Archives

Sunday grace – thoughts on my birthday

At the change of the calendar month, thoughts turned to my birthday and an assessment of my life. Last year, 2020, Sweet William and I were in quarantine due to the Covid 19 virus that virtually shut down the world. This year, he is still recovering from a major surgery in December. It is a long road of rehab and physical therapy that continues weekly. In essence, we are somewhat confined, though in a different way. The question becomes how to celebrate and acknowledge another year where we are right now.

It can be easy to slip into the downward spiral of dwelling on suffering, naming them one by one, leading to a dark hole of loneliness and depression. I’ve been there. All who live to the seventh decade and beyond have experieced both gain and loss. I had my share.

I recall summer birthday parties when I was young. It was hot and there were lawn sprinklers, swimming pools, ice cream and watermelon. Never mind that the juices ran down my arm. It would wash off in the pool water. When our son was born in July, I recreated some of those fun times in the outdoors with his cousins and friends. I thought a summer birthday was the best.

As the day approached, I was tempted to feel sorry for myself, and I cried a little. But I confessed to a friend that I was determined to count my blessings and not my hardships on this day.

Birthday week was busy, and when Friday came Sweet William knew I needed some quite, some down time. After a breakfast of pancakes with strawberries and pure maple syrup – because it’s my birthday! – I went to the deck with my Bible, journal and pens, a birthday book from a friend and a fresh cup of coffee. It is never too hot for coffee.

I read Psalm 139 slowly, a birthday practice, its poetry reassuring me I am known and loved, that I can never, no never, go away from the Father’s presence.

Texts pinged my phone throughout the day, family and friends sending their birthday wishes. Our son called and sang to me, his baritone voice music to this mother’s ears. Cards came in the mail. Sweet William prayed for me, saying I was the best thing that ever happened to him, next to Jesus.

In the evening, a friend in another city called to chat like she has on so many birthdays, and my cousin came with a present and ate birthday cake with us.

I listened to Cythinia Clawson sing You Were There, composed by Dan Burgess, inspired by Psalm 139. It brings me to tears. The passing of another year is worth marking and remembering in order to gain wisdom for the future.

At this age I know the years still left are less than what I have lived. I often wonder what I will leave behind, not the house and furniture and stuff, but what I deposited into another heart. Did I give enough time? Did I really listen? Were my words encouraging? In my brokeness did Jesus shine through? Did I love well? I hope so.

“Love never ages, even when we do. So I tell myself if you want to hold on to your youth, hold on to love.”
— Edward Ginnon

There will be days dark and light, times of joy and sorrow, beauty to enjoy and rocks in my shoes. I will laugh and I will cry. But there is no reason to fear. There will be grace for the journey. Always there is grace enough.

Time will tell my path on this earth. I will keep pressing on, keep moving forward toward the hope of life everlasting when a last struggling breath here only means my next will be a breath of heavenly air and the face of my savior.

I will rejoice in the goodness of God. I will remember His faithfulness to me. When it gets hard, I will remind myself He is there.

God the Father has allowed me to be here. May I live fully and gain a heart of wisdom. And let me love.

I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” — Psalm 13:5, 6

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace – thoughts on motherhood

There is a family of geese sheltering in the safety of the lake and its surroundings across the road. I’ve watched them wander since hatching on a frosty April day, seven little goslings waddling along with their parents. Each time I spy them, I count. They are vulnerable to predators, large snapping turtles, hawks or coyotes.

The two parents are watchful as they meander into our yard. Father goose stands tall with his neck stretched high, on the lookout for danger while mother goose and her goslings nibble in the grass.

This week I saw them and I counted again. There are only six. And I wonder if a goose has enough sense to grieve her loss and how she deals with it.

Observing motherhood in animals teaches me. The collie dog I had when an adolescent carefully tended her pups, concerned if someone picked up one of her babies, only content again when all were nestled close to her. I’ve had a bird’s eye view of a robin from a bedroom window, watching the nest prepared, eggs laid, and fledglings straining their necks for the next meal. A racoon family made their home in the loft of Bill’s shop one year. We watched the tiny racoons follow mama through the cat door one early morning, after a night of learning to hunt.

Motherhood is an experience. I never knew how my heart could fill with love or how it could break. I laughed and cried, prayed and celebrated, worked long hours and stayed up past my bedtime. I made a zillion peanut butter sandwiches and cups of hot cocoa. I helped with homework and projects carried carefully to the classroom. I baked birthday cakes, cookies and made Rice Krispie treats. I cleaned up messes that should have required a haz-mat suit.

I read stories, told tales, played games, picked up toys, washed sticky faces and dirty feet. I tried to impart wisdom and a love for Jesus. I read Bible stories and sang worship songs as we traveled by car. I held on as long as I could to the son, the daughter-in-love and their own children until they waved and were out of sight. My heart still grips tightly to the heart of each one.

Sometimes I was busy with other things when I should have been more attentive. I was short on patience and long with a lecture. I didn’t have the right answers to the questions, and I fumbled to do the right thing. I fell down on the job, and I have regrets.

Mother’s Day reminds me of the glory of being a mother and how I wish I’d done it better.

Age and experience taught wisdom I longed for those many years ago. I see my errors, and wish for a do-over. Grandchildren give us that chance. It’s why we seem to spoil and give in and say ‘yes’ more than ‘no.’ We learned the hard way what really matters with the perspective of looking backward, learning from our mistakes.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

— Isaiah 49:15 ESV

The verse of promise is comforting to me. I cannot imagine ever forgetting the son I nurtured in my womb and loved with everything in me. But even if . . . my Heavenly Father would never forget about me. His love is beyond what I can ever produce or feel or act upon. My love is tiny in comparison. And I’m full of thanksgiving for such an everlasting and unfailing kind of tenderness toward me and those I hold dear.

I wonder if all mothers ponder the same question. Did I mother well? Did I do enough? Did I show them Jesus?

I did not get it right every time. I failed often. Yet I hope the love I gave and the prayers I prayed outweigh the mistakes I made. I hope they know that my love continues, that my prayers follow them, that God knows their names because He hears me speak them so often

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

— Isaiah 40:11 NIV

My young ones are grown now. I am not the one gently leading any longer. Still I cling to this promise that the Good Shepherd is keeping watch, is leading and guiding and seeking their hearts continually. And that is a comforting grace to this mother’s heart

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

Dear Jesus,

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.

Jesus, I want to be a good soldier.

Sunday grace.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
— Psalm 31:24

Monday grace

Spring presses herself onward while winter clings with a tight-fisted hold.

I walk the yard and notice the signs of beginnings. The crocuses by the front porch surprise me every year. Buds on branches are full. The forsythia bush opens tender flowers despite the cold. And daffodils by the side of the house bloom enough for a bouquet on the kitchen table

I listen to the sounds of the season, early bird choruses, frogs croaking in puddles, geese fluttering as a pair, abandoning the flock, preparing to nest.

The trees in my yard are winter bare, awaiting the surge to bring forth life again, except for one oak by the drive. It clings to last year’s leaf collection, all dry and brown, unwilling to turn loose.

Like the oak tree, I sometimes cling to an old and lifeless past. I bear scars, but wounds are meant to heal. What happened cannot be undone, only forgiven. I may wish I’d made a wiser choice, used better words, walked a path less traveled, treasured a relationship, opened my heart, but I cannot ask for a do-over.

Sometimes I long for what was but is no more, binding me to yesterday, unable to move forward or rejoice in today. Or I simply crave another’s perceived Facebook life, assuming it is better and easier, seen though my lens of discontent.

I’m clinging to dead leaves.

Old journals and picture albums stir memories and the emotions of life events: birthday celebrations and holidays, vacations and family gatherings. Remembering is good. The past shows where God led me. I was there. Now I am here by His grace. There’s no turning back or retracing of steps. The road leads forward, and I must press on, laying aside weights and sins, regrets and longings, that are heavy like a burdensome backpack.

” . . . when I hold on to the wrong things, the wrong things hold on to me.” — Emily P. Freeman

I’ll be observing my oak tree, watching as it swells with spring’s energy, laying bare its branches in readiness for the new and fresh. It will release winter’s hold and open to creation’s beauty.

I pray to release what cleaves to and hinders me as I walk with Christ in what still feels like a winter season. I ask the Father to refill me with the Holy Spirit’s renewing life force, the energy and power of a God who knows no boundaries or limitations. His grace is strength for the journey.

Let Spring bring forth.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

This is the day the Lord has made .. . and I have some choices to make.

I can speak harshly without thinking or I can use words that build up.

I can criticize or I can look for the best in others.

I can complain or I can give thanks for the good gifts all around me.

I can feel sorry for myself or I can be glad I’m alive to serve another day.

I can count all I’m missing or I can count the abundance I’m given.

I can wallow in despair of my present situation or I can consider it all joy.

I can call my life too hard or I can call on the Lord for His strength.

I can weep alone or I can remember God sees my tears and is near the brokenhearted.

I can wonder if my body is going to hold up under the strain or I can pray for His strength made perfect in me.

I can feel powerless to change this situation or I can ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to work mightily in me.

I can believe the lies whispered in the dark or I can trust the Word of Jesus that lights the path ahead.

I can think I’ve drained all my human resources or I can recall words learned as a child, “my cup runneth over.”

I can give up or I can rest assured that His grace is sufficient for my every need.

I can remain in the cold winter of this trial or I can look toward the hope of spring.

This is the day the Lord has made, and I have some choices to make.

I will rejoice in the One who calls me to this journey, who promises His presence and power, who remains faithful even when I am not.

He is worthy of my worship.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints.
— Psalm 116: 15

I awaken to the thought, another sweet friend left this earth and made her way to the eternal home, the place Jesus promised He was preparing for us.

We make many acquaintances during a lifetime. Some deepen into friendships, kindred spirits and companions. There is the rare blessing when friends become family.

We met at church, our children small, and the relationship developed over years of gathering in the house of the Lord. Bonds of love grew as we united in worship, in learning the Bible together, and in experiencing the Holy Spirit in all His mystery. We played music together for hours upon end. No wonder Scripture admonishes us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Friendship blossomed.

Many years ago, I worked with a group of teens, and my friend’s youngest was part of the group. He was a character, funny, unpredictable, a challenge to the structure I was trying to provide. It was like herding cats, and I loved him. He became more than his teachers expected. We wrote letters while he was in the military. He is a strong and capable man today, and I’m proud to know him. He was my friend’s baby boy.

She and I talked about our children, our grandchildren, music lessons, weight watchers, and anything else that came to our minds. She was quiet and reserved in a group, but she laughed easily and opened up with a few close friends. This morning I remember her laughter and the happy expression on her face.

Friends who become family, these are the ones who come for the celebrations, pitch in when there is work to be done and stay until it’s finished. Friends who are family show up when tragedy strikes – the sudden hospitalization and unexpected diagnosis, the house fire that devastates, the illness that lingers long, and the news from across the world of a young life suddenly snuffed out. They come when only silent prayers are prayed, and they remain, their presence a comfort that needs no words.

My heart hurts this morning for the sister/friend missing from my life, for the richness of her loyalty, for the love she showed me. I grieve for her husband who faithfully walked with her and sat beside her bed until the final breath. I ache for her three strong sons, for their wives and for the grandchildren she dearly loved and delighted to talk about.

I read this commentary on Psalm 116:15: “ . . . the death of saints is an object of value; that God regards it as of importance; that it is connected with his great plans, and that there are great purposes to be accomplished by it. . . the death of a good man [or woman] is in itself of so much importance, and so connected with the glory of God and the accomplishment of his purposes, that he will not cause it to take place except in circumstances, at times, and in a manner, which will best secure those ends.”

God’s ways are not my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. I struggle to understand what He does. I cannot fathom the greatness of His plan that encompasses the whole of creation, of which I am a small part. I experience the goodness of His grace as well as the pain and suffering of a world marred and broken by sin.

I feel the loss this morning, the long days ahead of missing one so dear, the empty place she leaves in the hearts and lives of those she loved and who loved her.

Today we weep. Our Father knows our aching hearts. He sees the tears and does not disregard them. He offers Himself as Comforter. One day He will wipe away tears. Until then, He promises a hope, a future, a Home with Him that will outshine the stars. We wait for it.

Home. That’s where my friend is today. She will be waiting for us.


Grace for the journey

I never would have chosen this frozen road.

Life is a journey, and years ago I chose to make it my aim to enjoy the ride, wherever that takes me. I believe that even on the roughest roads, I might notice some wildflowers. Don’t call me an optimist, only one who fought for joy when the way was especially wearisome.

Sometimes the path is hard. And it is winter.

Sweet William and I have been in a season of difficulty. It is common to every person to weather the experience of winter, spring, summer and fall again and again through life. Spring brings hope of newness and refreshing while summer is hard work, planting and cultivation. We enjoy the abundant fruitfulness of an autumn only to find ourselves shivering in the icy winds of winter as the cycle repeats.

And it is winter. On some cold nights, I sat at the kitchen table alone and wept, my only prayer, “Jesus help.” There were no other words. The ever-pinging texts from friends and family, declaring their promise to pray, were lifelines of hope. Competent nursing staff and doctors coupled with kindness made the days a little brighter. Time was irrelevant as days slipped into weeks, leaving us asking, “How long, oh Lord?”

In the deep mid-winter, Sweet William and I found ourselves wandering and wondering. Important days of Christmas, then New Year, and our 49th wedding anniversary were not what we planned at all. Celebrations wait for warmer days.

Winter life can be lonely, dreary, and somber. Night falls too quickly and a chill penetrates the bones. We long for the sunshine, birds building nests, and waving at neighbors in the greening yard. I tell myself to keep moving through it, and look for the signs of spring.

There are lessons in a winter journey we cannot learn any other way. There’s a Presence in the wilderness we often overlook in the lush valleys of our busy lives when planting or harvesting are the focus. In the barren landscape when the quiet chill settles, the Voice I long to hear speaks, and I hear His whispers. He speaks hope, peace, love, and I’m assured of His faithfulness.

I would not have chosen this winter travel, but it gave me perspective. When we have no one, there is Someone with us. He, the One and only, knows the hurt of the heart, the confusion of the mind, the ache of the body. When darkness settles on the soul, He is the Light. When questions have no answers, He is Wisdom.

The days of January near the end, and I notice how the sun rises a little sooner. Sometimes the birds sing a little more fervently. Though winter seems long, there is beauty if I have eyes to see it. The snow came and made everything clean and bright. The frost sparkles on the deck railing in the pre-dawn. Ice on the lake across the road shimmers in sunlight.

I pray this:

Father of all I see and what is yet unknown to me, be Thou my vision. Give us grace for this journey. Infuse us with courage and strength to endure like good soldiers. As You are ever faithful to us, provide Your power through the Holy Spirit to be faithful to You. Teach us lessons of compassion, patience, kindness, and love over all. Warm us in Your Presence during this season, and let us not forget Your wonders of mercy when the weather changes and warm breezes blow. To everything there is a season, and You are everything we need in each of them. As your beloved child, I ask these things in the Name above all names, Jesus my Savior and Lord. Amen.

Monday grace

Honestly, sometimes I have no words.

Weeks pass and I struggle to put my thoughts down. My journal writing rambles as I try to make sense of the world and my own mind.

Concerns lay heavy. Prayer becomes like breathing. Life is hard while at the same time it is good and beautiful.

I cling to promises in Scripture, the pages of my Bible marked and familiar. I hold on for dear life, for myself and those I love. I know God is strong and He is faithful.

When the load feels especially heavy, I try to preach the truth to myself. It is a consistent effort. It’s easy to tell someone else what to do, and a major endeavor to do it myself. I plan to list daily blessings, there are so many, but sometimes I forget.

It is a season of change.

The trees in the yard are mostly bare from a rushing wind swirling leaves to the ground. Autumn is moving toward winter, the chill affecting tender plants and the landscape in the gardens. I reach for a warm scarf when I head outdoors.

Every season teaches and reminds me.

What can I learn from this present season of my life? That is the question I am asking myself. How can I be joyful? How can I serve faithfully? How can I love freely? How can I show kindness and patience? How can I be Jesus’ ambassador in the current climate?

Not by my own strength, that is for certain, for I am frail. I need a power beyond myself, a strength more that this body affords. And so my prayer becomes a request for the fullness of God to fill me, the Everlasting Father infusing the mortal and fallible, the weak being made strong.

It is an audacious request, yet I make it. I write the words of this weighty petition and place them before my hungry eyes. I want to see them with heart and mind, to remind myself to ask, to knock, to seek for the One and Only who fills my cup until it runs over.

” . . . that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” — Ephesians 3:19b NIV

“and you have been given fullness in Christ . . . “ — Colossians 2:10a NIV

All I need . . . I will find it in Jesus. Fill me, Lord.

For out of His fullness, the superabundance of His grace and truth, we have all received grace upon grace, spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift. — John 1:16 AMP

Monday grace

The peak autumn colors have come and gone. Our hummingbird feeder hangs vacant. The grey days preview a coming change as frost touches tender annuals and golden leaves swirl to the ground. I recognize the feeling that can accompany overcast skies, and I fight the gloomy inclination. Seasons come, and seasons go.

Determined to choose joy, I turn on lights to dispel potential dreariness, light fragrant candles to engage the senses, and begin my Christmas list for friends and family. I try to imagine how I can enjoy the holidays while making them simpler.

As I turn the calendar day each morning, the passing of time mystifies me. Where are the days of October going? I heard someone say the last quarter of each year is about food, glorious food. I baked a pecan pie for Sweet William’s birthday and the Thanksgiving menu is already a vision dancing in my head.

I cut and cooked a cushaw, purchased at the farmers’ market, scraping pulp for pies and saving the seeds for next year’s planting. I make plans for the vining of the melon and cucurbita families. The weekend’s frost took out the unknown melon vine I planted too late. The morning glories that were glorious this summer also succumbed, leaving seeds for me to gather.

Last winter I made a list of smaller, doable jobs in the yard, and it proved to be productive. Instead of fighting my age, I’m learning to accept limitations and do tasks differently. I managed to pare down the gardens last year, making the yard not just manageable but enjoyable.

We celebrated Sweet William’s birthday three consecutive days last week, enjoying time with family and friends who brightened his days and make him feel loved. I’m a couple of years older than my dear husband, a fact that kept us apart while he dated the younger girls. He eventually got up the nerve to approach me, the “older woman,” and the rest is fifty years of history. I advised him to enjoy the last year of his sixties, because as a friend told me, they are not like the seventies. True, very true.

With only two weeks until the Presidential election, we watch the latest news developments. We voted last week, in person, and were proud to be Americans, gladly wearing our “I Voted” stickers. What an amazing country this is where God indeed shed His abundant grace.

I refuse the threatening anxiety about our country’s future. Studying Daniel for the last two months, the message is loud and clear that God is in charge. He knows the future because He planned it according to His perfect will and for His divine purpose. Daniel 2:21 says, “He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding,” (CSB)

I want that kind of wisdom and knowledge, the ability to understand the words of this King of kings and Lord of lords. With determination, I rest in what He sustains, a firm foundation, proven again and again. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

His is the only direction and pathway. He is authentic reality. And He is the One and only who offers life everlasting, a gift through Jesus Christ.

I will take His way, believe His truth, and receive His life.

Monday grace

Death takes no holidays. It comes when we don’t expect it, though we may be anticipating its knock at the door, listening, yet not wanting to hear.

Another family member left this world on Saturday evening. She is the last of my parents’ generation, married to my mother’s only brother. It seems sudden, though my aunt tabernacled in her body for more than ninety years. Last November she drove to our Thanksgiving dinner, very much the determined, lively woman she always was.

She was a role model for me when I was still swinging my legs underneath the church pews. Though petite in stature, she seemed a giant sitting on the organ bench, playing beautifully, enhancing the worship experience. I was just a budding piano student, never imagining that one day I would take my place on the benches of organs and pianos in churches just like she did.

When my mother was dying, she came to watch through the night with me, in the living room of my parents’ home, while the household slept. We were more or less on level ground then, I also a married woman, both of us mothers of sons. Still I knew I was not her equal in any form or fashion. We shared similar interests and talked through the dark night hours of sewing projects, decorating, and music, waiting for the dawning of the day.

When my mother died, she and I got closer. She knew that kind of loss. We met for lunch sometimes. I stayed the night at her house, located closer to the hospital, when Sweet William had surgery, making it easier for me to come and go. I still remember the beautiful room she offered me.

She made muffins one morning and shared the recipe with me. It became a staple of mine on many a morning brunch or coffee with friends. I tweaked the original, calling it my Slightly-Famous-Somewhat-Healthy-Oatmeal Muffins, but I always remembered from whence it came and the day at her house where I first tasted the goodness.

When I got the news of my aunt’s death, I thought of her entrance to Heaven, the first sighting of her husband, her mother and father, her sister, the ones dearest to her. I thought of her greeting my mother and dad, my aunt and uncle, my grandparents, and saints gone before. And I know she saw Jesus, her Savior and Lord. What must that have been like for her? I can only imagine.

The passing of my aunt means my cousins and I are now the oldest generation of our close-knit family. That weights heavy on me today. Even one of us, my cousin’s husband, died last year, another anticipated but unexpected loss. We have walked a road of grief with one another all year, and I spend too much time in funeral homes.

In my seventh decade now, I feel the effects of living in a broken world, though I count the joys of my life more than the aches and pains. I have experienced much in the time of my sojourn. I look forward to living out the masterpiece of my destiny. Still, life is brief at its longest.

I’m convinced we were meant for more, eternity planted in our hearts by the One who made us and wants to share that eternity with us. I know in the depth of my being that there is something else, something beyond, something so glorious my mind cannot conceive it. I am longing for that place more these days.

As I watch the transformation autumn brings to the world, I sense the seasons of my life. The yard is peppered with fallen leaves, and I want them to hold to the tress a little longer so I can enjoy their changing colors. I hope the warm days stay awhile so the plants outside keep growing. I’d like to see the single tomato on the vine turn red. Yet I know cold and winter will come this year as it always does, sooner than I would like.

I talked with a friend today, expressing my heart, my concerns, my longing to stay strong in body and mind. If I allowed it, I could worry myself into distress. But I have a Father who is in control of all of me and much more. He has claimed me as His own. I have given Him my life to do with as He pleases. My days are His.

I rest in the truth of Psalm 62:11 and 12:

God has spoken once, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belong mercy and loving-kindness . . . (Amp.)

God is strong and God is good. That is enough for me.

Monday grace.