17 for ’17

This is my 5th annual New Year’s post with additions for 2017.  I wasn’t going to do this again; 5 years seemed like plenty. Then I read through it and thought that this year needs a peace, love, and can’t-we-all-just-get-along? post more than any other year I’ve lived through. Except maybe 1968 (and I was mostly too young to care then).

So I wish you all peace, love, and a year of forgiving and forgetting.  Happy 2017 everyone — and thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing my little place in cyberspace.

There are two kinds of people in the world:

1. those who would go to Times Square for New Year’s Eve, and those who couldn’t be paid enough to go…

Sunrise from our bedroom windows

Sunrise from our bedroom windows

2. those who go out for New Year’s Eve, and those who stay home…

steak, burgundy mushrooms, asparagus

3. those who would rehab an old vacant house, and those who would look for a new one instead…

boards

4. Cat-lovers and Dog-lovers…

Cat in the Christmas tree

5. Savers and Pitchers…
pitchers

6. Dreamers and Doers…

7. those who believe and those who scoff…

Micah 6:*

8. those who stay, and those who go…

9. those who love snow, and those who don’t…

10. those who take naps, and those who feel superior to those who take naps…

Cat nap

11. those who love city streets, and those who love country roads…

12. those who look up and those who look down…

13. those who eat their fruits and vegetables, and those who eat their meat’n potatoes…

green tomato salsa

14. those whose glass is half-empty and those whose glass is half-full…

Stag's Leap winery

15. those who work for pay and those who work for love; and those who are blessed to do both at the same time…

Mr. H.C's truck

Mr. H.C’s truck

16. those who believe santa is a democrat, those who believe santa is a  republican, and those who believe santa should just start a third party for the rest of us — the Dempublicans? The Republicrats? (Surely he would get more than just my vote…)

17. Those who love to go shopping and those who would rather eat worms than go to a mall.


At different times in our lives, we can be any of these.
Me? I have been all these people–a city lover, a country girl; a scoffer, a believer; an optimist, a pessimist; a cat-lover, a dog-lover; a dreamer, a doer; a shopper and a worm-eater…(Though I would have to be paid a lot of cash to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.)
Can we remember this?
Can we remember that our differences make this beautiful world what it is?
Can we let go of our prejudices, our prides, our preconceptions, our (fill in the blank here)… and just love each other?

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in 2017.

Christmas angel

August Is Yellow

Part One
the august sun shines like a spotlight on the ten year old
joyfully riding her new green bicycle (without the training wheels) 
down the gravel driveway.

like a pro, not even braking,
she leans to the left and whizzes onto the dirt path
packed down through years of truck tires.

through the trees she rides, slowing now, for the pull of the dirt
is harder on bicycle tires (though easier on knees).
the trees bow to her, the queen of the bicycle.

the sun glints through the leaves and the air is
saturated with the sweet scent of ripe peaches
and the hum of satisfied and satiated bees.

she pays no attention to the glorious around her
because she is ten years old and not yet aware
that her childhood Augusts were golden.
peaches at apple hill

Part Two
the grandfather is waiting for her to tire of riding circles 
in the orchard. he figures it will take twice (maybe three times)
and she’ll be ready to listen to the lesson that peaches teach.

he has the ladder ready when 
she drops her bike next to the old green farm truck.
“Want to help me pick some peaches?” he asks.

he steadies the ladder and guides her small hand as they reach,
touching the fuzz gently, gently, every squeeze will bruise these 
peaches easy as you bruise those knees.

gently gently she places the peach in the basket looped over her 
      skinny arm.
he moves her hand to another hanging low on the branch. 
see how green? see how fuzzy? peaches have to ripen on the tree.

their juices have to be warmed by the hot August sun. they take 
their time ripening and can’t be hurried. you can’t pick the tree 
clean, you have to go again and again to the same tree. 
       peaches teach patience.

together they fill the basket, moving the ladder around the tree
taking their time — savoring the tree-ripened juicy chin-sticky 
sweet yellow sweltering August patience-teaching peaches.

patience is not his usual shape, this short round man in the straw 
hat and farm clothes teaching peaches to the skinny girl with bruised
      knees. 
she learned peaches. she learned love. she still stamps her foot at
      patience.

and she still can’t abide sickly grocery store peaches.
grandfather

For the next few weeks I’m taking an online poetry course over at Monna McDiarmid’s place. This first week we were asked to write about childhood, and if we wanted, to use the color yellow. I probably won’t post  all the poems, but this one I liked because it was such a good memory of my grandfather, who built Apple Hill Cottage. And my sister sent me this photo just as I was writing the poem…It’s a work in progress. Comments welcome.

On Mowing and Marriage and Trying to Be Like Jesus

There’s very little in this life that I like less than mowing grass. Reasons? Oh yeah, I got plenty:

    What a waste of time — I could be gardening, reading, writing, washing dishes, mopping the kitchen floor…
    What a waste of gasoline and added pollution, when we could be growing food, or flowers, or sheep instead of grass…
    Grass has no value whatsoever, unless one is playing golf…
    Why would I want to push a horribly noisy smelly machine that could easily cut off my fingers, or my toes, or throw flying sticks or rocks at my head?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

iris

Usually mowing the grass is Mr. H.C.’s job and I don’t have to think about it. But he’s busy doing the roof while the sun shines. (July in Pennsylvania makes watching the Weather Channel unnecessary; we know what the forecast will be: 90 percent humidity and scattered thunderstorms.) And the grass has to be mowed when the sun is shining too. Plus, the tractor is broken. So I’m being the selfless servant and mowing the grass with the push mower.

Right. Not quite so selfless as one might think…

Today as I started mowing, silently congratulating myself on serving my busy husband, he came down off the roof and waved at me to stop. When I stopped, he bent down and raised the mower deck on me. “You’re cutting it too short,” he said. Then he disappeared back up onto the roof.

Excuse me? If I am cutting the grass I will blimey well cut it at the height I want. The shorter the grass, the less it has to be mowed. I’d just as soon kill the wretched grass anyway. That’s the trouble with it, grass doesn’t die. Its roots live forever and come back to haunt you next year after you’ve planted a lovely flower bed there. But I digress.

I confess to being sweaty, hot, and bothered. Muttering the whole time, two passes later, I stopped the mower and lowered the deck back to where it was. But that still didn’t make me feel any better. Here I was — unselfishly mowing the grass so he wouldn’t have to — and he comes to tell me I’m doing it wrong? What kind of ungrateful man is this anyway?

Oh wretch that I am…

I’ve heard enough sermons in my life to know that this is not what Jesus would do. And I’ve also heard enough John Dorean sermons to know that the goal of every Jesus lover is to grow and be more like him every day. Of course, we fail all the time, but that is the goal…

So when I stopped to take a break and get a cool drink of water, I sat down on  the couch and picked up the book I’ve been reading. Sacred Marriage. (If you know this book, please don’t laugh.)

I had a copy of this book once, but we were newly married and I ended up giving it away to someone before I read it, and I never got it back. Since then I’ve read sections of it, and heard sermons from it, and I know the subtitle by heart — What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More than to Make Us Happy?; but I’ve never read it cover to cover.

Turns out, maybe I should have.

I always thought, yeah, yeah, I know what Gary Thomas is going to say. Die to your self. Respect your spouse. Love unconditionally.

And yes, that’s what he says. And yes, it’s hard. And as Thomas says — none of that comes naturally to us.

But as I sat there reading Chapter Six,  “The Cleansing of Marriage: How Marriage Exposes Our Sin” I knew. I knew that those words needed to penetrate my soul. Just as I need to die to my Self a hundred, no, a thousand times a day, I also need to desire humility a hundred, no, a thousand times a day.

Of course, we always see our spouse’s sin — it’s so much easier to see other’s sins, isn’t it? Yes, this specifically refers to taking the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of someone else’s eye (Matthew  7:3-5). Listen to this:

View marriage as an entryway into sanctification — as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes and give you the opportunity to address them before the Lord. But here’s the challenge: Don’t give in to the temptation to resent your partner as your own weaknesses are revealed. Correspondingly give them the freedom and acceptance they need in order to face their own weaknesses as well. In this way, we can use marriage as a leg up, a piercing spiritual mirror, designed for our sanctification and growth in holiness.

I needed to re-read that sentence Don’t give in to the temptation to resent your partner as your own weaknesses are revealed. There it is: the basic sin of all sins — Pride. Lack of humility. Thinking that I know best, yet knowing in my heart and soul that I do not. It’s ugly, pride is. Later Gary Thomas quotes François  Fenélon who wrote: “…all the saints are convinced that sincere humility is the foundation of all virtues.”

To grow in holiness marriage must be understood as a spiritual discipline, Thomas says. “To do this,” he writes, “we must not enter marriage predominantly to be fulfilled, emotionally satisfied, or romantically charged, but rather to become more like Jesus Christ.”

There it is again…to become more like Jesus; and to do that we must put on our robe of humility, and not throw it off each time we get hot and bothered. And not only do I agree with Fenélon that humility is the foundation of all virtues, but can I suggest that pride just might be the foundation of all sin?

Today as I was reading an article about the need for us to feel awe before our holy God, I came across the term self-forgetfulness. How I longed for it. The author, Jen Wilkin, cited research that suggests when humans feel awe they are better able to forget themselves and reach out to other people. And I started wondering — what else makes me put on self-forgetfulness?
Blue sky behind gray cloudsDoing something for someone else with no expectations. (Remember mowing the lawn? It went wrong because of my own expectations.)
Praying — talking to the Holy God of the Universe — yes, that’s one that definitely gets the mind off oneself.
Thinking about Jesus — whether it is reading the Bible, listening to worship music, or just meditating on how weak and incompetent I am, and how strong and competent Jesus is for me.
So here we have: Go watch a sunset or the clouds or stand on a beach or a mountain; Make dinner for your neighbor; Read your favorite passage in God’s word and thank Him for it; Meditate on the strength of Jesus and your own shortcomings and feel awe that you are so loved.

As I read further in Sacred Marriage, this paragraph jumped out at me:

Don’t run from the struggles of marriage. Embrace them. Grow in them. Draw near to God because of them. Through them you will reflect more of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And thank God that he has placed you in a situation where your spirit can be perfected.

And today, in the sermon I heard this: He loves us where we are at any given moment. Certainly He invites, encourages, challenges us to become more like Christ, but that becoming is not a prerequisite of His love. Can I get an Amen?

It’s time to mow the grass again…

white clover

The tractor is fixed. As Mr. H.C. took it for a mowing spin to see how it was running, he said, “I’m not going to mow the grass very short, because there are lots of bees on the clover, and I don’t want to mow the flowers away.” Yeah, he knows how much I like bees and clover…

I smiled to myself. Thank you God that you have placed me in a situation where my spirit can be perfected.

And thank you God, that the tractor is fixed.