a valentine for you . . . just you . . .

I remember spending hours as a fifth grader sorting through those little packs of Valentine cards, choosing just the right one for a special class mate. It was a long, arduous process.  I had to make sure the card said precisely what it should say to the exact person.  You know. I had to make sure a little boy wouldn’t get the wrong message!!

Then the next morning I was so excited as I dropped the finished cards into a decorated box in my classroom. And waited for all the cards I would receive.

It seems now there is a battle raging in some states to ban such a silly, needless, costly tradition.  After all, it might hurt someone’s feelings if they happened to get a ‘not so special card’ or perhaps, they might not get many.

Memories of that long ago celebration of specialness bring smiles.  I guess I was never traumatized by not getting less than someone or not receiving the prettiest ones. My small decorated paper bag was full and that made me happy.

Today, Valentine’s Day is marketing madness.    (click. . .on Valentine’s

I have a Valentine for you this year.   If this day is one of giving joy and appreciation for a special someone, then let’s imagine that Jesus has given us the greatest Valentine imaginable. Everyone is included; no one is left out.  You and I are the most important person to Him. . .

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photo: crosstheworld.com

For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son. . .John 3:16

Tonight on this eve of acknowledging those special, lovely people in my life, I am thinking of YOU.  My blog readers are either incredible, love filled memories of my past or lovely present moments of today, and I am grateful for you. I wish for you, first, a day of celebrating the love of the Savior,  and then a time of smiling at how thankful I am for you in my life.

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. . . the journey . . . changes . . .

“I am definitely not ready for this,” Tom moaned a few weeks ago when we awakened to our first frozen morning.  Winter is not his happy spot!

How different from the warm and sunny of yesterday, I thought, as I  ran out barefoot to break ice in the birds’ bath.  The birds had been pecking persistently for a drink— and several were in line for their early morning dip; they bathe and  drink in the same water 🙂 I asked them (I talk to my birds) if these temperature drops cause stress in their lives?

Change. . .

That one constant in life . . .

You would think we would be ready for it, yes, even plan for it. For much of  life I have enjoyed change, even initiated it.  I moved furniture as regularly and as often as my young granddaughters change clothes on a summer’s day.  Change brings those small daily surprises that give wonder and depth to life.

Some things we can’t change.  Can a leopard change his spots . . . ?(Jeremiah 13:23)  They are what they are, and I cannot change anything about them.   We can accept and adapt to the differences in the weather quite easily, but how does one adjust to everyday revisions and reversals that we may, or may not, understand?

One of our sons-in-law recently diagnosed with diabetes was told by his doctor when results were in, “You can keep doing what you have been doing, and I will medicate you, or you can change your life.”

Fred quickly responded, “I will change my life.”

Ninety days after making  a major change in his diet and lifestyle, cheerfully swallowing the necessary supplements Sharon, our daughter, had researched for him, Fred was told last week by his doctor, “I have never seen anyone do this without medicinal help. You are a rock star!”

You’ve heard the phrase, If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. (Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Tony Robbins–don’t you wonder who really said that first.)

It’s the changes that hurt I write about this morning, the changes in life that shatter hearts and give way to fear.   I have no control over those.  I can transition with the weather, but can I change with my crises of pain? Do I believe the sun will rise tomorrow?  Or should I pull the shade and wait. . .

Tom and I were driving through the country in November and saw this scene –I could almost hear the caption “Change! Not me!”  We looked at each other, laughed , and knew we had to turn around for a picture.  Imagine that one day this tractor happened to run out of gas, or the battery died, and the farmer simply went in to dinner. Of course, he was going to fix it tomorrow. Days went by; weeks turned to years.

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Can you count how many hindrances have grown around the tractor? And now, trapped and captured by the mundane happenings of life, there is no possibility for  purpose.  It is only a fixture of the past.

Change . . .

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. (George Bernard Shaw)

Some experiences, choices and consequences demand a personal change, a decision to act such as Fred made. Other events, inevitable in life and uncontrolled by us, allow us to focus on the One who is the same–day after day after day . . .

“Though the mountains give way and fall into the sea, I will not fear” . . .  My paraphrase of Psalm 46:2— I can do this; I will not be afraid.  I can face another day, even though my heart is breaking. If all things shatter and fail, if life will never be the same, I can be confident in the God who never changes.  .  .

. . . it is not easy . . .

now.

 

 

 

 

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. . . more. . . and less.

“Less calories,” I promised as I served our neighbors  slices of beautiful, crustless quiche the last morning of 2017.

“Good. That’s what I am about this year.  I want to walk more, drink more water and spend less money,” she laughed.

More. . . and. . . less . . .

We all use the phrase more or less to mean approximately or about.  How much sugar in this recipe?  Oh, about a cup, more or less.  How many miles did you run this morning?  Maybe three, more or less.   I am not using this phrase here, but the actual meanings of more which means another or a greater amount and less which is defined as not so much or in a smaller degree.

I usually do not make New Year’s Resolutions. All year I can change some action, a  habit or two, a learned behavior.  But I toyed with JoAnn’s words of more and less, especially as I had already been thinking I was going to clean less.

So when talking via WhatsApp with our granddaughter on Christmas Day, studying in London, I mentioned that I wasn’t going to clean as much this year.  “No way,   You’re the reason I clean my baseboards as often as I do.”

“Oh, no, Ahnna. Maybe you can do that just once a month,” I squealed.

“Not gonna happen, Barbara Jane. (that’s what she calls me :-)) You’ve ruined me.” She smiled, and I could hear her giggle all those miles across the waters that separated us this holiday.

But my heart had to think about those words. A long time.  Surely she and my other grandchildren know I am more than a cleaning lady. (And there is nothing wrong with a cleaning lady!) Surely they have seen more profound truths displayed daily, and they know the heart of their gram.

The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10) began to haunt me.  One listening and loving the Master.  One cleaning and cooking.

More importantly, this year I want to cry less and trust more.  My regular blog readers know that I have not written in three months.  Life has happened to cause many tears and much heart break in our precious family circle, and I have succumbed to fear and failed to trust. I desire to be transparent and vulnerable when I blog, and I just could not share our heartache.  So I didn’t write.

What about you? Is there an area where you want to do more, accomplish more, add another?  And a part of life where you need less of an activity or a habit? My list  is growing. . .

I need to begin with less of . . .

“being anxious about anything,” 

and more of this. . . “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4: 6-8

Maybe if I clean less, I will have time to sit, to listen

. . . more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. . .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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