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As October ends

Each ending is a new beginning. I’m learning it evermore.

October felt strained, and I’ve been occupied, mind and body, with a flurry of matters. Reviewing my calendar page, I reflect as I examine it.

Journal pages record the stress of an expensive house project, days that were rushed as I went where I was needed and called, and our family’s effort at learning a new normal after death dealt a hard blow. It’s been emotional and turbulent, a difficult month.

While temperatures turned toward a fall climate, I made some small progress in the gardens that were neglected most of the summer. The tasks overwhelm. My body ached after a few hours, and I paid for it with restless nights.

I needed margin, and margins were thin. I felt the old tension of overcommitment, me running at a rabbit’s run. These days I prefer a slower tempo. An overly-full schedule does not equal the abundant life Jesus offered.

In spite of this, I was more diligent to write in my gratitude journal. Perhaps it is loss that makes us thankful for grace. I found myself looking for beauty in the midst of busy. I focused on the gift of relationships. I basked in the Presence of Jesus at a pause in my day.

As October ends with cold rain and winds that whisper winter’s chill, I am purposely evaluating my November. Each month gives me a chance to start fresh.

We enter the holiday rush, the press of activities, the pull to fill calendars to overflowing. Holy days meant for giving thanks for harvest and rejoicing over the long-expected Messiah have turned us toward excess, stress, and burdened hearts.

I want something different for the last of 2019.

Psalm 90:12 in essence offers a prayer: Teach us to reflect on the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.

Brevity of life I know about. Growing in wisdom is what I long for.

As the day dawns tomorrow, I will begin it with the Lord’s promise, a whispered petition, and a meditation for my heart.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.

— Psalm 32:8 NLT

Permission to rest

Rest has not always been on my list of things to do. More likely in years past, I tried to see how little of it I needed. But no longer. I have wised up. I value a good night’s sleep. I enjoy sitting with afternoon coffee. I relish time at the table with friends and loved ones.

In our face-paced living, perhaps we need to rethink rest and give ourselves permission to do it more often. We might live longer; we might be happier; it might improve our relationships; and just possibility, we could experience a whole different kind of Christmas.

I enjoy Holley Gerth’s writings, and today she speaks to my heart. I hope you will read her wise words, posted here, and allow yourself and those around you to have a restful holiday season.

HOLLEY GERTH: What Can You Give Yourself this Christmas?

Rest can be an act of worship.

Changing of the holidays

On the last day of November, a Christmas Pentatonix CD  played as I move to their rhythmic a cappellas. I am a closet dancer in the safety of the home. I don’t know any real moves. I just make them us as I go along, feeling the freedom to do what I always wanted to do – dance!

Thanksgiving with all the trimmings is a sweet memory for me. I love being with my extended family. I’m not sure anyone does food like we do.

My body has finally begun to adjust to the time change. That first week of Daylight Savings Time “fall forward” had me in bed yawning at 8 pm and up at 5 am, wide-eyed and ready for coffee. The early mornings offer me the window view of beautiful sunrises as I sit in the rocker by the fireplace and sip the second cup from my “Baby it’s Cold Outside” mug.

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Believe it or not, I planted four perennials in November, the ones left in pots that I put off over and over. A warm sunny day had me digging in the dirt yet once more. And now, really, I’m done with gardening for 2017.

And so it is December, the Holiday Express Train already loaded and moving fast. As it picks up speed, we either get on board or get run over. The enticement is to rush through the next month, loading it with a plethora of activities. You and I are the only ones who can set limits and control how we will spend the days of December. We can decide to enjoy the ride or even take the next stop and get off, lest we speed through it and not remember how we got to January.

What if we stood on the side and watched that train leave without us? Could we really do that without the guilt of not doing everything just like we’ve done it for years and years?

Let’s be honest, some of the traditions we continue to do are just not fun any more and no one would notice if it fell off the list this year. In fact, those we love most might be happy to spend more quality time with us rather than see us rattled and ruffled with too much to do. We could actually use our energy on the important rather than the less-than.

I down-sized my decorating this year and finished on the first day of December. Unheard of for me. I just decided enough is enough. When people come to our home, they aren’t looking for a supurbly designed Christmas theme, they are wanting a welcoming heart and a listening ear.

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I have avoided Pinterest, though full of great ideas. I’ve not looked at any December magazines yet with the trendiest decorating ideas, easy cookie recipes, and the how-tos of a memoriable holiday gathering. I’m also not watching commercials with their enticing perfection. We do know that scenes are staged in magazines and on TV, and that it isn’t real, don’t we? It’s not real, people!

So here we are in the last month of the year, the one that will be the busiest and most stressful because of expectations that it will be picture perfect, that everyone will be  jolly and nice, and that all of our strained, uncomfortable relationships will suddenly evaporate into congenial, happy family gatherings.

Perhaps we’ve made Christmas into something it isn’t, something in our own image.

As Advent begins, the season of preparing for Jesus, we could be looking for the Savior’s activity in the world. We could pray for ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that will understand.

I long for the glory, the glory that is Christmas.

Greg Gilbert, in his small book called Who is Jesus?, says this:

“. . . for all that, you still had to stop and pay attention to see just how beautiful it really was. 
So much of life is like that, isn’t it? In all the hustle and bustle of work, family, friends, bills, and fun, things like beauty and grandeur sometimes get squeezed out of our minds. We don’t have time to appreciate them, because doing so would require us to stop and pay attention to something besides The Urgent.”

Christmas is beauty and grandeur, blessing and grace, the greatest love come down to us in an astounding way and in the finest of details. All of it was to show us who God is and how much He wants us to know Him, to love Him, to have a relationship with Him.

Don’t miss it this year. Look for the glory of Christmas. It’s everywhere if we will just take time to notice.

Love came down

 

Say good-bye to Thanksgiving and hello to Christmas

Let the Christmas music begin! Sounds of carols on the radio echo through the rooms this morning. I pulled no less than three dozen Christmas CDs and cassettes (remember cassettes in their chunky little plastic boxes?) from their hiding place deep in the large old radio cabinet turned music center, and I’m ready for the next season to begin. Music is prime at the Wright House.

Thanksgiving is complete, a two-day event for me and mine. Having extended family with which to gather makes Thanksgiving my all-time favorite holiday event. When you are an only child and neither parent is alive, there is a feeling of being an orphan that only another only child could understand. Surrounded by my cousins and their young comforts me. So I do not rush the season of Thanks in all its togetherness and food, glorious food.

Perhaps you are among those who want the house fully decorated in red and green with trees blinking twinkle lights before the guests arrive for turkey and dressing. Go for it. We can still be friends. But not me. There are pumpkins and autumn hues still gracing the mantel and front door this morning. There are a few leftovers in the frig waiting to be enjoyed one more time, attesting to our Thanksgiving meal.

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Just because I’m not decorating yet doesn’t mean I’m not thinking Christmas thoughts. I did a little Black Friday shopping yesterday from the comfort of my kitchen table, my favorite way to shop. While I’m only now listening to Christmas music through the sound system, my piano students and I have been playing carols since October because that’s what musicians do. As we prepare for a December recital, notes of Silent Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are dancing in our heads and through our fingers.

Red and green may not be my primary colors yet, but I’ve been on the lookout for bargains and making a gift list. Last week I stopped for a little browsing turned shopping. I was really looking for half-off sales of fall pumpkins, which I found by the way. As I was waiting in an unusually long check-out line, with one lone checker, the woman ahead of me looked as though she were on a shopping spree with her baskart full and overflowing. The line grew longer behind me as I watched the baskart being emptied of its contents.

Another employee finally came to open a second register and announced, “I can take someone here.” The woman who was last in my line quickly scooted her cart right over there to be first in this new line. I was a little steamed since I’d been standing there a bit longer than she had. Maybe several minutes longer.

Other people moved to the faster moving check-out line, and a couple of them asked me if I wanted to go ahead of them. Bless their courteous hearts. I stayed where I was, figuring if I moved behind all the others who used to be behind me, it would take me as long.

By the time it was my turn to lay my purchases on the counter, the young woman checking and bagging was a bit frazzled. And I was too, feeling cheated of my rightful place in the process and frustrated at those who think of themselves more than others.

At that moment I realized I had a simple choice, to continue in my exasperation or to attempt to be patient. It wasn’t the checker’s fault that someone had a hundred or so items to purchase (slightly exaggerating here), nor was it her fault this person was trying to use a summer coupon for one of her items. None of the events were her doing as she was just doing her job to the best of her ability.

As I was finishing my purchases, the Holy Spirit reminded me this is the season to practice patience and kindness, especially with retail workers. I was in retail once, and I recall dealing with an unhappy public. It’s my turn to give those who are waiting on me a little slack, to understand they may have been on their feet a really long time today, to appreciate the fact that they would like to be home with their families also in the season of holiday rush.

It is not only those in retail who need a gentle approach, but also fellow shoppers, drivers on the road (though some be crazy!), and with my regular people. After all, the proclamation of “peace and goodwill” is no less important in 2017 than when it was first told to a group of shepherds.

As we close the Thanksgiving celebration, let’s not forget how much we have, how blessed we are, how good God is.

Take the challenge with me to practice patience, kindness, and gentleness with those we meet during a busy and stressful season. Spread some joy and share lots of love. Smile at everyone. We never know what someone else is enduring right now. Let compassion and understanding be our motivation to show the world that the peace of God really is available in a world filled with bad news.

I believe it will increase our enjoyment of the Christmas season. Jesus came in the midst of a troubled culture, a world in strife, a people distressed, offering Himself in the most vulnerable way. He asks us to serve one another as He served while on the earth.

It was for love that Christ came. We can be His love extended if we really want to.
  

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P.S.  For those who are just thinking about getting ready to decorate, like me, here are some helpful thoughts before you begin from the Lazy Genius Collective.

 

It’s November!

Yesterday morning, after two cups of strong coffee and an hour of quiet time and Bible study, I greeted Sweet William with enthusiasm. “It’s November!” I said. I was fully caffeinated and ready to face the day and the month.

As the cold temperatures become the norm, I admit unashamed that I don’t miss the garden work at all. Not. At All. Oh, there’s plenty I could do, things left on my outdoor to-do-list. But November gives me permission to stay indoors in fuzzy socks and flannel shirts while I think about projects that were laid aside when summer called to me.

This month of November, I want to focus on November and not stress about December coming close on its heals. One of my piano students told me yesterday, “Christmas is only 54 days away!” Please, I’m not ready to think about that.

November is the first pumpkin pie of the season, hot cocoa, fireplaces glowing (even if it is gas logs), shorter days that naturally cause our bodies to long for cacooning. I say, “Let’s do that.” Could we actually slow our pace in November instead of speed it up?

The anticipation of Thanksgiving will encourage me be more grateful for God’s bountiful grace and mercy. He is over and above the best gift giver. A sign over one of our doorways says, “Count Your Blessings.” Thinking about my blessings throughout the day and recording them in my Joy Journal each night will help keep me accountable to having a thankful heart, especially this month.

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I want to sit at the table with family and friends and enjoy those precious occasions. Eat slowly. Talk much. Listen well. Laugh often. Treasure friendships. Appreciate family. Marvel how the children are growing. Wonder where the time goes. This is the stuff of life. I don’t want to miss it.

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November is my time to leisurely shop for Christmas gifts, thus leaving December less stressful. Shopping on-line is the preferred method, avoiding the traffic, crowds, and advertising glitz that entice me to buy something I really don’t need. I’d rather be thoughtful about gifts and not just add to someone’s clutter and over-abundance of stuff.

I will consider how I might give to ministries I endorse: World Vision, A Woman’s Choice, Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Library International. These are the organizations that are doing something positive in our world. I’d like to be part of that by planning how I can fit it into the budget.

November calls me to celebrate in its own way. I will make an effort to stay focused on this month and what it offers, not allowing myself to feel pressured as December approaches, sapping the joys I could be experiencing today.

Part of my happy perspective in a season that has found me stressed in years past is due to a podcast I heard recently. Kendra at The Lazy Genius Collective talks about Opening and Closing Ceremonies on her podcast, making the most of each holiday. She has wise counsel to offer me.

If you are interested in getting a boost of happy as you move into these last two months, then give a listen.

November is Thanksgiving, Family and Friends, Snuggling with Hot Cocoa, Turkey and Dressing, All Things Pumpkin.

Let’s slow down and enjoy it.

 

 

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Sunday grace

It’s been such a busy week. I already feel caught up in the vortex of coming end-of-year celebrations.

Thanksgiving is a few days away. December is on its heels, and the roller coaster wheels are turning. I see colored lights already blinking on porches and in windows as we push toward The Holiday Extravaganza.

Thanksgiving deserves its own day at least once during the year.

A local store mailed me an advertisement last week.

BLACK FRIDAY
FIRST PLACE TO STOP. BEST PLACE TO SHOP.
(IN STORE AND ONLINE)
STORES OPEN THURSDAY AT 6 PM

When did a day of thanks and a time to gather with family become a strategy to get the best deals, save the most money, and beat out other shoppers by camping on sidewalks until stores open?

Have we lost something in our 21 Century living? Are we more focused on accumulating additional stuff than on being grateful for what we have? What are we teaching the next generation about the value of human contact, the art of face to face conversations, and simple pleasures of enjoying being fully present at family gatherings?

Thanksgiving Day has been a federal holiday since 1863, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,”

We have made it into something else.

The Almighty God is the originator of thanksgiving guidance, instructing His people to remember the goodness of God, to recall His deliverance and grace, to count the blessings He bestows lavishly on this earth.

Do we become more self-centered if we bypass being thankful? Shall we not pause to recognize that there is a Great Benefactor of all good gifts? We are not islands unto ourselves, making our own pathways through life, accomplishing our goals and becoming successful through our efforts alone.

There is a God who sends rain and sunshine, who causes seed to grow, earth and planets to revolve in their orbits, stars to shine, and seasons to comply with His plan and direction.

He gives the very breath we breathe, created the body to function like a beautiful machine, made our minds to think, reason, create, relate, and remember.

He gave His Son that we might become children of God. That alone is reason to thank Him.

As the week moves forward, can we give thanks to our great God? Can we pause amidst the  lines in grocery stores, the hurry of projects and the hustle of food preparation to remind ourselves Who is the source of our every blessing? Could we hug those precious people whom the Father has brought into our lives to love and cherish and remember they are gifts from a benevolent hand?

“It is a good and delightful thing to give thanks to the Lord,
To sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”  — Psalm 92:1 AMP

Sunday grace.

 

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Normal Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post 1943

 

 

 

 

Grey days

It’s a grey day today.  Bright hues of fall have virtually disappeared and all that is left are browns and the few evergreen cedars.  Bare branches, ashen skies and rain falling steadily adds to the drabness.  It’s easy to let the weather dictate my mood.

I think about the coming holiday celebrations and how different they have become since the family, our dear ones moved.

Lists begin to take shape in my mind, things to do in the next few weeks, preparations, agendas, schedules.  They grow and take on their own shape inside me, creating tension.

Sometimes I can let pressure build like the cooker on the stove that spews its steam and juices all over the surface, smoking and smelling burnt.

Sweet William and I prayed before breakfast, naming names and seeing faces in our minds.  So many are still wrestling with disease, grief, worry.  Some are anticipating dates of testing with uncertain outcomes.   Others have written “surgery” in the square of their calendars.

The world has become a scary place.  Nightly newscasts make me wonder what we are coming to.

It’s all overwhelming to think about.

And it’s a grey day today.

I decide to put the tea kettle on the burner.

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Water heats as temperature rises.  Steam intensifies and pressure builds.  And the kettle starts to sing.  That five-dollar bargain I bought in Tulsa a few years ago at a yard sale that has not sung worth a nickle.  But today, it sings.

And when the days are grey and the stress levels are high, as the pressure builds and I wonder what life is all about any way . . .

When I remember a life recently passed from this world and how brief are the days of our lives on this earth . . .

When I consider that his world is not my home and I’m just a’passing through, that it is a preparing ground for something more glorious than I can imagine . . .

I decide to be like the kettle.

I will sing.

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