I want to be a good soldier in the army of my Lord.
Whether decked in full battle dress on the field or wearing the apron as I wash pots and pans in the mess hall.
Whether bending to listen to my littlest neighbor’s story or bending to help Sweet William put on shoes.
Whether with a full class of Truth seekers or alone in the morning quiet with the Father.
Whether at a filled church house or sitting at the kitchen table live-streaming a Sunday service.
I learned Onward Christian Soldiers as a child, and tears fill my eyes as I pray the prayer, “I want to be a good soldier,” because I am weak, with feeble hands and the knees that give way, struggling to go the distance some days. I don’t want to miss the purpose or what I’m meant to learn in this season. I pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is open to the still small Voice, however hushed it may be.
My morning Bible reading takes me to passages encouraging me to “be strong.” God spoke it to His children, the ones fearful yet willing to put on His armor for battle.
He commanded it to the Israeli nation about to cross the Jordon and to Joshua as he prepared to lead them.
He declared it to David as he was on the verge of becoming king, and He repeated it twice to Daniel upon receiving a future vision to much for him.
So the Father whispers it to me this morning. “Be strong, daughter.”
It isn’t my physical stamina that will sustain me nor any talents or gifts I’ve been given. Only in abiding in my Lord will I find the strength I need for this journey.
Stronger than I think possible. Stronger than my physical ability. Stronger because He is strong in me.
I heard someone say this week that the life expectancy of an American is 78 years old. I had to google that and found that in 2018 life expectancy was indeed 78.5 according to World Development Indicators.
My eyes widened, and I thought, “Oh my, 78 is not that far away.”
Last year when I reached a milestone decade, I faced it with some trepidation. The day came and went and I didn’t feel any different. So much for that.
” . . . that life picked up speed, then most of it was gone — made you breathless really.” — Elizabeth Strout
Another birthday pages through my calendar, and I have mixed feelings. I suppose it’s my age. I think deeply about life, death, today, and what’s left of my tomorrows.
I remember past birthdays, some joyful and some a little sad. Some were memorably celebrated and some slipped quietly by.
When I was a child a July birthday offered possibilities, outdoor activities and swim parties with cousins and friends. We ate ice cream and watermelon, letting the juice run down our arms and spitting seeds in the yard. At this age I think it’s so hot, too hot to go anywhere or do anything. I feel like a party pooper to my own fiesta.
When my mother was alive, she made my birthday important. An only child, cherished and loved, she knew how to make a gift special, to make a day fun. I especially miss my mother on my birthday.
“No matter what peoples’ lives might hold . . . still and all people were compelled to celebrate because they knew, somehow, in their different ways, that life was a thing to celebrate.” — Elizabeth Strout
I’ve heard this quote from Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life, “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” And it seems so simple. The dailiness of living, the tasks of keeping a home, the going to and from work, the raising of children and loving a family, the art and beauty we create become the life we build. Day upon day, we make the life we have.
But what of the things that happen to us that are out of our control, like illness, death, choices others make that affect us? How we deal with it, or even choose not to deal with it, also becomes the life we have.
“All life events are formative. All contribute to what we become, year by year, as we go on growing. As my friend the poet Kenneth Koch one said, ‘You aren’t just the age you are. You are all the ages you ever have been.‘ ” — Mr. Rogers.
Daily I make choices that impact myself and others, forming the life I am building. I am more thoughtful these days to my calling, my art, and my contribution to the world. I understand a little better the gifts I’ve been given by my Creator and how to use them for His glory.
When I was younger, I was not good at saying no to any and all requests. I wanted to please people and said yes more than I probably should have. Now I understand better what it’s like to move in the flow of my giftedness. Trudging along in a place where I’m not called can be drudgery.
“Numbering my days isn’t about computing days but rather about drawing me to attentiveness. Life on earth is a brief sojourn–brief but not unimportant, brief but not inconsequential.”— Jean Fleming
In the last few years, I’ve compiled a list of my ten commandments (not to be compared to The Ten Commandments), a guide for the rest of my life. The first one is Be Peggy. Be who I am, not who someone wants me to be, not what culture dictates or how trends and styles try to mold me.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator, an individual with DNA like no one else. I insult the One who formed my innermost being if I continue to try to be someone I am not. It’s taken awhile to learn this.
The poem called Grab Your Purple Hat describes the stages of a woman’s life from age 3 to age 80. Age 70 says she “Looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter and ability, goes out and enjoys life.”
Yes, that is the woman I want to be, wisdom gained through years and experience, laughing much and using my abilities. I want to enjoy this one beautiful life, welcome people with open heart and listen to their stories. I want to love and be loved. I want to give myself away until my final breath.
“I believe we grow old only when we stop growing. Inner stagnation leads to death before dying.” — Lois Mowday Rabey
Years ago I cut a page from a magazine with artwork by Mary Engelbreit. It is an old woman gazing at her reflection in a mirror and seeing herself as the young girl she used to be. The caption reads: “We are always the same age inside.” Isn’t that how I exactly how I feel, not in my aching bones or my aging flesh, but the real inner me?
My beginning was ordained by a good Father and He watched as I was formed in the darkness. I believe He has purposed my ending and all the in-between days, guided by His Spirit. There is nothing to fear as the years add one upon another.
This is my life. I hope I leave something good behind. I plan to walk the path, holding to my heavenly Father’s hand, and enjoy the ride.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. — Psalm 139:3 KJV
From my window, I watch the rosey glow appear at the edge of trees, a new morning heralding its coming.
It is early for a walk, still I get my coat and scarf. This day calls me. I grab the pink leash and invite Maisie to join me.
Light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it. (John 1:5 NET)
Outside, I hope for a world yet to awaken, a stillness unbroken. I hear the faint call of a bird in the little woods and the tinkling of Maisie’s collar as we move along. The lake is like unbroken glass.
But soon I hear the noise of traffic on a nearby roadway. Already humanity is up and about their business, heading to myriad destinations, the rhythm of tires on pavement breaking the tranquil moments I crave.
Listening is my objective. Learning to do it better is the goal in this new year. Listen to my heart. Listen to the voice of the Spirit. Listen and learn.
Much of my life I’ve been a head listener, doing what seemed appropriate, what was asked of me, what was necessary. I don’t regret being a dependable person. It has served me and others.
Life made choices for me, I think, events and circumstances beyond my control, prescribing my decisions and the next step. Though not of my choosing, I walked forward in what I had to do.
I may have ignored my heart sometimes, quieting its gentle voice amidst a roar of responsibility. I want to know what my heart has to say. It speaks softly, like the trill of the bird in the little woods. The clamor of a harried world, a busy schedule, and a distracted mind can drown out the inner prompting that tries to be heard above the noisy din.
I’ve repeated this to myself: Do what you’re called to do, and don’t do what someone else is called to do. In my efficient super-power suit, I may have taken on someone else’s role a time or two, only to regret it later.
It’s about time I listened to my own heart, recognize my passion and walk in my calling. I am not to compare it to another. It shall not be considered bigger or smaller, overly important or inconsequential.
Life can feel like a desert wander or a directed path. It is both. The journey is steep bluffs, rocky paths, uphill climbs, and it is green fields, restful streams, surprising rainbows.
The path God has purposed for me is unique. He planned it and tenderly draws me back to it should I stray. He intends that I walk it with Him. He is the light that shines in the darkness. His voice will be heard above all others, though it be still and small. My heart will hear it.
What lies ahead could be my biggest adventure, my best learning curve, and my greatest miracle.
A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way. (Psalm 37:23)
As I read the first chapters of Matthew and Luke, the ancient story becomes new again. I live in it, wondering about the details between the lines.
Were Mary and Joseph in love or was it strictly an arranged marriage? What was it like visiting Elizabeth and Zechariah? Did anyone in the community of Nazareth, any family member, believe the wild tale of an angel’s announcement and a virgin conception? Did a midwife attend Mary or was Joseph on his own? Was it a stable or a cave where Jesus was born? What was the reaction when a bunch of grubby shepherds showed up?
To fuel my imagination, I read Two From Galilee, by Marjorie Holmes, and I watched The Nativity on DVD, both of them making Biblical characters come alive to me, creating a story line that just might have had some truth to it.
Of one thing I can be fairly certain, the players in this extraordinary chain of events didn’t have any idea of their future. They got a teacup full of information for a tsunami narrative.
And with that I can identify.
Thinking of my life, I had no idea where the road would lead. In some ways, I’m glad. I might have hidden in the closet, refusing to move forward. God in His infinite wisdom does not give us much of a preview of how our lives will twist and turn, how we will be challenged to climb impossible mountains and travel deep, dark valleys, how joy and sorrow will intermingle.
However, He does say He will go with us. In fact, He offers to take the lead.
Christmas day draws near and we are a flurry of activity, making preparation for celebrations with family and friends. It is right that we should be joyful, for Christ the Lord is born to us. Let us sing, give gifts, enjoy choice food, and lavish love on those dear ones in our presence.
After Christmas, we look toward the new year, a time of reflection and goal setting. We really don’t know what is ahead, though we make lists and plan our actions. It is the Lord alone who guides our way.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message
The year winds down, like the 31-day clock on the wall, and this I know for sure: I want to walk where Jesus goes, to know He is leading me, holding my hand. He says “Fear not,” even when the path looks very scary. He says “Take courage,” and I cling to Him for strength. He says “Follow,” and I draw near not seeing but one step ahead.
In the first chapters of Matthew and Luke, I read about the Creator of all who came to us as a helpless infant, God in flesh and bone, glory contained so the created can hold and behold.
His name is called Immanuel which is God with us. God with us.
As the month of September meanders to its end, I glance backward to what lies behind me.
Those days have been hard, dry and cracked open with suffering. And how do we go on from here?
Three times in my seventy years I count the most sorrowful of seasons. All involved death, real and symbolic. As if something were being ripped from my grasp, my heart was left crushed, my soul whimpering.
I spent time wandering the wilderness of my own confusion, my questions were without answers as I watered my path with weeping.
Looking backward with the perspective of time and wisdom, I see lessons I was meant to learn. Though I felt alone, I perceive that God’s presence surrounded me. My tears were noticed, my groaning was heard, and the Father of all comfort drew nearer to me in my brokenness.
I bear the scars still. The wounds have healed but their evidence remains, a reminder that no one gets a reprieve from suffering in this fractured world.
As I walk beside others in their wilderness journey, I identify with their pain, remembering the aloneness and the desperation. I feel their longing for relief from the angst of this affliction. We enter into the fellowship of human suffering.
With thanksgiving, I recall the bright and beautiful days, the gentle meanders through green meadows, the soft breezes on my face, the sweet communion of friends in joyful song.
But it is in the dark, thunderous storms that my heart is tendered by my tribulation. Those were the times I ran to the gentle and strong Shepherd while wolves surrounded and I trembled in the unknown. His comfort and protection were what I needed.
While questions without answers raged in my mind and I couldn’t see farther than the next step, He who is the Way opened the door to Himself, and I ran to His arms.
While I learned to trust Jesus at my mother’s knee and from my father’s example, it was in the dark night of my soul that I comprehended a dimension of God I could not have known any other way.
If I could have chosen, I may have taken the gentle way, the easy path, but that would not have been the best for me. I would not learn endurance. I would not know peace in the storm. I would not experience a comforting Presence in my pain. I would not have empathy for my fellow sojourners. I would not see hope in a hopeless situation. I would not stand in awe of the brilliant stars in the blackness of night.
Words of a song from my youth take shape in my mind, and I sing them to the trees.
More of You. More of You. I’ve had all, but what I need is more of You. Of things I’ve had my fill, and yet I hunger still. Empty and bare, Lord hear my prayer for more of You.
On retreat at a cabin in the woods, what better place to be? I look out to the treetops. The quiet is a balm. I fill up on nature’s nectar.
The early morning is my favored hour on the deck, before the heat of the day, sunlight filtering through leaves, birds serenading, gentle rain dripping to the forest floor.
When Maisie and I walk, she is in olfactory heaven. I wonder at her inquisitiveness, ears alert and nose to the ground. What scent causes her pause, creating a craving to investigate? What sound catches her attention enough to stop, stand still, and wait for more?
I too feel the yearning to pause in wonder while seeking and searching for truth. What lies ahead as one decade of my life ends and another begins? How shall I be alert to what lies ahead? How can I give heed to what my senses and my spirit are trying to tell me?
At this age I have more questions than answers.
Reading Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life, I make notes in my journal.
I will not live wisely unless I am thoughtful, examining this one wonderful life, my motives, behavior and habits.
Preparing for tomorrow is different than worrying about tomorrow.
I can’t face old age when I’m old. I have to do that when I’m young. (I hope it isn’t too late.)
Life is a remarkable adventure, with twists and turns, wonder and mystery. The trail is winding and uphill, heavy with the weight of the unimaginable yet to be discovered.
The journey is dangerous and wild. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and face planted. Hopefully, I learned from my errors, picked up and gone forward. Around the bend is magnificence, and I don’t want to miss it.
When the road is uncertain and frightening, I will not walk alone, though the valleys are deep and the mountains high. My Shepherd leads. He started the quest and invited me to follow. He is my protection and prepares a table for me. He bids me rest and takes my hand when it’s time to press on.
The closer I get to home, the more I know what I really need, what I want most. It isn’t the stuff I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating. Not houses or land, bank accounts or possessions.
It’s Jesus. He is what my heart craves. He is what I need.
September is gone, and I wonder where it went. Autumn is upon us. The leaves of trees are barely turning, and I anticipate a month of color.
What can I say about the weather in September? It was unusual. Hot, rain and flash flood warnings, then a break with cool breezes requiring that flannel shirt I’ve been wanting to wear.
We bought a gently used car at the beginning of the month, then took it back within the time limit. I’ve returned purchases many times during my life, but never a car. We experienced a gamut of emotions during the process, but in the end we felt the car was not for us. Sometimes we wander until we find our way.
I began a Bible study right after Labor Day with a wonderful group of women. Beth Moore’s Believing God is not new, but it is deep and rich. I love meeting regularly for Bible study. It is how many long-lasting friendships developed. Sitting together at the table, sharing what God is saying to us, and opening our hearts to one another is special and unique. I treasure these weekly sessions.
I did my semi-annual garage clean-out in September. I have to lighten the space to prepare to bring tender plants in for the winter. And I had a can of tomatoes explode on one of the shelves.
It’s the shelf next to the stairs leading to the house where I store extra food stuff and supplies. I call it my Y2K shelf because it came to be in 1999 when the world thought we would implode because we were moving toward a new century. The news channels warned us to prepare for disaster, if not mayhem. So I stocked up on food. I chuckle about it now, almost 19 years later. January 1, 2000 came in like a lamb. Sometimes the thing we fear does not come upon us.
The week before a planned trip to visit our dear ones was busy with preparation and making up piano lessons. I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going and had to refer to my lists often. Traveling is complicated for us. We don’t do it often enough to streamline our techniques. Maybe that needs to change.
We took a new route this time, the many miles of highway to get from here to there and back again. It was somewhat stressful, since we had not been this way before. As always we had our AAA Triptik, which we referred to often. But this time we had GPS! Sweet William and I are still learning about our smart phones, but I’ve gotten acquainted with Gypsy (my name for GPS). She’s a wonder. While the AAA map gives us the full scope of the journey, Gypsy gave us step-by-step instructions. I like seeing the big picture, but I’m learning to rely on those simple instructions of “in the next 500 feet, turn right.”
Our last week of September was spent with my five favorite people and their furry friends. Maisie was in dog heaven. She played with the dogs until her tongue hung out. And she chased the cat. I was worried that she would catch it, but cats have a way of displaying their power. Claws and toenails echoed on the hardwood flooring until the dogs and cat ran out of steam and found a place to nap.
Maisie seems a little depressed now that we’ve come home to a quieter house. Maybe she needs her own friend here at the Wright House.
I did a lot of listening and interacting with our dear ones, sitting long at meal times, lingering over coffee, hearing hearts and sharing my own. I did little writing, reading or facebooking, even taking minimal pictures, because precious faces were right in front of me and I wanted to partake of every moment with them.
I lost my watch the second day of the visit. I looked all week for it, in bags and drawers, under furniture and amidst paraphernalia. It was not to be found, and I tried not to be disappointed since it was a favorite with memories attached. But I reasoned that this trip did not need to be timed. I was on no schedule except to be present with each one of my family. I hope they felt it from me, my full attention to them and their thoughts and ideas.
We experienced their town and their new-to-them house, their quiet neighborhood where Maisie and I walked and the variety of geese and ducks at the lake nearby. We declared our last day there to be Grandparents Day, and I spent time doing something special with each of my three grands. The memories linger as tears well in my eyes. I already miss them and know it will be awhile before I look them in the face again.
I say it often, that I don’t understand God’s ways. Why the miles, the physical distance between us and them. But my Father knows our past, present and future. I am ever-learning to trust Him with it all.
Arriving back home brings relief. The Lord kept us safe on our trip. I almost lost Maisie twice, but she is here with us. Trials come with the best of experiences, and we had those, but in the scope of it all, we had a wonderful time.
As we were unloading the car, our good neighbor pulled into the drive with a load of pumpkins and gourds. He kept handing me more, excitement whelling up with the bounty. I will enjoy placing them around the house and on porches for the living fall decor.
Unpacking suitcases and washing clothes is always the order of business. As I dug into a small pocket of one bag, I found my watch. I smiled and assumed it’s time to get back on schedule.
“Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” It has become my goal, the way I want to live. The light and dark of a day, the joy and sorrow that befalls each of us, all are threads of the weaving that become a tapestry of beauty. I want to be present for it all.
Sometimes I think I want to see the entirety of the map of my life, like a AAA Triptik. More often I’m only given a simple instruction at the exact time I need it.
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.
Sweet William and I have been in the desert for almost five days. Here in mid August, our central air conditioner gave up the ghost.
It happened on a Thursday evening while I was in the midst of piano lessons. I fanned vigorously and apologized to students coming into the house. The prognosis: We need a new unit which will cost a lot, and it cannot be installed until Monday.
My students where glad to be going home.
The heat rose in our normally climate-controlled house, rising to 85 degrees quickly. Even the August picture on our wall calendar looks hot.
By Friday, Sweet William and I were sweltering. And I wonder why air conditioners break down in the middle of summer? We kept looking at the thermometers placed throughout the house as the temperatures went higher. Fans were running everywhere and especially in our faces.
And for once it was too hot for coffee.
By the afternoon, with outdoor temperature soaring to 91 degrees and not much better indoors, we had enough. We got in the car where the air conditioner worked great, turning it down to 65 degrees and letting the cold winds blow. A cheeseburger at Wendy’s was our destination because if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen.
We ate our burger in the car with the air running full blast. Then we went to Dairy Queen for Blizzards because we deserved it.
I don’t know when ice cream tasted so good. I ate until chill bumps formed on my arms.
One small window unit upstairs and a portable unit left by the heating/air company were our only means of survival. At night we closed the bedroom door, the portable unit blowing cold air into the room. We slept like it was winter, pulling a quilt over us. But upon waking and opening the door to the rest of the house, the heat hit me, and I really wondered whether morning coffee was worth it.
On Saturday, the cloud cover lowered the house temperature a small bit. We experimented with blankets and quilts in doorways hoping to keep the coolness in a smaller area of the house where it could be manageable and somewhat livable.
I was glad we had not invited anyone for brunch or dinner. They would not have wanted to come.
Each morning we emerged from the igloo of our bedroom only to be faced with the heat wave in the rest of the house. The blanketed-off living area had to cool down again by opening up the bedroom door. We lived in the desert of hot air blowing around us during the day.
We went to the deck because sometimes it felt better in fresh air. We watched dark clouds roll in a few times and hoped for rain to change the weather. Maisie lay stretched out on the cool floor more often than curled up in her bed.
We drank cold drinks and fixed sandwiches. I didn’t dare turn on the oven. The goal was to stay calm, cool, and collected as possible.
It seemed each time I went outside and returned to the house, the same words came out of my mouth. “It’s cooler outside than it is in here.”
I’m sure if we had asked friends, someone would have let us come stay with them. But when you have a dog, the equation gets complicated. And Maisie was in this with us.
As the days went by, the outdoor temperature cooled a little, and I think we began adjusting to our situation. We were going to tough this one out while we counted down the days until the new unit could be installed.
Sweet William and I prayed that we would not let our tempers flare with the flare of our heated conditions. We found ways to entertain ourselves because TV was in the hot rooms of the house. We talked more, and we laughed. I read a book aloud.
We have come through this experience with much thanksgiving and hopefully some wisdom.
While we were hot and miserable physically, what we lacked were only creature comforts. There are others on our prayer list who are suffering more. Ours was a temporary discomfort lasting a few days. It is not so for some we know and love.
Life is complicated. Minor irritations and major trauma are assured to come along in this life. We are destined for tribulation. Sometimes we have to walk through a desert, and sometimes we must weather a storm.
But we also look with hope toward an end of the trial. We want to understand the lesson to be learned and grow in endurance. We come through the trouble with a few more of our rough places sanded smooth. The chisel and hammer are brutal to the marble. But what begins to take shape is the image the creator planned.
We are like the marble. God is the artist who continues to do His good work in us, though it be painful, until the image of His Son is revealed more and more.
This short desert trip was not on my schedule; I would not have chosen it. But having made the journey, the oasis is deliciously refreshing.