Monday grace

When the temperatures rise higher, making everything harder, and the pavement is hot on Maisie’s paws and the grass crunches under my feet from lack of rain;

When I go to bed with prayer concerns on my heart and wake to them the next morning;

When family and friends suffer and I can’t be there to do anything;

When life just feels grueling and impossible to figure out;

When trouble knocks on my own door and intrudes without a welcome;

When my questions mount up quicker than my answers;

Then I press in to look for simple graces.

Like a pink balloon on the neighbor’s mailbox announcing the birth of their baby girl.

Like the small wren with the big voice greeting me each morning on the deck.

Like fans blowing air across the bed at night.

Like the cooling shade offered by trees growing strong and full in the yard.

Like the evening shadows playing against furniture;

Like the aroma of a newly opened bag of coffee beans, a promise for the morning.

Like zinnias blooming by the walkway and a sudden appearance of pink ladies.

Like an hour spent with a friend in honest conversation.

Like brown-eyed susans and peppermint in a vintage canning jar.

Like the comfort of Scripture and the relief of laying my burdens on Jesus.

Life can be hard. But I know God has not forgotten us. He has His reasons. His throne room is filled with mercy and grace for times like these. He bids me come.

Tears run down my face and I run to Him.

Monday grace.

Monday grace

Becoming. That is where I am. Already and still in process.

Viewing my life from birth to birthday, I see where I’ve been and where I am. The years impart wisdom that only comes from living out my days.

I am becoming more comfortable in my skin, wrinkled and sagging as it is. I see how God is working in me through experiences of trouble, joy, sorrow, hard work, celebration to become more the person He planned when He fashioned my DNA.

There were days of hiding behind my mother’s skirts, fearful of who I was. Days when I wore a mask to hide who I might be. Days of putting on a costume in effort to conform to another’s expectations. Each was uncomfortable, and without being able to put it into words, I knew it wasn’t who I was meant to be.

Like an onion being peeled, layers of covering slowly, sometimes painfully, fell away, the pretense and pretending of trying to please and appease, of trying to be like someone else. Only let me be who God made me to be with no apology.

In no way does this give me permission to be rude or offensive, to commit sin or disregard the doctrines of Scripture I believe to be good and right. Nay, in following God’s commands I walk in the utmost liberty.

I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.
— Psalm 119:45 NLT

I am free to follow where He leads, to use the gifts He gives, to accept my personality strengths, to recognized my weaknesses and cooperate with my Creator to change where needed.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
— Philippians 1:6 NLT

I am not where I can be, fully who I was made to be. But I am becoming.

Christ in me, I become more and more, year by year, the woman He is calling out. “Will the real Peggy step forward and live out her purpose?”

I reach toward Him.

Monday grace.

On mothering a boy

Before the days of ultrasounds and 3D imaging, I was left wondering if I would have a son or a daughter. When I became pregnant, there were no expectations of knowing until I could hear my doctor proclaim at the time of birth, “You have a boy” or “You have a girl.”

I don’t recall a secret desire for either. I just wanted a healthy baby. People told me they predicted a girl, something about the way I carried the growing life nestled under my heart. Some were convinced and gave me dresses at the baby shower given by the ladies of my church.

When I consider the morning sickness that lasted all day long, the girth of my belly, the stretch marks, the pain of labor and eventual C-section, it was all worth it. Seeing that beautiful round head as my doctor announced, “It’s a boy” veiled everything else.

The first time the nurse brought my son to the room and placed him in my arms, his eight pounds felt like the weight of the world. Realization hit me that I was responsible for this child. How could God trust me this much and was it really such a good idea?

I hoped to parent as I had been parented, with patience and kindness, lovingly nurturing my son and teaching him the ways of a world brand new to him. I failed a lot.

I was determined he would not be a shy child like I had been. I didn’t understand introversion, extroversion or personality types. What I knew was how I’d suffered from being painfully withdrawn. So I encouraged him to speak up, say hello, don’t hide behind.

One day while riding an elevator, this small boy of mine was friendlier to strangers than I was, and I knew I had nothing to do with that. This was who he was. His very own personality was blossoming before my eyes. I would discover him rather than make him into someone I thought he should be.

More than anything I wanted him to know Jesus loved him and to learn to love Him back. We went to church a lot. I read Bible stories. We talked about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I tried to point him in the direction of the cross while being woefully imperfect at modeling Christ-like character. I prayed for him.

When it became apparent that he would be our only living child, I packed away the dolls, small china dishes, a little bed and high chair my dad made for me, things saved in case we had a daughter.

We made room for trains and guns, matchbox cars and star wars figures, drum sets and bikes that let him do tricks down our lane as he called, “Watch this, mom” over and over.

I stayed up hours at night with him to help with homework. I walked the halls of the school, confronting teachers and going to bat for him, mustering courage that didn’t come naturally to me. I fought for my son, my inner mama bear emerging if I thought he was being treated unfairly.

He grew into a handsome teenager and girls looked his way. I turned over the keys to my recently acquired, new-to-me blue Nissan Maxima so he could take his date to the prom. He never knew how often I stood at the window watching him drive away from the house, praying for his safety, that he would return home in one piece.

I tucked him into bed as long as he would let me. Sometimes after a tiring day of working a job and working a home, he’d be in the mood to talk, and I knew these were precious moments. I hope I patiently listened despite my weariness. I hope that’s what he remembers more than when I was in a rush, was frustrated or short tempered.

He became and man and chose a wife, and I knew things were going to be different for me. I determined I would love the other woman in his life. I also understood I had been displaced from being the most important one.

Years fly by, as they do. Time, distance, and circumstances have taken us on our own paths. He isn’t close enough to drop by for a cup of coffee like he once did. But when he calls, my world lights up. His laughter is sweet like honey. He probably doesn’t realize how his voice on the other end of of my smart phone is sunshine on what might be an otherwise cloudy day.

As I look back over the years since his birth, I see how his very first tottering baby steps were leading him toward independence. His first day of school, learning to drive, finding a job, going to college, all of that was designed to take my baby boy into adulthood, toward becoming a man able to stand on his own. Had I considered it, I might not have been so anxious for him to learn to walk.

After I sent my boy a picture of the birthday box I mailed on Tuesday, he texted that he had forgotten. My response was, “I remember. I always remember you, your birth, your life.”

I identify with Isaiah 49:15 where God describes his love for Zion like this:

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.

How could I forget how he changed my life forever? How could I forget the child I loved when I only barely knew he existed? How could I forget this one who is always in my thoughts and prayers? I cannot forget.

I find it beautiful that the Creator gave us the privilege of sharing in the creation of life so we could understand on a smaller scale His magnificent, ever-faithful, unconditional love.

It’s my boy’s birthday today, and I thought of him first thing this morning, before I plugged in the peculator, before I washed my face or prepared to read my Bible. I thought of him. I can’t help but think of him. He is part of me in a way too mystifying to understand.

He has children of his own now and we have an understanding between us. His love for them mirrors my love for him. We get it, this inexplicable attachment and devotion, going deep into the heart and soul of us.

I heard this recently, that the heart has secrets no language can ever express. Indeed it does. For I will never be able to describe in words how I feel about this boy of mine.

Let it be enough to say, he is my son and I love him.

Sunday grace

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.

Sunday grace.


Monday grace

As I turn over the calendar blocks to July 1, I’m stunned that half the year is over. Is life moving at warp speed or is it my own illusion?

What do the next six months have in store? Only God knows.

What have I accomplished since January 1? Lists marked with completed check-offs attest to busy days, tasks and projects completed. The journal reflects daily activity and moods, the inner rumblings of a mind distracted some days and focused on other days.

My good sense tells me the moments spent with friends and family were the most valuable and enriched my life in ways not measurable. I expect that will be true of the next six months. How does one calculate the intrinsic worth?

So what do I want? From this day forward, what should I pursue? What shall I choose for 182 days left in this year?

Working through a new Bible study, I see how the Scriptures are full of questions. In a way, I knew that. God asks:

“Where are you?” “Who told you that?” “Where have you come from and where are you going?” He knows all the answers.

Somewhere, sometime, I heard I should not question God. Yet through my study I’m being made aware that God initiates relationship through questions. Maybe they aren’t harmful after all but rather a way to dialogue. Don’t I practice Q and A to get acquainted with a new friend? I often ask and dig deeper to understand, to comprehend, to get beyond a surface response?

Jesus invited inquiry. “What are you seeking?” “Why are you afraid?” “How much more will the heavenly Father give . . . ?”

Psalm 38:9 says, “All my longings lie open before You, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You.

I wrote it on my spiral index cards, and I’ve looked at it many times during the last weeks. Sometimes what I want seems an impossible request. Sometimes it is difficult to put it into words, this longing too deep to be demystified. Sometimes it is too hard to say it out loud.

And so I offer it up to my Father who knows my heart and the thoughts yet to be formed in my head. He is completely cognizant of my soul and spirit, their inner workings, their conflicts, and the questions I have.

He welcomes my questions, the wrestling I occasionally do with Him. He tells me to ask, seek, knock. It is His invitation to bring all my quandaries to Him. He is not put off by them, is not stunned that I would be so bold, is not offended at all.

He offers the appeal: Come boldly to the throne of grace. Come with your questions, your struggles, your pain. Come with your proposed plans and decisions. Bring your “what if? and “what shall I do?”

God has answers to questions I don’t even know how to put into words.

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

This is Q and A at its utmost.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

Predawn darkness. Sound of perking coffee. Fresh air from an opened window.

The new day begins. I sit in the stillness, Bible open in my lap and prayer list in my hand. I read, pray, listen.

God was awake before I heard the alarm. He kept watch through the night. He waited in expectation for me to come. He desires fellowship with me.

I stand amazed.

Before the sun crests the tree tops, birds begin their chorus. First one, then others join. The little woods becomes a symphony of song.

The words I pray are no surprise to my Father. He knows the needs before I ask. He understands my feeble effort to express my requests, remembering that I am dust. He determines the times and seasons and works His plan to bring about His will.

What more could I ask?

I journal and pour out my heart on paper. God comprehends more than the words I try to write, the longings so tangible that I ache, the storm brewing that needs a calming.

As near as my breath, He speaks peace. “Fear not. I am with you.”

I rest in Him, a Sabbath rest that incompasses every day of the week. It is the choice I make as I rise to face the day. Whatever it brings, I know God loves me. He hears my prayers. He answers according to His perfect will, accomplishing His purpose in me and those I love.

This is grace.

Sunday grace.

Contemplation

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.

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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.