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Monday grace

I remember being a fearful child.

Afraid to sleep by myself. Afraid for my mother to be out of my sight. Afraid to be left alone. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of strangers. Afraid of failure. Afraid of what others thought of me.

Life experiences force us to face some of our fears.

I cried on the first day of school, unable to comprehend being away from my mother all day. But I overcame, finished the day, finished first grade and the next eleven years to graduation without my mother holding my hand.

When I was old enough to stay at home by myself, I kept my bouffant hair dryer turned on, it covering the mass of pink curlers like a balloon. The noise of the dryer kept me from hearing any unusual sounds in the house while there all alone. I learned it was OK to be by myself.

When mother sent me next door to the neighbors’ house in the dark, I quoted Bible verses memorized in children’s church all the way there and back to keep the demons away. I learned to enjoy the night seasons.

Somehow I managed to stand and giver a report in school, though my stomach ached with anxiety while I waited my turn. I’m still learning I can “do it afraid” when I speak to a crowd.

Life made me face some of my fears and overcome them.

Still, fear hunts me down, hides in unexpected places, rises up without warning, and screams unspeakable things. Other times, fear comes like a whisper, planting doubt and uncertainty in my unsuspecting mind. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

And I hear a question proposed to me, like it was proposed to twelve men two thousand years ago, a voice familiar and beloved:

“Why are you so afraid?”

If I try to formulate a reason, the words flounder and fail in the explaining. I must be in a similar fearful company since Holy God pronounced so many “fear nots” throughout Scripture, enough for every day in the year.

I ask myself, why are you so afraid? What is there to be afraid of? Is not He who holds all creation holding me?

Fear not because God is with me.

Fear not because He will never leave me.

Fear not because my times are in His hands.

Fear not because He hears my prayers.

Fear not because He is working all things for my good and His glory.

Fear not because darkness is as light to Him.

Fear not because He will give me strength for the task.

Fear not because He will help me.

Fear not because He takes away my shame, disgrace, and humiliation.

Fear not because He is God and there is none like Him.

Fear not because no one can snatch me out of His hand.

Fear not because He has a hope and a future for me.

Fear not because He loves me with an everlasting love.

I hear the power of His voice, His commanding strength, His gentle entreaty, “Why are you so afraid, my dear one?”

I respond in faith, humbly bowing, “Lord, with You there is nothing to fear.”

Monday grace.

Monday grace

When the temperatures rise higher, making everything harder, and the pavement is hot on Maisie’s paws and the grass crunches under my feet from lack of rain;

When I go to bed with prayer concerns on my heart and wake to them the next morning;

When family and friends suffer and I can’t be there to do anything;

When life just feels grueling and impossible to figure out;

When trouble knocks on my own door and intrudes without a welcome;

When my questions mount up quicker than my answers;

Then I press in to look for simple graces.

Like a pink balloon on the neighbor’s mailbox announcing the birth of their baby girl.

Like the small wren with the big voice greeting me each morning on the deck.

Like fans blowing air across the bed at night.

Like the cooling shade offered by trees growing strong and full in the yard.

Like the evening shadows playing against furniture;

Like the aroma of a newly opened bag of coffee beans, a promise for the morning.

Like zinnias blooming by the walkway and a sudden appearance of pink ladies.

Like an hour spent with a friend in honest conversation.

Like brown-eyed susans and peppermint in a vintage canning jar.

Like the comfort of Scripture and the relief of laying my burdens on Jesus.

Life can be hard. But I know God has not forgotten us. He has His reasons. His throne room is filled with mercy and grace for times like these. He bids me come.

Tears run down my face and I run to Him.

Monday grace.

Monday grace

Maisie and I walk a half lap of the lane. The temperature is cool, the sky overcast.

The make-shift wooden bench, salvaged from the neighbor’s garbage last year, sits at the edge of the yard. Maisie wants to wander still, but I stop, not needing to rest, but needing to be still.

I gaze at the lake across the road, the geese as they swim and waddle ashore. The gander follows her goose as he leads her to the nibbles in the grass.

I begin to breathe deeper, something I don’t do enough. More often my breaths come in quick succession, enough to keep oxygen flowing through lungs and heart, blood carrying it where it is needed.

The deep breaths are cleansing and I feel myself relax in the quiet. Birds sing their evening song, a last hallelujah for this day, to the Creator who has provided for their needs.

As I turn loose of responsibilities and things on my list for tomorrow, my head clears and I listen for the voice of God. He speaks in the still, smallness of my awakened sense to Him.

He plants a question, His way of turning my awareness to my heart, to search out the deep recesses of my soul, to open doors that I often close and latch from the seeing world.

As I rise from my bench, Maisie restless to move on, the question lingers. I will ponder it in days ahead. I will come again to this place and sit to rest from my weariness, to hear and discern the voice of God, to gain understanding and insight.

For this is my Father’s desire: to draw me away from bustling to the place of quiet rest; to speak tender words of love to the tenderest parts of me; to reveal Himself once more so I can know Him even more.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

As the fog clears from my brain early this morning, I remember her. It’s her birthday.

I plug in the coffee pot and turn the numbers on my perpetual calendar to November 4. And I think of that day 18 years ago when she entered this world.

I missed being at the hospital, thinking we had plenty of time to get there. Her three-and-a-half-year old sister was brought to us in the night while mommy, daddy, and the second set of grandparents hurried to labor and delivery.

I carried a pager in those days, and that was the thing that alerted me to the news. I listened to the message of “we have a baby girl,” with a mixture of joy at her arrival and disappointment at missing this important moment.

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I suppose I made up for that one time not being there by being here in the house next door to hers. For ten years she lived close enough for me to hear her playing in their yard, to see her wave and shout, “Hi Grammy.”

I found two pictures recently of the lane in front of our house, and I wondered why I had taken them with no apparent reason. Then I spied three tiny figures walking toward our house. With a magnifying glass I could see them, my three grandchildren, ages three, four and seven on their way to Grammy and Papaw’s for who knows what kind of adventures. Hot cocoa, dress up, games, books – these were possibilities. She was the one out front, skipping along while her older sister held the youngest by the hand. Sweet remembrance.

They always brought the sunshine when the door opened to them, whether they came by one or by three.

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We two are miles apart now. I miss getting to celebrate with this special young woman today. Our connection is the Birthday Box I priority mailed to arrive in time. It contains items I hope will please her, and a sealed zip bag of my special hot cocoa mix, because that is a memory we hold and my Happy Birthday wish across the miles.

She’s a busy girl now, with school, choir, friends and family activities.  She’s beautiful and graceful, funny and creative, loving and her own unique self. I’m happy that she is happy, flourishing, and becoming.

But I miss her. Especially today. On her birthday.

So I pray a blessing to the Father who knows no distance. Whose hand reaches mine and touches hers. The One who holds her life in His strong hand and knows the way He plans for her to go.

I trust and believe that He hears my prayers for her. His heart is tender towards mine and the longing I feel. He sees the tears that gather in my eyes even as I write.

My Father’s heart is tender towards her too, His love far greater than mine can ever be. He has a future for her, and He will guide her to it.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. 
Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have Breath.”
Psalm 116:1-2, NLT

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The trees in the little woods are greening and absorbing spaces. It’s becoming harder to see through the spiky saplings as I scan the depth for a deer sighting.

The small tree attached at its root to the larger Ash is blooming full and brightens my view out the kitchen window.

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The weather warmed and dried out enough that I donned my garden clothes and bush hat to start a little clean up in Maisie’s fence and around the side of the house.  Sweet William helped me sharpen my tools, making my work easier by far.

The bushy hedge behind the house and along the sidewalk to the outbuilding always gets a shave and haircut each spring. Between raindrops, I went at it until I discovered nests tucked into branches on either end. Blue eggs belong to a robin, and she flew out and fussed at me each time I came near. A mourning dove nested on the white eggs on the other end, her calm sitting undisturbed by my pruning.

My cutting stopped short to leave concealing  foliage for each of the tender mothers who are protecting their precious progeny.

On a walk-about at the lake, Maisie and I were nearly attacked by a male goose this week, him rising up in the air waving feathers and clawed feet in our direction. Apparently we were getting too close to his gander who sat faithfully on her nest of eggs at the water’s edge.

The few days of warmth and sunshine this week were encouraging and enticed me outdoors. It is spring, even when grey days appear again and I concern myself for apple tree blossoms with forecasts predicting freezing temperatures once more. Yet I will not lose hope.

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God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

Not that the world is all right. It certainly is not. Nightly news would fill me with dread. But my hope is not in this world and its treasures or its future. My hope is in God alone who is sovereign ruler over all.

And He is my Father. He loves me and has His eye on me. He watches my every breath and has planned for my future.

While I wait for spring to fully flourish, I know what to expect. The fullness of its beauty lies ahead.

The beauty and glory of God’s completed plan draws ever nearer for me. He designed and arranged it, and His intention is to redeem. Until that day comes, I will wait for Him.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The rain falling outside does not offer comfort to me this time. The sound of the sump pump running under the house does.

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The Salt River rises and I can see it from my front window. Maisie and I walk our quiet lane and there is water, so much water. It is ominous, it is powerful, and we are helplessness to stop its ascent.

The geese and one pair of Mallards swim happily in the lake across the road, unconcerned of pending danger, as if their Heavenly Father takes care of them.

Sweet William and I went to the store to stock up, wondering if shelves would be vacant as fear mongers whisper in our ears. Our angst is palpable.

We’ve watched the river grow deep and wide before, it threatening to steal, kill and destroy. We have neighbors and friends who are already being affected, moving animals to higher ground, wondering when it will be the family who needs to find shelter.

We offer beds. We will share what we have until the threat comes to our own door.

After watching the morning news of reported flooding and more to come, I turn off the TV. I won’t live with the fear of it all day. Instead I put on music.

I’ve saved old cassette tapes in boxes that haven’t seen the light of day for years. In my effort to simplify and pare down, just this week I began going through five boxes of them. Discard seemed the reasonable option. Who listens to cassettes anymore?

But then I decided to put a couple of them in our radio/CD/cassette player before I disposed of them. I expected they would be scratchy and sounding old. Instead what came from the speakers were beauty and memories of days when this music was current and “hip.” I remember when our son was a teenager drummer who played his kit in his bedroom with headphones, beating out the rhythm to upbeat Christian music that was cutting edge then.

As Sweet William and I listened to those old cassettes, familiar songs lifted my spirit. I hummed along as I fixed lunch. My heart turned from the anxiety of rising rivers to a Savior who rises to save. He is the mighty One who calms storms and calms my heart. He parted waters with His breath and brought water from the rock for the thirsty.

He is not surprised by our crises. His eyes see His children and makes a way in the wilderness, whether it be soaked with rain or parched by the blazing heat.

He is with us when the sun shines and the rain falls. He walks with us in the light or in the dark. He knows what we have need of before we ask. He does not leave us when trouble threatens. He is near, always near.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Him. And so we will sing His praises, trust His promises and look for the rainbow.

Sunday grace.

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On being content

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Christmas is not usually a season of practicing contentment. Advertisers do their job well in making their wares look enticing, like I just can’t live without it.

It’s very likely children and adults are making lists and checking them twice to make sure everything is there. We will leave the list in an obvious place so the powers that be will find it.

When our son was young, we had the Sears Roebuck Christmas Catalog. It was a special day when it arrived in the mail. He would sit and look through the colorful pages for hours it seemed. I later found page corners turned down and big bold circles drawn around the item he wanted on each dog-eared page.

We didn’t get everything he requested, but we tried to quench his hungry, child heart with what we hoped would make him happy.

The thing is, it’s not the stuff that makes us happy.

At Christmas I find it challenging to think of gifts for friends my age. We have lived years gathering, and our homes are full, running over even. In a day when off-site storage units are popular, obviously, in our United States, we are a people who have much and want more.

The young people I know are much the same, well-dressed with lots of tech gadgets and plenty to occupy them in the way of books and games. One mom confided that toys scattered on the floor of their modest home for their only child can be overwhelming.

We live in a land of plenty. Why aren’t we content?

Thus, The Marvelous Mud House was a book I wanted to read.   Image result for images the marvelous mud house

Written in a child’s format by April Graney, the book is beautifully illustrated in bright colors by Alida Massari.  The author tells how the story came to be here.

The Marvelous Mud House first takes us to Kenya where we meet George and his mother. They live in a mud house and work daily for their sustenance. Mama George sings a song of thanksgiving during their daily trek up and down the mountain to sell corn and mangos at the market.

On the other side of the world lives an affluent American family who have a home for all seven of them, a big car, lots of toys and a dog. Yet the children bicker and whine, despite the plenty in which they live.

All George wants is to be able to go to school. But his mother doesn’t have the necessary fees. She tells him with profound faith, “Let’s keep working, George. God will provide.”

The Smith family in America decides to travel to Kenya where they meet George and his mother. They are affected by the simple lifestyle and the joy within the hearts of two who have so little in comparison to the Smiths.

When the Smith family return to America, they are changed for the better. The rest of the book tells how their heart change is put into action.

Toward the back of the book is a Parent Connection page with Scriptures to read and questions to encourage conversation between parent and child.

We may need to consider our true riches in Christ and to be joyful for what we have.

Contentment is something we can learn. We begin to acquire it when, in our bounty and in our scarcity, we realize we hunger for what truly satisfies. We discover we can trust the Provider who gives exactly what we need.

I want to pursue contentment in my present circumstances, and like Mama George, to say with a profound faith, “Let’s keep working. God will provide.”

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NOTE:   I received a copy of The Marvelous Mud House provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own.