Birds are singing outside in my yard. I hear them when I wake up in the morning, I hear them when I walk in the yard, I hear them as I go into the laundry room (because the window is open out there.) I hear them as I drive to the store. ( There are literally hundreds of birds singing as they sit on an electrical wire in front of the Target near my house.) I am hearing birds all during the day because it is spring.
If you've read my earlier blogs you know that the birds are my reminder that God loves me even when it seems that nothing is working out like I had hoped or planned. They remind me that God loves me even though He has allowed health issues and trials in my life. When I feel friendless and I hear the singing birds, they remind me that I do have a friend that is closer than a brother. They remind me that I am loved. Every time I hear them now, I start a conversation with God. So they also have become a reminder to pray and to feel an intimate, close connection with Him.
I am so thankful for the birds and their reminder to me to live like someone who is loved unconditionally. God loves me. He knows my thoughts, my biggest mistakes and failures and my biggest hopes and dreams. He doesn't see me as a failure. He sees me as His child. He doesn't condemn me for my anxious thoughts. He longs to calm them. He doesn't laugh at my hopes and dreams or act like I am foolish to think they could ever come true. He has placed them in my heart and longs to see them come to fruition in ways I could never accomplish without trusting Him and His perfect timing. Do you sense that too?
The spring birdsong also reminds me that something new is coming and it is full of life and hope and good things. Thank God for the birds. They are always a part of spring.
Lent is also a part of spring. It is a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent is traditionally a time in which we give something up to remind us of what God gave up for us. Nowadays, we abstain from social media or chocolate or sugar or TV. If I'm being honest, I'm bad at giving up even these tiny things.
As we prepare for Holy Week through the observance of Lent we are reminded that God gave up so much more. He gave up timelessness, (he swapped eternity- no beginning and no end- for schedules and calendars).
God gave up boundlessness. He was Spirit who could be anywhere at anytime. He could be all places at once. He gave up that incomprehensible omni-presence to become captive to a mortal body for 33 years. In that human body I'm sure He got tired when He walked long distances. (I wonder if He ever thought of teleporting Himself to His destination?)
He gave up sinlessness. God is perfect, sinless and Holy, but on that cross He became sin for us. The sinless One took on all the sins of all the world for all time. I can't even imagine and I don't claim to understand it either! There are some evil things out there and there have been unbelievably terrible evil acts throughout history. Jesus bore the weight of all of that for us - for me. Does it make you wonder?
And this Jesus, the sinless One who took on the face of a sinner, was God's son. Although it is a mystery too big for me to completely understand, Jesus was God, but He was also God's son. So, God gave up His timeless, boundless, perfect, sinless, beloved only Son for us.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.
Everyone raised in Christian culture in the USA knows this verse. We try to change it to mean God loves everyone who thinks like we do, looks like we do and does what we do. We might know this verse so well that we take it for granted. I think I do sometimes. It is hard to understand. Why would God give up so much for everyone...even the ones who I don't like or can't relate with?
I think it all goes back to His LOVE for the world. He loves me. He loves You, He loves your friends and your enemies. He loves democrats and republicans and socialists and He loves those evil people too. Read the verse. It says He loved the world! That is a love that I do not understand. Not in the least. But, I accept it and I ponder it and I want to lean into it.
I'd like to become like Jesus in anyway I can. As I write down that ambition I realize it is scary in many ways. If I'm going to try and be like Him, I may have to give some things up. I may be despised and rejected. Yeah, it is scary, but what draws me in, is that LOVE. God's love is overwhelming and all encompassing. I can't turn away from that LOVE.
So, as the birds sing to usher in spring. I am trying to prepare my heart this Lenten season for Holy Week. I want to remember how great His love is for me. I truly don't understand it. But, I am so very thankful for it. You might want to join me in this Lenten pursuit. If you do, then listen to the birds, my friend and allow them to remind you of something you probably learned as a little kid in Sunday school, "Jesus loves me, this I know."
For a teacher the anticipation of summer is kind of hard to explain. I mean, we love our students, our profession, our purpose and our passion, but come May we are a bit exhausted to say the least! As I just read what I wrote, I realize that I should make this more personal. By the end of May, no matter how all the other teachers in the world feel, I am a tired, frazzled basket case!
This year ended on such a positive note. My students performed our end of year musical (Mary Poppins, Jr) without a hitch. They were a pleasure to work with and that talented bunch of kiddos blessed my socks off. Here is a picture of that sweet and talented group. I'm holding the superior trophy we earned at the contest we attended. And yes, I'm shamelessly bragging because they were actually that good! (I'm the non-costumed old lady in the middle.)
However, after a year of balancing work while Tom and I each waged our cancer battles, I was ready for the summer break. Tom's radiation treatments ended one week into summer break. Now I'm ready for fun! In my mind it was to be the summer of my dreams. Oh, how I had plans! Tom and I would be celebrating our 40th anniversary. (What fantastic trip would we take?) I had been so tired during the year due to operations and radiation treatments and the stress of cancer, that my gym visits and Ella walks were practically non existent. I vowed that I would be walking Ella every day and I would re-discover all my favorite gym equipment. And the house, oh it was going to get organized. I had just the book to help me.... I couldn't wait to use Melissa Michael's fantastic tips!
So, that first week I started to clean. I worked pretty hard in the house moving boxes, cleaning closets and bending and squatting and lifting and toting. I wanted to get this part of the summer plan out of the way so that all my vacation plans and fantastic dreams could be made reality. I also did grocery shopping because I had plans of becoming that excellent at home wife who cooks beautiful, inviting and yummy healthy meals every evening of the summer. On this one particular Thursday I worked pretty much non stop. That evening, Tom had a playing job in Flower Mound with his Latin band, Brasuka. They were playing at an outdoor concert. I was looking forward to going to the concert and having a wonderful evening of listening to music and visiting friends. Here is a shot from my vantage point that evening....
You might be thinking, "that is a lousy picture, wonder why she didn't get in front of the band stand so she could get a shot of the whole group?"
Well, let me tell you...this is where the story gets interesting! When we pulled up to the loading area for Tom to get his equipment out, I went to get out of the car and my left knee was in such pain that I couldn't walk! I literally couldn't walk. It was painful every step of the way. In 90 degree heat I couldn't just sit in the car and wait 3 hours, so Tom helped me drag myself to a table that was close to the car where I could still see the band. I sat there and listened and propped my leg up, hoping that would help. Several of our friends were at the show and came over to ask me to join them. I know I seemed rude when I declined to go and join them but they didn't know that I couldn't move without excruciating pain! So, I sat there alone at my little table, listening to the music with my fingers crossed that all would be well when I got up. At the end of the evening I did get up and it was worse! Tom practically had to drag me to the car. I cried the whole way. That was June 14th. One and a half weeks into my "perfect" summer.
I slept on the couch that night because our bedrooms are upstairs. Tom got up early and purchased a cane for me so that I could get around and we headed to the doctor's office. They told me to stay off the leg and ice it and get a heating pad. Tom got crutches for me and I spent two weeks pretty much just laying around with my leg elevated on that couch. My condition improved enough that I could walk with the cane.
We even took a short trip to Austin to visit Jordan for our 40th anniversary trip. I had my crutches and my cane with me. On bad days I used the crutches, on better days I used the cane. I was able to go to one venue that had curbside valet service and an elevator so that I got to hear Jordan on our anniversary. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed watching him play.
We stayed in a motel that is in close proximity to Jordan's playing venues. Tom would go watch
Jordan play while I lay on the motel bed with my leg elevated. We also were able to go on a boat out on the lake. The only issue was climbing aboard, but Tom helped me and once onboard I had a marvelous time...SITTING and enjoying the ride on the lake. It was a beautiful day.
I also was able to hobble over to our favorite Austin Book store...BOOK PEOPLE. Check it out when you go to Austin because it is the best! Tom and I both bought a book and he also bought me this beautiful wall hanging art piece. (Blog readers will know the significance of the birds.) Tom is the sweetest.
When we got back home it was clear that my situation wasn't getting any better. An MRI was ordered and it was revealed that I have a torn meniscus. No wonder I've been in pain! So, Tuesday I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, and hopefully I will have surgery very soon to repair this knee. Part of me wishes I could repair the summer; however, another part of me knows that what I had planned was not what God had planned. He knows best.
This past year, Tom and I have been through something really hard. We both have this weird thing that we've learned to do over the years which is ... JUST DO THE NEXT THING. We don't really stop and complain and whine. Oh, I've had my Eeyore days, but, mostly, we've just gotten up each morning and we've done what we were expected to do that day. The task at hand has been a saving grace in many ways. Whatever was in front of us we just faced it. We continued with our daily routines and our jobs on every single day that we could. We went to every treatment and appointment just as each of our doctor's ordered. Sometimes we had to take a day off to rest, but for the most part we have soldiered on. I think God was YELLING at us through the pain in my knee and a torn meniscus to just rest. To just be. To stop with the plans and stop with the big summer expectations. Just sit in the quiet and contemplate all that God has brought us through this year in many little, yet often miraculous ways.
So, while I thought this was going to be an extremely active summer of trips, visits to cities we love and car rides to see family and friends, it has turned into the most laid back summer I can remember. And I have re-discovered the joy of reading. So, while I had planned trips and visits and parties, God planned that I would listen to wise counsel and joyous stories and godly advice from wonderful "voices" who have written books. They have been my summer friends. Here are the books I've read so far this summer. They have been balm for my soul.
Both your husband and you are diagnosed with cancer in the same week. You think that triggers a little anxiety? What an understatement. I NEEDED this book. Thank you Max Lucado for every beautiful word you write. A favorite quote from the book, "Life gives lemons to good people, bad people, old people, all people. Life comes with lemons. But we don't have to suck on them." Also, "you may be facing the perfect storm, but Jesus offers the perfect peace." Thank you Max Lucado. I love your books and the stories you share with us.
This is a great perspective changing book. Don't take yourself so seriously. Small things. This is the way to big things happening in a life. If one is faithful in the small things, one will look back and see that "you've really had a wonderful life". And some of the things that bother us and put us in a "mood", well they aren't worth the bother. Just get over it.
Alright, girlfriends, Jen Hatmaker is just awesome. I love her wit. I love her long winded wordiness. Also, I love Aunt Carol's salad, which she claims is a cure for the doldrums. I don't know about that, but the salad is my new favorite to make at home. She throws in a delicious recipe or two and tells great stories of her crazy family, their life and their ministries. She makes me laugh and she makes me think. These are two great traits in an author and a friend. Jen, would you be my best friend?
I'm not quite done with this one, but I love it. If you are wondering why you're here. If you have ever wondered, 'what the heck am I good at?' This is a great book for you. Max guides you through how to discover your sweet spot. Once you do, you can know that God wants to use that passion for your good and His glory. Love this book!
I taught Bible Studies at my church for years and one of my favorite, quirky authors of some of the most interesting studies was Margaret Feinberg. This is her story of her cancer battle. She was determined to fight cancer with God given joy. This was a great encouragement to me. I could identify with so much of what she endured. I recommend reading anything by Margaret Feinberg! I also love her because she is a Christian who is proud of her beloved Jewish family and background.
I love this book. I love the author. I want her to be my other best friend. Since my summer plans were not what I expected, this was a perfect read for me. It really helped me. There is a chapter about friends who have betrayed you that was so good. It felt like she knew my story. Lots of deep wisdom from a treasure of a modern female Christian leader. Highly recommend ANYTHING by Christine Caine.
A must read people. Louie Giglio never stops challenging me to let God fight my battles.
And I just want to thank my friend, Janie Davis for inviting me to join her book club. This was the book we read in that club and I loved hearing everyone's perspectives and insights gleaned from Louie Giglio's writing. Wish I could share all of that with you all too. Just get the book. It is a great read.
Great books to help you look at and evaluate and improve your own attitude about your work. Very helpful.
So, this is how I've spent my summer....with Max and Margaret, Christine and Louie, Mr. Acuff and Jen and Melanie. I could have watched Hallmark movies as I sat on the couch with my leg elevated. I'm glad I figured out that they all have the same plot and ending! Although don't get me wrong girlfriend, Hallmark movies are the bomb no matter what your husband says about the bad acting and predictable story lines. Don't listen to him. He watches murder mysteries and sports and in my case, guitar podcasts about melodic triads or something like that. How can he possibly criticize the occasional Hallmark movie? Next week is Christmas in July. I better find a new book to read or I might get "caught".
I'm glad that I've chosen to read. My perspective has changed on a few things and my horizons have been broadened. I've laughed and cried with these authors and I am better for it. I imagine I'll read a few more in the weeks to come. Oh yeah, I better confess that I have also spent a few hours watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (the new season is out so check it out for lots of laughs!).
School will start in a few weeks. I will be rested. I won't have big stories to tell about my exciting summer trips, but I will have one romantic comedy that I can share about that involves a boy named Tom and a girl name Pam who met she was 14 and he was 16 in Home Economics class ( yeah, that use to be an actual class). These two have faced the good and the bad together and have done that for 40 years. They have this amazing son who has an amazing girlfriend and they love them. They also love playing music. She loves to hear him at all his gigs and she also loves to occasionally be fortunate enough to get to play with him. He's been by her side through cancer diagnoses and treatments, through torn meniscus hobbling around and through her Eeyore days. She is blessed beyond measure.
40 years together....hope there are many more ahead!
God knew what we needed this summer. Time with Him, time with each other and a lesson in resting and listening and broadening our perspective though other voices and growing our faith. These are good things.
I'm also really thankful that I can SIT at the piano and play and sing to my heart's content. I can also sit at my computer and write! Torn meniscus does not deter those things that are my "sweet spot".
Friends, find time to put your feet up and enjoy a good book this summer. Sit and talk with your sweetheart. Sit in a favorite chair and dub it your "prayer chair" and spend a little time talking to the One who knows everything about You and loves you just as you are...not some future version of you. Thank you God for an UNEXPECTED summer.