It is a new year with all the looking backward and looking forward. We evaluate, resolve, set goals, plan projects. What worked? What didn’t? What needs to change? How can I improve? The fact that it’s a new decade means the pressure is on.
I’ve heard enough in the few days of 2020, how to make the best of the next 12 months, and I’m already tired.
There’s no judgment, because I am a planner and a goal setter with the best of them. I’m just trying to look toward this year differently.
Having lived seven decades, I know myself better than twenty years before. I acknowledge my strengths. I grimace at my weaknesses. I want to be the best me possible with the time remaining. I want to be authentic and genuine. I want to be the person God made me to be.
I’m a work in progress, an ongoing transition of being transformed. I am becoming.
Time looks different to me now, limited in a way I had no concept of when I turned eighteen. Sweet William and I attended too many funerals last year, reaffirming the truth that life on this earth, in this form, is not permanent.
How can I make the most of what is left of this one beautiful life I’ve been given? This I ponder. I want to say ‘yes’ to what I’m called to do. I need to say ‘no’ to what I’m not. My candle burns short. I want the flame to burn bright.
I fear sleepwalking through the rest of my life, barely aware of the path I’m on, moving in autopilot, doing what I’ve always done.
I hear the call to live life fully, no matter the circumstances. I ache to do something significant, though it be small.
Challenges await me. Hills and valleys will be part and parcel of my journey. There will be sunshine, and there will be rain. I will experience great joy, and I will cry.
The God I serve has a plan I cannot comprehend. He knows the way, charts the path. He orders my steps, and sometimes makes me stop in my tracks.
As I contemplate Jesus’ life, His three years of ministry, I marvel at His focus to stay the course despite opposition, in spite of friends and enemies who wanted Him to dance to another tune. He would not. He marched to the beat of a heavenly drum. He knew His mission. He listened for His Father’s voice. He followed the plan calculated before earth had a foundation.
Sometimes we make it too complicated with our rules and regulations, our action plans and resolutions. Jesus made it simple. Love God. Love others. Do the right thing. Hold to the truth.
The prophet Amos spoke words to the people centuries before me. They seem profound and yet simple. They seem appropriate.
This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live . . . “
Perhaps this is the map I’ve been looking for. This is the way to life.
April is perhaps my favorite month of the year. It offers a beauty not easily compared. Shades of green, abundance of color, redbud trees, Bradford pear and azaleas glowing at the front of the house. Rabbits hop and birds sing and build nests. New life flourishes, and it is my time of year.
There was heartache this month. Friends suffer, and we hurt too, not in the same way, not to the depth of their grief, but we feel a measure of pain.
Prayers Sweet William and I prayed were answered, but not how we wanted. I struggle to understand and find myself saying, “I don’t understand Your ways,” to the God who’s providence is certain, who’s sovereignty is sure.
At those times, once again, I make a choice to believe that He is good, that He is strong, and that He is kind. I choose to trust through tears, bending my knee in surrender, letting go of my desire to make sense of how life happens to us all.
I read Scripture and know there is truth in the ancient words. They point me in the right direction, even when I cannot see the end of the journey or fathom what God is about.
Obviously it is the month of yard work. The hum of lawn mowers pairs with the smell of newly sheared grass. After days of kneeling then struggling to get up, pulling weeds, and generally hard work, the front yard is presentable, almost charming. Let’s don’t even talk about the back yard. It waits for another day.
A friend and I went to the movies to see Unplanned. I thought it was well done and presented a side of the abortion industry we don’t see on nightly news. Let me brag a little by saying our son worked on Unplanned, and I’m a proud momma. Seeing his name on the credits at the end is thrilling. Just sayin’.
It’s been so Springy around here. Along with flower kaleidoscopes and the greening of the little woods, bird nests abounded. A dove built in the clematis outside the bedroom window, and I spied a robin’s young in a metal structure in the front garden. On walks I watched geese sit through rain, heat and cold, and a neighbor said a wood duck nest was hidden in his wood pile.
This month I saw the baby goslings hatch, from a distance of course. Of all the years of geese at the lake across the road, this was the first time I witnessed new babies bob and sway, learning to stand for the first time. I called for my little neighbor, four-years old, to come see, because this needed to be experienced with a child.
The same day we saw the mother wood duck hurry across the field toward the little woods with seven or eight little ones following behind. Springtide was delightful.
I read two books written by people whose lifestyles are very different than mine. I wanted to understand. Too many times, I’ve made judgments based on what I think I know instead of learning about the experiences of others.
As I study the life of Jesus, I see how He loved people right where they were, knowing all of the paths that brought them to that place. His compassion reached out with an understanding heart, a crystal-clear awareness of their hurts and how He could offer healing. He tenderly offered a better way.
I want to love like that.
I enjoyed time with my people, both young and older. I spent a day each week with women in Bible study who challenged me. We bonded afresh. They probably don’t know how much joy they bring to my heart.
I fixed quiche for a young woman my granddaughter’s age and heard her perspective on growing into adulthood. I was refreshed by another who is young enough to be my daughter. Among the things we share are music, teaching, quilting, and theology. Over brunch and coffee, we didn’t lack for conversation and laughter. We occupied the table until the lunch crowd began to gather.
I am a rich woman and Queen of Quite-a-Lot as a result of these extravagant relationships.
Sweet William and I are coming upon our one-year anniversary of having smart phones. I hesitated getting one because I didn’t want it to become an appendage, a thing I have constantly at my fingertips.
That has been challenging, and I’ve caught myself texting while trying to listen to Sweet William at the same time. My focus is divided sometimes. I’ve made good use of GPS and enjoy the convenience of apps, yet I still must guard against letting this piece of digital material direct my moments, let alone my life. Sometimes it feels like a noose around my neck with it’s nagging insistence to pay attention to it instead of people in front of me.
A favorite quote this month by Manisha Thakor: “The internet is both a lifeline and a plastic bag over my head.” Yes, that is it. The internet is convenient, gives me access to the world’s information, answers my questions, shows me the way to my destination, makes shopping simple, lets me communicate quickly, and in many ways makes my life easier.
But, it can become suffocating trying to keep up with all that it offers. I’m not on Twitter or Linkdin, and I’ve decided I can’t do Instagram. I thought I could add it to my online stash, but I found myself thinking how I needed to take a picture of the baby goslings wandering my yard and post an appropriate saying for the world to see instead of simply enjoying their cuteness.
I don’t judge the way others use the internet, social media and the world wide web for jobs and communication, to connect and post beautiful photos. I enjoy looking at other people’s pictures. I keep up with my family through Facebook. I use the web to interact, send messages, and post this blog, hoping someone out there is reading it.
As I read and learn, work and play, I want to live an authentic life, my own and not someone else’s. Every person has gifts, strengths, talents. Sometimes I’ve tried to be like someone else, and it has proven false and unfulfilling. I recognize my skills and aptitudes and where I am most fruitful. I also know my weaknesses, areas where I am less than.
It’s an ongoing quest to live the life I’m called to live. It has taken me years to discover this truth, and I continue to learn.
At the end of March, I said April was the new January. It has been that for me. Stretching and growing, working and loving, resting and refreshing, and choosing to be happy. This is my one wonderful life.
I heard someone say joy and sorrow run together like train tracks. We experience both at the same time. And so it has been this beautiful month of April. The glory of new life bursting forth, the celebration of Resurrection and Christ’s victory over the cross have been reasons to rejoice.
At the same time we have wept with those who weep, grappling with death and what it leaves in its wake. Sadly the grave is still part of this life. Because this is not the end of it all. Heaven is real and one day we will greet those we struggled to let go before we were ready to say good-bye.
We made our decision; the destination is determined. We begin here and are determined to go there.
The plan is the plan. We made it and begin the process of working it. However, it isn’t always that easy.
My limited understanding doesn’t allow for sideroads, construction zones, and detours. I get confused and assume the worse when things aren’t turning out the way I planed.
When the road is longer than expected and more confusing than anticipated, I begin to wonder where I erred.
When we longingly look for the light at the end of the tunnel or we can’t find room in the inn, I wonder where we took a wrong turn.
When the miles add up to more than the map showed, I begin to question the journey.
But when we finally arrive at our destination, all seems right and according to the plan. In my prayers I hear Him whisper, “I am here.”
Because it’s not about my plan. It’s about His plan.
And He who created a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
He knows where I am; He knows the way that I take. He has already gone before me. If I get sidetracked, He patiently redirects my steps until I am back on the path. No matter how many times it happens, He pulls me back to the road again.
It was the prayer of my Savior. It was the prayer of Paul the apostle. As my years increase, it has become my prayer more often.
“The will of the Lord be done.”
Hadn’t I read it many times? Andrew Murray told me years ago that God’s will is my dwelling place. A place of peace and assurance, a place to settle and be content, no matter what comes, where God’s abiding and strengthening presence is with me.
The verses of Scripture clipped to my memory board, I keep repeating them to myself :
Rejoice always,pray continually,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.Do not treat prophecies with contemptbut test them all; hold on to what is good,reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 24
And so I will be like the birds and sing in the rain and in the sunshine. I will be joyful and give thanks and dwell in the will of the Lord. I will surrender to the process of sanctification, spirit, soul, and body. And when I find I am unable to do it in my own power, I will trust the One who is all-powerful and completely able to do more than I can ask or imagine.
The One who calls me is faithful, and He will do it.
A young friend is dealing with harsh realities and the changing of her normal. She is learning stillness in this trial. Her email revealed her pain but it could not hide her faith.
As I consider her place, my thoughts go back to the year 1982, the Thanksgiving when my mother’s cancer diagnosis took over our lives. She sat at the table that year barely eating anything because she had trouble breathing, but she didn’t want us to know it. She didn’t want to spoil our holiday. That was my mother.
Before the weekend was over, she was in the hospital having fluid drained from her lungs, the first of several times during the coming holidays. It was the beginning of the end of her earthly life. And it was the beginning of the changing of my normal. The changing of my world.
I could not imagine my life without my mother. I was 32, and he was still my best friend.
That Thanksgiving ushered in a change in me, and it sent me on a search. I had to face all the things I thought I knew about prayer and faith and believing. My mother was dying, and I could not change that no matter how hard I tried.
Some may disagree, that instead we should utter commanding prayers and believe to receive what we want. I think the pathway to stillness is trusting a mighty God who can do the impossible and who will do what is best for me, for Sweet William, for my Tulsa family too-far-away, and for other family and friends.
I still get specific when I pray. More often these days, I finish with “Your will be done in all of it.” In my feeble way of expressing myself, God sees the deeper needs and knows how to accomplish His purpose in it all.
I’m a wanna-be-gardener. I just play at it, but I have fun doing it.
I don’t prepare my soil well enough, adding compost or checking for proper alkalinity or acidity. I’ve planted things in the wrong location for it to flourish. I’ve let some plants stay out all winter which has sapped them of strength and beauty. Miraculously, some have survived. And I am amazed.
Sill, I’ve had some success with my accidental way of putting things into the ground.
I have a few early bulbs that surprise me through a late season snowfall. In spring my yard glows with all shades of pink, red, and purple while the azaleas are in bloom. All summer and fall I enjoy how the colors change from season to season. It’s God’s lavish way of producing fruit from my shabby labor.
I’ve got plenty of garden books and read them randomly when I need information. When I follow the directions, it seems to help. Go figure.
So I had these two blank canvases on either side of our garage door, all white and asking for something colorful there. I tried placing large clay pots in the area one year, filling them with annuals that bloomed and looked pretty for a season. But then I moved the pots somewhere else.
Later I envisioned small topiary trees growing all perfectly round and proportional, looking artistic and lovely. Ah, but what I wanted would cost more than I wanted to spend. I needed another idea.
On the back side of our house grows a very large Rose of Sharon bush. It has a purple double bloom in late summer that is gorgeous.
It has dropped seed over the years and stray bushes have grown up. Two particular small ones were growing right next to the house along the foundation. They needed to be removed, and frugal one that I am, I figured these two little saplings would be perfect for my project.
Just the right size to start my own topiaries, I set about to remove their roots from the soil where they were firmly attached. It was no easy task. I dug, pulled, dug some more, and pulled some more until they loosened their grip and let go.
I planted the little trees on either side of the garage door and commenced the pruning process to help them take the shape I envisioned. It was snipping here and there, cutting back hard in places, positioning a stake and tying them off so they would stand tall and straight. Somehow they survived the first season.
It’s been several years since that planting. There have been many clipping of branches, shaping these small trees into slender trunks with nice roundness to their leaves and flowers. They are beginning to take shape. The one on the right side really looked pretty last summer when it bloomed.
They other one, however, wants to take its own shape. It seems a little rebellious. I let it grow as it would through summer, allowing the flowers to flourish. But I had my eye on it, knowing when blooming season was over, I would be grabbing my pruning shears.
And that’s just what I did. When the flowers had faded and were hanging dead and brown, I began to clip away. I staked it again and pulled it into a more upright position. That little tree was pruned hard by my own hand, but by the time I was finished, it was more rounded like its sister tree a few yards away.
I think I am that little rebellious tree, pulled up from a comfortable place where I was content to grow, my roots dug in tight. I want my own way, my routine, and my plan. I like it when other people cooperate with my ideas. (anybody else?)
The Lord takes us as we are but does not intend to let us stay that way.
There is a pruning process going on in me. It is painful. I’m trying to be submissive. My “will” wants to; my “flesh” struggles.
My Father knows best and does what He does for my good and to fulfill His greater purpose. He has a vision of what He wants me to become. I know that with all my heart, even when it does not feel good at all and I cannot understand the purpose for the pain.
I have to remind myself (often!) that it’s not all about me even though sometimes I just want it to be.
I am trusting that the pruning will produce the beauty He desires, that one day He will look at me and be able to say, “Now she is growing nicely, just the way I planned.”
My little rebellious tree bears the mark of the cuts, the wounds. But spring is coming, the hope of life renewed. Spring is coming for me, too.
It is the last day of the year, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see 2011 go. It has had its rough and rugged moments for sure.
For me, the week before New Year’s Day is usually spent in a flurry of activity. I immediately begin taking down and putting away all the Christmas decorations. Since we only had a tree this year, that didn’t take much time.
So I begin to go through drawers and closets with a vengeance. I toss a lot of stuff wondering why in the world I’ve kept it so long. I rearrange the stuff I want to keep. Sometimes I have an epiphany as I find something I’ve wondered about for a year.
At year’s end I also evaluate the last twelve months to see what’s been accomplished. And I begin to think of the goals for the new year and how I want to spend the next 365 days.
But this New Year’s Eve, I don’t have the same urgency to make a list of things I want to get done in the house and the garden, the items I need to purchase, the exercise program I hope becomes a habit, the books I want to read, or the places I would love to go. Because of 2011, I’m not so sure about my goals for 2012.
I’m sure at some point I will again make my lists. I am a list person. What can I say.
But as midnight of December 31, 2011 approaches, I want to be in a position of humility, on my knees with my face to the floor in total submission to the Sovereign God who controls my life and all that occurs in it.
I am not my own, after all. I was purchased at a very high and precious price. God has the right to do whatever He pleases with me. Year 2012 will be guided by His hand, and His purpose will prevail.
I pray the prayer that never fails: His will be done. I am simply the instrument in His hand to accomplish His goals.
Happy New Year, my friends. Thanks for taking this 2011 journey with me.
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