Change gonna come

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa, today’s guest contributor, for sharing this beautiful piece with everyone.*

summer_haze_by_purpledino92-d5b2qf6

Summer Haze by Purple Ino 92

This weekend I saw it. Looking out my living room window I got the distinct impression that fall had arrived. Perhaps the approaching storm played tricks with the refractions of the sun’s rays, but the world outside was glazed in a more muted, mellow glow.

Mid-July in the Deep South is vaporous, a steam bath. Humidity spikes and the air is thick and muggy. Clothes stick like second skin as I stop glistening and start sweating. The autumn hue was deceptive. One step outside and reality hit like a warm, damp wash cloth. Still – the hint was there. Fall’s on the way.

I’m cognizant of the subtle, seasonal changes in the sun’s light long before the calendar or temperature confirms my observation. In the depth of winter I’m encouraged that warmer days are in my future. When everything wilts under summer’s sweltering haze, I take heart. It won’t be long before the trees adorn themselves in shades of vibrant color, citron to deep burgundy, and stand out in brilliant contrast to the cloudless, cobalt blue sky. I enjoy spring and fall the most. I prefer their moderate climes to the penetrating cold of winter or summer’s stifling heat.

Life appears to emulate the cyclical rhythm of nature. We have new beginnings and periods of growth (spring); the out-growing and passing of the familiar and established (fall). Like winter, the cold, hard grip of loss: loved ones, jobs, health, finances and the like leave us buried. Entombed under an avalanche of adversity we wonder, “Will I ever see the light of day again?” Like the onslaught of a long, hot summer we find ourselves under intense, relentless pressure and cry, “Will someone PLEASE, turn off the heat!” Depending which season life finds me in determines how tightly I cling to it. At times I want to move in, unpack and stay forever; other times I’m running hard for the nearest exit – if I can find one.

I’m thankful that in life, just as in nature, God sends hints that change gonna come. I praise Him for those snippets of hope that remind me that this too will pass. Reinforced with fresh, clearer vision, I’m rejuvenated to continue my walk of faith, confident that He knows exactly where I’m at and He’s in control.

Outside my window the sun now blazes and the temperature matches its intensity. I’m not concerned – I’ve seen what’s coming and I’m prepared for change.

A few of my favorite things

*Today’s post is a real breath of fresh air! Thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for sharing this piece with all of us.*

IMG_1741Ragweed and pear trees and eyes that keep itching.

Mud tracks and boot prints that get in my kitchen.

Raining and puddles that happen in spring.

These are a few of my favorite things.

 

Beetles and chiggers, mosquitoes and ants.

Raking and weeding and potting some plants.

Yard work and bug bites that come in the spring.

These are a few of my favorite things.

 

Seed pods and pollen, to always be sweeping.

Ivy that’s poison I always am keeping.

New buds and babies appearing in spring.

These are a few of my favorite things.

 

When the storms come.

When the grass grows.

When there’s work to do.

I simply remember that I am so glad.

And then I don’t feel ….. so… bad.

 

IMG_1756Well, you get the drift!  I love the newness of spring, the landscapes being filled with thickness and dimension, the smell of fresh earth as it comes to life, witnessing the bursts of flora, and the precious fauna beginnings, and humbly comprehending that the earth itself is responsible for this amazing transformation.

Wouldn’t it be tragic if that wonderment depended on us?  Praise God that He has it all under control, and the cosmos marches steadily on.  I often reflect on how fortunate we are that there is order in the universe, and the circadian structure never varies.  Can you imagine the chaos otherwise?  He assures us that we need not be concerned.

Whew!  Thank goodness.I can stop staying up nights and check that one off my ‘worry’ list!  Now if He could just do something about those pesky bugs……………..

 

We plan. God laughs.

pauseOur plans for the entire weekend fell apart.

A workshop I planned on hosting had to be rescheduled due to dangerous weather conditions. I felt so disappointed. I’d been looking forward to the chance to see old friends and benefit from the shared experience, strength, and hope during the workshop. I was elated that my new friends would have the chance to meet my old friends, too. But since safety was prioritized over excitement (wisely so), we cancelled the night before. At the last minute, I found myself frantically calling people who were planning to attend, letting them know about the cancellation and that the workshop would be rescheduled. In the hubbub of cancelling plans, I forgot to cancel our restaurant reservation and later apologized profusely to the woman who called to be sure they had the right date on their calendar.

The next day, we had plans to attend my sister’s 30th birthday celebration. I made some fabulous hummus and planned on picking up some veggies to go along with it. I picked out a yellow sundress for my baby to wear and my new shirt and khaki pants for myself. I even ensured I’d have plenty of time to bathe and genuinely fix my hair–and that’s rare these days, folks.

But Sunday morning, my niece fell victim to a stomach virus, and vomit was the cancellation culprit. My little sister changed her plans and went on a mini road trip instead. I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to celebrate her birthday with her and sad that I wouldn’t get to spend time with the rest of my family, either, especially on such a beautiful day.

My mentor reminded me over the course of the weekend that, “We plan. God laughs.”

This might be the theme of my life.

I am anal to the nth degree when it comes to planning. I do not like last-minute changes. I certainly do not like guests showing up unannounced. I want to know the date, time, and menu for holiday gatherings at least one month in advance, and preferably two. When I managed the career services department at my alma mater, I created a year-long to-do list, month by month, and my former administrative assistant still uses it to this day to keep herself and others on task and working ahead to avoid scrambling and last-minute chaos.

God knows all of this about me. And He certainly is amused by my inability to give in, flex my schedule, and let go of my plans. I believe this is why He has repeatedly put me in situations that require flexibility, adaptability, and total lack of control. I have made progress. But I’m still a planner by nature.

This weekend, I learned that there are always gifts to be discovered when plans go awry.

Our daughter napping during the rain this weekend

Our daughter napping during the rain this weekend

As my husband, daughter, and I waited for any stragglers who might show up at the cancelled workshop, I brewed a pot of coffee and enjoyed a doughnut we picked up on our way. A friend showed up to post a cancellation notice on the door, handmade by his daughter (and totally adorable). Two of his beautiful and rambunctious daughters accompanied him, and they had the chance to meet our baby and hold her and squish her cheeks for a while. As I nursed my baby in the next room, I heard through the old, thin walls my husband chatting with my friend, discussing landscaping and offering help to one another. The heavy downpour sounded light, steady, and calming to me as I sat right next to a large window, watching the rain cascade onto the shrubs, sipping a hot cup of coffee as my daughter nursed her way to sleep.

Sunday, after the birthday party was cancelled, I found myself with an entire day that required no plans, no schedule, and no need to wear real clothes. So I stayed in my comfy pajamas, wrote my teaching philosophy in preparation for a job interview, and took a much-needed nap that afternoon while my daughter did the same.

Sunset on the porch with my baby

Sunset on the porch with my baby

As I watched the sunset with her on our rickety old porch later that evening, I thanked God for the changes in our plans. I had needed time to breathe, time to write, and time to rest. I just didn’t know it because I hadn’t stopped moving long enough to admit to myself how totally exhausted I felt.

I plan. And sometimes God laughs.

This weekend, I think He just shook His head, orchestrated changes, and smiled as He watched me savor my coffee, gaze at my sleeping baby, cover myself with three blankets at three o’clock in the afternoon, and admire the damp, green life light up in our yard as the sun melted over it.

 

 

New names

*Thanks to Amy Driskill for pitching in as today’s guest contributor. Happy spring time, everybody!*

009Spring time is a time of growth and renewal.  I look around me now, and I see wildflowers popping up all over my yard.   As I sit here, I think about how God has changed me.  It made me curious about how God changes people.  In particular, I became curious about name changes.  Every year for the past four years I’ve volunteered at Royal Family Kids Camp.  We have a song that sticks with me throughout the year.  The words are:

 

I will change your name.  You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely, or afraid.

I will change your name.  Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one.

Faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks My face.

 

This song resonates with me because I was so wounded lonely and afraid.  I was all of those things.  I was all too familiar with the hurt look in the eyes of the children at camp.  I had been where they are.  I spent years in that dark lonely place.  It took the light of God and the renewing power of His grace that transformed me into one who is confident and joyful.

In the Bible, God changed Abram into the faithful servant Abraham and Sarai into Sarah, which means princess.  It is fitting considering that she would be the mother of the tribes of Israel.  Paul had a significant change in his life as he walked down the road.  Saul was a man whose goal in life was to kill Jews, but after an encounter with God he was a changed man.  He became the great apostle Paul bringing many into the family of God.

You see, he doesn’t just change our names.  He adopts us into his family and makes us new.   That which was lost and broken was brought into his presence and was not only restored, but we are made into a new beautiful creation as a child of God.

Love in a cup

I’m never been a big “gift” person. In Chapman terms, giving and receiving gifts is not my main love language.

I’d much rather have someone spend an hour with me over coffee having genuine conversation, as I plan to do in an hour at McDonald’s with my friend Mary.

Or visit me at my house, and tell me how cute my pets are, and take a hike with me in the woods.

Or send me a card reminding me of the reasons we’re friends.

Or, if you like, give me a gift. But please, share some of yourself with me.

If you know me well, then you probably know that I love handmade, personalized, and antique objects. I like meaningful things. I’d rather receive an old copy of Amelia Bedelia from my mom who cleaned out her library than a brand new perfume set from Bath & Body Works. It’s just how I am, and I’ve always been that way. The thought and motivation matter more to me than the object itself.

James has figured this out, and he’s great at giving me quirky gifts which, admittedly, other women would probably turn their noses up at. He cleared an entire field out for me and planted crab apple trees for Valentine’s Day. I have a bowl full of odd objects he picks up for me when he’s out and about in the wilderness doing his job. Yesterday he surprised me by covering our yard with crimson clover seed because I’m enthralled with the way it looks every time we pass it by.

And then there’s our little flowery love cup which we keep refilling with bits of tiny flowers from the yard. There are new ones blooming daily, and there’s always something beautiful to bring inside to share with each other.

(Or the cookie jar directly behind the flowery love cup which I try to fill regularly with homemade oatmeal cookies, which is certainly more significant in James’ opinion.)

I’m grateful my cup is full these days and that I have the chance to fill up others’, too, whether it’s with flowers, hugs, prayers, homemade cookies, or phone calls. It’s not necessarily the cost of what I put in that matters; it’s just that I seek to fill it.

 

–For even more of my ramblings on love and gratitude, visit my personal blog.

Spring cleaning

Since writing about some of my very deep, personal struggles on my blog, I have noticed that my friends (and sometimes people I don’t even know well) have started sharing their own struggles  with me and with other people in their lives.

One friend told me she’s ready to seek counseling and is open to whatever God wants to show her through it. This decision came after reaching a  point of desperation overwhelming enough to cause her to see that she might not be able to do it all on her own any more.

Another friend admitted to me a few days ago that things in his life were out of control and seemed hopeless. I don’t know any details, but he is considering talking to someone about it because it’s eating him alive.

A girl I don’t know very well but keep in touch with also admitted to me that she’s had a hard time her entire life forgiving her parents, both of whom abused her, and moving on into healthy relationships with the people she loves.

Of course, it’s natural for people to feel more comfortable opening the doors to their own dusty closets full of skeletons if they feel that you’re not going to be disgusted by the dry bones, or worse yet, festering wounds. If you share your own shameful secrets, God might use you to unlock the doors of countless others. If you keep the doors locked and hide your painful past, He will find other ways to convince them to clean out the dark spaces and make way for healing, but you may miss the chance to see the transformation. This is what I did for years–I refused to open all of myself up, buried my pain and secrets, and blocked God from shining through my  cobwebs.

For me, removing all the padlocks and airing out my proverbial basement cleared the clutter out of my brain. It freed me to focus on other things–beautiful, truthful, hopeful, and joyful things. It let the Light in and emptied spaces that had been occupied by sadness for way too long. It swept away the decay, and lovely little things began to grow in its place.

Spring cleaning has been good for my soul.

I’m praying it will be good for my precious friends as well.

 

 

I am making everything new.

Today I’m grateful for spring. The daffodils have risen up out of the cold, brown mulch. We can barely keep the bird feeder full. Most of the trees along our trails in the woods are now covered with tiny, closed buds.

And I’m grateful for my heart, which God has renewed. Yes, He does that day after day. But I’m talking about a slow, painful winnowing of who I am to reveal the real Bethany underneath.

“Behold, I am making everything new.”  Revelations 21:5