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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, April 16, 2007

In the Midst of Life

On eleven April I celebrated my 54th birthday. That doesn't seem so old but as I draw nearer to sixty I find myself thinking "old" and not "older". Wonder why that is? We find some birthdays dramatic and even crisis mode and others clear sailing. Thus far, no birthday has been anything other than gratefully appreciated. After all, consider the alternative to waking up above ground. Doesn't bear much thinking, eh?

A little while ago, flowers arrived from Anne and Ken. What a thoughtful and kind Grandmother Bennett hung a little plaque on her living room wall that said, "give me my flowers while I live". What a wonderful sentiment! What a big difference the small things make in our lives. How many would still be with us today had a kind word, pat on the back or small gesture been extended toward them? What a difference we can make in the lives of family, friends and strangers when we look beyond ourselves. It's not enough to pray, in secret, for others. We need to pray, in public, for them as well. We need to let them know they are loved, needed and wanted; no one can fill another's place. Each of us are unique, created in the Creators' image to be loved by Him; to be sought by the Hound of Heaven with a love so great He felt it was worth His life.
Has anyones' life been enhanced because you passed their way today? Sometimes it's us who needs the embrace or to be reminded of a bit of warmth in a frosty world. When we strive to reach out in kindness to others, we're casting our bread upon the waters, ensuring good karma, making sure what goes around is good so that good comes back around.
I'm a firm believer in reaching out to others because others will be there when I reach out in need.
Dave and I have been watching the CNN broadcast about the VA Tech shootings. As of right now the death count is thirty-one and climbing; some of the wounded have been taken to the Roanoke trauma center. I've made telephone calls to check on loved ones who work and go to school at VT; so far everyone is accounted for and safe in body if not spirit.
What's the meaning of violence or hate or ill-will in life and in our lives? I'm certain only that I don't know. On my best days I barely comprehend the love, grace, peace and mercy of God and loved ones. To attempt to comprehend the mind of madmen is more than I can bring to the I don't. I pray and when I don't know what to pray, I cry and allow the Holy Spirit of God to intercede on behalf of my heart.
I do know that with each passing year, with each birthday, I find it more and more difficult to hear, much less see, the ugliness of mankind. I wonder how the great heart of the Most High bears it and He's had since time's beginning to look upon our sin.
On a list recently, someone asked what words do we use when words are needed. I responded that words are, for me, not as worthy as action. When someone is in need of comfort, I show up with food or a hand knitted shawl and then do that person's chores or house cleaning...some thing of action to show them what I can't tell them. I don't trust myself nor my words for fear I'll get in the way of the words and not be a comfort.
Then, I find something like the following by Julian of Norwich and find much comfort in her words. A balm in Gilead for those times when I feel like a great dumb beast simply bearing up under yet more madness.
Like today.

Julian of Norwich ~

"All things shall be well
You shall see for yourself that
All manner of things shall be well

For as the body is clad in the cloth,
And the flesh in the skin,
And the bones in the flesh
And the heart in the trunk
So are soul, and body, clad and enclosed in the goodness of God
As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother
And he revealed that in everything and especially in these sweet words where he says,

"I am the power and goodness of fatherhood,
I am the wisdom and lovingness of motherhood.
I am the light and grace which is all blessed love."

I looked at the hazel nut with the eye of my understanding and thought, what can this be?
I was amazed that it could last for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing.

And I was answered in my understanding.
It lasts and always will, because God loves it, and thus everything has being through the love of God.

You will not be overcome.
God did not say you will not be troubled,
You will not be belaboured,
You will not be disquieted;
But God said, You will not be overcome.

What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing?
Know it well, love was his meaning.
Who reveals it to you? Love
What did he reveal to you? Love
Why does he reveal it to you? For Love
Remain in this. And you will know more of the same."

Blessings ~

~the love of God
~the love of family
~the love of friends
~the comfort we are not alone when God holds us in His love and loved ones hold us in their hearts

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tempus Fugit & Happy Resurrection

Tempus Fugit! In other words...time flees and quickly. Those people who work for themselves, in jobs of their own choosing, would, in all likelihood, not change a thing. But, it's difficult to get it all done when it's only you who is the do-er. Frequently, when I talk with friends who work for themselves, the same topic comes up...getting it all done and how to decide what doesn't get done.

Tops on the list are animals. Anyone who shepherds, farms or raises animals agree the animals are the *first priority*. Tending to the animals comes before feeding oneself, cleaning house, knitting or crocheting, quilting, baking...even bathing. During lambing season there's been many a morning I crawl out of bed and put on the same, dirty clothes I wore the day before. There comes a point in time when it simply does not matter what clothes I wear because they will, in due course, become filthy, nasty anyway.

And I do this because I LOVE it! As do most shepherds and farmers I know. It's more than a lifestyle, it's a life and one we all love and wouldn't change for all the tea in China.

It's lambalanch season and lambs are all over the valley. Yesterday morning I left the house at seven a.m. to meet Mother and Sister in Roanoke. Roanoke is about equi-distance for all of us so we meet there for lunch and to catch up with each other. It's a practice we've just started and are hopeful our menfolk can come next time.

Anyway, I'm driving up the valley, appreciating the beautiful morning, being watchful of deer and other wildlife. Always, as I pass William's farm, I slow to look at his sheep. I enjoy seeing where other shepherds are in the process, no matter the season, and William is smack dab in the middle of lambing. Tee tiny lambs frolic in the lamb-lot closest to the road, there must be a dozen or more just in one lot. It was dawn, the air was cool, the grass was wet with dew and, to a one, all the ewes were standing stock still with one rear leg extended behind them. To a one, the lambs were lined up at their mother's teats, drinking their fill.

After a night of sleep for the lambs and ewes both were starting their day on a positive note. The ewes were being relieved of the pressure on their udders by the lambs suckling and the lambs were receiving much needed nourishment in the form of warm milk.

I'm a sap. I know this and anyone who knows me knows this. I wear this hard, exterior shell to cover the fact I'm a soft touch and have a tender heart. Throughout the years I've learned just how frosty this ole world can be and I've "built a wall around me that you can't even see" ---remember that old Phoebe Snow song...I LOVE that song and her as well...that anyone with a bit of patience and eyes can see my facade of a crumbling wall. Family and friends who are nearest and dearest, by grace and mercy, know I'm a fake and love me anyway.

I am a most blest woman!

Anyway. Being a practicing Christian means my wall has to crumble. It means I have to be available and open and honest and real. It means I have to be hurt and, sometimes, just because I'm all too human, it means I hurt others. God forgive me. It's an ugly truth but the beauty is He forgives me and forgets my failings. God is a better God than I am His, imperfect, creation and the Psalmist said, 136:1 "O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." Thanks be to God, His mercy extends to me...and to you too.

Back to the lambs and ewes...

It was simply enchanting! I'm going back this week to take photos. In the meantime, it reminded me that my day goes better, much better, when, first thing in the morning, I fix myself upon my Creator. When I drink my fill of His word, when I take time to study or hear His word, to fix my eyes and heart upon Him, my path is made smooth and I'm better able to handle what the day brings.

Today is Palm Sunday and, in Christian churches all over the world, the sermon and lessons were on Christ and His disciples - The Last Supper, His triumphant ride into Jerusalem, prayer and betrayal in the garden, the trial, the crucifixion and burial. Easter Sunday, next Sunday, comes His release from and victory over the grave; He Lives, He Lives!

Maybe it's because I live so close to life and death, to the earth and with the animals that I think, what might be to some, strange thoughts. I'm sitting in church today and thinking, "it's a short way from the Penthouse to the Outhouse".

No, I'm not joking. Look at Christ and how He was heralded when He rode into Jerusalem upon that ass. People threw palm branches at His feet, they sang songs of praise and gladness; I'm sure people cried they were so overwhelmed with... what? Emotions of joy, laughter...what, exactly? And one short week, not even a full week, they were spitting in His face and crying "give Him the death we reserve for our worst criminals!" They couldn't even find fault with Him, they just wanted Him dead and gone where He couldn't rouse the people with His miracles, His teaching, His words and works.

Emotions don't last. None of 'em. Not those of joy or sorrow, gladness or pain, love or hate. Emotions change like the wind and I've learned not to depend upon emotions. Don't get me wrong. I like emotions, I like feeling 'em but I don't rely on them. Not in me nor in others. I rely on being there, on follow through, on promises not only made but kept. I rely on people who have proven themselves reliable. I rely on myself but, most of all, I rely on God. On His promises, on His favor, on His word.

I'm grateful for the Resurrection, for what we call "Easter". It's a grim and joyous reminder of what this 'Christianity' is all about. It's a reminder of what great and painful cost He paid so we might re-enter the Garden and be with Him for all eternity. It's a reminder of the revival we can have, here and now, while waiting for the Bridegroom to come. It's a grim and joyous reminder for me to live deliberately, to live as a thoughtful and attentive follower of Christ. Not to do my best, for that's not approaching good, but to allow Him to be in me, to work through me, to allow His Spirit to change me. And, when I've fallen short, to ask for and receive His forgiveness and that of others. To pray as He taught, "Thy will be done."

So, in this spring, Easter and Resurrection season, join me. Covenant with yourself and Him to live deliberately, to follow through on your decision to be a thoughtful and attentive Christian. To forgive yourself and others no matter if they forgive you or not. To live as Christ would have you live, today and today only. To know and accept that God forgives and that's enough to keep you and me going in the right direction.

Happy Resurrection, fellow pilgrim, the tomb is empty!

This article is my submission to the blog challenge sponsored by Art Bookbindery, "Empowering Writers to Self Publish."

If you're not familiar with Christian Women Online, pay them a visit. It's an interesting site, full of good, useful and uplifting information. I found this contest after I'd posted but felt it worthwhile to come back and add a footnote.
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