Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Sundial

"Let others tell of storms and showers,
I’ll only mark your sunny hours."
    


   
I have always loved sundials.  Maybe it's because my Grandma loved that particular sundial quote, and spoke of it in her writings. I have a treasured collection of her stories that she wrote in the quiet evenings after her long days of farming. So I googled "Sun dial mottoes and quotes" and found a list from "Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations"


"True as the needle to the pole,
Or as the dial to the sun."

--Barton Booth—Song.

 

"Give God thy heart, thy service, and thy gold;
The day wears on, and time is waxing old."  

--Sun Dial in the Cloister-garden of Gloucester Cathedral.

 

"If o’er the dial glides a shade, redeem
The time for lo! it passes like a dream;
But if ’tis all a blank, then mark the loss
Of hours unblest by shadows from the cross."
        --On a Sun Dial in a churchyard at Shenstone, England. 

 

As a child I was fascinated that time could actually be marked without a clock! Funny how the childlike brain works sometimes . . .


And yet, I am making an effort to keep my mind and heart soft, to be more childlike in sensing the wonder of things all around me,
to sense God's hand at work in places where I might have missed Him if my eyes weren't kept seeing.



Should we only mark the sunny hours then?  What if there is a joy to be found in the shadows as well?  What if there is a Blessing to be had when the shadow of the cross marks our days?


I can look back on days when I felt the dark would never end, but it was in the dark-seeing that lessons were learned that sunlight could never have taught me . . .  When the curriculum that we had spent so many hours creating didn't sell, and when the printing business that we had gathered fell apart at the seams, our family was carried by a God who never left us alone. When the relationships were torn asunder, and when the church that we had loved fell apart, our view of God's love was suddenly stretched beyond the easy phrase memorized and spoken by rote.

Even now, when the fatigue or the pain come ready to swallow my nights and steal my rest, the peace that only Jesus brings teaches me to wait upon Him in a stillness that is new to me.


"Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings."

--Psalm 63:7 

 

So, should we mark only the sunny hours,  or should we mark the shadow as well?  Can we take the risk to embrace them both?  He has a purpose for us in the shade and in the sun. 

One of my Grandma's stories tells about living through The Great Depression, and the hardness that was endured.  She ended with this thought:

"The people who lived then have forgotten about the long days of hard work without modern conveniences. Like the sundial, folks only remember the happy, sunny days of long ago. I also remember the kindness of so many people who made 1930 a time to remember." 


Singing in the shadows, or dancing in the sun, it is the kindness of the heart that opens the way to see God's working in our days.

  
This week I am linking up with these great bloggers:

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Go Out With Joy

Isaiah 55:12


12 years . . . 

That's how long we've lived in Wisconsin.
First-time home-owners.
My husband joined in with the scores of suburban commuters, on that long-ago day in August, 2004.

You see, for the other 26 years of our marriage, we often lived on the edge.  College gave way to Children's Pastoring which gave way to Self-Employment which gave way to Temp-ing which gave way to traveling with a Drama Ministry . . . and life was seldom . . . predictable.


After all,  hadn't God given us Isaiah 55 as one of our Life-Verses, fresh out of high school?   I, for one, was eager to sign up for Excitement.  I was the quiet one, yet I longed to be part of a Grand Adventure. And if you know my husband . . . you know the adventure part of our relationship comes from him, and not from me. (Think Roller-Coaster Theme Parks!)



I grew accustomed to those years filled with adrenaline, and expected my life would stay that way. But of course, God shakes up our man-made ideas of structure, even if they include a view toward "non-structure!"  And I knew that when my husband agreed "to sign-up with corporate America" as a way of living, a great deal of surrender had occurred in the heart of my adventure-loving-man.  


The first Christmas we lived in Wisconsin, I gave him a set of photos with that Isaiah 55 verse hand-lettered on the mat.  I was acknowledging that I understood the irony of "going out" only to settle in behind that desk.  


"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Isaiah 55:8


Truly, there can be no Joyous-Going-Out and Peaceful-Coming-In, unless we have surrendered to the Sovereign Will of our God, who does not move in the ways that men might move. His thoughts are not like ours.


But oh, how much higher and sweeter and wiser are His ways!


"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!" Romans 11:33


In this very place, God set aside a home for the quiet that I would need, and the beauty that my husband would seek as well.  Because "Going out" doesn't always require a physical movement. Sometimes the going is by way of the heart, by diving in to the depths of the riches that Jesus wants to plant in that softened soul soil.


As I watched my husband pushing the limits on that stresss-test-treadmill today, and I heard the Cardiologist say the words "Good!" I realized I had been holding my breath for a very long time.  Because this man has cared for me through my own weakness and pain in a way that I could not have envisioned before the Corporate-Surrender time. And my own trials had softened this heart of mine to be ready to take up the waiting, if this was the path required.  


But we rejoice over the report that the valves in his heart are sufficient for what is required! And as we prepare now for the original surgery to be rescheduled, we can say with open eyes that sometimes a new place happens in the place where you've been all along.


"Instead of thornbushes, pine trees will grow, and instead of briers, myrtles will grow; and they will be a sign for the LORD, and an everlasting name that will not be cut off." Isaiah 55:13


When we first moved into this home, we spent months clearing away thornbushes and briers.  Little did we know that God was clearing away the tangles that had rooted in our hearts.


  He was preparing the way, then, for this Season in life, today. For the hearts that are HIS, we bear HIS everlasting name.


I'm linking up this week with:
  
 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gratitude



 
(In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising," I was given this book to offer an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)
  

Today is the release date for a great book that I've been reading as part of its Launch Team:

by Ifeoma Samuels

Congratulations to Ifeoma!!

 

It seems that everywhere I turn lately, the word Gratitude keeps showing up on my radar.  Last week I mentioned here, that I have been participating in an online study of Suzie Eller's book,  Come With Me.  And there it is again, in this week's chapter for study: Living in Gratitude! 

How is it that all these things have come together at just this time to point me back to living a life filled with Gratitude?  I did a small word study to find the early beginnings of the word "gratitude," and was surprised (but not really) to find that GRACE and GRATITUDE have their basis in the same Latin word gratus.  


hmmm. . . remember that "pool of grace" that I am supposed to be swimming in?


The latest word from the Doctors continues to be fear-inducing concerning my husband: valve insufficiencies, and cardiologist appointments.  But here's the thing:  while my mind wants to go back to fearing, my heart is hearing this GRACE  and GRATITUDE word coming from Heavenly Influence.

Ifeoma has put together a wealth of wonderful Scriptures, in her book, Overcome Failure. She has so many encouraging words for any of us who have ever felt ourselves to be in a place of failure.  One of her stories involved a time when she felt like a  failure as a Mother. I won't give any spoilers here, because you really should read the book yourself, but in the midst of the crisis that was averted, she heard the Lord whisper to her that she had not thanked Him for what He had kept from happening.  She had been so focused on what she HAD allowed to happen, that she had forgotten to thank God for what He had PREVENTED from happening.  

My heart has been stirred within me ever since I read that story. You see, I tend to focus on what IS happening right now, and then what COULD happen tomorrow.  But am I willing to lift my eyes to see what Grace HAS ALREADY prevented from happening?

Yes, I know, I am usually quick to say "Oh, things could always be so much worse!"  But I wonder, am I actually just tossing around a phrase, with a bit of a cynical heart?

Have I let my past failures and weaknesses compound in the hidden corners of my heart, and somehow, they've come to whirl and whip my thoughts back to a familiar place of fearing? 

What if, instead of the whirling, I stopped the sequence in the beginning, and found a word of true thankfulness to speak? Maybe the GRACE comes as we lift GRATITUDE out of the closet, and dress ourselves in garments of praise. 

"comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:2,3


 -Thank you God, that your GRACE uncovered a hidden problem with my husband's heart.

-Thank you God, that my own weaknesses from RA/Fibromyalgia have prevented me from trying to "fix and carry" those issues that my loved ones must bear to You.

-Thank you God, that even when I have felt like I have failed to find my own recovery, YOU are bringing me into the pleasant places of Your Presence.

-And most of all, Thank you God, that fearing cannot hold my heart, when my eyes are full of your GRACE to me.



Ifeoma Samuels can be found at her blog Purposeful and MeaningfulI am glad I was part of the launch team for her book #OvercomeFailure, and would highly recommend it!

 
Linking this week at these wonderful sites:
#LiveFreeThursday, Suzie Eller

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Morning Glory

Morning Glory -- Glory of the Morning

My prayer this morning, from Suzie Eller's book, "Come With Me" 

"Jesus, thank you that I am your beloved disciple. As I sit at your feet, teach me. Let your words spring to life inside of me and take root. May I live what I believe in greater measure as I walk with you."


 I woke up this morning with a rock in my stomach. Oh yes, there is "that," as I remembered what was on my mind when I fell asleep last night. My testing ground of a few weeks ago, when my husband had the flu, came back to gain another level.  He was supposed to be going in for minor surgery this week, but it has been postponed because of a heart abnormality in his pre-op EKG. So we have set up the meetings and more tests with the specialist to find out what is going on.


Last night, hard as I tried, I couldn't keep my mind from wandering down the "what-if" paths.  What if he has heart disease? What if he needs heart surgery? What if he requires care that my weakened state is simply not able to give? 


I managed to lay the thoughts at the feet of Jesus, and drift off to sleep, but the thoughts rose to greet me along with the morning. If I say that my faith rests in Jesus, then why are my feet walking these paths of doubt?  



I've been taking part in an online study with Suzie Eller's book--a first for me!  It's been fun to see other people's postings as we all walk through the book together.  And I've had fun trying a little different approach by art-journaling my thoughts to her questions each week.  This morning as I doodled my way along the page, I realized that my pencil had stretched out the word from the prayer above, "Beloved" so that it looked more like two words than one.  And then it hit me: 


Beloved -- Be-loved



If I want to learn more about what it means to Be HIS Beloved Disciple, then I must let myself be loved by Jesus. If I want to learn more deeply what it means to live what I believe, then I must receive the offer He extends to me still, here in this place of 

not-yet-seeing.



I know that my strength is not enough to carry my husband through his own trials.  It's not even enough to carry myself. But isn't that what this Faith-Walk is really about? We are finding ourselves to be carried when we cannot walk, to be held when we cannot stand, and to be loved when the answers aren't given.



I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on what "living what I believe," looked like before this RA/Fibro Journey began.  But I am discovering that each new trial demands its own place of trusting.  Yesterday's Faith is not enough to sustain Today. But Yesterday's Lessons have laid the foundation for Today's Learning.  So while I may look back and rejoice in God's Faithfulness, I must also look to today to find God's Grace.


And in this Grace-of-Today, my Heavenly Beloved is asking me to let Him hold my Earthly Beloved as well.  Even after almost 38 years of marriage, the growing together is not enough. There are yet more places where our hearts need knitting and patching together.  Sometimes those knittings are seen in beautiful joyful patterns.  And sometimes the patching requires a tearing and a breaking to allow more of the One-ness that God designs for husband and wife.


A few weeks ago, our middle son sent my husband the link for this song.  But God meant it for today, as my prayers are not too weak to be carried to the heart of my Lord.  I will find my Glory-of-the-Morning as my faith looks up to Jesus.






I am linking this week with these great Bloggers:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Hear the Prairies Calling



Compass Plant (silphium laciniatum)


So what do you do when your prayers are not answered in the way you hoped for?  What happens when the healing doesn't come? When the bills continue to pile up?  Or when the heartbreak feels like it will never end?

I have been walking this path of Chronic Illness for a relatively short period of time, compared to others I've met who've dealt with it for a life time.  Nonetheless, I have had my days of growing weary in my prayers.  Days when I've felt that this illness just shouldn't be continuing.  After all, I've done all the things I'm supposed to be doing, and worked so hard at it! I've changed my diet, and added in the essential oils.  I've taken the pills and given myself the shots.  I've exercised and I've rested.  I've let go and I've held onto.  . . .  And yet, the hard days still overwhelm me when they come.  "Not again!" I've heard myself crying in the midst of renewed pain, even as the Lord is whispering His Love in the same moment.

I've a confession to make.  I am a corner-sitter. Have been, for most of my life in fact.  Anytime sickness came, I found a spot, settled there, and pushed everyone else away.  Let me focus on my chores, and grudgingly get through these bad days, then I'll rejoin the human race when I feel better.   Is there anyone else who would take the risk to join in and acknowledge that also? 

Or maybe you are more like my husband, who is a snuggler.  When sickness comes his way, he becomes a sweet little puppy dog, and just wants to hold my hand and let me reassure him that things will soon be better.  

Neither way is actually better than the other. What really matters is how we let the Lord come into those moments.  In my mind, the snuggler would seem better suited to opening his heart to God's Presence, but I'm not so sure.  Where do our eyes go, when we are weak?  Do we seek to find our help in other people?  Do we seek to find our help in our own hidden reserves of strength?

If we are really honest, we could find a different source of strength, and a different place in which to focus our thoughts:


"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."
Colossians 3:1,2

When I have truly listened to the comfort that Jesus brings, I have been drawn out of the corner. He is above the pain and the heartbreak, even as He understands what we are feeling.  This life is only a moment, only a fleeting, but His Eternity is all around us if we will see above the storm of this day.

Those flowers at the top of the page hold a special meaning for me. I have longed to see them for years.  When we lived in Illinois, the prairie seemed to surround me, even as I walked my daily paths in the busy of Chicago suburbs.  So I devoured books and information on the prairie plants.  This one, the 6 to 8 foot tall Compass Plant, fascinated me.  It's leaves were supposed to face North and South, in order to avoid the glare of the hot noon-day sun.  I was never able to see it, though, in all of my Chicago-land years.

But this weekend, in the middle of a painful fibro-flare, there it was: close to my Wisconsin home, in the nature preserve with my name in it: Lake Elizabeth Nature Trail.  My husband had driven there, for a brief touch with the wild restored praire land that my soul was craving.  And it is true! Those leaves really are pointing North and South, avoiding that heavy glare.

I want to point the way to comfort also.  Focused upward where the Glory of Jesus can brighten even these hard days of unanswered prayer.   Where the wild places can call our hearts out of their dreary into the Beauty and Joy of Jesus.



Rich Mullen's song "Calling Out Your Name"


I am linking again this week over at these great sites: