Friday, December 20, 2013

to learn about a good thing

 Nathaniel and Abigail came to Texas last month and they left their sweet children with John and me for an overnight and a day. "Ah, they trust us with their treasure!"

Eye to eye, the mother instructed, "Florence, while Dad and I are away, Gran and Grand Papi are in charge- they are the boss!"
The next morning John sat his grandchildren down at the little kitchen bench with cups of hot cocoa. Then he rode off to school on his bicycle and we waved.

I loaded up the children and set off on errands, just 3 short errand with just 2 little ones.
But short became long and oh, so slow. . .I only need thread, only milk and bread . . .

"Florence, we cant fit in the park this morning, Titus needs to nap at home," I explained.
(How did I ever do this so long ago. . .and with 8?)
Then I heard a wail from the back seat, "Gran, I am so sad. . .sad because you are not obeying me!"

"Ha! me obey you?" I thought.
But I answered, "hmmm, I love you, Florence!"

I'm still learning lots about them (while learning more about me. . .)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Contentment ~ soul business

Winter barreled south and Texans are piling on the layers-wool sweaters, coats, scarves, knitted hats, mittens, and  really, I think we look quite smart.

Last night  I slipped between the flannel sheets with a shiver. My husband reminded me that our body heat eventually warms the sheets; he's been telling me that for over 40 years but I still yelp with the initial icy shock.

In The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs writes that true contentment is soul business-  for example, to be content as a result of some external circumstance is akin to warming a man's clothes by the fire, merely temporarily and externally warm.

But true contentment radiates from a soul that trusts God . . .like a healthy woman  puts on her clothes on a cold morning and at first she shivers but after she wears her clothes  for awhile, they are warm, warm from the natural heat of her body!

 So, I told my husband all of that as we waited for the sheets to warm up.
 "I don't think I'm explaining it quite clearly," I lamented.
"Not at all, I understand perfectly," he assured me.

Then, as always, I felt the sheets warm. . .

Friday, December 6, 2013

just the 2 of us, again

This little bunch has kept me busy the past few weeks, delightfully so-
imagine the crumb piles and milk puddles under the old high chair, the plastic animals and Brio trains under foot.

In the hollow space upstairs John strung up a parachute tent for his grandchildren.
I love breakfasts, baths, and book time. . .

A few days ago they left us- our house is quiet, clean, and we miss them.
So, yesterday John and I moved back into our grown up routine--I met a woman over coffee and  cracked  a new book, By His Wounds You are Healed by Wendy Horger Alsup.

 I gently turned the yellowed pages of a very old one, The Rare Jewel  of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs ( I carry the pages in a zip lock bag, hmmm, did a mouse nibble the corners?)

And last night in our cold house, under the down comforter, we ate our dinner;
together we read an Advent meditation from Good News of Great Joy by John Piper. . .
just the 2 of us.

"Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!" (Jeremiah 23:29)
Gather around that fire this Advent season.  It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. 
It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark (cold) nights."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Over tea and creme brulee. . .

I will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning, 
for You, my God,  have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

Once upon a time I penciled the names of 2 old friends in my Bible next to Psalm 59:16-17.
My friends live on opposite coasts- they've never met, but one day they might.

 Pam lives on the west coast- she comes to San Antonio every November and we pack in a day together.
She brings gifts- San Francisco sour dough bread for John, treats for my grandchildren, an assortment of little treasures for me; we've  been friends for almost 40 years.

A few weeks ago I met Pam in Dallas. We stretched dinner over an evening and then ordered dessert. The waiter set out little white teapots and a creme brulee with 2 spoons.

"I think you haven't seen each other for a very long time." He observed, smiling.

The tea steeped and we probed, "What is God teaching you, friend?"

"Blessed are the meek. . . He's teaching me not to think more highly of  myself then I ought to think- you know, old lessons in new shoes." I said.

We sipped hot tea and dipped 2 spoons into creme brulee, in slow motion.

 "Ahh,  every morning I pray the same. . . pray and practice again and again" she revealed.

I say to every one among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think,
 but to think with sober judgment. Romans 12:3

Monday, November 18, 2013

Elliott Benjamin~Welcome to the world
and to the family.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made
. . .and with a soul that will live forever

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A peek into retirement

Boots, big puddles, sweet girls, a grandmother . . . I'm spending the week with Noah's family in the Dallas area, anticipating baby boy's arrival.  

John drove up for the weekend and Saturday we played at the park.
My husband buckled his little grandaughters into car seats- I watched him eye the narrow spot where the infant seat would be wedged-

"I'm thinking about this design. . . a base for triple interlocking car seats."
(Hmm, I call that his "Thomas Edison brain")

For an instant I peeked through the retirement window. . .

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Last week I shared with a friend that my husband is thinking about retiring at the end of this school year.
"Really?" She sounded surprised. "He seems so vigorous!"

"I don't foresee pushing him around in a wheel chair any time soon." I said.

I know. . . the future is a mystery.
 But bit by bit we share plans, and my husband keeps adding to his bag of worthy pursuits -

And sometimes he tells me about inventions stored up in his Thomas Edison brain. . .

Monday, October 28, 2013

Strong in different ways

Sunday afternoon we peddled our bicycles in Austin, around the university and state capitol; for me, peddling the hills is arduous and the traffic a little scary;  I managed alright in the well marked bike lane until John called out, "Move over- a bus is coming up behind you!"
That day I learned the rule of  the road: when in a bike lane, yield to the bus. . . (at least in downtown Austin)

My husband is sharp and sure of himself on a bicycle, on unfamiliar streets, amid traffic, and somehow he navigates me along. . . the next morning he mapped a 10 mile ride and we explored a tamer part of Austin.

But I stopped to pull out my camera. . . again to tie my shoe. . .and again to avoid a collision-
"Let's share the pumpkin bread in my basket and find coffee/hot chocolate," I suggested.

So- in the  line at Starbucks a conversation floated from behind me, "Ahh, listen to that beautiful Spanish!" I whispered to my husband.
"I can't catch it all- they're talking too fast, must be Argentinians." he whispered back.

Later we sat in an office in Austin and listened to a young man behind a desk talk about teachers retirement.

Retirement will be good, I think. . .we'll be strong in different ways.

Two are better than one. . . for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. (Ecc 3: 9)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

debt of love

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. . .Rom 13:8
I've been thinking a lot about what it means to pay the debt of love I owe to my enemies, neighbors, family. . .
Last week I took a meal to a family with a new baby-a young family with 4 children, 5 years old and younger- just like my family 30 years ago.
The memories blur, sepia with cracked edges in the album of my mind.

"How did you handle contention among siblings?" they inquired.
"Oh, so your children fight? imagine that?" I said.

 I attempted a thoughtful answer and we talked on while I cradled the sleeping newborn.
 Mainly we talked about living out the gospel in our families- it was good.
But I forgot to tell them that the pursuit of peace never ends- we work  to keep away from strife, to prefer others, to pay the debt of love we owe, again and again, year after year, siblings and parents too.

I told my young friends that brothers and sisters grow up- and sometimes they actually choose to live together, to serve and enjoy one another.
my girls have a sweet story about a ceramic cake stand and a sister surprise.

 I'd blog the story, but it's theirs to tell. . . (hint hint)

Friday, October 11, 2013

All in a day. . .

My  sister, Beth, is a nephrology nurse. . . I love that word- nephrology, but to me her work is an amazing mystery My sister is compassionate and  incredibly skilled- she takes care of people with kidney disease.
 And this month she's retiring after doing her good work for 30 years in the same hospital.

Beth collects children's books, the kind that narrate an authentic story with beautiful words and illustrations.  So-I found a perfectly lovely picture book,  All in a Day, and sent it off  to her-
to celebrate retirement, to celebrate what's next. . .because a day is a perfect piece of time to live a life, to plant a seed. . .

Today I'm musing how my dear sister will fill her days with beauty in the garden and the kitchen, with care giving in new venues, with a cross country bicycle trip, perhaps
 And I'm really hoping she'll write a children's book of her own--an authentic story with beautiful words and pictures, a book that I will read to my day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

windows of time

Yesterday I scrolled back through my blog and concluded that reading years of blog posts is kind of like reliving a life-emotions, memories flooded in. . .
These days allocating time is like fitting life into little window panes .
My mother loved people and I remember her telling me, "You can fit lots of visits in each day: start with breakfast, then move to mid morning coffee, followed by lunch, afternoon tea and then a dinner date!" (my mother had lots of energy!)
I let her know that her suggestion wouldn't work for me- just imagine me glancing at my watch and popping up with a quick hug and bye, leaving a worthy conversation hanging, and I'd always be late, late, for a very important date.
But increasingly, as time fits into window panes, I wonder. . .

Then last week I heard my mother talking as I typed an email to a friend in another state, "I have Thursday morning available for a phone chat or if that's not good, I'm free on Friday from 12 to 1:30, will it work?"
I thought, bad-bad! I am squeezing this dear woman into a window pane of my life.
But I desperately wanted her to be there, even if the window pane was a tight fit.

Ahhh, every time I read Proverbs 2 & 3 I'm reminded that in the wisdom pursuit there's beauty and safety-
and there is an appointed time for everything, a time for every event (delight) under heaven. (Ecc 3)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

gospel affection

I just finished reading Gospel-Powered Parenting (How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting)
 I know- you're thinking, "Why another parenting book? and why you?"
William Farley writes how the gospel intersects with life (what could be better?), and specifically with parenting-  it's good, really good. I'm taking a few notes before returning the book to a friend, and this morning I'm thinking about gospel love. . .
Farley writes that the gospel helps us see the connection between love and sacrifice; parental love should be sacrificial like God's love demonstrated at the cross, and gospel centered love terminates in affection.
"God dealt with our sin issue at the cross to open the flood gates of his affection towards us."
Sometimes affection for our children is hard, slow in coming. . . we can be affectionate with a disagreeable child because we remember that God payed a great price to be affectionate with us. . .his disagreeable children.

Farley suggests four ways that parents can show their children affection:
  • focused attention (exclusive time) 
  •  eye contact (look, listen) 
  •  physical touch 
  •  identifying signs of grace in our children (are we more aware of their failings or of God's grace?)
I love what Farley writes about fathers and affection, "The more affectionate a father, the more likely that his children will internalize his values."

One delightful aspect of being a grandmother is watching my sons tenderly love their children- I pray and in my heart I remind them,  Boys-gospel centered love for your children terminates in fervent affection.

Friday, September 27, 2013

one about words

One day last week a friend sent me an email, asking my thoughts on Proverbs 18:21
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit."

So, I"ve been thinking about it. . .how this truth plays out practically in my life percolates inside-still.
I've witnessed how my words can either destroy or give life. I love the power produced or the affect my words have on others, and finally, I will taste the consequences of my words, for good or bad.

If I speak impatiently to my husband, in my sin I love the power my words produce.
But then I will eat the fruit. . . perhaps my husband will be impatient with me in return or he may grow distant from me; and certainly, if I am sensitive to the Holy Spirit's conviction, I will eat the fruit of shame for using my words to kill.

Every other week I get an injection at a local clinic; my appointment is just a nurses visit, and when the clinic is busy, sometimes I'm overlooked (little me sitting there with my book or knitting!).
One morning a few months ago, I waited, waited my turn and finally I spoke irritated words to the attendants at the desk. . ."I have been waiting a very long time; do you realize how often you forget me?"
 I loved the power of my words at the moment I spoke them, but then. . .  I ate the fruit of shame and embarrassment and the most wretched and bitter fruit -- I dishonored the Lord.

Ahhh, it seems that my sin is ever before me, but so is God's grace. . .encouragement, refreshment, revival, life is in the power of the tongue-
and I love its good fruit.

 They told us, "we have to talk privately. . .to work it out!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

time to give

 Basting is the final step before adding the tiny stitches to create a quilt; this one is for Titus who is already
 9 months old. .  slow but steady, I'll finish by his birthday.
Perhaps I'm a slow but steady grandmother-I totter a bit when trying to figure out exactly how to be one.
I know a few things . . .to give my grandchildren time and affection, to read and play, to share the gospel,  to show them how I love the Lord Jesus, to pray for them-and for their parents.
3 grandchildren live near and 11 live far away (actually I'm waiting to meet the 2 tiniest boys).
My grandmother Paula lived near during my little years and my grandmother Violet lived near during my middle years. I'm remembering my dear grandmothers and wondering how they stayed close even when far away.
 Lord, teach me . . . stitching quilts for my grandchildren is the easy part.

Last month a friend asked me to spend "grandmother time" with her children. of course- I have time to give.
So, one afternoon I packed some books in my bag and drove across town for a visit.
I listened to piano practice and recitations; we drank tea, ate sweets, and practiced knitting.
They sat close as I opened James Herriot's Treasury for Children. I read Moses the Kitten and Bonnie's Big Day and when we couldn't decide what to do next, I suggested we cast lots.
Really? they questioned,
"Sure, it's what we do at our house." I assured them.

Tomorrow  I'll carry Benjamin West and his Cat Grimilkin in my bag. . .(they will love it)

To be a grandmother, a woman should walk by faith--and be meek.

Friday, September 20, 2013

He loves righteousness and justice. . .

I'm reading through a favorite portion of Scripture, Psalms 31-37.
We use to sing Psalms 32 and 33 in church with our children- and even now in my mind I  sing . . . 
for the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice. 

I'm spending time with a good friend, a woman who personally knows the crush of human injustice.
I read Psalm 35 the other day, thought of my friend's situation and I prayed. . .

O Lord, fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of buckler and shield, and rise up for my help. . .
Let their way be dark and slippery- for without cause they dug a pit for my soul.
Let destruction come upon him unawares; let the net which he hid catch himself . . .

Do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up!"
Let those be ashamed and humiliated altogether who rejoice at my distress. . .

Honestly, I surprised myself. . . perhaps I've never prayed with such vehemence?

 I turned to Psalm 37 and discovered my friend's name penciled in the margin of my old Bible, dated 2003.
Do not fret because of  evil doers. . .for they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good. . .

So, that day I called my friend, "dear one, remember, God has proved himself faithful to you for 10 years, and longer, and still. . .

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Even in laughter. . .

Last week I spent an afternoon with Suzanne; we drove to a medical facility and during her procedure, I pulled my chair close to her recliner.
My friend has cancer; talk was deep and open for both of us that afternoon. Perhaps cancer provokes transparency, but then Suzanne is like that anyway- 

Today I almost missed Proverbs 14:13- the words cling to the edge of a shredded page in my Bible.
Even in laughter the heart may be in pain and the end of joy may be grief.

I shared rich conversation with Suzanne last week, but what about the woman I greet walking at the park?  or the nurse who gives my injection every other Monday? or the woman sitting a row in front of me at church, or the one I disciple. . . . or my children?

laughter and pain, joy and grief. . .incongruous- but real in a world broken by sin.
Proverbs  14:13 begs me to go a little deeper, to listen, to notice, to ask about the inside. . .

 to admit that it can be true for me too, Even in laughter the heart may be in pain.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

about 2 mothers. . .

In our family, birthdays cluster in September.
So, last week, in my 90 degree kitchen, I strategized how to make a good crust for Gabrielle's birthday pie.

Step 1:  this time I began the process at dawn-the dough came together nicely and I slipped the flat little disks in the fridge to chill-
(then it was break time at Bird Bakery-2 mothers, Gabrielle, and our cheeky boy)

Step 2: I cooled my table top with ice blocks, rolled out the dough in a flash, transferred the lovely sheets from pie plate to refrigerator; working in shifts, I  avoided a melting buttery mess.
I added the rhubarb filling, the top crust and baked it. . . (just like the cooking shows, yes?)

Martha and I (2 mothers) joined forces in the evening, she contributed birthday dinner and I brought  dessert.
At the end of it all, we gathered up our washed pots and baking dishes, hugged all around-
And Amaleah exclaimed, " The 2 mothers are here together- both the grandmothers, and they're friends!"

God weaves families- I'm grateful for Gabrielle. . .and her mother.

Monday, September 2, 2013

and today. . .

                                (Berry Buttermilk Muffins from

Monday morning my husband began a new school year, "I've been doing this a long time but I still get excited for the first day!" he told me. 
 I packed his peanut butter and honey sandwich, and he was off, a happy man.

Soul, what does the Lord require of you today. . .to walk in all his ways, to love and serve him with all your heart. . .

So, I had opportunity to bring a meal to two families last week-I like to cook and I love to feed people, but I'm uncomfortable bringing meals. . . I hesitate, "Will they like my food?"

 Soul, Fear people less and love people more. . .and it was good, I'm not sure about my food, but I've learned that if I cook and deliver early, then I can sit and chat.

What does the Lord require of you. . . but to fear him, to love and to serve him. . .

And over coffee and lunch I had 3 opportunities to meet with women last week-that's where I'm comfortable.
One day I listened long and I cried with my friend. . .

comfortable, uncomfortable. . .teach me today to walk in your ways.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

frayed edges

John and I drove 8,000 miles this summer and finally wandered back to Texas; we arrived home one day
and John started teacher training the next. He even made the local newspaper-my husband wearing a fancy bicycle jersey, swinging a golf club.

And me? I've been divesting all summer, visiting friends, family, grandchildren and then leaving them behind. (Or they leave me behind!)

  I'm thinking about the next thing,  peering at change-some pulling back, some stepping forward,
 and I wonder how it will all work out?
I'm sort of squinting at the future.

There are seasons in a woman's life when every morning she rolls out of bed and heads to school
 or work or care giving or shepherding her little ones, or a combination of  such worthy pursuits.
 Then there are times when her life may look like a piece of silk with frayed edges-still beautiful silk
 but not so neatly clipped.

The woman in Proverbs 31 smiled at the future; when her life looked like like frayed silk she pressed
 on to know the Lord.

 "And now (soul) what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. . ."

Rolling out of bed each morning, that's how I'll pray. . .

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sweetness of a friend

Oil and Perfume make the heart glad,
 and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel 

I love how Proverbs 27:9 addresses both the woman giving counsel and the one receiving it:
One gives earnest counsel because she loves and cares for her friend; the other receives counsel 
with a glad and humble heart-

A few weeks ago I shared some concerns with one of my girls.
"Mom, maybe you need to be more patient.  . ." she said, gently, earnestly.

She was right. . .really, the earnest counsel of a friend (or daughter) ultimately gladdens the heart like perfume (even though it may be hard to hear!)

"God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. . . the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. . .again and again."  (Bonhoeffer)

Friday, August 9, 2013

I cling, He upholds

The days and nights are pleasantly cool in New York; in fact, the day time high temperature in New York
matches the night time low in Texas, imagine that?

School starts for John next week-we're headed home.

Part of me is home already. I've been dialoguing with a friend. . .from here to there I encourage her,
Trust God. . .trust that's possible only because of the Gospel, because of the character of our King.

Then, I remember that in a different arena, I must trust God too--now, every day, when trusting is hard.

Sunday morning during the congregational sharing of the church, I listened to the application Psalm 63:8.
I opened my Bible and there it was, Psalm 63:8, underlined and dated. . .

My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me.

I cling to God and He upholds me- a divine mystery
Today I'm thankful for truth-and for the church, here and there.

Monday, August 5, 2013

To listen long and patiently

I travel with my favorite backpack stuffed on the floor, squeezed between my feet.
John laughs at me, but he loads up my important stuff just the way I like it-
My bag holds books, new, re-reads, and the ones with torn paper bookmarks. . .like
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; I'm creeping through the "Ministry" section.
Recently I've been reading, tearing bookmarks, thinking. . .
about the ministry of listening.

Speaking comes easily for me, listening not so much-
It helps to think of listening as ministry, "The first service that one owes to others
in the fellowship consists in listening to them. . ."
Perhaps loving my brothers and sisters  really begins with learning to listen to them.
And listening as ministry impacts my relationship with God, because . . .

he who no longer listens to his brother
will soon be no longer listening to God either,
he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.

Ah, Lord, keep me from prattle, may I be that woman who listen long and patiently.

(we are enjoying upstate New York and our sweet family!)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The kitchen you wear

There's a lovely window in Rachel's kitchen in Ohio; a potted olive tree sits on the sink, reminiscent of Spain. 
The kitchen is small and square- the kitchen you wear, like a tutu, says Brett.

We're traveling again, motoring to the north and east.
Last week I watched my husband skillfully load the VW with our varied cargo:
books and memorabilia, keepsakes from grandparents, clothes labeled for younger cousins, a flat of white coffee mugs, a snow board and gear, 2 extra bicycles, and more. . .

So, stop after stop- North Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, New York-  we're distributing our cargo.
And loving the visits. . .

soon the VW will be emptied out, except for 1 small suitcase, 2 backpacks, 2 bicycles.

Then we'll be home again, just the 2 of us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

his consolations

A few weeks ago I took my little granddaughters on an outing to the yarn shop;
Selma surveyed the mercerized cotton, the palette of bright colors; silently I hoped she would
choose the lovely green . . . after all, green is a good color for red heads.
But Selma chose pink, she adored the pink, and so I bought it.
I knit it up quickly, on the train, in the car, beside the river, and the night before she flew home to Mexico City, Selma wore her pink shrug to bed. I think she likes it.

Today I'm thinking how a knit stitch is always a knit and a purl stitch is dependable like that too; knits and purls in the right combination create something beautiful, almost always- it's predictable.
Life is bumpy, confusing. . .so I knit away and  remember that for the Christ follower, heaven is predictable, totally predictable.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations cheer my soul. (Ps 94:19)

I'm working on a list I call God's consolations:

His mercies are new every morning; great is his faithfulness. . .He is on his throne and his kingdom rules over all. . . His understanding is beyond measure. . .Jesus is and was and is to come. . .nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. . .

When my soul needs cheering, I review God's consolations; the list is growing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Last week my family ate breakfast together- grown ups and kids around the table, bagels, cream cheese, coffee.
"So, Mom, what was your favorite California food?" (I love eating other peoples food!)
hmmm, apricots, apricot pie. . . and clam chowder.
My sister, Beth,  remembers how I love this coast- gusting wind and sand, jagged rocks, tides advancing, then retreating; she planned an outing to Bodega Bay; I snagged a fleece that hung around my knees like a cozy dress.

 We picked up clam chowder at Lucas wharf-and at home we ate our chowder with oyster crackers, slowly, just four grown ups around the dining room table that belonged to our parents.
Over hot tea I shuffled through a box of photos of John and me, of our children, stacks of pictures that Beth had saved from our mother's house.
We talked about our mom, the memories. . .and we laughed about the funny, quirky things.

Treading into the sixth decade of my life,  I notice those quirky things in me too. . .and maybe I understand her just bit better.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

from fertile fields

One morning last week we rolled out of Fresno- sun barely lit the new sky.  
"From the fertile fields that feed our nation", boomed the local radio voice.
fertile fields indeed, and the apricots--oh my, I ate more than any small woman should . . .

The previous evening I helped my old friend pick ripe fruit-
Laden branches and leaves muffled our voices and again my friend talked about her heavy trial.

 "When we suffer, God is working to create in us a deeply affectionate, caring heart." I shared.

Then we walked down the path, buckets of fruit pulling on our shoulders and my friend stopped,
"That's true," she responded, "Can you tell how He's working in me?"
mmmm, dear friend, I can tell. . .

Saturday, June 29, 2013

California bounty

We're back home in Texas and I'm unpacking the California bounty. . .mostly California bounty involves dear people and the conversations swirling in my mind.  . .

But this morning when I pulled bread out of the freezer for my favorite breakfast, jam and toast-I lined up the jars of California's bounty, gifted and carried home to Texas: apricot jam, apricot chutney, Santa Rosa plum jam, Gravenstein applesauce.

So-in my warm Texas Kitchen,  I spread apricot manna on crunchy toast, poured coffee in my favorite cup and thought about another visit. . .sometime. And I'm thankful

"Good communication is like strong coffee and just as hared to sleep after."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Yesterday afternoon my husband made me a deal, "I'll mow the front and back if you buy the mulch, 4 bags, please"  So, I agreed, bought and carried the mulch. . . And this morning, Aye my aching arms and shoulders! (maybe hauling mulch builds bone density?)
And my husband mowed like Indiana Jones in the blazing Texas sun.

We're mowing and trimming fiercely, getting ready to drive off tomorrow morning before dawn-headed for California to see family and friends.
I'm leaving behind an unfinished project. . .our Josu is 7 years old-the quilt I made him at birth got lost somewhere between Spain, Los Angeles and Mexico-nobody's to blame.
So,  I decided to make him a new one; it looks a little more boyish than babyish and I hope he'll be surprised. Just maybe I'll finish the quilting before he comes to visit this summer.
Last week I read Proverbs 4. . .rocking the needle in and out, with tiny stitches, I  prayed for sweet Josu and for all my grandchildren,  words of truth:
My son, give attention to my words, incline your ear to my sayings;
 do not let them depart from your sight, keep them in the midst of your heart. . .
watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

from the inside

This morning I read Psalm 102
 ". . .My days have been consumed in smoke, and my bones have been scorched like a hearth. My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away. . .for I have eaten ashes like bread and mingled my drink with weeping. . ."

And there in faded pen in the margin, I read my personal commentary, Much Affliction!

How do we deal with emotional and physical pain and do it together? Sometimes I'm on the outside of a friend's pain but other times, like the voice of Psalm 102, I'm  on the inside. . .

 Joni Eareckson Tada wrote A Place of Healing while in the vice grip of unrelenting pain; from the inside she tells us, "When we are hit hard with pain, our tendency is to go on and on about our pain, problem. . . sometimes we talk way too much about ourselves."
I'm thinking about a wise man's words, "For every one sentence you say to others about your pain, say 10 sentences about your God."
On the other end, a woman in pain may be stoic; she speaks not at all about her pain.
 Granted, some pain is easier to speak about. . .  My tooth is aching versus my heart is broken.
 God appointed my pain-it shapes me. So, I share. . .
 When we suffer, God is working to create in us a deeply affectionate, caring heart; from the inside, don't waste the opportunity to bare the burdens of others, to listen to pray.

 Many years ago a series of painful events changed the course of our life; back then- I thought that John and I were alone on the inside of pain. But now I know that people on the sidelines of our pain were actually on the inside of their own. . .
We hope to meet those dear folks, soon- to talk about it after 25 years.
 And then maybe I'll write a post. . .

We deal with pain together by being devoted to one another in love

Saturday, June 1, 2013

From the outside

My friend called to tell me about her life, to share a devastating affliction; I set down my cup, for a moment I couldn't breathe. I haven't experienced her trial. . .but my life isn't over yet.

So-as Christ followers, how do we deal with emotional and physical pain and do it together?
 "The Christian life can be impersonal, stuffy, when we rehearse theology at one another rather than living it with one another." (Jim Andrews, Polishing God's Monuments)
Pain isolates and confuses us--we deal with pain together by loving one another, by being devoted to one another in love.  Sometimes I'm on the inside dealing with pain, and other times I'm on the outside.
Right now I'm on the outside. . .my dear friend weeps, so I weep.
Here's some thoughts from a talk I gave to the women at my church a few months ago.

1. When dealing with pain from the outside- pray that God will help you move into the lives of others with love-gently,, persistently, creatively.  We don't always know when a person is in pain;  sometimes the pain is visible, sometimes invisible but still a reality.  Even if God removes the pain, heals or gives relief from pain, our dear one lives with the affect of pain, the memory and it's real (like Job's loss of children, new children didn't take away the pain.)

2. . . from the outside- You will not love your suffering friend well by minimizing her pain or by trying to fix it quickly.  Some pain has no remedy until the day when all tears are wiped away.

3.  . . from on the outside- Come near, make sacrifices to be there.  Tell your friend, "I'm with you and I'll be around for a long time."  
In Psalm 13 God asks the psalmist to wait, "How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?"  Your friend is dealing with pain, your presence helps her to wait. 
Come near and weep with her; "When one member suffers, we all suffer together." (1 Cor 12:26)
Tell her, "God uses your pain in my life; your pain is changing me!"
Help your friend focus on today, living one day at a time.  We all need grace for today.
And talk to God about her needs--sometimes we talk too much about God and not enough to God.

William Cooper was born in England in the mid 1700's.  He came to saving faith in Jesus Christ as a young man; he wrote poetry and hymns for the church.  During most of his life, Cooper struggled with depression and despair.  John Newton was Cooper's pastor and faithful friend.  Even when distance separated the two men, Newton wrote to Cooper, visiting him again and again, demonstrating love and patience to his friend.
Cooper said of Newton, "He did not despair of the despairing."  (I want to be that kind of friend!)

"When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge,
 a little human sympathy more than much courage, 
and the least tincture of the love of God more than all." 

( C.S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain)

 I haven't always loved others well from the outside. . .Ahh, to love with the least tincture of the love of God more than all.

Monday, May 27, 2013

transparency and caution

Every time I read Psalm 73, I yearn to say. . .

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing that I desire on earth besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 But sometimes I find my reality here. . .

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had almost slipped, for I was envious. . .

Once a month, on Sunday evening,  the women from our Friday night Bible study meet at a local coffee place. I love these women-I'm the oldest in the group, the oldest by far.
Last week I shared with them how I find myself in Psalm 73. . .my struggles and doubts, my  repentance, worship, truth seeking, my beautiful Savior-
I told them that as someone old. . .I want to be transparent yet cautious.

If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed the generation of your children. (Ps 73:15)
(so the psalmist didn't speak. . )

transparency with caution is wisdom, I think.
Heart, pursue wisdom. . .

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This baby eats . . .
She eats hummus, salmon, brown rice and kale. . .every bite; her momma spread goat cheese on bread for our tea party- Gwyneth begged mine.
On Mothers Day Josiah made a strawberry rhubarb pie, marking an "N" in the top crust for the mothers in our family.
I thought we might trade, Gwyneth and me. . . a bite of goat cheese bread for a few bites of her pie, but nope, this girl loves pie, rhubarb pie. . .
She's one of us-and not a baby anymore.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

empty spaces

Sometimes I choose train travel; really, there's so much I like about the train, especially the empty spaces when time hovers. . .
 A few weeks ago I traveled to visit Noah and Josiah and their families, by Amtrak train to Fort Worth and by Megabus to Memphis- then home again.
I loved the people time. . .and the hours of empty space, time to read and write and think; someday I'll repeat the trip.
The first morning  the train rumbled along and I read Psalm 71.
 I thought about gray hair and worthy pursuits, I wrote verse 18 in my journal and prayed the truth  for today and tomorrow and all the remaining days.

So-even to old age and gray hairs, God, do not forsake me, 
until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come

then I could'nt wait to get there-

Sunday, May 5, 2013

on the inside-

There are times when God makes me keenly aware that he continues to work, relentlessly, graciously-on the inside. . .

I struggled recently to love someone-
I appeared loving enough on the outside, no harsh words, no retaliation, no cool stares, but resentment bubbled inside me-and that is misery, indeed.

So one night, alone with John, I pleaded, " I am absolutely unloving and selfish, help me!"

His spoke good encouragement and I'm grateful- but the next day, God confronted me on the inside through his Word:

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, compassionate hearts, kindness, 
humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and,
if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other. . ."
(Colossians 3:12,13)

So- I told John, "Next time this happens (and it will), tell me this Scripture and exhort me to put on a compassionate heart and to bear. . ."

The law of Christ is the law of bearing (Galatians 6:2). The brother is a burden to the Christian precisely because he is a Christian; for the pagan the other person never becomes a burden at all; he simply sidesteps every burden that others may impose upon him. . . The Christian must bear the burden of a brother-he must suffer and endure the brother.  The law of Christ has been fulfilled at the cross. . .I can (and I must) bear with others. (Life Together, Bonhoeffer.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

a few Proverbs. . .

Rachel and little Ivan came for a Texas visit; one day I hung Ivan's diapers out to dry,  fitting wooden clothes pins on cloth corners, one by one. I remembered the comfortable rhythm- and dimmer is the memory of the last dry diaper pinned on my sweet baby while outside rain dripped, dripped down. . .

A few weeks ago I shared some thoughts from Proverbs for a friend's baby shower; I chose favorite verses- the faded, underlined, smudged ones, verses marked and dated in my tattered Bible.
A Proverb a day, is what I decided, and since I had some requests for for the notes. . .

Monday: Get wisdom
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the market the market she raises her voice- Pro 1:2
Buy truth and do not sell it, buy wisdom and instruction and understanding- Pro 23:23
(wisdom is not hidden or private nor exclusive; every woman must get wisdom, not just young women, older ones too, and not just one time. . .)

Tuesday: Pursue kindness
What is desirable in a man is his kindness- Pro 19:22
Do not let kindness and truth leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart- Pro 3:3
(Ahh. . .to make kindness part of the fabric of my life; Lord, help me to be a kind woman today!)

Wednesday: Watch my words
When words are many sin is not absent but he who holds his tongue is wise- Pro 10:19
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as cursing- Pro 27:14
(when we multiply words, we risk sinning. . .and yes, a loud voice can be rude, like cursing!)

Thursday: Abandon quarrels
Keeping away from strife is an honor to a man but any fool will quarrel- Pro 20:3
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out- Pro 17:14
(wonderful word picture. . .pay attention to the beginning)

Friday: Work and eat
He who tills his land will have plenty of  food but he who follows empty pursuits will have plenty of poverty- Pro 28:19
. . .the precious possession of a man is diligence-Pro 12:27

Saturday: Self control protects
Like a city broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit- Pro 25:28
(the medieval city without a protecting wall was vulnerable to the enemy's attacks. . .and so am I.)

Sunday: Fear God
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and her children will have a refuge- Pro14:26

(it's nice when cousins hug. . .)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

memories in little bags

I finished Ivan's quilt--finally. . .and very soon he'll pick it up in person.
A few weeks ago Julia came for a visit. I was in the midst of cleaning out the project room closet.
 "I think this is your junk room!" she said.
"Well, it's a room full of junk from my closet; really there's fun stuff in here." I encouraged.

One box held fabric remnants from 10 baby quilts sewn for 10 grandchildren;  Julia discovered a nice scrap of the pink rose flannel that I used for her quilt-7 years ago.
We didn't find any pieces from Josu's quilt. . . his is the lost quilt- lost somewhere between Spain-California-Mexico City (but shhh, I have a plan!).
We had fun among the junk that day; Julia helped me stuff the remnants from each quilt in little zip lock bags and then she labeled each one-she wrote Julia on the bag with pink rose flannel.

It was like putting memories in little bags, and best of all I got to share the stories with Julia.
I told her, "Now I have to get busy making 2 more quilts, one for little Titus and one for baby on the way.
A grandmother can't just sit around remembering. . .

Sunday, April 7, 2013

like roses and lilies

Here in south Texas, gardening is best in early spring-
 Larkspur, white-blue-purple, reseeded in my front yard, filling the vegetable bed-lovely.
John and I worked a little in the garden on Friday; the mailman passed by with our delivery-
 "So, you got him working out here today?" he teased.
My husband doesn't love gardening but he loves me. . .he weeded and reset the little stone path outside our front door (more like building then gardening) and it's lovely.

Then Saturday morning I met my friend at a favorite place where they serve okay coffee and a perfect bran muffin;  all morning  we sat at a small round table in a sunny window. . .
"Close community among believers is the roses and lilies of the Christian life." writes Bonhoeffer.
hmmm, I'm thinking about roses and lilies that way. . .lovely.

"The Christian needs another Christian to speak God's word to him.
 He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged. . .and weak." 
(Life Together, Bonhoeffer)

Monday, March 25, 2013

and then they're grown . . .

I love her little hand cupped around his neck. . .
My boys use to wrestle in the living room- with mother authority I'd appeal, " Please! move the furniture!"
Now my sons tear into each other on mountain bikes.
God has given them sweet daughters- and that makes me smile.

One day recently one of my boys called, "Mom, do you know why my social security number was issued 3 years after I was born?
"Hmm, that's odd, is there a problem?" I sounded earnest but calm.
"It's the background check. . .they say something is fraudulent. I thought maybe you mixed up me and . . .?" 
Seriously, mixed them up?(anything is possible) Maybe I did have too may children.

John came home that day, heard me out, assuaged my fears, "That sounds right, I applied for S.S. numbers for 7 children at the same time- previously you didn't have to. . ."

Today I'm preparing a devotional for a friend's baby shower. . . what to say?
I'll tell her that sometimes she will mix things up and I'll remind her that "in the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence. . ."
I'll speak of God's amazing grace that covers and rescues and fills in all the cracks.

(And when I imagine my boys talking on the phone about how their parents maybe mixed them up- then I smile.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Counseling myself

I walked along the river this morning- alone,  glad for an almost empty day to read and write, to talk very little, to mentally review the past week . . .to counsel myself.

A few weeks ago I shared  a devotional at a baby shower in the morning and again for a bridal shower in the afternoon- on the same day.
So, in the morning I urged Gina to Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding!
When a mother trusts herself rather than God, fear captures her heart; she's tempted to control her children with a death grip- (then I told Gina about the grip in my heart when Rachel was about 9 and I let her choose her own shoes.)

And in the afternoon I urged Anna to Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness!"
Marriage is awesome-but two sinners say "I do" and future unknowns tempt a wife's heart to fear, to control her husband rather than to help him.(then I told Anna that when I was growing up, cars never broke down. . . and how months into our marriage I discovered a Fiat engine on the floor of our garage.)

Recently John and I had a serious discussion about his imminent retirement, about our future plans, concerns, questions. 
"I think I'm struggling with fear and I want to control you!" I admitted to my husband.
Then all the teaching that I had prepared, prayed, shared, came flooding in and pressed upon my  heart.

So, today and tomorrow I step back behind my own words and counsel myself.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

let us press on. . .

This afternoon I pulled into my driveway and Ralph was standing in the flatbed of his pickup truck;
  he grinned at me, "Sister, did you come to take me to the airport so I can fly off somewhere too?"
 Mine is a globe trotting family. . .  the airport taxies think I'm one too.

Mercy's been in and out the past few weeks-around for tea time. . .

 Yesterday morning at 5 a.m.  I dropped her off on the airport curb; she's going to New York-to stay.  I'm excited for her to see spring daffodils in New York, to have an adventure-I assure her that Texas will welcome her home anytime.

I sat on Mercy's bed in the wee hours of the morning while we riffled  through clothes and memories, shoes, scarfs and memories, closet stuff with memories.
She packed a big suitcase and I added a small purple journal wrapped around twice with blue ribbon-
Mercy, be passionate for Jesus and his Gospel, I wrote on the first page.

And this morning I walked into her room to view the remains; the left behind shirts and sweaters smelled like her--so good.
"So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord, His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth." (Hosea 6:3)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

more than coffee dates

Tomorrow night when I talk about women discipling women, I'll tell them that discipleship is more than putting coffee dates on the calendar- but then, they know that already. . .

Mary and I met consistently every week, then every other week for 2 years, I think.
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep waters, but a man of understanding draws it out (Prov 20). . .we were those women-her heart was like deep waters and I cried to the Lord for understanding.

 Then our meetings changed because Mary had a baby- amazing and wonderful in every way!

After a few months Mary invited me to her home-I sat on her soft brown couch and snuggled the baby. we talked about God and about baby joys and  baby challenges-and we prayed.
Flexible. . .discipleship is flexible.  When Mary's baby was almost a year, I started coming to her house on Friday mornings. I stayed with the baby and Mary went to Starbucks alone with her Bible. It worked. . .I grew to know and love Mary's baby and Mary grew-

So, Scott and Mary moved to California 4 years ago and now the baby is 10.
We still have phone dates, "Mary, I'm doing discipleship training, can I tell them about us?"
"Sure, tell them whatever you want. . .I trust you." She said.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Start, then persevere

I fussed with the words on the page under the title Discipleship.
Finally I scribbled, Start and Persevere. . .then I called my friend in California.

" Mary, remind me how it looked a dozen years ago- how did we start? What did I say to you?"

" We were in Bible study together, remember? I asked if you would meet me for coffee, and then you said, let's do it again!"

So, Mary and I began a discipleship journey more than a decade ago; initially our meetings were really messy. . .her candor stung me and I cowered.
 If Mary had announced, "Enough of this!" I would have capitulated.
But week after week we met at the same Starbucks-opened the Bible, prayed, pursued change for the glory of God, drank coffee.
I learned that growth is a gradual process; it's a battle.
And I learned to ask questions,  to listen just enough, to discern when to talk into a situation, when to push a little, when to wait. . . I'm still learning .
So, weeks and months turned into years ; Mary and I kept meeting and I grew to love her.
Then discipleship changed. . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Today is my anniversary, 41 years married to the same man.
Incredible. . .
So this morning my husband went off to school disguised as
Mr. Incredible
(superhero day at school)
Really, he's incredible

Friday, February 8, 2013

undefined discipleship. . .

I constantly inspect the curve of the fig vine creeping up the cement wall of my house-
tiny leaves frame the window panes; mentally I measure the growth and  I wonder,  
when will the tendrils reach the roof?
Spiritual growth is like that. . .

This spring I'm involved in discipleship training-
Aye, how do I define this thing that I do. . .that I love to do?
Here's the heart of the matter clearly defined:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only
 the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
 (1 Thess 2:8)

Maybe I'm struggling to lay out the steps because there are no steps-for me.
but I can't just call it "undefined discipleship". . .
hmmm, a worthy pursuit and I'm not finished yet.
(and there's more. . .

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My mother collected bells-I can imagine the assortment arranged on her school desk.
Mom liked to say that she taught kindergarten for a hundred years. . .

A few years ago, I chose a bell from her collection, brass and distinctly engraved, with a tiny clapper.
Landis loves to hold the brass bell -he shakes it so gently. 
So, the other day my sweet grandson came to visit, and in the bathroom all by himself, he called,
"Gran, could you bring me Gigi's bell?"
Sure, and I set the bell on the sink where he pointed.
"Why do you want it?" I inquired.
"I'll ring the bell when I'm done. . . ." he called back.
hmmm, a new use for an old brass bell- my mother would love it.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I love the delicate design on this little cup--a birthday gift from my friend.
So-the other day I glanced at the wrinkles and sags reflected in the mirror and thought, Ahh, change!
Then again,  my life is layered with texture-and I like the layers.

I finish a baby sweater so that I can start knitting a tiny hat. . .
and I finish the last stitches on one little quilt so that I can begin to piece a new one.
I reread the mountain of holiday correspondence on my desk so that I can respond, one by one.
I'm re-learning to throw and catch a football  and I'm learning to maneuver my ipad.

And there are books to finish and good things to record in a worn journal-and new books waiting,
books layered on the coffee table:

This Momentary Marriage ( Piper)
                Life Together (Bonhoeffer)
                         In the Land of Blue Burkas . . .I peek into the pages, a new journal on hand-

 There are pencil checks, layered beside the Psalms in my old Bible-I turn to the beginning. . .
And there are dear relationships. . . new ones and enduring ones layer to the front of my days.
And it's good. . .because-
I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a god work in me will perfect it 
until the day of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

pause. . .

Sometimes I launch into the new year, other times I limp. . .
I'm reading David's prayers of confession; for weeks I soak up Psalm 51, 32- it's good, so good.
 Many years ago I learned to sing Psalm 32.

When I kept silent about my sin my body wasted away. . .my vitality was drained away like the fever heat of summer.

Selah. . .Soul! do not hurry over this-when David's conscience was unclean before God, he suffered. . .and so do I.

I confessed my transgression to the Lord and he forgave the guilt of my sin.

Selah. . .so, I pause right there-breath in the psalmist's humble resolve, God's amazing response. . .

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you. . .surely a flood of great waters will not reach him, You are my hiding place, You preserve me from trouble.

Selah. . . the psalmist encourages me, "when you struggle with sin, you too cry out to God, confess sin, He will surround you with loving kindness, with deliverance."

So-sometimes it's hard to pause. . .when I pause over truth, then I slow down, I stop talking.
And that's a very good discipline for me in the new year.