It has been a summer touched by St. Francis, St. Joseph, and St. Ignatius. Their lives still live in God’s people today including in me. A stray puppy became a part of my husband and I’s life one week in August before finding the perfect family to adopt him. After several weeks of packing, donating, moving, repairing, scrubbing, and just plain hard work, we finally put my mother’s villa on the market with the St. Joseph statue buried in the yard. Several willing buyers offered contracts more than what we asked for within 24 hours of being on the market. The closing is in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Dean and I have some major household upgrades. We replaced a furnace well over 20 years old, a roof maybe as old, and gutters failing their job even when removing leaves and debris on several occasions this spring and summer. We have had plenty of rain even over the summer. One wall was showing some leakage during a storm prior to the roof and gutters being replaced, so some plaster work will be next. St. Joseph intercedes while God oversees the details.
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.” ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola
I awoke one day singing from my heart the spiritual song, Take, Lord, Receive. I sang all day long, beginning with my shower and while I worked around the house that day. This song is based on the quote above from St. Ignatius, co-founder of the Jesuit teachings and Spiritual Exercises. I knew I was singing this for someone else besides me. A phone call from one of the kids revealed who. But the words welled up in my heart for myself, too. A yielding I need right now. A yielding of my own heart matters. Worry about things I cannot control, anxiety about the future of those I love, and my lack of understanding for some of God’s people placed in my life. Take, Lord, receive. My liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will. All I have and call my own … To You, Lord, I return it. Everything is Yours. Do with it what You will. Please Lord, give me only Your love and Your grace, that is enough for me. Amen.”
During this week off from the everyday grind, I am present moment many moments of my day, and days plural. My senses are wide-open. I hear my husband’s heart beat in the silence. My vision becomes clearer by the hour in the solitude. What a difference capturing a subdued vacation dedicated to the rejuvenation of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. Old thoughts are changed to clearer vision and direction. Faith in my God and myself restored. Life is punctuated with grace, hope, and love. Courage and strength for the walk ahead. I see the path. One of prayer. Pray the Word of God. Meditate and then pray Psalms 119. Today’s verses 11, 18, & 148 …“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You … Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law … My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises.”
The mother of pearl stone fell out of my class ring about 3 months ago. I noticed a hollow cavity in the ring after a shower one morning. My assumption is it popped out while taking a shower or while I gardened. My sweet husband knew how significant that ring was. I worked hard at age 40 to finally complete my BA degree, and graduated with summa cum laude honors. Dean looked up the information, and this ring maker guaranteed their work for my lifetime. We packed it up and it was sent back to me within a month as promised. Beautifully restored and cleaned. Mother of pearl symbolizes restored trust and selfless love. And this is what my BA degree did for me, restored my trust in people, love, and the reward for hard work. The mother of pearl stone reminds me of my children, and the selfless love of a mother. My daughters have done a much better job at this than I. Being a grandmother has been much easier for me, and still an opportunity for a positive influence.
This week I was reminded at the Fearless Women’s gathering how God is in control. Whenever we feel like we need to fix someone or a situation, remind self “they are My children”. God loves our children and others more than we ever could. He knows best! “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ~ Ephesians 2:10. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” ~ Philippians 3:12. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” ~ Luke 1:37.
The ladies group I have been involved with since late spring has been a source of tremendous mutual support. We pray for each other and talk through anything plaguing our minds. Much that we battle with someone else we know has battled with before. Why not talk about it, learn from each other? If trust and confidence is there amongst a community, then there is freedom from stereotypes and judgment. I cannot say that would be the case with any group of women, but it is with this one. Grace abounds.
I headed out the door late this morning, sunhat and eagerness to get to Long Row Lavender where we met for a lunch and walked amongst the lavender field today. Gorgeous September afternoon. We enjoyed a light luncheon of sandwiches, fresh fruit, and tea. Their iced lavender tea was delicious. Two of the ladies have young boys, so it was a party of four women and three boys under the age of 8. On our walk we noticed a couple of varieties of lavender as well as zinnias and sunflowers. The idea is to attract bees, and there were many. The sunflowers drooped loaded with seeds in their heads. Some spilled onto the ground. The children thought this was fascinating.
The parable of scattered seeds came to mind. “A farmer was sowing grain in his fields. As he scattered the seed across the ground, some fell beside a path, and the birds came and ate it. And some fell on rocky soil where there was little depth of earth; the plants sprang up quickly enough in the shallow soil, but the hot sun soon scorched them and they withered and died, for they had so little root. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns choked out the tender blades. But some fell on good soil and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as he had planted. If you have ears, listen!” ~ Matthew 13: 3- 9. What seeds am I sowing? Have I prepared my soil to be good? Am I watered in the Word of God and feeding my soul with His goodness? Today was a wonderful day, soaking in His creation and the blessing of friends.
Emotions and the mind do funny things sometimes. Emotions can see-saw like the playground equipment, up-down, up-down. Sometimes the mind plays its own games. Truths and lies come into the mind, and I remind myself what is the truth. And people play games, too. But to know the difference requires discernment. I ask God for that discernment and wisdom. And my trust, my anchor, my foundation is in Him and His Word.
I am reading the book The Daniel Plan, and the chapter on “Focus” resonates so profoundly. Taking care of the body and the mind is essential to going older gracefully. A healthy body and sound mind equals good mental health. Fill your mind with good seeds. Then let your practice of those good thoughts bring harmony to yourself and those God has placed in your life. Bloom where you are planted.
Philippians 4:8-9 The Message (MSG)
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Looking back, how I have changed with each year that passed. Not just with the added wrinkles, grays, pounds, aches, and pains in the natural aging process, but in each encounter with my God, His people, and creation. Our loving God uses every situation and person in our lives to shape us. At times I have been in solitude, absent of friendships due to illness, death, and the unkindness of others. There have been good and not so good people throughout my life. Even in the most difficult and dark times, God was present. He gave and continues to give me guidance on how to live life more Christ-like despite others. I trust Him. There is no secret from Him. God knows the secrets of my heart and the sins of my life. I draw on the grace of Jesus Christ with my imperfections as I pour out my heart to Him. To all women, I encourage you to do the same. And join a women’s group. Not just any group but one where you are accepted as a prized rose, and encouraged to grow. “Other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown,” the Bible tells us. Have open discussions, share holy scriptures and prayers, encourage fearlessness in fearful circumstances, and genuine friendships are planted in the garden. Avoid weedy worthless gossip, emotional games, and comparisons. No pretensions, be fully yourself. This season I have been surrounded by fearless women, and seeds are being planted in good soil. I am thankful.
Introverts contemplate, in quietness and solitude they create and conclude. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking gives an eloquent Ted Talk on this subject. Go to https://www.quietrev.com/ted-talk/. She ends this speech for both the introvert and extrovert with “I wish you the courage to speak softly”. For myself, and many of my loved ones who are introverts, this is for you, too. The photo is my oldest granddaughter in quiet thought near the river a couple of years back. Now in her junior year with home schooling (not a senior like I wrote a few days ago). Hannah makes time for solitude, reads, writes, draws, and is creative. Introvert as it is, she or I do not need a group to follow or hang with.
As an introvert do you ever wonder whether speaking up is worth it? Arguing never gets far, but even saying a word or two seems to cause trouble. “Silence is an answer too” has some truth. But silence for too long can be misunderstood, leaves too much room for incorrect conclusions. “I will watch my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will keep a muzzle on my mouth. Mute and silent before the wicked, I refrain from good things. But my sorrow increases; my heart smolders within me. In my sighing a fire blazes up, and I break into speech,” David, the psalmist writes in Psalms 39: 2 – 4. Silence is broken, passion rises up to spoken words. For others it is the written word or an art piece.
So what does the word “silence” mean? According to the online resource https://av1611.com/kjbp/kjv-dictionary/silence.html …
SI’LENCE, n. L. silentium, from sileo, to be still.
1. In a general sense, stillness, or entire absence of sound or noise; as the silence of midnight.
2. In animals, the state of holding the peace; forbearance of speech in man, or of noise in other animals. I was dumb with silence; I held my peace, even from good. Ps 39.
3. Habitual taciturnity; opposed to loquacity.
4. Secrecy. These things were transacted in silence.
5. Stillness; calmness; quiet; cessation of rage, agitation or tumult; as the elements reduced to silence.
6. Absence of mention; oblivion, Eternal silence be their doom. And what most merits fame, in silence hid.
7. Silence, in used elliptically for let there be silence, an injunction to keep silence.
SI’LENCE, v. t.
1. To oblige to hold the peace; to restrain from noise or speaking.
2. To still; to quiet; to restrain; to appease. This would silence all further opposition. These would have silenced their scruples.
3. To stop; as, to silence complaints or clamor.
4. To still; to cause to cease firing; as, to silence guns or a battery.
5. To restrain from preaching by revoking a license to preach; as, to silence a minister of the gospel. The Rev. Thomas Hooker, of Chelmsford in Essex, was silenced for non-conformity.
6. To put an end to; to cause to cease. The question between agriculture and commerce has received a decision which has silenced the rivalships between them.
What words need to go unsaid? When does the silence need to be broken? Will I take up the courage to say it softly? Will you take up the courage to say it softly? What words do you need to share with your world in 2019?
I am not an affectionate person but with my husband only. There are many deep-seeded reasons for that. I have opened my heart to be warm and kind to the people put on my path of life. Many years ago I read a book Open Heart, Open Home by Christian author, Karen Mains. It provoked me to develop my gift of hospitality. This gift is not about impressions but acceptance and warmth to all. Not just in my home, but in my heart and wherever I am. Hospitality is not just for my friends and family, but for all people and creatures that cross my path. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” the book of Hebrews (13:2) tells us.
The mineral, salt symbolizes hospitality according to this bible study website https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/salt/. “As one of the most essential articles of diet, salt symbolized hospitality; as an antiseptic, durability, fidelity and purity.” Salt’s ability to preserve and to sustain life has made it an allegorical symbol in many religions. “Called a ‘divine substance’ by Homer, salt is an essential part of the human body, was one of the first international commodities and was often used as currency throughout the developing world,” citing PW Reviews 2001 November. We need salt to regulate the water in our bodies, both necessary for survival. Did you know that 60% of your body is water? “All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came, ” John F. Kennedy is quoted.
As a Christian, “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another,” Mark’s gospel (9:50) encourages me. Do not take it for granted. By God’s grace I keep myself salty by prayer, meditation, listening, and reading. My hopes are my oral and written words shared season your heart with life and God’s love.
Ever notice when our President is first sworn in, he may be mildly gray. By the time his duties are handed over to the next President, he has a full head of gray hairs. Example: Barack Obama. For me those wispy gray hairs seem to be coming in each day. I know the natural aging process causes me to lose stands of hair and my new hair lacks pigment and regenerates gray. But there are some of those days the grays seem to grow by the minute! That may be the difference between peace and strife in my life. Stress multiples hair loss and grays. Example: I decided I was going to work a part-time 20-hour a week job on top of my full-time job to put that extra income into my savings since I had not had a salary increase in 6 years but want to retire in 2 years. Local government work is definitely service to the public, as it does not always serve self well! Humbling as it is, I could not keep up those new job duties and hours. My brain was mush working 2 office jobs by that first Friday evening. I wanted to sleep as soon as I was home every night. No life in that, or should I say “quality of life” in that! I was striving. Lost my peace. My husband saw by the 2nd evening at my 2nd job I was struggling physically and mentally. He simply said, “if it is not going to work, it is not going to work.” No lecture or ultimatum. Relief. Grace given, and received. Lesson learned. I put in my notice to this new office, and back to square one.
I am praying and seeking God’s plan. I want to retire from my employee benefits job with the local government at age 60. Planned to work part-time some place(s) while pursuing my master’s degree in writing. Tuition is 1/2 price at age 60 at the university of my choice. I want to teach college students the gift of writing. My dreams are noble and good, achievable. Are they God’s plan? Maybe my timing is off? Maybe putting off retirement another 2 years to make up for lost income with the salary freeze? Maybe thinking outside of the box? Henry Ford made this statement, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Peace is returning with prayer, meditating, gardening, my husband’s love, and even the midst of chaos this last week at that 2nd job. God’s provisions are endless. God continues to mend me with His pure gold. He has aggrandized me through Jesus Christ!
I awoke this Saturday morn early like most days. Weekday, weekend, it no matter. I am an early bird. And you know the saying “the early bird gets the worm”, but I am sure worms are not on my menu. But time with God is. Yes, I can talk to God (and you can, too) at any time of day under any circumstances. But there is something fresh about the dawn of a new day, quietness and stillness in the house and just outside the house on my front porch. I sit on the porch bench watching the day wake up around me. I am surrounded by shade trees, pots of perennials, the tweeting birds, and garden art. The breeze subtly chills my skin, and rustles the green canopy of leaves. Forgiveness I ask for my shortcomings, and His Grace accepted. Petitions are expressed, asking God for complete healing for my daughters, Elisabeth and Rachel as well as my aging mother. Strength for this woman warrior and my day. With a thankful heart …
Onward to begin the Saturday chores … I sweep the front porch of the twigs, mulch, dog hairs, and dirt blown in with the summer winds. It is an attempt to keep my home tidy. I want to feel welcomed when I come home. Rather be greeted by the warm cinnamon front door, than dirt and grime. I am sure the rest of the family and our guests do as well. Is that not what praying to God is about? Sweeping the wrong motives, ill words, and bad attitudes away while being received in His warm embrace. An Open Door. So happy I chose a comforting color for the front door. Cinnamon. Warm. This morn it invites me into the house to prepare a pancake breakfast and finish those other Saturday chores, and pray all the while.