vicious to vicTORious

Three letters inserted in a word that means spiteful, malicious, hateful… tor. It’s not a much-used word. These 3 little letters, meaning “a high rock, a pile of stones” (Oxford English Dictionary) change the basest attitude to triumph.

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I recently read a devotion by author Lysa Terkeurst about the devil. He does all he can to distract, delude, dissuade, discourage, divert me off track. He wants to make me sad, angry, self-pitying, ungrateful, hopeless, discouraged. And sometimes he is almost successful. The tears he covets are cleansing, not destructive. The more he produces frustrated tears, the more washed my soul. He never wins.

Because of my Rock.

Dorian, as destructive as it was to many places did very little damage to my area. But it did not miss me. Maybe the damage began with last year’s storms and became evident this year. I am among those now waiting for insurance companies, adjusters, appraisers to give me a final word about the roof. But the Rock in my life is my steady, strong anchor. Not a stumbling block. This Rock keeps me on course, gives me hope, strength and encouragement.

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So though repairs are largely a frustrating plan-and-wait, at the mercy of other people and their schedules I cling to the Rock.

No matter how capricious life is, He never leaves.

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(pinterest.com)

He puts His power in me through my faith in Him.

 

 

 

Miss Frances

The inn where my brother and his family stay is over 80 years old. Some sort of record for an ocean front property. We have vacationed there for the past 10 years. The current owners bought it 11 or 12 years ago and have kept things as they have always been with a few modifications to the menu. Three full meals a day are included in reservations. So a lot of walking is required to at least be the same weight when you arrived as when you leave.

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Miss Frances runs the Inn. And has. Forever.

She manages the kitchen, the staff, the laundry and schedules. It is expected that every guest is at every meal when the bells are rung. If there is any deviation it is expected that Miss Frances know in advance to plan the meal. It is an unspoken discourtesy to do otherwise.

Naturally an early riser, the last couple of summers I have quietly crept down the creaky wooden staircase to the kitchen to help set up the dining room for breakfast, brew coffee, move tables according to additional guests, fill cream, sugar, jams, jellies, syrup. And quietly listen as Miss Frances witnesses to me about her faith. A faith we share, but she brings the Gospel to vibrant life in that pre-dawn kitchen. She holds informal Bible studies with interested staff. And I have always loved hearing her lilting Gullah cadence speaking of her love for Jesus.

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So this year rescue dogs Lily and Lulu accompanied me and we stayed in a nearby cottage. I began my day with the distant roar and hush of the ocean, watching the light emerge in faded color as I walked Lily and Lulu toward the beach. The rising rosy glow still holding a dewy chill in the air. My thoughts drifted to Miss Frances moving slowly about her domain, gently polishing the stainless service before setting places at the tables. Glancing occasionally toward the porch overlooking the awakening day.

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I shared those three meals with my brother and his family during our brief stay, then packed us back in the car for our drive home. My brother texted me a day or so later to let me know this year is Miss Frances’ last, she is retiring.

Sad that I was not a part of this, she leaves a legacy. Her larger-than-life presence being absent will leave a strange void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I cannot think of anyone who could comparably carry on.

But someone will.

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indecision

One of those days.

I thought I’d sneak away for a while, just me and run a few errands. Dogs have radar for this. So no matter how nonchalant or casual I was about it I couldn’t get past the hallway to the garage door. Somebody’s nose would appear as if to say, “you’re not leaving without us, are you?”

It’s getting to where it will be too warm for Lily and Lulu to go for rides with me. We will be having our morning walkies before the sun rises and after it sets. So no errands.

Today has been the same. Rain squall, then almost sun, then grey. All day it’s been trying to decide whether to just all-out rain or not.

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Since the beginning of the Lenten season from Ash Wednesday I turned off the television. At first maybe about a week I have withdrawals. Strange how I can get so used to the noise and nonsense coming out of a large piece of electronics. Then I settle in to the silence. I hear birds more, breezes, crickets even now that it’s warmer. I hear neighbors laughing and talking.

I hear life.

Funny how insulated I can be inside a house with artificial noise. Without it time goes more slowly, things become deliberate. My head is clearer.

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Well, comparatively so. I read more books. I made some wind chimes out of those really large sea urchin spines.

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I made a bracelet with shells I have been finding on the beach in the shape of a heart. I discovered these are the “insole” part of a seashell called a lady’s slipper, but when the outer part breaks away it leaves this piece

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so I thought they’d look pretty in a bracelet. I don’t wear jewelry. At all, ever. So if I make these I’ll have to give them away or something. And I have thousands of these shell pieces since I have collected them for years and they are everywhere here where I live, though I have never seen them on any other beach.

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But somehow the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday has me in its grip. I can’t help but wonder how those disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt. Here was the One they knew was Messiah. And He had died. They watched it. Well, John and some of the women. How dark, frightening that must have been. Jesus tried to tell them He would rise and live but I don’t think I would have understood what He was saying either, even if I’d been a witness to His raising Lazarus.

I know how this story ends. With joy! Victory! Life and hope. Newness.

But Saturday. Somehow it helps me to have this day, dark as it must have been because I know what happens.

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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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favorite quotes: Day 2 of 3

3-day Quote Challenge, continued

“To thine own self be true….. ”      –Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3: William Shakespeare

I don’t think there is much of anything more basic than this. I know my growing-up years were complete turbulence. I was the first-born of 3, the screw-up, not a mistake so much as mistake-maker. I learned everything the hard way. Sometimes those lessons took more than one pass. Eventually I learned in order to not keep everybody mad I could do and say funny stuff. Make them laugh, usually at me. This worked as long as I didn’t look too hard on the inside. Because people pleasers sometimes make others happy, or avert the argument or throw the barbs off. But even if we do, our lives, while doing all this performing are so hollow inside.

So this was my truth for years. My valley of darkness. It became such a conditioned activity I had no idea that it was within my power to stop. But just like Dorothy I had the power all along.

Just stop. I didn’t even need those ruby slippers to get back “home”.

It made a lot of people angry. I was called all sorts of horrid things– cold, selfish, thoughtless. And those words hurt. But then I remembered they were as much talking about themselves as they were about me.

It took practice. My valley of darkness became a valley of decision…. up until then I did my best at second-guessing, perceiving feelings, fortune-telling outcomes. I doubted, restructured, doubted again.
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Basically unanchored, so other-focused I had no perspective of my own.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 NKJV)

And here I began to find my real truth. For someone who’d become so strong-willed, independent, self-reliant it took a long time and many losses. A marriage ended, parents passed away, yet one Constant helped me, each day, each moment become stronger,th.jpg more discerning, more faithful. He has never disappointed me. He always hears  my prayers. He has proven Himself true over and over. And I know without doubt that He is the only way, truth, life. (John 14:6)

I am nowhere close to finished. But without losing compassion, empathy or kindness my perspective has strengthened and become more realistic, more self-controlled. I take more time to listen. Life is less frenetic. Yes, I am much older now but wisdom is far more valuable.And thankfully more available. Or at least wisdom’s voice is clearer.

 

surprised by grace

Joyous Easter

  he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)

 

absolute horror, hatred           unimaginable beauty, love
defeat, shame           humility, victory
despair, darkness           brilliant light, hope

 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

He nourishes
He strengthens
He guides
He heals
He loves
He is risen
He is alive

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eventually, life

We’ve had a few false starts to spring this year. More than once I’ve been fooled into running to the garden centers to see their latest flats of bedding plants, herbs and vegetables. And when I put them outside sure enough there’s a cold snap, even a couple of nights of late frost burning the tender edges of the leaves.

There are many plants that come up year after year bravely through the snow. Crocus, daffodil. This year I had a periwinkle that bloomed.

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Some of the little flowers seem so fragile, delicate and tender it amazes me that they are completely unaffected by such a forbidding chill

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The bracken fern emerge very gradually, at first tight-fisted, their little fiddleheads clenched against the cold

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gradually then the sun’s warmth unfurling those little green fronds that grip so closely to stay alive

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When I was little Sundays and church were a big part of my week. I looked forward to the friendliness and warmth, the bustle of families drifting into their respective Sunday school classes.

Children generally accept most things and question very little but I tended to be distracted easily so I can clearly remember some time after a particular lesson wondering why my teacher told us about somebody wandering around in the desert. Only later did I realize he meant Jesus’ 40 days being tempted by the devil.

And that was about the time I also realized that the ecumenical calendar was the same year after year. We spoke the same prayers, celebrated the same events of Pentecost, Christmas, Easter and the years were not flat, repetitive. It is an upward spiral.

The truth of those lessons and prayers reflecting the life and love of Jesus becomes clearer. I  paid attention. I hear His admonitions, His instructions, the meaning of taking up my own cross. The cross of humility, of selflessness, of love.

I hope one day those prayers take precedence over whatever smallness remains in me. Eventually.

“When they had brought their boats to land they left everything, and followed Him.”             —-  Luke 5:11