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Monday, August 24, 2020

JUNK AND TRASH

 My long time readers will all remember I have a "thing" about the local landfill.  TRULY, it is a fascinating place!  Perhaps in a former life I drove a trash truck?  One thing is for sure--one man's junk is another man's treasure.  If you don't grab that treasure off the side of the road, once it is headed for the landfill---it's a lost cause.  They have quite an efficient operation.


I must confess, in my lifetime, there has been quite the evolution of how we handle our trash.  As a child there was the oil drum way behind our house where we took the day's trash. When I scooted back the slightly ajar lid to dump the trash can, I was greeted quite a few times by a snarling possum.  This ALWAYS led to a scream, throwing the trash straight up in the air, and running for my life.  THEN Momma sent me back to pick up said trash, clean up my mess and finish the job-even though death by a mad possum was virtually guaranteed.  OH, THANK YOU, that I no longer have to tackle snarling possums to get rid of the trash.  (THOSE BUGGERS HAVE NEEDLE SHARP TEETH!)  After successfully dumping the trash in the barrel, I struck a match and set the papers on fire that we lined the can with.  Hopefully all the trash burned after leaving the lid ajar so the fire could get some oxygen.  I don't remember the schedule, but the town garbage truck came by and emptied the ashes and what remained in the truck to be taken to the city dump occasionally. (We didn't have landfills, we had dumps where the trash was then burned again).  The EPA was probably created from the air being filled with toxic fumes from dumps all over the country.



Fast forward to today.  Trash is an industry-well the handling of our trash.  This past week I cleaned out my outdoor storage house and ended up with a truck load of junk.  With a borrowed truck, I loaded the junk up and headed to the landfill.  LESSON LEARNED--do not go on a weekday mid-morning.  The parish and city trucks were also arriving with their first or second loads and I ended up in a line between them all.  WHAT must they have thought?  Sorry I am off track.  First you have to stop on the scale to be weighed before proceeding to unload your truck.  In my former life of a decade ago, I went to the landfill regularly to take my yard trash in my role as yard girl and grounds keeper.  It was an easy process--I was on first name basis with the gate keeper.  They don't know me anymore--sadly.  


I proceed to the shed where you dump the trash and sat in line between all the trucks.  FINALLY it is my turn, and I get ready to back up.  The "man in charge" sees its a lone woman in the midst of all the trucks and immediately stops my backward progress.  He make me line up the truck again--I still don't know why I need to move over 3 feet- and then directs me  back.  The WHOA! shook the entire truck.  He proceeds to help me unload my junk-I guess for the sake of me not being there all day.  At the bottom of the heap were some old metal stakes.  "Is that metal?--You gotta take that to the metal bin, Lady!"  I'm staring at him like I've been hit over the head with a metal stake--"WHERE is the metal bin?"  Lady--just follow this road and at the stop sign you can't miss it just right across the road.  He was right, but the dead give away was all the metal on the ground around the bin. So one more stop to "chunk" (proud to say I can still chunk) the stakes up and into the bin.  Back to the scale to weigh again and then I get the old wave which is the high sign for you are dismissed.  I must admit disappointment.  If anyone was ever perfect for a position at the landfill, it was me.  I am a model of efficiency and order.  There was no job offer--only a smile and dismissal.

Back in the old days, we would occasionally take a load to the dump and just back up to the pile and throw it on.  They don't let you anywhere near where the actual burying is going on.  The junk is offloaded into a 18 wheeler and it takes it to the site.  I am certain there is good reason for this.  Perhaps they don't trust old ladies driving pick up trucks to stay out of the way of the tractors or create chaos.

The trash we accumulate in our lives has become quite an industry.  From the time you throw something in the plastic bagged garbage can to the ultimate disposition in the parish landfill there is an intricate process of how things are handled.  I am a big recycle fan and actually have more recycle trash than garbage.  Wouldn't we all be  better off if we were careful of the trash we accumulate?  Who wants there life filled with trash?  Who wants our world filled with trash?  I am not speaking just of the physical trash, but the emotional and spiritual junk we are often burdened with.  What is your process of ridding yourself of that junk?  Food for thought.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up

Hebrews 12:1

Saturday, August 22, 2020

VIRTUAL LEARNING

 Truly, I have been at such a loss these past six plus months with limited volunteer opportunities.  Being a part of the "vulnerable crowd" certainly has its downfalls and at the top of my list has been limited social contact.  Being an introvert does not mean I do not enjoy and even crave social interaction.  Instead I just need time to recharge my batteries between dives into the throngs of humanity I dearly love.



I miss conversation, but I especially miss hugs--touches--physical contact.  It has not been easy to resist grabbing others and wrapping them in a smothering hug. It just does not seem normal.

Well things are about to take a big turn in my little world--FOR THE BETTER!  I am about to embark on the "virtual learning" journey.  All four of the younger grands are going to have a month of stay at home learning experience.  This past spring, the education community was caught off guard, I believe they are ready for the challenge with the start of the new school year.  All my education friends tell me there will be ways to monitor participation and the truancy officer will come see you if you are not present and accounted for each day.



With four children in four different grades, #1 daughter has her hands full.  I love volunteering in the schools and am kept from that passion with the new COVID rules in schools here.  WELL---I volunteered to come help with The Jennings School  until they are allowed to go back to in person school.  "Fun Lulu" is being replaced by "Get the task done" Lulu.  We will divide and conquer those little scholars!  AND as an added bonus, I am pretty sure I will get a hug or two along the way.

NOW, in all honesty, I am more than a little intimated at times by technology.  We will have four computers and tablets plugged in to four different sites.  It makes my head spin to think about it!  Hopefully the two oldest grands will be able to navigate their way through the cyber world to where they are supposed to be.  BUT, the thought of 8:00-3:00 need to stay on the right cyber page is slightly frightening--well honestly-down right scary!

While thinking over how this will look when school starts, I realized I have actually done quite a bit of virtual learning over my lifetime.  Whenever I am plugged in to the correct "Main Frame", things have run pretty smoothly.  The times that have been not just rocky but at times like riding out a hurricane have been when I lost my connection, forgot to power up, crashed the system by some foolishness.  Thank goodness I am always allowed to reboot and power up again.  

Virtual learning is old as time itself.  Thankful to have a loving teacher with infinite patience as I traverse this old world.  Always learning--always learning!

It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

John 6:45

Friday, August 14, 2020

LIFE ON SHIFTING SANDS

 This pandemic and the current state of the world has me vacillating a lot between



peeping out of my den to see if things have returned to normal ( I KNOW there is no such thing as normal)


AND



When I get a whiff of what is currently happening, I want to bury my head in the sand.

Is it any wonder I am having a tough time writing?  


I NEVER in my wildest dream considered the world would look like it does today!


Some things, though, have not changed


We have always lived in a hurting and broken world



We all desire to be loved

AND


The world may be quickly changing and shifting around us---we never know what the next moment may bring, but God NEVER changes.  He is our hope!

I am the LORD,

and I do not change.

Malachi 3:6

Monday, August 10, 2020

PRACTICE-PRACTICE-PRACTICE

The news is reporting all the football teams are beginning to practice for their coming season.  NO MATTER HOW I FEEL ABOUT THAT-SIGH~I will not be distracted from the purpose of this post and football season is NOT the nucleus of my thoughts (EVER).


 

Practice is an essential part of any sport.  MANY more hours are spent practicing than actually playing the game.  Cross country is an excellent example.  The runners practice year round except for a couple of brief breaks after seasons are over.  MILES AND MILES are run--daily--in all kinds of weather conditions--and on all types of terrain.  Top that with cross training and you spend at least a couple of hours daily--6-7 days a week for more than 11 months of the year preparing for a handful of races which all last--no more than 30 minutes each.




I practiced for 18 weeks each time I ran a marathon.  You cannot just decide to run a marathon and expect to show up the day of the race and finish 26.2 miles.  Unless you are some superhuman species, the muscles have to learn what you are going to expect from them and your head has to get prepared for the mental challenge of running that distance.  It would never have been possible without all those days of practice.  The same held true for each hiking trip we went on.  You cannot go climb a mountain without preparing yourself physically by practicing the ups and downs long before you step foot on the mountain.  Most physical endeavors require practice to perform at your best.



I practice writing each and every time I sit down and put a thought on paper.  During the quarantine, I began drawing.  With each attempt I was practicing the art so I would get better.  Practice also instills memories in not just our brain, but also our muscles.  We are learning what to do and how to do it by practicing the skill.


The last few minutes of the news are the real reason I watch the news most days.  No matter what horrible things are going on in the world, the news teams gives us a glimpse of a better world the last thing on the show. Recently I saw a special about a young boy who they declared was practicing compassion.  NOW if there EVER was anything worthy of practice--daily practice it is compassion.  And most of the time, we do not walk away from that practice drained, but instead energized.  One little act of compassion can lead to another and another--with practice we become addicted to the blessings of helping our fellow man.  

I cannot think of anything more worthy of practice than compassion.  What a beautiful world it would be if we all would only practice love and mercy daily.  There would indeed by glory--if we would only practice.


"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."

Hebrews 6:10

Sunday, August 9, 2020

FEAR NOT

I have been locked down since March 13.  Following the rules, and trying to be a good citizen and neighbor, I have been questioned why I think this is necessary.  I have been reminded I only have one risk factor---OLD AGE.  And then my kids remind me I am vulnerable-- "Stay home, MOM!"  AND right up the street is my sweet niece, who if she sees me in my car, will stop me and ask where I am going.  I am thankful for being so cared for.


My reason for being extremely cautious is two fold---I would NOT want to transmit the disease--even unknowingly.  There seems to be some who have the opinion that the loss of some human life is a acceptable cost of not being inconvenienced.  As for myself, I am willing to stay home if it means I am not responsible for your grandparents or parents loss.  What a heavy burden to my conscious it would be to know my desire to go somewhere caused the loss of a loved one.


My second reason is totally selfish of me.  I laughingly tell people, I do not care to suffer~I don't do suffering well.  OH, I laugh it off, but there is a huge element of truth in this statement.  COVID, if you are one of the ones badly affected, will cause suffering and even a mild case is no cake walk.  NOW--there is no barometer for who will be dangerously sick and who will not.  Certainly older adults are more negatively affected, but there are young and old alike filling the ICU beds across the country.  I have read about the varied symptoms and none of them sound like a ball of fun.  AGAIN, I do not want to suffer.

As I walked my circles around the Hood in the early morning twilight today, it occurred to me I have an aversion to suffering in many areas including relationships.  Fear and reluctance have become barriers for entertaining deepening of some relationships~fear of the possibility of suffering.  How quickly I forget the benefits of deep relationships--the blessings love offers--instead I dwell on the pain that a relationship might entail. 

The most important thing I tend to forget when trying to avoid suffering is the most tangible feeling of the presence of Jesus has come in my deepest suffering.  He is always present, but I am most aware in my times of greatest suffering.  He walks by my side, upholds me with His strong right arm, and holds my tears.

So my take away, it is almost a sure bet, I will suffer again--before I leave this temporary home.  BUT---suffering does not negate the blessings along the path which eventually lead to suffering.  AND--Jesus is present--ALWAYS--and I am especially aware of Him being near in periods of greatest suffering.

FEAR NOT!


Thursday, August 6, 2020

FAIRY LAND

I have had many projects during this lock down to keep myself busy.  I recently decided to make a fairy garden.  The plants are all live-succulents, the sidewalk is crushed egg shells-repurposed from my garden compost savings, and the "grass" is dried moss.  All the creatures, furniture, mail box, bird bath, and house were ordered on line.  (The UPS man/woman have worn a path in the sidewalk to my door.)
 The sweet little house is solar powered and lights up at night.  How warm and inviting the light shining from the windows is when I glance out at the nighttime patio.  It seems to draw you in with a promise of peace.



 
As I was putting this project together, it began to dawn on me why this is so inviting.  We all want to live in the sweet cottage surrounded by a lovely garden and rock fence.  Perhaps I speak too hastily, but I would dare to say most of us in my season of life desire this.  Serenity, beauty, and warmth are now more important than massive, grandiose, and costly.


 While this is certainly lovely, my eyes see loads of upkeep, tons of work, and money flying out the chimney in a whiff of smoke.  You finally get to the point in life when you realize "things" are not what it is all about.  "Things" come with a burden to preserve them or they will implode.  There is much to be said for simplicity.

When I read, I find myself exhausted after finishing a book which closely reflects "real life".  I prefer the good feelings of "Lala Land" books-fairy tales.  Don't we all want a happy ending, don't we all want to be rescued from the brink of disaster, don't we all want to be loved and adored?  Don't we all want to be the central character in our own Fairy Tale?  BUT life does not always seem to go the way we once dreamed it would and more closely resembles a reality series than a fairy tale.


I have come to realize during this period of reflection, my cozy cottage in the woods is actually my sweet little house in the midst of the hood.  Happy endings are par for the course in fairy tales, but there is nothing holding me back from a sweet ending, and I am loved and adored by the One who is ever faithful.  He sent me a love letter full of promises and a declaration of His care.

I will keep on reading those happy ending books, and creating little treasures like my fairy garden.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying dreaming.  It is when we allow ourselves to become disappointed with what we have that trouble rears its head.  God has a way of reminded me of all the blessings He has lavished upon me when I drift toward the land of discontent.  I am loved and adored, my cottage is warm and peaceful, and there is a sweet ending coming.  In the midst of chaos, in the era of uncertainty, and with doubt knocking at the door, He is still My Provider whose promises are sure and certain.  Each and everyday brings the opportunity of living in faith, claiming the promises, and holding on to the sureness of sweet endings.

To Him who by means of His power working in us
is able to do SO MUCH MORE than
we can ever ask for, 
or ever think of:
to God be the glory
in the church 
and in Christ Jesus
 for all time,
for ever and ever.
Amen
Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

COULD WE AGREE TO DISAGREE--NICELY?

Momma, Bless Her Heart, is best remembered by her family, as short on words, but high in demands.  She was the epitome of the Queen Mother~


She had an opinion on how you should live-and did not mind sharing it. 

I do remember one piece of sage advice she gave me as a very young child~

She was specifically speaking of talking about others.  Good advice!

One of the most wearying things about this pandemic is all the vitriol being spewed back and forth.  It has absolutely strangled all the good that is being done in our world.  A neighbor and I, in passing on our daily walks, recently commented about the constant barrage of negative press--from both sides!  NO ONE has a corner on this market.  The tension of the world today and the access to social media has been a volatile combination to feed the fire of not just negativity, but outright loss of decency toward one another.  The greatest commandment to love one another has flown out the door and been replaced by love those who are like me.

We have people physically attacking each other over the right to wear or not wear a mask.  What would cause ANYONE to slap someone or tear down a display because they didn't want to wear a mask?  And it goes both ways, the mask wearers do not stop to consider there may be a medical reason someone cannot wear a mask, they immediately react negatively and go on the attack instead of just backing away and keeping distance from the non-wearer.  We have gone over the edge of reason and fallen into the abyss of personal freedoms.  There is no end to the argument as long as we looking at our own navel. When looking at videos to post recounting these incidences, they were so disturbing--I chose not to go there.

WHAT IF????  What -if instead of pointing out all the downfalls of each other, we began instead to either point to the positives of the ones we support and the ideals we believe in?  What if -we tried to sway the opinions of others with the positives and NOT the negatives?  One of my mantras in life is I do not argue politics or religion.  You CANNOT change anyone's mind by arguing.  They immediately go on the defense and instead of listening to what you have to say begin to form their attack upon what they have predetermined as your wrong.  If we would listen to one another, stay out of the attack stance, and agree to think over what the other has said, how much better the world would be.

I am weary.  I am burdened by what I see happening in the world.  I am saddened to think of my grandchildren missing out on the wonderful world I grew up in.  

NOW--you may not agree.  That is your right!  Would you please do me the favor of stating your disagreement not in an attack fashion, but instead calmly state your view.  I am open to listening, if you say it nicely.  

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

BARE NECESSITIES

Returning from a road trip to Big Bend with Grand #4, I was met with the harsh reality of a world turned upside down.  As I dropped him off at his home, I was told his entire family had the virus while we were gone and his dad was still really sick.  #1 Daughter advised it was not a good idea for me to come inside.  (They all recovered, but Dr SIL was down 3 weeks). Instead of spending the night with his family, I drove four plus more hours headed home and my bed.  March 13 was the beginning of a new and unfamiliar life.



As the days began to stretch out before me and with stay at home orders in place, I began to search for my new normal.  Silly me---there is no normal except the setting on the dryer!  


In the beginning, I was convinced I should carry on as close to usual as possible.  After my morning walk, I would dress, put on my make up (War Paint), try to get my hair to cooperate, and don clothing--sans pre -lock down wear.  I can be slow, but it did finally dawn upon me, I didn't really have to wear something that would require ironing if I was seeing no one.  So the first thing to happen was I started wearing my dri-fit exercise clothing all day.  


LADIES---what is NOT to like about this?  Expando-matic waist, soft material, and we will not even go to the advantages of sports bras!  If you know me well at all, you KNOW I feel as if I was born to dress this way.  

The next thing which bit the dust was make up.  WHY would I spend one minute of time putting on make up when I was not seeing anyone?  Why I even got truly adapt at avoiding my reflection in the mirror.  So what if I have age spots, wrinkles, and a definite droop going on?  Who was I seeing that needed to be impressed?  AND added incentive--IF YOU DO GO OUT--You wear a mask!  WHO WOULD KNOW I had no make up on?  In fact there was a good possibility I would not be recognized at all.  TRULY INCOGNITO!


As for the hair, you DO remember there were NO trips to the salon for a period of time.  After noticing I now had tri colored hair and NOT from foil color treatment, I had an inch gray, an inch brown, and the rest faded brassy gold.  LOVELY!  I ordered three hats---problem solved.  I started washing my hair, letting it dry naturally and donning the day's hat.

AT last, I was stripped down to the real me.  Freeing is an understatement!  My new beauty routine consisted of a shower and a slathering of moisturizer all over-END OF ROUTINE!  Slowly I became brave enough to look in the mirror and discovered to my amazement, it wasn't really all that bad.  While working in the yard, I had a nice farmer's tan going on, and who knew I actually have a little natural curl in my hair if I leave it alone.  It was a return to the innocence of childhood and the carefree notion that what you wear and how you dress is not of greatest importance.  My greatest concern in those lovely days of my youth was WHO will I play with today?

I discovered as I passed the neighborhood walkers--no one really cares if I am made up and pulled tight.  Slowly it dawns on me it is more important the words I use to greet a neighbor than how I look when I speak those words.  


When all is said and done, it's what is said and done that matters--NOT how I looked.  NO the quarantine has not been easy, but I am learning important lessons about Who God says I am and trying to leave behind Who the world thinks I should be.  OH, I have been back to the hair salon, occasionally I put on make up, and I have even donned those "real world" clothes a few times.  BUT hopefully, I am more focused on what you are saying and how I am responding, what you might need me to pray for you, and how I might be a good neighbor than my reflection in the mirror. This proverb says it best~






Monday, August 3, 2020

CHANGING MY COAT

If I am totally honest, I must admit this virus deal has occasionally put me into a tailspin.



It never occurred to me that I would EVER have to work at keeping busy.  When my volunteering imploded with the state shut down, I began to search for old and new activities to fill my days.  Somehow I have developed a pattern of 30 minute splurges into a variety of endeavors.  Perhaps I should apply to be the new ADHD spokesperson.  I will save the list of all the things I have attempted for another day.  This changed world we are living in has challenged me to maintain the positive spin while trying to pull out of a nose dive into the doldrums.



It has been amazing to see how God has provided each and every time the day has begun to darken into a dreary haze of repetition.  I laughingly tell others I am in a pattern of reliving Ground Hog Day over and over. The resulting primary pursuit has revolved around what I will be eating for my next meal.  With all the change, my appetite definitely has not suffered.  Or am I eating to fill the time?  I am not certain why-but I do know the tightening of my clothing is indicative of what I am spending part of my time pursuing.



The necessity of social isolation to stem the out of control spread of this deadly virus has been trying at best.  With the onset of our hot & steamy southern summer, the occasional visits outside or in the garage have had to be curtailed.  A feeling of heaviness of spirit or despair has occasionally settled around me like a thick and suffocating fog.  I am weighted down by the heavy coat of despair over all the suffering and trouble in the world and my loss of the means to help.






Just when I think I will not be able to pull out of the tailspin and I am headed for a huge crash, God sends me a Word or sign or nudge of encouragement.  A reminder that I am not in this alone.  Yes, the struggle is real and there is certainly a spirit of heaviness in the world today, but God is faithfully by my side.  Recently God reminded me of how to handle all the world is throwing my way.  He pointed these words directly at my heart~


BUT GOD!



Sunday, August 2, 2020

BLINDSIDED


This sports picture captures the meaning of blindsided perfectly.  He did not see it coming.  There have been two distinct times in my life I was blindsided.  I am currently living in the midst of the second one and beginning to wonder just how long I will be groping my way through it.  Truthfully~did you ever in your wildest dreams consider we would be living in the midst of a pandemic?


Was it EVER on your radar that a microscopic particle--one the human eye could not see--would come along and turn the world upside down?  Unless you are some soothsayer, I doubt it occurred to you--and it certainly was not in my play book.

Can you just imagine the panic packing when the Israelites were told---"OK, you can leave".  Hundreds of years of accumulation and probably a few hours to pack it all up.  God's people had grown complacent and accustomed to not only living in exile and slavery, but had lost hope in ever escaping.  NOW they were blindsided by the announcement, GET YOUR STUFF TOGETHER AND GET OUT OF TOWN.


When they finally accepted the fact they were truly escaping their cruel taskmasters, the panic packing began.  I envision the donkey slowly pulling off as the last few things were thrown toward the cart.  


Can you even begin to imagine what the trail looked like after 40 years of hiking through the wilderness?  God's chosen were blindsided and not ready for the big move.  During the 40 year shuffle, they began to discover things they did not really need---feel the burden of the stuff they thought they could not live without.  I would bet the sloughing off began within the first few miles.  With every additional footfall, there was serious consideration given to exactly what was truly important to drag along.  The first true minimalists were part of the great exile out of Egypt.  If you must carry it on your back, the question of necessity becomes of upmost importance.

YES, we are living through a pandemic.  The first one since the Spanish flu pandemic of the early 1900's.  We have all been blindsided and the world seems to have gone crazy.  BUT GOD!  There is something to be learned in all of this.  There certainly is plenty of time to consider what God is teaching--if you are  being considerate of your neighbors and adhering to the rules.  I have spent more time alone the past six months than any other time in my life.  Plenty of time to think and pray.  Plenty of time to seek God.  What have I been dragging around that needs to be left behind?  Not just what stuff, but what negative emotion, what long held grudge, what baggage which should have been cast aside long ago?  Time to throw off anything which stands between a deeper relationship with my family, my friends and especially my God.  Praying I can lighten the load and grow in these uncertain times.  Though I may have been blindsided--there are no surprises for God.  Looking for the lesson--always looking for the lesson.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of His heart to all generations.
Psalm 33:11