Tag Archives: thinking

Morning Walks

I suppose I am at heart really a morning person.  I used not to think so; but I’ve now decided there is no better way to start the day (assuming I’m also starting out in  prayer and fellowship with God) than walking down to the pond at the end of our road and watching the sunrise.

pond photos 001Today I had the presence of mind to take along the camera.  There were geese out on the water, surely forty or fifty; I saw the ripples before the geese came into view, and wondered, because there was no wind.

pond photos 007The sun was just over the trees, out past the pastures below the dam, which were still shining since the sun hadn’t yet burned off the dew; on the shadow-side of the dam, over the water, the air was still thick with mist.

pond photos 008The pond– technically, our neighbor who grew up here corrects me all the time, it is a lake and was built years ago for erosion control and water conservation– and the cow pastures and the trees and the (quite limited!) wildlife, are just a little bitty snippet of nature; but this close to the highway and civilization, it’s the most I’m going to find.  Yet there’s an inherent quiet there, a wordless peace.

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A Path for my Feet

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Have you ever been caught up in the movement of your life, something totally outside your control, yet working out in amazing ways?  The last week has been like that.  I thought my life this fall was going to go one way, but it has taken a slightly drastic change of direction… which has actually motivated me to make a few other changes I have been desiring to make for a long while.

The thing that amazes me is that none of those changes (mostly involving jobs) had been working out, causing me a lot of frustration.  And yet, now I see how it has all been working together as it needed to, in light of recent events I had not foreseen.  I am overwhelmed with the sense of God’s providential preparation for the way I would need to go, before I even knew I would be needing a way when the path I had been walking along suddenly caved in.

I think He is always doing that.  I’m just not always watching.


Longing….

(You can tell this was a spontaneous, candid thing… the grammar is abismal!…)

How is it that the soul may at once be such a curious mixture of longing, disappointment, and amazing, fulfilling pleasure? I think, whatever it is I long for, that I search in mad desperation for among any and every relationship in my life– you might say, it must be longing for heaven; and I think, actually, that is exactly right. It is, I do believe, a yearning for the ultimate, boundless fellowship that I think must be the essence of heaven– oneness with God, oneness with the body of Christ. Not just an eternity to go around “hanging out” with all the people on my list; I think, really, every moment must be eternity– and it must be that fellowship– relationship– LOVE is the essence of every moment. Perfect, complete, two-are-one love: between Christ and me, and me and all the saints. I don’t know how things will “happen” outside the bounds of time and space; but I think this is my deep heart-longing– in tiny measure fulfilled in friends and loved ones, in greater yet incomplete measure in my flesh-bound fellowship with God– to KNOW, to BE ONE WITH, to LOVE as do the Father and Son.


So, do you have a boyfriend?

Sorry, I’ve been thinking about the topic, so you get to hear about it.  Bear with me.

At this point in my life, as a twenty-three-year-old single girl, I am not looking to date.  I would rather cultivate friendships with both men and women while living with purpose toward God.  I want to be free to pursue Him and the way He has for me to go, wholeheartedly; and I want to be free to really get to know people without the distractions and false fronts inherent in dating relationships.

 Now, of course, I would like to get married.  But it seems to me that truly knowing someone as a friend is a good foundation upon which to build the deeper relationship that leads to marriage.  It doesn’t make any sense to me to jump into a semi-committed “dating” relationship in order to get to know someone.  I don’t know about you, but another thing that doesn’t make any sense to me is feeding romantic feelings until there is a mutual conviction that two people are completely right for each other (as in, for marriage to each other), and a mutual commitment to one another (as in, engagement).

Now, believe me when I say I know emotions don’t have an on/off button.  At least, mine don’t!  But I do know that they can be fed, and they can be released, and sometimes feeding them is not only foolish and emotionally dangerous, but distracting enough to displace God in my thinking.

If you think I’m totally wacky, well, I have enough personal experience to say I really know how strong feelings are, and that they don’t wait for your permission to attach themselves to someone.  But I’ve found that those kinds of feelings, outside of commitment, only serve to seriously mess up my spiritual perspective, and set me up for big heartache.  Taking every thought captive to Christ, laying down the object of my admiration in God’s hands, letting go of the right to “him”, completely trusting God to bring about the very, very best in every relationship—this is the way I’ve found to have the right perspective and keep my spiritual ears open.


Laundry

We have an old septic system.  It may have been here before they built this house, before the house that was originally standing on this foundation burned.  That would have been quite a few years ago.  Apparently our septic is feeling its age, because it has recently begun leaking and stinking and taking up all manner of annoying habits; and until we are able to find a solution, we family of five have been scrambling to reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain.

That is why we were at the laundromat tonight, and many other nights recently.  Thankfully, the nearby town has a 24-hour self-service place, since Mama and I tend to finally be able to focus on the washing when all the menfolk are tucked away in their beds.  Call us crazy, but that’s when it works for us.  You do what you gotta do.  Besides, after about 11 p.m., the place mostly clears out and there are enough washers open to do all your loads at once.  That is important.

We usually have to start by picking up drinks from Wal-Mart.  The drinks are important, but what is really important is being able to get cash back in $5 denominations or less for the change machine, which cannot digest anything larger.  I succumb to the temptation of bottled frappucinos in the coolers up front, and tell myself I need the caffeine to keep me awake.  Which is very unhealthy, but actually usually true.  My mother opts for bottled water, no doubt a much wiser choice.

Then it is on to the laundromat itself.  I noticed again tonight, the smell that hits you when you walk in the door.  It must be a particular fabric softener, or maybe a combination of all of them, but it is always familiar and brings back the summer I was 16 and babysat for a friend who was single-parenting his three kids in an apartment complex.  They always had copious amounts of laundry hanging around, and one of my assignments was to wash for them in the little on-site laundromat just off the pool.  I remember thinking with frustration that I could have had any given load dry in a much shorter time if I could hang it out on the line like we did at home, where acres and acres of unbroken pasture let the wind blow unhindered.

Our clothesline poles were the same ones my grandma had used when Mama was growing up.  They still stood, in a line parallel with the cement walkway that split my grandparents’ backyard, when the house was finally cleared out and sold.  My grandparents had lived there for over 50 years, all my mother’s lifetime.  The yard actually belonged to two houses, but when the childless neighbors died during Mama’s teens and the house was deeded over to my grandma, they took down the fence between them and it became one big expanse.  There was a grapevine behind the garage, an old one that had been there as long as the clothesline; underneath its short, rectangular trelis was an area just big enough for a couple of cousins to play house in with old pans and camp stools we ferretted out of the garage.

Mama talks about when she was growing up and they would buy chickens from the egg lady, Grandma wringing their necks and hanging them up to bleed out from the clothesline.

I was twelve when we cleared out Grandma and Grandad’s house.  Mama, myself and a friend of mine made one trip up there to clean out the garage and the house next door.  We slept on air mattresses and played marathon games of Monopoly after days of hard work and dug up my grandma’s peace roses from the front flowerbed and discovered a stash of babyfood from the early 80’s in a can pantry behind a hooked-back kitchen door.  We dug up the clothesline poles one night– it must have been the night before we left– and brought them back from West Texas to use in our own yard.

A couple years later, just after Grandad died, we moved into the house we had designed and built on 7 acres in the country.  It had a seperate apartment for Grandma, and a screened porch and lots of big windows.  The clothesline was finally reunited with the earth there, several yards off the back porch, and I learned what Mama already knew, that hanging out the washing is a peaceful time of a woman’s day, a time when she can think and breathe.

I was babysitting that summer when Mama called and told me something had happened that rocked our family and still hangs around in the back corners of our minds.  It turned out to be one of the most difficult and frightening summers we’ve ever faced.

It’s funny what all is wrapped up in the smell of fabric softener.

We did four large loads tonight, assembly-line fashion, me loading washers while Mama went down the line pouring in detergent, then again with quarters.  After the washers are all started, we have about 25 minutes to rest, so we usually retreat to the car instead of hanging around inside with the other folks and whatever absurd sitcom is blaring from the television.  Whether it’s in Spanish or English depends on who else is doing their laundry.

Tonight, Mama curled up under a blanket in the driver’s seat and took a nap.  It’s been a very long, at times dramatic, day.  I pulled out my notebook and pen, and proceeded to write a letter, while the satellite radio which came with the car several months ago (when we actually have to pay the bill I’m sure that little luxury will go by-the-by) played French music.  Mama almost had a double major, journalism and French, when she graduate college.  She even named me in French, although she knew from the get-go that no one else would ever pronounce it that way.  She doesn’t have much opportunity to speak or hear her second language, so when she found the French-language stations on her fancy-schmancy satellite radio, she was hooked.  And while she doesn’t usually subject my brothers to non-stop French pop, it has become tradition along with my frappucino that we will listen to her French music on laundry nights.  I even have my own favorite song now, which I think sounds like a French Simon and Garfunkle, and as near as I can tell, is called “I’m Not Listenin to You”….  Which makes me picture myself plugging my ears in front of someone and singing the chorus defiantly.

It was playing as the washers stopped, so Mama went in and began moving the laundry over while I finished the song.  Then I went in myself and fed quarters to the dryers.  She went back to sleep after that, and was sleeping so hard she didn’t wake when I finished my letter around 12:30, got out and went inside to unload the dryers and fold the laundry.  I was almost done when she finally came in– Daddy had called and woken her.  We loaded up the car and drove home, chatting a little on the way, she half-awake and exhaustion hitting me  as I sat quiet in the dark.


The Flu, or Dark Night of The Soul…

Last week we had the flu. It put both of my very, very energetic brothers in bed for days. Neither Mom, Dad, nor I had it quite so bad, although I did “take to my bed” for most of one day.  I suppose I was actually getting more sleep than usual, because I started having strange, vivid, multitudinous dreams every night– the last one I remember was Monday morning, and it involved septuplets which I couldn’t keep fed and cared for, but which (I think?) at some point, mercifully, metamorphosed into dolls so my neglect didn’t bring on some tragic end.  The last several days, I admit, I have not gone to bed early, which has helped to silence (or at least exhaust) my subconcious.

Being home, feeling aimless and unable to really do anything or go anywhere, made the week seem like an eternity– which is only a slight exageration.  One of my brothers stretched his fever over into Sunday, which meant I had to take off another day to stay home with him on Monday.  Thankfully, he did finally get over it, so he didn’t miss another week of school.

The oddest part of it all, for me, was the feeling of gloom that settled over me.  It really felt like a torturously long exile from life– a few days of the flu!  I couldn’t shake it.  Not only was I having wierd, paranoid dreams, but I was waking in the morning overshadowed by worry over something or other.  Things that, in the course of life, I just shake off, hand over to God, and don’t worry about.  All the spiritual questions that lay quietly in the back of my mind waiting for an answer rose up and knocked the universe out of whack.  My normal view of life, the desire to cheer, the trust in God, had mysteriously evaporated in a few days.  Laugh if you will; right now, writing this, I realize the overcast skies are clearing, but a few days ago, it was real and I couldn’t shake it!

I suppose times like that are inevitable in everybody’s life.  I know there are those who descend into that overcast valley for months and years at a time– perhaps I can sympathize a little with how they feel, stuck with the world passing by.

I feel challenged to reevaluate my own spiritual foundation, to strengthen the faith that so easily, amazingly, wavers.

This evening I came across a quote (from “Seeking the Face of God”, by Gary Thomas) which seemed particularly apropos:

When we love Christ only for what He brings us, including spiritual feelings, we are loving ourselves, not loving Him, regardless of the sacrifice we think we are offering. The dark night of the soul purifies our motivation and keeps us from becoming like the crowds in the New Testament who followed Jesus, not for His teaching, but for the miraculously supplied bread.

When we live by faith and not feelings, when we persevere no matter how dry we feel, Teresa of Avila said, we show we are among those souls who “would want the Lord to see that they do not serve Him for pay.” That is, we want the Lord to see that we will serve Him regardless of whether it gives us pleasure or pain. We will serve Him because He is God and Lord and because He has captured our hearts and our wills.



Slow down!!!!

I am sitting here, rather in a fog and wondering how I can take all the many items that ought to be on my to-do list (if I had one) and get them in order.  I’m not exactly sure if that is because there are a lot of things coming up, or there have been so many things going on.

Let’s see… I’ll begin a week ago today.  After a long day at work, my mother, one brother and I left around 9 p.m. for a six-hour drive to see my grandmother in West Texas, who has been in and out of the hospital since Christmas with pneumonia.  We arrived about 3:00, dropped into bed, got up in the morning, visited with aunt, uncle, cousins, cousin’s delightful babies, and grandma, got back in the car after dinner, and arrived home about 1:30 Sunday morning.  I was able to do all the driving on the home trip– a first for me, although the combination of sweet tea, satelite radio, sleeping co-travellers and an extremely bright moon on the landscape worked wonders for keeping me awake.  I did a lot of thinking, although I don’t remember what all about.

Monday I was feeling the effects of exhaustion, I think… tiredness, headache, an unhappy tummy… and took the opportunity to spend as much time at work huddled behind the counter with the little heater and Wives and Daughters (by Elizabeth Gaskell) as I could.  What better companions when one feels icky and ugly and sluggish than dear Molly, Cynthia, Roger and the Miss Browning’s?  I forgot to mention, brother and I made a trip across the street Saturday afternoon to the Goodwill store where I purchased a nice stack of books, including W&D, to bring home with me.  I read an e-text of North and South last year, as I couldn’t find a hard copy anywhere around, and enjoyed it immensely.  I am about halfway done right now with W&D, which means 348 of 688 pages.  Gaskell just hooks you with the first sentence and reeeeeels you in!  The movie was good, but the book is even better.

Tuesday I had a totally new and much-anticipated adventure.  That’s right, you guessed it: jury selection!  I had somehow not lost the white-and-yellow card that had come in the mail a few weeks before, filled out all the applicable blanks, and gotten it and me to the right place on the second floor of our beautiful old county courthouse on the right day at the right time.  Or so it would seem, judging by the large group of other bewildered-looking folks holding their own summons and heading for the double wood-and-glass doors of the large period-restored courtroom.  The chatty, nay, verbose judge, along with his clerk, got all the people with sufficient excuses out the door, the rest of us (120 or so) seating in order, and then gave as a break wherein we were allowed to do anything we could do or go anywhere we could go in 20 minutes, as long as we were back in our seats in order at the proper time.  I ran down to the shop, sat in our little cafe chatting with the cook, and ate the last half of my breakfast.  Then it was back again, until lunchtime, listening to the judge lecture us at length about the law and the duty of the juror.  The unpadded wooden stadium-seats were torturous, but I actually enjoyed listening to him.

Lunch was a little over an hour, which gave me the opportunity to scarf down a salad and return the occasional glances of other possible-jurors across the restaurant.  Back again, this time for voire dire, which means both lawyers questioning the pool, as a group and individually, to assess which ones would be more or less likely to give them a fair verdict (or perhaps, one wonders, one tilted their own way).  Four juries would be picked, but the prosecutor on the first case assured us she would take the most time.  They focused on the first four rows, and as I was fifth in the second row, I had a feeling I might be in for some action.  While some people were questioned quite closely (those with prior experiences and strong feeling about the issue dealt with in the first trial), I guess I was uninteresting; a few hours later we took another bathroom break, and returned to find out the makeup of the first jury.  It was mid-afternoon, and I was tired.  I half hoped I would make it onto this jury, rather than have to sit through any more of the process.

Well, I did.  The judge called out names  (stumbling over and over my first, unusual name, then emphatically abbreviating it to “MISS —-“), one by one we rose, crawled over neighbors, and made our way to the jury box.  The judge admonished us not to talk about the case or let others talk to us about it, and he sent us home to return some two weeks later for a likely two-day trial.

So that was it.  I was still rather awed by the whole proceeding, not least for the feeling of grave responsibility that I felt and was evidently shared by many others in the courtroom.  I am looking forward to the trial– gladly not a life-or-death matter– and wonder just what it will be like.  I guess I will find out.

Wednesday was a roller-coaster of intense family drama.  Before lunch I had to cancel my cleaning job, go home and gather myself back together before picking up brother from school.  A long talk with a good friend, lunch, a few chores and a nap in the sun on the living room floor did wonders for my phsyche, and the most pressing parts of the issue at stake were wrapped up by the end of the day, although as always is true, the consequences, small or great, remain.

Yesterday I took care of the rescheduled cleaning, then had lunch and a long chat with my good friend just home from college.  I got to see her pictures from the last semester when she lived abroad and visited Greece, Italy, Israel, and Egypt, and hear about her plans for the future.

Today, due to the cold weather and his school’s less than ample heating, brother came to work with me, and we huddled together behind the counter with the space heater.  It was a long, dull day, and I think he is feeling a bit sickish.  Late in the day, my newly engaged friend came by on her way home from work.  She pulled out a picture of “her” wedding dress (her to-be-mother-in-law is making the actual gown), since she keeps forgetting to show me.  I had picked up a few wedding planning/ettiquette books at the library yesterday, which I passed on to her.  An older lady, there working on her booth, caught wind of our conversation and asked a variation of the question several have asked in my presence to my chagrin of late: “So, who’s going to be your maid of honor?”  Usually they are a bit less direct, more along the lines of, “how many bridesmaids” or “the wedding party”, and I try to act like I didn’t hear.  All my surrogate mothers, aunts and grandmothers at the shop have been positive I would be in my friend’s wedding.  She hadn’t asked me, though, and would always reply that she and her fiance hadn’t talked it over yet.  I wasn’t sure she would ask me, and I didn’t want her to think I was expecting to be.

“Well… I was going to ask Jeanne if she would,” she said.  I looked at her.  My brother said, “You’re really red, Jeanne,” which I already knew from the burning sensation from my neck up.  When I am touched, I don’t cry, I turn red and purse my lips and act stupid.  Which I did.

So there you have it.  Or part of it.  Of course there are the never-ending things like dishes, laundry, litter-boxes and bathtubs all calling out for attention.  There are two family birthdays in the next week.  There are long-overdue letters to pen-pals and family members to be written.  There is an extra-long weekend work-day tomorrow.  And there is always that voice, calling my focus back from all the distraction.  Perhaps that’s the real point: not so much arranging my tasks and tidying up my emotions, but putting the right Person on the top of my to-do list every day.