82. Plus ça change…the circle of life

Life in August and September has been lively: anniversaries, birthdays, the start of school, funerals, a wedding, and two houses that compete for our attention.

The start of school means back to work — organizing books, planning lessons, and this year it meant re-organizing the main section of the library after a flood last year.

Our good neighbor died suddenly in early September, and my beloved aunt died a few days ago after a long, well-lived life.  A sudden death forces us to think on priorities and the preciousness of life; the other brings unexpected memories and reminds us of the preciousness of life…

Bride and groomMy son married his love on September 14th, which would have been my Dad’s 92nd birthday. He would have been delighted! My granddaughter Olivia turned 11 on September 18th, which was my Mom and Dad’s anniversary. August 18th is our own anniversary. Our August and September calendars are circled heavily with red-letter days, both present and past. Red-letter days remind us of the preciousness of life…

And those two houses? One soon to be for sale, one soon to be lived in full time… Oh my, they are such time-suckers. We went into this adventure with our eyes wide open. We knew it would be hard, time-consuming, and detail-oriented. But I’m not sure we knew just HOW MUCH time is consumed in the redo of a house. Now it is already started, we are in the middle, and I am reminded of the preciousness of life and how easily it can be wasted by the details and busy-ness of living…

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It’s been two weeks since I sat down to write a blog post. Life, and the busy-ness of living have gotten in the way; as posts have churned around in my mind, I realized, “Oh, I wrote about painting the house last fall” and “Oh, I took that exact same photograph of the sun rising behind the tree last fall” and “Oh, I wrote about harvesting walnuts last fall.”

Sun rising in Autumn of last year,

Sun rising in Autumn of last year,

Sun rising in the mist, First day of fall, 2013

Sun rising in the mist, First day of fall, 2013

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

I took five years of French, yet my knowledge of the language is now limited to passable pronunciation. But this French idiom has always stayed with me. Literally it is translated, the more it changes, the more it is the same thing.

Some people put a depressing slant on this phrase, meaning that nothing changes, no matter how different outward appearances are.  I’m told the French themselves use this phrase in a rather cynical fashion.

Blue sky, white cloudsI suggest that this is a hopeful thought. That the circle of seasons, births, weddings, anniversaries, yes, and even death, are put in our lives by the Creator God to give us stability and to remind us of the preciousness of life — our own lives and the lives of those who surround us. These things that don’t change? We need to be grateful for the sameness. Grateful that the sky is always blue; grateful that the leaves always turn glorious colors in autumn; grateful that school always starts in the fall and there is important work to do.

Painting the cottage, one side last year,

Painting the cottage, one side this year,

ladder leaning against house

one side last year…

Painting the house before winter sets in, gathering walnuts before the squirrels — these are all part of the pattern of life that God sets before us. The sun rising behind that same tree is part of the cycle of the sun and seasons that God gave us. Circles, cycles, predictability, patterns…those are what allow us to see also the unpredictable surprises of life and be blessed by them. No matter how much time goes by, we are all part of the amazing cycle of human life — from beginning to end, great-great grandfather to great-great grand-niece, Genesis to Revelation; no matter how the outward appearances change, the natural life that God created us for, stays the same.

The cycles and circles of life bring the stability that enable us to fully live in the present, to fully engage with the people who surround us, and to celebrate the spectacular — both the ordinary beauty and the extraordinary beauty of our lives.

hibiscus

Give thanks for the circles and seasons that remind us of the preciousness of life…

18. Gifts of Time

I was sitting on the porch swing this morning feeling wistful
for summer gone and time wasted.
But was summer gone really careless use of time?
Porchsitting
Listening to bird song,
Drinking in the green of creation,
Reading, Writing,
Sipping iced tea,
Praying,
Is all that a time waster?

Busy, busy, busy–we are all too busy. Humming around, making our lists, doing our lists, crossing off the lists, but what IS on the list? Does it matter if I didn’t get the bathroom floor sanded or the rest of the carpet taken up? There is so much to do here… I had a restful summer. It was lovely. I’m thankful to have the summer to enjoy, but the inner listmaker chides me for not getting more accomplished when I had the time off…

Time here at the cottage can be a gift or it can be a devourer–
and sometimes it can be both on the same day, in the same hour…
I’m trying to adjust my attitude on time wasted, time spent, time anxiously appraised, time flying by…
Indeed, I’m trying to try on the attitude of timelessness.

We found this bird clock this spring at a junk shoppe in Tennessee. Each bird sings the hours, so you don’t notice time flying by…

Mr. H.C. and I have differences in how we view time and how we spend time. I am a reader, a dreamer, a time waster,
but I usually know what time it is within a few minutes.
And I usually get where I am going on time,
on the dot,
not early nor late…
Mr. H.C. works hard, works a lot, and when he is done working for other people, he works at home–
car washing, invoice making, calling customers, arranging work for next week, dish washing, fixing broken things, doing house projects, car repair, lawn mowing–
when he is done for the day, he falls asleep after reading two paragraphs.
No wonder! He’s tired!
Mr. H.C. is vague about time:
he works until he’s done, no matter how long it takes.
He’s rarely on the dot…
sometimes he calls me at 7:30 to tell me he will be late for dinner…

It’s been a struggle for me (and undoubtedly for him) to live with a time opposite.

This week is our tenth anniversary. In the past, this was the week we would take our vacation, but for the past six years I have worked as a school librarian, and school always seems to start that next week. Not a good time for lazy vacations!

As I was musing over what little gift I could give my sweetie, I thought back over some others. I have gotten him an electronic organizer (for saving time); a digital camera (for capturing time); an iPhone (for saving more time when the electronic organizer was outdated); a Garmin (for saving time while driving); a lovely leather organizing set from Levenger’s (for organizing time as well as saving it); and some miscellaneous tools (time-savers for sure!) As I looked over this list (!) I felt convicted. Now this is not all I’ve gotten him; I’ve given him some nice shirts and two handsome sports jackets, but…

This year I got him a hammock — for wasting time. (Shhh….it’s still wrapped up in a pretty box with green ribbon under the bed.) I don’t know when he’ll be able to use it, but at least he’ll have it. He can put it up wherever he wants — after all we have a lotta big trees, (but I’m thinking under the catalpa would be perfect!)

What is on your list today? Crumple up that list and throw it in the recycling bin. Take a walk somewhere green, just sit on the porch, or watch a sunset. Waste some time. September will be here soon enough…

Books to read that encourage un-busy-ness:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; Jesus Calling by Sarah Young; The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris; The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence; Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton; Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.