Soul Appealing

There are certain times of the day when certain sounds, certain scents, or sense are "soul appealing." They give me pause to reflect on the things most important to me.

Evening and dusk settle across the backyard. Shadows lengthen and grow,  sounds of the smallest of us on this planet are magnified into a gigantic ensemble, while light accentuates the blackness of approaching night and the almighty shrink within themselves.  Tonight it is the sound of frogs chirping in my backyard, repeating in waves, synchronizing, fading, crescendoing, ever steady and in rhythm to the snores of my husband down the hall.

I like this time.  It is thinking time.  Remembering time. Time to plan. Time to dream. Time to hope, to be thankful, to be rather than seem. Webster defines the word seem as "to appear to exist".  If we listen to the world around us, this is how we end up - we appear to exist and all the while the more we emmerce ourselves in the world, we risk fading into the maddening oblivion of the chaos of this world only to become nonexistent; a mere shadow of our former self - the self God intended us to be. Hearing the sounds of these frogs, I am mindful that I am here with them and the cadance of their sound is like my breathing and reminds me that I do in fact exist with God and God with me. Like their sound and the important balance they bring to our environment, my life too has meaning. There is divine purpose in my existence.  I will know this when I stop listening to the world and find this inner self - the God of my soul whom it is that speaks me into existence. He who says, "I Am, that I Am."

I can not only imagine that God is in me and also in them - I can know without a doubt that He is them, He is me, He is all things.  This is my comfort and I can sleep well reflecting on these kinds of things. 

Likewise, the morning sounds are a marvelous reminder that I am alive.  The birdsong begins at just the right time - they know when it is best to rise.  I've noticed that when the windows are closed, locked down and sealed shut, my reflection time is somewhat hindered.

With the milder weather of spring, we've been leaving the windows open all day and night. No wonder I love this time of year!  When we purchased our home, the former owners had painted the windows shut and wired every one with an alarm. Suffocating.  The first thing I did was make sure those windows could be opened.

Mornings bring the promise of a new day and an exhilerating feeling of possible accompanied by the warm glow of the sun through the window throwing pretty yellow squares on the floor at my feet and touching my face like the warm caress of a dear friend.  Freshly scented crisp air sends a light breeze across the yard, swaying the trees, while sunlight plays beneath their nodding heads among the bending sun and shadows on the lawn. It is like watching the whole world dance.

This is thanksgiving time and I generally begin with the Lord's prayer and then say special prayers for friends, family, co-workers, the world and our leaders, followed by thanksgiving for a good night's rest, then thanksgiving that I arose with all my faculties functioning and finally I end with "and thank you Lord, that through You, I can live and move and have my being."  There is nothing more I need. I am "soul satisfied."

Life Returns to Lacy

As you can see, I've been off-line for quite some time.  Life at Lacy has experienced changes and that change has included, going through difficult times and situations.  My ex-husband passed away in December 2014.  Now some may view the passing of their ex as a blessing, but I do not.  I was married to him for 10 years and for 20 years following our divorce, I remained close friends with my ex. We co-parented our children through many years of hardship, difficult circumstances and sadness, but rather than ripping us apart, these difficulties brought us close as friends and in the end we both grew an entirely new relationship with one another and with those around us, that was stronger and more powerful than any marriage either of us would ever know. 

I had no idea the impact his death would have on me, but I was and have been devastated by his death. Even though our love changed over the years, I found that the first love never dies and so my heart went to the grave with him.  That may sound strange to some who know me and know that I remarried the most wonderful man and my best friend, 18 years ago.  The love for my ex-husband had changed over the years as the circumstances demonstrate, but it was still there and as strong as ever.  My current husband knows and fully understands what I'm saying as he loved my ex too.  We were a family.  My ex and my current husband were like brothers.  

This all sounds strange to some who feel there should be a clean black line that separates our hearts and lives when divorce happens, but I have found that the heart and soul do not operate within clean-cut boundaries. I could go on and on about this and bore you to tears and I don't want to do that.  I only wanted to explain my long absense from this page, this web site, this art that has been with me so very long.  I have not painted in 4 years since the death of my ex and now, with the help of my friends, I hope to pick the brush and my creative self up off the ground and continue on.  I hope you'll go with me and encourage me as I will you! God bless you today and please feel free to share your encouraging thoughts!

True

The middle of the night and the house sleeps.  The easy rhythmic snores of man and dog emit from the bedroom down the hall, but all outside is dark and quiet.  A comforting thing the quiet and the stillness.

I wonder about work and the new people I encounter each day, their ideas, their perspectives, their lives and the interactions that I have had with them.  I think about truth; where it is found, how it is found and if it is found.  I wonder where we all are in our own individual truth seeking journeys.  I hope that we can overcome self, die to self and lift the other up in place of one's self.

Robert Greenleaf states something about truth attainment. "So many able people I have known have nullified their effectiveness by living in a past that will never return, or in a visionary future that may never materialize, and the opportunity to be grasped here and now slips by them." (1977 Servant Leadership, p. 300).  This is true for me...I was there and if I am not careful to be purposefully in the moment, I sometimes waiver on the brink of slipping back into that nullified existence.  Every day brings more to be peaceful about and less to have anxiety about when I am in the moment. This is God's grace and gift to me.

Thomas Carlyle says of true humor, "(it) springs not more from the head than from the heart; it is not contempt, its essence is love, it issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper. It is a sort of inverse sublimity that draws down into our affections what is above us." This peaceful thought will rest on my brow as I drift into slumber this very night as I strain my soul toward God and he in his mercy bends his thoughts toward me.  Happy is my soul when God's thoughts are toward me and happy in the moment am I when my thoughts are toward God: We are one in this moment.  At last the long sought and ever illusive peace within is found and I hold tight to it; as tight I can.

Another page turns

There are periods in life when nothing seems to happen and then there are other times when everything seems to happen at once.  This past month has been one of those "other times".

My husband began another page in his life and has set sail across the retirement waters.  I am envious, but I sense that he is kind of lost right now.  It seems his identity was so wrapped up in his job that he had lost sight of the part of himself that was once ambitious in other areas and interested in life outside of work. There is plenty to do at home, but I'm trying to give him the space he needs to figure things out and refrain from infringing upon his time of decision with my "honey-do" list.  I can't do that...yet.  He's a good man and has worked very hard for many years.  It is his time and he has earned a little respite before deciding where he wants to go next.  I admire and love him and have faith that he will find his way, in his own time and come to enjoy life outside of work again.

Life outside of work has entirely different connotations for me.  I learned that the company for which I worked was eliminating my position due to "reorganization".  Although it wasn't much of a job to lose, it did allow me to pay the bills.  It  was a job much like those inhabited by the majority of the populace that enabled living paycheck to paycheck each week robbing Peter to pay Paul.  It has been a job in a depressed economy none-the-less, and one that I was thankful to have had.  I was not exactly panicked, but rather concerned that I find a job that would pay the bills and allow us to reach our goals for when I am ready to retire in 11 years. Unlike the usual scenario of jobless America, there were a few jobs out there and I put in for several.  Unlike myself in past situations of this kind, I have tired of organizations and/or companies that take on that "big brother" persona during the interview process.  It is more important that "I" like the organization and feel a good fit for "me" rather than stressing over whether they "like" me or not.  It is my only way of "sticking it to the man" in an era when corporate America has failed to support the very people who have put them where they are today.  Somehow they think they have gotten there all by themselves and can judge the rest of the world as worthy, or not, to exist in their "realms of organizational perfection".  In fact, their realms of perfection turn my stomach and I absolutely hate the interview process and that feeling of being an insect under their microscopes.  Living to impress others has never seemed an appealing existence to me. Enough of complaining and...I know, I know...one should not look a gift horse in the mouth, remain positive, upbeat, optimistic and all that jazz, but honestly folks, I think the corporate world is a truly horrible place. Let's face it; it wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the people.  Take people out of the corporate world and I might consider it. Now I chuckle as I am reminded of the time that a woman at a fast food restaurant told her supervisor when asked why she was so behind: "Well!  If it weren't for all these customers, I could get my work done!"  I have to laugh at myself for sounding the same!  So now too, I must find the humor in the world and keeping trudging forward into whatever "next" there is.  I'm not sure what that will be, but I am certainly up for a new adventure!

...and on the third day in the most beautiful place in the world

The mowing crew came to the cabin yesterday morning.  A friendly lot, with two older men and two young college interns in tow.  They took a few minutes to have a cup of proffered coffee and share in friendly conversation.  After visiting with them, they got to work and I left to pick up supplies.  Jim stayed behind to read his book and be available should the mowing crew need anything.  He even offered to wash up the breakfast dishes so I could get underway.  What a man!

Following the usual jounce down the mountain, I stopped to see if Doris might want to ride with me into town, but found she was not home.  So on my merry way I continued at a slow pace to enjoy the beauty of the countryside and the rolling fields of waving heather-colored grass, dotted with an array of brightly colored wild flowers.  

Some fields fenced in a sea of only grass, some sported cows of all varieties, some had horses and now and then a farmer perched at the wheel, sitting high in the cab of a bailer gathering up long rows of newly mown hay.  Houses were far and few between and most were original farm houses from early last century.  A sign of the changing economy and focus of a younger generation, the occasional mobile home dotted the landscape.  I drove on past the Jersey farm and stopped by the leasing office near the Appalachian Trail to report some maintenance issues at the cabin.

A hiker's convenience center sits just off the Appalachian Trail with a shelter, showers and shuttle service to and from the nearest town for those hardy folk braving the trail.

As is a common site around these parts, one such hiker: A young man, stands outside the station waiting for the shuttle, overloaded pack at his feet, a scruffy beard forming on his young face, talking on a cell phone.  I proceed into the leasing office to conduct my business, giving him a "how-do-you-do" nod as I walk past. 

As I'm leaving, I notice he is still there waiting, so I offer him a ride into Marion.  He eagerly accepts and joyfully throws his pack in the bed of the truck, all the while profusely apologizing for his smell and continues in his apology to tell me how long it's been since his last "real" shower.  He shares that he has hiked eleven miles already today and its barely 10:00 a.m.  

I chuckle and say "no worries" and then I listen with fascination to his hiking story all the way into town.  Just that morning, he saw a 400 pound Black Bear up a tree, less than one hundred yards away from where he stood.  He shares that he's thirty-four years old and grew up in Richmond, but has lived in Raleigh and New York City.  

I asked him the same question I ask all long-haul Appalachian Trail hikers "what made you want to hike the trail?" His gaze was far away as he shared his story.

He had come to a crossroad in his life and felt hiking the entire Appalachian Trail might help him figure it out.  "And has it?", I asked.  He replied, "I have found having the answer to that question is not what's important.  Knowing that I'll be alright, no matter what the answer, is what I've discovered about myself on this hike, but no sign posts have flashed before my eyes yet to tell me what I'm supposed to do with my life."

When I let him out at Walmart, he called me a "trail angel".  I shared that like any good angel, I would remember him in my prayers that somewhere on that trail, God would show him his purpose in life.  I hugged him despite his protests of his smell.  

So God, wherever Jeff is this morning, show him your mercy, guide him with your love, help Jeff, your servant, to find your purpose on that trail and grant him peace.

The rest of the day was taken up with shopping, driving back to the cabin to put groceries away and hurrying to begin my new painting.

This being the first painting I had done in two years, I was understandably nervous.  There is something fearful about looking from God's perfection to that empty white canvas.  It's a necessary moment for prayer.  I asked God to be my hands and anxiously applied the first brush strokes with a "well here goes" attitude.  I painted for an hour and then lost my nerve.

Jim and I took showers and boy, did that feel better as I was beginning to smell more like Jeff with each passing day.

As it turned out, I forgot milk and bread on my grocery list.  How does a person do that, when that's all that most people remember to get at the grocery store?  So Jim and I headed out to fetch it at a little hamlet a little closer to us than the larger town I visited in earlier in the day.  On the way, we stopped to visit Doris who showed us the house her neighbors are renovating. It's an old farm house and it's beautiful. Her neighbors are nearly finished with the inside and have furnished it with some beautiful antiques. They are considering renting it when the renovation is complete.

Coming "home" to the cabin, we grilled hamburger steaks and corn-on-the-cob.  I sauteed onions and green peppers to go on top of the steaks, cooked green beans and heated up biscuits left over from breakfast.  Neither of us had remembered lunch, so we were glad to sit down to such a fine feast.

The evening was spent on the porch watching fireflies, sipping wine and talking of our hopes and dreams, the days events and simply finding joy in each other's company.  What a day! Sigh!

That was Monday and today has dawned in front of me, while sitting on the porch sipping coffee and writing about yesterday.  The dog sits at my feet, while the buzz of bees, the songs of birds, the twitter of hummingbirds at the feeder and the gentle whisper of wind in the tree tops carries on in symphonic harmony all around me.  Sunrise was a pale pink bud, that blossomed into a ripe white sun over the mountains before me.  Jim is snoozing in, but I'm thinking of going in to wake him with a cup of coffee.  As I rise to carry this out, I think to myself, "What Lord did I do to deserve this wonderful gift of enjoyment of such an amazing place?"

day Two at one of the most beautiful places on earth

The morning of our second day dawns cool and crisp.  Fog hides Cougar Knob in a gray veil that flows onto the edge of the front lawn.  In five minutes I have a fire going in the huge rock fireplace in the living room.  I sip the coffee Jim brings me while taking my daily dose of spiritual nourishment.  Reading the Bible and spiritual books are medicine to my soul.

If taking naps, eating and reading can classify as vacation activities, I was wholly engrossed in them all day yesterday.  The nearest thing to work I did was cleaning the kitchen.  It appeared the last tenants probably had better things to do than clean.  By late afternoon, the high, white and fluffy clouds that had marched across the sky in such an orderly fashion, had somehow gotten tangled up, tripped over one another and landed in a big black pile over our mountain. 

By four o'clock, we were tired from resting and felt a walk was in order.  So, we set out down the driveway.  All along the way we remarked on and wondered in amazement at the storm clouds that continued to churn and billow into towers of dark and menacing ramparts above us.  At the end of the driveway, we thought better of it and turned back toward the cabin at a brisk pace, "to beat the rain", we said.

Once again, there we were, hard at rest:  Jim perched in a chair on the porch, absorbed in the detailed script of another Tom Clancy novel, and me lying in the grass watching the clouds from the front lawn.

About an hour and two Twinkies later, guilt overtook us.  We determined to once again attempt to hike before sundown, with the goal of actually leaving the driveway this time.  We forgot to celebrate our accomplishment when instead; we turned right on the forest road and headed for the high mountain meadow a mile further down the road.  We had only traversed a tenth of the distance when we came upon two cars parked on the side of the road.

Approaching the vehicles, we saw two men and a woman.  One man was older than the other and the young woman was holding a baby in her arms.  The baby was facing our direction.  I glanced at the young man, then at the young woman and noted an uncanny resemblance.  Then I turned my gaze toward the baby and was taken aback at the wide-set intensely staring eyes looking at me just above the cleft palate stained with dirt and drool.  It is clear to see that this family's tree did not fork too far.  A happy baby with a one-toothed grin.  I couldn't help but coo at the little one and tell her mother how precious her baby was.  Every mother should hear this about their baby.

After a brief greeting, we learned that one of their cars would not start.  The young man, woman and baby were preparing to climb into the other car.  The older man indicated they were going to locate a car part that he believed would remedy their predicament.  

The older man was the most talkative of the group and shared that they were there fishing and indicated the direction of their activity with a wave of his hand toward the vicinity of the woody, overgrown field behind him.  He told us that somewhere in that dense jungle, his wife was still fishing. "If you say so," I think to myself, resigned to believe him despite not being able to discern a pond, let alone his wife among the brambles, overgrown thickets of underbrush and tall snaky grass that a bush hog would have trouble cutting through. "Perhaps they've murdered her and have made up this story to throw us off, I thought.  Don't be daft silly, you're confusing this situation with "Deliverance," I retorted to myself."

We said goodbye and continued our walk to the high mountain meadow.  Someone had written in the guest journal at the cabin, that there were now horses being kept in the meadow and I wanted to see them.  

That person was wrong, as we found upon arriving at the meadow.  It could be they mistook the horses of campers who often come to this area to camp and release their horses to graze, for permanent residents.  All we could see was the overgrown meadow grass, gently waving and bending in the breeze and the sprinkled color of summer wild flowers bowing their heads in homage to the scene around them.  It's hard to believe it was covered in snow and the wind was howling through the barren forest the last time we were here.  Just over there is where we saw the tracks of an Eastern Cougar in the snow on that cold day two and a half years ago. As we stood there remembering, the wind picked up as the clouds darkened across the forgotten meadow where nothing was held in by the encircling weathered fence posts, not even the wind.  Beautiful, wild and free it blew and left me standing happy that we came, content to see and know that when our occupancy here is completed, beauty, life and time carry on as though they had not noticed us at all. 

We made tracks fast on the return trip to the cabin.  Around time for dinner a tremendous downpour came just as we were ready to put the Bratwurst (that had slow cooked in beer) on the grill.  No matter, we just covered it with aluminum foil to keep the rain off and continued cooking.

From Today's Morning Offering

Alone with none but thee, my God,

I journey on my way.

What need I fear, when thou art near,

O King of night and day?

More safe am I within thy hand,

Than if a host did round me stand.

 

My destined time is fixed by thee,

And death doth know his hour.

Did warriors strong around me throng,

They could not stay his power;

No walls of stone can man defend

When thou thy messenger dost send.

 

My life I yield to thy decree,

And bow to thy control

In peaceful calm, for from thine arm

No power can wrest my soul.

Could earthly omens e’er appal

A man that heeds the heavenly call!

 

The child of God can fear no ill,

His chosen dread no foe;

We leave our fate with thee, and wait

Thy bidding when to go.

‘Tis not from chance our comfort springs,

Thou art our trust, O King of kings.

 

http://www.universalis.com/0/i-lauds.htm

 

day ONE at one of the most beautiful places on earth

 

We come up the mountain in the usual way; highway 127 to 16 to 221 to 21 to the forest road that leads to the cabin. The day is a perfect summer day.  High, white, puffy clouds float lazily overhead, traffic is heavy, but we're in no hurry.  The hot muggy air adds to the desire to slow down and smell the flowers. Turning onto the forest road, we are met with more humps, lumps, holes and bumps than usual and it begins to spit rain.  We stop in the middle of the road, take out the tarp and spread it over our worldly possessions, thankful for the cooling rain on our faces and arms. Happy inside and smiling outwardly to each other, we repeat over and over how thankful we are for this place and this time together.

The forest road is in bad shape and reveals our government's priorities, as our national parks suffer horribly under Hollywood template style leadership, touting "me, myself, and I" agendas all the way to the bank.  Regardless, here, more than anywhere in the world, it is easy to leave those irrelevant cares behind and assume responsibility for the things that matter. With Snoopy in the middle, windows down all the way, Jim in his element behind the wheel and  me holding my hair out of my face with one hand, we slip into the dark woods, thick with birdsong, lingering dampness, flickering sunlight, whispering trees and a quiet that insists on reverence for its maker.

The bed of the truck is loaded with all implements necessary to ensure a successful vacation: bedding, chain saw, axe, easel, gas can, bug spray, fishing rod, cooler and other various supporting gear.

In a few minutes, we are unloaded and relaxed on the porch.  I make up a batch of hummingbird food and Jim hangs the feeders out on the porch.  Within seconds, we have our first customer.

Following a short respite, we gather our remaining energy for the trek into town (45 minutes away) to get groceries.  Tired, hungry and grumpy, we stop to see our friend Doris on the way home.  Her cheerful welcome and a few minutes on her porch swing, soon revive our spirits.  She introduces us to her neighbors, Bonita and Gary and their grand baby. What a joy to see our dear friend Doris and to make new friends.

After filling up our water cooler and shower bags (Doris' water is WAY better than the campground's water), we climb the three mile forest road letting the truck creep over the humps, bumps, holes and rocks up the mountain and to the cabin.

Once again, I am the appointed gatekeeper and jump out of the truck at the bottom of the driveway to unlock it, let Jim drive through, and re-lock it behind us.  No intruders here!  We like our privacy.

A long day is ended with unloading the groceries and water.  Too tired to cook, we settle on the porch with sandwich in hand, a glass of cold iced tea close by and feeling as much as seeing the beauty around us, allow the peace that is here to envelope us, as quietly the sun sinks into a kaleidoscope of color.

Seeing the sun retire, reminds us of our own tired selves.  We make our bed and sigh deeply as we nestle down under the covers with all the windows open wide allowing the cool breeze to gently flutter the curtains throughout the house.  Lying in bed, I tilt my head back against the pillow for a better view of the moon rising bright and high into the sky over the trees just outside the window above our bed.  Out in the deep wood, a screech owl calls to its mate.  As I lay watching the moon, I see the owl rise into the night sky silhouetted against the moon. I realize I am holding my breathe at the sacredness of this moment.  For the first time in my life, I can hear the beating of his wings against the air.