Monday, July 31, 2017

July's Closing Number

It seems as though July is the perennial disappointment. It is forever slipping out quickly and quietly, year in and year out.

We expect much from July - possibly too much. We want six or seven weekends, not four or five. We want beach days, outdoor work days, long night walks enjoying the sultry summer air ending with ice cream at the local ice cream shop, early quiet mornings on the porch full of contemplation and solitude. We want a month of lazy sunny Sunday afternoons and garden tea parties every third day. Fresh veggies, fresh fruit, swim lessons, vacation days, work days for all those extra projects. Fireworks, picnics, hikes, celebrations of every sort -- and all of this we expect in never-ending fashion.

Poor, dear July. Ever filling us with hope and anticipation, ever letting us down, leaving us clamoring for more. Like a concert that sends you soaring, the audience applauds and cheers and jumps to their feet calling, "Encore!!!" Another song or two is played and the audience soars even higher. They whistle, stomp, applauding even longer, crying, "More, more!!!" But the end must come. The energy must subside. We must come down from the heights once again.

Ah, poor, dear July. You send us soaring but cannot hold us there forever.

The gardens of July are full of riotous color, abundant in lush greens, bright lights and shadows. "Please, don't fade yet! Please don't yellow and then brown!" We pluck the blooms, dead heading faithfully in hopes of more to come, but the next crop is smaller in size and number. No, she will have her way. This garden knows she will exhaust herself and be done, giving way to late summer color and foliage. And the gardener, too, acknowledges; the season is now begun to wane, wending its way to autumn's days of harvest and closure.

Oh, poor, dear July. On this thirty-first day we will hear voices far and wide crying out with dismay, "I can't believe it will be August tomorrow! How did July pass so quickly?!"

But this is your way. You make your entrance with noise and celebration, hearts joyfully welcoming your promise of summer's fullness, and then you slip away quickly and quietly, leaving us wanting more. Clamoring for more.

Our dear, glorious July. Performer extraordinaire.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Official Page Turning

A birthday.

In advanced years. Well, somewhat advanced. Because as far as I can tell, I'm still a bit young. At least I think so.

But markers like birthdays are a good reality check. And this one tells me that by most standards I'm officially a senior citizen.

Sixty-two. These days I roll the words off my tongue without hesitation or consideration. I've been chewing on this for a few years now and I realize it is in fact true. The years have gone by. Seasons have come and gone.

And He has never left me.

Yesterday we all gathered in celebration. My husband allowed the children, my very own babes now full grown, to begin with words of appreciation. And they gifted me abundantly, generously.

One by one they shared genuine and thoughtful words, most of it completely unexpected. Time and again, surprisingly, the qualities and accomplishments cited as successes in my life were in areas I considered to be weaknesses and even failures.

"Your confidence has given all of us confidence." Knowing the fears and floundering I've battled over the years, I never anticipated these words. I know that my confidence is weak apart from faith born of the Word of God.

"Your determined love for the Word inspires me daily." I regularly ache over hours frivolously given to foolish pursuits and recognize how I squander too much time. He is a redeemer in every way.

"I am so deeply thankful for the way you homeschooled us, choosing to resist conformity to the measurements of success imposed culturally and instead holding on to His standards." Hardly a day goes by that I don't tally up my failures and the lack of accomplishment in this area. Every homeschooling mom is familiar with that nagging voice tempting us to believe we failed our children and ruined their futures. But these words reminded me that building a good foundation is long, grueling, necessary work that creates something for them (and more importantly for Him) to build upon. And once again I was grateful for His chastening that day long ago when I was tempted to bow to the god of test grades and academic achievement. That false idol had ushered in panic and frustration, unleashing a downward spiral of negative attitudes in our home. God rebuked me gently but thoroughly, reminding me of His call on my life as mother to His children. The result was this, a short exhortation on the why of Christian homeschooling. It has served me repeatedly over the years, helping me maintain focus and purpose.

"I see you still learning and growing and changing, even at your age. I am blessed by that example to know that I can learn and grow and change too." An almost daily prayer has been, "Lord, don't let me get stuck. Keep my heart young, pliable, moldable in Your hands." How blessed I was to hear these words, to discover that He is ever faithful to hear our prayers, and that His work is visible in me.

"You are such a good friend." Music to my ears. The deep and passionate longing of my heart has been for friendship to be deepened in each of these relationships. What precious words for this Mama's heart. I was so blessed to hear this.

"Seeing Christ in you, lived out in you, is an example that keeps me going and shows me how to live." I am painfully aware of all the stumbling, grumbling, and complaining. In His great graciousness, He somehow allows them to see His work in my life. What an absolute miracle.

"As you transition into a new season I see you serving and finding new ways of ministering instead of clocking out. I so appreciate that." I would retreat if I could, but His Spirit beckons on into deeper waters, greater giving, continued sacrifice. I am learning that retirement is not the vocabulary of Scripture. I have absolute hope for increasing purpose to the end of my days. I struggled with this during this transition but once again, His grace opened my eyes to see the joy of each and every season when walking in His holy ways.

"Your testimony as a woman and mother is powerful. I appreciate your obedience to the Word of God." My life has been given to Him. In spite of my failure His mercy and grace supersede it all. I am eternally grateful. What they see is so clearly His work in my life. What a generous Father He is and always will be.

These are my gifts this year, and always: my children, their love, and the testimony of their lives. Oh, how grateful I am to Him for past seasons and for all that lies ahead.