#quiet · #seeingclearly · #shelterathome · #ShelterunderHiswing · Christmas · Eastern bluebirds · Moravian Love Feast · Spirituality · Wake Forest Lovefeast · Wake Forest University

Glimpses of Blue

Suddenly I am seeing flashes of brilliant blue all around.

If you read my last blog, Seeing Clearly, you know that I recently went through cataract surgery and had PanOptix implants. After a lifetime of blurry vision, the world is brighter! And one of my joys has been seeing bluebirds flitting through the air in our yard, swooping down to pick juicy bugs from the grass, then coming to rest on a tree limb or fence. They seem to be everywhere!

Chuck Porter, Flickr.com

Years ago we put up a bluebird house on the pole of our clothesline and each spring I gently pull down the front door and view the bright blue eggs nestled in their bed of pine straw and grass. We usually have at least two clutches each year and I feel like they are part of the family.

I thought that our bluebirds went south for the winter, but I read an article that said many Georgia bluebirds stay in their breeding grounds and are even joined by Canadian and Northeastern ones looking for warmer temperatures. I love the idea that our bluebirds want to stay near home and welcome their Northern friends!

I never knew so many were living in our trees and bushes until my eyes were opened. What else has gone unnoticed by me?

This Christmas season, despite the inconveniences of Covid, I don’t want to miss a thing.

I am resigned to the fact that my calendar is bare this December. I won’t be traveling to North Carolina to visit with family and friends or getting together here at home for social events. I am thankful that our son and his wife have been able to work from home and have been very careful about being exposed to the virus, so we will have them and our granddog Molly here for Christmas. But I know many who are forgoing seeing their children this year and others who have recently lost a loved one. Some are sick and/or quarantined. The risk of a “Blue Christmas” is high.

I am most despondent about not having the beautiful music programs this time of year. My church is doing a wonderful job of keeping as many traditions going as possible, but I will miss the excitement of a packed sanctuary with voices and instruments lifting to the heavens.

Online services fill in the gaps. Sunday night I sat by the Christmas tree and put in my earbuds to listen to the virtual Moravian Lovefeast from my alma mater, Wake Forest University. At first, I was put off by the empty chapel and the socially distanced musicians in masks. But as I listened in the quiet, I noticed that I heard the music much more precisely through my headphones. I could differentiate the sopranos and tenors and follow the musical lines. The strains of the brass band and majestic organ soared. Without the distraction of other people rustling around, the melodic strains came through in a way that touched my heart. Although the college has shared the service online for years, I never thought to join in until now.

Click here to watch the 2020 WFU Lovefeast on YouTube.

My prayer for this particularly still Christmas season is that I will take in the lights, sounds, and smells with a renewed intensity. When I read an Advent devotion, hear a carol, or bite into a sugar cookie, I want to feel that same spark of joy that excites me when I see the vivid azure feathers of the bluebirds. I want to bask in the warmth of the tree during my morning coffee time and glory in the cold air as I take my walks.  With more down time I want to listen for God’s voice to make this a time for spiritual growth and to be sensitive to ways I can reach out to others.

            How are you making Christmas 2020 special?

#quiet · #ShelterunderHiswing · Running · solitude · Spirituality

Finding Quiet

I stood by my open kitchen window Thursday evening relishing the quiet. No NPR played on the radio; no sounds of television came from the den. The refrigerator didn’t hum, and the air conditioner didn’t click on.  Hurricane Zeta had come through the night before, pulling down trees and causing us to be without electricity all day. Despite the inconvenience, I found the stillness relaxing. (Thank you to NGEMC for getting us back on by 8 pm!)

My evening with no power got me to thinking about how much I fill my time with some sort of chatter — I’m usually listening to the radio, a podcast or an audiobook when I’m around my house or in the car. Some programs are spiritually oriented, some are educational, and some are for fun. There’s nothing wrong with keeping my mind active and informed, but am I spending too much time not listening to the quiet?

The last few years I’ve been working on learning to be quiet with God. It is not easy when my phone is there offering chatter 24/7.

I used to always run with music playing in my earbuds until one spring evening when I went for a run near my house after work. A little Jack Russell terrier charged out at me and a teenage girl driving to church hit and killed him. He ran right under her wheel and she never saw him. Of course she was devastated. I was too. I kept thinking that if I had not had the earbuds in I would have been more aware of the dog and kept him out of the road. What if it had been a child?

Now if I’m running by myself, I almost always leave my earbuds at home. God and I converse, and I try not to do all the talking. The same is true when I’m in my garden. I have declared it a ‘no electronics zone’ and I spend that time praying for people who come to mind and bringing up problems to God. I find that my ADD brain functions better when I am not distracted by multi-tasking.

Keith and I live in a house built in 1859, and I love to imagine what life was like for my predecessors, with no I-phone, radio, television or gramophone. As I stood in the kitchen Thursday evening, I thought about how they would have heard these sounds in the days before electricity —the hush of an autumn day coming to an end with the music of the birds and other animals settling in for the night.

I wonder if they ever got bored with the quiet. Or did their time without constant entertainment bring them closer to God?

In I Kings 19, we are told that as Elijah was fleeing from Jezebel, God told him to go up to the mountain. While he was there, a hurricane wind “ripped the mountains and shattered the rocks” but God wasn’t in the wind. God also wasn’t in the earthquake that shook the ground, or the fire that swept through. But after the fire, God was found in the “gentle and quiet whisper,” and Elijah was able to hear his voice.

What if Elijah had not heard that whisper from God because he had filled his ears with other noises?  I need the quiet to be able to hear the breathing of the Holy Spirit.

Where do you find your time to be quiet with God?

#shelterathome · #shelteringinplace · #ShelterunderHiswing · Spirituality

Withering in the Sun

I have a basket that I picked up for a dollar at a flea market and each summer I fill it with moss and plant flowers in it. This year I had an overabundance of purple, pink and blue impatiens so I planted them in the basket and put it in my flower garden in a sunny spot that needed some color.

Impatiens are a shade loving plant, however, and by the end of a week, they were looking frazzled. Despite watering, the leaves were turning yellow and the flowers had hardly bloomed. They were withering in the hot Georgia sun.

I moved it by the back steps under the cool shade of the magnolia tree and within a few days the flowers had perked up. They started growing and took on a rich hue. I think I heard them give a sigh of relief as they relaxed in their new spot.

My colorful basket of impatiens

Plants get stressed if they have too much of a good thing – too much sun, water or fertilizer can be just as bad as too little. The same is true of us—we all know that too much food, wine or sun can cause us problems. Even good things like exercise or being with friends can be overdone. Like my basket of impatiens, we need balance.

Lately I’ve felt out of balance with too much time at home. Even though I love my house and yard and yearned to spend more time there while I was working, this coronavirus has led to too long of a stretch without seeing something other than the beautiful view out my backyard. My usual summer trips to see family and friends in North Carolina have been put on hold and I will not get to run in the Peachtree on July 4th for the first time in fifteen years. The virus seems like a giant catalyst that keeps knocking out plans like an enormous set of dominoes.

Like everyone, I’m tired of it all. But since Keith and I are technically  senior citizens,  I can’t afford to be lax about social distancing. I have to keep asking God what he wants to teach me during this special time.

I was with a friend this week who is dealing with serious health, financial and family issues, yet always keeps a positive attitude. I mentioned that I felt bad to bring up any of my concerns around her and she said something profound. She said that each of us has our burdens to bear and that our problems are important to us. That was refreshing to hear, especially from someone who could easily have said, “You’re right, you have nothing to complain about!”

Let’s just put it out there — it’s okay to be feeling down occasionally these days. It’s a crazy time. But God is still there, and he has something to teach each of us.

This passage from James was read at my church’s service Sunday and caught my attention:

  My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4, CEB


        

This pandemic is definitely a test and it is like a college placement exam which goes on and on. In order to get through it, I need my faith to build up my endurance muscle. I need to listen for God to remind me what is important.

If I will allow God to work, James tells me that I will come out on the other side more mature and complete. And that is as important as a trip to the beach (maybe!).

Each time I pass the thriving basket of impatiens, I’m reminded to take a breather and let go of whatever is stressing me. I can rest in God’s grace and be thankful for all He has to offer me today.

#shelterathome · #shelteringinplace · #ShelterunderHiswing · Spirituality

What color are you today?

Some days are yellow.
Some are blue.
On different days I’m different too.
You’d be surprised how many ways
I change on Different Colored Days.

My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss

One of my favorite picture books is My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. This is not your typical Seuss book with weird made up rhyming words and cats in hats destroying a house, but a lovely poem about emotions, illustrated in vibrant colors by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

You can listen to a read aloud here.

Children love this book because they are so in touch with their feelings, unlike us grown-ups who like to pretend we are okay when we are not. When I read the second verse to a group of kindergartners – On Bright Red Days how good it feels to be a horse and kick my heels! – they eagerly nod their heads, relating to how it feels to have that energy surging through them. Likewise, On Purple Days I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone, brings the same nods, perhaps a bit self-consciously, as they all know that unhappy days come along too.

This book came to mind this morning as I woke up feeling gloomy. The usual ups and downs of life are still going on and I’m also struggling to deal with the creeping depression that threatens to overtake me as I realize that we may be living with the fear and anxiety of COVID 19 for many more months.

Some days, of course, feel sort of Brown.
Then I feel slow and low, low down.

Throughout my life, books have been a great source of comfort and I believe strongly that God puts certain books in my hands at just the right time. The other day a pile of books on the table in my bedroom fell over, revealing a little devotional book I bought a few months ago at McKay’s Used Books. The Prayers of David relates different episodes in David’s life and suggests Psalms that he may have written at that time. Hmm, maybe God wanted me to pick that little volume up!

The Psalms are the perfect part of the Bible to be reading during these unsettling times because they cover so many of the emotions we may be feeling – fear, sadness, anger, uncertainty – and assure us that we are not alone – kind of like Dr. Seuss. They let me know that it’s okay to feel whatever emotions come up.

Then come my Black Days. MAD. And loud.
I howl. I growl at every cloud.

Today the chapter heading in The Prayers of David was The Lord is My Provider, and I read this familiar verse:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
     till the storms of destruction pass by.
Psalm 57:1

I love the image here of only needing the shadow of God’s wing to protect me. No matter what my feelings may be, God is still taking care of me. He doesn’t care if I’m “happy Pink” or if “Everything is gray” – He’s going to love me either way.

I know that God has me and my family under His wing. My worries are small compared to so many. He will take care of my needs.

Today is a day for hunkering down under the shadow of God’s wing and letting the storm go by. I feel quiet, introspective and slow, sort of like a fish in the sea.

Green Days. Deep deep in the sea.
Cool and quiet fish. That’s me.

Tomorrow the sun will be out and my mood will be better. Perhaps tomorrow will be a yellow day!

Then comes a Yellow Day and Wheeee!
I am a busy, buzzy bee.