surprise endings

For many years in late summer I have enjoyed a week in the cool, forested North Carolina mountains in the heart of the Blue Ridge. It’s kind of a reset. On the surface my life appears stress-free… I am retired, my son is grown and living a happy, successful life on his own. But stuff does happen. Things build up. So these precious few days alone in the cooler air seem to clear my head and I get maybe not a do-over but a restart.

This is usually in prelude to a visit with my family at a beach south of where I live. We’ve been meeting there for the past ten years, for a week at a little inn where the same families come back each year. For better or worse it is our “family vacation” and I always look forward to it.

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Until Lily.

Two weeks ago today we were outside for the last perimeter check before bed. The people on the other side of the fence behind my house have a super-aggressive dog that loudly charges the privacy fence between us. Rescue dog Lulu, all 20-pounds of terrier responds in kind. Rescue dog Lily, somewhat protective of her little sister wandered over to be sure aggressive neighbor dog failed at her efforts.

Then Lily quickly walked back by me and sat down. Hard. I looked over at her. “Lily?”

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She turned to me. “Can you come over here?” I asked. She rose, painfully and with a pronounced limp came over to me.

No. But yes. The other acl is now torn.

So no plans. Cancelled the little mountain cabin the end of this month (I’d planned to bring Lily and Lulu this year). The only pet sitter I trust Lily with declined staying with her, understandably concerned about the intensive care Lily will require after her surgery.

I have not yet told my family I won’t be joining them though I have cancelled my reservation at the inn.  There is a reason for everything.

I reflected on life, years ago in my chaotic vortex, newly divorced, sudden responsibilities of single parenthood, jobs, schools for my son, sitters, car maintenance, the whole aspect of LIFE that happens for everyone but I had never had it all. And I believed that. I believed it was all on me.

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Bit by bit, mistake by mistake I gradually learned I could depend on God. No matter what it was… a new clutch for my car, an unexpected medical bill, leak in the ceiling. No, God did not come here to fix these things Himself. But He gave me peace. He strengthened me when I wanted to run away. He helped me persevere, gave light and calm in the storms.

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And I remembered my feeble prayers! Sometimes just a faint, “Help, please!” And He did. He heard me. He strengthened me. Every time. For any reason, crisis or not. He truly never left me. He keeps His promises, even when we forget, ignore, disbelieve or panic. He doesn’t give up on us.

My prayers in those times weren’t great. Sometimes I don’t think even I believed them. But He did. Because what or how or why I prayed them was not the point. His faithfulness is all that matters.

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So Lily and I will get through this. And about the time she is finished with her physical therapy and beginning to be strong the weather will have cooled enough for her to enjoy her walkies again.

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seeing

Eyesight is so taken for granted. When asked if you had a choice of losing hearing or eyesight (neither!), many prefer to keep seeing. Things we experience by sight are very hard to describe unless others have experienced it too. If the only star someone can imagine is a pentagram or stars in the night sky how do you describe a flower?

0.jpg“Texas Star” hibiscus

How would you describe the curl of an ocean wave, or the liquid gold surface of the ocean as  it reflects the morning sun?

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There are caterpillars that cause a lot of damage, destroying an entire tree, and borer beetles that destroy whole pine forests. There are other caterpillars that eat a plant to a nub, only to have the plant grow back because that is one of the things the plant was created for.

IMG_1109.JPGTiger swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel plant

I can’t imagine not hearing the dawn chorus each morning, rain or shine, cold or hot. Or not seeing the bright red plumage of a black-masked male cardinal. Or floating on the scatter-brained song of a bluebird. The sound of wind in the pines, ocean waves crashing on shore, rumbling of distant thunder.

Offerings of creation.

 

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calm

There seems to be an increase in doomsday predictions. Naysayers. This is terrible! Focusing on something no one knows anything about except that it will happen loses sight of what’s important.

The here and now.

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No one knows the future. When people get all in a twist about something nobody knows will happen they make chaos.

Stop it.

IMG_1067.JPGLulu dozing in the shade

Being grounded takes a lot of effort for me. I am easily distracted. But doomsday people have never held any interest for me. Staying focused on what’s important matters. But the end of the world? Why stir everybody up over something no one knows?

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Maybe this is why I love flowers so much. And trees. They just are. Day after day, season after season, year after year. They are what they were created to be. Some become diseased and die. So do we. Some grow old. Very, very old. So do we. We have seasons. We change. But nature doesn’t freak out over an ice storm. It endures it. Or a hurricane. Their leaves are blown off, they may get drowned but if they live they put out more leaves.

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We replace siding, or shingles, or whole roofs, or whole houses. But mostly we face whatever disaster or trouble we get. We have to. Jumping the gun, skipping to the end when the end isn’t here yet, when we don’t even know when the end is, doesn’t make any sense.

IMG_1066.JPGLily staying safe under a bench

So I have to take the end is near people lightly. The end I don’t take lightly, but I have no idea when that will happen. So I need to keep on keeping on and trust God. He knows.

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That is all that matters. It’s His business, mine is to trust Him.

IMG_1063.JPGLadybug larva

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not handy

My dad could fix anything. Clocks, electricity, cars, jewelry, plumbing, shoes, you name it. I used to follow him around in his work shop peppering him with questions until he sent me back in the house to “help your mother”. So the little I gleaned from watching him isn’t enough to be my own repair person.

It is not easy to find someone to fix things. After the storm I knew it would be near impossible because everybody needed to have something fixed. Fence, roof, I did have repairs for, and very quickly. But there is a list of things I would like to have done, from small things like a crawlspace access door rebuilt, to insulation replaced.

I don’t have my own handyman. My neighbors seem to have their own personal handymen but theirs are all “just so busy”, so I looked up a few on a neighborhood email community I subscribe to. Those I could reach to speak to all said they’d be glad to come take a look around. One did. Said he was very busy but would come look at everything. He said he’d be back next day for gutter repair and send estimates a few days later for everything else.

Never saw or heard another word. From him or anyone.

IMG_0884.JPGCamellia in my yard just starting to bloom

My dad and I were close. After he passed away 13 years ago I saw hawks everywhere. On phone wires and poles, in trees, on my back fence. I decided this was a spirit animal sent by Dad to watch over me. I stopped seeing them so often, or maybe just didn’t notice after a few years, but lately I have been hearing them everywhere. I see them sometimes sitting on a fence or a house or flying across my backyard.

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So I tried one last person, who actually did come look at everything and gave me an estimate and a day they will come and do the repairs. I patiently explained that it would be ok if they decide it’s not a big enough job, or something better comes along to just please let me know.

It’s much easier for me to know someone’s not going to make it rather than leave me hanging, knowing nothing.

Maybe I will take a carpentry class. And one for how to replace damaged gutters?

proxy.duckduckgo.jpgRoy T. Bennet, @twitter.com

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.” –-Isaiah 40:31

how much wood….

So Groundhog Day. That little rhyme most kids learn, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Makes utterly no sense which is likely why it has survived generations and is so easily memorized.

Evidently this tradition really did begin in Pennsylvania, and the German settlers brought it with them. I doubt they brought their own groundhog since they are indigenous here.

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They are actually very cute and resemble prairie dogs to me, so I looked them up. They are all in the same family commonly known as ground squirrels which includes these two species as well as squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. When I lived in New Mexico I actually saw a prairie dog colony in a nearby nature park. They are much smaller and thinner than groundhogs and very curious. When I lived in Tennessee there were groundhogs in the yard and they burrow a lot like giant moles. Kind of annoying especially if you’re trying to have a vegetable garden but we worked it out.

So apparently the famous groundhog in Punxsatawney did not see his shadow which folklore dictates indicates an early spring.

I doubt that.

Every year I buy a Farmer’s Almanac, the longest-published periodical in America. Not so much for the weather predictions because, well as close as their top-secret prediction formula comes in accuracy each year nobody can really predict weather.

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Or much of anything. But this little book has really interesting stories, odd-ball history and not so odd history about America and other places, recipes, gardening tips, birding tips… all kinds of stuff.

Interesting to note that Canada observes Groundhog Day. They celebrate it in Wiarton, Ontario. Coincidentally February 2 is also Candlemas Day, Jesus’ first visit to the Temple. The day Simeon had long waited and in his song commemorates it–

“Lord bid Your servant go in peace, Your word is now fulfilled. These eyes have seen salvation’s dawn, this Child so long foretold…” also known as Nunc Dimittis, paraphrased for hymnals by James J. Quinn, S.J.

What faith! Since a young man Simeon had waited, daily in the Temple for the Christ child. And he never wavered in his faith. What joy his simple faith gave him, knowing God is always faithful and true in His promises.

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pain of healing

Forged in the fire, no pain, no gain, that which does not kill me makes me stronger…

I have watched husky-mix Lily closely these couple of weeks as she has recovered from her surgery. She did not do any of the things I prepared for– lick her stitches so avoided the “cone of shame”, cry out, object to the physical therapies I have done to keep her leg limber and exercised. At least not at first.

Her pain has been recent. When I take my other rescue dog, Lulu out for a short walk Lily is left behind. She is feeling better. She doesn’t understand why I am still holding her back from racing to the door if the doorbell rings, bounding down the porch steps to go outside, checking the backyard before bed to ward off the possum that sleeps in one of our trees. Maybe it isn’t painful for her, but for me. I feel badly that I can’t yet allow her to be herself.

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I think we all become complacent sometimes. Then something blindsides us or something we saw coming but hoped wouldn’t, happened. Or we lose someone, in some way– death, divorce, argument –and we are hurting. We sort through what happened and face some truths, which can hurt more than the thing that happened. But that hurt is the beginning of the healing. We are free when we face the realities of it. You can see it for what it is, put it in perspective. Lies hold us in bondage both to the lie as long as we persist in believing it, and the truth that we won’t yet face.

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Years ago I read several books by Dr. Frederick Buechner, a favorite of mine, Telling Secrets. This book illustrated well for me that our secrets are lives we live that no one else sees, and we may fabricate a life that we present to others that we believe is more presentable. But it’s in our secrets that we unlock who we truly are….

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Lately Lily’s resistance to my helping her stretch and exercise her leg has become stronger. This is frustrating for me, likely for her, too. This is to be done 3-5 times each day and as she heals and becomes stronger it’s gone to more like maybe 3 times a day. Thankfully her stitches will be removed this week and I really hope her vet tells me she can be freer in her walking and movement. She has helped me see, though, how it must be when my Father, God, wants to do something for me or through me and I struggle, disobey, assert my own will.

I need to get out of His way and wait for Him. I guess it’s good I have a lifetime to work on this.

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blessings

So a little over a week ago the weather people told us the U.S. jet stream dipped well into the southeast. This was a good thing, (for here) right? Everything above it was cooler, below it is unimaginably hot.

No one has any idea how long this will be.

Ok, so yes, it’s good (for here) but with this comes rain. Meteorologists can explain why. All I know is we have basically had solid rain for going on 8 days now. With thunder mostly.

The thing about that is rescue dog Lulu won’t eat when it thunders. She turns around in circles by the back porch door, crying until I let her out. But she won’t go outside when it is raining. Well, that’s smart. And I do have these herbal chews thatIMG_0170.JPG are supposed to relax Lulu. They have lavender, chamomile and colostrum. They only help when she collapses in exhaustion from stressing over the rain storms and sleeps for about 2 hours.

2105551020-bfcf7f5f049178968f2aab6a0d35bdf1.jpgBut then rain is a blessing. Obviously without it nothing grows. No gardens, agriculture. No irrigation, no water.  Just because something appears inconvenient or is612294559-aa1bfc74e56dcb5f6d475ea40290989a.jpg not to my liking does not mean it is wrong. I learned long ago my perspective is a tiny fragment of a much bigger picture and the amount of control I have over this picture is not as significant as I sometimes may think. Like the butterfly effect. Generally something that ripples out far beyond anything I will ever see and will have an effect that is far removed from the initial thought or motion.

And many blessings are in the eye of the beholder. In food, in relationships, in acts of nature, in politics. I have learned to, if not be thankful personally then to thank God for whatever purpose He intends for whatever or whomever is the object of the moment. Whether I like it or not.

And I can be like Lily, reluctant to step out into the life that is happening because it is not to my expectation or liking, yet as the popular phrase goes, “it is what it is,” and my participation or lack of will not necessarily change things. It might, though. But avoiding it orIMG_0169.JPG hiding from it will accomplish nothing because Life goes on whether or not I choose to participate.

So, blessings.  Like beauty. Definitely in the eye of the beholder. Moreso if the beholder has wisdom.1599110096-Bible-Passages-Scriptures-Quotes-and-Verses-about-Blessings-pictures-and-images-Blessing-Verse.jpg