Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Always Winter But........ Always Christmas

The last few months have flown by and we have been busy! We have had our first snowflakes and our wood burner is running as cold weather has set in, so winter is right around the corner. 

Bill and I were able to get away for a week in early October with some dear friends as we traveled to New England and enjoyed the beautiful colors up there and especially enjoyed their fellowship. We met over 40 years ago and stay in touch across the miles as they live 5 states away to the west. 
In late October Bill had a birthday and we surprised him with a side by side. It's kind of like a golf cart with the power of a four wheeler. He had told me that they were for "old" people and that he wouldn't need one until he was in his 80's! Well I think he is enjoying it now, in his 60's! (I need to get a picture in the daylight!)
Halloween came and of course I got a few pictures of the boys. Will was a hunter and Micah was a deer. 

The little deer riding the Deere!
Although I didn't get a picture of Mari in her costume, I did get a picture of her after our little "school" last week. We have been studying creation for about two months and have had a lot of fun. 
On our last day I allowed her to tell ME the creation story and put on all the pieces by herself. She loves the flannel graph!

We started our Christmas unit this week and I asked her if she knew that there was a very important birthday coming up and she said very excitedly, "Baby Sammy!"  Yes, that has been the most exciting thing for her right now as she will soon  be a big sister to a real live baby. Samuel is expected to arrive in just a few weeks, that's why I started the Christmas stories early with Marissa as Tess will be on maternity leave and I won't be babysitting very much. Although I think I might have to go steal her for a few days now and then! 

Bill and I have been visiting a different church every week. God has been speaking to us as we hear His word preached and through the music as we worship. We have been to churches of a few hundred down to churches of around 20. We have been to churches that sing only hymns, mixture of hymns and contemporary music, and only contemporary. We have been stretched by churches that do things differently than we have done. Churches with liturgy, prayers that are read with congregation responses, and the cross and Bible displayed, held high and revered (I was in awe). We have felt content, waiting on the Lord to direct us to where He wants us to go. Last week we went to a very small church and the Pastor was so compassionate. He talked to us after the service and said he could tell we were hurting and asked Bill if he could give him a hug. That brought tears to both of us. We were hurting, it had been a hard week. We were told that our family had been kicked off the prayer chain at the church where we had attended for 40 years and are still members of.  I always thought prayer was something that was welcomed, but I guess not everyone thinks so. I will continue to pray for those who attend that church. We feel we did what God was telling us to do when we exposed the evil. We did it because we love the people in the church. If we didn't care about them we just would have quietly left a year ago. It has been hard, but is the Christian life supposed to be easy? This past month God has been teaching me to forgive and to love as I have studied 2 Corinthians. I have never felt a connection with Paul before as I did in this study. It was an affirmation that we did the right thing. I praise God and am so thankful for giving us His words in the Bible to show us how to live. 

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my fathers passing. I remember the details of each day of his last few days like it was just yesterday. His last day on earth I can recall every hour, maybe every minute of that day! I was with my mother-in-law until just a few hours before she died, and I had the privilege of being with Amy and Daddy in their last days, hours, minutes, and the very second they passed from my arms to Jesus' arms.  It is a beautiful thing, but yet gut-wrenching at the same time. I miss them both so much.  I cry often, but not as much as I used to. The grief comes and goes.  There are so many constant reminders of their lives and the holes they each left in my life.
My favorite picture of Daddy and Amy
But there are constant blessings also, if I just look for them.
My husband, children, and grandchildren.
The beauty of nature always takes my breath away.
Music can touch my soul.
A good book, a warm cup of tea.
The list can go on and on.

I have always been a fan of CS Lewis and Amy loved listening to the "Chronicles of Narnia" audio tapes from Focus on the Family. She listened to them so many times and was listening to them again the days before she left us. I have not listened to them since.... 
Until a few days ago...... I decided to listen to "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." For years and years Narnia always has winter and never Christmas; until Aslan comes and the snow starts to melt and the birds start to sing and Father Christmas comes with presents. Aslan is a allegory for Christ. It occurred to me that if we truly are following Christ, we will always have winter (trials and sorrow in our life), BUT we will always have Christmas, the celebration of the birth of our Savior!  Always winter, but the seasons will cycle, spring, summer, fall and winter again. Jesus is with us through each season in our life. 
I love living in this part of the world that has the different seasons. Fall has always been my favorite. In my last blog I shared about planting bulbs at Amy's grave, in her little garden area in our yard and in a pot inside to force for blooms for Christmas. Well I planted them when the package suggested for our area, but we had an unusual warm fall and a few of the bulbs started to grow and even produced buds. We have had a few nights of frost, but the buds survived. One night last week it was to get down in the teens so I cut off the buds and brought them in. The last few days they have turned into beautiful blooms and smell wonderful!

Another blessing to have spring flowers in November.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Held in His Arms

I planted some paperwhite narcissus bulbs at Amy's grave a few days ago. They are my favorite spring flower. I first became aware of them because we had a few bulbs hidden among the creeping groundcover on the bank beside the road. They bloomed less and less as the years went by and I realized that the ground cover was choking them, instead of letting the bulbs flourish underneath the soil. So I tried to dig them up and transplant them but I must have not done it correctly because they died. About a month ago my sweet daughter in law noticed the bulbs at a garden center and knowing I like them, pointed them out to me. I bought about a dozen and planted a few at Amy's grave, a few in her little garden area outside our bedroom window, and a few in a pot in the fridge to force bloom for Christmas. 
Certain flowers have special meaning to me. My wedding was all daisies and baby's breath. Daisies grow wild here, but they are small, so I have some larger varieties planted. I can't seem to grow baby's breath. Lupines remind me of our wonderful times in Maine and mine flourish in my raised garden beds.  My sister, Erin, liked nasturtiums, so I always plant them every year in her memory. Even though they aren't the "creeping" variety, they did their best this year to escape the garden bed. 
My parents always grew morning glories outside their back door on the farm in Iowa. They would come up every year, which always baffled me because I had to plant mine every year and Iowa winters are more harsh than ours. Then Mama gave me seeds one year from her plants and they grew and they came back on their own the next spring! They must be a special kind of morning glory! I had planted them around the base of the swing set, and each year they would come back and climb up the ladder with some support from me. I would save some seeds and tried planting them in different areas, but they wouldn't grow well and never came back on their own like they did by the swing set. 
When Daddy died in 2015 and the farm was to be sold, I knew my chance of ever getting anymore seeds was gone. I saved all the seeds I could that year and planted some for Mama in Maine when Emily and I visited last fall. This past spring we pulled up the old swing set and put in a deluxe 'castle' playset. The area where all the morning glories were was dug up and grass was planted there. I searched for an area that might work for the seeds to be planted and finally decided to plant them around an old garden bench that was used for decoration to hold birdhouses. It took a long time for them to grow, but when they finally started they took over the whole bench!
There's a bench under there! And below is a close-up of one of the little birdhouses Daddy and Mama made sitting hidden on the bench. The little sign Mama painted on the house says, "For Rent."
It has been so dry the last few weeks, and fall is now here so I thought I should get some pictures of them soon.
I planted those seeds around that bench, but God planted others that were such a blessing to me. 
 By our back door.

 By the foundation of my garden shed.

Even in a pile of weeds and garden refuse, they are growing!

Take another look at the first picture I posted of Amy's grave. Do you see the little flower on the left side? It is a morning glory. I sprinkled a few seeds in the dirt in the spring and it just started growing a few weeks ago. I knew it wouldn't get watered or wouldn't have support to climb but I planted it anyway. And God allowed it to grow. A little flower from a seed, that first came from flowers on our farm in Iowa, growing at my daughter's grave in Pennsylvania. Thank you dear Lord!
 Amy's body rests beside her Grandpa and Grandma to the left. Our farm is just down the hill in the valley in the background.
 The beautiful views of the mountains to the north.
The ground to the right of Amy will hold our bodies someday when the Lord calls us home to Him. It is a comfort to me to know this. It doesn't seem unnatural to me to think of death or graveyards or tombstones. It is just a part of my life now.
As is swinging. Yes, swinging. My little granddaughter squeals with laughter when I swing beside her as she is in the other swing.
I love to lay back and look at the sky and...... just be.
Just be..... held in His arms.