30 December 2008

Marbles

I took such delight in having out-of-town guests for the weekend after Christmas, dear friends I had not seen for a year and a half. All of us being simple people with simple pleasures, it merely took being in the same room to generate smiles and laughter and good conversation.

By Saturday evening after supper, we were toying with decorative glass pebbles on the table, lingering after a fruity supper in the candlelight.

"I don't think these are made out of glass," said one. "Real, round marbles are heavier."

His wife and I were slightly skeptical, and I got out a broken one to show that they were, indeed, made out of glass. But just to check the weight, I dug out some marbles given me by a child, and sure enough, the real marbles were heavier.

Which fact began a round-about discussion of marbles and how the game is played, the way he had played when he was a child and the way we had read about the game being played. Which discussion led to a circle in the carpet, marbles in the middle, shooters, and (at first) very poor aim from my shooting hand.

And I reveled in company and pleasures known to so few in our modern day--contentedness no matter the weather and activity, pleasant connectedness in our disconnected society.

24 December 2008

Blessing in Disguise

I meant to go to town last week to keep an appointment. Snow had fallen, and the air was somewhere below twenty degrees, which didn't please my little car very well. I coaxed and prodded, and pleaded just a bit, all to no avail.

Checking the clock and cancelling my appointment, I called a farmer friend to see if there was any hope of my driving. Yes, of course there was. Never underestimate the ways of a farmer with a troubled engine.

Still, we both agreed: the time had come to take the car to the doctor to see what was the matter. Further discussion with my father brought the matter even closer. Why wait until Friday when I could leave the car at the shop first thing the next morning?

As the car warmed the next morning, a thought was planted in my mind: Load the snow tires in the car now, while you wait, so you don't have to do it on Friday.

This done, I drove the half mile or so to the shop, dropped off my car, and walked to work. It would need to wait there while the engine got cold enough for them to observe the problem. I would not need the car for a few more days.

Over the next two days, so much snow fell that if my car had sat at home, I would have been entirely snowed in. If I had not loaded the snow tires in the car, there was no way I could have had them changed at all by the time I needed them. By now the problem is fixed and my snow tires are securely on the vehicle. Since then, I have not even parked the car in my own driveway for fear of getting stuck, parking instead across the street that gets plowed.

Before I called, my Father in heaven answered my needs, working my car problem into great blessing.

23 December 2008

You're More Fun than the Snow in my Sock

Or was that, "Heidi, you're more fun in the snow than I thought!"?

Either way, quite a compliment! And either way, I steal the secrets of having fun in the snow from my mother...and from my father. As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun, and my insatiable delight in snow got fueled, amazingly enough, by the woman who would move to another city to escape the stuff.

Writing giant messages in the snow with my feet? Her idea, done years ago on top of a frozen lake. We kids (there was a large group of us staying in cabins) looked out after our time occupied indoors to her lovely footwriting in the smoothe, white surface.

Making snow angels? Her idea, too. Although this is mostly a child's activity, I do believe I at least learned it from my mother.

Burying Emily Rose in the snow until only her head showed? Well, Dad inspired that idea when he buried me in sand years ago.

What a blessing it is to have not one, but two creative parents.

09 December 2008

Golden Fog

Driving three hours home, fog still blanketed the earth in late afternoon. Although it drew near the ground in places, there was not enough of it to slow the traffic. At times I could even see patches of almost-blue sky beyond it.

Still, the earth was gray, the frost still clung to the fields.

Unfamiliar with the road, I was not certain where my next turn would come, or how I would recognize it when I reached it. Yet I remembered our highway system always posts signs ahead of the exits, and continued on in faith, surrounded by fog.

As much as I trust the interstate system, how is it that I sometimes doubt that God Himself, who never leaves me nor forsakes me, will clearly signal my way and give me the warning I need to turn?

I drew near the town of turning, yet saw no sign for my exit. The sun began shining more brightly through the fog, which in response began glowing golden. I saw the sign for my exit, and my car curved around the off-ramp until I could join the straight stretch of another highway.

I pointed my tires in a new direction, and at just that moment, all the fog and all the doubt and even the gold dissipated into glorious, clear sunshine. I could see for miles.

08 December 2008

God With Us

"The kingdom of heaven is near," I read. It's the one-sentence revival message given to the lost sheep of Israel, the one thought meant to inspire their lives with renewal and healing.

I can remember one sentence.

At the day's end, I am weary. Do I stay home, finish the dishes, sew on the quilt, practice the piano? Do I run about the town on my errands? Do I join a small group in a Bible study? What is most important to accomplish in this one evening?

In my weariness, I find it difficult to choose, but then I remember: The kingdom of heaven is near, and it is the devil's work to force me into stress, into anything, rather than the atmosphere of heaven.

Thus, in one way, it matters very little which one I choose, for wherever I am and whatever I do, God knows the way that I take and His kingdom is near. (See Matthew 10 and Psalm 139.) I am free to choose from any of the options, to breathe deeply with my mind at rest.

Yet I see that it also matters very much what I choose, for some things enable my soul to dwell in the peace of Immanuel--God with us--much more easily than others. And when I am most weary, my mind and body need the most potent conact with my Creator as possible. Some things take my mind away from the kingdom, while others draw me into it.

"Satan sees that his time is short. He has set all his agencies at work that men may be deceived, deluded, occupied, and entranced until the day of probation shall be ended..."

Whatever keeps the truth from my vision, whatever leaves my mind confused, over-active, or under-active, these are the things I must avoid at all costs.

28 October 2008

Shapely: Conversing on Personality

Matthias says he associates people with colors.


We all promptly desire to know what colors we happen to be. Autumn Grace is yellow, Elizabeth Joy is red. Elizabeth Joy takes a moment to ponder this, being fairly particular about her shades of red.

Numbers and notes are also, by some among us, associated with color.


Emily Rose, little knowing what depths of conversation this will bring to the table, says that when she thinks of people, she thinks of shapes and colors. When she thinks of me, she thinks of a circle.


"Oh!" I gasp. "How did you know? There's a personality indicator based on shapes, and I've been deciding between the circle and the squiggle. I think the circle is stronger than the squiggle."

All of us around the table are combinations of circles and squiggles, some with the circle first and some with the squiggle first. We doubt if squares and triangles would find our ensuing conversation quite as fascinating as we do, but we continue on anyway.

We have a roughly circlish mountain lake met and surrounded by a gently squiggling mountain trail. We have a roundish wreath woven of gently squiggling grape vines. We have a squigglish mountain-range horizon just below an almost-setting sun.

The conversation winds around, between bites of food and family-style worship, and we talk of many things. Inevitably, the conversation returns to color.

"If you picture other people as colors, what color are you?"

Oh! What a thought!

Next day, Emily Rose tells me that like Matthias says, it's hard to nail down people's color when you're with them. She has changed her mind about me. I am not so much a comfortable fall green as a gentle, but deep and vibrant with lots of ozone, sky blue.

"How did you know?" I ask. "That is my favorite color."

*****

To learn more about personality by shape, visit http://www.psychometricshapes.co.uk/box.php

02 October 2008

Counting Them


460. Full morning moon
461. Just enough strength
463. Eyes that wash themselves (after contact with garlic-stained hands)
464. Over-protective smoke detector
466. Clean house for Sabbath, accomplished during two hours of phone chatter with a close (but far) friend.
468. Phone call to Dad
470. Slow Sunday, time to practice piano
471. Girls' weekend trip
474. Work to do
475. Massage therapy
477. Walk to and from the bank in sunshine
478. Sliver moon
482. Plenty of cucumbers to give away
483. Friend's baby on the way
488. Outdoors
489. Friends who know me well
490. Learning to draw
498. Basket of tomatoes
503. Pink morning sky
504. Vigorous morning walk, with less pain in the foot, hip, and knee
509. An abundance of lotion
510. Prayer meeting
511. New friendships

Here I am, more than half way to a thousand. Something tells me I won't stop there...

19 September 2008

Resting on Grace, part 2

I promised the story of my front porch chairs, newly enthroning me as I eat my fruit salads in the early-autumn evenings.

A friend of my father's gave him two old camp chairs--or perhaps he found them at Goodwill--wooden folding framwork complimented by thick, faded red canvas fabric to make the seat and the back.

He was particularly fascinated and delighted by their design, but because my mother didn't care for them and because one of the chairs had ripped fabric, he was never able find a suitable place to use them on a regular basis.

My parents recently moved, and I became the fortunate heiress of several treasures as they packed their boxes. As I visited them in their new home in a new state, Dad took me out to the garage, attempting to send me home with more of the things they couldn't find places for.

I stood in amazement. How could he be offering to part with his precious camp chairs? But that he was, saying, "Now that you have a sewing machine, you could get new fabric and fix them."

Without realizing it at the time, I heard in that moment one of the central themes of grace in our world: Sometimes you have to give something up in order to restore it. In giving me the chairs, my father gave them their only hope of survival, the chance that I would take pity on them and sew them some new seats and backs. Which is, in essence, what we all must do with our hearts, giving them up to our God to be created new.

Meanwhile, I had the dusty old wooden frames and some idea of what kind of fabric to look for. I eventually made my way to the fabric store, and browsing through the bargan scrap bin, found a piece of denim sturdy enough and big enough to do the job. And rather than the $4.37 I thought I would have to pay, the clerk gave me a discount and I got it for just about $2.50. A bargain-lover's favorite kind of shopping trip.

I finally finished the project, got rid of the junky chairs that used to occupy the porch, and called Dad as I sat in one of the chairs to tell him they were done. I knew he'd be pleased to hear it.

"Well, cool!" he said. "Now you can give them back to me for Christmas!"

"I don't know..." I said. "You're certainly welcome to come and visit them..."

18 September 2008

Resting on Grace, part 1

This September 17 post, Grace Around Grace, got me thinking not about my wooden table, but about my wooden chairs. The table itself was a gift, yes, a grace given as I finished college and moved into a nearly-empty house. But around the table--Oh, these graces, as well as their story, hold me up each time I sit down.


Their story began long ago, when my childhood front porch, an expanse large enough for us to pretend it was a platform, sat void of chairs. My mother wanted, I think, a bouquet of wooden chairs, each one different in shape and color. We children, likely influenced by our father's skepticism, thought this an odd idea indeed, and it never bore fruit.


She did get a few wooden chairs and paint them white, but her bouquet of chairs still rested in her imagination, waiting for the proper time.


Fast forward ten or twelve years to the day Mom and I stood in the yarn aisle, choosing the colors for my afghan. I was finishing school, and this twenty-something young lady had become much less the tom-boy of her youth. Bouquets of color suddenly made sense. How could life be any other way?

I had become so much of my mother over the years as my understanding of her grew.


I began with three colors: vivid turquoise, lime green, and yellow. Mom suggested a warm color, and the brightest pink seemed the best. There was a catch, though, because she had always taught me to group things in odd numbers...and salmon joined the mix.


Those moments decided the colors for my whole house before I even knew where I would live.


I had bedroom furniture, but nothing else. Mom found a little round table and one old wooden chair for me; Dad reluctantly offered one of his favorite Goodwill finds from beside the wood stove in the garage where he would sit next to the fire just for fun, or to cook his food over its top (a winter-time barbeque).


Then Mom planted an idea in my mind--I'm sure it was she who did it: to paint each chair (I eventually acquired three more from Goodwill) to match each color of my afghan-in-progress. The idea sprouted, and as I bounced it off several (married) friends, the response was always the same:


Do it now, before you're married, or you'll never have another chance.


Whether they were right, I have no idea, but I proceeded with the paint idea anyway, one color at a time. One friend even gave me a gift certificate to a local paint store to spur me on.


The colors had to be specially mixed. I took my yarn pieces with me to the paint section, held them up to the paint chips, and asked the sales representatives to please mix the colors as close to my yarn as possible. I showed up to church and school board meetings, my hands a bright wash of spots. And finally, the chairs were done.
Here you see the first two chairs, the turquoise and the green, reflected in one of my mirrors, also gracefully bestowed out of an aunt's garage after ten years of hiding. You can see from the yellow ladder that the paint spilled over from the chairs to other old wooden things.
Isn't that how grace works, spilling over and touching everything in our lives, never really ending where it started?
Although my little home is now well-furnished, five little yarn swatches still ride around in my mother's purse, ever ready to advise her in the gifts she considers sending my way.
Since every piece of furniture I own has a story of grace, perhaps this will be the first post in a sprinkling of posts on the topic. At the very least, I must also tell of my front porch chairs, which were my dad's delight before he gave them to me, again out of the garage.

16 September 2008

My Shepherd, part 2

Another hymn I've committed to memory is a slightly different setting of the same Psalm. I should say the words, coming from the Scottish Psalter in 1650, are slightly different. The tune on the other hand, Brother James' Air, is rather sprightly while the tune from the part 1 entry is soft and sweet. Both are supremely delightful. I hope you enjoy, as I do, the subtle differences in the verse, bringing the focus to different words and phrases.

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want. He makes me down to lie,
In pastures green, He leadeth me, the quiet waters by--
He leadeth me, He leadeth me, the quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again, and me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness e'en for His own Name's sake--
Within the paths of righteousness, e'en for His own Name's sake.

Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale, yet will I fear no ill,
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod and staff me comfort still--
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.

My table Thou hast furnished in presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil annoint, and my cup overflows--
My head Thou dost with oil annoint, and my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me,
And in God's house forevermore my dwelling place shall be--
And in God's house forevermore my dwelling place shall be.

15 September 2008

My Shepherd, part 1

From time to time, I memorize a hymn, and pass time in the car or doing housework by sining as often as I can.

When life is troublesome, the hymns come to mind to spur me on in "giving thanks in all things". When life is brilliantly fine, the hymns enhance my happiness, bringing words of praise to my speechless lips. A friend of mine even sings herself back to sleep when she tosses and turns in the middle of the night. Nothing quite drives the darkness away like a solid, faith-inspiring song.

There are two hymns I enjoy, both settings of the 23rd Psalm. The first is sung to the tune "Resignation" from Southern Harmony, 1835, harmonized by Virgil Thompson and then adapted by Melvin West in 1984 (which is the version in my hymnal). The words are an adaptation of Psalm 23 by Isaac Watts.

My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is His name.
In pastures fresh, He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wand'ring spirit back,
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay.
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand in sight of all my foes
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil annoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days.
Oh, may Thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.

Savoring

441. Phone conversation with a dear friend--understanding and being understood, completely.

448. The flower-bearer, who has brightened my office many times, welcoming me into her world and introducing me to as many of her acquaintances as possible.

450. Invitations, even when I can't accept them.

453. Crafting, creating, sharing, eating, analyzing in the midst of a farm with another dear friend.

454, 455. A full moon in the east on the night's drive home, and the same full moon in the west on the morning's brisk walk.

11 September 2008

Maidens

The night before the wedding, maidens rounded a table, beautifully set. Flowers, lace, candles, depression-glass plates, and heart-shaped sandwiches carried to a park silently, deeply honored the morrow's ceremony.

One among us already married, one to be married next day, and the rest without plans specified. The conversation covers common, every-day things--where we work, where we're going to school, what journeys we're embarking upon from this day forward. Yet a sense of the profound colors our words, knowing that tomorrow, two lives will be forever united.
A bridesmaid's brother has made the cake frosting, we've sewed our dresses back together and prayed around the bride. She breathes deep, puts aside stress over last-minute details, and basks in the day.

10 September 2008

Of Gardens and Garbage

The ends of these end-of-summer days bring the glow that only comes during long, nearly-autumn sunsets. It startles me to see the world that way, my garden positively radiant and my near-by garbage can especially out of place in evening's dying breath.

Yes, the light simultaneously catches my breath at the rightness of my garden and the wrongness of my garbage can.

It's a surprise I expect, wait for, linger in. After all, it's right, absolutely correct, for the garbage can to be wrong and the garden to be right.

In my inner world, though, the one where my priorities sit neatly arranged, the light's autumn glowings cast a few shadows I didn't expect, bring out more garbage cans than I remember bringing in. It's hard to tell, but some of the very priorities that have been most garden-like to my soul begin to look the opposite, as if they are in the earliest stages of a metamorphosis, or at least a change in hierarchy.

Or perhaps they've simply been hit by autumn's first frost, unexpectedly, without any warning, and patiently await the gardener to empty the beds, weather the winter, and start fresh.

23 August 2008

Every Perfect Gift

Quite some time has elapsed since I last recorded gifts. Yesterday I passed the four hundred mark. By the end of today, many more will stack themselves in line. By tomorrow, after my dear friend's wedding, they will have multiplied even more.

"Every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights..."

278. Birthday roses from coworkers
282. Drivers' license renewed, on the last possible day
283. Children's hands in mine as our feet feel the way up and down a creek
284. Yard sale sewing machine
287. Ladies picnic, complete with dresses and hats
292. Brake warranty
294. Morning thunder storm, afternoon rain
295. Last hug from friend before she moved away
296. Small town living: package delivered to my office in the morning rather than to my house across the street to be found in the evening
302. Birds singing, as well as frogs
305. Peace in sacrifice
309. Time and place to pick blueberries
312. Church family praying together every day
315. Dancing water in ancient Chinese bowl (OMSI)
335. Cool morning breezes in July, worthy of a sweatshirt
338. Ants in my house...in all things give thanks
341. News of a new person
349. Garden cucumbers and tomatoes
360. Letter from my high-school prayer partner
361. Three moments talking to a bird on the ledge outside my window
363. Cayenne pepper in my sliced finger, stopping the bleeding
367. Business meeting hosted by committee members in their lakeside cabin
377. Looming haircut appointment
394. Box--yes, a whole box--of tomatoes
397. Safe city driving (this small-town, country girl finding her way)
399. Weariness meeting mattress and pillow
401. Generous mother
408. Abundance of water, filling bathtub

15 August 2008

Autumn Celebrations

It's the middle of August, and as fall approaches again it's time to remember all the reasons last autumn was, for me, utterly glorious.

1. Picking elderberries. One September afternoon, the weather beckoned. Rather than waste it all on unpacking my friend in her new apartment, we rushed through the necessary duties, packed a picnic, and gallivanted off to the park. For at the park we knew would be a sumptuous supply of elderberries, from which we would make a delightful syrup to go over home-made bread and pancakes. Not to mention one of the worst messes my kitchen had ever seen. We picked so many berries and made so much syrup that I am still enjoying it out of the freezer. Never waste a beautiful autumn afternoon.

2. Apple Day. Make a guest list and the appropriate phone calls. Invite each person to bring ten pounds of apples and their favorite apple recipes. Bake the pies, make the cider, mix up the apple sauce to make the apple butter, and enjoy the feast at the end of the day.

3. Celebration of Morning. Do you, like me, love the early morning, and feel the grief in your heart when the time changes and the sun comes up an hour "later"? The day of the time change, choose some close friends and a prime location to watch the sun come up. While you await the sun in its brightness, read throughout the Bible about the creation of the lights in the sky and the Light of the world. Sing hymns about light, such as "Morning Has Broken" and "All Creatures of Our God and King". If it's warm, have a picnic breakfast after the sunrise. If it's not, gather in your home for a potluck morning feast.

04 August 2008

One Hour a Week

I've begun reading parenting books.

Those who know me will be at least mildly surprised at this, for I am not married, I have no children, and I am not pregnant. But once a week for an hour, I teach other people's children about Jesus, about the Bible, about all the things God created.

With two weeks under my belt, already I see how each child's heart has specific needs for love, attention, and learning. I see how their minds soak up whatever comes their way. I see the gift of their energy and the opportunity to show them ways to channel it wisely. I see that yes, even at two, they can begin to learn responsible choice making.

And at a complete loss at how to guide their developing minds, I picked out some parenting books and commenced my prayerful study.

I have them for one hour only, and I pray that even this one hour may not be wasted time but rather time that God can use to augment the training the parents give their children at home.

30 July 2008

Because He Loves Us

"We should not present our petitions to God to prove whether He will fulfill His word, but because He will fulfill it; not to prove that He loves us, but because He loves us." Desire of Ages, 125 or 126

18 July 2008

timmanah in africa

Nearly two weeks ago, as I was away from home, my family, some friends, and visited a park. After visiting the salmon, walking past a creek, and kicking around the soccer ball, we were ready to leave. But for some reason, we still stood visiting for a few minutes outside our vehicles in the parking lot.

One in our midst noticed the park ranger as he checked the garbage...empty.

I forget just how the conversation started, but it soon turned from trivia about the park to God's amazing grace and the way He provides for His children--even when they have size 13 feet.

Tim and his wife Hannah are coming closer and closer to the day when they will head for Texas and begin their training to join Africa Mercy, where they will spend two years as medical missionaries. I recommend visiting their blog,
"timannah in africa", to read more of their stories.

As God would have it, almost every person in our circle of friends had foreign mission experience, either short-term or long-term, and Tim's story touched a deep chord with us. One suggested that before we all leave, we pray for him and for Hannah, which we did as we circled around him on that quiet summer evening.

What a blessing and encouragement it was to hear Tim's story of faith! Our prayers and thoughts will continue as they embark on this adventure with God.

09 July 2008

Lavender Sacrifice

On my morning walks, I've been memorizing. A large project, I manage a few new verses every day, and a little review. Now I'm in chapter four, the hardest yet.


It's also the shortest yet, and I therefore expected it to be easy. But then there were the last bits:


And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."


My mind filled with questions: How does that work? Do they ever eat, or even drink water? Does a life of endless praise and self-sacrificing service get dull, or does every moment of praise heighten the awareness and sharpen the vision of God in all His array of beauty?

My human doubts battled hard, telling me not to trust in the One to whom I owe my all. But as I sat at my desk, counting a rediculous number of coins, the door opened.

A greeting from a local plumber, a shimmery bag full of lavender buds tossed from a workman's hands into mine, a thank-you.

"I harvested my forty plants this year," he said. "I enjoy their beauty, but I enjoy other people's happiness more."

I knew he told the truth, and that it worked--that living to serve others and praise God brings the highest fulfillment, the deepest joy. I see him live that truth.

One of the happiest people I know, he spends his days looking for and expecting appointments made by God, handing out loaves of bread or books or even lavender sachets for the ladies and candy bars for the men, praying with people after he fixes their toilets, spreading the gospel with his words and smile.

Even for him, he told me, the beginning of that lavendar harvest was a struggle. But he chose to do it, and as he began giving away his fragrant bounty, he reaped a greater harvest of joy.

Another Scripture comes to mind, then, giving the best recipe for life there is: "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."

07 July 2008

Children of the Waves

We've been visiting beaches together for twenty-five years, he and I--my whole life and most of his, a quarter century.

Our mother and father, the originators of this beach visiting, had loaded us up in their car, driving us to the water's edge. To this day we sit on the same sides of the car as we did when we were small.

Most of "our" beaches have been rocky or coarse; this was one of our first sandy, smooth, barefoot-friendly ones. The grains of sand squealed as they massaged our running feet. We played frisbee, he played guitar, I drew (or attempted to do so), we pieced together crab corpses hollowed out by the waves and the sand.

Hours later, hungry, we drove to another beach just down the road, for we cannot seem to get enough of the good sea air, and head for home reluctantly only when we are cold.

02 July 2008

Wondrous Thought

"It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man's nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin." (Desire of Ages, p 48)

01 July 2008

Working through Writers' Block

This familiar chair holds me this morning as it does every morning, patiently bearing my burden, knowing not that today inspiration comes slowly. It merely does its job consistently, knowing no haste nor delay.

This morning, I am to write a letter, as I often do, weaving words into eye-catching pictures of gratefulness. I know just where I want to go--to God's kindness for all people--but today my route, my map, seems especially evasive. Which flowers, which trees, should I photograph along the way?

I stare out the window, watching a friend park an audaciously large and bright vehicle at his office across the way. Another friend drives past in a humble little white car. It's even smaller than my humble little white car.

I think how kind the mechanics were to me yesterday in my ignorance, my near tears at the effort of learning their foreign language. I think how kind my father is to patiently translate for me at every turn, how generous my boss is to consult with me, adding his translations to my father's.

They, little thinking how much it means to me, offer a grace from God Himself.

25 June 2008

You-pick Cherries

While this picture doesn't do them justice, I had to share with you a supremely charming present I received this morning. A sweet lady brought me not only cherries, but cherries to pick, still on the branch. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything more adorable. The vase upon which they perch was a gift to me at my baptism in 1996.

As for the rest of my list, I'm finding I can't possibly get all God's gifts down on paper, for there would never be room enough or time. However, here are some highlights.

221. Flowers from a lady who visits my office, several bouquets
224. Clouds with definite lines against blue sky
227. Note from Dad: "So well done...to think that you are my daughter!"
233. Help adding radiator fluid
236. Playing a wonderful piano
247. Shoe boxes full of letters from childhood and high school
251. A mother, fasting and praying for me, her daughter
262. Church family
266. Drawing from little girl friend
274. Strawberries, sliced and in the freezer

24 June 2008

Letting in the Breeze

Even as the early morning light poked its way through the slits in my blinds, it dawned on me.

The window is open, but the breeze can't get all the way in.

Out of the bed, next to the window, I twisted open and hoisted the blinds. The air came in like a flood, where before it only trickled, and transformed the room in a moment. The light, too, bathed my chambers in a glow known only to the morning people, the birds, and perhaps to the vegetation.

In that light, I turned to another Light, another Wind, and through the Way opened the doors and windows of my heart, hoisted the blinds, and bathed my soul in His Word.

16 June 2008

Agony, but not Defilement

Sometimes it's hard to express to people why I don't see a vindictive or cold God when I see suffering in my life or in the people around me. As I remember how Jesus suffered for me, my suffering always seems inconsequential. How grateful I am for a Savior who bore all the worst for my sake!

Here is something I read the other day that expresses it beautifully.

"When the Savior finally appeared 'in the likeness of men' (Phil. 2:7), and began His ministry of grace, Satan could but bruise the heel, while by every act of humiliation or suffering Christ was bruising the head of His adversary. The anguish that sin has brought was poured into the bosom of the Sinless; yet while Christ endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, He was paying the debt for sinful man and breaking the bondage in which humanity had been held. Every pang of anguish, every insult, was working out the deliverance of the race.

"Could Satan have induced Christ to yield to a single temptation, could he have led Him by one act or even thought to stain His perfect purity, the prince of darkness would have triumphed over man's Surety and would have gained the whole human family to himself. But while Satan could distress, he could not contaminate. He could cause agony, but not defilement. He made the life of Christ one long scene of conflict and trial, yet with every attack he was losing his hold upon humanity." (Prophets and Kings, 700,701)

11 June 2008

I Had a Housewife (!?)

Yesterday at work, a friend phoned to see if I could join our small group for a last-minute meeting that evening. It would be the only time we could meet this week, and all were feeling a desperate need for some spiritual sharing.

Now, I had just returned from a long trip and still needed to make up about 5 1/2 hours of missed sleep--I counted. I needed to buy groceries not only for myself, but for a smallish event I am hosting this evening. Common sense dictated a resounding NO, I could not meet. I simply did not have the time. But that wasn't the answer that came from my lips.

"I could do it if you go grocery shopping for me ahead of time," I blurted.

What did I just ask of her? I thought. How adacious, how presumptuous!

"Oh, that would be perfect," she said excitedly. "We planned to be in town ahead anyway because my husband has an appointment. I can just pick up your things while I'm at the store for mine."

My list prepared already, I simply handed it to her with a few explanations when she came into my office. After work, I arrived home to a stocked refridgerator and just enough time to eat a quick bite and be off to small group.

And what a blessing the spiritual food was to me, in addition to the physical food my housewife friend bought for me!

10 June 2008

Gifts Counted

176. Clean dishes
177. Friend's sample wedding dress, sewn by her mother
178. Bridesmaid dress on order
179. Salt shaker as vase from an ageless friend
180. Smile from night-owl brother, upon his awakening
181. Trip to the beach
182. Touring parents' new house
183. Thrift store find: delightful new skirt
184. Spontaneous six-mile walk with a girlfriend
187. Home-made pin cushion from young-lady friend
190. Unexpected encounter with an old college roommate
191. Girl time
192. Help changing windshield wiper blades
193. Wisdom against the invading ants
194. Peonies and roses from another ageless friend
197. Roses to pick at the neighbors' yard
198. New flag stamps
199. Another writing assignment
200. Pansies in the salad
201. Baby bunny running wild
202. Pure friends
203. Bath confetti
204. Early-morning lupine fields, solid purple
207. Two friends as traveling companions, to another friends' wedding
208. Time with relatives
209. Lodging
210. Wanderings with Grandma: shops, fire, two trains, beaver dams, and a ship
211. Safe travels
215. Rest
216. Listing prime numbers to stay awake driving
217. Hiking in Donner Pass
219. Public restrooms
220. Invitation to campmeeting

04 June 2008

You're Welcome

Gratitude inspires a response. "You're welcome," we say.

I want to ask, "I'm welcome where?"

Perhaps in a store where I buy things, or in a garden with flowers to pick, a home with a good meal, a friend's schedule, or even a heart.

For every bit of gratitude I return to Him, God has for me an assurance that I am truly welcome in His heart.

02 June 2008

Key Moments

I have a dear friend on the verge of moving away. Every moment she gives me in the midst of life's hectic throes is a sweet gift--even when I'm the one who cooks supper to get it!

Friends sang their senior recital yesterday, all centered on the life of Christ and the story of redemption. A thoughtful hour on the life of Christ is never wasted.

A moment with a lizzard, a rabbit, a dog, a bruised lip--a person never need give up childhood, esepecially when one knows children as friends. (How many alligators have you eaten today?)

28 May 2008

Sing to Me, Cricket

I flipped the switch to the copy machine, and heard an unusual noise. I didn't know machines could make noises like that. I stood back a bit, eying the old Minolta.

The sound came again, and this time I realized it was not from the copy machine itself, but from behind a nearby cabinet. Try as I might, I could not spot the source. Boss number one joined the search, both of us without success and both pleased with the natural sound, unnatural as it seemed inside the office.

Boss number two suggested putting out some water for the little fellow, as her mother-in-law used to do in the winter for the crickets who came to live inside her house.

He sang to us all afternoon, off and on. I have yet to hear him today, but his tiny water dish sits next to the cabinet, in hopes that he fares well.

21 May 2008

Life's Little Highlights

Some recent highlights from my gift list:

133. Walking time with a friend
136. Small gift from a small friend
143. Friends praying over me
147. Warmish rain
151. Scripture
158. Preparation day: to-do list entirely done
160. Walk delights: 'possum, moon behind pink clouds
161. Lunch with like-minded friends, deep hours of conversation
162. Garden time
166. Church board meeting
169. Rest
171. Contact lenses
175. High electric bill, leading to double-checking the meter reading for the power company, leading to a significantly reduced bill

15 May 2008

To Eat of Faith

I can't escape this yearning for green growth. My eyes glow (and blink) as I drive through great clouds of dust that signal the farmers' plowing and planting.

Farming is an act of faith. No human eye can look ahead over the summer months and predict the rain showers or know without a doubt that the seeds will have enough water to sprout and produce the next seeds. Farmers are the greatest optimists of the earth, and by their faith, we eat.

Who, I wonder, eats by my faith?

08 May 2008

Desert Places

At times, I have felt the dryness of desert places--those places God takes me to train me in new ways and stretch my trust in Him before leading me into fresh arenas of faith. The more comfortable I get with God (the more I trust Him), the more comfortable I get with desert places. In fact, my times in the desert have been so precious to me that I almost desire to stay in them, just to know my Savior always as intimately as I do in the desert.

Yet God did not create me, or any of us, for deserts. I was made for gardens (or gardens were made for me). There comes a moment in every desert when God says, "It's time! Come out!"

Remember the children of Israel? After they had come out of Egypt, God led them through the desert and finally called them into the Promised Land. But they refused to go. It was too hard; there were too many giants. God took them back out to the desert, where He continued to shield, guide, and protect them, but how much better it would have been if they had followed Him into the abundance of Canaan!

Centuries later, at the end of their seventy years in Babylon, some of the Israelites were permitted to return to their homes. Many of them, however, chose to stay rather than go to all the work of restoring their land, even though God promised to go with them. Again, He brought them out later when it became clearer to them why they should leave.

Oh, Father, grant me the courage to leave the deserts when you call, to strive for garden living instead of desert wandering.

07 May 2008

Girded with Strength

Last week, I traveled to my parents' house to help them move away from it. My three-hour drive passed quite pleasantly, with one hour of memorized hymns (99) and two of lovely classical music on the radio (100). Before I reached them, my parents and my brother who sings to me on the phone (57), I passed by the one remaining old shack on the country dirt road (130).

Just the week before, my new eye doctor (73) had told me my vision was still more than perfect with my corrective lenses, and the evening light was perfectly beautiful as I made my familiar approach.

The day before, I had held new-born butterflies on my finger (89). I threw out my schedule to do it, leaving dishes in the sink and a lot of packing to do before I left. But they were worth it, and my mind visited their beauty and tranquility more than once as I packed my parents' store room and painted their walls, as a little girl and boy gave me hugs and giggles of delight in the midst of chaos (101).

My friends opened their house to me after my bed traveled from my parents' home, and their house, surrounded by fields of Grass Widows (109), as well as their company (122) girded my soul and body with strength (115). God Himself, amidst my many friends and inspirations, has renewed His peace in my heart (126).

06 May 2008

Thank you, Emily Rose! I will have to be thinking about who I can pass this on to next...

Irrevocable Realities

This weekend, I had the privilage of joining my fellow high school alumni for a Choraliers reunion. Having attended a private Christian high school, most of the music we sang was sacred. As we gathered together again, we sang several pieces for a worship service.

It amazed me how easily the pieces I had sung years ago in high school still make up part of the fibers of my brain. It didn't take much practice time to be singing them again from memory, difficult and intricate though they are, with every breath mark and each articulation demanded by my conductor as automatic and natural as could be. The things I sang in choir are to me irrevocable realities, never to be exchanged.

How fortunate I am that many of my high school weekends were spent singing praise to God all over my home state, that somehow I heard and followed His leading and selected such positive potentialities to become my actualities.

24 April 2008

'Til Death Do Us Part


More than the scent of a freshly-mown spring lawn (46) or the charm of my little lady's ruffled, lacy blouse (45); more than the early-morning rain drops (47) or my polka dot shower curtain (51), I am grateful today for a mother and father who love each other (52).

22 April 2008

Joining the Gratitude Community


Beginning 12 March 2008, I have kept a list of gifts. I'm up to about 45 now, and can no longer keep all these wonderful moments to myself. This idea came to me from Ann at Holy Experience. Feel free to visit her blog and join the gratitude community.
`
Here are some highlights from my list so far:
`
5. Violets from a friend's yard
8. Full moon, perfectly framed in my window
9. Harmonica music, played specially for me in my office
15. Stories and articles from my writer friend
17. Paper doll play
19. Antique hat, with box
22. Microwaved CD
23. Carved bowl from Hawaii
31. Tall blooming tree, glowing pink in the morning light
33. Words from my friend: "Go where you understand the language."
34. Children in the back lot: "Would you like to hold our puppy?"
43. Bouquet of lilacs

21 April 2008

Homeschool Kids Write

Today, I am borrowing a post idea from my young friend Emily Rose. While I am not officially in school these days, I like to think that I am being homeschooled every day by my Heavenly Father. It is therefore fully appropriate for me to do one Homeschool Kids Write assignment!


Assignment six: The Time Machine, the first novel written by H.G. Wells and published in 1895, tells the science fiction story of a man who travels through time. You have found a time machine. You may go back to any one day in your life to live over. What day would that be and why did you chose that day? What would you do the same or different?

I would choose to go back to two days, not one. They were the very first that hinted at all of fall, and two girlfriends stayed the weekend with me.

On Friday, we drove out to a little farm nearby to purchase the produce for the weekend. Oh, what lovely things we found! Pears, peaches, tomatoes, green beans...it seemed they grew and sold everything a girl's heart could desire. (Well, everything her stomach could desire, I suppose.)

We cooked, we cleaned, we had everything ready for a special Friday evening supper. Breakfast the next morning was also exquisite--left over challah made into French toast with fruit toppings.

That Sabbath afternoon, we decided in favor of a walk. Two of us started out, not knowing when to expect our other companion back from her activities. We had meandered along for a couple of miles when our friend called to ask where we were, and if she might catch up with us.

As we happened to be just near a friend's driveway, we stopped in there to visit and wait for our friend to come and park her car. This is where I would change just one thing: if I could live the day again, I would ask for a large glass of water and drink it to the dregs before continuing on the rest of the walk. We thought to make calls on various friends along the way, with whom we expected pleasant company and conversation.

Shortly after setting forth again, we began to get thirsty. "No matter," said we, "for we are near our friends' house in this pleasant country, and they shall give us a drink." Those friends, however, were not at home, and thus could not give us a drink.

We continued on our way, around the bends and past the gardens, thinking to call on others along the way. When finally we arrived in a housing development, we began to count all the people we knew who lived there. Alas, there was not time to visit them all, so we settled for one parently couple who invited us in for a few minutes of rest, refreshment, and gazing at maps of Germany. Had they not made prior plans to be away for the evening, we would have stayed much longer.

Then came the journey back to the car at our first friends' house, which we just finished by sunset. Oh, how glad we were not to be out walking after dark! And, Oh, how surprised were our friends and their children when they learned that we had been out walking the entire day!

When later I clocked the distance we traveled, the sum total came to eight miles. The weather was perfect, the sunshine just soft and sweet, yet bright, and the air had such a festive flavor that I could have lived that day for a long, long time.

17 April 2008

Almost Blooming

How utterly delighted I was to find my favorite neighborhood dogwood tree almost blooming yesterday! Words cannot describe my glee. The blooms were notably wider in the afternoon than they were mid-morning. When the right moment comes, the plants always know it, and take advantage of the oppotunity for growth.

I aspire to be like a plant, using the rays of God's love to the utmost effect in my growth.




A Call for Recipes

If my lemon balm keeps growing as voraciously as it is so far this spring, I will have the stuff coming out my ears. Does anyone have a favorite way to use it, aside from tea? I'd love to hear from you!

More Tulips

My office is in the same building as a small Christian bookstore. Several times a week, a wisened little lady sits and visits in the store, her resting point on her afternoon walk. Some days, she stays for hours, basking in our company.

We've seen pictures of her daughter's wedding, and one among us has taken her to the dentist, the grocery store, and out to eat for her birthday. We love her.

Our lady lives next door to people who have lovely flowers in their yard, and somehow or another, she has secured permission to pluck as many of them as her heart desires. I know not whether she picks any for herself; I do know she picks an abundance for us, for me.

Thus I have flowers on my desk again today, their bright colors out-done only by my friend's sheer bounty.

16 April 2008

Purple Tulips


My back "yard" is really a parking lot. I, however, cannot resist the edge of dirt along the fence. It's not the greatest soil there, so I do not plant vegetables, but last fall I did bury thirty purple tulip bulbs beneath the earth.
~
Two days ago, I noticed the first color in the first few buds. Will you believe me if I tell you I rejoiced over those few as much as I would rejoice over fields as flowerful as the one shown above? I have plans to pick a few this evening--one for my kitchen window, and maybe three for my dining room table.
~
My flowers remind me how God, our Father, rejoices over us with gladness, as well. (See Zephaniah 3:17.)

10 April 2008

I've always been glad you were born.

Yesterday was my dad's birthday. "I've always been glad you were born," I told him, and he laughed.

Here are some things I've learned from him over the years:
  • Baked potatoes, Bush's beans, green salad, and string beans make an excellent breakfast.
  • There are exceptions, but statistics do tell you important things.
  • A little kindness goes a looong way.
  • Some things are worth doing even if Mom is the only one who knows the reason why.
  • Always send people away from your garden with a sack full of produce.
  • Expect a man to open your car door.
  • Stick with your commitments.
  • If you hear people out and treat them well, they'll most often like you even if you have to tell them no sometimes.
  • Be careful with money. Keep track of where it goes, and don't spend it needlessly.
  • Don't cut corners on having good food in the house.
  • Make decisions in view of the long-term possibilities.
  • Pray and study God's word daily.

09 April 2008

The Minister's Cat

While my dear friend Elizabeth Joy sat with my boss for a meeting this afternoon, her children Emily Rose and Forest were my delightful office charges. I have decided there should be more such meetings, as I rarely play with paper dolls these days, much less as part of my job.

We also passed the time with a charming little game called "The Minister's Cat". The game is best played with a large group in a circle, but we managed well enough with the three of us. We highly recommend it for any afternoon tea party, or just for speedily passing the time.

Here's how to play:

1. Arrange the players in a circle.
2. Begin clapping to establish a steady rhythm. Each strong syllable of the sentences spoken should get a clap, or an accent.
3. Each person must describe the minister's cat by inserting one adjective starting with the letter "a" into the sentence "The minister's cat is a BLANK cat," until the rhythm is broken. No one can repeat a word any other player has already used. The word need not make sense in describing a cat; it need only start with the proper letter and be a descriptive word. (The minister's cat is an angry cat...The minister's cat is an awful cat...The minister's cat is an able cat...The minister's cat is an auspicious cat...and so on, as many times around the circle as you can go without making a mistake.)
4. When the rhythm gets broken, move on to the next letter of the alphabet. (The minister's cat is a beautiful cat...The minister's cat is a broken cat...The minister's cat is a bossy cat...)

I hope you enjoy the game as much as we do!

08 April 2008

Seed Balls

Two women and two children, all bright-eyed and eager, piled into a van on a mission. We had waited weeks for this moment, this point of decision, yet when the moment itself arrived, it seemed that we could find no place worthy of our lofty goal.

Worthiness came in an un-looked-for form: we needed the ugliest piece of roadside dirt we could find, a piece of dirt visible to the passing multitudes and likely to remain bare during the foreseeable future.

Every roadside needed our little clay balls filled with wild flower seeds. But which stretch of dirt needed them more than the others?

At last, all four pairs of eyes settled on the same ground. Turning around and pulling over, we carried our cookie sheets of potential and possibility out over the soil, scattering little balls of seed here and there along the road.

We all four prayed for their safety and fertility, promising to one another that no one else should know where we deposited our high hopes (which is why we have no photos to share with you today). I have prayed for them each day since, trusting that the God who made the seeds can bring them to life and bring life to all the eyes that behold them.

03 April 2008

Reflections on Mercy and Anger


"So the people of Ninevah believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them...Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

"But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry...

"Then the LORD said, 'Have you any right to be angry?' "

But Jonah left the city, not answering a word. He knew the answer. Fresh from the belly of a big fish, he had no more right to God's mercy than the people of Nineveh. Yet while receiving it himself, he persisted in putting himself above the others, in wanting them to die.

Is that what I did when I wanted to scream at my friend yesterday?
Yes.
I'm sorry.

02 April 2008

Defiant Gardens

I have just begun reading a book called Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime by Kenneth Helphand.

"In times of genuine aggression, however, the garden doesn't protect: it is an illusory fortress, offering resistance and respite but not victory." (page 17)

True enough--in wartime, the garden needs protecting--it cannot protect itself or its gardener. Observe:

"So [the Lord God] drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life." Genesis 3:24

In the war against evil in our world, our families, and our selves, gardens are worth protecting. They tangibly remind us that we were created for something better, and that we will once again be restored to a perfect creation.

01 April 2008

A Run into God's Mercy

"But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

"But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load."

Does my disobedience really cost other people, to the tune of their entire cargo?

"But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him, 'What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.' "

Please wake me, my Captain.

"And they said to one another, 'Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.' So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah."

What would it be like to live in a world where society in general expected others to take responsibility for their actions, and own the choice to run away?

"Then they said to him, 'Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?' "

Such dangerous questions. Should I hide?

"So he said to them, 'I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.' "

Pause.

"Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, 'Why have you done this?' For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them."

Woshiping God carries a responsibility, a steady commitment and courage to do His bidding, at all times and at all places, even when we have run away. My worship is part of my identity, my credentials.

"Then they said to him, 'What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?'--for the sea was growing more tempestuous.

"And he said to them, 'Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me."

"...So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging."

What were those moments like for Jonah, as he flew through the air and hit the water? Was he terrified, or was he comforted, sinking into the water's cradle, at the mercy of the One who created the sea?

25 March 2008

Eternal Spring


I didn't even have to stick my nose up into the tree to smell its flowers--the breeze brought the sweet scent right to my senses, where I could not ignore its beauty. As if I would want to ignore it.

There are lawns in my neighborhood filled with purple and white violets, and I dearly wish for the same to happen in my lawn--it may take several years, but they're getting a start.

I wonder if I am getting younger every spring. Each time it comes, my eagerness swells beyond the point of return and I greet each flower as though it is both the first I have seen and the last I will ever see.

If that is my experience for all eternity, I dare not miss even a moment of it.

24 March 2008

Free: White Irises

What grand fortune is mine! While out for an evening stroll, a friend and I came upon some irises on the curb, next to a sign that said, "Free: white irises". Being lovers of flowers, we snatched up a few for transplanting.

I can think of no better color for them to be, under the circumstances--white, the color of forgiveness and fresh starts; the definite, solid, and changeless color of Christ's righteousness.

21 March 2008

Snowy Blossoms

Flowers in abundance--the mere extravagance of it! How little we deserve the luxuries of spring, yet our Creator showers them on us anyway.

Words fail me at the sight, so I use someone else's: Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.

20 March 2008

Gold After Gray


Looking out my kitchen window in early spring, I eagerly await the blooming forsythia, more than a block away. I relish it as long as it lasts, thankful that its bright yellow is the first thing to come out after a long, gray winter. Our heavenly Father knew that our first glimpse of warmer weather needed to be a bright one!
`
It reminds me of a favorite hymn, one my father and I play together--he on the recorder, and I on the piano.
`
"As water to the thirsty, as beauty to the eyes,
as strength that follows weakness, as truth instead of lies,
as songtime, and springtime, and summertime to be,
so is my Lord, my living Lord, so is my Lord to me.
`
"Like calm instead of clamor, like peace that follows pain,
like meeting after parting, like sunshine after rain,
like moonlight and starlight and sunlight on the sea,
so is my Lord, my living Lord, so is my Lord to me.
`
"As sleep that follows fever, as gold instead of grey,
as freedom after bondage, as sunshine to the day,
as home to the traveler, and all he longs to see,
so is my Lord, my living Lord, so is my Lord to me."

19 March 2008

A New Heart


Last evening, I buckled down to the solemn truth that my faithful, once-cream-colored plastic shower curtain liner needed either a good bath or a trip to the dump. I've been contemplating a preferred cleaning method for weeks, without gaining a single idea that would make the task less onerous or even guarantee a spotless outcome.

Should I clean it? Or should I spend money and just get a new one?

On the way to Shopko, a new bout of road construction sent me through a bit of a maze. I, however, was not to be deterred. I had a decided on a new shower curtain, and a new shower curtain I would have, that very day.

I took some deal of pleasure in the realization that the price of the liner that struck my fancy was actually less than I make per hour. Some of you will understand this right away. Not only would I avoid the hour it could (hypothetically) take me to clean the old one, and therefore save the hour, but I would also spend fewer dollars than the hour is monetarily worth.

My pleasure has by no means worn out. I smiled to myself this morning as I rinsed my hair and as I scrubbed my foot. You see, it's a charming liner (above). Something about the drops of clear water on the clear liner makes me happy, and brings to mind a vague feeling that I have loved the drops on clear platsic before, perhaps on a childhood umbrella.

My heart is dirty, too--so dirty that God Himself does not dare to clean the old one, but defies every bit of road construction and every price tag to secure for me a brand new one. Spotless. A clear one through which you can see His face.

12 March 2008

Danger in the Meadow

I have no pictures for you today, as the scenes I am about to describe exist only in my mind--and the minds of two friends who were with me when I saw them.

One Sabbath* afternoon in the spring, we loaded the car with our selves and our picnic, heading for the hills. We needed a quiet get-away to nature and the chance to breathe in the beauty of God's creation. The time was just about right for wild flowers of some kind or other to be in bloom.

"Shall we turn here?" I would ask. "No, let's keep going."

The road of choice presented itself at last, and we followed it, turning aside only when a suitable dirt road called from our right.

Father, please reveal to us a precious Sabbath blessing today, I prayed as we walked along.

Just then, a creek's babbling voice made itself heard off in the distance. Of course we could not ignore its beckoning, and off we went to find it in all its charm.

Thank You, I said.

From there we found some flowers, and another brook which met the first farther down the line. We traipsed along, mindful of all the beauties in their detail, and came to some logs where we sat, breathless, to take in the view. Seeing a meadow full of purple flowers in the distance, we thought to find it with our feet and eat our supper there.

Upon arriving in the meadow, we saw that its pleasantries far surpassed what we had imagined it to be. Only one thing marred our delight: a near-by growling noise.

We made haste back to the car, where we ate our supper and eyed a deer who was eying us.

I recall the day as one of supreme Sabbath blessings. Beauties beheld and heard seemed marred by our fear of danger, until we realized that the danger evaded only deepened our longing for the perfect world to come.
___

*As a Seventh-day Adventist, I observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

11 March 2008

The Ladder, again

In the morning I woke, utterly unconvinced that I was ready for a new day.

Lord, will You give me the strength to persevere until nightfall?

As He sometimes does, He planted a song in my mind: "As Jacob with travel was weary one day..."

"Up the ladder one step at a time, my child," He seemed to say. "Climbing this ladder increases your strength, instead of sapping it."

04 March 2008

Practicin'

It takes a certain discipline
to keep myself a-practicin'.
Of scales and exercises grand,
there never is an end.
*
I find the work is worth my time,
for fingers sure and notes sublime
do clear the cobwebs from my mind.
*
But when the sunshine fair appears,
my eyes will thrill to meet its rays--
against the light within my ears,
it takes a certain discipline
to keep myself from practicin'.

03 March 2008

The Eye Doctor, Part 2

"Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshipped Him." Mark 15:19


"So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything." Mark 8:23


If anyone has the right to spit on my eyes and heal my sight, You do.

28 February 2008

Thank You

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

"This command is an assurance that even the things which appear to be against us will work for our good. God would not bid us be thankful for that which would do us harm." Ministry of Healing, p 255

27 February 2008

The Eye Doctor

"Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town."

This seems so far away from everything, Lord. I know I simply followed You here, but I can't see what You're doing yet, and the sounds aren't making sense either.

"And when He had spit on His eyes..."

Oh, dear. This learning to see business isn't always pleasant.

"...and put His hands on him..."

Much better. Thank You.

"...He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, 'I see men like trees, walking.'"

Wow! I never would have thought I could see this well! I feel I could skip and hop and jump around. What a miracle! Oh, did You say something? You're not done?

"Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, 'Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.'"

How long must I remain silent?

(See Mark 8)

26 February 2008

Potted Gardens

No matter the weather outside, there's always a springtime in my house. Between all the plants, my mis-matched chairs, and the little spots of color around the rooms, my little home and its small pleasures brighten my days. As you can see, there isn't much I wouldn't attempt to grow indoors, especially in winter as I long for spring.

My father's mother is much the same way. She once propogated her entire back lawn piece by piece, sod cutting by sod cutting from her front yard. She giggled as she described it to me--I couldn't tell whether she did it because they could not afford grass seeds or if she just did it that way to see if it could be done. I could tell she was proud of her accomplishment. She would never describe herself as creative, and greatly admires creativity in other people. I wonder if she realizes that very few people would think to grow a lawn the way she grew hers.



My grandmother's second-story apartment is softly bright. Her walls are a pale blue, and the light streams in gloriously through her sun widow in the high ceiling. Various books and clippings that interest her litter the place, and she has a tiny little balcony off to one side (above). Although she has no space on the grounds to grow anything, you can see that she still has a garden, all in little rows of pots lining her porch. I understand her crop of tomatoes last summer was truly a wonder, and I am thankful for her constant reminders that with the right attitude, one can accomplish much in small spaces.

25 February 2008

Blue Wonder

Perched high upon my finger, my small foe takes a moment's rest from his flight. I give him the most disgusted look I can muster and I am almost ready to blow him right back into space. But since he chose my finger instead of my hair or an eyelash, his radiant blue tones captivate my similarly-toned blue eyes. I am breathless--eyes bright with wonder, mouth open in awe. I would never have thought to design someone like him.

A couple of times a year, swarms of his friends come through our valley, spending three or four days--sometimes more--on vacation here. They make a general nuisance of themselves, and we are glad to see them go since they carry none of the usual or obvious economic benefits that come with run-of-the-mill tourists. The tiny travelers are about the size of a pin head, including wings, and therefore fit everywhere and get mixed up in everything. I've even had a few in my eyes and my mouth by mistake.

This time, I see him prance along, nobly flare his shimmery wings, rear up on his hind legs much as a horse would do, and take off.

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made, little one," I tell him.

21 February 2008

Among Strangers

I know a horse who lives in a pasture with several cows. He seems lonely in there, and acts as if the cows aren't the best of company. I feel a special sympathy for him and although I would like to, I can't stop and talk with him at length every time I pass by.

This morning, Mr. Lonely Horse followed a pedestrian from one end of the pasture to the other. When he got to the end of the fence, where I had just come up to meet him, he followed me all the way back to the other end and seemed disappointed that I kept going.

I feel like that sometimes, too--as if I am alone among strangers. As I read stories of Jesus this morning, I thought how He must have felt it too, surrounded by people whose focus simply didn't expand enough to understand His words or even to welcome a few small children. His kindnesses never fail reach out to me, and He opens the ends of the fences just when I think I can't keep up with Him.

14 February 2008

Flowers in the Home, in Stitches


In honor of Elizabeth Joy's Stitching Up Wildflowers week, I thought I would share this little post. I hope she will forgive me for deviating so far from her literal meaning, but the following idea has had me in stitches more than once (this week's theme), and certainly has to do with wild flowers in the home (last week's theme), so here it goes!

One morning last spring as I walked along, I passed a glorious pink dogwood, in full bloom. For some reason it occurred to me that no matter how beautiful a flower, there might never be a little girl named after it. Girls have names like Rose or Daisy, but never Dogwood. Imagine with me, if you will, a family of daughters with wildflower names:

Cornflower
Stinkweed
Thistle
Poppy
Yarrow
St. John's Wort
Friar's Cap
Flax (the girl with the flaxen hair notwithstanding)
Spring Pheasant's Eye
Foxglove
Bachelor's Button
Fleabane

Have I missed any that make you giggle? Post your comment, and let me know!

You may visit Elizabeth Joy's blog at http://www.joyinthemorninglight.blogspot.com.

13 February 2008

Sea Girl, part 2


In honor of my friends' impending trip to the sea, I thought I would tell a bit about my summer there.

On little more than a whim, I signed up for a year of biology crammed into eight incredibly short summer weeks. Why? Because it was offered on the beach! With four hours of lecture and four hours of lab every day, the class wasn't for the faint of heart, but even though I wasn't much of a scientist, I figured I could at least pass.

I soon learned that one thing--and one thing only--interrupted all classes no matter how important the lecture: A pod of whales.

As soon as even one whale showed its fin, we all dashed for the life jackets, ran down the beach to the docks and the boats, and headed out for a closer view. Now, we always made sure to stay a distance away from the whales not only for our safety, but also for the comfort of the whales. Boat noises can bother them immensely. But we could usually get a closer view from the water than from land.

I will never forget the my close proximity to a mother and baby in the wild, or the time my chum and I studied on the point and saw the whales come within about one hundred feet of shore. Our Creator has done great things for us in this marvelous, beautiful world of ours!

12 February 2008

Sea Girl


I thought today I'd post something about how delightful the weather is, or how thankful I am for safe travels and friends along the way. But as I looked through some of my mother's pictures, I felt more compelled to write about the sea.

"Call me Ishmael. Some time ago, never mind how long precisely, having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."

Now, I'm no big fan of Moby Dick and I've never even been able to make it through the whole book, but I'm a definite fan of the watery part of the world. An English teacher of mine once insisted that our class memorize the first paragraph of Moby Dick, and then cut it apart with scissors to make a new paragraph with the same words. If you're ever in the mood for an exercise in word flavor, I recommend something similar with a paragraph of your choosing.

But back to the sea. My parents started taking me to the ocean (Marshall Gulch, above) before I was born, and my soul never ceases to thrill at the sound--or the thought--of the sea. I love the creatures in the tide pools, the algae on the shores (especially microcladia borealis and chondracanthus exasperatus), and the whales swimming by. Oh, the majesty of a baby whale and its mother, only a few hundred miles from the boat!

Perhaps someday I will live in a lighthouse, always near enough to drink in the splendor of the sea.

07 February 2008

Longing


A scene like this leaves me longing not so much for spring and summer, with the warmth and color they bring, as for my first mountain friends--the men who stop to knock over every dead tree with all their might and the women who quietly wait for them, knowing that many a patient moment and photograph will later be spent on the wildflowers. (Beauty demands documentation.) Many friends are scattered far and near, not likely to be re-united so much in the future as they were in the past.


I long, too, for the hills of another country, where all my mountain friends from the first to the last will traipse about without a care nor a worry that mountain creatures might harm or hinder their delight. We've felt for a long time that we belong there more than we belong here, anyway.

06 February 2008

Singing on the Way

"The heart that receives the word of God is like the mountain stream, fed by unfailing springs, whose cool, sparkling waters leap from rock to rock, refreshing the weary, the thirsty, the heavy-laden...The stream that goes singing on its way leaves behind its gift of verdure and fruitfulness. The grass on its banks is a fresher green, the trees have a richer verdure, the flowers are more abundant."
(White, Ellen; Prophets and Kings, p. 234)

05 February 2008

Recital Memories

Two years ago today, I began my senior piano recital with Schumann's intense and dramatic Sonata in g minor, Opus 22. "Two opuses before he lost his mind," my professor used to say. Nonetheless, it's a beautiful piece.

Some Mozart and Bach pieces followed, and then things got to be far less serious as a friend read nursery rhymes and I played their fanciful arrangements. We both added ribbon and pigtails to our hair for the finale. The Lonesome Whistler, The Man on the Moon, and Mr. Arkensas Traveler (among others) ended the program, and we all came out to festive refreshments arranged by my mother and company.

I've always been smugly satisfied that--completely on accident and in total ignorance--I scheduled the recital to take place during the Superbowl. All my true friends were forced skip out on the game for some culture!


My mom decided on a garden theme, to combine my musical milestone with my other true love of being in the dirt. Above, you can see that she mixed ground up Oreo cookies with chocolate pudding and added a gummy worm and a silk flower to each one.



At the head of each row of veges stood its identifying seed packet. I put the seeds to good use that spring in my little flower beds turned vegetable patches. (More about that another time!)

Even though I didn't march until June, I've counted February 5 as the end of my college career, the true day to celebrate and remember. Since then, nothing has quite been like I expected it would be, but God is directing it all and stays by my side each day. Who could ask for more than that?

04 February 2008

Crocus Colors

Today, my skirt and shoes are green, my jacket lavender, all in anticipation of crocuses. I was utterly delighted when my coworkers said, "You look like a crocus today!"

Yes, I know there's still snow on the ground, but I have several little green spikes coming out of the ground to promise me a spring. I can hardly wait!

30 January 2008

Growing Wilder Every Hour!

"I'm a little prairie flower,
Growing wilder every hour.
Nobody cares to cultivate me,
I'm as wild as I can be!
Ha-ha! I'm wild!"

This song was on one of my childhood records. I re-discovered it a year or two ago, and have loved it and sung it ever since. Thanks to Elizabeth Joy at Wildflower Morning for the chance to share it!

28 January 2008

Small Friend

Nearly every day since this little one was born, I have passed by and said hello to him. Sometimes he wanders over to visit me at the fence's edge. In summer, the field across the road had a wealth of alfalfa flowers for him to eat from my hand (unless, of course, his parents came and stole them away first--ornery creatures). Now the ground is frozen or snowy, and all I have to offer is a scratch on the nose and a cheery greeting.

In the more than six months since he arrived on the scene, I have struggled to find a name for him. Now that I know him better, Maxmilian Arthur fits the bill. Of course, the right to name him belongs to someone else entirely, but I shall pretend the right is mine, and that he quivers with delight inside at the very thought of owning so grand a name. It'll be our own little secret, and I'll wink at him next time I call his name.

I think my Creator smiles and winks at me, too, when He thinks of the new name He'll give me when perfection comes back to our little world.

24 January 2008

The Happy Wonder

Every so often, a man stops by my office to play the harmonica. Today, the selections included "The Happy Wonder", which reminded me what a happy wonder it is to live in a small town where someone could not only do that for my office, but also for the court house. (The court house has splendid accoustics, you see.) I always stop what I'm doing to listen.


His harmonica is small, and could therefore seem insignificant. However, he fills the space with significance whenever he plays. He chooses to be a positive, solid thing in the world around him, and his atmosphere brings with it a definite cheer.


It's rather cold outside today, and my harmonica man walks two miles to get here. I told him he could stay in the warmth as long as he wished before heading home.


"I might just take a nap," he said. And, he did.

Heavenly Music

"The humblest worker moved by the Holy Spirit, will touch invisible chords whose vibrations will ring to the ends of the earth and make melody through eternal ages."
The Desire of Ages, p. 822