What can I say? August is just hot. And it’s going out like a firecracker. Except for a couple of days that teased us with cooler temperatures, we have endured. Because August is about enduring to the end. I’ve been thankful for a fully functioning air conditioner, cool clean water, and ice cream.
Among the books read this month, one of special interest was Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain writes as an avowed introvert herself. She explored research and studies describing how introverts and extroverts are wired differently, how they function and cope differently, and how an introvert can thrive in a culture that often applauds extrovert personalities.
As a child and teenager, I heard the comment more than once, “Peggy, I wish you wouldn’t talk so much.” It was meant to be facetious, because I was not talking. I suppose the person meant me no harm and hoped to elicit my participation in the conversation. But it didn’t. It actually wounded me, making me retreat even more into my reserve.
Growing up shy was painful sometimes, especially in junior and high schools. I have since learned to cope in a talkative, gregarious world. I’ve even developed the ability to speak publicly with a fair amount of confidence, though I over-prepare and sweat it out days before. My comfort zone is to be quiet and in the background. I suppose it is what makes me a good listener. I crave periods of silence and time alone when I can re-energize.
Quiet was revealing and affirming. It showed the positive characteristics of introverts and how the world benefits from people like me. Understanding myself brings comfort and reassurance that I am OK after all.
I also discovered that I am an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, confirming my introversion and other personality traits. While I’m still trying to understand the letters and meanings, apparently I am not as unusual as I sometimes felt.
In August, it becomes obvious that the days are getting shorter, though it started on June 21. It isn’t nearly as hard to get up before dawn. My tiny wren in the little woods now sings at 6:45 am with fewer birds joining him these days. It’s the last songs of summer.
I had one especially busy week this month, with multiple appointments on six of the seven days. I began to feel stressed as the week progressed. I used to thrive in that environment, keeping all the spinning plates in the air without daring to drop a single one. They were not my best years. Without fully realizing it, I lived in a state of tension, trying to maintain a pace I imposed on myself, trying to please everyone, not knowing how to say “no.”
I’m walking a slower gait these days, pacing myself between activity and rest. I more carefully consider commitments. I plan down time after heavy activity. I enjoy and look forward to a Sabbath rest each week. But this week proves sometimes I forget.
This month I kept a “Done” list , jotting down tasks I completed during the day that never appear on my To Do list. Things like fixing a really good breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen after meals; washing and folding loads of laundry; practicing piano; watering the plants. It was an interesting exercise, seeing the value of everyday activities. I probably won’t continue the practice, because it’s just one more thing to do. And that I don’t need.
I’ve shopped the local Farmer’s Market this summer. My own garden has not yielded decent vegetables the past couple of years. So instead, I’ve enjoyed wandering the booths at the market and meeting people who do well at growing tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, peaches, fresh eggs and sausage from happy chickens and pigs. It’s my way of supporting the hard-working farm families in my area.
In the spring, I planted sunflowers around the lambs ear and white violets. The seeds produced well, stalks with multiple blooms. I pass them as Maisie and I walk, and they remind me of a friend whose husband died this year. As his illness progressed, she prepared a “Sunshine Room” for him with a sunflower theme to brighten his last days. I’ve thought of my friend as I passed the big yellow flowers. It’s been a long, hard summer for her.
It’s a jungle out there in the garden, the weeds flourishing in the heat and unusual amount of rain. I finally took the weed eater to the garden and sprayed weed killer with a vengeance until the yard looks relatively well under control as I write. There is still much to do to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I’m waiting for a break in the weather. Even with the weeds, late summer flowers are glorious.
Sweet William and I have found ourselves cheering for our high school volleyball team. We got free passes for all the county sports events just because we are seniors. I love senior benefits. It makes getting older almost worth it. We will take our seats on the bleachers at several schools to applaud and support family and friends who play ball, and instruments, on the field and the court.
August ending means summer is ending. Children are back in school, parents are back on schedule, and big yellow buses create additional traffic.
As always when August winds down, I’m ready for fall. There’s a gently used, flannel shirt from a summer yard sale I want to wear. I need to raise the windows and let fresh breezes blow. I’m ready to snuggle under the quilt at bedtime and hear the night creatures instead of the constant whirring of a fan. The summer decorations are being put away. Pumpkins are on my mind. I have a yellow mum blooming on the front porch with the promise of another whose colors will be a surprise.
August is a month of enduring, of getting through the summer and its persistent heat; of cutting grass and pulling weeds; harvesting the last of crops; and being ready to finish these jobs for the year.
There are things in my life that feel like August. They simply have to be endured. Some are niggling irritations; others are painful thorns in my soul. We endure grief, we endure health conditions, we endure a longing for those we love. We wipe our brow as we work through the struggle, and sometimes we cry. We pray for relief. The answer we receive most often is “Trust Me.”
On a video I watched recently, Jennifer Rothschild said something like this: “True contentment comes in the midst of difficult circumstances.” The Lord knows how I’ve sought to learn contentment and fought for joy. She also said, “Thorn removal is not sufficient. Only grace is sufficient.”
Sufficient Grace. It is my song and my theme. I know it to be true. I depend on the Lord’s sufficiency and not my own. But sometimes I forget.
The beautiful and enduring hymn, It is Well With My Soul, reminds me to sing praise when the scorch of trials burn my flesh and weary my heart. Even when all my circumstances are not going so well, my soul can still be well. It is well with my soul, because I am safe in the arms of Jesus.
This is more than just enduring. This is victorious living.