Quiet

Some synonyms of quiet are: muted, peaceful, silent, soft, hushed, reserved, still, low, soundless.

Today I have pondered quiet. As I walked today there was a muffled sound of traffic in the distance, the call of the birds in the trees, and the sound of my footsteps on the driveway gravel.

It was still, peaceful, hushed. We longed for quiet when we lived in San Diego. We were opposite the freeway. There was the constant hum of eight lanes of traffic. The steady rumble of vehicles traveling by at high speeds. The access road below our house sounded with the thump, the grating, the grinding of the machines in various buildings. In the sky above was the sound of jets landing and departing from the airport. Police helicopters swooped by sometimes instructing those below to remain in their homes for safety. Military jets and helicopters flew overhead, training or heading to a mission. There was no quiet. It was constant noise pollution all around us.

Now, we live in a rural place. Our home is surrounded by woods. We live on a quiet road. Rarely do we hear planes or helicopters. It is still, peaceful and our bodies have adjusted to the lack of noise.

So often we keep ourselves at such a hectic pace, it is hard to be still. We grow used to chaos, noise, activity. It wears us out, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I used to drive to the mountains when we lived in San Diego. The mountains offered quiet, stillness. I would leave early in the morning and spend time soaking the quiet while parked beside Lake Cuyamaca. Eventually I would head home a bit refreshed. By time I got home, though, fighting the traffic and starting to plan meals for the family in my head, I was once more unsettled and busy.

When looking for our forever home, the one thing we both readily agreed on was it had to be quiet. Our precious Lord answered that request in abundance.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

51 years, a brief look back

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

51 years ago, I never really thought of this above verse. It didn’t matter to me and because of that, I gave it no thought.

In hindsight, though, I think of all that was involved in bringing things to a point 51 years ago.

First a music director from our high school needed things moved to his cottage several miles away from our city. He hired two young men from the school to help him move those things. The two young men worked hard all day long and at the end of the day, he paid them for their work.

One of the young men went home and spent the night in with his parents and siblings. The other asked to use his mother’s car for a date. He then called a young girl who actually had other plans for the night.

The young girl’s sister insisted that the girl should accept the invitation to the date.

The two high school kids went to the bowling alley, bowled three games and drank a cola.

He drove her home, kissed her and they watched the 11:00 news together. He drove home.

All of these things worked together. The night went off without a hitch and that was that.

Now, I can look back and see the hand of God in all of this. Had Dale not worked for his music director, he wouldn’t have had the money to ask me out. Had my sister not insisted I accept the offer of a date, I would have gone to another fire-hall dance with my friend and gone home. I have no idea what would have been the alternate of that evening fifty one years ago today.

At the time I had no idea that it would be my last first date. I had no idea it would be my last first kiss. I had no idea that one date would be the beginning of my future. It’s funny how moments can pass innocently and we never think it was really a momentous moment.

Yet, God knew the plans He had for me. Plans for a future and a hope. Plans for good even when we goofed up and went on another path that could lead to disaster. God had a plan. I have often questioned this plan. When on my own with two young children and a deployment being extended several times over, when times were lean and months were long, when sickness or broken bones occurred and the Navy had my support system on the other side of the world.

Yet, today, I see that all of these plans were right for us. We have grown up together. We have stretched each other many times. We have challenged one another, each holding our ground firmly.

Through it all, God has seen us through. 51 years ago was our first date, thank you Mr. Runzo for that $40 you paid the guys. Thank you Mom for letting Dale use your car. Thank you Dottie for suggesting bowling instead of the fire-hall dance. Little did we know you were all part of a bigger plan.

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

A Quiet Day

Most of my days are quiet. With just Dale and I together, we live a pretty sedate life. We enjoy it and relish our time together.

Today, Dale was gone and my thoughts wandered back to other times when I would have a day just for myself. I was a stay at home Mom for most of my life. I started back to work when our youngest started school. I worked part time so that I could be with my girls and they could have a schedule. It worked for us.

Before our girls were born, I usually had every other day off for the most part. I worked days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and evenings on Thursday, Friday and once a month on Saturday. During those days off I would wander down to the villages we lived near in Japan. I would browse the shops and enjoy our surroundings. Stopping at the fruit and vegetable market, I would buy our produce and head home, either by bus or just walking. They were peaceful days and I loved the experience of living overseas.

When the girls came along, quiet days were very rare, although occasionally we would hit on one. Times spent at a park or at the beach didn’t feel quiet, but in retrospect they were wonderful memory filled times.

I stopped working full time when Dale finished college after his military retirement. His job required him to travel and I once more had quiet days to myself.

I enjoy quiet times and once we both officially retired, time together was what we have shared. I do confess, though, there are times when I ask when the next deployment is going to be. Those comments are met with laughter and I think only about the closets I would like to clean out and have things ‘disappear’.

That is what I have found. Retirement is a wonderful time, but, as a housewife purging unnecessary things is difficult. Also, just watching mindless movies that are predictable isn’t common. I find myself being cognizant of what I watch, what I snack on, what I do.

Today, though, was a throw-back quiet day. A day to myself. It has been relaxing. I haven’t really accomplished anything. I have sat back and absorbed the quiet. I have eaten brownies. The closets are still cluttered, the floors still need vacuumed, the ironing is still waiting, wrinkled, but I am almost relaxed. The dinner hour is approaching and I am drawing a blank, but I know I will bring something together.

For now, the quiet of the house has given me a respite. It has been nice. I have needed a quiet day.

A Mother’s Heart

Recently I have been thinking about a mother’s heart. Not her physical heart, but that part of a woman that makes her Mom.

When a woman finds out she is going to be a mother, at least for me, it changes her outlook on everything. Things are weighed with safety, and logic. We are bound to the life within us and it is part of who we are and who we become.

When my daughters were young I worried incessantly. Was I doing the right things? Was I taking care of them correctly? Was I attentive enough? I continued to feed, change, bathe, clothe and hover as much as I could. The result? My girls became girls.

When my daughters reached the age of being girls, I worried incessantly. Did they have enough nice toys? Did they have a healthy meal? Did they have enough social interaction? I continued to watch their diet, their social lives, their wardrobe and I hovered close by. The result? They became teenagers.

As teens I worried incessantly. Were they safe at school and during social activities? Were they making right food choices when I wasn’t there? Were they comfortable in their clothes and skin? Were they happy? I continued to monitor and hovered from a distance (or so I thought). The result? They became adults.

As adults, I worried incessantly. Did they have enough? Were they happy? Were they safe? I watched from afar and tried not to hover. The results? They became wonderful women with husbands and families.

Now, their family is growing up. I see them doing some of the same things I did. I smile and try to reassure them.

But, now, my mother’s heart questions myself. Did I do right? Did I make a good example? Did I do it right?

I know all women think similar thoughts. For those of us with children, we realize they were gifted to us for a season and questions linger when we think of the season where we had influence on our children. A mother worries. It’s our nature. We want to nurture, but we need to learn when it is not our job to nurture all the time, it is time for spouses to take that place.

I think the hardest part of parenting now, for me, is to not push myself on them. My girls have families and commitments and duties that I am not part of. I think of them daily. I pray for them daily. And yes, I worry daily. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (NLT)

I love this scripture, yet, I wonder, did I direct them correctly? With those thoughts I once more pray for them and yes, I worry, are they happy? Do they have enough? Are they okay? Did they laugh today?

My Baby

Almost 40 years ago today, my youngest was born. Dale was out to sea, and I had just moved our belongings into our newly purchased home with friends helping. We still had baby things and nursery things in our garage, not set up or ready to go.

Again, my brother from another mother and his wife were at the ready to keep me going. She was with me for labor and the birth of our youngest and he put the crib and changing table together.

Our youngest was a rainbow baby, a baby born after the loss of another. She was and still is a rainbow in our lives. She taught me joy, a deep abiding joy. She taught me to laugh harder than I had ever known. Her quiet spirit is evident in all she does.

I write about her birthday almost every year. It is a time of joy for Dale and I. We are blessed by this gift from our Lord. Each year I also struggle with how to describe this woman. She is multi-faceted in her abilities and her giftings, yet each time I fail to totally portray her.

Our children are precious gifts to us. Each one teaches you different things. Each one grows into an unique adult. I stand back often and think of my daughters. The women they are and how they got to be where they are. On birthdays especially, I look at their lives and remember the impact they made on me, how they shaped me into the person I am today.

So, happiest of birthdays my dear Rachel. You are a gift and a joy. I hope you are spoiled with gifts and love as you have spoiled me with the gift of you. Thank you for being you. Love you.

Genesis 2:1-3

“So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[a] from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” Genesis 2:1-3 (NLT)

With each day there was a boundary established by God, day, night, sea, land, seed bearing fruit, trees, birds, fish. Each creation had a boundary. Then He rested.

For the past two weeks, I have not given myself boundaries. I did not schedule time to write or really exercise. I enjoyed the company of my daughter, her husband and our Little Miss. Each day held it’s own excitement and adventures, even if it was just sitting on the couch watching television and playing restaurant. Each day gave me memories to cherish.

Now, we are home. Today I awoke with determination to get back into full swing of schedules. I have half succeeded. Laundry is finishing, most of the groceries are put away, and although writing has been on the forefront of my mind, these words are my only accomplishment.

I tend to be pretty hard on myself when I am not in a regimen. I look at numbers in my statistics on my blog, each time reminding myself that stats are just numbers. That does not always work for me, because with each number I see a person that has reached out to me. Each person who reads what I attempt to say is a gift to me, after all, they have taken time from their day to see what I have tried to say.

When my stats go to ‘0’ or ‘1’, I chide myself. I see in my mind a finger pointing at me and scolding me for not being where I think I should be. There are a lot of “I’s” in these sentences. It is then, that I remember that this blog is a gift also. My words do not come without a lot of prayer and my Lord sees the entire perspective. This blog belongs to Him and only through Him can I write.

So, after pushing myself to get back on track, fretting and stewing that I am not back where I think I should be, I have heard a gentle voice whispering, “Chill out! I’ve got this.” Followed by my thankfulness that I serve a God who understands me.

New Beginnings

“School is a building which has four walls with tomorrow inside.” – Lon Watters

Last night we went to Little Miss’ school to meet her teacher for this coming year and see her classroom.

It’s been a long time since I was able to participate in such an activity. Her teacher greeted us and introduced herself to our granddaughter, who then took off to talk with friends and explore her second grade classroom.

It was fun to see the manipulatives on the shelves, the books in the library, the signs on walls. Everything was fascinating to me.

I was surprised that this simple trip brought back a flood of memories. I thought of my daughter’s second grade classes and most of all, I thought of my own second grade year. This took me back in time, thinking of my teacher, classmates the ones who remain friends, the ones that were goofy, but now are wonderful people. I also thought of events that happened in my second grade year. Little things that don’t matter much, except to seven and eight year olds.

Time has a way of fleeting by us. Sometimes we think that days, weeks, months or years drag by. We wait anxiously for milestones to occur, we look forward to big things and little things.

Last night I went to meet my granddaughter’s second grade teacher and was flooded with memories from sixty years ago. In the hours after attending, I wondered how the time had flown.

“School bells are ringing loud and clear; vacation’s over, school is here.” — Winifred C. Marshal

A Glimpse ~ God, Our Hiding Place

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7 (NKJV)

With a shout of “Ready or not, here I come” the searching begins in a game of hide and seek. We have each played this game, trying to find the best hiding spots. Our granddaughter loves this game and I have played it with her, finding spots where she would not look. She is a great ‘hider’ too. She has stumped me many times.

Hiding in play is one thing, but I remember my youngest would often try to hide behind me when she was around strangers. I was her shield and protection. I sometimes would gently pull her from behind me to introduce her to people and allow her to warm up to them.

I have been known to just hide. This is during times of stress for me, when I need to collect my thoughts and my peace. I usually quietly head to a closet and stand there. If I have to, I take a deep breath and start to pray, sometimes crying when situations have upset me emotionally.

God is our Hiding Place. In times of distress, I can picture myself like my youngest, grabbing onto the robe of God and hiding there, occasionally peeking our from around Him to glimpse at what is going on. As He is the perfect parent, He knows I am there and allows me to use Him as a shield. But, when the time comes, He gently reaches around and brings me out, reassuring me that is it okay and I no longer need to hide.

God is always there. He is always ready to be that perfect place to hide. It is not a fearful place, or an obvious place, but He is a place of security and protection. A perfect hiding spot.

Our Foundation ~ Chief Cornerstone

“Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” Isaiah 28:16 (NKJV)

As I have mentioned before, I grew up in Pennsylvania. In school we learned that our state was known as the “Keystone State”. A keystone by definition is a wedge that holds an arch together; something on which associated things depend upon. I have always been fascinated by keystones. I look at buildings trying to see the keystone.

A synonym of keystone is Cornerstone. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone, there is nothing greater to hold us together. Without Him, everything would crumble.

Ephesians 2:19-22 says,”So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit”

Thinking about this, it is a fascinating thing to realize that cornerstones play a vital part in our lives. Everything built around us depends on a keystone/cornerstone. Without that, we would not have roofs or walls surrounding us. In fact, there would be no stable buildings. We depend on the stability and structure of things around us, otherwise we could not function as easily as we do.

Jesus is our Chief Cornerstone. He holds this world together. He is Creator, Healer, our Covering, our Peace, our Stability. We cannot function without Him.

In an arch, all the stones rely on the keystone. The keystone is what gives the arch an ability to stand. I know, like those stones, I cannot stand without the Chief Cornerstone.

The Lord our Banner ~ Jehovah Nissi

“After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).” Exodus 17:14-15 (NLT)

When we lived in San Diego, our church would have worship celebrations with music and praise and worship. These were wonderful celebrations that took months of preparing. I remember several of them, but one stands out to me. I will try to capture the essence of this time in words, which I know will not give it just due. Click on the paragraph below to hear the music that was played.

Sitting in our pew, the doors of the church closed. The lights are dimmed and it is quiet. Then, music starts, a march, with trumpets resounding. The doors open, the lights are brought up, and children frolic down the aisle, somersaults, cart wheels, behind them, young people carrying small brightly colored flags. Then, there appears banners, large ones, being carried by young adults. The singers are singing. Chills run down your back.

The procession continues, with grace, dignity and a boldness. The group gathers on the platform and the song continues. The theme for this celebration is set. We will lift God our Banner high.

Now, for the most part we only think of God being our banner in the Old testament and in the example of a worship celebration. It’s nice, it’s a good reminder of Exodus, but that’s about all the thought it is given.

A banner can be a sign, an invitation, they also commemorate, bring to remembrance and honor. God delivered His people in a time of war, He was the banner over the situations the Israelites faced. He provided and was victorious.

The same is true today. We may not build altars, but we do tell of answered prayers. We testify of battles won with our finances, our health, our employment, our family. God is our Banner.

We proclaim the goodness of God. We tell of our devotion to Him. We say we are resting in His arms, that He is covering us. We are under His banner. It may not be a visible banner, but it is there all the same.

The children sing, “His banner over me is love.” Yes, that it is, it is also a covering, a protection that blankets us. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and we need to lift Him up in honor, in recognition and praise.