Monday, September 21, 2009

New Neighbors and Old Ones Returned

A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing. ~Hesiod

I long for good neighbors and have been fortunate, but not as close to them as I would like to be. I guess it is just that small town girl side of me.

When we first moved to Georgia, the first people we met were our next door neighbors, a family that had moved from the same area of Florida we from where we were coming only three years before. They were good neighbors. When my daughter was an infant, they moved far away to another state.

A newly married couple had bought the house and moved in with their teenage daughters from their previous marriages. They both worked long hours and they divorced about a year later. Afterward, a couple rented the house having his young son and her younger daughter from previous marriages. They were nice and invited us to do some things with them--always spur of the moment and not always something we could fit into our plans, but it was nice to be asked. They recently bought a house and moved.

This left the house next door empty for the summer. The owner had some work done and then put it up for rent through a management company. We live in an area where foreclosures are at a high rate right now. Nearly anyone with decent credit can buy a house and make payments cheaper than renting, so we had concerns about who might be moving in next. I have talked to my Lord about this on many occasions asking for a family with children and even a Christian homeschooling family.

A family moved in this past weekend and my daughter excitedly told me that they homeschool. I thought at first that she had made an assumption because they were not in school on a Friday while moving, but they do actually homeschool! The children are all younger than the Princess, but she loves to play with younger children.

I talked to the mother briefly, asking the typical questions homeschooling parents ask each other, like what curriculum they are using and if they are part of a homeschool group. She said she would like to find a group so I asked if she is looking for a religious group or an inclusive group. She said she was looking for one non-religious but that she was not against a religious group as long as that was not the focus. Then she told me that she is pro-choice and believes that everyone should make their own choices and that is what she wants for her children. With that news, I realized that we might not have as much in common as I hoped, but perhaps the Lord brought them here for a reason. (Actually, I think regardless of how one is raised, each does make up his own mind about such things.)

On another note, we were going for pizza a few weeks ago to our favorite place called the Mellow Mushroom and we ran into a lady. We all looked familiar to each other but we could not place each other. I kept thinking "bank" but I knew that she had not been at our bank. Then it dawned on us all--she was our first neighbor who also had moved to Georgia from Florida. And the bank part? She used to work at a bank and does again. With all her children grown, she and her husband moved back here to be near the daughters and their grandchildren. They now lived in a townhouse nearby. We exchanged contact information and hope to get with them sometime soon.

~ My Lord, create in me the heart to be a good neighbor so that I may be a blessing to my neighbors and they see Your Light through me. ~

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mr. Syler

Senior adults need to know that they're still worthy, still useful and that they still have something to offer. Because of their wisdom and life experience, they still have something to offer our churches. ~Judy Felkins

The Princess has been missing Mr. Syler. I have explained that he has not been feeling well enough to come to services and then she suggested we visit him. We made arrangements to do that, so last week the Princess drew a picture to give to him and we did some old fashion visiting. Mr. Syler wanted the Princess right next to him and he held her hand most of the time.

Mr. Syler, who is the oldest member of our church at 92, often refers to himself as an "old country boy" with tales of a simpler life filled with boyhood mischief, humor, tragedy, and endearing love for the Lord. He showed us faded black and white pictures of him plowing a small field with a mule and of his long-hauling son who died around fifty in a trucking accident. Mr. Syler, a lean man well over six foot tall, is one to easily tear up with emotion when remembering the sad parts of his life as well as when he talks of God's love. He has a low voice with such a slow drawn out way of talking that you would expect to see him chewing on a stalk of hay. You cannot help but immediately fall in love with him. His hearing is not so good now and so he often mistakes what has been said and begins one of his explanations usually tinted with memories, making make you wish you had actually said what he thought you did. He is one of the sweetest people I have met in this life.

The favorite time during church services for my Princess is the time we spend greeting one another. This is how the Princess met Mr. Syler. From her commenting on his fish tie clip, he found out that she likes to fish, something he loved to do also, and one day he came to church bearing a gift for her, a mounted prize fish he had caught himself. She was thrilled. That day was the day she told Mr. Syler that she did not have a great-grandfather and asked if he would be hers, a surprise that nearly floored all of us. He stood up to announce to everyone attending services that day he was now her adopted great-grandfather. Since then, Mr. Syler and the Princess have been a delight to each other. (At first I felt a bit of a twinge, because my grandfather could never be replaced in my heart, but I quickly realized that my daughter could not know any of her great-grandfathers except through other people's memories and she had a right to memories of her own.)

Her adopted great-grandfather asked us if he could give her a fish necklace. "Now, nothing much, mind you. Just a little necklace of a fish, if I can find one." All said with that familiar twinkle in his eye when something delights him. Weeks later he presented her with a dolphin necklace. Without me making mention of it, that is the necklace she chose to wear for the visit.

The Princess has a gift with people, she really does. She seems to become what they need her to be, but still stays very much herself. She displayed just the right amount of genuine inquisitiveness and compassion, all the while she was also like sunshine brightening the room and the hearts in it. Her heart is so pure at times that I stand in awe of its radiance.

~ My Lord, thank you for such precious souls that you have brought into the life of my daughter. May she always hold onto the memory of how much this one visit meant to Mr. Syler. ~

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Breath of Peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. ~John 14:27

This morning I woke with all the same worries I had just yesterday and throughout the last week and even further back than that. Yet, in these precious moments I am aware of a gift my Lord has given to me, how peaceful I feel about it all.

To have pure peace from one infinitesimal moment to another is a precious thing, indeed. It is a breath, something unseen yet it sustains us. It is a gentle breeze, something moving us to feel its presence that we cannot touch. It is wind, subtly refreshing an entire landscape by influencing just one thing and then another. It is a moment, a precious moment.

For someone like myself, who tends to contemplate all possible downsides of every decision and situation, it is a surrendering of myself to the Originator of peace. When I pray, which is usually about things of which I have concerns, feeling peace seems to be recompensive.

However, this morning I was aware this peace before I began to address my Lord. It was a gift He gave me before I had thoughts about that which I would be worrying and when my worries came up, they seemed not to be worries at all. I am not indifferent to them, I am just not the entity of those worries--at least not for these precious moments.

So precious is peace....

So very precious....

Peace is not as fragile a thing as we imagine it to be. My Lord said "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you." He gave His own peace. It is an everlasting thing, stronger than any force we have known on earth or in the universe, yet it is a gentle as the breath of a sleeping baby. It is not that peace is so delicate, but the moment we allow ourselves to partake of it is.

Why do we both seek it and fear it? Why do we claim to want it and flee from it? We think that if we don't worry then we will not be prepared for what is to come. How can we prepare for things over which we have no control? Are those things not the ones we worry about the most?

I have been reading Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, a book to be savored. Each page is filled with such spiritual insight that it overwhelms and enchants me. I can neither put it down for good nor finish it. Dallas Willard writes about how we began living in the God's Kingdom the moment we accepted Christ and when we are in the Lord's will, we are being prepared to see His Kingdom more and so clearly that the death of the physical body will not seem like much more than walking through a opening between two rooms--probably not his exact words, but certainly his ideology.

We are all waiting to get to a peaceful place, heaven or the afterlife, but the point Professor Willard makes is that we are already in it.

That is how I felt this morning when I awoke, in His Kingdom with my Lord there just waiting for me to wake up. I have had a number of things on my mind and perhaps this was His gift to me so that I would remember that He is listening and that He has answered every prayer, so there is no need to worry further.

Perhaps I should not be concerned about such things at all and just enjoy these moments of peace as I partake in His Kingdom.

~ My Lord, if I could breath in Your peace, it would truly do far more than sustain me. Thank you for the glimpse of how it is to truly be living in Your Kingdom. Help me to see it more clearly and be in it more fully for it is truly a wonderful, peaceful place. ~

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Camping in the Woods

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. ~Robert Frost

My daughter experienced her very first camp out last Friday. It was all she could talk about all day, after my husband suggested it. He ended up having to work through the previous weekend unexpectedly so he wanted to do something special and after watching the weather report, it was decided it would have to be Friday night before the weather changed.

My husband and I are both experienced campers. He was in boy scouts and I camped out often since I was a teen into my young adulthood, however we have not camped together much at all. We had the equipment but we also had pets for which to care and erratic schedules and then back problems that made sleeping on the ground inadvisable.

My husband picked the place, a primitive campsite on a slight slope, not level but at least mostly flat, in a wilderness woods with lots of wild flora, including poison ivy and poison oak. They set up the tent in a small clearing and cleared a spot to make a campfire.

Together we roasted hot dogs and toasted marshmallows. I camped with them for that much. The mosquitoes were relentless, but their attacks diminished in numbers after the fire was going strong. Still, I am a mosquito magnet so I had to wear long sleeves and pants on a slightly cool day near a hot fire. I began to wonder what part of being uncomfortable and not having all those home amenities made camping so appealing when I was younger. Perhaps it was it was battling nature and feeling rewarded with awe inspiring views and discovering even the smallest wonders in God's creation--something every child should have the opportunity to do.

Since we have only two sleeping bags, it was decided that the Princess would use mine and I would retreat to the conveniences of my home. It was difficult for me to leave them out in the wilderness all night like that, but thanks to technology we could talk to each other.

The next morning I learned that all went well, but we had not used the tent for ten years so we did not know the waterproofing on the tent has been deteriorating to a very sticky state. Well, it is probably 20 years old, so we need to decide on how to save the tent, which is in otherwise good shape, by removing and reapplying waterproofing or to give up on it.

Anyway, all the next day the Princess talked about their adventure. All the sounds she heard and a wild story about a creature "with no tail" (said with wide eyes and all seriousness) walking around outside and then looking into the tent that Daddy did not see because he was sleeping. No, they promised she did not eat any mushrooms.

You just would never have known how wild our backyard could be!

~ My Lord, You created such wonderful things that bring us delight and cause us to wonder. Thank you for my little backyard wilderness. ~

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First 4-H Meeting of Year Two

I pledge
My head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service, and
My health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country, and my world. ~4-H Pledge

All the members were introduced by one of the leaders. Each wrote their names and other information on a slip of paper handed to them as they came in the door. One of the questions asked for them to tell something fun about themselves. The majority said they like to ride horses, as if that was not expected.

The Princess is definitely blessed. Last year at the very first meeting for the 4-H Horse and Pony Club we attended, the Princess' ticket was drawn with a few others to pick a prize and it happened again this year at the kick off meeting. She picked a horse figurine and correctly identified it as an Arabian.

The Arabian is the first breed of horse she has studied in the Beautiful Feet curriculum History of the Horse. Now she seems to pick this particular breed out easily with its saucer shaped head profile and high-carried tail.

After paying the membership fee, we received our packet with a calendar of events and we could be very busy. There is an event the weekend after this one and one every weekend in October! We may not be available for all of them obviously.

~ My Lord, I am so excited for my daughter to have the opportunity to enjoy horses, become acquainted with others who love horseback riding, serve in the community, and learn about leadership. Thank you for providing this opportunity for her. ~