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Sunday grace

The day dawned magnificently, after rain and lower temperatures that enticed me into long sleeves.

With coffee cup in hand, I headed to the car, driving the miles to a long-awaited promise. The sky boasted shades of red and pink as the sun broke into the night, and my heart was eager for the day.

Parking my car, I walked to the church with Psalm 103 on my lips.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
 Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,
 Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.


I was greeted by the women, beautiful women who had set their alarms early to arrive ahead of the crowd, who came to serve with smiles on their faces. And the joy of the Lord shone round about.

We came for Cultivate, to hear Kelly Minter teach from passages of Matthew 8 and 9, stories familiar to any who had grown up in the church. But today they were fresh, new, breathing, because the Word of God is active and living, its razor sharp edges penetrating my soul and spirit, judging the intents of my heart. I marked my Bible and took pages of notes so I wouldn’t forget.

We praised and worshiped in song with hearts and hands lifted to the only One worthy of our adoration. The music was a tender balm to my weariness. Tears washed my eyes so I could see Jesus.

At lunch I chatted with friends young and older, enjoying the fellowship of women who are dear to me. Smiles radiated on faces as we savored the experience of this day in August. Hugs were part and parcel to the love we felt.

Time flew and I was not ready for it to be over. Had we really been there seven hours? It didn’t feel like it, this taste of heaven’s atmosphere where God’s daughters are in one accord, bound together in unity and purpose.

What made the difference in this day among other days? I’ve pondered that.

We planned, prepared and prayed for it. We did our homework through Kelly’s Bible studies through the years. We were expectant and hopeful, desiring a fresh touch from our Father. We came with our hands open to receive.

And He did not disappoint. His glory was all around, and we opened our eyes to see it.

Is it possible I might experience God like this more than just one special day in a year? Is it me who holds back from receiving all He wants to give? Am I too busy with lesser things to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith? Do I prioritize time with Him and open my eyes to behold wondrous things from His Word? Do I put His commands in practice, keeping a humble, submissive heart?

Can I really have as much of God as I want? Didn’t my Father once tell me to believe and see the glory of God? And didn’t He prove faithful to His promise? Yes He did!

Then I shall believe and expect to see Him.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

We sat across from each other in the restaurant, cups steaming with our hot beverages. We talked as friends, sharing the details of life, catching up months of intricacies and essentials. It had been too long since we communed like this.

She told me about opening her home to neighbors, friends, people in general, and I listened, wondering how she did this so easily, so lovingly, so Christ-like. I’ve benefited from her gift of hospitality on many occasions, how she does it with ease, an open heart and an open home.

I pulled out of the parking lot with those thoughts lingering, asking myself if I could do that. Could I throw open the doors and invite the needy in?

It’s much easier to welcome friends, companions, those who share common ground. It’s not as threatening when I am familiar with the faces around my table and we chit chat. But what about the stranger, the alien, the widow and orphans, those less like me? What about those who are too troubled for me to offer an easy remedy?

Yet, aren’t they the ones God bids me to love? Isn’t that the way He loves me?

The call came late in the evening, from one with whom communication is mainly via text and cell phone. She asked if she could come spend the weekend, and the intonation of the words told me there was something more to the phrases she used.

In a vulnerability I don’t often have myself, she said she needed a place to stay for a couple of days, a safe place. After asking more questions and seeking Sweet William’s insight, knowing his perception is often better than mine, I said, “Yes. Come.”

She arrived with her baggage and burdens, her tears and her hurts. We opened the door when she knocked and said, “Welcome.”

That night as I lay in bed, I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to fill this house and fill our hearts, the very Presence of peace who brings comfort in chaos and provides shelter in storms. The Host who embodies the glad welcome and complete acceptance, was abiding with us.

My own heart opened a little bit wider. And it was all grace.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

December entered with grace, Sweet William and I having been invited to spend a gloomy, rainy afternoon with friends who feel like family. We have history together. We remember the years ago when their children and our grandchildren were young, when we worshiped together at another church, when this important relationship first began.

Their home was warm and inviting. The atmosphere of Christmas had arrived, and I pleasured looking about at her lovely decorations, especially the exquisite Nativity set taking a prominent position in this house.

We ate a simple yet delicious lunch. Dessert was chocolate cake from her grandmother’s recipe. The men moved to the living room to finish watching the basketball game, while she and I remained at the table, sweet tea glasses refilled. We talked as long-time friends will, remembering the past and catching up with the present.

We’ve shared prayer requests, she and I, us wondering at God’s ways, marveling at His answers. She has encouraged me to trust when the way was dark. I’ve confided some deep secrets and struggles, and she does not judge or condemn. We continue to pray for one another and our families, because this is the law of Christ. To love one another.

Whether I finish my Christmas decorations or not, of this I am sure: the people with whom God has graced my life are the true adornment.  I am a wealthy woman because of the friends who choose to love me. And I get to love them back. What joy!

“The ornament of a house is the people who frequent it.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is grace indeed. That Love came down to be with us, to be in us. The gift of Christmas.

Sunday grace.

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October ending 2018

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.

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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.

woof sweaterThe 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.”

He is good. He is strong. He is enough.

 

fall lane

 

 

 

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

We drove far, well over an hour to get there. It was a labor, and a drive, of love. But it was worth the effort.

My friend’s son was getting married, the friend who has been my prayer partner for 13 years. She and I didn’t know each other before that evening years ago at a Bible study when we were “randomly” paired. We were asked to call each other sometime during the week and share our prayer concerns.

God only knew what He was about to do with us, between us, how He would grow us in the area of prayer.  He would show Himself faithful again and again. He would teach us that He hears our prayers and He answers.

As I watched the young groom stand at the front of the church, I remembered the many times we had called his name in prayer. I recall how his senior high school picture was placed on my refrigerator along with the photos of my grandchildren. It reminded me to pray for him at a critical time in his life.

It was sweet victory to see him, watching intently as his bride walked the aisle with eyes for him only. I know my friend and I will continue to pray for this young couple who begin their lives as husband and wife.

At the reception, my friend introduced me to people whose names I knew well, having prayed for them over the  years. I saw their faces for the first time. It was a tender and beautiful occasion for remembering the goodness of God.

I remarked to someone that this ongoing prayer relationship is a God thing, because we, my friend and I, are not that good. We are the recipients of a grace given. We take no credit for it. The glory belongs to our Heavenly Father.

The trip home from the wedding festivities was arduous, rain pouring down on us, traffic slowing on the interstate because of visibility. I didn’t realize until I was almost home how tightly I had been gripping the stirring wheel.

It was a hard, long drive, miles there and back. But the reward was great. I’m so glad we made the effort. I saw God’s hand. He calls us to be part of what He is doing, inviting us to go with Him, to seek Him, to ask Him. And then we find Him and we see His glory.

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

June ending 2018

June is summer beginning, more hours of light that makes a day spread out like a road trip. Going to bed while the sun shines becomes normal. And waking before the birds is a challenge indeed.

June is:

  • Rising even earlier while it is still dark just to hear the first bird song.
  • The smell of fresh-cut grass, moist musky soil, and fragrance of flowers.
  • Birds in happy flight, finding nests in trees, seeing babies reaching scrawny necks for mamma’s offering.
  • Trying to keep my fingernails clean even though I wear my garden gloves.
  • Hot, humid afternoons when a cool house becomes a reason to give thanks during prayer time.
  • Rainy days that give me permission to stay indoors, the contentedness of being home.
  • Maisie panting on a short, slow-paced walk as the sun blazes, and me looking for the shade along the path.
  • Wild rabbits in the yard taunting her because they know she can’t get to them.
  • Brilliant day lilies in amazing colors and variety, remembrance of the friend who shared them with me.
  • Unexpected blossoms springing up where they want to.
  • Queen Anne’s lace in landscape because one man’s weed is this woman’s flower.
  • Mowing machines running almost daily here or there.
  • Children’s voices at play, motor bikes zooming on our lane, families sitting under trees and on porches.
  • Fireworks exploding late at night, even though it’s not July yet.
  • Baking sour dough bread and sharing it, because it’s what I can offer to those who are hurting, hoping it expresses my love.
  • Having a month of no piano lessons with relaxing evenings, but now beginning to anticipate my students’ return with plans for beautiful music.
  • Remembering my dad on Father’s day, and celebrating my daughter-in-love with a birthday box carried by postal service.
  • Forgetting to make plans for my own Sweet William and son on Father’s Day and them graciously forgiving me.
  • Watching fireflies twinkling in the night sky through the bedroom blinds when all is still.
  • Time slowing on these long, hot days of summer.

I’ve enjoyed library books and movies this month in the coolness of the house after hot work in the sun. Sweet William and I saw the movie, I Can Only Imagine, for the first time this week. It was a moving story. I also read the book by Bart Millard, by the same title, and of course, the details of his life are more fully disclosed in the written word. A movie can’t give the full, or even an accurate, picture. If you want to really know the miracle of Millard’s life and God’s redemption story, I encourage you to read the book.

Sweet William and I attended a class at our library and learned to make paracord bracelets. His is orange and mine is blue. We are now in the process of making more in a variety of colors. Learning new things is so good for our brains. Plus we can wear almost 10 feet of strong cord around our wrists just in case there’s an emergency, whatever that might be.

I’ve relaxed this month, sometimes even feeling lazy. That goes against my nature, but I’m learning it isn’t necessary for me to be ever-moving and always productive. Rest is good.

The highlight of every month is the time spent with people. I track it in my bullet journal because this is the true measure of our lives. We’ve sat for long hours in hospital rooms, waiting for words that would offer hope. We attended funeral homes where we wept with those weeping, shared their grief and hopefully helped shoulder their burdens.

The time we gathered at our kitchen table with our people, the times I met someone at Panera Bread or Starbucks and was a gentle listener, the time spent with friends and loved ones, no matter where it is, is the most precious time of all.

Because time is the gift we give. Listening and being present are how we love. Each month. Every month. Until our days on earth are no more.