I Miss My Friend

I had three best friends when I was a teenager. Leslie was one of them and the one with whom I kept the best contact. It helped that she moved down to Florida several years ago, which gave us the opportunity to get together.

Our perpetual plan was to meet at The Back Porch Restaurant in Lake Alfred and enjoy lunch and shopping. It was the perfect place to meet—nearly halfway between our homes. We loved it. It’s an idyllic spot for ladies to pull away from the cares of life and enjoy each other’s company. Sadly, we were not very good at keeping those appointments. Things happened, for instance, travel, work, kids, grandkids, and COVID. I am thankful for each time we had there.

We missed celebrating both of our birthdays on The Back Porch last year. I was traveling on mine. She was not feeling well on hers. The loose plan was to meet in December, but of course the holiday activities got in our way. We always thought we’d have the next time.

Bob and I were on our way to our son, Joe’s, for Christmas when I got the call from Tad. Leslie suffered a massive stroke, and she was gone. The words hung in the air as I tried to grapple with what I had just heard through Tad’s trembling voice. No more trips to Lake Alfred. No more crazy phone calls. No more reminiscing about our youth. No more long text streams. Just sadness mixed with the reality that I couldn’t quite grasp—Leslie was in Heaven. I knew that for sure. We both had accepted Jesus as our savior when we were 15. It was another one of our bonds.

Because I don’t clean out my texts often, I sat down and read all our conversations from October 2019 through November 2022. They are filled with laughter and sadness, joy and pain, prayer requests, hurricane check-ups, sarcasm and love. I will miss her crazy laughter and wonderful sense of humor, but the love of a good friend—I’ll miss that most.

The last time I talked with her was in September right before Bob and I headed to Hawaii. Hurricane Ian was coming to Florida, and we wanted to make sure she knew she could evacuate to our Orlando home even though we’d be away. She assured me she’d keep it in mind and teased me for evacuating all the way to Hawaii like some kind of crazy over-reacting paranoid Floridian. I love her.

As teenagers, we spent a lot of time at each other’s houses. They were a mile apart, but we walked it. Kids walked everywhere back then. Leslie had a pool in her backyard – something that was unheard of in suburban Maryland at the time. Therefore, we spent more summer days at her house. One day when we were walking back to her house from mine, she spotted her neighbor coming towards us. My fourteen-year-old self had a huge crush on him at the time, so she wanted to warn me, especially since I had just polished off a couple of Hostess HoHos and my teeth held evidence of that yummy chocolate cake and cream filling.

It was a good thing that I was packing that day. I whipped out my squirt gun and promptly cleaned my teeth. Leslie gave me the all-clear teeth sign, and we both laughed so hard that we couldn’t do more than wave hello when we passed by him. That is a great example of the passage from childhood to adulthood. Having a crush on a boy and carrying a squirt gun while eating junk food. No wonder our parents didn’t know what to do with us.

It was a hot summer day and we joined a few others wading through the Reflecting Pool on the mall grounds in D.C. We were so scared we’d get in trouble.

Once Leslie accompanied our family from Maryland to Florida to visit my grandparents. By that time, my two older siblings weren’t making the trip, so she joined my sister and me in the backseat of our Oldsmobile Delta 88, complete with plastic on the seats.

My grandparents lived in a “magical” world called MoHo Park, which was right off the fairly new Interstate 4, several miles from the up-and-coming, Disney World, and smack next to a prison farm, which later became the 33rd street jail in Orlando. It was a mobile home park for senior citizens. The entire park loved it when families would visit. They freely shared their pool and provided us with bikes to ride. My grandparents were two of the most loving people in the world, so they fit right in there.

During the daytime the three of us girls needed more to do than ride bikes and swim in the pool, so we toured the model homes. I should add that our tours were self-guided. It was great fun and felt dangerous. It wasn’t truly breaking and entering, as all we did was enter. I guess in those days you could leave doors open more freely, even if you did live next to a prison farm.

One fine summer day as we were going through a model home, we heard the front door open and voices wafted back to where we were. Uh oh. Leslie was not one to handle stress well and this time proved no different. Linda and I, I am sure, were not exactly models of discreet silence, but we held it together as we pushed Leslie into a closet. Of course, we joined her. Someone had to hold their hand over her mouth.

To this day I don’t remember if we were discovered or not, but I do remember Leslie laughing and ultimately crying so uncontrollably that I now wonder if those who entered the model home were hearing impaired. It could be! We were in a senior citizen community.

Years later, about a year after Bob and I married and moved to Florida, Leslie called me to tell me she was engaged. Would I be her matron of honor? Of course I wanted to, but there was the problem of money. We were newlyweds with Bob finishing college and me working for Social Security. There was no way I could afford the trip. Her dad sent me a plane ticket. He was a sweetheart, even though he always said he’d give Bob and me a year since I was clearly marrying my best friend and very young at that. Now you know why Bob and I have stayed married for going on 48 years. It was to spite Mr. Smith! I think it eventually made him happy to know we were going to make it!

Leslie and her kids, Kevin and Katie, visited us in Florida when she came down to a roller-skating competition. She competed and was quite good. She worked at roller rinks while raising her kids. We picked up where we left off, but this time we were not the kids. Yet every time we’d meet up, the kid in us leaked out the way it does when you’ve known each other forever.

Last week, Bob and I went to Venice Beach, Florida, for Leslie’s celebration of life. She lived in Florida for a few years prior to moving there, but I had not yet visited since the move. The last time I saw Leslie was the spring of 2020 when she and Tad met my mom and me for lunch. COVID and other things had interfered with our seeing each other, but I’m thankful for that brief time together.

Leslie didn’t know that Bob and I planned to come see her and see her new life and have Bob meet Tad. We knew it would be after the holidays, but sadly we were too late. Our trip to see her was to say a final goodbye to her and give our love, comfort, and support to Leslie’s son and Tad. To grieve with those who grieve and to share memories of Leslie with each other.

I’m sad and I am grieving, but I grieve as one with hope. Leslie knew Jesus as her savior. I have no doubt about it. We will see each other again.

Leslie with her sushi stealing cutie-pie grandson. She loved her grands. She sent me this picture two years ago.

Heads Will Roll

I did not handle it well when I saw Joe Theisman’s head roll on the ground and settle under my car. I was reminded of the Redskin’s game back in 1985 where Joe had his career-ending injury. As Bob has always been a Redskin fan, I was subjected to watching them play whenever they were televised. (I’m not sure if he worked that into our vows, but I was okay with it.) I wish I had gone out for a walk that day. I vividly remember seeing the bone break in Joe’s leg. It was horrific. Lawrence Taylor, who tackled him, was the first on his feet to vehemently jester for help. I’ve never seen a player as distraught as LT.

But this isn’t about the human Joe Theisman; it’s about my Hallmark ornament Joe Theisman.

It all began on a rare Monday full of motivation to get a few things done around the house – specifically, window washing. The end of Hurricane season was nearing but all eyes remained on the tropics as Hurricane Nicole was eying Florida. The skies were cloudy, so Bob and I adjusted our plans from working in the yard (probably a waste of time with a storm approaching) to the windows. I was inside and he was outside. Side note: I love him being retired!

We started out together but his job takes longer, moving the hose around and such. When I finished I kept on going to my mom’s bedroom and deep-cleaned it. Shoving furniture around and wiping baseboards, vacuuming as far underneath things as I could reach, and finishing up with damp mopping the floor. As I wandered through the house fetching the things I needed, I could hear the water running outside as Bob was finishing up. I went into the laundry room and noticed the floor was wet. “Oh, Bob,” I muttered to myself, figuring he had blasted the door with the hose in an effort to clean it. I threw a towel down and went into the garage, which was also wet. At that point I found Bob and told him we had a problem. He was in the middle of something and would be with me in a minute.

I went back down the hall to the laundry room, which by then had a small current of water flowing in it. I ran and told Bob he needed to shut off the water NOW, all the while not remembering that I know how to shut off the water. That’s how used to Bob taking care of things that I am. Anyway, I walked through the puddle of the guest bathroom into the adjoining bedroom, which was very wet, and into the walk-in closet which had become a lake. Of course, lakes in Florida are not like lakes up north. A big puddle might be referred to as a lake down here. Whatever we chose to call it, there was a lot of water to deal with.

The clean-up effort began just as I was ready to stop doing chores and put my feet up. I will forever be leery of motivation to clean! As it turned out, we had a leak under our slab so we spent a lot of time with our plumber that week.

All that being said, it was the clean-up process that led to the trickle-down effect of putting up our Christmas tree two weeks before Thanksgiving. The tree was in a box standing in our garage in an area that was now a small pond. I moved it away and laid it on its side to dry out. It hadn’t been in water long, but when it was time to put things back in their rightful place, we had the decision to stand it back up and wonder if it was completely dry or put it up in our living room, thus giving the box adequate time to really dry out. So, there you go – I began decorating the tree as Hurricane Nicole made landfall on our poor East Coast. Weirdest hurricane watch ever!

As per usual, Bob climbed the ladder and handed down the boxes full of decorations which are stored on a high shelf in our garage. I guess he thought he had a good grip on one as he dangled it from the ladder for me to retrieve. The only problem was I wasn’t there and his grip was waning. The box came crashing down and popped open spilling some of the contents onto the floor, including Joe Theisman, who was at one beheaded.

I’d like to tell you that I was gracious to Bob, but that would be a lie. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that Joe wasn’t the only one who was in trouble that day. The irony of my anger while decorating for the celebration of the birth of The Prince of Peace did not escape me. The pettiness of it was humbling. I’m thankful for forgiveness.

I was able to pop Joe’s head back on and once again he has a special place on our Christmas tree. Plus, Bob and I moved past the beheading and happily went about our day a little more aware of how fragile life can be – in more ways than one.

Be on the lookout for those things that can rob you of your joy during this time where Joy to the World is practically the theme song! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! I’ll be back in 2023.

Getting Even

It was morning on Christmas Eve. I had my act fairly together. Bob and I had everything wrapped and under the tree. This was a luxury we didn’t have when we were raising our children. We would always wait until they went to bed to bring out the presents, which was more and more challenging the older our children got.

As is our “tradition,” Bob and I reminisced about former Christmas Eves. Sometimes we were wrapping gifts late into the night. Bob might have been found assembling a bicycle or one time pouring cement at the side of our driveway to install a new basketball hoop. These are things you can do when you live in Florida!

I also reminded Bob that our daughter and her family would be arriving late that night, probably around 10 pm, so he may want to consider a nap. Bob, who 364 days of the year has more energy than I could hope for, almost always hits the wall early on Christmas Eve night. The only thing that kept him going was assembling something, so if that wasn’t needed, he was ready to start dreaming of sugarplums dancing in his head. It usually would happen right after the children had hung the stockings by the chimney with care and shuffled off to bed. This was my time to take them all down, lay them across our bed and stuff them (the stockings, not the children). I always tried to get things evened out, which I don’t recommend because it can make you crazy. Often, before I could even get started, Bob was half asleep on the bed. It always has baffled me. Why, this one night, couldn’t he stay awake? It remains a a perplexing role reversal for us.

But on this particular Christmas Eve morning, all those thoughts about getting things even were stopped in their tracks. We received a text that a dear friend of ours had passed away unexpectedly that very morning. I gasped so loudly that my mom came in from the other room to see if I was okay. It was a shock made worse by the fact that it was Christmas Eve. I looked down on my bed. The stockings were laid out with their loot above them. I was in the process of counting and evening things out. And then it didn’t matter.

As tears flowed down my cheeks, all I could think about was my friends. We’ve known this family for decades. Christmas wouldn’t be the same for them. And with a flash I realized that my children never compared what they had in their stockings. Nobody cared if someone got a little more or less than their siblings. It was a blinding moment of clarity of what mattered.

What mattered was the people. What mattered was that our friend was now with Jesus. We know that with total assurance. What mattered was grieving with our friends, but not without hope. What mattered was sharing Christmas with our family – hugging them and being together. I hope I never try to make things even again and that every Christmas Eve I will think about Andy and Emily and the lessons that God taught me on that day when he went to meet Jesus.

Four of our grand blessings on Christmas Day

I Will Trust Him

I spent a couple hours standing in the Gulf of Mexico today. It was cathartic. I turn my back on the shore and just take in the beauty, all the while hoping to see a dolphin. Sometimes I do but not today.

Today I looked upon the emerald green waters through a different lens. It was the lens of sorrow. I’m not sure why God always seems more present to me when I’m at the beach, but he does. Today we spent a lot of time together. A lot of people I love are suffering and I kept bringing their names to my Heavenly Father. I was acutely aware of how little we control and how much we need him.

In the midst of all that, I glance back at my husband sitting in his beach chair reading. We’re away celebrating our anniversary. He comes out with me for a while. I tell him about the family from Iowa that I just met and how they’ve never seen a live sand dollar, only broken pieces on the shore. He swims out to the sandbar where we often find a bed of them. Once he’s there, I join him.

The sandbar is huge. It’s really not that far to swim to it. The water is over my head for a while, but the gulf is gentler than the Atlantic, so I can do it. I just don’t do it alone. I’m more cautious than I used to be. And I keep thinking about our friends. It’s a weird day.

We search and search but don’t find a single sand dollar. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll see dolphins, too. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a good report about some of the friends we’re praying for.

For now, though, I’m taking in the life around me. A family of three generations is playing monkey in the middle. They’re having a blast. Their laughter warms my heart. Two teenagers from Chicago ask me about the sandbar and I tell them about our search for sand dollars. They’ve never heard of them. Have you ever tried to describe a sand dollar to someone? It’s tough to do, but even from our poor effort, they’re fascinated by the fact that there is so much life right by them in the water.

I’m fascinated too. That’s one of the strange things about suffering or standing with someone who is suffering. There is so much life that keeps on going. It’s like you’re in two worlds at the same time. One normal like the tides coming in and going out. And one beyond description where nothing is right and the water is stagnant and you’re wondering if a wave is going to knock you down.

Then I look out into the sea once again. It’s vast and glorious. The clouds are magnificent. A cormorant flies by and perches on a pole. Laughter rises above the gentle sound of the waves. I paraphrase Psalm 121:1,2:

I lift my eyes to the sea (hills). From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

I am thankful that I know Jesus. I know the maker of heaven and earth. That’s how I can get through the sadness and still have joy. I hope you know him, too. If not, call on him. He is always there.

I’m So Embarrassed

As I told you in my last post, June was a big month for us. Bob retired and we did some traveling. Looking back on that post, I realized there was more to tell than our effort to have steamed crabs for dinner. In hindsight it seemed wrong that I didn’t mention how proud I was of Bob as I attended his retirement luncheon. (I was extremely proud.) The words “workhorse” and “finisher” were among the many accolades he received.

It also seemed wrong that I didn’t focus on our family being together for the first time in years. We witnessed our youngest grandson seeing the grandeur of the ocean for the first time and take those first tentative steps into the water. Our eight grandchildren totally enjoyed their cousin time, and our kids and kids-in-law were reunited over approximately 300 games. Yes, we are gamers, and yes, I tend to exaggerate. We only brought 30 games (and all but about 2 were played).

I also didn’t tell you about our trip to Stanardsville, Virginia, Williamsburg or Monticello, but there’s time for that later. By now you understand the power steamed crabs has over me. It’s a little embarrassing that they were the first thing I wrote about. In all fairness, though, they were really good, and we hadn’t polished off a table full of crabs in a coon’s age! Even now, a month after we got out the mallets and crab crackers, I can still close my eyes and smell Old Bay Seasoning. (I may need to talk to my doctor about that.)

Oops, there I go again. Back to the family – there were 18 of us gathered in Hilton Head. Our 8 grandchildren range from 2.5 to 18 years old. The power of family was on full display as these kids embraced each other. There is something special about cousins. Even with this wide range of ages, the interactions were sweet (and noisy). Watching the older cousins care for and play with the younger was a gift to me. How I wish we all lived close to each other! But how thankful I am that we can be together despite distance.

They are all pretty cute and amazing, so I’ve included a few pictures of them. Trust me, I could have really bogged down this post with pictures, but I want you to keep reading.

The Beach from crazy to serene

Being a mom to Bob’s and my four kids has been the joy of my life. When grandchildren were added, my cup literally ran over with happiness. One thing I have really missed since we all haven’t lived in the same locale, is having an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. My mom started doing those backyard hunts when my kids were young, and I have taken up the mantle, though sporadically now. When there are only two local grandkids and they’re both teenagers, a bit of the thrill of the hunt is missing. My two youngest grandkids had never participated in the hunt! I saw my opportunity for our June gathering. As Christians, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ every day, so why not do an egg hunt in June.

Who remembers The Unknown Comic from The Gong Show? I present, the Unknown Egg Hunters.

I have kept the plastic eggs over the years and had over a hundred of them. Even with the help of our kids and their spouses, it took a little while to hide them all. But at last, we lined up the grands and the hunt began. We released them by age to even the playing field. That Anderson competitive blood flows through their veins and they were off. Eggs and children were everywhere. At the end of the hunt, prizes were chosen.

We also did a jigsaw puzzle competition. Ella (our second grandchild) is a huge fan of Marvel, as am I. When I came across 48-piece puzzles in a tin with Marvel superheroes gracing the front, I made it my business to find 6 of them. It took four different stops to realize my goal, but I did it.

Our eldest grandson, Manning, and his mom came in first place

I am relatively sure I was much more excited about these puzzles and the whole competition to complete them than anyone else. Did they not realize that each puzzle came with an infinity stone? The older six grandchildren each chose an adult to team with them and the games began. When Layna (the youngest competitor) chose Bob, I felt like they were a shoo-in. Honestly, when it comes to puzzles, he is a ringer. But I hadn’t counted on them getting The Incredible Hulk, which is mostly a mass of green. At least they didn’t get angry when they came in last.

Jett enjoys finishing before Bob (Bumpa)

Games and puzzles and walks on the beach with our tribe are tucked away in my memory. I smile when I think of this group of people whom I love more than I can describe. I’m thankful that God made families and thankful that he gave us each one of ours.

Hilton Head sunset

Graduation

There comes a time in every kid’s life when their parents embarrass them. (Many times would be more accurate.) But there are also times when that kid is ready for it, craving it, even welcoming hearing their name shouted by those who love them. Graduations are at the top of those occasions.

Mia

There was a discussion as to how our family would respond when our granddaughter Mia crossed the stage to receive her high school diploma. Would we whoop and holler? Might that embarrass her; was that our goal? Would there be instructions to save applause until after the last graduate? Would we follow those instructions? (Absolutely not!)

Mia’s was 33rd from the last name called on that sunny May morning. Having been an Anderson for over 45 years, I’ve grown accustomed to having our names called early, but our daughter Dena married a man that took her to the back of the alphabet. Talk about adjustments!

The “A” part of the alphabet was almost complete when the man in front of me jumped up and cheered. That sure looked like a proud papa! I patted him on the shoulder and congratulated him. Then I joked, “Are you going to duck out now?”

“Nope,” he replied. “That’s not my kid. I was just helping the couple in front of me.”

I didn’t even hear the couple in front of him.

Somewhere in the “J’s” he again cheered loudly. The lady and her son to our right gave a nice round of applause at the same time.

I asked, “Is that one yours?”

“Nope. Just adding support,” he said as he looked to my right.

“Who is yours?”

“Mine is Jenna in the “M” section. And I’m not her dad. I’m her uncle. I’ve been to all my nieces’ and nephews’ graduations.”

His sister looked at us and smiled. I’m not sure if she was prouder of Jenna or of her brother, who by now had a following of his own.

Jenna’s uncle

We joined them in shouting for Jenna M, and Jenna’s uncle helped us in our celebration as Mia crossed the stage. Mia heard us and there was no embarrassment, just a feeling of being loved and supported.

There was such a sense of community, mutual support, and hope as we sat on those bleachers watching the next generation. I am confident that Mia has a bright future in store for her with a lot of surprises along the way. She trusts in God, and that is the best way to walk into her future. We are so proud of her!

Bob and I with Mia – May 29, 2021

We Make Our Plans, But God Orders our Steps

What fueled my impromptu visit to my favorite birding place last Sunday?

It began on Saturday. It was a lovely day, and we had no plans. We decided to stay home and enjoy the quiet. By late-afternoon, I was restless. I wished we had gone outside on a bike ride or a drive or anything! But it was too late in the day to begin.

Sunday morning I checked my Facebook page and read that roseate spoonbills were spotted at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD). These tall, pink/white birds with a spoon-shaped bill are typically found in marshes along the coasts, so that got my attention. Also at LAWD, thanks to some amazing and giving artists, there are painted rocks to be found. I have been trying to find one for years, so between the spoonbills and the thought of finding one of those illusive rocks, it could be a good day for a drive.

I thought about staying home. Bob left at noon to play golf. My mom didn’t feel like going on the drive with me. Did I really want to go alone? It was too late to find a friend and get there with enough time before it closed. These thoughts didn’t sway me, so I headed to Apopka.

The spoonbill-spotter reported that they were seen about a mile into the drive. I set my trip gauge.

I have done this drive many times, and I have never encountered such a long line of cars. Were they all searching for spoonbills? Unlikely.

I don’t mind driving slowly there. The speed limit is 10 mph. The slower you go, the more you see. But this was crazy. At the half-mile point, I entered a pull-out and parked. Excitement was building inside me – surely all this slow traffic was due to people photographing the spoonbills.

View from near the entrance

The one-way road is not really made for walkers, but there’s room. On each side of the elevated road is swamp land and marshes. This is a prime spot for water birds and marsh birds, and it goes on as far as the eye can see. It is also frequented by alligators, though not as much as farther down. With so many cars, I felt safe.

This big boy was enjoying the sunshine farther down the drive.

I walked a quarter mile and became convinced that these were new folks who were not accustomed to the idea of pull-outs to allow traffic to move along. At that point I was passing the slow-moving cars, so I turned around.

I felt like Forrest Gump when he had been running around the country. Do you remember? Suddenly he just stops and says he’s tired and thinks he’ll go home.

Me at Forrest Gump Point, Mexican Hat, Utah, 2019

I walked maybe a tenth of a mile when right in front of my eyes, a car moving towards me, in line with the traffic, caught my attention. The driver’s door opened, and a woman fell out and rolled on the dirt and gravel road. Her car was still moving! I barely had time to process this, but I ran the short distance and jumped into her moving car. It has been a while since I felt that kind of adrenaline rush.

There were elderly people inside and the woman in the front had attempted to grab the wheel and steer, but she would have been unable to get to the brake. I got the car in line, applied the brake, and put it in park. Someone asked me what I said to the people in the car and I really don’t remember. I wish I had said, “Hi, I’m Bonnie, your new driver.”

The poor woman who had fallen out was trying to get up and brush herself off. Thankfully, she was not hurt other than road rash and a few bruises including her ego. She was probably ten years my junior. We introduced ourselves. Debbie thanked me profusely and told me that I had saved her life. I assured her that I had not saved her life. I pointed to her car and said, “maybe theirs,” with a smile.

Before I left Debbie, we had a conversation. I was oblivious to the fact that we were holding up traffic, but I had to tell her that I believed that God had me at that place at that time. There were no other people walking along the road. I had gone to the drive with no prior planning. I had wanted to take my mom with me, but she wasn’t up to it. I never would have taken that walk if I weren’t by myself. Anything could have changed the timing, but the timing was perfect for me (or whoever God used) to be at that place at that exact time. I had to praise Him.

As I walked back to my vehicle, I experienced a parade of thumbs-up and accolades from the cars and trucks I passed. I have never been called a hero before and it felt weird.

I saw Debbie and her parents a few more times at pull-outs. It was her first time at LAWD, and she joked about having another birding mishap. She thought she had put the car in park before getting out to take a picture. The movement of the car had knocked her off her feet when she attempted to step out. I told her that she did a perfect tuck and roll.

I can’t tell you how humbled I was that God would place me in that place for Debbie’s benefit. He orders our steps. Sometimes we don’t realize it. Sometimes we do.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

The blessings God had in store for me were not over. I stopped at a pavilion to observe the alligators across the way, and there was a painted rock!

Taco Rock

Then I ventured down the drive and at one of my usual stops, I saw the most famous of the resident birds. Meet Crooked Neck. He is a great blue heron who apparently has recovered from a broken neck. He is often featured on the LAWD Facebook page and is somewhat of a celebrity. Yet, until Sunday I had never seen him. Thank you, Jesus!

Crooked Neck and the incoming paparazzi

On the last part of the drive out, I saw a raptor fly overhead and land in a tree. I pulled over and observed a beautiful bald eagle. I watched him for five minutes as he soared above me. Breathtaking!

There is a lot to behold out there! Things that make my heart sing and lift my spirits. Things that get me out of my own head and humble me. The God and Creator of all this cares for you and me. I’m thankful.

The Long Winter of 2019

Have you ever considered the uniqueness of the seasons? Do you have a favorite? Mine used to be fall with its lush array of colors – burnt orange, vibrant yellow, ruby red. It’s the crescendo before the leaves drop and winter enters.

The bleakness of winter has a unique beauty all its own and it doesn’t just include snow. There is a silent beauty reflected in the bare limbs of trees and gray skies, but for me, that beauty can drag on and lose its appeal.

I think we have an inherent desire for sunshine. I know I prefer brightness over darkness. While I love a beautiful night sky, I want to live in the bright sunny light of day.

Currently, my favorite season is spring. By the time the winter holidays are over and the Christmas decorations are packed away, I am ready for renewal both spiritually and in creation. I rejoice in the emergence of fresh green shoots from tulips or hyacinths even if I can only find them in the grocery store due to Central Florida’s subtropical climate. When they are in full bloom, well that’s something to stop and appreciate.

Spring comes early here, but our short, Florida winter does its best to hold on or sneak back on the heels of a cold front as it did a few days ago. I’ve been contemplating winter. It’s the only season that has a presence twice in one calendar year. It’s the bookends season. The winter of 2019 began on December 21, 2019, but the bulk of it fell in 2020.

In many ways, 2020 was a year full of dreariness. A winter of sorts was present even during spring, summer, and fall. There were threatening clouds hovering over us. I had to remind myself to look up. To look away from my circumstances and the circumstances of the world. To not just pray for needs but find something to rejoice about. There is more to life than waiting for the sky to open up. So much more.

It may be because it’s been chillier than normal here, but I am full-on longing for spring, that renewal I referred to. I don’t want to be cold anymore. I found a glimpse of that in a book that my mom gave me. Images of Faith by Miriam Huffman Rockness is a simple but profound devotional that encourages the reader to notice God everywhere. He is seen in the beauty of creation and in the lives of people around us. These are beholdings, something you’ll learn about and appreciate more as you read this inspirational book.

In case you never read the book for yourself, it was the following passage that made me think about the beauty of spring after a long winter. I was raised in Maryland, so I am familiar with the changing seasons, but that was a long time ago.

“The long hard winter had broken at last – not as yet in much sign on the earthward side but in the late afternoon yesterday the great cumulus clouds sank away, and in their place lay long horizontal bars, one above the other, dove-grey touched with pale apricot, upon the tender eggshell blue of the eastern sky. They are a harbinger of spring out here, that I have never known to fail.” From Lilias Trotter’s Diary, January 24, 1927, as included in Images of Faith, page 55.

I’m keeping an eye out for a harbinger of spring, and I know I’ll find one. Through the year I need to remind myself to look up and not let 2021 be another long, weird winter, no matter what it holds.

Right now, I want to enjoy the variety of migrating of birds that call Florida home in winter. They show off God’s creativity so well. When it’s April, I want to celebrate Easter and remember the resurrection of Christ that paid my ransom.  When it’s August, I want to look for God in the sky, in the heat, in the sound of children playing in the water.

I am determined not to allow winter to overshadow this year. I want to learn from last year. I can only do that by looking up to God and remembering that I’m his daughter and he loves me. I put all my trust and hope in him.

Isaiah 40:26 – Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Psalm 65:8 – The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, and evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.

Happy to Take out the Garbage

Every Tuesday and Friday morning you can find me taking the garbage to the curb. It is a mundane kind of task, but I like doing it. (Don’t tell my husband. When he retires later this year, he might try to take this away from me.)

There is something satisfying about getting the trash out. But more than that, it gets me outside in the early part of the day. I’m far from a morning person, but God often shows me stuff on my way back from the curb. Sometimes I stop and cut a rose to bring into the house. Mornings are best for that.

On Tuesday I stopped and noticed how beautifully blue the sky was. It was perfectly blue. Not a cloud to be seen. How does that happen? It was breathtaking. The green trees popped off that blue canvas with a symphony of birds chirping lending a score to all that beauty. So many shades of green anchored to tree trunks of so many shades of brown. So much to take in.

Tuesday was chilly; and when I went inside, I poured myself a cup of coffee and opened my Bible to Psalm 19 which fit my morning to a tee.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19: 1-2

It’s always good to look up from the garbage of life and see the glory of God’s handiwork.

Have a wonderful day looking up.

A Thankful Thanksgiving to You All!

I’ve come up with a new Thanksgiving greet this year. “Have a thankful Thanksgiving.” I have loved ones who are going through great trials and loss. Many are missing family and friends this year, so wishing someone a happy Thanksgiving is not the same and those words may be more than some can bear to hear.

Reminders to be grateful are always in order, for we truly do have much to be grateful for. The common graces of God are around us, and they alone are quite a lot. I’m thankful for sunshine and rain, for electricity and water, for food in our pantry, for family and friends, for our church and our God. Yes, amid suffering and loss, let’s not forget to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God and a greeting of thankfulness and grace to each other.

Life is not in the trash; well, this one is, but it’s only a game anyway.

Get excited about what’s ahead.

Enjoy some turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie.

Thank you for visiting my blog and for your encouragement to me.