Tag Archives: Jesus

Chilly Mornings and Shadows of Sorrow

The promise of a beautiful day made us decide to let the fire go out in the pellet stove. I came down in the early morning darkness, and it was chilly in the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

My heart felt bleak, too.  The last few days have been a struggle to stay optimistic.  I told someone earlier this week that everybody was grumpy!  OGA has been touchy and a little schitzy.  BL has been difficult beyond my ability to understand.  And my own restless heart has been impatient and selfish.  When I felt like even BL’s pulmonologist was a bit peevish this week and I resented being sent for a chest x-ray for BL, I was brought up a little short on the fact that the problem (just might!) lie with me.

This morning, when my alarm went at its usual time, I felt the darkness in my soul.  I turned over, accosted immediately by an unaccustomed ache in my head, and a stuffy nose.  But morning’s work was waiting, so I did what needed doing, the usual morning routines; Making  beds, combing, straightening what needed straightening, washing my face, getting dressed, using moisturizer, washing my spectacles.  Certain Man was already downstairs, having had difficulty with heartburn early in the night.  I came down to find him soundly asleep in his chair.  I went to get my morning vitamins and coffee.

How very much I’m missing my Sweet Mama.  The memories of her last few weeks of life have been hounding me, and the sadness sometimes feels overwhelming.  I know she’s okay now.  I know that she would say that the difficulty of those hard, hard days are but a part of a long forgotten past, and that she blesses the tempest, lauds the storm that tossed her safely on the Heavenly Shore.  I know she’s okay! 

But sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am.  Not all the time.  Not when I have something I want to ask her.  There are just life questions that only a Mama can answer.  Not when I have something I want to tell her. I wish I could see her eyes light up with that familiar gleam, and hear her opinions and reactions and verdicts on human nature.  Not when I just wish for the physical essence that was my Mama for all of my life.  The sound of her voice, the taste of her cooking, the smell of her cologne, the visuals that defined her — her pretty dresses, her neat hair, her beautiful face, her gentle touch.  My Mama.  Everything so gone.  So unreachable.  The aching void is made more acute by the color and light and authenticity of my memories, and by these long nine months.  (“Lord Jesus, she’s never been gone this long!”)

I bring myself into the comfort of the blue recliner that I purchased with money that I was given from Mama’s account, and shiver in the predawn quiet.  Folded on the back of the chair is the trusty afghan that Middle Daughter found, barely started, among her grandma’s things.  Deborah brought it home, worked on it furiously and finished it before Christmas.  When I opened my presents in our family Christmas gathering, there was this lovely blue and white afghan in a familiar stitch, lying in the tissue paper.  And when I heard the story behind it, I knew it would do more than warm me on chilly days.  On this morning, when it is easy to feel bereft, I reach for my afghan and stretch it over my toes and snuggle my arms under its  welcome protection.  It’s time to think.  It’s time to allow myself some grieving time.  It’s time to allow myself to be comforted.

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Allow myself to be comforted?  Sometimes I don’t even want to be comforted.  Sometimes I just want to feel the ragged, broken shards of grief, and I just want to feel the reality of this loss.  Sometimes I don’t want to listen to reason (she was so miserable so much of the time in the last year, she was getting older, we all have to go sometime, it must have been “her time”).  And sometimes I don’t want to listen to hope! (She is healthy.  She is happy.  She is more alive than she has ever been.  She had the promise of Heaven.  She was going HOME to be with people she loved as well her Savior.  She believed.  She had fought a good fight, she had finished the course, she had kept the faith.)

But in the softness of the afghan, in the reiterating of my sorrow, in the tears and in the memories, I find myself (strangely) comforted once again.  I think of the colors she loved, the spring time yearning she always had to dig in her flower beds and make something pretty.  I think about the fact that she fostered relationship with me and my siblings in such a way that we truly knew her, and in these days since her passing, I have things that bring up specific, wonderful memories that remind me that I was so blessed to grow up with the sort of Mama that she was.  Not perfect, but never wavering from her commitment to raise us to love Jesus and to make sure of Heaven, and to love each other and to do all we can to see to it that the next generation knows the way HOME.

Comforted?  Yes, I’ve been comforted.  Easter is just around the corner when we celebrate the victory of JESUS over death and the grave.  When our RISEN LORD became the cornerstone of our Faith.  Where a cross and an empty tomb became a place for me to hang this heart that sometimes feels so fragmented.

Is it enough?

Indeed, it is!

And this old heart gives broken, grateful praise

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January Evening

The cold seeps in around the edges of the old farmhouse.  I take a cup from the corner roundabout and wonder at how cold it is.  Why is that cupboard so cold?  I almost want to pour boiling water into it and let it sit for a bit until it is thoroughly warmed before making a cup of mint tea.  The day has been long.  Tonight I finally finished the delinquent paperwork that I need to file with the state.  I feel cross.  I should be grateful.  I have a wonderfully understanding case manager, and I’ve had the best nurses in the system.  My case has just been reassigned, something I always dread, but the replacement is optimistic and warm and she makes me think that just maybe, losing the best nurse I’ve ever had won’t be the end of my tenure.

The cold has been seeping around the edges of my soul these last few months.  Sometimes it seems like grief deferred is grief escaped, but it just isn’t so.  It niggles at the edge of my conscious thought, lends cloud cover to my sunniest days.  I’ve fought with all my might, I think.  I refuse to answer any question of “How are you?” with anything but an enthusiastic, “I’m GOOD!”  Or even, “I’m GREAT!!!” and if the truth be told, that does make me feel better.  But the tears are so close, and the smallest things set me off.

Today, Youngest Daughter stood in our kitchen, ready to go see Joe, the employer that has suffered a stroke.  She is blinking back the tears.  “I know that he knows me, Mama, but he doesn’t remember my name sometimes.  I feel like my sense of loss is far deeper than I realized at first.  At first, I knew he was in there, and I thought that he would probably get better, but now it’s like he knows that he knows me, but he doesn’t know how or why.  And–” her voice caught and I had to strain to hear her, “I’m afraid it’s just too late.”

“It reminds me of  a story I read recently,” I told her, “about this girl who would visit her grandma and her grandma never spoke her name, but would engage in conversation with her.  She wanted her grandma to remember her name so desperately, so as she was leaving, she said, ‘Grandma, you don’t know my name, do you?’  Her grandma looked at her intently and then said, ‘I don’t know your name, but I know that you are someone I love.’  And Rachel, I believe that is how it is with Joe.  He may not remember your name, but he does know that you are someone that he loves.”

Tonight I am so glad that when Jesus looks at me, He knows my name.  He knows my heart.  He knows that I am someone He loves.  This soul sadness is something that He has already carried, so he understands it.  And while there are numerous things that are honest grief, there are still One Thousand Gifts to count, and people around me who need to be encouraged and loved on and who “borrow” joy from me.  This I purpose to rejoice in and I also purpose to not let them down.

And so, let the evening begin.  I have “promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”  I think I’d best get busy.

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My Favorite Book

On this December 31st morning, at 10:24,  I finished reading my favorite book one more time.

People have sometimes wondered how many times I’ve read this book in my lifetime.  I honestly don’t know.  I do know that I have tried to read it through once a year for most of the years of my adult life.  But I honestly don’t know how often that has been.

There is something I do know!  And that is this:  No other effort of my life has changed me so intrinsically as This WORD from a Holy, Loving God.  And even though I’ve been warned that there is no force of hidden power or protection or daily assistance in this “habitual reading,”  I beg to differ.

People say that days only seem to go better,  things only seem to work out for good, life only seems to be smoother because I’ve conditioned myself to believe that.

I beg to differ.

Nothing I can say will change the minds of the scoffers, the skeptics, the  dissenters.  I can only speak what I have experienced. And that is an incredible grace, given to an ordinary Delaware Grammy through the discipline of reading HIS WORD.  I don’t do it perfectly.  I sometimes don’t think carefully about what I’m reading.  Sometimes I prop my head up on my hand on my side of our bed and “get through” — so sleepily I’ve almost fallen out a time or two — or three or four.  Sometimes I find myself needing to catch up when the busy days crop up against each other and I find myself behind.

But most of the time, when I sit at the counter in my kitchen and read the timeless words, the age-old principles, the life-giving doctrine, the inspiring poetry, the laments, the praises, the Godly instruction and even the reproof, I find important things that help me through the maze that is my life.  Through the anxiety, through the sorrow, though the demands of those who depend upon me, through the things I do not understand, through the interruptions, and through the good, good times, this Book tells the story of redemption and LIFE through the Son of God.  I’m here to tell you.  JESUS makes all the difference.

John 20:31  But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

I believe!

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Searching for a Meaningful Christmas

He is only eleven, but he looks fifteen.  He reminds me so much of our first foster child, and when I look at him I wish that we could fill his heart as easily as we can the stomach as he shovels down his second bowl of cheddar cheese chowder, polishes off a piece of homemade bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam, then downs some ice cream.  He helped me make the chowder, following my directions with precision and energy when time was short before church the other night.  I just love him so much.

He has been loved.  He knows he is loved, and when he writes his thankful list he always lists, “I’m thankful for my loveful family.”  He has been bullied in school, though, and he can go from calm and reasonable to rowdy and, well, “eleven year old boy” in about three seconds flat, depending on what happens.

I’ve been searching for something suitable for my class to do for the Christmas program.  I know he can sing.  Last night, as he rattled around the sun room, waiting for us to be ready to leave for church, I was listening to the Mennonite Hour Singer’s Christmas Album.  I enjoy it greatly, and that is an understatement.  The songs bring back a thousand memories and there are times when I feel like a little girl in the living room of a house that still stands on Greenwood Road, listening to the old stereo, a boxy thing on four legs, while the rich, full music of four part harmony spills over and around.  It is my childhood Christmas and all is right with the world.

So I listen to the old, old songs of Christmas and ponder ways to work them into something that would be doable for my class.  And then the sound of a male voice comes out of my kitchen CD player.

Sweet little Jesus boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little holy child
We didn’t know who you were
Didn’t know you’d come to save us Lord
To take our sins away
Our eyes were blind, we could not see
We didn’t know who you were

Long time ago
You were born 
Born in a manger Lord
Sweet little Jesus boy
The world treats you mean Lord
Treats me mean too
But that’s how things are down here
We don’t know who you are

You have told us how
We are trying
Master you have shown us how
Even when you were dying
Just seems like we can’t do right
Look how we treated you
But please Sir forgive us Lord
We didn’t know it was you

Sweet little Jesus boy
Born a long time ago
Sweet little holy child
We didn’t know who you were

Suddenly, I got this sweet, sweet picture.  This eleven year old prince is standing in the candlelight at the Christmas program of our little country church, and he is singing this song.  Someone is accompanying him on a quiet guitar, and the congregation is moved. It is a holy moment.

I was so excited.  I thought about it, got more excited, and then called him out to the kitchen.

“Do you like to sing?”  ( I thought he did.  I mean, he sings in church . . .)

“Not really.”

“Oh, come on.  Can you sing?”

“Um.  Not really.  Not very good.”

“Would you want to sing something for the Christmas program?  I mean, if someone would help you learn it and help you practice?”

“Um.  I don’t know.  I don’t really think so.  Maybe.”

“Listen to this song –”  I back up the track and the music fills the room again.  I can tell he isn’t impressed.  At all.  “Just listen!  Here.  Where it talks about ‘the world treat you mean, Lord.  Treat me mean, too.’  That is something you can kinda identify with –”

I can tell I’ve lost him.  We scurry around, getting ready for church and then get off.  Later, on the way home, the kids are talking about the Christmas program and what they would like to do.

“Ms. Mary Ann wants me to sing this old slow song,” I hear him tell the others. And then they are off!

The dreams of old songs by candlelight die quickly as they talk of writing their own rap for the program.  I hear “manger” and “danger” and some pretty creative ideas floating around and I look again at this sixty year old heart that has a hard time letting go and wonder when I will learn.

Isn’t it far better for them to write about Jesus in ways that are meaningful to them, with songs they can “stand” and that spark interest in their hearts and start their creative juices going than for me to get my picture perfect cameo in the Christmas program?

I suppose so, young prince.  That’s why I gave you and your friends permission to try to see what you can come up with.  God help me to keep my wits about me!  I’m just not a jammin’ and a tappin’ and a rappin’ woman.  Ask Youngest Son.  He knows what happens to this mama when there is just too much of a hip-de-do-dah thing agoin’.

And with that, I leave you with this final tip of the hat to what I saw in my head for a few brief minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8bEOVi-qJ4

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The weather and some excitement around Shady Acres.

It has gotten cold in Delaware.  We even saw a few snowflakes this week.  Okay, more than a few, but not enough to make any impression.  Except on Certain Man.  He saw a whole lot more than he likes to see for an entire season.  Never mind that he says the same thing when he only sees one.

“I saw a snowflake today,” he will announce with that glint in his eye, “and that was already two too many.”  He thinks that strong statement puts his dislike of snow into pretty plain perspective.  I learned a long time ago that it does little good to argue with him.  Or to even act delighted about falling snow.  I won’t win anyhow.  You know, that business about
“A man convinced against his will
is of the same opinion still.”

Yes, that.

It is true.  At least it is true with the man that I know best.

He’s been working on getting things settled down for the winter.  He hauled out his chainsaw and “lopper-offer” thing that is long handled with a rope that comes down.  He uses this to prune off the higher up branches that are not quite so large.  He has done a remarkable job of taking down the old Mimosa tree that died, and thinning and pruning the swamp maples that stand like sentries at the road side of the big lawn.  He has developed a serious interest in making it a little easier to see across the lawn from the road to the house and vice versa.

This is because there has been a prowler at Shady Acres.

And because of the trees, it is hard to see anything that is going on under the cover of darkness.

It seems to have begun sometime last summer.  He and I were attempting to sleep one night a few months back when we smelled cigarette smoke.  Our windows were open, and we both wondered a bit, but people do walk on the road beside our house, and we have neighbors who smoke, so we just figured that it was someone on the road or a neighbor enjoying a smoke that was wafted in on the night air.  We discussed but didn’t investigate.

Then a short time later, while weeding the flower beds, we found a cigarette stuck firmly between the ends of two deck floor boards — like someone had put it there to store it somehow.  It wasn’t something that was accidental at all and we had some speculative moments as we wondered how in the world that got there, but again, we are pretty clueless and it didn’t ruffle our feathers too much.  This summer, there were times when we heard things, but we attributed it to a cat or some such things.  Sometimes, if I were down on my chair reading, and there was some strange, muffled thumps, I would quickly outten the light and head up to where brave Certain Man was sleeping.  And I would creep in beside him and feel really safe once I was up there and that was good enough for me.

But over these last few weeks there have been a few things we could not ignore.  Black tire tracks all over the cement between the chicken house and the manure shed.  Endless lines of circles that seemed to be just mischief, but disconcerting just the same.  We thought maybe a feed truck had done it  — gotten misdirected some how and had gone up to that area and turned around.  But there were a few too many circles, plus we were not due a delivery and had no feed ticket for that night.  Certain Man did report it, but the state police came and looked, but appeared unimpressed.

Then about three weeks ago, we found more cigarette butts in the rose garden beside the back deck that goes out to the wash line, and one lying up on the deck, against the house in a small pile of leaves.  This I found one day and was a bit startled as well as mystified.  I saved everything to show Certain Man.  When he perused the whole area, he decided to leave the deck lights on out to see if it would discourage the trespasser.  So, that night we went to bed with the yard lit up like a Christmas tree.  The only problem was, our hospice nurse daughter was working that night, and when she came home, she turned the back lights off before going to bed.

The next morning, on my way to the washline, I found an Hawaiian lei in the rose garden, wrapped around a three inch tree and stretched out to the full length with a single twist to it.  The lei had been in the pavilion, in a box where I kept prizes for the fourth of July picnic.  The night had been calm.  Certain Man and I had been out there late the night before, trying to figure out about the cigarette butts lying around.  This was obviously someone who wanted us to know that someone had been around.

Certain Man called a friend who is a state trooper, and she said that he should report it so that there would be a paper trail if anything more serious happens.  And so a friendly State Policeman came by and took notes and observed and agreed with us that it did not appear to be malicious, but more just mischievous.  He agreed that someone had been trespassing and encouraged us to keep a closer watch.  And then he went away again after a friendly chat with Certain Man about chickens and chicken companies and flock supervisors.

Since then we have installed some surveillance.  There are motion sensor lights on that side of the deck.  And we’ve received pictures of the area from the middle of the night.

A cat, making its way across the yard.

A feed truck, dispensing feed at the chicken houses.

Middle Daughter’s lights, shining across the yard when she made the corner to drive into the garage in the wee hours of the morning

The lights from the garage windows that shown across the patio at 1:47 a.m. when Certain Man, awake with his bothersome restless leg syndrome, went to the garage to fill a milk pitcher.

And one very windy night, the camera sent me 527 pictures of what appeared to be NOTHING, just picture after picture of dark outlines of deck rails and window boxes with waning summer flowers.

But no prowler.  Oh, the motion sensor lights come on at times, and we never know what it is, but the surveillance has not caught the picture of anyone or thing that looks even remotely suspicious.

“What are you thinking,” I asked Certain Man the other morning.

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully.  “I’m sorta’ thinking that it has gotten cold and that will make people less likely to prowl around.”

“But what are we trying to do, here?”  I asked him.  “What if we do get a picture of a prowler?  What are we going to do then?  Are we going to confront him?  Report him?  And do we want to catch him or are we just trying to discourage him from coming around?”

I didn’t get an answer on that.  Certain Man and I may not be exactly united on this front.  I honestly don’t want to “catch” anyone.  And whomever it is hasn’t done any damage (heretofore, anyhow) but I just don’t feel very secure with thinking that there is someone lurking on the dark side of my house.

Certain Man is doing some serious trimming.  We continue to monitor, and make use of the motion sensors.  I don’t run out to the back yard after dark with quite the abandon that I have enjoyed in the past.

But most of all, I continue to Pray.  It is still the best thing I have found to do in situations such as these.  “The angels keep watch,” I told Our Girl Audrey the other night when I was telling her about our escapades.  “We have the Angels.”

“And Jesus, too,” she reminded me in quick repartee.  “We’ve got Jesus!”

Ah, yes, Audrey-Girl.  We’ve got Jesus, too.  The hosts of Heaven have kept watch over this house through many dangers, and I believe they are watching still.

Besides that, in spite of all we do, the Bible says,

Psalm 127

1 If the Lord does not build the house,

    it is useless for the builders to work on it.
If the Lord does not protect a city (or in this case HOUSE)
it is useless for the guard to stay alert.

And so, while we will do what we can to be safe, and try to be responsible, we are in God’s hands, and under His watchful care.  May we live faithfully and joyfully and thankfully.  For HE is worthy of our praise.

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November 15, 2013 · 3:51 am

Blood on the Stone . . .

This blog has been on my mind for a number of weeks — and you will see that there are some “old comments.” First written in September, 2010, it is still pertinent.

It was five-thirty.

The radio had come on with its usual BBC broadcast that signaled that it was time to get up.  Not that I usually do, but it still was time.  Certain Man had left his side of the bed empty an hour earlier when a banging headache had encouraged him to seek some Excedrin and his La-Z-boy.    When he is gone, it feels so empty, and I usually stretch myself a little bit over on his side, and take my pillow and lap it up over top of his and sleep a little longer.  Our bed is the most comfy bed we could ever ask for, and in those early morning minutes, I often think of how blessed I am, and make a point of being thankful to the LORD for all His benefits towards me.

This morning as I was luxuriating in that half asleep, half awake place that always pulls me in two directions at once, an interview on the BBC caught my attention.  They were talking to a man who has done research on “Blood Diamonds” and it was a rather lengthy interview.  Being neither an owner or connoisseur of fine jewelry (actually, not a single piece — not even a wedding band!) I had never really understood why a diamond would be called a “Blood Diamond” until this broadcast caught my ear — and really set my mind to spinning.  I looked up “Blood Diamonds” on Google, and what I read there was not easy to see or read.  It is unbelievable!  (Except for the fact that we live in a world where nothing is unbelievable any more when it comes to the injustices man commits against his fellow man–). 

The one thing that caught my attention was something this researcher said.  He had hunted down a dealer, and had gone to talk to him about the diamonds and the part that he played in this sordid mess.  When questioned about whether he felt any sort of concern or regret about the fact that these diamonds were “Blood Diamonds”, the dealer replied matter of factly, “The blood washes off.”

It gripped my heart. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve been bought with His Blood.  My redemption cost Him His life.  I got to thinking about hearts that have been washed in the Blood of Jesus, and how he promises to wash these sinful hearts as white as snow.  I thought about hearts, and how hearts may appear incredibly beautiful, but are as hard as diamonds.  And then I thought about that statement, “The blood washes off. . .” and realized that for many of us, that statement is apropos.

You see, those Blood Diamonds cost the people who mined them so incredibly much.  And people go to great lengths to divert attention from that fact.  “The blood washes off” and the diamonds, beautifully cut and polished, look like the product of some carefully monitored legal business.  But it doesn’t change the fact that someone, somewhere paid dearly for the diamond and intrinsic to the value of that diamond is the value of that person.  Just because it doesn’t “show” doesn’t change the truth.

I thought about my heart, and how so often I want to be priceless in the eyes of the world.  I want to be valuable for my qualities  — whatever I might perceive them to be, and in my attention to such insignificant things, my heart becomes hard — so hard, in fact, that “The blood washes off” and I scarcely even notice.  It doesn’t change what it cost Jesus, and it doesn’t change the value of my heart — but it changes everything that’s important.  Because if I am ever going to look on the face of a Holy God and know that I’m forgiven, He needs to see the Blood of Jesus, covering my sinful heart. 

Not washed off!!!

 

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