As I sat by the warmth of gas logs this morning, I counted gifts in my gratitude journal. How can I not? I have been blessed. An unusual contentment enveloped me as I soaked in the sweetness of the moment.
I began to think of family and friends who are dealing with loss, grief, health concerns, situations that cannot be fixed with a wrapped present or a holiday celebration. I prayed for them, and I thought of other Christmases when I sank in my own gloom and despair. I understand.
Whether we purchased all the asked-for gifts or money was tight; whether everyone comes home this year or we have an empty chair at the table; whether the family gathers happily or conflict erupts; whether life feels full or we experience an emptiness that cannot be filled;
There is Jesus.
He is Lord. Lord over all. Lord of my sunny days and my dark nights. Lord of my laughter and my tears. Lord and King benevolent, always bestowing the grace of Himself. He is the greatest present. He is the closest presence.
He is God with us.
The mystery was revealed and angels gazed in wonder.
The prophecy foretold was fulfilled.
The Promise became living, breathing Infant. Child. Savior.
The Creator surrendered to the constraints of creation.
The Lawgiver fulfilled the law.
The breath of God, very Word, became flesh, dwelling with us. We see His glory.
The unutterable name of YHVH was called Yeshua. Jesus.
And thus . . .
The lost is found. The prodigal gets to go home.
The impure is cleansed. The sinner is called righteous.
The ugly is redeemed and clothed in beauty.
The war-torn is offered peace and a place of rest.
The needy receives grace.
The orphan is welcomed into the Father’s house and invited to call Him Abba.
Those thousands of years ago in Bethlehem, it was a holy night.
This day, this time in history, this moment, it is holy still.
It’s been quiet on the blog for over a month. I’m not sure why I haven’t written any posts. I could offer several insights but none of them really resonate. Suffice it to say, I took a little break, because there were no words.
Contemplation seems my path in this present season. And I’m quite glad I am able to think and ponder. At my age, the ability to reason and understand is not to be taken lightly.
In the nearly two months of blogging quietude, Sweet William and I have not sat idle. We celebrated recitals, graduations and birthdays. We traveled far and came home again. We watched the seasons change from spring to summer, counting the raindrops and measuring the height of the weeds growing in the gardens.
We had the opportunity to witness one current and one former piano students’ accomplishments, finishing high school and college. I spent many hours at the piano bench and around the table with the two of them, talking, laughing, crying, and praying. It is an extraordinary privilege to be part of their lives as they have matured into young adults.
Sweet William and I drove the many miles and long hours to celebrate our second granddaughter’s graduation. It was worth every minute of time and effort to be there as people gathered on party day. I was comforted to witness the support system of friends surrounding my family in this city, answers to prayers. And our granddaughter was glowing.
Mother’s and Father’s days came and went, and we endured. With neither chick nor child close by, nor living parents to honor, it becomes challenging to observe those days with gladness. I tend to seclude and surrender to my introversion, practicing self-care and allowing my emotions to be present instead of pretending something I don’t feel. It’s the way I cope. When the day is over, I move on, recognizing it is one day in the year, that my life is full of valued relationships, that I am loved by my family, and that life goes on.
Early this month, I sent a card to a friend whose birthday is one month before mine. It’s a reminder that the day of my birth is 30 days away. Birthdays have not been bothersome except when I turned twenty, leaving my teens behind. That was hard.
However, I am giving this birthday, my seventh decade, considerable thought, evaluating my health and my mental state, wondering about my work and the retirement years where Sweet William and I find ourselves.
Recently I pulled my 2009 journal from its upstairs shelf and read what life was like ten years ago. There were joys and sorrows mingled then as now. I understood the year as one who looks at the past. Events that occurred then had profound influence on what would come later.
The coming decade I enter presents me with quandaries that are different than ten years ago. When I entered my 60s, the aches and pains were less; my hair was darker; my figure was not as lumpy; my eyeglasses were not so strong.
Along with twenty or so piano students, I still worked part-time away from home at a job that challenged me and gave me a creative outlet. I loved the people with whom I worked.
My aunt, dad and step-mother were still living, though their growing frailty was apparent, requiring more attention and help.
My family lived next door then, and I was involved with their lives. I saw them weekly, sometimes daily, and enjoyed watching the grandchildren grow. In the old journal I wrote how I felt called to invest in those dear children, filling them with the assurance of my love, so that it would be a reservoir to draw from. I didn’t know then that in two years the family would pack up a big yellow truck and move west permanently. I hope I filled them full enough.
An old clipping I saved starts with “Grab Your Purple Hat!” as it describes how a woman sees herself through the years. Age 70 says this: “She looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter, ability. She goes out and enjoys life.”
I believe there are still things for me to accomplished, meaningful work, projects to complete, art to create and music to play. I know there are people for me love and point to Jesus. I have questions to ask and I want to be the person who leans in and listens well.
I expect sorrows because that is the stuff of life. But I also anticipate joy, celebration and miracles.
The Bible is a familiar companion for my journey. The years of reading and study brought insight, confidence, and hope. The promises I hold close are more precious than ever.
Thankfully, life has taught me wisdom, a reward of growing older. I adapt more easily to things I might have taken too seriously years ago. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and am continually entertained.
God has been good these many years. I have no reason to doubt His faithfulness in my future. His plan is working its way in me. Sometimes it’s difficult, painful even, and goes against my grain. But I’m realizing His way is best. He knows more than I ever will. He does all things well.
The future is now. I can face it because I know the One who guided my past, who holds my present, and who will be there in the days to come.
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.
The hope of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbly yet with the air of royalty. This man is different, unlike others before. He holds crowds sway with His words of authority. He speaks and dead men live again, the lame walk and the blind see.
He confounds the wise with His stories and calls out the motives of the powerful. He walks on water and calms the wind like a restless child.
He keeps company with an unlikely and rowdy bunch, parties with publicans and tax collectors, and has intimate conversations with outcasts.
As he rides into the city amid proclamations of Messiah, knowing that their honor will be short lived, He sees the heart of the matter. He perceives the thoughts and intentions of those giving Him praise now.
While the parade proceeds, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of year-old sheep are being chosen and affirmed Passover lambs. One lamb for each family, it is marked for death in just a few days. As households gather for their annual celebration meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, they will tell the story of their deliverance from Egypt and hope for another Deliverer.
Do the people fully comprehend that here He comes, riding on a donkey? This One was proclaimed Lamb of God by John at the river Jordan. He is the One Abraham prophesied, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” On this Sunday, designated now as Palm Sunday, He is marked for death in just a few days. Crowds will gather at the foot of the cross as His blood pours out for whosoever will.
He is Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come to set us free.
May is green and shades of emerald were especially beautiful this month. On many days it seemed spring just skipped away like a rabbit, leaving place for summer heat. The air conditioner has run. While I love the fresh breezes blowing in open windows, by noon many days, the sashes were closed and shades pulled to keep the house cool.
The grass grows tall along with weeds among the flowers. I’ve decided to dub this place, “Where the Wild Things Grow” since there’s a lot of that going on.
My garden work had to be done early in the morning, three hours being my limit. I came in soaked with perspiration and red-faced, longing for a cool shower. I accomplished quite a bit working just those few hours at a time, and the front yard looks like someone actually lives here now.
There are still areas that need my attention, and I will be busy in the coming month. That’s what summer is about for me. I shall take it in stride, move at my pace, and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Deer sightings in the little woods have been frequent this year and it is truly delightful. The pièce de résistance was early in the morning this week when Maisie alerted us to activity on the edge of the yard. There stood a doe and a spotted fawn, easing quietly into the dark protection of the woods. It was a gift, simply a gift.
May was recital month, always a celebration. This year one of my students was graduating high school and she played five difficult pieces for her senior recital. She’d been my student since she was seven years old. That hasn’t happened for me often as a piano teacher. To have spent that many years next to her at the piano is weighty as well as a privilege I don’t take lightly.
I put her file away today, and I am still emotional about it.
Our oldest granddaughter celebrated a mile-stone birthday in May. She is grown up in so many ways, beautiful like her mother, taking on adult responsibilities. Yet in my mind, I still see that little girl who sat at the stool across from me in the kitchen and drank hot cocoa early mornings. She talked up a storm. We shared so many special experiences and a bond that is strong in spite of the miles that separate us. I wonder if she knows how dear she is to me?
Time with people has been varied. I have been a listening ear, a helping hand, one who weeps with those who weep, and part of the applauding audience who cheered young talent on stage. Being part of people’s lives means we give something of ourselves, and loving one another comes in a variety of opportunities.
This last day of May, Sweet William and I purchased android smart phones. For. The. Very. First. Time. I know! I’ve been holding out, not wanting a phone that would become an appendage. I suppose I feared addiction to the thing. I don’t want to be held captive to a cell phone.
But there comes a point when you know the time is right. And today was the day. We bought simple and efficient because we live a simple lifestyle. The learning curve will be interesting as we teach our brains new things and get current with the rest of the world.
The sales people were kind and patient with us. (They were young enough to be our grandchildren.) They asked how long we had been married. Perhaps there was “an old married couple” persona about us or the fact that we were enjoying the experience together and laughed a lot.
I’ve been living in Philippians for the past month at least. I finished a study on my own but can’t seem to get away from Paul’s letter. His joy and rejoicing are everywhere in this short book. I long for the wisdom he seems to have learned.
I read something this month that is sticking with me. The author decided to stop saying, “I have to [do whatever]” and instead began saying “I get to [do whatever].” To me that is profound, and I’m trying to change my mindset.
One night when I was having trouble falling asleep, I lay in bed thanking God for all the appliances I have because I get to do laundry and I get to clean house and I get to fix meals and I get to work in the garden. Because I have clothes and a home and food and a yard. I am so blessed, so very blessed.
Such a simple change of phrase makes my life look beautiful and full of good things instead seeing my responsibilities as burdens that weigh me down. And I feel joyful and want to rejoice. Paul was definitely on to something.
There are so many things for me to learn and experience. I want to be a forever student of life no matter my age. I believe God has lots He wants to teach me yet.
Because I am confident of this that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
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.
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.
Just a few days left before we celebrate Thanksgiving in all of our varied and crazy ways. Relatives and friends of all shapes and sizes will gather with food dishes that range from vintage recipes to gluten-free concoctions.
I’ve been making my efforts at having a thankful heart during the month. I’ve tried to be disciplined to write three things that brought me joy at the end of each day. At least I’ve tried.
I started my annual Joy List this morning, counting God’s graces one by one on paper. There are so many, I could write forever. I had to stop for breakfast with the promise of “to be continued.” Tomorrow my prayer partner of many years will call on the phone, and we will look back at the prayers prayed and how God answered them this year. Our voices will be full of “thank you’s.”
From Old to New Testaments, we read instructions to remember how God has been faithful. It’s easy to forget sometimes when we are in the throes of difficulty, tragedy, or grief. And honestly, sometimes it can be simple neglect or a lack of contentment.
Just as our menus will be different, not everyone will do Thanksgiving the same way. I read one blogger who thought making a daily count of grace was too regimented, and she was definitely not putting kernels of corn beside each place settings for a round robin of being grateful. She preferred more spontaneity and daily mindfulness. She did her thankfulness in a different way.
There isn’t a prescription for how to have a grateful heart, but we are told to practice it regularly. And in the same way God’s commands are good for us, being thankful brings joy to our lives.
The method is not as important as the message. It’s the heart of the matter that matters. Be thankful in your own sweet way, dear friends.
This year has brought much loss to my friends and family. I feel it in my own heart, the tears flowing unexpectedly this morning. At many holiday tables this year, there will be an empty place.
Life can be hard during the holidays. Especially during the holidays.
And yet God is good even in this present circumstance. His grace is still sufficient. He remains the God of all comfort who gives us comfort in all our troubles. His presence in our days continues as a promise. He still walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death. And we are never, ever alone.
If there is nothing else today or this year, there is Jesus who is God’s love demonstrated in tangible, relatable, identifiable form. He wrapped himself in skin and bone and showed us the glory.