Focus or Observation?

Focus is defined as the main or central point of something, especially of attention or interest. Over 45 years ago Bob and I were driving around Kentucky. As usual he was taking photos. After he snapped the one below I commented, “Oh I can’t wait to see how that horse comes out!” He responded, “What horse?”

I said, “Why the horse in the barn!”

“I didn’t see any horse,” he said.

“Didn’t you see the galvanized tub hanging out the side of the barn for the horse to drink from?” I asked.

“No. I just took a photo of the barn!”

As we drove on down the road I said, “Well, when you develop and print those photos you will see the horse. I thought it made the picture special.”

Amazing how people can look at the very same thing and see totally different items. Was it focus or observation? Now fifty years into the marriage we continue to focus and observe different things even when we are in the very same setting. I find that continuously amazing!

Lucky Explores Her New Yard

Now that the sod is established we have created two tie outs for Lucky, front and back. She cannot be in just a fence as she digs to escape. This morning while I was working to clean the front step, sidewalk and front door I tied her out front. She has been really good about staying out of the flower beds so far!

When I went to the garage to get the window cleaner I noticed she was jumping around nosing at something in the sod. Upon exploration it was a large crawdad!

Not my photo because no phone handy.

She was not liking that thing. I got the poop scoop and scooped him up. Took him to the water flowing along the side of the street. Guess the rains are bringing out every creature! Lucky went on exploring the yard, but seemed more wary than usual. I was delighted it was not a snake 😦 Yuck to snakes. I know they eat small rodents but they freak me out.

Her favorite yard thing seems to be eat a little grass “salad” and rest in the shade. That is a behavior improvement. A few weeks ago she did not seem to have the sense to get out of the sun, even when she was panting and obviously uncomfortable!

I went back to work on the entrance. Needed a little soil where it had washed away from a plant. Bent over to scoop some up and there was a toad! Oh glory! They eat lots of bugs. The one I saw was about 2-1/2 or 3 inches long. It was as black as the composted soil and manure. Wikipedia information digest says: “The color and pattern is somewhat variable, especially for the females. Skin color can change depending on habitat colors, humidity, stress, and temperature. Color changes range from yellow to brown to black, from solid colors to speckled.” There was a brown toad in my garden on Siesta. So glad to have this new friend!

In early spring I bought as inexpensive fragrant rose bush wrapped in paper and plastic, I moved it to this house that way. Following Jeff’s example, Bob drilled a few holes in a five gallon bucket for the new rose. In the bucket it leafed out, but some of the leaves did not survive. It sent up a few sturdy new shoots. We cut off the dead shoots and waited for sod and gardening area. Bob and Jeff planted it for me the weekend of July 10. This week I was delighted to look at the flowerbed and voila!

It obviously needs some rose food with bug resistance in it, but I am amazed it has made it this far! The other larger bush was bought here is five gallon bucket. This is it’s third home. And so fragrant! No Knock Out roses for me, thank you!

There is still a thick layer of mulch to go in the flower bed. Hopefully they will bring our shrubs, Astilbe and mulch soon!

Garage Door

The garage door has been making a clunking sound. It is a loud clunk as it rumbles up the tracks to the ceiling. We called the warranty people.

A young man come out to adjust and inspect it. The spring was too loose. The spring was too tight. (Oh my goodness that sounds like me!) He drilled, he adjusted, he finally was working to a point where Bob thought perhaps he had gotten in over his own head? The door was down and Bob needed it up to have enough light to work on his project.

Yes, way beyond me! A few days after he left Bob noticed there is a gap on the bottom of the door on one side only. Guess we need to call the company and have them out again? We do give thanks for repairmen who come to adjust things in the house, tweak this, seal that, etc.

It does not clunk anymore and that is a relief! Bob has worked without stopping the last nine weeks. We are very, very close to getting both cars in the garage! His workbench is filled. He hung the extra lighting over it, a nifty little LED unit that has a motion detector on it. When we walk into the garage it turns on! Our last door lift did that but our new one does not. Compared to the last house it will be tight with both cars in the garage since we have so much more in the garage sans basement! First world problem. We will make it work or get rid of more stuff.

Come winter we will be delighted to have the cars out of the weather!

What I Learned Though I Fear Heights

Ever since sliding to the garage floor on an unsecured ladder at about age 6 or 8 I have feared heights. When I heard on the news in 2017 about this guy climbing in Yosemite National Park without ropes to secure him I was terrified on his behalf. Bob had taken me to visit Yosemite on one of our many trips to California. I knew the height of those summits. In my eyes he attempted and accomplished the impossible. In this short but entertaining eleven minute talk you can learn more about him in his own words.

Wikipedia reports that “In 2016, he was subjected to Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans that revealed that, unlike other high sensation seekers, his amygdala barely activates when watching disturbing images. He however confesses feeling fear occasionally. Through imagination and practice, he has desensitized himself to most fearful situations.” MacKinnon, J. B. (June 28, 2018). “The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber”Nautilus. Retrieved May 11, 2021

He said, “Doubt is the precursor of fear.” On the video I watched as he climbed Half Dome inch by inch. I remembered Peggy Snapp telling me ‘Life by the mile is a trial. Life by the inch is a cinch.’ In the documentary Alex told how he practiced for years. He practiced the handholds going up the rock face with ropes before he tried the free solo ascents.

Before trying the most sensational solo climb he literally practiced for ten years. And now, my challenge is becoming more clear. Am I willing to practice letting pain draw me into God’s Presence even if it takes ten years to feel as if I have accomplished that? Am I willing to return to the Lord over and over again, asking forgiveness for complaining and grace to begin again? The Benedictines say, “Always, we begin again.” They put that truth in a minimum of words and I thank them for that reminder!

Through imagination and practice can I desensitize myself to the disappointment of returning chronic pain? Am I willing to try? Discipline and practice. Oh those do not come easily. Can I become as unflappable and steady as Pat M.W.? Will I push back on the gloom laden cloud of discouragement that often threatens to enshroud me? Am I truly willing to let Jesus in me increase and ask that I decrease, making more space for His rule and reign?

In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zin writes about the research and findings from teaching heart patients and cancer patients the practice of mindfulness for pain relief and stress relief.

I have the meditation recordings from this book. I used to own the book, but when we moved I let it go. Will I choose to listen to these recordings and bring myself from the panic of nerve pain to the centered life of returning and rest?

Lord, I do not expect to be a world record breaking solo climber. I do not seek any recognition at all. I simply want to live for You, to love and serve You and not be consumed by the physical sensations of my aging body. Help me to, like Paul, choose to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Muddy Bubbles

Until our neighbors get sod, I have been enjoying a phenomena during rain showers that I call Muddy Bubbles. Writing in the Wall Street Journal Helen Czerski says:

“When things are just right, the [raindrop} splash rebounds off the bottom of the puddle and the circular wall reaches up even higher than usual. The surface of the water acts as if it’s an elastic sheet, so that as the elongated crown travels upward, it also bends inward to form a dome. The edges collide in the middle but stay intact, leaving a hemisphere of air trapped underneath a watery shell and creating a nice big bubble. In a typical outdoor puddle there is likely to be a bit of organic material that will stick to the bubble’s surface, helping the bubble to last long enough for us to see it.

The organic material in this case is clay, plant material, insect detritus, etc. And Helen is right. These are BIG bubbles. I have not however deliberately ventured out in the rain to try to capture a photo – yet. Below are photos of the puddle area a few hours after a rain.

Walking around our backyard you will find we likely have more water than that trapped under the growing sod. Taking these photos I was sinking over the tops of my flip flops. I do not think having a garden across the back of our property line will be an option. The wild Queen Ann’s Lace is about four or five feet tall due to the water!

Other than the drainage problem the sod is growing, we have had some rain (alleviating the twice a day watering Bob had to do) and the yard is coming along swimmingly!

Watch and Pray

 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36 NIV

You do not have to be carousing or participating in drunkenness for your heart to be weighed down. The anxieties of life will do that. Man, don’t I know it’s so!?

Gratefulness does not come easy to us. “First world problems” can invade and weigh us down without our even being aware of it. Suddenly there is no joy, no lightness to life. Everything seems to be going wrong. Nothing is positive. Why do we let this happen to ourselves repeatedly? This was a battle I had to fight as we relocated. Then one day I realized that we were going to “Platform,” ‘our forever home.’ We talk about adopted dogs being given their forever home. Bob and I decided this house will be our forever home unless, God forbid, one of us has to go to a nursing home.

This Platform is where I hope to encounter the Lord in my final years on earth. This Platform is where I hope to graduate to be with Him forever. I am told to “Watch and Pray…” will I be faithful to do that little bit?

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all exhort us to watch and pray. In Colossians, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Sadly we are like the dog character from the movie “Up” who flips his brain and attention every time he senses a “Squirrel.”

There is more at stake here than pleasing an old man who is his master. This discipline will help us to escape all that is about to happen. When Peter lost his focus upon Jesus he began to sink in the stormy water. If we want to ‘be able to stand before the Son of Man” at the end of our earthly life, we must take this discipline seriously. I am not preaching at you. I am reminding myself, too. Nothing good comes from negative, ungrateful thinking; only trouble and the possibility of going under when we should be walking on the heights.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-13

Verse 18b reads “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying …..” Will you take your stand today, keeping on watch and praying? We can choose to let prayer occupy our minds. I have one friend in her 80’s who prays the instant you tell her about something that has you ill at ease. Instead of commenting “Oh dear me” she just out loud goes to the Lord right then in prayer. Sometimes I get annoyed by her behavior, but gradually I am learning that she is exhibiting what I am called to. My annoyance is driven by my failure to do the same. Oops.

Lord, help us to take Your Word seriously. Open our hands to lay down the petty first world problems that want to take over our minds. We need Your help in order to devote ourselves to You. Be the first order of business in every hour of our lives. Help us to honor You, our Risen Lord, with our lips and with our lives. Amen.

How are You Discerning and Enhancing ?

This is a portion from a devotional entitled Connect the Testaments, by John D. Barry

Unless we know God, we’re incapable of successfully doing His work. We must be willing to talk to God honestly about our relationships, as the psalmist does in Psalm 119:69–72. The psalmist acknowledges that he needs God’s help in all matters of his relationship with God and all matters of his relationship with others. He understands that he cannot even begin to know God without the power of God helping him.
“We must be empowered for action, both in the intimacy of prayer and in the reality of relationships. And we must support what we believe with our works, as the letter of James call us to do: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:14–26).
“Reflecting regularly on how God has worked with us and is working in us allows us to recognize that everything in our lives has a purpose. God often works in others through us, and that great calling requires us to have knowledge of Him and discernment about His workings in our world.
How are you discerning the great work of God in your life? How are you enhancing your knowledge of God?

A soon to be neighbor was in town touring her home being built across the street from us. On occasion we have traded texts or emails. She has shared a bit about her faith and a prayer group she was involved in for decades. We have occasionally taken photos for her showing her the progress of the house she and her husband have planned. Having recently moved, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to get caught up in the details and the utter work involved in relocating and forgetting to ask the Lord not only to be involved, but to keep me aware of His interest and care.

After she left the neighborhood I felt compelled to write her an email affirming that the Lord knows her heart and is interested in helping her pack and move. I did not respond to that prompting immediately. When the Holy Spirit reminded me again I decided I had better get on it. So I wrote her a quick note encouraging her to turn to Him. By her response it seems I heard correctly and helped her turn her eyes towards Him in this relocating matter. We used to live 8 miles from our new home. She lives about 150 miles away. So besides the sort, store, give away, sell, pack and move, she cannot just take a break and drop in to see the progress. And then we are turned to Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

 in all your ways submit to Him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

(or direct your paths)

Trust, lean not on your own, submit or acknowledge and He will direct your ways. As the commercial for cereal used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

The Prince of Peace is able to quiet and comfort our hearts like no other.

Blessings from Above

We have seen a doe and her fawn in our neighbor’s yard. This was an unexpected visit from what I believe is a yearling doe. We were delighted. Not enough time to get another camera!

She was ambling on a walk and decided to check us out!

Closer
Closer yet

She walked right up to Bob who was standing inside the sliding glass door. Then she ambled over to the hummingbird feeder in front of the kitchen window. We were absolutely fascinated! What a delight from the Lord.

As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him?

Psalm 42:1-2