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Monday grace

The peak autumn colors have come and gone. Our hummingbird feeder hangs vacant. The grey days preview a coming change as frost touches tender annuals and golden leaves swirl to the ground. I recognize the feeling that can accompany overcast skies, and I fight the gloomy inclination. Seasons come, and seasons go.

Determined to choose joy, I turn on lights to dispel potential dreariness, light fragrant candles to engage the senses, and begin my Christmas list for friends and family. I try to imagine how I can enjoy the holidays while making them simpler.

As I turn the calendar day each morning, the passing of time mystifies me. Where are the days of October going? I heard someone say the last quarter of each year is about food, glorious food. I baked a pecan pie for Sweet William’s birthday and the Thanksgiving menu is already a vision dancing in my head.

I cut and cooked a cushaw, purchased at the farmers’ market, scraping pulp for pies and saving the seeds for next year’s planting. I make plans for the vining of the melon and cucurbita families. The weekend’s frost took out the unknown melon vine I planted too late. The morning glories that were glorious this summer also succumbed, leaving seeds for me to gather.

Last winter I made a list of smaller, doable jobs in the yard, and it proved to be productive. Instead of fighting my age, I’m learning to accept limitations and do tasks differently. I managed to pare down the gardens last year, making the yard not just manageable but enjoyable.

We celebrated Sweet William’s birthday three consecutive days last week, enjoying time with family and friends who brightened his days and make him feel loved. I’m a couple of years older than my dear husband, a fact that kept us apart while he dated the younger girls. He eventually got up the nerve to approach me, the “older woman,” and the rest is fifty years of history. I advised him to enjoy the last year of his sixties, because as a friend told me, they are not like the seventies. True, very true.

With only two weeks until the Presidential election, we watch the latest news developments. We voted last week, in person, and were proud to be Americans, gladly wearing our “I Voted” stickers. What an amazing country this is where God indeed shed His abundant grace.

I refuse the threatening anxiety about our country’s future. Studying Daniel for the last two months, the message is loud and clear that God is in charge. He knows the future because He planned it according to His perfect will and for His divine purpose. Daniel 2:21 says, “He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding,” (CSB)

I want that kind of wisdom and knowledge, the ability to understand the words of this King of kings and Lord of lords. With determination, I rest in what He sustains, a firm foundation, proven again and again. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

His is the only direction and pathway. He is authentic reality. And He is the One and only who offers life everlasting, a gift through Jesus Christ.

I will take His way, believe His truth, and receive His life.

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

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.

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.

Tuesday thoughts

My head spins thinking about the coming weeks.

It’s the end of the month and we head into summer. Heat is calling for lighter clothing, swimming pools, and cold sweet tea.

Churches opened Sunday, but Sweet William and I watched from the kitchen table. Vulnerable health issues make me cautious. We Zoomed with our Sunday class in the evening. We all come as we are, comfy and at home. There’s not the same concern about carefully chosen outfits with matching jewelry. We are real and simply glad to see familiar faces.

I’m planning in-person piano lessons with my students after weeks of struggling with on-line instruction. After a day of internet lessons, I was worn out like I had plowed a field. Yet my students thrived, learning new songs in spite of the hardship. They are troopers, all of them, from my second grader to my high school seniors.

With resuming face-to-face interaction comes responsibility for our health and safety. Protocol is in place for handling doors and piano keys, for washing hands and keeping a safe distance. It will be different. It is the new normal, at least for this time in our history.

I’ve had three months to work in the gardens, and chunks of uninterrupted time is bringing it under control. I enjoy its beauty now compared to last year when the yard felt completely overwhelming, and I went inside to escape the work that required too much of me.

We’ve eaten strawberries and lettuce from our raised bed, and tomato plants are healthy and strong. The peonies bloomed despite the late frost I thought would kill the buds. I’ve planted flower seeds of all varieties and am excited at the sight of a sprout pushing through dirt.

We’ve had a few deck chats with friends willing to come, and while we longed to give parting hugs, we have refrained with the consolation that love knows nothing of safe distancing. It reaches across all barriers, to the heart of each of us.

Life feels like its making a corner turn, back to a world open for business. Suddenly, I’m busy making preparations for returning to a semblance of three months ago. And yet it is not the same. We will handled it individually, with our own sense of care and well being. We need to respect each other and the choices we make, being cognizant of each other’s concerns.

Now is an excellent time to consider the one another’s in the Bible.

Be at peace with each other.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Honor one another above yourselves.
Live in harmony with one another and stop passing judgment on one another.
Accept one another, just as Christ has accepted you.
Have equal concern for one another and serve one another with love.
Carry each other’s burdens.
Be patient, kind, and compassionate to one another.
Encourage each other, pray for each other, and love one another.

As hustle and bustle try to woo us into our previous frantic pace, I hope we’ve learned to slow down, value the ones closest to us, lend a helping hand, enjoy the simple things, take time to listen closely, share our resources, celebrate people in creative ways, connect indirectly, offer comfort when we can’t be there, be grateful for all the gifts from a loving Father, and worship wherever we find ourselves.

We may look back on our time of quarantine with a different eye, seeing purpose in it after all.

Growing fruit

Recently, I began thinking about  the Fruit of the Spirit, wondering what would happen if I focused on one of the nine components each day. I had to get creative to divide them into seven days a week. Here’s what I came up with.

Sunday – Faithfulness
Monday – Gentleness
Tuesday – Self-Control
Wednesday – Joy
Thursday – Peace
Friday – Patience
Saturday – Goodness and Kindness

And Love over all.

In the early morning quiet time, I look at my categories and write the word in my journal to help me focus on it during the day.

I understand that it is the Spirit in me working His beauty and grace causing His fruit to grow in me. I cannot conjure up these attributes myself, all by myself, in my own strength. I am aware that it is God working in me, giving me the desire as well as the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13).

I think of it like crocuses in my yard. They lie invisible and sleeping under ground all winter. Then the weather begins to warm and sunshine lasts a little longer each day. Suddenly the crocuses beside my front steps appear, surprising me every time. They are there under the ground, and so they grow.

There is a volunteer apple tree in the yard, noticed by my dad many years ago, marked and protected from the mower. It grew and eventually produced fruit. It’s an apple tree so it brings forth apples.

Perhaps the fruit God wants to produce is something like that, lying dormant in me but still pulsing with His life. As He works in me and I cooperate with Him, the fruit grows and I’m hardly aware of the process.

As I focus on the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit, I pray to be fertile soil, a willing vessel. I become more conscious of what the Lord is doing in me. The Spirit quickens my spirit to awaken me when I have wrong attitudes and sinful actions.

When I bear fruit, I resemble the One who created me, the One who gave His life for me. And I want to be like Jesus. Oh Lord help! I don’t always know how to do that, but I do know I need His help.

I trust that He is working in all things, tilling the ground, removing weeds, pruning and feeding, watering with the Word, encouraging new growth.  

He is God over the growing season of my days, determined to produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. On the day of Christ Jesus, I hope for a bountiful harvest knowing the apple does not fall far from the tree.

March ending 2019

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.

Prepare. Remember. Rejoice. Expect. Believe. It’s time.

I am a placemaker too

I became acquainted with Christie Purifoy when I read her first book, Roots and Sky. The story of her moving to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, with her husband, three children and one on the way, moved me, and I gave copies of the book to friends.

Anticipating Christie’s second book, I applied to be on the launch team for Placemaker, Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace. I am not disappointed.

Christie Purifoy’s flower garden

The writing is lyrical, sentences and paragraphs creating song and melody. As Christie describes the places she and her family lived, she tells a story of life and loss. And she talks about trees.

Chapter titles are named for them: Citrus Grove, Pine Tree, Saucer Magnolia, Honey Locust. Because making a place you call home is not just about the building where you live. It is about the city, the neighbors, the parks, the church family. It’s about settling in and calling this place home for however long you are there.

I’ve not lived in as many locations and states and Christie. My homes have been within less than a fifty-mile radius from birth to present day. Yet home, with all the meaning I can give it, is significant. Memories evoke the places where they occured. The yard where I celebrated a birthday with childhood friends. My teenage upstairs bedroom with white cape cod curtains. The carport with wood neatly stacked ready to be carried inside for the fireplace. The kitchen where my mother taught me to cook and the one where I orchestrated thousands of meals. The lane where I walked to visit a neighbor. The gardens where I planted herbs, vegetables, and flowers, bending low to pull weeds and cultivate something akin to beauty.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Placemaker:

“Making and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. It is a holy pursuit.”
“Every place made by God is loved by God, and that includes every place where His people dwell. If we are willing to look through the lens of His love, then we will see that every place has some particular magic.”
“The trees know what we struggle to accept: it is right and good to love my neighbor as myself. My fate, and my neighbor’s fate, are bound up together. No human and no tree are an island.”

Placemaking is making a place, whether that is creating a comfortable home for husband and children, making room for friends at the table, getting to know the neighbors and looking out for one another, or opening one’s heart to love and be loved.

We’ve all been given places to inhabit and to tend. Christie Purifoy tells us her story in her own beautiful way.

View from Maplehurst, Christie’s home in Pennsylvania

[God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:26b



August ending 2018

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.

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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.

See the source image

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.

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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.

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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.

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July 2018 ending

The garden explodes with color in mid summer, heat and rain creating bookends to an occasional temperature-perfect day. The flowers are the reward for my years of plantings. And they are coming up everywhere, even in the walkway.

Pink ladies (aka naked ladies) appear in unexpected places. The first blooms of morning glories signal late summer, their vines wrapping spindles on the deck. My few tomato plants tease me with their blooms and still-green fruit. Thankfully, I have discovered a local farmer’s market where I purchase tomatoes that taste the way a tomato is supposed  to taste.

The Canadian geese have returned to the lake across the road after being gone for months. Though they look like adult geese, I think they are the family of hatchlings seen in the spring. The younger ones are smaller and the largest goose is still very protective. They all fly now, coming and going at will, forming the signature V as if they practice for a long trip southward. It’s the beautiful cycle of nature, and I get to observe it from spring to fall.

The hummingbirds have been active at the feeder on the deck. They provide entertainment when it’s cool enough to sit on the glider. Maisie keeps trying to catch one. The female sits calmly and sips. The male flits around like he is on vigil and extremely alert. Kind of reminds me of a couple I know (here at the Wright House).

As in the cold of winter, we tell our Maisie that she is a lucky dog, living in controlled temperatures and feeding from our hands. Rescued from the streets of Mississippi, she has a happy home with us who dote over her.  In addition to loving to walk the lane and investigate every smell like a roving reporter, Maisie takes her place on the deck with her nose to the lattice watching for the neighbors’ dogs or the rabbits that drive her to whimpers of longing.

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Among the books read this month, one on CD that has been extremely long but interesting, is Dearie, the Remarkable Life of Julia Child. It reminded me of seeing her on TV many years ago. Her story is amazing considering she didn’t learn to cook until she was in her thirties. The book stirred my interest in all things Julia. I checked out Mastering the Art of French Cooking, perusing the detailed recipes, and I will revisit Julie and Julia on DVD from my library. I even purchased a used copy of The French Chef, which includes the recipes of her innovative cooking show first aired on educational television in the 1960s.

I’d really like to master a few of those recipes, especially the omelet and souffle. A copper bowl many be in my future, hopefully found at a thrift store.

Speaking of, my favorite thrift store is gone. Yes, gone, lock, stock, and barrel, and without my notice. I drove there with a friend this month, us excited at what we might discover, and the store was empty. I was devastated. Where am I going to find the things I need at the price I am willing to pay? I’ve gone there several times with a list in hand, and found exactly what I wanted, walking out feeling quite satisfied with my bargain purchases.

I had been looking for a gently used percolator there for several months. As a result of my store disappearing, I went to ebay, where I found a vintage Corning Ware percolator like Sweet William’s parents used when he was a teenager. I’m always experimenting to make that perfect cup of coffee. I’ve tweaked my methods to gain that rich coffee flavor I enjoy. I’m loving the somewhat old-fashioned way of preparing the pot and hearing the familiar perk. I think of my mother and dad, the many pots of coffee made at their home and how it is part of my heritage. Perhaps that is why I often approach a new friend with “Would you like meet for coffee?”

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This month I got creative for Independence Day. I made a door hanging of red and white ribbons and lace paired with denim and buttons in honor of the Flag of America. Long may she wave! I will gladly pledge allegiance to a country that has offered me so much freedom. Brave men and women have fought and died for my rights to make choices and live free. I will honor them and my county by standing and placing my hand over my heart as I sing the Star Spangled Banner.

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I celebrated my birthday and our son’s birthday this month. In his birthday box I included copies of old pictures, black and whites of his grandparents when they were in their twenties perhaps, him with his Granny and Gramps when he was young, one of him at about seven with his dad. They stirred memories in both of us.

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Sweet William and I have been on a learning curve with our very first smart phones. We have finally gotten the hang of Google Maps, which was the main reason for purchasing the phones. GPS is amazing!

We traveled from one appointment to another last week and were uncertain of our route, so we turned on The Voice of Google Maps (I’ve yet to give her our own personal name). She directed us easily and tried to route us to a simpler way, which we did not heed, not quite trusting her yet. Later we found out she was right and we should have listened. Now she is my hero.

Sweet William and I have decided we need to trust that voice in our phones though we cannot see her and don’t understand how she can tell us which way to turn. How does she know all that?

How much more should I trust a marvelous, huge God who designed me and the world I live in, who planned from the beginning to the end, and knows the way that I take? How can I put my confidence in a voice in a digital machine, and not trust the Sovereign Creator of the universe. It just doesn’t compute.

Sometime I’ve not heeded His voice because of my lack of faith in Him. Later I learned that I should have listened to Him. He is altogether trustworthy. When He speaks, I need to pay attention.

A favorite quote this month is:

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope and as old as your despair.”
— Douglas MacArthur

Having managed to live another year old this month, staying young as long as I can is a theme. Faith, confident trust in my God, and hope seem to be key.

  • Let me live as young as my hope.