Russ Taff. His excitement is contagious, and I want to celebrate with him. I notice that when I talk of my age I’m speaking in decades now. My years are adding up swiftly, and I’m trying to come to grips with its brevity.
My body feels the affect of living long in a broken world. I move slower. I am concerned about balance and the risk of falling. I pray to stay strong and for my knees to last. I do things I hope will keep my mind sharp. I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned through books and experience.
If Jesus tarries coming for His bride, one day my life here will be over and I will go by way of the grave. There’s no fear or concern in that. I’ve rested my hope in a risen Savior who defeated death and handed that victory to me. It will be glory. And there “ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down!”
Bible study has been a major part of the last two months. The women who gathered at our table each week, have no idea how they bless me. We are hungry to know God, stretching our faith to Believe Him. I’m coming out of this study richer for the fellowship as we journeyed together. We bond as we open God’s Word and share our hearts with each other.
The month of October has been busier than usual. I’m still trying to figure out why, hoping to plan a quieter, less stressed November. I think it is possible, even in a culture that presses me to believe enough is not really enough.
Time has limits, the same as my body, my finances, my resources, my years. Autumn reminds me to slow, to observe, to turn loose, to draw upon the blessedness of my existence and believe my Creator has it all in His hands. Contentment continues to call me with an alluring voice. “Come, be filled with joy in the abundance of God’s bountiful gifts.”
September is gone, and I wonder where it went. Autumn is upon us. The leaves of trees are barely turning, and I anticipate a month of color.
What can I say about the weather in September? It was unusual. Hot, rain and flash flood warnings, then a break with cool breezes requiring that flannel shirt I’ve been wanting to wear.
We bought a gently used car at the beginning of the month, then took it back within the time limit. I’ve returned purchases many times during my life, but never a car. We experienced a gamut of emotions during the process, but in the end we felt the car was not for us. Sometimes we wander until we find our way.
I began a Bible study right after Labor Day with a wonderful group of women. Beth Moore’s Believing God is not new, but it is deep and rich. I love meeting regularly for Bible study. It is how many long-lasting friendships developed. Sitting together at the table, sharing what God is saying to us, and opening our hearts to one another is special and unique. I treasure these weekly sessions.
I did my semi-annual garage clean-out in September. I have to lighten the space to prepare to bring tender plants in for the winter. And I had a can of tomatoes explode on one of the shelves.
It’s the shelf next to the stairs leading to the house where I store extra food stuff and supplies. I call it my Y2K shelf because it came to be in 1999 when the world thought we would implode because we were moving toward a new century. The news channels warned us to prepare for disaster, if not mayhem. So I stocked up on food. I chuckle about it now, almost 19 years later. January 1, 2000 came in like a lamb. Sometimes the thing we fear does not come upon us.
The week before a planned trip to visit our dear ones was busy with preparation and making up piano lessons. I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going and had to refer to my lists often. Traveling is complicated for us. We don’t do it often enough to streamline our techniques. Maybe that needs to change.
We took a new route this time, the many miles of highway to get from here to there and back again. It was somewhat stressful, since we had not been this way before. As always we had our AAA Triptik, which we referred to often. But this time we had GPS! Sweet William and I are still learning about our smart phones, but I’ve gotten acquainted with Gypsy (my name for GPS). She’s a wonder. While the AAA map gives us the full scope of the journey, Gypsy gave us step-by-step instructions. I like seeing the big picture, but I’m learning to rely on those simple instructions of “in the next 500 feet, turn right.”
Our last week of September was spent with my five favorite people and their furry friends. Maisie was in dog heaven. She played with the dogs until her tongue hung out. And she chased the cat. I was worried that she would catch it, but cats have a way of displaying their power. Claws and toenails echoed on the hardwood flooring until the dogs and cat ran out of steam and found a place to nap.
Maisie seems a little depressed now that we’ve come home to a quieter house. Maybe she needs her own friend here at the Wright House.
I did a lot of listening and interacting with our dear ones, sitting long at meal times, lingering over coffee, hearing hearts and sharing my own. I did little writing, reading or facebooking, even taking minimal pictures, because precious faces were right in front of me and I wanted to partake of every moment with them.
I lost my watch the second day of the visit. I looked all week for it, in bags and drawers, under furniture and amidst paraphernalia. It was not to be found, and I tried not to be disappointed since it was a favorite with memories attached. But I reasoned that this trip did not need to be timed. I was on no schedule except to be present with each one of my family. I hope they felt it from me, my full attention to them and their thoughts and ideas.
We experienced their town and their new-to-them house, their quiet neighborhood where Maisie and I walked and the variety of geese and ducks at the lake nearby. We declared our last day there to be Grandparents Day, and I spent time doing something special with each of my three grands. The memories linger as tears well in my eyes. I already miss them and know it will be awhile before I look them in the face again.
I say it often, that I don’t understand God’s ways. Why the miles, the physical distance between us and them. But my Father knows our past, present and future. I am ever-learning to trust Him with it all.
Arriving back home brings relief. The Lord kept us safe on our trip. I almost lost Maisie twice, but she is here with us. Trials come with the best of experiences, and we had those, but in the scope of it all, we had a wonderful time.
As we were unloading the car, our good neighbor pulled into the drive with a load of pumpkins and gourds. He kept handing me more, excitement whelling up with the bounty. I will enjoy placing them around the house and on porches for the living fall decor.
Unpacking suitcases and washing clothes is always the order of business. As I dug into a small pocket of one bag, I found my watch. I smiled and assumed it’s time to get back on schedule.
“Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” It has become my goal, the way I want to live. The light and dark of a day, the joy and sorrow that befalls each of us, all are threads of the weaving that become a tapestry of beauty. I want to be present for it all.
Sometimes I think I want to see the entirety of the map of my life, like a AAA Triptik. More often I’m only given a simple instruction at the exact time I need it.
What can I say? August is just hot. And it’s going out like a firecracker. Except for a couple of days that teased us with cooler temperatures, we have endured. Because August is about enduring to the end. I’ve been thankful for a fully functioning air conditioner, cool clean water, and ice cream.
Among the books read this month, one of special interest was Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain writes as an avowed introvert herself. She explored research and studies describing how introverts and extroverts are wired differently, how they function and cope differently, and how an introvert can thrive in a culture that often applauds extrovert personalities.
As a child and teenager, I heard the comment more than once, “Peggy, I wish you wouldn’t talk so much.” It was meant to be facetious, because I was not talking. I suppose the person meant me no harm and hoped to elicit my participation in the conversation. But it didn’t. It actually wounded me, making me retreat even more into my reserve.
Growing up shy was painful sometimes, especially in junior and high schools. I have since learned to cope in a talkative, gregarious world. I’ve even developed the ability to speak publicly with a fair amount of confidence, though I over-prepare and sweat it out days before. My comfort zone is to be quiet and in the background. I suppose it is what makes me a good listener. I crave periods of silence and time alone when I can re-energize.
Quiet was revealing and affirming. It showed the positive characteristics of introverts and how the world benefits from people like me. Understanding myself brings comfort and reassurance that I am OK after all.
I also discovered that I am an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, confirming my introversion and other personality traits. While I’m still trying to understand the letters and meanings, apparently I am not as unusual as I sometimes felt.
In August, it becomes obvious that the days are getting shorter, though it started on June 21. It isn’t nearly as hard to get up before dawn. My tiny wren in the little woods now sings at 6:45 am with fewer birds joining him these days. It’s the last songs of summer.
I had one especially busy week this month, with multiple appointments on six of the seven days. I began to feel stressed as the week progressed. I used to thrive in that environment, keeping all the spinning plates in the air without daring to drop a single one. They were not my best years. Without fully realizing it, I lived in a state of tension, trying to maintain a pace I imposed on myself, trying to please everyone, not knowing how to say “no.”
I’m walking a slower gait these days, pacing myself between activity and rest. I more carefully consider commitments. I plan down time after heavy activity. I enjoy and look forward to a Sabbath rest each week. But this week proves sometimes I forget.
This month I kept a “Done” list , jotting down tasks I completed during the day that never appear on my To Do list. Things like fixing a really good breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen after meals; washing and folding loads of laundry; practicing piano; watering the plants. It was an interesting exercise, seeing the value of everyday activities. I probably won’t continue the practice, because it’s just one more thing to do. And that I don’t need.
I’ve shopped the local Farmer’s Market this summer. My own garden has not yielded decent vegetables the past couple of years. So instead, I’ve enjoyed wandering the booths at the market and meeting people who do well at growing tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, peaches, fresh eggs and sausage from happy chickens and pigs. It’s my way of supporting the hard-working farm families in my area.
In the spring, I planted sunflowers around the lambs ear and white violets. The seeds produced well, stalks with multiple blooms. I pass them as Maisie and I walk, and they remind me of a friend whose husband died this year. As his illness progressed, she prepared a “Sunshine Room” for him with a sunflower theme to brighten his last days. I’ve thought of my friend as I passed the big yellow flowers. It’s been a long, hard summer for her.
It’s a jungle out there in the garden, the weeds flourishing in the heat and unusual amount of rain. I finally took the weed eater to the garden and sprayed weed killer with a vengeance until the yard looks relatively well under control as I write. There is still much to do to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I’m waiting for a break in the weather. Even with the weeds, late summer flowers are glorious.
Sweet William and I have found ourselves cheering for our high school volleyball team. We got free passes for all the county sports events just because we are seniors. I love senior benefits. It makes getting older almost worth it. We will take our seats on the bleachers at several schools to applaud and support family and friends who play ball, and instruments, on the field and the court.
August ending means summer is ending. Children are back in school, parents are back on schedule, and big yellow buses create additional traffic.
As always when August winds down, I’m ready for fall. There’s a gently used, flannel shirt from a summer yard sale I want to wear. I need to raise the windows and let fresh breezes blow. I’m ready to snuggle under the quilt at bedtime and hear the night creatures instead of the constant whirring of a fan. The summer decorations are being put away. Pumpkins are on my mind. I have a yellow mum blooming on the front porch with the promise of another whose colors will be a surprise.
August is a month of enduring, of getting through the summer and its persistent heat; of cutting grass and pulling weeds; harvesting the last of crops; and being ready to finish these jobs for the year.
There are things in my life that feel like August. They simply have to be endured. Some are niggling irritations; others are painful thorns in my soul. We endure grief, we endure health conditions, we endure a longing for those we love. We wipe our brow as we work through the struggle, and sometimes we cry. We pray for relief. The answer we receive most often is “Trust Me.”
On a video I watched recently, Jennifer Rothschild said something like this: “True contentment comes in the midst of difficult circumstances.” The Lord knows how I’ve sought to learn contentment and fought for joy. She also said, “Thorn removal is not sufficient. Only grace is sufficient.”
Sufficient Grace. It is my song and my theme. I know it to be true. I depend on the Lord’s sufficiency and not my own. But sometimes I forget.
The beautiful and enduring hymn, It is Well With My Soul, reminds me to sing praise when the scorch of trials burn my flesh and weary my heart. Even when all my circumstances are not going so well, my soul can still be well. It is well with my soul, because I am safe in the arms of Jesus.
This is more than just enduring. This is victorious living.