Thursday, July 31, 2008

All We Can Do

"Do not let your growth in holiness depend upon surrounding circumstances, but rather constrain those circumstances to minister to  your growth. Beware of looking onward, or out of the present in any way, for the sanctification of your life. The only thing you can really control is the present––the actual moment that is passing by. Sanctify that from hour to hour and you sanctify your whole life; but brood over the past, or project yourself into the future, and you will lose all. The little act of obedience, love, self-restraint, meekness, patience, devotion, offered to you actually, is all you can do now, and if you neglect that to fret about something else at a distance, you lose your real opportunity of serving God."

--From the wise words of Mrs. Lear, a woman who lived throughout much of the 19th century.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

where my windows are these days

When we used to drive to the east coast to visit my grandparents, one thing that kept us occupied was watching for particular signs, VW bugs, or anything else that might pass by of interest. We made a game of it. Most of you have played the same game.

I've been reminded of that lately as I've started checking out passing cars to see if the driver has the windows up or down.  Even on a day as hot as 100 degrees, I'm amazed at the number who have their windows down. They are taking seriously the concept that around town driving without the AC saves fuel.

I could write a whole post on air conditioning, and how much, for the most part, I dislike it. When we drive with the windows down, as we do as much as possible these days, I am so much more in touch with the world. Yup, I notice the heat, the scorch coming from the tarmac, smell the fumes, hear the birds, sense the breeze, and just feel like I'm really living, not insulated in a soundless, cold box.  Also, of course, it takes me back to our life in Ghana, and that's always a good thing.

Photo: My grandfather driving my dad (front seat) and uncle with the windows up. It looks like winter from their coats, and from my dad's position, they are looking for something. They are at Gettysburg, probably figuring out some battle.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Old Age is Not for Sissies

I've seen this saying hanging on the wall in the care center where my dad spent his last days.  It's a phrase often spoken there as well. And it's true.

It's kind of sad that for many, when life is supposed to get easier––job challenges, financial struggles, rebellious teenagers all a thing of the past––health challenges arrive on the scene.  And it may not just be one's own health, but that of a spouse or other loved ones. Broken hips, bad knees, cataracts, uncooperative hearts ... the effects of those carefree beach days soaking up the sun start messing with the skin ...  Almost overnight one realizes he or she is falling apart. Then all the character building, stamina, and faith garnered over the past years gets called into action as one bravely faces the challenges of each new day.

I think one of the hardest things is losing friends to death. Being the one that is still here. It gets very lonely.

So, the strong get going, facing each new trial head on with faith, determination, acceptance, and a lot of guts. Indeed, no sissies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hel-lo !!

The guy behind the counter at S*m's Club didn't seem fully focused when I asked him to add 1200 minutes to my mother's phone card. That started it all. My suspicion that it wasn't done correctly.  Then my mother told me that when she last used the card, it didn't sound like there was anything like 1200 minutes on it. I immediately assumed the worst. 

So I used the card to make a call and heard there were 1000-something minutes left on the card. That could not be right.

I gathered my evidence and called the phone card customer service and got a guy most likely on some other continent. He looked back on the records. "Yes, on June 28 there were over 300 minutes on the card. Oh yes, and I see the 1200 added there as you said."

"Okay," I reply, "Can you explain to me where all those minutes could go? She hasn't used that much, and 300 plus 1200 equals 1500." 

"Yes," the guy replied, " That's what I'm saying, one thousand, five hundred minutes."  I began to get exasperated. "Where could those minutes have gone? In my math, 300 plus 1200 is 1500, not 1000. How could she have used 450 minutes just like that?"

"Ma'am," came a polite, patient reply, " That's what I'm saying. 300 plus 1200 makes 1500 minutes. You have 1500 minutes on the card."

How embarrassing. When I made the call with the card, that's what the operator had been saying.  "One thousand five hundred minutes."  All along I was hearing "1,050 minutes."

I don't find it difficult to laugh at myself. "Oops ! I suppose I've made your day," I joked, "...this is a phone call you'll go home and tell about tonight--the erratic, insane, mathmatically-challenged woman."

"No problem ma'am ... well, yes, it is a little funny."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Closed for the Summer

I have other nieces I also have fun with––these aren't the "great" nieces, but my brother's girls. I just love visiting them, or "hanging out" with them when they come to see us. Both are full of life and are always involved (at ages 3 and 6) in something interesting. The oldest is home schooled by her mom, and this is her study area. It's fun to peek in here. Such a busy desk with remnants of all kinds of things going on. I remember when her parents lovingly prepared this room for her--I loved the pink and yellow theme, now covered by art, calendars, her little "to do" lists, etc. But, home school is over for the year, and her office is closed for now. See you in September!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

happy birthday

A young friend of mine is moving on to her next 
year.  In some ways she seems older than what she is,
and in other ways, it seems like yesterday I brought 
her a yellow sun dress to celebrate her birth. She is 
a delight to all who know her, and, she can keep up 
with the best of us Austen readers. Her mother has 
taught her well and she's a rare young person who
thinks deeply about life. I happen to know that she 
also knows how to fast forward to the best parts of 
Pride and Prejudice!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Farmer's Daughters

I have such fun with these two little girls when I visit them. Sometimes I forget I'm their grrrrreat aunt, and not their aunt. (It begs the question, "Can I be old enough to be a great aunt?")  Our oldest nephew is a blueberry farmer, and at the end of the harvest, family members gather to glean what is left on the bushes. They usually get a lot, and have a good time doing it. I wish I lived close enough to take part, but I usually get a taste of the frozen berries sometime during the year. It's hot where they live farther south from us, and, as you can see, a drink is a desirable thing. 

Photo by their grammy, Lulu

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Phone Call from Heaven

A phone call from someone in heaven--during a memorial service? I've never experienced that before. But sure enough, in the middle of a sentence, the speaker excused himself and reached into his pocket to pull out his cell phone. Then began a conversation between him and Carol, who reached her heavenly home earlier this week. We were gathered amongst balloons, and refreshments of strawberries and ice cream, to celebrate her life.

Carol lived and died well. God allowed her time when she knew her death was imminent, to gather family around her to say good-bye, and to even make plans for her celebration (what she wanted her funeral to be called.)  More than likely with this phone call she was checking to see if her plans were being carried out. With great warmth and humor, the speaker bantered back and forth between his cell phone and the audience. It was so well done, and felt so real, we all thought we had just been with Carol again.

Carol fought her cancer for 2 1/2 years. I've never seen anyone with so much energy and passion for life, fight so long and so hard to live, yet accept what she had been given. At all times she sought to glorify God through her illness. Carol wrote a daily blog to keep us updated; my favorite was one of the  last she personally wrote, when she knew her fight was finished.

She was a mentor and encourager to me personally, and helped me a good deal with my work. I will miss her––not just for her help to me, but for her bright spirit, smile, vast knowledge, and extreme enthusiasm for, and interest in, life. What an example of how to live!
Last year I sent her a link to an article in Chr*stianity Today by former White House Press Secretary Tony Sn*w, also our most favorite news commentator, about his cancer and the blessings he had found in it. I've heard her refer to it more than once. How ironic that today––the day we say good-bye for now to Carol––that Tony Sn*w also loses his battle with cancer. (I wonder if they've met yet inside heaven's gates?) 

About both Carol and Tony you could say, as Abraham Lincoln said, "It's not the number of years in your life, but the life in your years." They both filled their years with life.  Many people prayed for Carol to be healed. I'm sure they did for Tony as well. And for both  you could say, while they were not cured, they are healed. 

photo not my own

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Gentle Rain

It was so good to wake up to rain today, The Gardner (a.k.a. Spouse) called it a "British rain." I was happy not to have to go anywhere, for I love a rainy day at home. After a week of tropical-type afternoon thunderstorms, this is a gentle, soaking, replenishing rain.  Of course the Gardener is thrilled for his garden and stubborn new grass,  but mostly he said, "I hope everyone is looking at this rain and remembering." Remembering our beseeching God for rain last year in the midst of one of the worst draughts.  Take note, for God is answering.

Meanwhile, it would be nice to take a nap on the porch today. We say about these days, "It's a British kind of day."  Time for a cup of tea. Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


It was great to clean out the garage the other day. I was surprised to find my nursing school uniforms––I bet they were transferred from the attic to the garage on the way to the trash and I decided to hold on to them a little longer. But, yellowed with age, they really need to go now.

I unpacked them all, still stiff with starch from their last washing, the collars and bibs pristinely packed in the zippered laundry bag that brought them to and from the cleaners. I saw my name stamped on each piece.  Blue and white stripes. How proud we were of them! Yes we complained about the ten minutes it took to get into them (5 buttons at the cuff, studs and other complex contraptions to attach the collar, bib and apron, and the secret folded Kleenex clipped on to the back of our hair to hold our caps on.) Yes we'd complain, but I know we were proud. I think deep down we didn't mind the limp bustle in the back of the uniform, or wearing the so out-of-it mid-calf long skirt (unheard of in the late 60s/early 70s). I think we rather liked the white stockings and proper nursing shoes ... proud probably because of the rich 100-year history of our school, and for its reputation for producing quality nurses ... proud because we were making it through the rigorous academics.

The summer of our senior year we got to wear whites––after all we were team leading and working full time as nurses in our chosen area of leadership. So when graduation arrived we all decided to cut off those long uniforms and hem them knee-length for graduation. What could they say, anyway? We were at Columbia University in the late 60s--rebellion was a part of us.

And nothing was said about our little deviation as we marched out onto the lush green lawn tucked down among the tall Manhattan skyscrapers, wearing our student uniforms for the last time. There was a sense of freedom in the small adventure of our shortened skirts, signifying an awareness that we would soon be on our own to make our own nursing judgements and decisions. 

I decided to keep the best uniform, wash it, and put it away. After all, I have a granddaughter now. With both her mom and grandmother nurses, she may dream about Florence Nightengale herself someday!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Live in the Moment

Father Tim said, "I believe if I were charged with having a goal, it would be to live without fretting––to live more fully in the moment, not always huffing about as I've done in recent years ... to live humbly––and appreciatively––with whatever God furnishes. Yes, that would be my goal." (from Light From Heaven by Jan Karon). 

I need to hear this today and every day!

Friday, July 04, 2008


It's really quiet around here. Everyone seems to have gone somewhere. But we're here, longing for some time away to rest. So we are, we're going away right here. We have a wonderful back porch where we can sit and read and nap and eat––listen to the birds and look at the trees. You can't beat it, and with gas prices what they are, it's a good bargain. The phone won't ring much and we don't have to check our email. The fireworks were Thursday night, along with glorious symphony music.  And the flag is flying at the front door. We're set. And we're thankful for the freedom we enjoy in this country. Have a happy fourth.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Small Book

It was just a little book---Beatrix Potter sized--but it caught our attention and entered our minds and souls. Nine women, on an unusually cool summer evening, reached for their reading glasses to share underlined favorite quotes from The Quotidian Life, as we joined in yet another book club evening. 

We usually try to make these times a tad on the festive side, for doesn't that add to the richness of life? We set a pretty table, light some candles, and for this book, enjoyed delicious peach cobbler and fruit pizza, with plantain chips and chocolate covered sunflower seeds on the side. And oh yes, the fruit drinks from Tr*der Joe's added a lot.

But back to this tiny, 88-paged paperback book, which was actually a talk given by the author. Some would-be readers were put off by the title: The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work  by Kathleen Norris (who wrote The Cloister Walk.) But actually the author takes us beyond the seemingly "drudgery" of housework to the "mysterious way that the daily or 'quotidian' can open us up to the transforming presence of God."

Further: "Laundry, liturgy and women's work all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings. But they have a considerable spiritual import, and their significance for Christian theology, the way they come together in the fabric of faith, is not often appreciated."

I'll probably quote from this little volume again. For there is much, much in it to ponder.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Really True Jewels

Think about it: there are things in life that are the same whether we are rich or poor.  No matter our "status," we see the same moon in the same sky, we can cool our toes in the same oceans and lakes, we go to the same parks and picnic at the same beaches ... smell the same flowers, gaze at the same trees, skies, stars, clouds ... and I could go on. I heard someone say this recently and it caused me to pause and think. 

These gifts that we live with each day are the true diamond-studded jewels in our lives. They are the real riches––there for us all to gaze at, wonder at ... and worship the One Who Created Them All.

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