Gratitude

A book I’ve been enjoying lately says gratitude is good for the soul.

I stood in my little mudroom and looked out at the late summer garden and saw it with different eyes. So many times I am just looking closely (and critically) at things–this weed here, that dead branch there, the dead flower heads that need to come off. But this day I marveled that in two years I am blessed with such a garden.

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Petunias are the best. And free petunias are better than best! Most of the petunias that are still blooming are free ones that hybridized and self-seeded from last years garden. This bi-color one just now showed up!

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And this one? I brought back some pretty petunias from Cambria. They went from that cool seaside climate to over 100 degree dry heat here. Needless to say, they did not fare well. I came back from my two weeks in Sisters to see some unknown plants coming up. I thought they were probably weeds, but decided to give them a chance. They were the offspring of those Cambria petunias!! I’ve never seen such a thing.

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And from that book, Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg, here is a beautiful collection of words.

We all have two worlds, an outer world that is visible and public and obvious, and an inner world that may be chaotic and dark or may be gloriously beautiful. In the end, the outer world fades. We are left with the inner world. It is what we will take with us. I am an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s glorious universe.

 

 

Hope in Uncertain Times

One day in December I stopped at the local gas station to fill the tank because I was going out that evening. It was the day of our annual church Christmas dinner. When I went inside to pay, the clerk was watching a little TV. I couldn’t help but hear what was being talked about, and I asked “did that just happen?” (Not having television myself, I never quite know if I am current on the latest news.) She said yes, and its only going to get worse (I think she was referring to that Mayan calendar thing.) It was news of the horrible elementary school shooting in Connecticut. I got back in my car and cried.

That night I went on to church for our Christmas dinner. Because that’s what we do in America. We say our lives will be changed forever. But the next day we go out for lunch with our friends.

Our church dinner is always a very pretty affair. Each table is hosted by a different woman, and she decorates the table using her best dishes and Christmas decorations. Honestly, it kind of irritates me. But that is a story for another time. At some point during the dinner I looked around the room and thought, it could happen here. This is exactly the kind of unexpected place where this kind of unexpected horror could take place. Uncertain times.

And it just continued on from there. A blogger died unexpectedly. A friend’s husband got cancer and was gone in four months. The Boston Marathon. West, TX. Uncertain times.

Brene Brown spoke about the collective fear she sees in our culture since 9/11 hit.

Anne Lamott wrote about her trip to Europe. A friend advised her that she needed to see a concentration camp in person “to get at a cellular level the fact that despite our great love and art, we are a violent species. Cain is still killing Abel.” There was a beginning, but there is no end to evil in our world.

When we are honest and true, we know deep down that all of life is uncertain. We just relate more to certain events. “It could have been my child.” “I am a runner.” “I am a blogger.” “My brother lives in west Texas…” And the biggest fear “It could have been me.”

As always, I turn to my God for answers. I’m afraid there are many things that won’t be answered clearly in this lifetime. I don’t pretend to understand why these things happen. I won’t try to give you trite answers, or to tie everything up in a neat little theological package with a pretty little bow on top.  But I was comforted by the words I found in the Psalms. For me, this is the only way I can live. I hope in my God. He is my Rock and my fortress.

I run to Him in uncertain times. And I find hope.

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(You can see more of the quilt on my quilt blog.)

Lighter Fare

Just a quickie, to pass along a couple of new “recipes” that I’ve really enjoyed the past few days.  I put recipes in quotes because they were more assemblages than full recipes.  One was for my own version of chicken salad, which I realized today was “Chicken Waldorf Salad!”  So simple to make and so refreshing (and filling.)  Sorry, no pictures.  I’m not quite back in the groove since my return home.

The second was a VERY SIMPLE Asian Chicken Salad .  The very simple came in because I simply didn’t have too many ingredients to add to it.  I was really surprised at how very tasty this was.  I practically licked my plate.  And again, filling.

True to my exercise plan, I went to the gym Sunday and today (no, I didn’t get in the pool, Shelley.  I’m a wimp.)  I did have a great workout, both on the bike and on the weight machines.  It feels great to be able to use my hands on the machines and free weights again.  And yesterday I took the three mile loop with Noah.

Tonight is one of those rare peaceful nights.  I mean, I feel really really peaceful.  I picked up a new little quilt project and knew exactly what I wanted to stitch on it.  Monk was in his favorite chair, Noah was down for the count stretched out full length on the floor, and of course Sophie was very happy to be nestled right next to me on the couch.  I listened to the last session of Dallas Willard and John Ortberg.  My friends like to joke that I am in love with Dallas Willard.  Yes, I know how to pick ‘safe’ men.  70 year old married men.  Anyway, seriously, there is no one more challenging AND encouraging to me in my walk with Jesus.  This was a question and answer session on the topics of pain and suffering.  But the conversation ranged far and wide around those topics.  I had a little trouble with the videos, but no problem with the podcast.

Hope you all are having an enjoyable and peaceful after-Thanksgiving week.

A dog who knows the meaning of peace.

Humility

This afternoon I was bent over, carefully turning the beets I was roasting for my dinner salad.  And the thought occurred to me, I eat really healthy.  I am not always thinking that.  A lot of times what I am thinking is why can’t I lose this weight?  What’s wrong with me?  Or on a really bad day What a failure.  You’re a big fake.

But a lot of days what I think about this extra weight (currently 176) is “humility.”  Maybe that’s what its all about.  There is a verse in the middle of Colossians 3 that I have memorized.

“Since you are the holy people that God has chosen to love, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

At the time when I was memorizing it and thinking about the meaning of the words, I figured that humility was the central word in that list, and it was central to all those other good qualities.  You couldn’t be kind or gentle or patient, or have tenderhearted mercy if you were not humble.  Humility is not something that comes naturally to me.  Heck, none of those character traits comes NATURALLY to me.

So maybe that’s what this extra weight is about.  Keeping me humble.  I sure can’t brag about being a super-loser.  Right now I can’t even seem to lose 8 measly pounds.  I never reached my goal weight at Weight Watchers.  I haven’t even mastered “maintenance” after working on it for five years.  Not everything looks good on me.  I have to look a little harder to find clothes that fit.

But when I have a thought like that “I eat healthy,”  that is something I can take courage in.  That is taking care of this “earthen vessel” (2 Cor. 4:7) as best I can.  Yesterday I took a walk.  Everything hurt.  But I just kept walking.  Today I had a break between appointments, and I went to the gym, got in the pool and ran back and forth for a half hour–first time I did that (no swimming) and it worked out pretty good–no wet hair to deal with!  I looked at Vicky’s offerings, and chose one of the lower calorie items for my lunch.

Then I went to the dentist where the dental hygienist WORKED OVER my teeth–ack.  Afterward I treated myself to a small frosty.  Most worthy and most deserved.  But not perfect. Humility.

Four Days and Counting

Or, three days and counting.  Depending on what you’re counting down.  Hope all of you are taking some quiet moments in your days to relax and contemplate the meaning of this season of the year.  Me, I’ve found a few moments here and there, but not as many as I’d like.  Which is amazing, considering how much I’ve pared down the excess Christmas stuff.  I think something else is on my mind, even though I’m pretending its not.

But some of us have no problem taking it easy.  Here’s the king of taking it easy, doing what he does best:

Well, Monk’s not the only one taking it easy.  I was trying out my new cozy travel pillow!

Noah was taking it easy too.

I saw this image and thought there was a striking resemblance:

Sophie has a hard time taking it easy.  Even on the bed, she seems to spend a lot of time worrying.  And keeping track of everything going on outside AND inside the house.

I’m hoping to take a little travel quilt project with me.  Here’s the pretty stack of fabrics I am going to use–wool and cotton!

“My” little girl in Tanzania (Compassion) sends me the prettiest little pictures, and the minute I saw them I knew they would be great quilting motifs.

Yesterday’s party was so fun.  My friend is very creative, and she had all the supplies there for us to make a collage.  I was quite pleased with how mine came out.   It started out with a picture of a little porch overhang that I would really love to have, instead of the constant waterfall of rain that comes down right outside my front door.  (Sophie would also love to have this overhang!)  Anyway, as I made it, and then thought about it afterward, the collage became about my retirement, what I might do.  Things I dream about…

Regarding my coming trip to Africa (eeeeeeeekkk!!!)  people keep asking me if I am excited.  And I have felt a little weird when I would say I was not.  Then my pastor’s wife said she had a word for me.  ANTICIPATE.  At the time I thought it was a little strange.  But now I realize it is the perfect word.  Excited is more of a ‘fun’ word in my mind.  Anticipate seems to be a bigger word to me.  I am anticipating that the whole direction of my life might possibly be changed by this trip.  It seems similar to the time 25 years ago when I felt led (again, by God) to become a registered nurse.  That sure changed the direction of my life.  And the timing of this does seem providential.  I planned on taking this trip over a year ago.  And I didn’t plan on taking retirement until a few months ago.  So I am anticipating…

I Am More Than My Body

I’ve been thinking about this ever since National Love Your Body day, and meant to include these thoughts on this post. That was the post about choosing to be different and trying to maintain my weight at 168 pounds. The truth is, I don’t ‘love’ my body.  Blame it on our national obsession, or cultural conditioning or whatever, but I find smooth firm skin appealing on a body.  Which mostly I do not have.  Blame it on being overweight most of my life, or aging or whatever.  That’s just the way it is.  But don’t worry about me–there’s plenty of self-love going on over here.  That’s never  been a problem for me.  Maybe a little too much, but never too little.

Plenty of doggie love, too!

What I was thinking about is this.  I am more than my body.  We all are.  We are all body, mind, and spirit. As a Christ-follower, this takes a specific slant for me.  So part of choosing to maintain at 168 pounds is so that, hopefully, I will not have to spend quite as much time thinking about food/exercise.  But also a most important part is that I want to be strong and healthy so that I am able to follow God wherever he might lead  me in this world.  That ‘s the part I left out of that definition of me:

Something along the lines of ‘an older woman who is overweight but still reasonably attractive, who exercises not in the hopes that her body shape will change or become smaller, but to stay strong and healthy and flexible and mobile so that I am able to follow God wherever he might lead me.’

We are all spiritual beings, whether you like it or not.  We all have wonderful minds (I know, I read your excellent posts.)  I encourage you to think as much about these aspects of your life as you do about improving your physical body.

Here is my most favorite quilt from the show.  Japanese quilters do the most amazing beautiful detailed work on their quilts.  Their quilts have a different look that I am drawn to.  When I first saw it, this quilt reminded me of getting a glimpse into heaven.   That was almost the same meaning as the quilter wrote in her description.

Detail shots:

I’m off to take on the day,  which will include the obligatory long walk with Noah, a lot of clutter-removal (creativity creates clutter, in case you didn’t know,) a little baking, and hopefully more creating!  I started the day by reading the most amazing Psalm in The Message (modern version of the Bible)–Psalm 19.  Check it out–it’ll lift your spirits!