Big Mouth

A few days ago we all listened and watched a tree frog on the banister of our second floor porch. Now, you all know how small these creatures are. It is about the size of a fifty cent piece. Of course, you have to be my age to even remember fifty cents pieces. Nevertheless, it is a tiny little thing.

But if you have one of these creatures close by you will not believe the sound coming out of his body. He squeals loudly and then answers himself with a little bit softer squeal.

One time, many years ago, my husband and I heard this loud squealing. Several nights in a row we would hear this noise. My husband decided that it was a wild turkey out in the woods. The sound continued until one day my husband spent a good bit of the late evening tracking it down.

Turns out, there was a tree frog caught in a pipe right outside our bedroom. My husband rescued him and we gratefully slept that night without the squealing sound. It was amazing what a loud sound could come from such a small frog.

After seeing the little tree frog, I thought about how small he is and how loud he is. Maybe, his loud mouth is his way of getting attention in this great big world. We all need to get attention. Some of us do it by having our talent displayed. Some children do it by breaking all of the rules. Others do it by being like the tree frog; yelling out loud.

It is important for all of us to be heard. We each need to get our share of the attention. It is important for us to feel that we can safely share our opinions and voice our objections. We need to say to the world, “Here I am. I am here. Notice me”. And if I have to interrupt or disagree with everything, or be louder than others, it is OK. Because I have a personal need to get all the attention that I can.

God makes all of us differently. He allows our personalities to show us off in different ways. I have to remember that when someone jumps over others to be the center of attention. I must try and be extra tolerant when someone pushes their way in.

Just like the tiny tree frog, people use their voices to get the attention that they need. I appreciate the way God has made this beautiful world. I love the tiny tree frog. Squeal on and let’s be heard.

Living Forever

There is a county music song that says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go today”.  This is an interesting concept I never really thought about until my husband died.

Since then, I look forward to be able to make that journey.  I am not looking forward to streets of gold or the glitter and glamour.  I just want to experience the peace, the love and the eternal contentment.

Admittedly, I miss my husband so much that I can hardly wait to see him again.

I recently heard another song played on K-Love, the radio station that I listen to in the car.  Part of the lyrics to this song was “In death I gain”.  As I reflected on these lyrics I realized that most people do not view death as a gain.  We all say that we wish for eternal life and the hereafter with God. But we fight like hell to stay here on earth.

It doesn’t really make any sense.
I am not saying that we should stop going to the doctors.
Or stop taking our medicines.
Or throw our healthy life styles in the trash.

I believe our bodies are temples of God.  I think we should be reverent toward them.  I think we should pay attention and treat them well so that they can be a service to God.

I think about how God created us to be his servants and to be examples for others to follow.  I know how important it is to be healthy so we can work for our Lord.

I also believe, however, that there comes a time when we should look forward to dying. When we should understand the only way to experience our eternal life is to transfer over, out of these physical bodies, into our spiritual bodies.

We are somehow schizophrenic when we say we are excited about going to heaven, but we fight like crazy to stay on earth.

I think we are just afraid.

It is the unknown that gives us the most fear.  It is like that with everything. Any big decision makes us afraid because we don’t know how things will work out.  We can’t see the future so we are afraid.  We know the reality of the present, but the future is the unknown.

It is hard to trust what we cannot see and we cannot know.  But God is with us everyday. He has given us so many signs that he will care for us.  He guides me daily  to do things that are good for me; that I would not even have thought about had He not put it in my mind. With this evidence, I am comfortable about death and passing on to the spiritual side of life.

I think about how suddenly my husband died.  It does not matter if you are ready and are prepared.  When God calls your name, you go.  It does not matter if you are in good health or in poor health.  When God calls your name, you go.

I have decided that I am not going to hasten my transition to the spiritual side but I am certainly looking forward to it.  I know that I will leave behind lots of lose ends and things that my children will have to handle  But when my name is called, I am ready.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

 

A Puttering Start

I am lying here looking out of the windows. It is mid April. It is cold. It was 36 degrees this morning.

What is that about?

April in South Carolina is supposed to be warm.

It seems that this winter, the world has not known what it wanted to do. Weather wise it has been a bouncing ball. We saw some of the coldest weather that I can ever remember.

Thirteen degrees?
In January?
In the south?
No way.
Yes, way.
It happened.

Then we bounced. A pretty day. A cold day. It puttered. Winter returned. It just never seemed to know that it should get warm and stay that way. I thought when we finally began to see some flowers in late February that we had gotten to our spring.

But no! Here came winter again. It would get cold and stay cold. Then we would have a one day tease. A seventy degree day and we just knew that it would start climbing and we would have winter behind us.

But then, at 36 degrees and lots of cold wind, I decided that winter just didn’t want to leave us. I am not sure why, but it just can’t get enough traction to make it over the hump.

It is like you are driving a car on ice and you try to get up the hill, but you just can’t make it and you slide back down to have another go of it.

I feel that way about my life. One day I feel that I have made it over the top of the sadness. I feel that I have conquered that loneliness. I have finally dealt with the issues and am moving on. I have made it to the top of the hill and can see over the top.

Then I hear a song or I read a particular scripture and I am just like the weather; sliding back into that sadness. It feels like a roller coaster; up and down. I become like the winter, quiet, isolated, not wanting to be with others and ready to ball up in a knot and let the world go by. I am gloomy, grey and have clouds hanging over my head.

I am sure as people look at me they see a chilly breeze floating around me and they feel that they need to put on their coats because I am like a cold front that has assaulted the good feelings of others. It is as uncomfortable as the wind blowing on a cold day.

Then, just like the weather, I will perk up, show my smile and want to be motivated to get out there and start over again. I feel like a seventy degree day and full of sunshine. I am boosted to pop out like the spring flowers and blossom like the buds on the trees.

It is truly a slip and slide position. I think I will blame it on the weather. If it cannot make up its mind, why should I? Maybe if the weather would get its act together and move on into a permanent solution of warm, I would follow suit and move right on into a constant sunny disposition.

Until then, I guess I will be up and down. But I will try to keep my downs to myself and only show my ups. Wish the weather would do that. I wish to see only the warm sunny days with no wind and lots of pretty flowers. I bet you would like that also.

Psalm 30:11:12 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Patience

Today I was looking out of my bedroom window at the lake. I saw him again; the majestic blue heron. Each morning he stands at the end of the boat ramp. He is huge and he is magnificent. He is poised in such a gracious style as he stands there.

But what gets me is he stands there for hours and does not move a muscle. He is perfectly still. It is as if he were a statue. I will go about my chores and I look out and he is still standing there in the same spot not even moving his head.

I should hope to have such patience. My wonderful husband had all the patience that one could hope for. He would wait on you if you were late. He never complained.  He would play with children and wait on them to take the next move in the game even, if they were slow. He would wait patiently for the children to choose their flavor of ice cream at the store, even if it took many different tries of tasting all of the samples. He would not hurry a person up if we were playing cards.

I, on the other hand, was always the “hurry up, we have to move it” person. I could lose my patience in a heartbeat. In fact, I guess you could say I had no patience in the first place. I have always been a go, go, go, person. I tried but I have never learned to slow down and smell the roses. It has always been a fault of mine and I wish I were different.

Another example of patience is going through a museum. My husband would read every sign and digest each exhibit. He gave thoughtful presence to each piece as he encountered it. I could go into the museum, gaze at the exhibits and be finished in a matter of minutes. I had no patience for standing there, reading all the dates, looking at all of the examples and devouring the information..

I think about my patience with God; or my lack of patience with God. There are many times that I pray for particular things. There is a scripture that says, you don’t ask for it you won’t get it. So I pray for things. Sometimes they are small things. Sometimes they are large things. Sometimes I feel my prayers are answered. Sometimes I feel they are not. But as I reflect on my prayers, I have to say, God has supplied all of my needs. Truthfully, who needs more?

Timing is everything. I find that many times I am not patient enough to stop and listen to the still, small voice that is God. I am so wanting things to be done on my schedule that I miss being in tune with God.

I am trying to take a lesson from the beautiful blue heron that God allows me to watch each morning. I am trying to slow down, stand in one place for a longer period of time, quietly assess the world and listen for God to talk to me. I will never show the incredible power of concentration that this lovely bird has, but I am learning.  I am trying.  I am taking his example as a gift of God to help me develop more patience.

James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

IT IS JUST ME

It is amazing.  I grew up knowing I should be married. I fell in love with a wonderful man. I shared a life with him. Fifty-four years we were together.

As God said, “We became one”. Then one day he left. He joined God. But he left me behind.

It is just me.

I feel so alone at times. I am sad that he is gone.  It is as if I have lost my being. I have lost my understanding of life. I don’t know what is expected of me. What is my goal for the rest of my life. I don’t know what God wants me to accomplish. What is my purpose?

I carry on each day.  I try to work on the dreams that we built together. I work hard to stay busy and to finish projects that were important to the two of us. But I wonder, does it really matter? Were we living out a dream of things that were important to us but not important to God? Should I just give it all up and stop trying to complete our dreams?

I sometimes feel so alone. I have a very loving family. They are so good to me. They care, they are concerned and they try to be sure to care for me. I have friends that love me, communicate with me and want the best for me.

However, I find that I am alone.

It is just me.  

In the midst of all the love of my  family and my friends, I am still alone. The eighth month was very hard. I am feeling my alone-ness more than ever before. I miss my best friend. It is as if part of my body was amputated that day in July. Whether it was my limbs or my spirit, it has disappeared. I feel so alone.

When I am with others, I laugh and joke as part of a social group, but I am still alone. I know when I am interacting that I am playing a charade because I feel that part of me is no longer there. I act as though I am still all together but I am really alone.

God promised that He would care for me. I know that promise to be true. He has cared for me. I am making it financially. I am existing in the world. His presence is with me as I go through each day. I cannot say that God has forsaken me. He has kept His promise and has cared for me. But I sometimes feel so sad and alone.

Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I feel that I need more than is due me. I don’t know. I just know that there is a void. There is a deep hole. There is a part of me that hurts so hard it takes my breathe away.

I was not prepared to deal with the depth of this hurt.

I pray hard for forgiveness of my selfish spirit that I should expect happiness. I pray that God will understand the bottomless pit of my hurt. I pray that He knows the agony of my loneliness. That He will not hold it against me. I trust Him. I love Him. I know that He has a plan and that I am in His hands. Also, I know somehow that this deep hurt that I feel has a meaning and will be used to His greater good.

I know that from the moment we met, my husband and I were meant for each other and we were God’s children. We loved Him, served Him and lived for Him. Therefore, I know that in the overall plan of God for our lives, my husband was called home and I was left to be here for Him. It is just really hard. I hope I am doing it the way my God would want me to live.

Even if that means that I feel so alone.

Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Faithful Relationships

March 22nd was the 8 month anniversary of the death of my sweet husband. It has been so long and yet not even a year.  In reflection, I thought about those folks that made the day of his Life Celebration so special.  Immediately it brought to mind those that had prepared a dinner for all of the family.

Sunday, July 30 was special at our church for another reason.  It was the ending ceremony for the program of Koinania, our community resource program that is so active and so responsive to the needs of our community children.  It is a marvelous program that gives a creative and continuous learning opportunity to our community’s children during the summer months.

On this Sunday the children and the parents and community leaders come together to celebrate the experiences of the children and the exciting discoveries of the program. After the formal presentation there is a luncheon for all involved.

At the same time of this very large luncheon, the church also provided a meal for our large family before the memorial service.  Now you have to understand that this church is very small.  We, in the 50s and 60s, had thousands of members but today we have 50 or 60 people in our congregation that are active and we have many members that reside in nursing homes  So the few people of the church wear many hats to cover all of the jobs.

But on this Sunday, this small group of people pulled off an amazing feat.  They fed many people from the summer program.  But they also in another separate space fed a large family.  The food was abundant and the service was excellent. My family was well cared for as we prepared for a memorial service to honor our wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, brother-in-law and friend.

I know you can be a Christian without being an active member of a church. God only asks that you accept Him as your Savior.  But not to be involved with other Christians is a real loss.  The cameradery of persons that are like minded is amazing.  The exchanging of Christian views and of experiences is growth producing.  The coming together to praise and pray is without question a fulfillment of the spirit.

On this 8th month anniversary of my husband’s death I think of the many faces that I saw serving my family that meal.  I know the hard work that they put into serving two meals that day.  I know the tired feet and the sore shoulders of fixing all of the food for so many people.  I know the sacrifice of time, energy, money and effort that went into the preparation of this food.

It is with a grateful heart that I say “thank you ” to the many people that provided comfort for my children, my siblings, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren as we ate a delicious meal before the service. But more than that, I thank these folks for being my Christian friends.  God promised to care for me and He has sent so many wonderful Christian friends to fulfill that promise.

I challenge each of you to connect with others that are Christians.  When two or three are gathered together, God will be there to guide us to do what He wills. There is no greater calling.  We have a small church but we are a mighty force and I am proud to be a small contributor of this wonderful group of believers. Praise be to God.

All in Perspective

Last week I was at the beach with lots of work to do.  I am getting the houses ready for summer rental.  So I had my things to do list and one chore was spray painting a wicker loveseat.  I had waited several days to do this because the wind seemed always to be blowing and spray painting needs a calm day.

I got up and was anxious to get the job done.  But when I looked out at the ocean all I could see was very tall, rolling waves and lots of foam.  I thought to myself, “What an angry sea!  That wind is terrible.  It is blowing so hard that the ocean itself is upset.”

I saw an angry sea because I was angry.  I was anxious to get my priority list done and nature was not cooperating with me.  It seemed that I would never find a day that the wind was calm so I could get my painting done.

As I moved to another chore I began to reflect on the ocean.  Actually, it was really pretty. The waves were huge and the foam that was stirred up almost looked like frosting on a cake.  I noticed how the clouds almost touched the horizon.  I began to see the picture differently.  My perspective began to change.

Life is like that a lot.  We have the power in our minds to see things as we wish. We must consciously make an effort to put the positive spin on what our eyes show us.  Many times we let our emotions cloud our vision.  If we are angry, as I was, we will put a negative spin on our view.  But if we can change our emotion or our perspective we will see it in a positive manner.  It makes a major difference in how we approach the world.

Recently I overheard my daughter say to my granddaughter.  You cannot have two thoughts in your mind at the same time.  So if you have a negative, or sad or terrible thought, make your mind think a pleasant or happy or positive thought.

I was impressed.  She is so right.  We choose to think.  We control our minds.  If we choose to go down sad paths, we will be depressed and overcome with those emotions. But if we are conscious of what we are doing, we can work to change our thoughts and stay out of the depressed thought realm.

No one has the perfect life.  Bad things happen to all of us.  Sometimes it is financial, sometimes it is a major loss, sometimes it is physical and sometimes it is annoyances. But all of us have bad things that happen.  And sometimes it seems that they all come at once.

Last year was a horrible year for me.  Illness, loss of my husband, financial crisis, a major relationship issue, recent loss of my mother and it just seemed like it would not stop.  There were even little things that seemed to go wrong.

I felt that maybe it was me.  Maybe I had angered God so severely that I was being punished.  I read Job many times.  I had to be strong.  I had to get through this negative time in my life.  Somehow I had to find a way to exist and be happy.

I cannot say that my life is perfect now.  I recently had an unexpected flat tire, I have more to do than my old body wants to do and I get thrown a curve now and then.  But I am trying to keep those positives thoughts in my head.  I can control my way of looking at even the bad things that happen.

God promised to take care of me.  He has kept His promise.  It is my responsibility to be happy and have the right perspective.  Think happy.  Be happy.

Gifts

One morning recently while at the beach house, I noticed while I was dressing, there was a female cardinal sitting on the post of the porch and looking in the window.  I am sure it did not see me but I watch it as I dressed.  It was fascinating.

Later while eating my breakfast I once again noticed the cardinal. I watched once again at the beauty of God’s creation.  But also because it was so unusual.

At the beach we see seagulls, pelicans, sandpipers, and grackles (a member of the raven family).  We do not see song birds and the pretty colorful birds of the woodlands.  So it was unusual, shocking really, to see this beautiful cardinal sharing its life with me.

Recently I was given a book by a very dear friend of mine.  It is written by Ann Voskamp and the title is One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  Ann Voskamp is the wife of a pig farmer that lives in southwest Ontario, Canada.  She and her husband have six children.  She lives a busy life although may not as exciting as some.  I have been to that area of the world.  It is not for me.  But her book is about a dare, given to her by a friend, to live fully right where you are.

one thousand giftsThis dare is to list one thousand gifts each year.  Amazing the gifts she finds.  The rainbow that you see in the bubbles of the soap suds while doing dishes.  The way your child’s hair curls to one side. Laughter. Wind coming in the window as you drive and so many more.  It is the same gentle gifts that God gives us each day.

The point is not just to make the list, but rather to make the list, say the gift out loud and give thanks for the gift.  The point is to become one with God by recognizing and acknowledging the smallest of gifts that we are given.  The point is to be in communion with God as we carry Him in our thoughts each moment of each day.  Living our lives to the fullest because we see him in all the wonder of His world.

Now Ann Voskamp writes deep.  It is not a book for a surface reader.  But the message is so profound.  Seeing God in our simplest pleasures.  Opening up our eyes to see the beauty all around us.  Like standing in awe last night at the big tall trees that were swaying heavily in the wind and yet able to stay rooted to the ground.

I am convinced that I never saw the world the same way before my husband died.  And I do not want others to go through the trauma to get to see what I see now.  But I wish for all persons to have this special walk with God.  It is different.  It is direct closeness.  It is intimate.  It is marvelous.  I feel chosen.  I feel special.  I feel humble.  I am reverent.

I dare all who reads this.  Go with me on this journey.  Get a pad, a pencil and start writing down all of your gifts.  Seek out the small pleasures.  The way the sunbeam hits your windows.  The fact that you made three green lights in a row.  The way the clerk at the store smiles at you. The pleasure you feel as you give your basket to the next shopper at Aldi’s without taking their quarter.  The song of the birds as they chatter in the yard.

Give thanks for these small gifts.  Eucharist is the word for thanksgiving. According to Alexander Schmemann Eucharist is the state of the perfect man.  Eucharist is the life of paradise.  Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creation, redemption, and gift of heaven.

Thank you God for the beautiful cardinal that you sent to visit me and let me be aware of your presence in my life.  I am so thankful for how you care for me.

My Passenger

I recently had the privilege to serve on an Ordination Council for a lovely young lady in our church.  But on the same day as one of the meetings some of my dear friends were scheduled to come to the beach house.  We made plans that I would go to my meeting and as soon as I was released I would make the three hour drive to the beach house.

The meeting ran into the late afternoon, but I left as soon as I could. As it got dark, I was motoring along, listening to and singing to the upcoming Easter Cantata on a CD so I could know my part. I was really looking forward to getting to the beach and seeing my friends.

About 30 minutes into this trip I hit horrible wind.  At first I thought I had a tire problem because I was having trouble keeping my car on the road.  Then I realized that my car gave me messages if I had a tire problem so it must be something else.  I soon realized, I had hit a bad storm. The rain came down in sheets and I was holding on for dear life to keep the car on the road.

I reduced my speed.  That did not make me happy since I was determined to hurry to the beach to begin my visit with friends.  I knew I had to be safe.  So I became alert, held on for dear life and kept going.

All of a sudden I smelled the most wonderful sweet smell in the car.  It was a strong odor. It was not to be missed.  I sniffed and sniffed and tried to figure out what it was.

I did not have any deserts in the car.  I did not have any perfume in the car.

What was this marvelous smell?  It took my mind off of the danger on the road and I focused on the delightful smell.  Then it hit me.  The smell was a strong version of my dead husband’s cologne.  He did not wear it everyday.  It was “Cool Water” for our special occasions.  It was that intoxicating smell of love, romance and caring.

My car was still being buffeted by the wind but I was now somehow comforted and less anxious. I knew that I was going to be fine.  I felt that I could see better in the dark through the rain and I took my car back up to a reasonable speed and went on as if it was a clear Sunday afternoon adventure.

About forty five minutes later the weather cleared and I noticed the smell had gone away.  Later, after I got through Florence and was on some very dark and lonely country roads the weather came back.  I had hit another pocket of this weather system.  The high winds returned along with the pelting rain.  Once again, I reduced my speed and started white knuckling the steering wheel.

Yes. You know what happened.
The strong smell came back.

It was overpowering and so enticing.  The car seemed to be driving itself.  I relaxed, felt so calm and knew that I was going to be fine.

OK, once again, you know I am just a little left of center.  As you go through this journey with me, you have found that I talk to birds, I see my husband in squirrels and now I am telling you that I had a mysterious passenger helping to drive my car.

I do not know if this was my husband, a guardian angel or the Holy Spirit.  But someone let His presence be known by the sweet smell and the calming spirit.

I truly believe God was letting me know once again that his promise the night that my husband died was being carried out.  He told me that night that He would care for me.  I would never have thought that He meant He would help me drive through a storm.

God is Good.  God is ever present.  Praise always to my God.

Another Sunrise

A few days ago my wonderful granddaughter reminded me of our time together right after my husband died.  She began to sleep with me.  It was very comforting for her and for me.  We would spend a few moments before sleeping talking about Poppy and how great he was.  We would share a few memories and things we were thinking about.

Each morning, as she reminded me, we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise.  My bed faces six large windows looking over the lake.  The summer sunrises on that lake is a sight to behold.  The glory as it beams into your eyes and into your heart is just marvelous. Summertime on the lake is great and summertime sunrises are glorious.

Each morning we would hug each other and pray our morning prayer.  We would thank God for sending us such a strong message that He was there for us. We thanked Him for the sunrise.  We told Him that we knew it was a new opportunity to be a servant for Him. We praised Him for creating this beautiful world and allowing us to share it.

That was a special time for the two of us.  It helped us as we both had to deal with losing our wonderful Poppy.  It helped to be able to snuggle close and hold each other.  It was comforting to talk about how much we were going to miss him.  We soon stopped sleeping together.  She needed to get back to her room and get prepared for the school year.  I needed to move on and learn to sleep without a sweet person next to me.

Even after returning to “real life”, we still had our sunrises.  We were still able to see God’s handiwork as soon as we opened our eyes. The sunrise is God’s way of telling us that he has given us a gift.  It is the gift of another day on earth. Another day to be vertical and breathing.  Another day for us to take to the task of living and helping others.

Another opportunity to serve Him.

Whether it is a sun filled day or a rainy day, it is a gift.  As the sudden loss of my life partner taught me, we are not promised another day.  It is a gift to wake up and be alive.

Each day we need to take that gift and do something with it.
It is not given frivolously.
It has meaning.
It has purpose.
It needs to be used.
We need to accomplish something.

After my morning thanks to God for the gift (my mother said to send a thank you note for the gift), I get busy with thinking about my to do list.  I always list more than I can accomplish and I always list things in detail.  The longer the list and more detailed, the more things I get to cross off.  The more things I get to cross off, the better I feel about all that I have accomplished.

Getting up in the morning with a purpose is important.  It gives you energy and a reason to tackle life’s issues.  I always feel good at night when I can say to God, “Thank you for my gift.  I tried hard to use it well”.

One day at a time.  Be thankful for the gift of another sunrise.  Use the gift wisely.  Know you may not get another one.  Rejoice with God for the opportunity to live for Him.