August Is About to Adios

August has provided us several opportunities to enjoy time outdoors, as the pictures below document.  We had a few unseasonably cool days for this time of year that allowed me to get out of the house and explore a few outdoor spaces close to our house.  I ramped up my own self-isolation the past couple of weeks in anticipation of my next Ocrevus infusion.  Matter of fact, I am writing this in the hospital while the O-juice goes in.  The drug was supposed to start dripping at 8:00 but it got held up in the pharmacy until a little after 11:00 😖.  It takes about five hours to infuse then I have to wait an hour before I can leave, so it’s going to be a long day.  Even so, I’m thankful to be getting it at all since so many others with MS don’t have any options this late in the game (#30yearsofMS).

Hubby had a couple of weeks off between semesters so he tackled restoring the fence around our backyard.  The days he worked on it were boiling!

In no particular order, Pip and Laudy have become my favorite muses.  I am still enjoying my new hobby.
This bee probably thinks the center of the daisy is as big as the moon.
I think this is a strawberry clearwing.  I found all the following insects around the lake park in our neighborhood.
I can’t believe how good the pictures turn out in sports mode, very clear images in motion.
Buckeye butterflies are plentiful around the water and are a personal favorite.
Swallowtail
I especially loved finding these amberwings ❤️.
Jimmeny Cricket!
Ugh, I stepped off the path to get a good shot of a flower and ended up being covered in these little burrs 😖.  It took 30 minutes to pick them all out of my hair and off my clothes.  How they got in my hair I have no idea!

The road back home from the river. 

I have had a lot of things floating around in my mind to write about, but I haven’t decided if I want to share them or not.  Writing is very pleasurable and cathartic for me and I want to guard it so it remains that way.

May God be with you. ❤️, Amy

If Only

The whole world is mad enough to chew nails and spit rivets at each other.  The wildfire of anxiety already fueled by a viral pandemic and financial hardships has roared into an inferno fanned by outrage over racial injustice.  Add all of this to an overly politicized, deeply divided, radically idealized, and seemingly diabolicaly opposed Left and Right presidential election year and, voila, here we are.  McCarthyism (“The practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigate techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.” – Dictionary.com) turned into Cancel Culture (“The popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” Dictionary.com).  Unsurprisingly, we (collectively as humans) have learned absolutely nothing from God or history on how to get along with each other.  Like sheep, we’ve all gone astray.  The only difference between us and sheep is that we like to point and call out the wrong courses everyone else has taken, but never look back at our own errors.

As a result, I’ve been rationing my news intake and limiting my time on social media platforms.  I can’t take all the lava-hot words and vitriol spewing out of the mouths on all sides of the world’s current, self-inflicted problems.  I don’t know how to heal or even understand the differences of opinion and the vast chasms that seem to lie between the logic and thinking of some of us.  So, with that admission, what can I do?  I have been and will continue to lay them down at my Father’s feet.  He is the answer to everything, always. God excels in doing what everyone says is impossible. 

I’m doing the same on a personal level.  While the huge fires of the world keep burning, so too do the little flames within my life.  I’m sure you understand because we’re all the same.  My personal fire is called MS but yours might be named such things as Furloughed, Job, Money, Stress, Anger, Divorce, Death, Parent, Child, Spouse, Cancer, Diabetes, Aging… just about anything, really.  For me, MS is constantly melting away tiny pieces of my own sovereignty.  It’s very difficult to let go of the things in life that make you feel like you have some control, such as driving, shopping, cooking, and walking. 

In much the same way that I realize I can’t put out the MS fire in my own life and deal with the destruction it leaves in it’s wake on my own, we, as a nation and even world, must understand we will have to work collectively to bring the flames of our society back under control.  The solution will not be conceived in fear of an unseen germ, worry over the next great depression, or riots that break our neighbors’ windows and loot their livelihoods because of injustice.  No, if it could then we would already have the answer.   The fix is to be found in love.  The kind of love the apostle Paul described in I Corinthians 13:4-7, the sort God has for us.  His love is patient, kind, happy for others instead of envious, lifts others up instead of boasting about self, is well mannered instead of rude, seeks the good of others instead of self, is slow to anger, keeps no records of wrongs, delights in holiness instead of evil, rejoices in the truth instead of sensationalism, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 

I realize what I am about to say is very Pollyannish of me, but…  If every person would recognize the truthfulness and wisdom of this type of love and make it their own personal goal to practice it, without policing others and how they are doing as they attempt to do the same, all the infernos of the world would simply burn themselves out.  If only.

Changing Seasons

A chill in the air, pumpkins, bales of hay, colorful leaves, small town festivals and fairs, costumes and candy, long sleeves, and warm bowls of chili.  Autumn is my favorite season and I am not alone. More poems have been written extolling Autumn’s winsome ways than any other season. One of my favorite childhood memories is playing with my younger sister for hours in the leaves.  I would rake “roads” out of the leaves in the backyard and she would “drive” her Tonka Truck through them all with Ken and Barbie dressed up in their warmest outfits in the driver and passenger seats.  

It wasn’t until I was older that I understood how the changing seasons reflect the stages of our lives.  I am now in the early autumn of my life as the big 50 lies in wait to spring upon me in six months time. I miss the never ending energy and gusto of the spring of my youth.  I fondly remember the excitement and first-time experiences of living through the summer season, too. All the “adult” things like the first job in my chosen profession, buying my first house and my first car, being entirely responsible for budgeting my first paycheck…and so on were exciting times.  During the first two seasons of life the sun hardly ever seemed to set and youth had enough vitality to live the long days to their fullest measure.

Now, in the early autumn of my life, my energy wanes like the shortening days, with fewer productive hours to get things done.  There are not nearly as many firsts to experience, either. However, what has been lost from the previous seasons has been made up for in privileges only afforded to those blessed with long years.  I have lived long enough to have naturally accrued some wisdom along the way.  

I’ve learned how to tell the difference between what is important and what is not, and the truth from a lie.  People are more important than things. I can look back and see how God has led me through the fires and floods to safer, higher ground.  And I have learned having fun is different than living a life of joy, the latter being so much more important and meaningful. Chasing after experiences does not equate experiencing life to the fullest.  The fullest life is one that surrenders self in order to experience the indwelling of the living God, Christ living in me and me living in Him.

As the trees change to autumnal colors and I find myself purposefully traveling roads with hilltops that afford me a larger breadth of view so I can soak in all the beauty, I look back over my life to see the distance I have travelled.  Not all the views are beautiful, I’ve not lived perfectly, just humanly. However, I can see and feel the hand of God lifting me higher and higher until the dead and barren patches are covered over with His forgiveness, mercy, grace, and loving-kindness.  He calls us all to live, move, and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28). He really does make all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

God’s blessings,
Amy  

Slowly, Slowly

Quiet, slow moving, solitary days bring plenty of time for reflection and to learn about one’s self.

Since retiring nearly six weeks ago I have moved over to the slow lane of life. My husband spends fourty-ish hours of the week at work, nearly all of my friends have day jobs, and fatigue from my MS nearly always keeps me home. The first few weeks of retirement were borderline catatonic. I was still recovering from my latest exacerbation of MS and only had the energy to do small necessities required to sustain life. The past couple of weeks, however, have typically brought an hour or two per day when I have enough energy to actually fill my time with something other than sitting.

Slowly, very slowly a couple of simple pleasures from my distant past have started to find traction again. My Grandma Lois encouraged me to develop an interest in bird watching during my childhood. She always had a few feeders in her backyard and taught me how to look for distinguishing characteristics between the varieties of birds which came to eat. She kept a pair of binoculars and a bird field guide beside her back-facing windows and I spent many a happy hour watching the ever-changing line up at the feeders – Cardinals, Goldfinches, Juncos, House Finches, Carolina Wrens, Baltimore Oriels, Purple Martins…the list goes on and on. I especially remember being proud that she was so smart. She never had to double check the field guide for names like I did, not even for the rarer ones that didn’t come very often, like the Summer Tanagers or Pine Siskins.

Todd noticed a pair of House Finches early last week nesting in one of the bushes outside our house. This singular incident sent me down memory lane as I recalled all the happy memories of bird watching at Grandma’s. So, late last week I put up a couple of bird feeders in the backyard and, sure enough, I am just as excited now as I was then to see the lineup of different birds come and go. The first birds to the feeders were Goldfinches, House Finches, and Juncos. Memories of Grandma flooded over me and swelled my heart for this exact trio were always her favorite birds. I particularly remember her being excited to see Goldfinches at the feeders each season and her telling me that Juncos seemed to be the happiest and friendliest of all the birds. My favorite so far this week has been a male and female pair of Eastern Bluebirds. They are simply stunning as they sport a vibrant and dazzling blue on top of their bodies, a solid white belly, and rusty throat, chest, and thighs. To me, nothing says Missouri like our gorgeous state bird. Better yet, the time quickly passes as I watch the parade of hungry birds come and go and listen to their varied songs fill the trees surrounding our house.

The other simple pleasure I never actually knew I enjoyed is cleaning. While growing up my sisters and I used to call my Mom a “dirt digger”. She didn’t always relish cleaning but once she got started she meant business. She would get between tiles with a toothbrush in the bathroom and kitchen or would use a toothpick to dig out gunk from the cracks between the pieces of her car’s interior. I think both my sister and I enjoy carrying on this serious-minded cleaning because (a) we take pleasure passing the moniker “dirt digger” back and forth between us and (b) it keeps Mom close in our hearts. I never clean without thinking of her and that reason alone elevates the menial tasks of cleaning to a loved and treasured occupation. Although I tire out easily and quickly these days, I always want to remain a keen dirt digger, even if it is just for a few minutes at a time.

And so, slowly, slowly, I am finding ways to fill all the time on my hands with both old as well as rediscovered interests. I’m looking forward to uncovering additional diversions to fill in the otherwise uneventful hours of my day. I’m in no rush, I have all the time in the world.

Lovingly Disciplined

“The Lord disciplines those He loves” (He 12:6)  

When my sisters and I became teenagers and we were being sassy or mean to each other my Dad always said the same thing, “You need an attitude adjustment!”  We knew we had better change our tone and behavior or he would get busy changing our attitude himself, whether we liked it or not. It wasn’t always easy to swallow down the feelings and words but we knew there would be no second warning and his discipline would be swift to follow unless we obeyed.

Even though as adults we have outgrown our parents’ discipline, we will never outgrow God’s. Titus 2:11-12 tells us, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.”  The Greek word used here for “teaches”, according to Lexical Aid to the New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates, is the same as “discipline” and means “to bring up a child; to educate”.  It particularly relates to the moral and spiritual nurture and training of a child in order to influence their conscious will and actions, or in other words our attitude and actions.

We are instructed in He 12:7 to “endure hardships as discipline; God is treating us as His children.”  Further, in verses 9-11, the Hebrew writer explains that our earthly fathers disciplined us as they thought best and we respected them for it. However, God disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness and live. No discipline is pleasant to endure, but if we submit to it and allow God to train us by it, it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace within us.

When we feel ourselves under the discipline of our Father, we need to:

  1. Let it happen by submitting to Him and not ignoring His parental rights to us.  Although God teaches each of us differently through varying earthly trials, I think most of the lessons center around the same types of things I have learned from Him over the years, for example: greater dependence on Him, humility, training for even more difficult matters in the future, the difference between right and wrong, and to pull our attention back to Him and away from ourselves.
  2. Allow Him to change our mindset or attitude and then to purposefully and willingly let our actions be impacted by Him.  Our actions are a direct result of our attitude. If we allow Him to have control of our mind, then our actions, or acts in the body, will follow.
  3. Remember the reason for discipline, as described in He 12:10, is “so that we may share in His holiness.”

Holiness unambiguously explains God’s fundamental character; He is holy. We are called to be holy, to be made in the image of Christ. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord”, He 12:14.

We become holy through faith in the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ (He 10:10). When we are united to Christ through baptism we take off the old self of sin and death and become a new creation. We are born again as a child of God and, just as earthly children resemble their parents and have similar characteristics, we take on the attributes of Christ, including His holiness. “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written ‘Be holy because I am holy” (1Pe 1:15-16) and “You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Pe 3:11-12). The apostle Peter also says to, “prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled…As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. ” (I Pe 1:13-14). This brings us full circle back to the idea that our mind, or attitude, is directly linked to our actions. Our attitude and actions reveal whether we have learned from His discipline and allowed Him to teach us how to make an “attitude adjustment”, to live “holy and Godly lives”.

Discipline is hard but the end result is definitely worth it because it’s benefit is of immeasurable worth. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Ro 6:22)!

To the glory of God!

Amy