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Paradise Lost

During my teens, I discovered a good way to find solitude as well as exercise was to take a walk in the country. Our small Kansas town gave many such opportunities, since farmland surrounded the residential areas. I found a country road within six blocks of my home. It featured rolling pastureland with several cattle chewing their cuds as they escaped the heat under the shade of a nearby tree.

My thoughts flickered by as I stretched my legs. A slight breeze touched my cheeks and the scent of wild flowers puckered my nose with a pleasant but allergic reaction. The sounds of insects buzzed and hummed creating a lazy drone and made me long for a nap. I instead chose a nearby stump and perched there while surveying the bucolic scene through the barbed-wire fence. A sense of peace and well-being came over my soul. I frequently went back to my quiet resting place throughout that summer.

During the following school year, I became too busy to return. Imagine my surprise on my first visit back, to find my sanctuary gone! Instead of the grassy field occupied by my bovine friends, I found a plowed-up area without the pleasant country scene.

What on earth! Who had taken my idyllic setting? How dare they rob me of my little piece of Heaven!

As I trudged home in grief, I began to realize that my real treasure had not been taken. I could still go back to my retreat in a moment. It was no longer in a geographical location, but no one could steal it from my memory. Without the effort of a hike, I could arrive there any time I pleased just by recalling it.

I learned that day that serenity is not a place but a state of mind. Later in my life, I discovered an even greater source of peace and tranquility. Whenever I became distressed with worry and fear, I learned to go into prayer and looked for direction in the Bible. It was there that I found multiple verses leading me to a new answer to my search. God gave me a peace beyond understanding with a redirection of my thoughts toward Him.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” Isaiah 26:3 ESV.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7 ESV.

Dianna

Sharing the Fruit of Maturity

 

Posted in Faith: Nearer My God to Thee, Memoir: When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth | Leave a comment

Mary’s Easter Encounter

 

“Mary,” He said,

And my eyes grew wide.

“Master,” I cried!

“Is it you?”

 

Tears of joy

Would not retreat

As I fell at His feet.

How could it be?

 

I looked into His eyes.

My confusion reigned within

As He watched my trembling chin.

I mumbled, “We saw you die.”

 

He smiled looking down.

“Go and tell, Mary dear.”

As He wiped away my tear;

“Let the brothers know.”

 

 Laughter replaced my tears,

While I ran my fastest speed

To fulfill my teacher’s need,

And obey my Savior’s call.

 

Out of breath, I arrived.

“He is risen,” I replied;

But no matter how I tried,

They stared in disbelief.

 

“Go and see,” I challenged.

“See for yourself,” I pled.

“He is no longer dead;”

“He is alive!”

 

John and Peter ran ahead;

Found the stone rolled away;

Saw the truth so they could say—

“He lives again!”

 

Hallelujah, it is true!

Jesus lives forevermore;

Righteousness He did restore—

He lives for you!

 

Dianna

Sharing the Fruit of Maturity

Posted in Faith: Nearer My God to Thee | Leave a comment

Finding Peace

A recent Bible Study brought out the aspect of peace as an indicator of hearing God’s voice. It mentioned a sense of overwhelming assurance and well-being as a signal of our Lord’s answer to prayer or direction for our lives.

In my current situation, I am looking for this state of being with intensity. I’m tired of living in a perpetual place of worry, my life-long addiction. Mentally, I know that the solution is to trust in my Lord and Savior.

Has He ever failed me? Certainly not!

Has He provided me with constant answers to my concerns, some of which verge on the miraculous? You bet! And yet…

I identify with Paul’s self-analysis regarding the good he would do, but does not. Can I learn to live without my constant companions of worry and fear?

Even though my mind recognizes the truth of God’s trustworthiness, my little girl heart stays wrapped in a cocoon of self-protection and control. Trust anyone? Of course not! Allow intimacy with friends or family? Too scary.

How can I get past this giant wall of trust resistance? Like Bob, I need to take baby steps. I’ll allow a friend to give me a hug while I stay soft and unrigid. I’ll reach out with a phone call to a neighbor who’s missing from our Scrabble game. I’ll let God speak to me about my problem with family members and follow His directions. I’ll wait for that sense of peace and then act.

Can I do it? It’s late in the day to start but never too late. Right, God? With You as my new trusted Companion, I can do this. You bet!

Dianna

Sharing the Fruit of Maturity

Posted in Faith: Nearer My God to Thee | Leave a comment

Mud Mobile No More

It took a huge amount of shame before I concluded it was time for my semi-annual car wash. I procrastinated proficiently, telling myself that this activity was a total waste of time due to the messy weather. A wind storm could stir up the dust to undo all my efforts.

However, my conscience started to bother me as I recalled my brother’s warning about the effect of grime on the car paint. I kept my eyes straight ahead as drivers’ critical glances made me want to hide the formerly green, now brownish-colored vehicle.

When I took my mud-mobile into the car wash, I stopped first at the free vacuums. The interior of my car needed a major housekeeping. Somehow the Kleenex box appeared a squished and twisted-up item totally devoid of tissues. I soon found a plethora of them in various stages of use, stuck here and there. I thought I recovered the majority of them under and around the front seats, until I moved to the back. There I discovered several hundred more crammed into the storage flap on the back of the front seat cover. Who had the cold, I wondered, and would I be catching it?

The vacuuming process consumed a full hour of heavy exercise. Stretch here, bend there, stand on your head! Our feet had tracked in a goodly portion of pine needles and weeds, adept at sticking into the floor material and resistant to being suctioned.

The footprints on the back of the driver’s seat showed my grandson’s penchant for the muddy weather. He also made his mark along with his elder brother with candy wrappers and actual bits of sweet remains in the seat cracks. I even found a left-over sack lunch and a crushed pop can. Can you believe it?

I dumped the remaining junk and drove over to the car wash, feeling like I’d already been through the wars. A smiling face popped up by my window trying to persuade me to purchase a year’s worth of semi-monthly washes for a real deal. He even offered to wash the underside of the car. As far as I’m concerned, why would anybody pay to have that done? Only an occasional bug might see it. His bright smile dimmed a bit as I requested the cheapest offer, thank you very much.

My tires hooked into the track on its way through a labyrinth of whirling thingamajigs striking the car’s messy sides. Splots of green, purple and pink goo rained on my windshields and a loud humming, swishing noise filled my ears. I imagined myself entering the belly of the whale with digestive juices flooding over me. After the attack of brushes and whirling things ended, a strong blast of air hit the wet car and dried it faster than a billion-watt hair dryer.

Now, out of the whale’s gaping jaws, onto the street, my car suddenly transformed into a new, smoother-driving vehicle. My guilt and shame disappeared as I proudly drove along in a former mud-mobile turned roadster, polished and sparkling. Who knows how long this feeling will last, but for a few brief moments, I felt like a revived woman in my spanking new vehicle. It’s all downhill until that future date six months from now when I head for the car wash again.

Dianna

Sharing the Fruit of Maturity

 

 

Posted in Miscellaneous: This and That | Leave a comment

TNT Comes in Small Packages

My youngest grandson Ashton, at age seven, has developed an interesting personality. In his preschool years, he suffered from shyness, especially when meeting an unknown adult. He’s become more confident with a successful adjustment to school.

Academically, he recently surprised us with his achievements in various subjects. When his older brother taunted him with a difficult multiplication problem, Ashton suddenly popped off the correct answer. He did this without the benefit of a calculator, pencil, paper, and without even being introduced to multiplication. My own disability in anything mathematical earned my deep respect for this grandson of mine.

Another area where he excels is the animal kingdom. Did you know that the octopus has 3 hearts? I’m constantly being regaled with such information about natural wonders by Ashton.

In social settings, despite his history, he has made great strides. Some of this could be due to the example of his people-oriented older brother. Ashton seems to be favored by his classmates and teachers. In fact, some of the fairer sex have shown an interest, for which there is currently no return, since girls to him are still yucky.

An occasional journey into the creative arts attracts him, regardless of an overwhelming desire to play video games. One of my most cherished Christmas gifts from him sits atop my china closet—a framed painting of Grandma picking him up from school. He and his brother also enjoyed following U-Tube instructions for making origami paper airplanes. It was all I could do to prevent them from using my upper floor balcony to launch them across rush hour traffic on our busy street.

The position of younger brother has its ups and downs. He is sometimes left behind as his four-years-older sibling gets to spend more time with friends, including frequent sleepovers.  The brothers’ wrestling in my tiny condo often makes my china rattle and I call a halt to some of their rougher play. However, let someone else attack the other one and you’ll see a joint defense.

Ashton’s sharp mind and memory make me envious. I dare not mention a promise I don’t want him to remind me about later. In the book series we’re reading, I can always count on him to recall what the author refers to, regardless of how long ago we read it. At his young age, he gets most of the subtler points, as well.

At times, Ashton surprises me with his directness. After my husband passed, he point-blank asked if Grandpa was dead, yet he always prays for him to be doing okay in Heaven. He also suggested recently that when I died, I could leave him my I-Pad. If I do something odd, he’ll ask me if that’s because I’m so old. I laugh, even while his brother chides him. If you want the barefaced truth, just ask a seven-year-old!

Somehow Ashton’s shyness is a thing of the past. While his big brother ducks when his dad roughhouses with him, Ashton doesn’t let his smaller size discourage him. He gleefully piles into the fray without hesitation. I hope this taking-on-the-world attitude remains a help to him in the days to come as we see his personality further develop.

Dianna

Sharing the Fruit of Maturity

Posted in Grandchildren: Adventures with Small People | Leave a comment

The Empty Seat at the Table Gets Filled

Last Christmas had been a mere blip during funeral arrangements and other adjustments following my husband’s passing. This year, things were more normal, but of course, there was a seat at the table missing.

There was no Grandpa to stick a bow on his forehead during gift time, no mate to share a special dinner with after all the kids had gone off with their own families. But God…

Early in the Christmas season, despite my loss, God provided a smorgasbord of activities for me to celebrate His Son’s birth. It started with an invitation to a chorale concert at my neighbor’s church where glorious harmonies put me in the mood for the holiday ahead.

It seemed that every group I met with had something going on. A pot luck marked our ladies’ Bible Study Christmas break while a brunch and gift exchange for the leaders served as their Christmas celebration after a while.

Not too many days later, my neighbor and I slipped into the last two available seats at the back row of the church next door where we sang and listened to nostalgic seasonal organ music and returned home in good spirits.

Then one of my long-time fellow writers’ group members and I enjoyed a play portraying famous writers C.S. Lewis and Tolkien at the theatre down town. It was a true delight and inspiration.

My work parties came in two phases. The general UGM get-together featured an opportunity to wear our ugly Christmas sweaters while we munched on cookies and appetizers, sang carols and were inspired by the pastor of Sun City Church. Our Anna Ogden Hall staff gathered some days later in a South Hill restaurant for lunch and another gift exchange.

A week before Christmas, I tried in vain to find a companion to go with me to our church’s Carol Sing. I took a chance at the last minute and went alone to the much beloved and over-full event at Life Center. I feared that I would feel even more alone in the huge crowd of people, but God had that handled. In one of the few available empty spaces, I spied a friend who invited me to join her. What a hoot! Besides carols, the huge auditorium competed in sections to see who could land the most Styrofoam balls thrown into bins carried by girls running down the aisles. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” became the hit of the evening as each section took on one of the days with accompanying actions. (You can imagine how we “Lords a-leaping” appeared!) Of course, Christmas costumes sprouted out of every row. The winning sample took the form of a two-headed reveler. I went home that night brimming over with joy.

My condo neighbors assembled several days later at the clubhouse for our version of Christmas cheer. We circled the table until all our favorite seasonal cookies had been shared. I brought my melt-in-your-mouth snow balls (peanut butter and powdered sugar encrusted within white candy bark).

Christ Kitchen’s party where I volunteer featured old-fashioned fun. I passed out my crocheted ribbon corsages (which I’d just finished) and then helped serve the ladies a delicious meal. We did things like guess how many M & M’s were in a large container, played a game figuring out Christmas song titles, tried out our talents, and sang carols.

Christmas morning, became my most meaningful experience of the season. At Anna Ogden Hall, the ladies and their children sat around the Family Living Center with bags of gifts awaiting their perusal by the tree. Even though every child’s eyes kept glancing in that direction, we took time to remember the season’s reason. After advent candles were lit, I read a piece on love with scriptures. We said a prayer and then sang a few carols.

Our song leader played Christmas songs quietly on her violin as children opened their gifts with abandon, mothers directed and took pictures, and singles conversed while they compared blankets, robes and slippers. There was a plethora of generous donations to make the season delightful. Some residents were quiet, aware of the children not there, the losses, but hope of a better future.

As I gathered up wrapping paper and bows and filmed the activities for a time, I felt God’s gentle touch to let me know all these celebrations were His gift to me. Places at the table had been filled multiple times with an amazing variety of Christmas wishes and celebration. Christ is Born!

Dianna

Sharing the Fruit of Maturity

Posted in Faith: Nearer My God to Thee | Leave a comment