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)

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)

Gratitude

A long marriage develops over time. In our case, we basically grew into adults together. Dale was barely out of his teens and I celebrated my 20th birthday two weeks into our marriage.

Through the years we have endured much. We have equally loved one another and disliked each other many times. We are still a work in progress 47 and a half years later.

Yesterday we went to see Top Gun, Maverick. We haven’t been to many movies since the lockdown. In fact this was our third movie on the big screen since that time.

When the movie started and familiar music played, I smiled. Memories of the first Top Gun rushed forward in my mind. All through 1985 our paper carried stories of behind the scene exploits. San Diego was the focus in the original. Dale was stationed on the base where it was filmed. I was an ombudsman there and helped to start the Family Service center on that base. There is one scene in the original where Maverick drives his bike the wrong way up the street. Little details that made the movie for us. Plus, being in a Navy town the excitement was high with cheers throughout the show.

Yes, it all came flooding back to me. This time, we strained to see what was just out of the view of the film , hoping to catch more of our old hometown. We knew exactly where many of the scenes took place. We would say where things were in almost every scene. We walked out of the theater smiling and discussing the film. The only thing missing for us was not being in a Navy town. The undercurrent of excitement was not there.

As I sat in the theater, watching and remembering, I looked over at Dale. Gratitude filled me. Because of him, my life has been a full one. I have seen and experienced so much. I am a small town girl. I married a small town boy. Together we grew up into this couple who has witnessed much together.

We can’t take full credit though. The Lord is the One who has gifted us. He knit us together when we were unraveling. He strengthened us when we were weak and faltering. He gave us orders to places we didn’t think we’d like, but He knew exactly what we needed. Yes, gratitude fills my heart.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercies endure forever. ” Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

Grateful

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

We lived in San Diego for twenty eight years. I have a circle of dear friends there that make my world bright and safe. I made most of those friends in my late twenties and thirties. They came into my life and took root in my heart. They have challenged me and honestly, they are responsible for the person I grew into. They are my heart.

I also have a group of friends that are my military friends. Although all of us are now way past that time of life, having been out of the Navy longer then we were in. This group was family when families were not close for any of us. We all shared experiences that were unique to each duty station we were assigned. We recognized the need to establish friendships and become family. Otherwise we would have been alone and in need of companionship and support. These friends wrote letters, no internet in those days. These friends prayed for each other, and longed for hugs in situations where we knew they would recognize.

In 2009 Dale and I moved to South Carolina. We drove across the country with a trailer and our dog and each other. Excited for a new adventure, we knew this was most likely our last great adventure. The closer we drove to Charleston the more I fretted about making friends. I was in my late 50’s and I didn’t know if I remembered how to make friends.

I once wrote about the girl scout song, ‘make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.’ I mentioned that the friends from the military and San Diego fell into the gold section. I also realized that the friends I made in Charleston would one day fall into gold status, which they are now firmly fastened.

Seven years ago we moved to the upstate of South Carolina. Once more I wondered if I would have any friends. I should have learned my lesson by this time. Daily I am grateful for friends. I now realize that I no longer have friends in the silver category. Friends are a precious gift from God. A person who will talk with you, share with you, pray with you and be still beside you is such a blessing from our Creator. Friends are golden. Their worth is more precious than gold.

Thank you to my friends. You make my life complete and whole. You give me laughter in times of tears, you encourage me to move when I am sitting in the dirt, stuck in mud. You kick my behind when I am being stupid. You reflect Jesus to me in love, grace and exhortation. I am grateful.

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)

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.

Pam’s Spaghetti

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

We attended a group while in Japan. We were the Friday Night Fellowship and we met in the chapel of the base hospital. We were all young and enthusiastic about our love of Jesus. Yes, we were a bunch of Jesus freaks, after all, it was the 70’s. It seemed that everyone was freakish about something in the mid 70’s.

Our little fellowship tried once a month to meet in homes and we shared a community meal. We all took turns doing this. Those of us who didn’t live in government quarters squeezed everyone into the small Japanese apartments.

One Saturday we went to the home of friends. It was a small apartment and somehow about 20 of us fit into the place with spillover onto their little patio. Pam made spaghetti. Her sauce smelled wonderful and being young adults, we all arrived starving.

I remember making my way to the kitchen to see if I could help. What greeted me was a very frustrated Pam. Her blonde hair starting to curl because of the steam coming off the pans of boiling spaghetti. Her eyes told the story of her frustration. I went to her and looked into the pan of scalding water. There in the center of the pan was a big ball of spaghetti. No strands, just one big ball. The other pan held the same. Our eyes met and I half-believing said, “We can fix this”. Ahh! youth and inexperience.

We grabbed forks and for the next few minutes we separated the strands of pasta. Of course, the pans were much too small for the amount of pasta that was put in. That was one of the lessons learned that afternoon. But eventually we got enough strands to feed the crowd. Pam and I each had the remaining ball of pasta to cut our way through as we ate.

No one was the wiser of what our kitchen drama had been. They ate and were filled and happy. Lesson two of that day was, if no one is aware of the drama, they don’t think about it.

I confess that I have never made spaghetti since without thinking of that day. I don’t think I have had a ‘ball’ of spaghetti, but I have had strands stick together. I often ask the Lord what the parable of the ball was. What was the analogy?

I have had several thoughts about that ball of food. We can hold tightly to one another, keeping a hedge of protection around us. We can join forces to be a stronghold where we are a force to be reckoned with. We sometimes intertwine ourselves with others and we miss what the Lord has for us. We need a support system to keep us propped up.

There are several lessons we could learn from a ball of spaghetti. When I remember it, I think of the laughter from this woman. I think of the times we spent together, in Japan and in San Diego. We encouraged one another, we taught one another, we prayed for each other. We were bound like that ball of soaking pasta.

Ecclesiastes 4:12, “ A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)

What’s Up with the Roses? Part 2 He’s Called Me Rose

Our home in San Diego overlooked a major freeway.  There was noise from the vehicles day and night. Right beside the freeway was a landfill. When we first bought our house, the landfill was a site for bulldozers and heavy equipment.  In a few years it looked almost idyllic sitting beside the never-ending traffic.  Where bulldozers once roamed the land, grasses grew, along with the California poppies in the spring. 

Our family room looked out on the freeway and frequently I would stand at the window watching the vehicles whizzing down the road.   This is also the room where I would have my quiet time and prayer time. 

I had a season in my life while living there, that I struggled with my first name, Mary.   That sounds silly, I know, but it was a real struggle for me.

I was raised a Catholic, and my parents named me after my aunt Jane.  She too was Mary Catherine, but my Mom once told me they called her Jane because she was a plain Jane.  Not a winning argument in me liking the name Mary. 

My family called me Cathi.  I was used to that.  I like it.  I had a rude awakening when I entered first grade though.  Being a Catholic school there were many Mary’s.  Mary Kay, Mary Ann, Mary Beth, you get the idea.  Each of the girls was called by their full name.  I was just called Mary.  I dislike being called Mary.  It’s a beautiful name, and I am finally beginning to like it, but I prefer my full name or Cathi.  

It was during this season in 1991 when I was wrestling with God about my name.  Often during my quiet time I would hear Him speak to me about my name.  I wrote in my journal one day in October of that year that I need to accept that I am Mary.  I needed to accept who I am.  I continued to write in my journal the following: “You need to accept who you are. Just as you are a Rose- you are a wild one, not cultivated and pruned and restricted.  You are an individual”.  I remember after writing this looking out the family room window imagining a wild rose growing on the hillside of the landfill.   A wild rose that no one really notices, but is there.  I saw the rose as pink, I don’t know why. 

Recently I went back in my journals and saw this entry.  I went online and researched pink roses.  Wild roses are likely to be pink; they are a symbol of love and admiration, and a carrier of secrets.

So many years ago I heard about wild roses.  I had a deck full of cultivated roses, and I never thought of a wild rose.  Years ago our Lord was telling me that I may not be noticed, but He noticed me.  He loves me and He knows me. 

Isaiah 43:1b says, ““Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”

I rest knowing that I am His. 

What’s Up With the Roses? Part 1 Background

Roses became a part of my life during our last few days living in Winter Harbor Maine. Below is the story of how that happened.

A group of ladies in Winter Harbor joined together each Tuesday morning for a Bible Study. We all lived transient lives, depending on the Navy to give us orders of where we would live and also let us know when it was time to retire.

Whenever one of us were retiring or changing duty stations, the girls in Bible Study would do what had become a traditional farewell gathering. Of course, we would eat (that’s a given), then we would each sign a book for the person leaving. There would be prayer for her and lots of tears and hugs. Parting is never easy, even when you know it is a part of the life you have chosen for yourself.

My going away party was no different. Brunch was served, book was signed and then the prayer time. One women had written a lovely note to me as she had felt God had given her. It talked about my life being a rose and that in our new life in San Diego I would blossom into what the Lord had planned for me. Pretty wonderful, right? I smiled, content in what I had heard. And then… there is always continuations, those three dots in your life, like waiting for a shoe to drop. The other shoe dropped shortly after that.

Another woman, while praying after the letter had been read cleared her throat and began speaking. I will never forget her words. She said, “And as a rose has many thorns for it’s beauty, there are many thorns awaiting you.”

Now, you would think that would deter me from lovingly following my husband cross country, a logical person would do so. Not me. Acts 21:11 says, “He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” (NLT) I had often wondered how Paul could continue his journey into Jerusalem, and yet he did.

The night of my going away brunch we went to a movie, I can’t remember what it was because I was thinking about Paul going into Jerusalem knowing what awaited him. I was still wrestling with what had been said to me earlier. In between the popcorn, candy and soft drinks I realized that although my feet and hands had not been bound, I was facing the unknown.

A few days later, we packed our U-Haul and started our journey. Our plan at that time was to go to San Diego, my husband do his tour on his destroyer, and he would get out and go to Bible College. Our plan was 7 years and we would head back to Maine. Proverbs 16:9 says, ” We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (NLT) Determine our steps He did. 28 years later we left San Diego.

Were there thorns awaiting me? Too many to count! Did I want to give up? Yes. Many times I found myself on my face pleading for God to remove things before me.

What I learned was strength, trust, prayer, and faith. Our God will never leave us. He is our constant source of strength.

May your day be filled with the goodness of our God.