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.

Signals

It is raining again today. The temperature is still in the mid-80’s so it is warm.

Dale and I ate our lunch outdoors again. We sat on the screen porch and listened to the gentle rain falling on the other side of the screen. It was a quiet rain, a soothing rain. The type where you want to make soup for dinner or just curl up with a blanket and rest.

The falling rain reminded me of being in our hometown of Oil City, PA. I thought of times past when we were getting ready to head back to school. When you could feel in the air that summer was winding down and soon books would be what was focused on.

A rain that signals the beginning of the end of summer. Now, I am not a summer person. I much prefer the cooler seasons. But, there is something melancholy about the end of summer. The rain starts and although you know there are still a few weeks left of heat and humidity, the late summer rains carry a signal that soon the leaves will fall and the wind will hold a chill.

The days will grow shorter, nights longer and long sleeves will be part of the wardrobe. This year I feel the end of summer more than most other years. Although I am not a summer person, this time heralds the end of carefree vacations and days at the beach for so many. The days of fresh produce and summer fruit. The lightness of the season. Summer is laughter and playfulness.

Soon, as the stores are all displaying, school will start. Each package of new crayons with sharp points, highlighters that are crisp in color, notebooks that are new and not tattered, pens still in their package waiting to be opened forecast a more somber time. A time to sit still and listen. A time to learn and read. A return to the rote, the have-to’s.

Yes, that all hit me while munching on a sandwich and talking with Dale. Sometimes that which is not spoken carries the most weight in the mind. But, for now, it is only the beginning of August and yes, I am retired.

“And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.” Daniel 2:21 (NKJV)

Ouch! In a good way

When we lived in San Diego I became involved in prayer ministry. A group of us would meet an hour before church each Sunday and pray for the service, the pastor, the city, and any pressing needs we may have.

A lot was crammed into those hour prayer times. It formed a bond with many who were part of the team. Some of my favorite memories happened during the hour before church.

When we moved to South Carolina, I attempted a couple of times to pray before church. Some time while living in the low country and then once we moved upstate, here.

I became discouraged here as I truly didn’t know people of the church well. I could see the faces of those who sat in each seat, but I didn’t know the people. I prayed for the service, which I could figure out, and then I wasn’t familiar with the city to pray for the community.

San Diego was easy to pray. I knew that to the west was the Pacific, and I knew what suburbs were against the water. North was towards Los Angeles and so I could pray for the north county, for the marines on Camp Pendelton , and for the communities north of the church. East was the mountain towns that eventually lead to the desert. South were the communities close to the border of Mexico. I knew the direction to face and how to pray. I was confident in those times. I knew the city, I knew the people, I knew the church.

Change in location shifts your confidence. At least it did mine. I have always had the desire to pray and to lead prayer. I have been to prayer conferences where I have learned so much. Nothing in my desire has changed, nothing in my knowledge has shifted, yet, moving cross country disoriented my focus and confidence.

This morning at church our Pastor preached an incredible sermon. It was titled “When God’s People Pray”. The message was encouraging, and yet at the same time it produced an OUCH in me. I knew everything he was saying and in fact, I have said a lot of what he said at different times in my life. Prayer is important.

I felt it was time for me to return to what I had been doing long ago. That was the ouch part. But, it was a good ouch. More like a jab to the heart of me to prod me to do what I know how to.

The message was so encouraging also. For years I doubted why I liked to pray. Was I really called to lead and teach in this area? Or, was it vanity on my part for being asked to teach and lead so many years ago? Those two questions have plagued my thought process for a very long time.

I have not stopped praying. I wouldn’t know how to do that. Part of that stems from my Catholic roots and the prayers I learned as a child. I continue to pray for my Pastors, for my church, for the city we live in (although I still have no clue which direction is which)

Today our pastor talked about what the prayers of the saints are. They are incense to our Lord. The tears we cry while praying are put in a bottle with our name on it and written in the Lord’s book. God keeps track of our prayers. As I sat in my chair, I remembered all the tearful prayers I have prayed over the years. They have been perfume to the Lord and He takes notice of what we pray.

I have not relayed as well what was spoken today, but this is one sermon that will not leave me. It struck a chord deep within and something shifted back to me. The prodding that took place realigned what had shifted in the move across this country. I felt my confidence start to return in this area. I left church full. I received fresh bread in the words spoken. I was renewed.

I don’t know how I will put into practice what I relearned today, but I hope in the Lord to guide and direct me in His perfect way. We serve a great and mighty God. He cares for us. He listens to us. He hears our prayers.

“In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Jeremiah 29:12 (NLT)

Echoes and Treasures

I always hesitate to clean up after my grandchildren visit. I will leave toys right where they left them and walk around them for days. I know when I put them away, the visit is over. I do the same with the beds my grands and kids have slept in. When I have that perfect guest room, it signals that family is indeed gone.

Today I look at the pile of toys and puzzles on my living room chair. There is a stuffed tiger that was hugged and kissed by our Little Miss so that we could hug tiger and actually be getting a hug and kiss from her.

I did put away her art things on the screen porch. Emptying the paint water and putting the watercolors away. I carefully piled the artwork and put it in my treasure drawer in my dresser.

The echoes of laughter and play resound in the home of grandparents. It is what keeps us going. It is a blessing of our lives.

Today Dale and I had lunch on our screen porch. There are ledges on each screen of the porch. Beside Dale were the treasures collected by our Little Man, a twisty grapevine that is hardening to become a walking stick. Many pieces of granite and broken concrete taken from our woods.

On the other side of the porch lay Little Miss’ treasures. A pine cone on a little limb. Some pyrite from the driveway, and other little rocks gathered from outside. A seashell from where the previous owners dumped their aquarium. All special and unique to her.

I don’t know when we decided to store their ‘treasures’, but it is now part of our decor. They are reminders of great adventures in the woods and yard. Adventures that are seen through the eyes of children.

I never knew my grandparents, they had all passed before I was old enough to remember. Grand-parenting is a privilege. I am honored to be called Grammy. I love the echoes and the treasures. They remind me of memories in the making. My grands may not remember a whole lot of us, but they will remember that they were allowed to keep their treasures in a certain place just for them.

As parents and grandparents, we store up in our heart memories of our children. They are dear to us. They bring us joy. I imagine our heavenly Father does the same. Looking at us and in us, He smiles and gently places our “treasures” in His heart.

Memories

“Notice how your memories nest, one inside another — so close-fitting that you can’t peel one free without releasing others.” ~Dr. SunWolf

I love memories.I love the scrapbook of life, where you turn pages in your mind and revisit wonderful times.

Yesterday my memories on facebook showed a wedding picture from my nephew’s wedding. I easily remembered it had been ten years ago, not because nine years ago I wished them a happy first anniversary, but because of the time surrounding their wedding was a decade ago.

You see, the photo of my nephew and his bride reminded me that after their wedding, Dale and I stayed in the mid-Atlantic area waiting for the birth of our first grandchild.

One memory unfolded several more memories in an instant.

“I enjoy, occasionally, a day with my memories — these paintings hanging on the walls of my mind.” ~Robert Brault

The day after the wedding, Dale and I drove to Gettysburg, PA. We set up our tent and explored the town. The next three days we toured the battlefield. A day to explore for each day of the battle. We listened to a tour cd and stopped frequently to walk and truly see what was hidden from the road. It was a glorious three days of climbing, walking and hiking around the battlefield. It is a solemn site. It’s grounds are hallowed. The monuments are incredible. It is one of our favorite places to visit.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” ~Cesare Pavese

From camping we visited with my sister and her family for a few days. Then we headed for another important event. We relocated to a hotel near our kids and waited. We visited daily, us, the kids and his folks. We walked, talked and kept waiting. The hotel staff kept asking us if today was the day, each evening when we returned they kept us hopeful. Until the day finally arrived and so did our grandson. The day is etched in my mind, a deep memory that will not fade. The day I graduated from Mom to Grammy.

“Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children.” Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

In recognition of our Little Man turning ten, I am going to repost some lessons I have learned from him. The lessons keep going as each time with him I discover a truth that is only seen through the eyes of a child. We also have our Little Miss, who has also taught me much. There is such a difference in the way a little boy and a little girl look at the world. Their eyes shine with a wealth of understanding and discovery that we lose in growing up. I hope to share a bit of what I have learned from my precious grands.

I end with a quote from Peter Pan, one of my most favorite stories, “Go on! Go back and grow up! But I’m warning you, once you’re grown up you can never come back.” ~ Peter Pan on leaving Neverland

The same is true when we grow up, we lose site of the wonder, the magic, the glory that God has given us to relish in this life. As we age the wonder of a beetle walking over ground is lost. The urge to blow a dandelion is met with the knowledge that those seeds will produce more dandelions in our yard. The pile of leaves is hiding danger, not excitement. The first snowfall is not magical, it is the beginning of ice and cold.

Oh! To keep that child-like mind to thoroughly enjoy each day as it comes.

Roses, Dandelions and Purpose

In San Diego our yard was rock with a few grains of sand in between. Nothing grew in it. We had grass for a few months which turned to dirt and dust by late spring. Growing up in lush northwestern Pennsylvania where the greens were deep and fragrant, the lack of yard was distressing to me. Much of our property was filled with decking, so after many years I started to grow roses in containers on my deck. They were my joy and a pop of color. My husband loves red roses, so I had one of those. I love pink roses, my oldest likes white roses, and my youngest at the time loved yellow roses. I had a rose bush for each of us. I planted a mini rosebush and it flourished in the container. I prayed for each person while I watered the plant . It was my quiet time and my time to connect with something growing. I loved my deck garden, it was filled with many plants besides the roses. Here, my roses are delights for our resident deer. I see them start to bloom and the next day, they are gone, leaves, buds, thorns, all gone. I have once more started container roses so I can enjoy them. I place them on my front porch. I figure if deer want to climb the steps to the roses, then they are welcome to have them. So far, so good.

Last week I went outside and saw my first dandelion of the year. I know, to many they are a reason to grumble. Living rural as we do, dandelions are free to bloom. I smile when I see dandelions. I want to pick them. Yes, inside me hides a five year old girl.

Dandelions are the military child’s flower. They were designated that as dandelions grow everywhere. We had them in our yard in Norfolk, in Yokohama, Japan and in Nagai, Japan. Our yard was filled with them in Bangor, Me and Winter Harbor, Me. They even flourished in the rocky soil in San Diego. Dandelions represent military children because they too, flourish all over the world. I love that illustration.

Reflecting on the dandelion and the rose I wondered what the lesson would be. Roses are normally planted in a garden. In a row. They are orderly and beautiful. The fragrance is lovely, and they make gorgeous arrangements. They have their place and they grow in their boundaries.

Dandelions grow anywhere they can. The only dandelion bouquets you display come from the grimy hands of a young child who had pulled the dandelions up with their roots. The face of the child is what makes the dandelions precious.

In serving the Lord should we be roses or dandelions? Do we present our life in a crystal vase filled with roses and baby’s breath, or do we present ourselves with our roots showing, dandelions wilting and grimy hands and faces?

 “Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.” II Corinthians 9:6-7 (the Message)

The Still Small Voice

“Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased And that I am never alone

‘Cause You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am” Good, Good Father~ Casting Crowns

When the lights go out for the night, when you lie in bed, getting comfortable, waiting for sleep to come. Suddenly a parade begins. The clanging cymbals, the beating drum, the kazoos blasting from obnoxious clowns and rest flees. It’s not an actual parade, it’s a screaming replay of everything you have tried to stifle. Fears become focused. Dread is creeping from it’s hiding places. Ridicule is throwing grotesque memories at you. Peace is gone. Sleep is being held at bay.

Your mind goes through each part of this parade. You struggle to gain containment of your thoughts. In times like these I begin to pray. I ask the Father to remove the lies and their cohorts. I endeavor to find the peace and calm I had before the lights were turned out.

It is times like these, when it feels like the world has tormented you and filled your mind with all sorts of thoughts and you feel alone in the night. Elijah the prophet felt the same, alone. He had, with the Lord’s help, destroyed the prophets of Baal and fled for his life, thinking his life was next to be destroyed. He traveled for 40 days and nights and came to cave in Mt Sinai. The Lord asked him what he was doing there. I Kings 19:10-13a,  Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (NLT)

Sometimes when we pray, we expect earth shattering answers, filled with the drama like the old Bible movies where everyone is speaking in King James English. I have seen few answers to prayers that dramatic and I can say I never hear the Lord speaking to me in thee’s and thou’s.

In the dead of night when I call him, it is like a child calling out to a Father after a bad dream. The response is the same. A tender answer and an encouragement. The above song we sang today at church. It struck me, that our Heavenly Father will tell me He’s pleased with me and He loves me, just as I am.

“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. ” Psalm 68:5 (NKJV) He is a good, good Father, it’s who He is.

Harajuku

Memory is more than a dustbin of time, stuffed with yesterday’s trash. Rather, memory is a glorious grab bag of the past from which one can at leisure pluck bittersweet experiences of times gone by and relive them. ~Hal Boyle, 1971

Tonight while preparing dinner, I pulled out my trusty meat mallet. It has served me well, in pounding meat, and I have used the smooth sides as a hammer. This evening it prompted sweet memories.

In the spring of 1978 I had a day out with a women who worked with my husband. We knew each other, not really well, but well enough to go on an outing together.

Part of living in Japan was going to various cities to see shrines. As a Christian, that sounds counter-productive, but these places were surrounded by beautiful gardens and architecture.

We boarded a train headed towards Tokyo. We got off in Shibuya at the Harajuku station. Coming down the steps there was a statue of a dog. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the dog was pretty famous. The statue was Hachi, a loyal akita to his master.

We turned to the right of the station and headed toward the Meiji Shrine, a beautiful respite in a busy city. We each picked up a book about the shrine, mostly pictures and very little English.

We walked back through town. It had to have been one of the most fascinating places I have ever been to. We went through the shops, where I picked up my meat mallet and I am certain there were other things I bought.

We decided to stop at a street side cafe. We ordered a coffee and we both felt sophisticated. We felt sophisticated until our coffee arrived. That is the point where two small town girls showed their true colors. The coffee arrived in small cups. We had no idea that we had ordered espresso. Neither of us had seen or tasted it before. I am certain people were appalled at how much sugar and cream we managed to put into the espresso cups.

However, we did sip at our coffee and people watch. At that time Harajuku was a Diplomatic city where people from every nation lived. Sitting at the table on that street we heard so many languages. It was a glorious spring afternoon as we watched nations going by and marveled at the clothing and the accents. It was an impromptu fashion gathering of European countries, some American and of course the exquisite kimonos walking beside our little cafe table.

We boarded the train back to our homes, but we took a little side trip. We went to Kamakura to see the great Buddha. Honestly, I know I saw it, but, I was more excited about our next stop which was McDonald’s. Normally a stop to a fast food restaurant is not exciting. Most people would think that the great Buddha was much more exciting than McDonald’s, but to this young American who hadn’t had a big mac in over two years, McD’s took priority. The burger, fries and coke was over $35.00, but each bite was worth the cost.

I don’t know why that day came back so clearly to me this evening, but it did. Memories are like a scrap book in our mind. We can open it and look back and remember. I came from a small Pennsylvania city. I never thought I would see much outside the state. I was blessed, though to live in Japan for three years. I was blessed to experience the sights and sounds and smells. They are imprinted in my mind.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 (NKJV)

Drought

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. Psalms 63:1 (NKJV)

I had read this scripture many times in my life and although I understood it, I didn’t really understand it until we lived in San Diego, CA. One year in particular, I remember the drought being very hard.

There had been no rain for several months that year. The grasses died, the ground was dusty. It is during these times that you realize that the area is mostly desert, although with all the yards and irrigation it is hard to see. This year was an exception. Watering had been stopped. Certain days of certain weeks you could water your lawn. The heat would cause rolling black outs. Running electrical things was limited for the evenings. So all laundry was done at night. Fires happened all around the county. It was a parched area that we lived in.

It was during this time that I reread the above verse. I prayed, like many that year, for rain. A nice soaking rain that would water not only the land, but would fill up the reservoirs and dams. I longed to see some soft, green grass.

In the course of praying I concluded that the land was not the only thing that was withered. Inside I screamed for refreshing and renewal. I needed a spiritual watering where I emerged restored. John 7:37-38 says, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (NKJV)

Thinking back on that time, I will never forget the feeling that came over me. The scriptures were brought alive to me. I had a visual of a dry and thirsty land and I could relate to the land. Often I return to that time and ask once more to be refreshed to be renewed, to be filled with the nourishing water for my thirsty soul.

Today

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Matthew 24:37-39 (NLT)

Early this morning I received a message from a dear friend. She told me that her father only had a few hours left to his life. He holds a special place in my heart. The times that I have spent with him have been times of laughter and humor and comfort. His presence exuded comfort. He felt like a Dad when you were near him. Since it had been many years since my own Dad had passed, I loved receiving his hugs. Dad hugs are, in my experience, a comforting and peaceful thing. My thoughts and prayers have been with her throughout the day as she is going through this heart-wrenching time.

Later in the day I went to do errands. As I had parked and was heading into the store, I heard a car driving with loud music. It pulled into the space and the music stopped. I looked at the young man as he got out of his vehicle and told him I loved his music. It was Gospel Worship and I could have listened for the next few hours. We chatted a bit and we parted smiling. We had a mini conversation about our Lord. It was wonderful and left me smiling. After all, we all need a dose of the Holy Spirit when heading into Walmart.

As I was heading home, a fire truck with it’s lights on and siren blaring, raced down the street. It disappeared quickly and I wondered where it was headed to. I always pray for the first responders when I see a fire truck or ambulance, it’s just habit. I drove towards the grocery store and off to my left I saw a plume of dark smoke.

Having lived in Southern California for years, the sight of smoke raises concern in me immediately. I watched the smoke and knew that was where the fire truck was rushing too. The smoke lightened in color and I knew the first bout of water had hit the fire. The closer I went to the location the darker the smoke was. I thought it might be a construction fire, but it was a home. The smoke engulfed the house and the fire was sustaining itself.

After getting my groceries and heading home, I thought of the above verse. We each wake up daily with our list of things we want to accomplish. We think of friends and neighbors, we may pray for them. We don’t always know how their day is going. Today, someone was losing the patriarch of their family. Someone was rejoicing in the Lord. A family lost their home today. Memories with each situation were created or destroyed this day.

We do not know what a day holds for us. We may plan many things to do. We may not be able to finish them.

We plan the way we want to live,
    but only God makes us able to live it. Proverbs 16:9 (The Message)