. . .beside quiet waters. . .

Sometimes I forget.  Maybe you do, too.  Then it’s time to soak  in the depth of a quiet waters’ morning.  This week has been a ‘quiet waters’ week; a time to be restored and healed from too many  disasters worldwide, a time to be softened from the dryness, the sun parched pain patches of broken relationships. Is this even remotely possible?

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23: 1-3a

Days of late remind me that  my treasures are temporarily misplaced, and I must discover them anew. The words of Evelyn Underhill from The House of the Soul and Concerning the Inner Life jolted me yesterday morning  back to the real issue:

“Consider that wonderful world of life in which you are placed, and observe that its great rhythms of birth, growth and death—all the things that really matter—are not in your control.  That unhurried process will go forward in its stately beauty, little affected by your anxious fuss.  Find out, then, where your treasure really is. . . Maintain your soul in tranquil dependence on God; don’t worry; . . .”

I realize Worry has been a thief lately; she is my companion. Peace is not. When schedules are tight, days are exhausting, when news adds more tears to your already full jar, when there is more stress in the day than sunshine—then . . .

. . . it’s time for a quiet waters’ day. A day to ponder, listen and adore the One who knows us best and loves us most.  But it is difficult to release the burdens that hold me captive.  The buckles that strap them tightly around my mind and heart are not easily loosened; they are rusty from too many tears.

But I must.  I take long moments to breathe in His quiet love, to sense His presence.  I long to stay in these green pastures and be lulled to peace by the stillness of love whispers.  He is MY shepherd. . .

A text this week advised: “Don’t worry so much, Barb.  Everything always ends up exactly the way it does–worrying or not.” That is surely profound! My last words to Tom last night before sleep, “I’ve got to  discover what is important again.  I’ve lost it somewhere.”

Maybe we all need to be conscious of the important–the real important stuff of  life— helping those we can, comforting the hurting when possible, giving only slight attention and action to the moments’ personal urgent pain.

Trusting in the Treasure. . . in the tough places. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. . .with pollyanna. . .

It was a brutal night in February, 2004.

Snow, fast and furious, struck with force the windows of the trolley car.  I had just left Tom for the night at a Vienna hospital.  My heart felt as cold as my surroundings. The wind and the cold made it difficult to walk the last two blocks home, but I somehow managed to stumble through the blinding snow.

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(This is our little garden–imagine that much snow on the sidewalks and on the tram!)

Quickly, I locked the frigid, wet weather behind me and went to close the blinds at the front window. The heavy snow had quietly painted a lovely scene in our small enclosed garden. I smiled. Immediately, I went to the computer and wrote the update to our prayer partners who, I knew, were praying for Tom this day.

. . .the good, the bad, the beautiful. . . . Words quickly came together as  I shared the experiences of the day– Tom had lost and was given five pints of Austrian blood,  (he now says that is why he loves Wiener Snitzel so much!) the prognosis, the fear, the cold ride home, the lovely wintry scene from the window. Evidently my words were clearly– or sadly– transparent as our team leader forwarded the letter to our European team counselor to make sure I was OK.

I assumed the Pollyanna in me died that night.  I have carried that label most of my life, a common one for an optimist.  Webster defines Pollyanna as a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.  Is that a bad thing? Critics–there are always critics–say Pollyannism is a negative coping mechanism. They add that a Pollyanna ignores or avoids dealing with the bad, hurtful circumstances of life.  A more healthy response in dealing with negative issues is to acknowledge them as what they are–painful, sad, hurtful, devastating —but then focus on the positive aspects. I consider that a good Pollyanna approach and one for all of us.

It is seeing the good while coping with the bad.  Smiling through tears. Finding a tiny bit of joy in the pain—————.   We’ve all been there. . .

But I am here NOW.  Oh, I can smile; I can even laugh if I try. I am convinced my Pollyanna side is growing up, perhaps maturing a little. Or, is she getting old? My circle of life is heavily laced with pain currently, and I can’t pretend there is a ‘glad game’ anywhere.

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94: 18, 19.

I could list my heartaches; you can list yours. A few nights after Harvey made history, I thoughtfully viewed over a hundred pictures of physically broken homes, flattened businesses, flooded cars.  Devastation everywhere. Can you imagine the mental, emotional anguish hundreds of thousands are enduring?   There is nothing you or I can say to help.  I doubt that the Pollyanna-s in Texas have an optimistic view at the moment.  And that scripture above probably gives little comfort to most of those suffering. Often, situations just hurt.

I read a statistic this week that challenged my Pollyanna mindset. A pastor wrote that 75% of his 800 member church probably suffer from emotional pain, “well hidden by religious cosmetics”, caused by various wounds of the past.  (Wounded, Terry Wardle, 1994, pg 23.)   Add to that the sufferings of physical pain, financial pain, grieving with loss pain— and there is a major storm brewing everywhere.

We can only walk through the pain, the suffering–one moment, one hour, one day at a time. Hopefully, we are walking through this with another–one step at a time. I encourage you to find someone walking alone in heartache and join them. Listen to their cries, guard their heart, hold them close. . .

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of  the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. . .” Psalm 10: 17

When that word, that truth, is all  I have or all you  have, I know he hears . . .

. . . my cry . . . your cry.

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. . .lingering in the moments. . .

. . . like Wednesday morning of this week. An almost perfect early hour at breakfast.  You know- one of those “rare days in June” (James Russell Lowell) except this is August.  Deep blue skies, gentle cool breezes causing the tree branches to lift and dance.  Blue birds bathing in the near water bath.  Austrian coffee in my Danish cup. Tom enjoying fresh biscuits–makes happy for him.  I was reminded of Psalm 96: 11: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant and everything in them.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy. . .”

A moment I want to linger long. . .here, this NOW.  I just want to stay right here forever–well, for a couple of hours. Please.

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(This is Tom before my lingering began. . . . 🙂 But we enjoy lingering together, too.) and served on a tablecloth  from Switzerland 🙂

But I can’t linger; I can’t live long in perfection.  The morning grew hot, the birds began fighting, the coffee was cold.  Someone called, and we cried. No, we sobbed together.

A rainy Monday morning- today. It is not only a relief shower on a hot August day; this is a soaking, needful, steady downpour. I wanted to run barefoot in the wet grass, but I chose rather to open my window, to sit and listen.  To linger. . .while listening, pondering. The earth is dry, begging for more.

I, too, sit and beg for more. The drops wash the dry earth and my physical body relaxes as I hear His presence strong in the rain.  Oh, please can it rain all day like this, and I will linger. . .in this NOW.  “Be still, and  know, Barb, that I am  here, that I am  who I say  I am. . . Psalm 46: 10 (my personal paraphrase.)

Just now, a small prop airplane, sounding like the old propeller D-3, passes overhead and I am forced to stop and remember. . .  I am 11 years old, lazily swinging on the porch at my grandparents’ on a hot July afternoon.  I lingered there . . . oh, I want to stay here. Sixty years later, I am swept away in those memories of security, of silly girlish stuff, of reading countless books in as many endless hours on that porch. I hear the silence, echoing the creak of the rusty hinges of the swing; I sense the stillness as the drone of the bees match the fading plane’s. I am reluctant to leave these moments. Let me stay awhile, please.

Lingering is necessary. . . lingering in the precious moments of the past enables me to smile, to remember, to be grateful. But more than that, lingering, pondering in the present, in the sounds of the rain today, keep me centered. Focusing on what is important . . .to find Him in this. . . NOW.

I remember when I could not linger anywhere on any level during those painful months of last year due to the diagnosis of Q-fever and Babesia. Every breath, every thought and activity were spent on surviving the moment–often hopeless.  I know the pain of emotional, physical and mental issues. I encourage you -if you cannot linger today–try to believe you can tomorrow.  And practice, staying in the good moments a bit longer–in silence, in the sun, in the rain, on a walk. . . to find a moment with Him.

Lingering—long.

The Vision of Sir Launfal.”

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten …
―James Russell Lowell

If you don’t know this poem and its meaning, you might want to discover this nugget and linger a bit.

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seeing . . .lonely.

When the first song began, I knew there would be tears. . .

Tom and I are finding that this step of the journey often leads through uncertain dark valleys with adult children and grandchildren. We are walking that path these days. We were in church of all places. One should find comfort and peace.

“Lord, I need you, oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. . .”

For a moment, I felt alone. All alone. Oh, there are people around me, and Tom is surely right beside me, squeezing my hand gently. . . winking as I work to prevent mascara’s painting with my tissue. He knows the heartache.  But I feel a bit alone.

“Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart”  (Matt Maher)

We know no one of those sitting near us.  No one knows our name; they have no idea who we are–our hopes, our dreams, our losses, or our pain in this moment.  Neither do I know them or their pain.

 “If we are to love our neighbors,” says Frederick Buechner, “before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as with our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces, but the life behind and within their faces.” In other words, we must know them.

This week marks a year since our retirement.  I am missing the routine of Sundays, the company of Sundays, the sounds of Sunday. . .the activity of Sundays.

It has been difficult for us to find a place to become involved with people. Due in part to Tom’s health, but more because this is a new phase of our lives, and we don’t quite know how.  We’ve never been “here” before.

I have heard people say, “I am never alone, but I am lonely sometimes.” That thought is voiced by Christians, and they say that because, yes, Jesus has promised to be with us always and to never leave us. Truly we are not alone.  I understand that, but this is a new thought for me.   Maybe it’s semantics, and I am rarely lonely—but I, Tom and I– are alone in this stage of life. And I use the word alone to mean solitary or friendless.

Almost half of older adults who have retired and relocated to a new address in the past year are lonely. So we are not alone! Make new friends” should be high on a to-do list of retirees. Surprisingly, the largest group of lonely people is younger adults.  It is suggested that social media is isolating all of us.  Too much roaming on Facebook can make one miserable–if not, it can make one envious at the ‘perfect’ lives masqueraded daily by all our friends.

When I was faced with the sense of “aloneness” that Sunday, I could relate to those who experience loneliness on a daily basis.  I wonder that others reach out to them.  Is there a way to minister to those who suffer this common malady.

How often have I neglected “seeing” the hurts and pain of those sitting near me in church.  Am I attentive to their tears. Maybe I should be more talkative to those I pass in the grocery aisles.  (My grandchildren are embarrassed at times- “Gram, you talk to EVERYBODY!!”) Standing in a bank line. . . wherever lonely people are.  This time in our lives is teaching me how to see others.  We must be aware of the loneliness around us—even when we are secure in our dependence on our Father.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. . .” Psalm 62:1

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You”   (Matt Maher)

I encourage you to be aware of lonely, alone and loneliness this week in those you see. 

 

(For me, writing usually results from excessive reading.  The last few months I am doing excessive weeding. . .)

 

 

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. . .i see you. . .

The eyes were blank, staring straight ahead at nothing.  No movement. Almost like a statute.  I tried talking. No response.  What is going on? Are they blind?

I became angry as I walked to the other four cages; the picture before me was the same. Five of God’s amazing creations designed for great things and some to soar amazing heights were ensnared in small prison cells.  Each sparse space had one small plastic tub of water and a tree limb.  Why are these birds so caged, I wanted to yell.  For our speculation? An educational opportunity? For observation?  Only one of the stark enclosures had an informative plaque displayed. Only one shared its cell with another; the others were alone.

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(The pictures are a bit large in order for you to “see” better; yet, you cannot see the eyes clearly. The great horned owl sits on top of the little house.)

No other inquisitive folks were around, so I returned to each cell and “listened” to the empty sad eyes.

I remembered Tom’s mother’s eyes.  Trapped in the confines of dementia, those familiar gentle blue eyes were no longer speaking.  Often, I looked longingly to see something of her looking back at me.  There were brief, fleeting moments when she returned for a second.

Maybe these birds are ill, I thought.  Maybe this is a safe place for them. Still I was intrigued by the lostness in the eyes.  There was some movement as I continued to speak softly.

Eyes . . . windows of the heart, of the soul.

Ken Gire’s book, Windows of the Soul, addresses new ways in experiencing God.  This is one of my favorite all time books–ever, as it speak to my soul! I am reading it now for the third time. Gire identifies numerous ways in which we experience God IF we see. “I want to live in a way so that I don’t lose sight of what’s important or lose a sense of the sacredness of others.  I want to live in a way so I can see windows of the soul.” p36. and in a prayer on page 37, he writes, “I know I won’t see everything, but help me see something.” –(my words now –today, everyday.  Help me see into others’ eyes to see their pain, their heart break—-)

I wonder that I so identified with the pain in these winged creatures’ eyes because my own eyes, as well, were full of pain. Did these sad creatures relate to my sadness this day. A huge ache filled my heart; perhaps they saw what was reflected there. We tend to be opened to others who are hurting when we hurt–or I think it should be so.

Was I, too, in a prison cell? Difficulties in life have a way of confining us to our own lonely quarters.  Times when it is impossible to “see” beyond the hurt. Unlike these caged birds, I have the promises of His word to “see” in my weeks of heartbreak and sadness. One morning I remember reading the story of the woman at the well.  Verse 25 of John 4 gives us the woman’s expectation of the Messiah’s coming one day, “he will explain everything to us when he comes.”  The words of Jesus in the next verse literally embraced me. “I who speak to you am he.” I knew in that instant that this same Jesus was as involved in the current painful situation in our family as he longed to be in this troubled woman’s life.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.”Psalm 118:5. Then I was able to rejoice in the promise of Psalm 119: 32.  “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

There will be pain and heartbreaks, disappointments and sorrow–this is life.  And often times we feel  trapped in a cell, lonely and afraid.  But the Lord longs to set us free in order that we can soar as the red-tailed hawk.  While on our journey may we continually open our eyes to “see”. May we truly look deeply into eyes, hurting with pain and sadness.

Looking at you . . .seeing you . . .

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rejoicing . . . in HOPE

I am going to sit right down and write myself a . . . blog.  (that was a 1935 song by Joe Young- only it was a letter he was going to write.) Most days I mentally write this blog as it is my only way of communicating with you.  Somehow, writing gives me the privilege of connecting with those  I loved deeply but who are no longer in my life–except a ‘like’ on Facebook.  I suppose this says more about me in my old age.  I am in a time warp from those days of ministry focused on people.  And though I am enjoying retirement somewhat, I so miss people, a place and a purpose.

But it is now . . .

Angry thunder wakened me early one morning last week.  Another day of rain, I moaned.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love rain–have always danced through a rainy Monday morning.

But enough–already. We were drenched. (Today, as I finish this–we are too dry again.)

A few days after that rainy early morning we celebrated  a breath-takingingly summer-like spring day.   But these days have been sandwiched between strong seasonal storms often with  tornadic activity in southwest Tennessee.

I remember the dry prison we endured for months last summer and fall.  This area of Lawrence County begged for rain.  One of the dryest on record, they said.  Five months with only one 30 minute tease of gentle sweet drops.

Like life . . .

Life is most often lived out betwixt the excessives and the enoughs. Between the mundane and the majestic.  We ride a bi-poplar see-saw.

Spring allergies are playing havoc with my happiness. And blueberries don’t make me happy right now!  (see blog-choose happy, maybe, perhaps).
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learning . . . loving. . .on the journey

Surprise!  A second post in a week. I would love to blog weekly, but alas, retirement is such a busy job.  We have more projects going than hours in the day but as this is a special day and a cold, rainy one, I have the time to share with you.

You will smile at this story:

Tom and I were in a salon the first week of January in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.  (For those who may not know, Tom retired the second time in August, 2016, and we moved to this small town south of Nashville.) We had gotten haircuts with different stylists, and as the shop was not busy, the four of us began a conversation.  Both young ladies enjoy rustic wood ideas and were interested in our shop projects; we showed them various gifts we had made at Christmas.

After laughter and shared ideas, one ventured a bit timidly, “May I ask you something?” They had already told us what they would like so I thought this would be for a bigger project.

“Are you two newly married?” We grinned at each other. O, I think we laughed at that one.  The hairdressers could not believe that we had been married almost 53 years.  (Tuesday, March 14,-today in Europe is the 53 year mark.)

“Why do you ask?” I wanted to know.

“You are just kind to each other,” was the reply.  “You are so cute together,” a true millennial comment.

I love this story, and I have thought much about the reason she gave.  I don’t do many things well, other than cook and clean house, well, maybe iron, now and then.  But I have learned ‘to do’ marriage well. Emphasis on the learned.  After graduating from college at 41, I realized I could be a professional student, I have jokingly said.  But in reality that is what I have been for 53 years.  A student of life and marriage.  A student of Tom Suiter.  “Study your man,” I have advised women for years.

Marriage manuals abound in today’s market and no topic, idea and opinion are left uncovered.  But in 1964, the choices were distressingly few and amazingly taboo –on some topics. Not until 1977, did James Dobson begin his family ministry. The controversial family voice, Dr. Benjamin Spock, was the only advice available for young couples and parents–that I remember.

How to do marriage. I needed to learn.  After all, my parents had divorced when I was 16; Tom’s parents were together when we married but divorced about 12 years later. We had no expert example to follow.  I read everything available on marriage—secular and within the church.  Some of you will remember The Ladies’ Home Journal and the article each month, ‘Can this Marriage be Saved’? The monthly Reader’s Digest usually had an article on some aspect of married life. Home Life, a Christian magazine, offered personal testimonies  and stories on communication, finances, in-laws, and eventually on sex. I silently, intentionally ‘listened’ to all and learned how to be the wife I needed to be.

There was one author and Christian voice during our early years that rang true and confident.  Charlie Shedd wrote numerous books on marriage and relationships.  Letters to Karen: A Father’s Advice on Keeping Love in Marriage, written to his daughter in 1965 has sold millions, as well as Letters to Philip, his son.  “He mentored a Christian generation in the art of keeping Christ and joy in the heart of relationships.” (Balcony Publishing Co.) I am thankful even today for this man’s influence in my life and in our marriage.

As new books came on the market, I kept reading. Willard Harley’s, His Needs, Her Needs  in  1986 added more information I processed.  Later in 1995, Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages presented me with valuable knowledge. We developed a small library on this subject.  I don’t read as many books on ‘how to’ do married today, but I continue to read fascinating articles on this favorite subject.

Often we are asked, “What is your secret?”  Did we just get it right before ‘I do’? Tom and I came into marriage innocent, pure, trusting and assuming all would work out. Or did we make the ‘I do’ promise—right?  We were 18 and 19; how could we possibly know how to succeed at such a massive undertaking? We learned together how to love, disagree, talk it out; we were committed to make our relationship succeed. We read books together, especially when driving on long trips, with one, two, three or four children in the backseat.

One of our favorite verses for marriage is Deuteronomy 24:5 under a section of miscellaneous laws: “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him.  For one year, he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”  The Amplified Bible says he is to bring cheer to his wife. Isn’t this a fun verse for a marriage seminar!

And a favorite verse I often remind Tom , “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing.” Proverbs 18:22. He comes back with, “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than to share a house with a disagreeing, quarrelsome and scolding woman. Proverbs 25: 24. Reading, learning and study have insured he doesn’t live on the rooftop.

I encourage young couples today to become a student of marriage –your marriage.  Study your man–guess that works for you, men, to study your girl!  Marriages of 10, 20, or 40 years can benefit from the plethora of information available.

Fifty three years. What an incredible journey of hard work, commitment, fun, fighting and friendship.  I guess we have succeeded if we, two 70+ year-olds, leave an impression that we are newly married.

“Be ye kind one to another”. (Ephesians 4:32) The Amplified Bible truly amplifies this verse for marriage: “Become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted, compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted, forgiving one another-readily and freely, as God in Christ forgave you.

A few Sundays ago we took a selfie–our first in 53 years!!  But Tom’s brother, Dwight, said this is a we-fie.  I present our first we-fie!

Learning. . . loving. . .on the journey. Together.

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