Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When I find myself in times of trouble

When I was about 24-years-old, my brothers and sisters and I spent about 9 months watching our mother die from colon cancer.  On one of her last days, my brother Donald and I sat together quietly in her hospital room one long afternoon while she slept.  Neither of us had said anything for the longest time when I saw Don reach into his pocket and pull out one of his business cards and a pen.  He turned the card over, wrote something on it, and handed it to me.  He had written, "And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me," from the Beatles' song Let it Be.  It comforted him to write it, and it comforted me to read it.

It seems there is always a need for comfort in our lives, at least there always is in mine.  No one has a perfect, stress-free life.  We have lovely stress-free, joy-bringing, bliss-filled moments, but they are all too fleeting to be cherished for anything more than a minute and a memory. 

Yet there is still a light that shines on us.  God used Jeremiah to say it in a different way, one that never fails to bring me comfort. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). I can’t tell you how many times I have leaned on Jeremiah.  I only know one thing about the future:  God is already there.  And if God is there, I can go there, too.

One of the most comforting things I ever heard came to me as sort of a second-hand story.  I know the person who told me the story had no idea then that it would mean so much to me since she told it to me, about 12 or 13 years ago.  I was working part-time at a different college than the one I work at now.  My boss was a happy, bright young Christian woman.  One day she received word that the husband of a good friend about her age or a little older had died unexpectedly.  Michelle, my boss, was distraught, because while Michelle’s friend was a Christian, she knew the husband was not.  Michelle went to the funeral with a heavy heart and afterwards broke down in front of her friend, the new widow.  She told her friend how upset she was and why.  Her friend took her by the shoulders (maybe figuratively) and firmly said, “Now stop it, Michelle, or you’re going to block the blessing.”  

“Don’t block the blessing” is now something I say to myself whenever something awful happens, or whenever I think something awful is about to happen (which as we all know can be worse than the real awful thing actually happening).  It makes me remember to acknowledge God’s presence in the awfulness, because it is God’s presence that gives me hope – and comfort. 

It is the blessing of God's comforting Presence always and everywhere that keeps us from becoming totally hopeless when external forces try to rob us of peace and comfort; of health and wholeness.  It is the blessing of God's comforting Presence, the Light that shines on us even when it is cloudy, that helps us take that next step and then the next one, and the next, knowing he is with us however rocky the road.

So I thank you, God, for Donald, for Jeremiah, for Michelle and Michelle’s friend, and thank you God for Paul McCartney.  Thank you most of all for your Son, the source of all comfort.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV)  Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I did on my spring break

It was spring break here last week and for the first time (ever, I guess) all of the employees of the college where I work had the whole week off.  In the past, only the students and faculty were off all week and the staff had to work Monday through Wednesday.  This year, thanks to thoughtful research and presentations by our staff advocacy group, the board of trustees agreed that everyone should be off the whole week.  Bliss!

Our good friend from "out west" came to visit for the week.  We had fun eating (lots), going shopping, going to a movie (Blue Jasmine), hanging out together (he's a very low maintenance guest) and, sewing, of course!  I worked on my fussy cut grandmother's flower garden, with our friend's help:  he actually basted about a zillion of the white hexagons onto their paper pieces. You can see them here.  (My connection must be too slow to add pictures this morning, so I've linked to my Flickr site).

I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but I thought Blue Jasmine was just great. The theme of the movie is:  The lies we tell ourselves are just as detrimental, if not more so, than the lies we tell other people.  Cate Blanchett did a great job of bringing believability to an exaggerated character.  Only maybe Jasmine's not so exaggerated.  My limited contact (basically, next to none unless you count news stories) with the super wealthy suggests that there are some Jasmines in real life.

I ended the week bringing the container plants out of the garage, finally, and back on the patio and porch.  I also planted four tomato plants, cucumber seeds and a few other plants.  If we have another freeze at this point, I'll be completely shocked, but then, I never expected we'd have such a cold winter.

So now I have to put the hexagons aside and get back to work on a churn dash restoration.  I put it away for spring break because I didn't want to close myself up in the sewing room all week, and I limit my restoration work to that room, for safety of the projects.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!