Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grace


Lately, I've been extra aware of the need for grace.

I need grace, and you need grace.

I need to give you grace, but I cannot

until I have received some grace.

Fallen and dark, this world beats us down.

Miserable all, we huddle, scrunch, self-protect.

Among rainclouds, cold wind, damp feet,

we try to breathe but the air is putrid.

Unable to suck air for ourselves

we are utterly unable to oxygenate others.

Selfishness, pride, dishonesty, fear and competition

drive us away from one another and into our own personal suffering.

Where does it end?

Where can we find the bright, shining freedom to love and give grace?

How can we learn that joy is multiplied when shared,

that kindness breeds kindness.

Beauty from ashes, that's what we crave.

I want someone to love me until I am beautiful,

and when I am beautiful, I want my beauty

to give me courage to give grace,

confident that my grace, given, will be powerful,

powerful enough to transform someone else's ashes into beauty --

and then to do it again, and again, and again

until the world has been changed.


We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19 NIV84


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Things that live in my yard

Awhile back I posted about our hummingbird.

Actually, there are two of them, and they are such fun to watch!  One is very territorial, and he chases the other one away, over and over.  But the other one keeps coming back, over and over, just the same!

They love to hover amongst the zinnias and sip nectar from all the flowers, but they also enjoy the hummingbird feeder.  I've been on my toes making sugar water to keep it filled.

The territorial little fellow likes to perch in these red canna lilies and keep watch over his property.

His lookout post.

Here he is at his lookout. . . 

And here he is again.  He was just hilarious, hanging out in these flowers all day.

Unfortunately, when he buzzed over into the flowers near where I was sitting, I could never get the light levels and focus adjusted quickly enough to get a shot of him.  It kind of stinks when the auto-features on your camera are broken.  Hummingbirds move really, really fast.

Well, I did get this shot.  It was pitch black because I had no time to set the light.  This is a testament to what one can accomplish with photo-editing.

Actually, that may be the guardian bird, or it may be the the one who comes in to "steal" nectar and get the other little guy's goat.  Bird #2 comes in for a sip, and Bird #1 dive-bombs him out of there in a mad chase.

They swoop around the yard, and somebody ends up tucked away in the maple tree:


In the meantime, there are also butterflies who enjoy my flowers.

And one day, we had the distinct privilege of meeting this fine fellow!








Friday, September 12, 2014

Feels like fall

The weather took a sudden turn this week, feels like fall.  I think it's 57 degrees today, and tonight is supposed to get down into the 40's.

I'm wearing socks and a fleece.  When I walked the dogs, a definite scent of woodsmoke mingled in the air.  The boulevard is strewn with small brown leaves, crispy ones, and fragrant fallen crab apples.

There's a roaring in my ears.  I hope it goes away soon.  After my recent bout with my illness, I am more tired than usual, less hungry, puffier throughout my body, stiff of finger, slow of mind.

I feel the press of limited time.  I want to write a book before I leave this earth.  Nakedly I say it, words I usually shelter close inside my shirt collar.  Because I don't write books.  Men write better than women (just saying; as a preteen I had discovered this at the public library and often refused even to lift a book by a female author off the shelf), and the British write far better than Americans.  As an American woman, what hope could I possibly have?

Anyway, I have to wait until the roaring stops, and the finger dexterity improves.

So instead of a book, I just wrote another blog post over on the other blog.

If you're interested you can click here to read it.

I have fewer words to spew in a day at present, probably a great mercy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A few sick days

Well, I was writing like a house-of-fire for awhile there, but it came to an abrupt halt last week.

Lupus.

Lupus is not much fun, and I try to contain it to one of my other blogs.

I think I am actually going to commit to keeping this blog a lupus-free zone.  We'll all be happier that way.  And anyway, that other blog has become the lupus zone.

If you do want to know the gory details, I wrote about them on that other blog, and you can link over by clicking your mouse here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Wedding Pictures

The photographer put "our" pictures on her own blog, and then they were posted on Facebook, but I thought I'd include a link to them here.

In case anybody was interested in more pictures of Laura's wedding...

Click here to view.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2014

On shyness

I'm shy, so this is preaching to myself, and if you are offended by what I say here, then please at least realize that I don't like it either, but I think it's true.  Furthermore, I believe that truth is more important than palatability.

Elizabeth Eliot said that shyness is really only a form of selfishness.  I was unable to locate this quote; it may have been in an article and not a book, maybe even a magazine interview or something.  Additionally, my exact wording is probably inaccurate.   All I know is, I read it, and it was attributed to Mrs. Eliot, so whether or not you tend to agree with her, I'm trying to give credit where credit is due.

Also.  Let's just think about that statement: Shyness is really only a form of selfishness.

Shyness is a form of selfishness.

In what way is shyness selfishness?  Let's list some of the ways:

1.  When I am shy, I focus on my own feelings.  I am uncomfortable.  I am afraid to speak.  I don't want to be around these people.  I don't think anybody is being very nice to me.  I.  I.  I.

2.  When I am shy, I often think that I am the center of the universe and everybody is looking at me and sizing me up, and it is all about meMe. Me. Me.

3.  In assuming that I am the center of the universe and focusing on my own feelings, I neglect to think about others, their concerns, fears and feelings.  I think that others ought to make me feel comfortable, neglecting to understand that I, also, have a role in making them feel comfortable.  In so doing, I put my own needs above the needs of others.

4.  When I put my own needs above others, I begin to self-protect, to defend, to insulate.  My priority is to protect myself from being hurt, and I forget to think about the collateral damage this may cause, how in protecting myself I am liable to hurt others. 

Back in the day when I was a little girl growing up, I had a friend who was shy.  She was the sweetest thing, and much more shy than I.  In Sunday school, if the teacher asked her a question, or if she had to go to the front to drop birthday pennies into the bank, she would turn beet red.  Beet red.  And she would not speak.

She was shy for years, and we went from feeling painfully sorry for her to being used to her.  But then one day (I'm not sure if it was towards the end of high school or the beginning of college), she changed.  She became a wonderful conversationalist, a confident, caring, friendly person.

One time we had a conversation about this, and she said, "I just realized one day, I have to get control of this and stop thinking about myself and start thinking about other people."  So she started listening to other people.  And asking questions.  And listening to the answers and asking more questions.  Eventually, she also started sharing her own thoughts and feelings.

Most people want friends and relationships as much as you do.  Most people are dying for someone who cares enough about them to ask them questions about what they think, how they feel, what they've experienced.  Most of us are on a path together longing for emotional intimacy with our fellow man.  But many of us are afraid to step out and make the first attempt to connect.

We fear rejection so deeply, we isolate ourselves.  Which is crazy, because isn't isolation exactly the thing that we fear as the end result of rejection?

Now, clearly there are people who are only in the world to figure out whether they can use you to get ahead, and whether a relationship with you would benefit them.  If associating with you will help them climb the proverbial ladder, then they are all in.  But if associating with you will not get them ahead, may not result in any payoff at all, then they don't want to have anything to do with you.  You aren't good looking enough, or rich enough, or cool enough, or hip enough, or smart enough, or amusing enough, or whatever enough, and so they are uninterested.  Guess what?  You don't have to worry about them.  They aren't the kind of people who make good friends.  Their rejection will actually free you to find better friends elsewhere.  So go ahead and take the risk!  The only thing you have to lose is that you might be rejected by people you'd rather not invest in anyway.  This is a big win-win.

For adults, it is mind over matter.  Most adults have learned to be polite.  Just take your good manners to the next level and be honestly interested in people.  Try to figure them out, learn about what makes them tick, learn how to make somebody happy, and then do something to brighten her day.  Stop thinking about what makes you feel comfortable and focus on figuring out how to make somebody else feel comfortable.  When you do this, you will be astounded by how much happiness you can bring to people, and in return, how much joy you will experience yourself.

If you have shy children, help them by constantly exhorting them to think about others.  Teach them to be aware of others' feelings.  Say, "How do you think it made her feel when that happened?"  Ask, "What do you think he was hoping when he did that?"  Remind, "People like it when you smile at them!  It makes them happy!"

There may even be times when it is appropriate to tell your children, "You know how you feel awkward when the teacher calls on you in class?  Well, you make Steven feel that same sort of awkwardness when he asks you a question and you won't look at him.  And you hurt Nicole's feelings when you run away while she is trying to share her toys with you.  Even if you think you feel awkward, it is your job to be respectful and kind to others."  A shy child does not need to share stories and anecdotes or talk about his feelings, but he does need to learn to say hello and excuse me and thank you.

Explain that shyness is not an excuse for poor manners.  Good manners are a way that we express respect and kindness to others.  To be rude in the name of shyness is really very selfish indeed.  This goes for children and adults alike.

We are all magnificent creations of God.  He loves us with a love that stretches far beyond any love we could ever hope to express.  He did not try to protect Himself in any way, but laid Himself bare, first by emptying Himself of His divinity and taking on human flesh, then by dying an excruciating death while bearing all the collective sins of the entire world  (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus' love for us gives us security and confidence, and it also sets a pattern for us.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, the Bible says in Philippians 2:5.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. 
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 
not looking to your own interests 
but each of you to the interests of the others.  
Philippians 2:3-4, NIV

That is the antidote to shyness.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On killing

Today I had to kill a snake.

I was taking the dogs out for their walk, and there it was: a small, gray snake, coiled in the gutter at the end of our driveway, its tiny head up at the ready.

Poor little Piper, who is nearing his fifteenth birthday, almost stumbled and tripped on this snake.  Quickly, I yanked his leash aside, pulling him to safety.

I observed the snake closely and it didn't move.  Could it be dead?  Could it be dead if it was still holding its head up like that?  Why did it remain a frozen circle, there amongst all the action of two small, furry, bumbling dogs?

Since it was garbage day, I grabbed the garbage can and ran it along in the gutter, next to the snake.  The snake remained as still as a stone as the wheels of the garbage can passed on both sides.

I wondered if it were literally frozen, a cold-blooded creature that had succumbed  to hypothermia during the night and was now immobile forever.  I ran the wheels of the garbage can directly across the snake.  Then it did move, uncoiling, twitching.

I took my dogs across the street to finish the essentials, hoping the snake would slither away into the grass.

Usually I don't mind snakes so much (not nearly as much as cats and mice, at any rate).

However, a few days ago Shawn and I were walking in the park, and we happened across a snake on the path.  Rather than sliding away to hide when we approached, it struck at the bottom of Shawn's shoe.  Shawn thought this was funny and began to tantalize it, presenting the thick rubber sole of his sneaker again and again while it made stubborn and repeated strikes, refusing to surrender and leave.

Not enjoying this game, I procured a large stick and forced the snake into the tall weeds along the side of the trail.  I kept my stick with me for the remainder of our walk that day.

Today, I did not have a large stick.  All I had was a garbage can and the encumbrance of two dog leashes with vulnerable little dogs at the ends of them.

The snake had not slithered into the grass when we returned from across the street.  It merely palpitated back and forth in the gutter at the base of our driveway, a foot or two in one direction, then a foot or two back.

"I've damaged it," I thought.  "Now what?"

After returning the dogs to the house, I found a hoe in the garage and went back.

Uncommitted, I had hoped to scoop up the snake on the end of the hoe and remove it to the boulevard, away from our yard.  But I couldn't.  I couldn't get the hoe underneath.  Broken snake, broken situation.

In the end, instinct took over.  I scraped the snake into the grass at the edge of our yard and chopped it up with the hoe, each blow thudding sickeningly through the snake's body into the earth below.  My stomach lurched and my arms trembled.  The belly of the snake turned upward, its exposed white surface signifying the ultimate surrender.  I suppose I put him out of his misery.

I believe this is the first time I've killed something other than a bug.  I didn't like it.