"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Celebrating Cathy

I've known her as long as I can remember: Cathy Cawthon Farabaugh.  And this week she celebrates her birthday.  Therefore, allow me to celebrate her.

We were Childhood friends.  Crib babies.  When I recall memories of growing up, very few of them don't include Cathy.

Birthday parties.

Dance recitals.

Family vacations to Callaway Gardens (then called "Ida Cason").

Yearly Christmas swaps.

4th of July picnics at the Green's pond.  "Lost in Space" in the backyard.  Laughing so hard over silly things that our sides would split.  Sleep overs ... and "Gary Indiana Indiana."

Basketball practices and games.

Boyfriends and double dating.

Church youth trips.

And since our mother's were in the catering business together, more wedding receptions than you could shake a stick at.  Not to mention our own weddings where we each stood in attendance for the other.

Yet somewhere between marriage, relocating and children, our lives became distant.  Sadly so.  We kept more in touch through our parents than any other way, catching up 10 years at the time at class reunions and the occasional phone call.  Why such distance?  We ask ourselves the same question today.  And the only answer seems to be "life happened."   

But a few years ago, my son and daughter-in-love also relocated, and to my great delight, I found it was only a few miles from where Cathy and Dick lived and had raised their two children.  She and I decided the separation had been long enough.  We were Childhood friends due to our parents choosing.  We would be Adult friends by our own.  Like a good marriage, we would make time for each other.  And that's what we strive to do.  When I apologize for calling her at work (she and Dick own their own business), she always tells me she has time for me.  That's what friends do.  They make themselves Available.  And Cathy does that.

And can I also mention that she's much more Adventurous than I?  I ran my first 5K recently.  She jumped out of a plane!  

The BAD thing about growing up so close to another individual is that you know just about everything about that person.  The GOOD thing about growing up so close to another individual is that you know just about everything about that person.  And whether good or bad, you also share a lot of the same insecurities and struggles.  And we do.  Therefore, Cathy is someone I can depend upon ... she is Trustworthy.  She is also Honest with me in the most encouraging ways, very often speaking life and health into my system.  That's what friends do.

Another thing I find so exciting and unique in this newly restored relationship is the way God seems to be Hatching each of us at the same time -- and right on time.  Creating new creatures of us both.  Doing away with a lot of the old and bringing in much that is new.  Maybe the readers of this post can't understand that, but we know.  

Yet one of the things I celebrate most about Cathy this day is the deep Yearning I witness in her -- not only for the things OF God but for God Himself.  Like a magnet, He is drawing her and she is Yielding herself to His pull.  She is saying YES!  Surrendering to the Spirit's work in her life.

So I bless you today, my literally "longest" friend, in the mighty name of the One who completes this cord of three -- a cord that will not be easily broken for it is His work that has done this for us.  Know that the flame that burns so brightly in you kindles the flame in me.  You are indeed a word that God has spoken into my world.  A beautiful, gracious, endearing word ... and I love and celebrate you today.

Happy birthday, my dear CATHY.  The best is yet to be...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Unexpected Source of Blessing

The Scripture before me this morning during my sacred space ... the one literally sitting in my lap ... was this:

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You.
My soul thirsts for You
My flesh longs for You --
in a dry and thirsty land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

I read it numerous times.  I meditated upon it. I even memorized it.  At least for the short term.

A number of things struck me.  For one, the word "are" in the opening line is not in the original rendering.  It actually should read, "O God.  You my God."  It sounds a little bit Tarzan-like, but it worked for me as I pointed to heaven and said, "You!"  And then toward myself: "My God!"  (Try it yourself.)

I also couldn't help but camp on those words that spoke so of yearning and personal suffrage: words like thirsts, longs, dry land, no water. Have you ever been there?  Me, too.  And so I began to contemplate the way God waters my soul; the way He brings refreshing to my spirit.  The way He rains down on me.  And I began putting Him and His ways in box... I began using well-worn formulas.  "I do this/He does that" kind of thing.  

Normally when I'm having my "quiet time," I don't keep my cell next to me.  And if it is close by, I most often refrain from answering any beeps or vibrations.  But today was different for some reason.  I heard an email come in so I reached over and hit the icon.  It was from a precious woman, Telina, who had been in a couple of Bible studies I had led some 3 years ago.  We hadn't talked in a long time, and this was just a quick note; but it ended with, "Groovy baby!"  Right then and there I burst into a hearty laugh.  "Groovy baby"???  When was the last time someone had said that to me?  

After a moment of letting the joy of it settle on me, I laid the phone back down and turned my attention back to the Scripture in my lap ... and then it hit me.  REFRESHING!  God had just used the gift of "happy" He has placed in Telina to water my own weary soul! That's how He so often does it:  through the faithfulness of others!  And through the faithfulness of you and me. So you can bet I picked up that phone and I hit her number.  When she answered, I said, "I just had to call and tell you how God used you in my life just now."

You see, God's blessings and times of refreshing often come in unexpected ways ... and that is why it is so important to be present to the moment.

Oh, to tap into the eternal.  It's a mighty good thing.

Just an ordinary moment...

The Matthew Freeman Race for Peace, Part 2

After the initial on-again off-again tossing, it was a settled on-again.  We got to the park in time for the preliminary festivities and even a picture and interview by the local paper and a camera shot with the TV station out of Savannah.  I think it had to do with our socks since this particular fellow was zoomed in on our legs.  I'm not sure exactly whose bright idea it was the night before (not mine!), but it was decided we'd all wear knees socks -- to match our outfits.  If nothing else, it got us plenty of stares. 

At one point when we were asked about our "leggings," my sweet daughter responded to a total stranger with, "They give us supernatural powers."  Lovely, Marynan.  Just lovely.

8:30 finally arrived and I placed myself at the back of the pack ... for 2 purposes: one, to keep from holding up those behind me; and two, to keep from being trampled upon.  Adrianne stayed back with me while Marynan went on to the head of the line so she could actually run.  After all, this was her birthday wish.

I couldn't believe I was really doing this thing.  The starting whistle blew, and for a while, I was staying in step.  I was actually RUNNING a race ... not walking.

The J.F. Gregory Park is a beautiful setting for a race, and my daughter tells me I was spoiled by it.  It is 335 acres built around a once prosperous rice plantation of the 19th Century.  It was on these banks that Union  forces marched in December 1864 to attack and capture Fort McAllister.  It was later purchased by Henry Ford and now hosts a perfect outdoor recreation spot for the residents of Richmond Hill.  The hiking trail used for the run remains very natural and beautiful as it winds around the canals and inlets of the Ogeechee River.  Spanish moss hangs from the trees and wildlife finds secure havens in both canopy and water.  Signs caution to beware of wild hogs, alligators and snakes.   I figured one of the advantages of trailing at the end on such a trail is that the other 196 people in front of me had already frightened away any dangerous creature that might have otherwise tried to eat me.  Or so I hoped.  (Actually, my daughter did see a large alligator but didn't have sense enough at the time to snap a picture.)

Quite frankly, I don't know when I've done anything so exhilarating or that was so much fun.  I ran.  I walked.  I ran some more.  A few pulled up from behind and overtook me.  And others I passed.  Races within a race, my friend told me, little personal victories as I sat my eyes on that person in front of me each time.  And throughout the course were those who were positioned to encourage us onward.  At strategic markings they were handing out water.  In other places, they were just there to cheer us. 

As Adrianne and I rounded the last leg of the journey, we came out of the tree cover and the course opened up to a long row of flags lining the way to take us to the finish line.  One more 90 degree turn, one more bridge, and it was ours.  But I could already hear the crowd.  There was no more walking/running/walking at this point.  I wanted to finish this thing well.  And so I said, "Let's go for it."  Buoyed up by the cheering, I willed my legs into motion one more time and set my sight on the goal.  As I crossed the finish line, my friend Lisa, Matthew's mother, waited.  I ran into her arms and she joyously shouted, "You did it!" to which I cried into her ear, "I did it for you and for Matthew."  What joy was mine!

Like I said in Part 1 of my post, I'm not a runner.  I've never even pretended to be.  And I most likely never will be.  But I am in a race in which there really does exist a supernatural Aide.  The landscape is beautiful but often wild.  And the course is not always smooth.  It's laden with rocks and pebbles with winding paths  that are treacherous at times with things that would seek to harm if not destroy me.  Yet along the way are those that are positioned to encourage me not only to run, but to keep running.  

Therefore it remains my goal to finish this race: to set my sights on the One who waits at the end.  Exhausted and spent I will fall into His arms.  But what a delight it will be to hear Him exclaim, "You did it, my child.  You did it!"  

Oh, such joy will then be mine.

Approaching the finish line!  
May it be for You, Lord Jesus.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Cup Overflowing, 281-300

When I was in north GA several weeks ago, I couldn't help but wonder if the residents there ever tire of the beauty ... or do they even see it anymore?  And then I couldn't help but wonder if there is beauty all around me where I live -- and I just miss it due to familiarity.  So I asked God to open my eyes to see the beauty around me.  And He did ... in faces, in colors, in ordinary moments.

My counting continues ....

#281  that every sacrifice, regardless how small, builds the reign of God in my life

#282  a powerful storm that speaks of a powerful God

#283  to answer the phone and hear, "Hi, Teach!"  Though I haven't taught him for years now, it's such a sweet term of endearment to me.

#284  throwing a blanket around me, grabbing my hot tea, and standing in the majesty of a pre-dawn moon ... and singing the doxology

#285  God's safe-keeping over one I love

#286  loving and laughing with Adrianne while literally hundreds of darling trick or treaters graced my steps.

#287  house guests and seasons of refreshing -- I love you, Chris and Lisa.  I now know how Mary and Martha felt when Jesus came to their house.  

#288  faces at the nursing home that betray young hearts

#289  Ruby -- my mother's nursemaid -- When my mother had scarlet fever as a very young child, Ruby was quarantined with the family and helped care for her.  With tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat, I could barely whisper "thank you."  

#290  remembering the saints -- both past and present

#291  a toddler's bath time and enough water to swim in

#292  Autumn ... not a death but a necessary season of dying

#293  making memories with our favorite little man
The Pink Pig at Macy's in the Lenox Mall

#294  the delight of sharing my waffle and blueberries

#295  shades of gold 

#296  Sunday dinner with Mom and Dad -- Why is it Mom's cooking ALWAYS taste better than mine?

#297 Moriah Lily -- my newest great-niece (and her not-so-happy big brother) 

#298 morning laughter with a long-distance loved one 

#299  lunch with my eldest son and knowing that God is doing some transformation in his heart

#300  that I live in an area that offers beautiful fall landscape in every direction
Cotton to the right

Sorghum to the left
Continue to open my senses to Your presence, Lord.  For therein is fullness of joy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Matthew Freeman Race for Peace, Part 1

On August 7, 2009, my friend Lisa's son, Captain Matthew Freeman, was mortally wounded in Afghanistan when Taliban insurgents took him and his comrades by surprise while they were conducting a reconnaissance mission he was leading just outside of camp.  As the soldier who retrieved his body would tell, Matthew "was found dead with his finger on the trigger, his magazine almost empty, and he was facing the enemy.  A proud death for a Marine."  And so when my daughter told me she wanted to take a girls' trip and run in the Matthew Freeman Run for Peace for her birthday, I was all over it.  (Matthew's sister Ginny and Marynan had been best friends when we lived in Richmond Hill.  It was a tribute we both wanted to pay.)

Of course, the problem with all of this was that I had never run a 5K.  In fact, I probably haven't run a mile since my first child was conceived.  But this was for a worthy cause and I was bound, bit and determined I was going to do it.  Until, that is, the day of the race approached.  I had really planned on training, but by the time I packed my bag for the overnight trip, I was resolved to sit on the sideline, and so I didn't even pack my "running" shoes (which have NEVER been used for running).  When we were on our way, and too far from home to turn around, I told the girls of my decision.  I really didn't think they'd care, but they truly seemed disappointed and began encouraging me to reconsider.  Of course, I had the perfect excuse.  "I have nothing to wear."  They had the perfect answer: "We can stop by Target after dinner and get you some shorts and shoes."  And so we did.  [Side note: when we got to my friend Julie's house, she had some "exercise attire" and running shoes that fit me perfectly.  Thanks, Julie!]  I shot off a quick email to a runner-friend of mine, telling him of my venture, and then pulled the covers over my head to get some much needed sleep. 

But somewhere in the night, I began to toss and turn over my new decision, drifting again ... to the other side.  What was I thinking???  Who was I fooling?  I am 53 years old, for crying out loud, and I haven't even WALKED a mile in the last 6 weeks!  What made me think I could participate, much less RUN, a 5K?  No doubt, I would be the one at the end that makes it to the finish line only by being carried away on a stretcher with flashing lights and sirens whirring somewhere in my distant consciousness.  

And so 5:30 a.m. arrived and it was settled.  I would wait at the finish line with my camera in hand and capture my daughter and daughter-in-love's triumphant crossings.  Until, that is, I read the email that had come in from my runner-friend during the night:  "When you cross the finish line, look at all the people who did not even try.  Placing first or last won't matter.  Have fun.  Enjoy the moment, it is the only one like it."

Dang it.  

Did I mention I had also been praying through the night?  Because I hadn't received any "word," I took that as my answer.  A big fat NO!  Until the email, that is.  Anybody who knows me at all, knows that I want to be about the moment.  The "now."  That part of "time" that cannot be measured ... but is only eternal.    

And so I donned my number, double tied my shoelaces, and placed my foot on the starting line....  [More to come.]

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Cup Overflowing, 261-280

November provides ample opportunity for counting...

#261  much needed mani and pedi

#262  the last golden rays of the day escaping behind the mountains of north GA

#263  elderly ladies playing bridge -- and 12 different fragrances

#264  picturesque quiet time, a place to breathe

#265  and time spent reading God's open book -- nature

#266  contrasts of color -- fiery maples and October blue

#267  God's creative teaching on humility

#268  the sound of changing seasons heard in falling leaves

#269  pink roses ... in October
Rosa Meidliland Pink
#270  experiencing blue in the Blue Ridge

#271  peace

#272  quaint roadside mountain shops filled with earthen treasures 
Sundance Gallery
#273  pottery that speaks ... and warms the soul and the body, too
I call it my weeping mug
#274  SLOW -- at first, I was disappointed I had captured the sign in the picture; but then I realized it was perfect!
#275  being part of orchestral sounds

#276  the discipline of divine hours

#277  the sound of a tender voice in a hard world

#278  early morning songbirds that break the silence

#279  being an aunt ... My young nieces and nephews like to sit with their Aunt Nancy in church almost as much as I love sitting with them.  It just might be due to the candy and activities. 
Levi, Lindy Ruth, Chloe
#280  learning about community from a baseball team

Thank You, Father...

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Cup Overflowing, 241-260

With this being November -- and the month of Thanksgiving, want you join me in adopting a season of "thanks living"?  Begin by counting...
#241  that apart from Christ, there is no joy
#242  at God's right hand are pleasures forevermore ... and in His presence is fullness of joy
#243  turning a knob and having instant water rush out ... and plenty of it, too -- how often I take that for granted
#244  reality checks that remind me of my place in life
#245  dancing with Lynn
#246  fair friends (and food)
#247  sitting around the table with my son and his wife enjoying family
#248  young talent
#249  disappointment ... it allows me to practice grace
#250  God's loving providence in my past
#251  His constant protecting love in my present
#252  pink mornings
#253  the rich warmth of a friend's voice on the phone
#254  the season's last hydrangea
#255  choir rehearsal ... and community
#256  cakes and a mother who taught me to bake
#257  content with the quiet
#258  that every day God says "Do it again!" and the sun rises in the east
#259  experiencing God's love afresh through the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux
#260  holding hands

Happy Thanksliving...