Oak Tree

We have a spindly tree in our front yard. It has lived here only a few months. The man from the nursery said he picked it out himself. It was the best one he had. When it arrived we had to remove many leaves that were hosts to insect sacs in the form of galls.

Our oak

Streams in the Desert is a collection of devotional writings and quotes collected by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Linda gave me a copy in about 1979. Someone had given it to her and she did not care for it. I have continued to read it, not daily every year, but many days over the years. You can easily find it online for free these days.

A portion of the entry for January 16 reads “When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest.

“When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of mankind is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: “O God, take me, break me, make me.”

January, 2018 Bob and I were both diagnosed with influenza. We had both taken our preventative injection but the flu had made a run around the formula. Within three days he was desperately ill, put into a coma and intubated. I was terrified I would lose him from this life. He had sepsis, organ failure, eventually several forms of pneumonia, MRSA, and was put on dialysis. It was a seriously life threatening ordeal.

Several weeks ago I got a cold. That went into a sinus infection so severe my eyeball sockets ached. I called the doc. Had a telemedicine visit. He decided to put me on antibiotic and low dose of Sudafed. Quizzed me thoroughly about my symptoms. Said some Covid has been similar to sinus infection. I finished the antibiotic. The illness took a turn. One day after I went off Sudafed I sneezed so continuously that I put myself on one dose of Benadryl. That dried up the sneezes. Now I am coughing, and coughing, and did I mention coughing?

Bob has started with similar symptoms though his symptoms have gone to his already congested lungs. I am terrified I have made him ill. Since moving we have spoken more than once about getting a twin bed for one of the spare rooms in case we ever need to sleep apart, like for medical reasons. What if we have not been sleeping apart, one of us gets ill and then the other? Do we still sleep together then or do I need to go order that twin bed delivered?

As the 82 year old guest at our Thanksgiving feast mentioned, “Not everything is Covid.” My brain is racing this morning asking, “But is THIS Covid?” The ordeal with Bob’s health taught me so much about faith and trusting God. I must admit though that I am fearful in this situation. How awful would it be if I give him Covid? With his compromised health he might end up on a ventilator again. (Awfulizing.) Then again, maybe he won’t. Is this pneumonia? Oh Lord, I pray not.

Trust. This morning on the Right Now media app I was listening to teaching by Ann Voskamp from her book one thousand gifts, and these lines struck me in regards to this cough, etc. “If I believe, then I must let go and trust. Why do I stress? What is saving belief if it isn’t the radical dare to wholly trust? I read it in one of the thick commentaries, that two hundred twenty times that word pisteuo is used in the New Testament, most often translated as “belief.” Belief is a verb, something that you do. This is the trust I lack: to know that if disaster strikes, He carries me even there. If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief … atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism.”

Even as I type out the above quote a female sparrow lands on the feeder just beyond my computer screen. Birds to this feeder are rare!

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” MT 6:26 NIV

He keeps me, too. “Lord, I pray You will heal this cough and help me keep my mind from fear and worry. I also pray the house sparrow will build a nest in our spindly oak tree to give me a constant reminder of Your grace and care. Amen.”

It actually seems as if the entire community has this awful cold. Protect those who do not have it, Lord. Heal the rest of us I pray.

A Kiss

What makes our fifty-second Christmas season together special? The love keeps growing between us. This morning after sharing our usual morning banter, as I was leaving Bob’s sitting room this melody rang through my soul. It only took a little research to identify it. The solo was done by Louis Armstrong. Below is some history on Louis, in case you are unfamiliar with him. Then follows a short history of the song.

Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971) nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an inventive trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly-recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics).
Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong’s influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general.

From Wikipedia: “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” is a song composed by Bert Kalmar, Harry Rubyand Oscar Hammerstein II. In 1935, Kalmar and Ruby wrote a song called “Moonlight on the Meadow” for the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera (1935) but the song was not used. Hammerstein later adapted the lyrics to be “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” and it was recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1951.

Grab your favorite sweetie, play that song and take a spin around the room! Long-time relationships take work, but the investment is so worth it!

Golden Rain to Killing Frost

Just a couple weeks ago it was raining gold in our backyard.

Music provided by tuned wind chime

If you are as old as me you might remember the television offering songs where they showed the lyrics and told you to follow the bouncing ball to sing along in pace with the rhythm. Dan, Mike and Bob could explain the bouncing green ball in this video. I just like the video!

This morning everything is covered with a crisp layer of white frost. Not snow, mind you, white frost, like the icing on a cake. Do you recall this from childhood? Not the creep in some of the latest movies.

Jack Frost

Look out! look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And, all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake;
To windows he’ll creep,
And while we’re asleep,
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white;
Then home he will go,
And laugh, “Ho! ho! ho!
What fun I have had in the night!”

by Cicely E. Pike
Picnic anyone?
Grill cover decorated also!
Exquisite

Ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever.

Daniel 3:70 CPDV

In Remembrance of My Mother-in-law

Betty was the mother to five children. She taught them this poem. When I read it from a book of poetry to our children, my husband remembered it from his childhood. With Thanksgiving upon us and table manners on display I thought you might enjoy it.

I believe the version in our children’s book of poetry read as follows:

The Goops they lick their fingers, and the Goops they lick their knives; they spill their broth on the tablecloth; Oh, they lead disgusting lives. The Goops they talk while eating, and loud and fast they chew. So that is why I am glad that I am not a Goop. Are you?

Gelett Burgess

It is said you must read this with dramatic voice and emotional emphasis. Will you be reading this at your table? I think table manners are a lost art. Perhaps it involves too much corrective guilt?

Grooks

In 1966 Piet Hein published a little book of poetry entitled Grooks. It brought me cheer and challenge. The cover says he began” writing Grooks during Nazi occupation of Denmark. They were, quite literally, underground literature – Piet Hein was in hiding as as resistance leader. …they enabled Danes to talk to one another about what really mattered in a range just beyond German understanding and several octaves beyond Nazi sensitivities. “

A Maxim for Vikings

Here is a fact that should help you fight a bit longer.

Things that don’t actually kill you outright make you stronger.

Yes, that has challenged and comforted me through many, many years. Now I have passed my 71st birthday. We have a tiny (by comparison to past houses) front garden. Each spring at other locations I would participate in what I called “Death by Gardening,” cleaning up the flower beds and putting in a new perennial or two. Suffering the consequences for days and at times weeks afterward.

Bob had planted over 200 of my favorite daffodil bulbs at the last house. When we were packing last spring, I was lamenting leaving that glorious daffodil display. One friend bought me two pots of large daffodils to plant at our new house. I nurtured those bulbs through the spring and into the summer awaiting a flower bed. Another friend attended our open house and gifted us with a sack of daffodil bulbs and a sack of tulip bulbs.

Our weather went from summer hot (think 80s) to chilly (think 40s). For the last few days we have entertained 60 degrees. Twice I have gone out to plant a few bulbs. Whereas I used to spend 3 or 4 hours in the garden I am no longer able to do that due to fibromyalgia and arthritis. Now I might spend 45 minutes or so.

Here is the deal. When Ryan built this house, they delivered tons of huge gravel for the eventual driveway. First, the crane parked there to lift the walls and roof trusses into place and then the construction dumpster sat on it.

The rocks spread. Then the driveway and sidewalk were concreted and the rocks spread.

Rocks throughout the rain sitting on top of the clay

Then the grading machine came to shape the yard and the rocks spread. Our son advised adding inches of good topsoil to the garden area before they came to put in our plants and single tree. We did that with his help.

So now this old lady is out trying to plant flower bulbs. The soil and top layer of mulch have settled. The bulb digger is a handy gadget we have used for years.

Here is the current struggle. To plant the daffodil bulb at the suggested depth (about 6 inches), I twist the bulb digger to make a hole. Before I reach 6 inches deep the digger hits either clay or rock or BOTH. The clay is wet and will not drop out of the digger, so each attempt the clay must be removed with the dandelion remover. This is no longer a simple matter of place a few bulbs in the ground!

“Things that don’t actually kill you outright…” Make me ache and moan and groan the next day. Actually I was gasping for air and having trouble getting upright after planting, too.

What was I thinking? I have this gardening bug that makes me believe I am 27 instead of living into my 72nd year. I want to plant and grow things. I delight to see flowers blooming and bobbing in the breeze.

I must try to content myself with a few lovely daffodils and let go of the glories Bob planted for me in the past. I placed the clods of clay into a flexible tub. It was so heavy when I finished placing about 15 bulbs I could barely drag it to the sidewalk, much less dump it in the garbage can.

Weighty Clay Clods

Ryan homes has done nothing yet regarding the drainage problems in our backyard. I had hope for a perennial bed out there by now. The mums and aster from this fall will need to be thrown out as there is no place to put them in the ground for the winter.

“Make you stronger …” Maybe this yard will make me strong enough to embrace gracefully that I am no longer a strong young woman? The crocus bulbs are in. All the plants we brought with us are in the ground (thanks mostly to Bob and son Jeff). I will see if I have grown wiser when the new plants are available in the spring?

Wiser to embrace the blessings I have and release the ones that have passed as my younger years fade away. Oh Lord, You know how much help I need with this!

The grass withers, the flower fades;

    but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:8

Church Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, November 7 we were invited to attend the 25th celebration of the Milford Vineyard church. We were glad to do that and looking forward to seeing old acquaintances. The church had moved to a newer location since we attended there.

There were many familiar faces and a few names I could not remember to go with those faces. Ugh. Perhaps the best was a greeting as I first walked in the door!

The conversation went like this. “Oh hello! I was just thinking about you this morning. I am so glad to see you. Look! She was my FIRST prayer partner!!” Jay H. was in joyous fine form and I was delighted to see him, too.

Once upon a time at Milford Vineyard I was in charge of scheduling the prayer teams for after service prayer and for prophetic communion. We had teams of two available after every service for intercession. Prophetic communion was a time when those teams would come together to pray over people. Some would come with specific requests but most were just seeking what the Lord would say to them. We did not believe we had a fast track to God, just were willing to listen and have the courage to speak into the lives of those who came forward. We tried to separate anything we knew about the person and just listened for what the Lord wanted to say. We always cautioned people to go to the Lord themselves with the things we said and seek His face and His voice. None of us were infallible. He is the best source for healing and guidance.

A friend told me she had a funny memory of me. Once when the pastor was going off on another of his endless rabbit trails I spoke up and said, “Come on! Finish up! We have other important things to do like communion and prayer.” She was impressed that I said it and thought it needed to be said.

Another woman pulled me aside at the end of the service. I did not recognize her with her mask on. When I asked her to pull it down for a moment I faintly recognized her. She wanted me to know she had recognized me and always remembers me as a strong prayer warrior. I thought, “Hmm, after all these years!”

I guess I made a stronger impact than I knew. After the service, one man said his daughter still has the baby blanket I made her. Once she even drew her bunny wrapped in the blanket. He wanted to show me the drawing but had difficulty finding it on his phone. I gave him my email and told him he could send it when he found it. I would delight to see it!

It was a good reunion. It was wonderful to worship in the Vineyard tradition. I miss that sort of worship where I can enter into His presence and find mercy, grace and rest. We sang the following song, Another one of my favorites!

Sweetly Broken Jeremy Riddle

New House, New Tree

We set up our old Christmas tree in the new house. It was too wide for the setting. Bob heard there could be an artificial Christmas tree shortage this year. So when he saw them at the hardware store he took me with him to choose one. I chose a pencil tree, known on the box as Sonoma Pine, seven foot.

It sat in the box in the garage for several weeks. Finally we decided we should set it up and be certain we liked it and it fit in the space. Mind you, my husband would be content with the photo of a Christmas tree instead of a real or artificial one. The idea of setting one up before November 15, before Thanksgiving even, has never occurred in our 51 years of marriage!

We unboxed it. The dog watched in the corner in fear. As we set it up the dog had left the room completely. We plugged it in. Looked pretty good! Well, if you have a tree set up and the ornaments are close at hand, why not decorate it? And so, we did! Just the two of us. The last few years Grand-kids had helped us decorate the tree. This year the two oldest ones are both holding down jobs and school. The youngest is 40 minutes away, one way. So we just did it.

The dog had returned to the room and was watching warily. It stumped me why she was so timid. Then I remembered the tree at the other house had been in the basement (more room for gifts and celebration space). She spent very little time near it.

We actually had fun together decorating it. After a while Bob took the job of putting hooks on ornaments while I placed them around the branches.

Yes, Charlie Brown and Snoopy on the floor for now.

I was remembering the angel Myrtle made me, the bell I crocheted like the ones Aunt Audrey made, ornaments the children and grandchildren made. Little treasures that make me smile. One ornament from Bob’s kindergarten class and the replica we made first year we were married. The yarn “snow queen”, Christmas mouse, stars to remember how His birth was announced in the heavens. The ornaments are just good for my soul. I am still debating whether to leave the angel on the top of the tree or replace her with a sparkly Gold crown I found to honor the King of Kings? There are quite a few angels on the tree.

We are accustomed to lights with many colors and this one is all white. We are unlikely to keep it lit every night until January first. Bob said he meant to get one with LED lights and this one is not. It is a joy to have it up as the time change brings sunset so much earlier.

New home, new tree and likely new traditions will be formed in however many year we have left. Bob says he is not paying for any 5 year magazine subscriptions as who knows if he will get them all read! Other age related comments have been bouncing around since our birthdays 3 weeks apart.

Father, You knew when to send Jesus.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

And Father, You also know how long we have left on this earth. Let us use that time to Your Glory, I pray.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15-17

Our times are in Your hands. (Psalm 31:15a) Celebrate the gift of His life to you!

Grocery Parking Lot

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:2

21-20-21 Journal Entry

At the store I departed with my mask still on. As I headed towards my car I noticed a man in the handicapped parking slowly getting out of his van. A motorized wheelchair cart was close by, but not lined up with his door. As he put both of his metal crutches outside the van I asked him if he was aiming for the cart? He said yes and I offered to get it closer to him. He said sure. Those things are difficult to drive. I got it close, though not close enough in my estimation. I decided to stay with him while he got situated.

This man was morbidly obese, wearing a tractor company ball cap, suspenders over his t-shirt and very old, torn jeans. Theses jeans were so old they had barely any blue color left to them. The top of the pockets were torn as was the waistband. As he very slowly stood I encouraged him to take his time until he could get his legs under him. His van windows were open. There was change all over the console.

He began to tell me that he lives on a farm, but is no longer able to farm the land. He asked if I would mind checking one of his suspender clamps in the back. Said his van seat often knocks the clip undone when he gets in. I told him that would be fine, as my husband sometimes wears suspenders, too. His were intact.

As he maneuvered to the wheelchair cart, I noticed there was a checkbook on the console of his van. I asked if he would like me to hand that to him. He said yes. I responded we don’t want to just leave that out here. He had difficulty getting the checkbook into his pocket. Turns out his pocket was full of bank envelopes that looked as if they might contain cash. Through the tears in his jeans I could see the bands for an adult diaper. He seemed so frail that I decided to remain with him until fully seated.

I had passed a tremendously long line at the pharmacy. I made certain he was not headed there, as the drive through window might be a better choice for him. He was not going there. He assured me he had his mask with him..

He has always lived on a farm he said. I asked his favorite part of farming. He used to farm tobacco, though he never used it and never drank either. But tobacco was his money crop. He also used to help his dad milk golden guernseys. He is no longer able to farm. I asked if he leased out the land for others to farm. He said yes.

A group of Guernsey cows in pasture photographed at close quarters

.Finally on the seat,  it took him a few motions to get situated firmly.  He put his crutches in the basket. I wished him well. Told him to stay safe. Saying, “This Covid is nasty stuff and killing people.” He replied, “I know.” He thanked me for my help. Placing my hand on his shoulder I asked God to bless him

This was certainly a God appointment. My timing at the store, my departure from the store, his arrival at the parking lot in a space nearby mine.. none of that was coincidence. Stay with us both Lord Jesus, I pray.

This might just be “Paying it forward.” I too have had crutches at times and drove one of those carts in stores. It is no fun. But thank God for those luxuries when one is frail!

As I walked to my car I wondered if indeed I had entertained an angel unaware of Who he was?

Sayings from Mom

This might not have posted on Wednesday. Let’s try this again!

Do you remember hearing, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? That might work when trying to keep peace among siblings, but not so much if you trying to be transparent with God.

In 1994 I recorded, “Bob insists I should write during the uglies. I did some – but he means put it all down – in detail, even violent detail. I find that abhorrent to my soul. I want to write helpful, pleasant pretty things. It seems a violation of the gift to record the ugly, the crude, the ungodly AND YET there is healing and wholeness to be found in the process of forming words, sentences, phrases.

“Bob is talking about something bigger than the 3 page Artist Way obligation. He is talking about writing as a form of reflection/self examination/therapy. My Franciscan rule of life does state I will have some form of daily self examen, but I don’t always do that. I hardly ever do that at the end of the day when it would do me so much good and be so easy to recall. Could this be the time to finally begin Molly Lin? Huh? Finally?!”

Now zoom to 2021. With the chronic pain of fibromyalgia and inherent fatigue from it I have never kept that evening appointment, journaling or not. Although I have allowed myself to journal ugly things since then. Mom never said, “Stay transparent with God.” This seems to be the most important thing in my life now.

Years ago touring West Virginia and Ohio glass factories we found this art piece. It expresses my desire to remain transparent to God. Yes, I know God is omnipotent and has vision to easily view our inner thoughts and intentions. I am talking about my effort to remain unhindered in my approach to Him. Ever since the Garden we all tend to try to hide things from God, though that is impossible.

Acts 3:19-20a calls us to “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”

It was D.L. Moody who famously said, “Keep short accounts with God.” In that one statement is the secret to daily victory and spiritual power. Sin piles up so quickly. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin is the cause of broken fellowship with God and brokenness in so many areas of our lives. It is a cancer.

https://scottpauley.wordpress.com/category/personal-growth/

Short accounts, clean slate, nothing in my own sin ignored. D. L. Moody also said he was so busy with himself there was no time left to accuse others.

Whether time is spent in examination and confession in the morning, in the evening, regardless of time slot, keep current with the Lord. A short list. Daily self examination of your heart, mind, soul.

The contemporary protestant church seems to have reduced this to a minute or two at the most before partaking of communion. I believe the Word and the Spirit call us to more than that. Transparency with Christ. On the journal page, in prayer, making a space to examine our lives and confess our failings, the uglies that we are responsible for, knowing that 1 John 1:9 is true.

If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 NRSV

Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? Yet, no one can do it for us. We must each undertake this, not as self condemnation or unrelentless castigation. A time of confession, determining to turn and go a different way with help from God. Starting over. As the Benedictine’s say “Always we begin again.” Each time we swing less far on the pendulum of sin and error, making progress through repentance towards newness of life.

Keep a short account. Stay transparent with God.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

Psalm 24:3-4 NIV

Clean hands. Pure heart. Short list.

October 18th

Day that I love! Because the man I love was born this day!!

And one of his favorite characters ….

The Book of Common Prayer offers this and I agree for my husband.

“O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, I pray, on your servant Robert as he begins another year. Grant that he may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen his trust in your goodness all the days of his life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Yes, Lord. Thank you for the gift of Bob!