How does Your Garden Grow?

crabgrass plot

That nasty grass is back? Wow.

Yesterday I hunkered in the little patch across from the sliding glass door where our rose tree fell in the dirt midweek. Steve propped it up with a stake. Once again, I stood in the plot where I’d spent hours alone removing stones and crabgrass. It felt sweet to have a husband beside me now to tend our garden.

Spring a decade past I wrote my single’s book to the daily mantra, weeding and writing, as I tackled the backyard of my newly acquired fixer-upper. When someone suggested, “You have a garden with every person in your life,” I became more thoughtful while I weeded. How was I doing maintaining the garden with various friends and family?

I first practiced weeding sessions when I dated. We would share observations, disgruntled and negative emotions evident through body language—words and actions. Hidden grudges, like crabgrass roots, strangled our potential for growth. Once exposed and removed, seeds could be sown. Loving thoughts, kind words and acts could once again, nourish our heart.

Desire, time and commitment are necessary to create a fragrant garden.

Is there a child we are at odds with? An estranged sibling? Difficult parent or spouse? Every relationship requires maintenance. Critical thoughts as weeds, will be resistant. God counsels us through His Word to forgive misunderstandings or insults, wounds caused from ill-spoken words or apathetic responses.

Forgiveness yanks the weeds out immediately. If we clip the top and leave the root, though unseen, it will prevent our garden from flourishing.

 People are fragile. Handle with care. Hearts tended by affirmations and prayers will respond. We must move beyond the doubt of negative memories to the hope of belief for new tomorrows so we plant new experiences and rebuild damaged relationships. Cleared soil once dominated by weeds can blossom.

As we process our feelings and rehearse our thoughts with prayer, we become more skilled at speaking the truth with love. Words framed with respect and gentleness diffuse anger. Christ will teach us humility if we ask Him. He will show us the beam in our own eye before we confront the beam in someone else’s. When  stubs of pride are uncovered, the stranglehold of judgment, like stubborn deep roots—release. When judgment dies, mercy lives—mercy that triumphs over judgement. (James 2:13 KJV)

Gardening in the rain is so messy, I wait for better weather conditions.

Likewise, I am learning to observe the sunshine or dampness on my husband’s face. It’s like God saying When. Wait means more time to pray we are each receptive to the other. To be diplomatic goes beyond an agreement to discuss an issue. It is the intention to understand the other’s viewpoint, as well as to be heard. I love to weed after a good rain. When the ground is soft, the weeds come out so easy.

How do we live without grace? Not only offering grace to someone else but to ourselves? Each situation is different, even if it’s the same person. New information is needed. If we avoid conflict resolution or have not pursued building a relationship garden for awhile—our tools will be rusty.

When we pull unused tools out of the shed, we must trust God to begin.

He has equipped us with two patient ears to listen, one mouth to say less and a heart that beats to love as God designed. God, our Master Gardener. He knows how to prune anything and how to grow every flower and fragrance we can imagine—or can’t.

Pursue (think plant!)  righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness of heart.

  1 Timothy 6:11 

copyright 2016  Dee Aspin

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Forgive Again? Yes, it is Good Friday

Bay bridge day

 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21, 22 NIV)

Peter had been traveling with Jesus and eleven disciples—so many personalities, habits and moods to contend with daily. Some are flexible and spontaneous, above board and honest, like him…or so he thinks.

Others are quiet, thoughtful, and slow to move and speak. They question everything and seem resistant, even critical of anything Peter says.  Peter is learning from the Master, but he’s struggling with the brothers, especially one. And this time Peter runs to Jesus, tired of forgiving over and over. The guy just doesn’t care about Peter’s feelings.

Downton Abby, a famous PBS series, just played episode seven, where Mary, the older sister brings pain to her younger sister, Edith, once again. She humiliates her in front of her family and betrothed catalyzing a break-up.

Edith lashes out and calls Mary on her horrible behavior. Hurt, she flees to another city. The rift between the sisters is strong. Yes, Mary is remorseful but sees no way to fix the trouble she has caused her younger sibling. She is not a people pleaser. Nor does she like to admit fault. It is easier to wait, and in time….

In a surprising turn of events to Mary’s benefit, Edith forgives Mary—unasked. She is not ruled by pride. Always the humble one, she closes the breech by coming to Mary.  Longing to bridge the gap, Edith declares the importance of keeping their bond, despite their innate differences.  Their upbringing and family history, their parents and Granny, their deceased sister and children—no one else could know the nuances of their family, the way they both understood.

Isn’t it interesting? It seems in life, the people hardest to forgive are the people closest to us. A woman married fifty years once stood in a church foyer and stated how she made it—“breathe forgiveness.”

Sounds a lot like seventy times seven.

Jesus knew the value of forgiveness and our human feelings.

            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27 NIV)

A blessing for a curse?  It sounds paradoxical. Jesus knows forgiveness is a decision and love is active. He knows, as we do, we all need His forgiveness for our wrongs and we rely on His love and mercy to cover our mistakes. He paid a price for us to be forgiven, and expects us to be merciful to others in turn—to sacrifice pride and judgment, even pain—and choose to forgive. It is never easy. There are depths to pain and forgiveness like the depth of the ocean, the deeper the pain, the darker the water. But forgiveness releases the victim as well, from misery and hate.

Matthew 5:45 reveals when we forgive we are behaving like children of our Father in Heaven. We bring God honor through forgiveness. We release others from guilt.

Yes, sometimes the people closest to us, spouses, siblings, children, parents—can seem like the enemies Jesus said to love. Their words pierce deeper because they are the closest to our heart. They are the ones we have decided to trust with our thoughts and emotions. We want to believe they are always safe people to live with and love us as we love them.

“My daughter is breaking my heart,” a tearful nurse erupted as she arrived at work. Her fourteen-year-old had said goodbye with the words, “I hate you.”

It’s hard to love and feel loved when actions and words flip day to day, or week to week. Love and hate, blessings and curses. The wheel spins inside the brain and words fly off at alarming rates sometimes. There is an enemy of our soul who loves to surprise us with a hit, when we least expect it. Ambushed, we can feel like we are battling something unseen. We are.

Mary, was in pain and inner conflict when she callously opened Edith to humiliation. Those closest to us, in their pain, can cause ours. “Wounded people, wound people.” And those with deeper wounds are often not aware what they are doing. They are minions of emotion and confusion, creating crazy circles of crisis for themselves and others.

Enemies may come from horrible bosses or backstabbing, burden laying peers. I have prayed Jesus’ words to cope with an unsavory work environment. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36 NIV)

Attempting to do my job clear-headed without having to constantly address the virus of emotions running in the background, spurred by comments and actions unrelated to our job positions, I prayed to love them.

Daily I had to shake the bird nest of bitterness trying to camp in my mind. “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest.”

Just this morning a friend told me her work has improved. “I decided to forgive my boss, carte blanche. I just don’t let it get to me anymore.”

There is power in forgiveness, not just for us, but for those around us. We are not expecting them to be something they cannot be. Because we are praying, we are not as easily disappointed or frustrated by their behavior.

Our unseen enemy, Satan, is out to divide—to bring pain and build walls with pride and animosity. Hatred is the opposite of love. If we give into hatred we cannot do the good Jesus asks of us. We cannot walk worthy of our calling as believers or help those we love, because we are not able to use the greatest power given to us by God—the power of love.

Love is stronger than hate. God’s way is stronger than the way of the world. He can empower us through the Holy Spirit to forgive, because we are attached to the Vine. The Vine is Jesus who hung on a tree and died for our sins, while forgiving those who drove the nails into his hands on the cross.

Today He is alive, and the power to love pours through His veins. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But with Him, we can choose to forgive—simply by asking Jesus, the One who knows how best to help us.

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For Those who Hold a Light of Hope…to Help

161

 

Often we don’t hear the words. “Your voice counts. Your presence makes a difference.” So many times those beside someone digging through a dark wall, can wonder if they are any help.

 

Sometimes we underestimate the power of our presence.

Holding a light of hope while they chip away at a tunnel toward freedom feels paltry compared to their groans. Even bolstering words can sound limp. “Hang in there.” “God will see you through.”

Just being there shows empathy and value. They often feel lost and alone, too weary to respond. To say thank you one more time, in their seeming never-ending marathon.

Recently, I was surprised by a comment after a meeting, “Your voice was needed today.” It had brought change and relief to someone holed in bureaucracy.

Loyalty. Faithfulness. Love in action. Maybe you feel it is not much. After all, you cannot chip at the tunnel for another. It is their course.

They must lift their own feeble arms and use their own strength to advance through the quarry facing them daily. They must bear the weight of dirt laden boots shuffling through the quagmire of bleak circumstances day after day. It is their cross, and the Lord is with them. He has given them enough grace to fight. We are given the insight to pray.

They may face a terrific trial of the soul, oppressed by a demanding boss, unfair teachers or backbiting peers. They may fight insidious inner voices sabotaging their reason and sanity, dominating siblings or spouses, jeering bullies. Medical maladies. Another round of radiation therapy. Complications from the last surgery. A drug-addicted child…or spouse.

Grievous to them…and to us. We wonder too, when will this ever change, God?

Your presence helps them know…you believe this too will pass. It is a struggle for you not to take a boulder in your own hands. Make calls, torpedo words and create your own explosive actions—absent God’s will and plan and timing.

But you have learned about timing. You know, “our times are in God’s hands.” (Psalm 31:15 NIV)  Theirs as yours. You have learned your lessons, navigated your own tunnels.  If you slam the walls too hard from impatience, around and above, the ceiling can cave in. Tunnel passages require a slow chipping, a slow suffering, not a hasty block of dynamite.

Is your voice needed to intervene for a child, a teen, an elderly person, a single parent, those who are sick?

Prayers can take a long time to be answered. Persevere. Pray for tenacity for those moving toward their future goals, derailed easily by dark doubts and haunting yesterdays. Or those weakened from invisible battle wounds of the heart. Ask for fresh words and ways to encourage those with chronic illness or sudden physical setbacks, remembering people cope differently with loss or transition.

We watch and wait in hope. We know when the wall begins to crumble and the light angles through the cracks, they will feel a gust of fresh air shift—that first deep inhalation. We know the tunnel is ending when we glimpse tears pooling in once dull eyes, and shoulders straightening.

Then we will know, as we believe now—we are where we needed to be, doing what God has called us to do. Nothing big, nothing grand. Just to stand. Stand with them hidden from the public eye. Watch and pray trusting God until their breakthrough to hope and peace.

For, if you have been comforted by the Lord and His presence through others, if you have known His patience and faithfulness in your own life, you will be able to encourage others the same way you were encouraged. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

 

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Single with Dog, One New Year Eve Past

Today, the first of 2016, I wanted to post this for the single’s who I love and pray with and for, as I am still newly married, and still remember….

I lived single a long time, longer than most, desiring marriage. One New Year I returned home maybe more disappointed than I should have been. After all, logically I knew we meet someone special usually unexpectedly. But, I was hoping against hope…once again.

Maybe it was a particularly difficult holiday season desiring a mate –someone special to share these life marker, time line events with—that prompted a silent sadness upon my return to an empty house… but then…my wandering blasé thoughts enroute home proved false.

Someone met me at the door and soothed my heart. That someone was Sam, my yellow Lab.

With Sam there I didn’t feel lonely. He was ecstatic to see me, per usual and followed me to our room, where my evening gown would fade into a photo album memory.

Sam there I had someone to wake up to who cared about me. With Sam there… I could make it without the empty feeling I would never meet anyone I could relate to or live with 24/7, someone I hoped to share the coming years activities with, to plan and dream together.

No matter how many long seasons I would navigate while waiting for Mr Right, I could live without the gape of isolation in my home. I had someone special to plan with, to be with. I had my dog.

No, but I returned to Sam…my old faithful.

The disappointment ebbed. The cheer bubbled up again.

I was not alone. I had someone to wake up to and who would accompany me as I took out the garbage.

Who would be there when I returned from the next dance, as loving and loyal as he was tonite?

And yesterday. And would always be.  I could count on that. He belonged to me. My dog is reality. We are bonded as Family.  Our home feels safe. We are blessed.

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Knights of the Light, a Star Wars devotional

shield

Knights of the Light

The Jedi knights in the Star Wars films  are brave guardians of the Universe destined by blood lines, they train from youth at the Jedi Academy through the power of the Force to defeat the tyranny of the Dark Side.

Recently while my husband and I watched the series, spiritual parallels surfaced.

In the New Testament Jesus states, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness…” (John 8:12)

Who is the Prince of Darkness? Satan. Deft at mental warfare, he throws fiery darts of doubt, fear and unbelief to keep us from completing God’s purposes. He intends to stamp out the Light of God’s presence, diminish God’s goodness and benevolence to man and steal the peace and health God gives His people.

Targets of the Dark Side

The Emperor taunts Luke Skywalker to react emotionally when he attempts to do what is right. If Luke reacts in rage, fear or pride, victory is aborted. In the same way Christians daily gird our minds to overcome the Accuser who lurks at every turn. Not until the End of the Age will we be free from Satan’s strategies to sideline us from accomplishing God’s goals.

We are Satan’s targets. He is like a “roaring lion who prowls” (I Peter 5:8) seeking to devour us. We call upon God to warn us internally, by the Spirit’s nudge, to avoid traps and temptations the enemy uses to weaken us.

How the Spirit Leads

Paul, out martyred leader of the faith, aware of his own tendency toward pride taught young believers, “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)  “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” (I Peter 3:15)

When we decide to follow Jesus, we experience the force of His love and power of His words. Only then, will we obey what He says instead of what we feel. We trust Him more than ourselves.

When we walk in the Spirit, God may lead us in ways we can’t understand. The Jedi closed their eyes, shook off fear and doubt and let the Force lead them. We must shut off our barrage of thoughts. Stop the anticipation and internal conversation and ask God to lead us, and help us to hear the voice of His Spirit. Often His principles and ways may not sync with our human reason or the timing of those around us.

Those closest to us, even our leaders, can crumble with fear under duress. All can drift from the truth found in the pages of the Book, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) We all face dark principalities that seek to undermine humanity and destroy God’s Kingdom. But each of us are equipped with divine spiritual armor.

Saber Lights and Teamwork

Jedi’s pursued the discipline, focus, and skillset to handle their saber lights—amazing laser-like swords which deftly destroy creatures of any composition. The Believer’s sword is the Word of God. To grow strong in their faith and deft with their sword, they must desire to know the Word as a baby craves milk. (1 Peter 2:2)

Unity, teamwork and trust within the Jedi Council is imperative in decision making and a successful mission. Suspicion causes hesitation and can undermine a timely strategy. Guided by the will of God to serve Him and His purposes, we will care for one another and refuse unhealthy competition and pride.

Maturity helps us to share our victories and exalt our Commander. Our motives are transparent, our actions reveal integrity.

Obedience to God’s command to wait or stay, rather than move out of His will provides peace and safety when pricked by darts of restlessness. The discipline of restraint produces composure in anger, reason in conflict, and effort over ease. It creates the character necessary to persevere through crisis and challenge.

  Shield and Helmet

Wear the shield of faith. When we accept His wisdom, and act and speak accordingly, we retain dignity. If others are given assignments we desire, fiery darts of jealousy or self-pity stop when we raise our shield of faith. When we deflect those poisonous darts—the enemy is disabled, unable to sabotage our trust in God and loyalty towards each other with lies, the way the Emperor poisoned Vader toward the Jedi Council.

“Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Similar to Jedi, each of us are open to attack through our mind. The helmet of salvation safeguards our identity when we are assaulted by thoughts of inadequacy. We belong to the One who has the power. “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.” (Psalm 89:7 NLT)

We must keep a strong mind when any voice assails our faith. When we are surrounded by unfamiliar people in new territories, we center our spirit by acknowledging the presence of our Master and positioning ourselves to listen.

Time is short—our eyes must rest on the Light of the World, His voice and instruction. Sharpen our sword of truth to forge our destiny as it once did for His disciples in centuries past.

“Go then, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you ‘all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion) to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).” Matthew 28:19,20  Everyday Life Bible

.                                                                              © Dee Aspin

 



 

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Following your Footprints…at times as these

A number of years ago, I wrote a poem when the world around me seemed to be changing too fast. incomprehensible. The peace only comes in knowing, He knows. He sees. All of it. All of me. All of us.

Following your footprints

I looked across my patio arch
Shadows cast across the street
Soon it would be getting dark
Time to walk the dogs… and me.

Time and again, these moments come
Somehow life keeps moving on
Sammy’s grown and Benji’s young,
No longer a puppy− I’m no longer a yuppy.

How many more nights will we walk these streets?
Smile at these neighbors, water these trees,
Cross these sidewalks, smell those roses,
Moments passing, into hours.

How many corners yet unturned?
How many pasts to yet move on?
Dreams still brim, still brew inside,
In spite of time and age and pride.

Again, around us Spring has sprung,
Again, the flowers bloom, they’ve come,
And I have never moved a thumb.
I’m just watching feeling numb.

Again, I need your grace,
Accepting changes in this place.
New songs my nephews play,
Old friend’s who’ve moved away,

New burdens that I shoulder,
In this body… I feel older.
And this house, I now call home,
How long here?
Am I to roam?

Lord, I’m searching for your face,
I reach to take your hand,
Each talk and new unraveling,
I seek to understand.

This time is it real? Is this coincidence or truth?
Enough’s been said , to turn my head,
I know you’ll give me proof.

You know that you’re my Man
The one who holds the plan
I’m willing if you take me
To walk those footprints in the sand.

©Dee Aspin

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after Job had prayed for his friends…JOb 42:10
After? When did this man of suffering start praying for his friends?

I love to swim and pray, but the praying doesn’t always happen right away. In swimming as in life, we often have to take care of ourselves, before we can really enter into prayer.

Not expecting the water temperature to be quite so low, today I jumped into surprise and a cold blast and began sprinting nonstop. I knew at some point, the laps would warm my limbs and core and shake the crazy chill.

Those first few laps of survival mode-I was consumed with strokes and breathing—acutely aware of my discomfort and waiting for it to pass.

Today was longer than usual. I lost track how many laps passed or how many times I stretched my hams at the bars … but finally, it happened. I was swimming comfortably—in the zone—flowing through the water unmindful of body temperature, breathing, or muscles.

It was then, the prayers could rise.I felt God’s presence. They surfaced to my mind one after the other…

A friend who may be putting her dog down today. Peace for an anxious parent. Young people in new relationships. Team players and boundaries at work for friends with job stress. Medical intervention for those with invasive health issues. Faith building friendships for college students. Protection for our soldiers and wisdom for our President.

Prayers flowed easily…when I was free of extreme discomfort to my body and felt safe. It made me appreciative of the verse to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—the Biblical principle of caring for ourself, loving ourself so we can love others. Interesting, yesterday I had read the last chapter of Job, when his prayers turned from himself apparently… to others.

… after Job prayed for his friends…(Job 42:10 )
After he prayed for his friends, then he was healed and his life turned around-all he had lost was restored by God’s providential plan.

He prayed for the friends who had misunderstood him and condemned him over thirty chapters of the book with agonizing lectures…producing thought-provoking contemplation, ebbs and flows of emotions as Job attempts to get his bearings in a new world. Thrust into his new normal, minus those he once loved and with a physical body covered with painful sores, a new distressing–season of his life driven by tragedy.

Job began to pray for his friends. So what’s the significance?

He prayed when he had more of his bearings. After God’s counsel freed him from false guilt and accusations from misguided human counsel and judgment. He heard God’s voice (Job 38) out of the storm.

When he reached a place of self-acceptance and learned to live with his disease and the losses. When time had passed from the internal and external havoc wreaked from a sudden change of debilitating circumstances.

In the storm God spoke. Job heard God’s voice again in these last chapters of this brutal season of his life journey…and the shock and trauma of his agony lessens. I thought how swimming lap after lap this morning, when the chill finally released from me this morning…I was able to pray.

Job prayed for his friends, following chapter after chapter of processing his life and pain before God and others. When it was time and he could and he found his bearings in his own pool of life…he began to pray.

Sure, circumstances turned around. But is it because of his prayer as it seems to imply?

Job did all he could with what he knew to stay alive. Satan had tried to squash him, friends had tried to help him (with the kind of help he didn’t need). Ultimately, he pulled through the quagmire even when he couldn’t see God or pray for anyone because he couldn’t get past his own trauma and need for survival. Sometimes we are in survival mode. It is all we can do to keep afloat. Why is it so hard to pray?

Not until Job steadied, and his spirit thawed could the prayers flow…sometimes we are in that place too.
When you are going through chilling circumstances, don’t expect more of yourself than you should, than others expect, or than God—who loves you, knows all and sees all—expects of you.

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Failing an Interview and Gaining Perspective

Today my friend asked us to pray for her daughter, a new college grad who has a panel interview upcoming for her first job.

A memory triggered of me as a twenty year old student who stood at the top floor of the university library. The best vantage point to overlook the treetops and see beyond the grounds of the campus surroundings where I wanted to obtain a degree.

A paper dangled from my hands, my second rejection letter in two years. I had applied the second time to our California State school, hoping for acceptance to the nursing program. This time, I had all points for completed classes but my interview points were lower. One point from the cutoff, to be exact. The struggle was knowing the previous year I had received those extra interview points. And I felt better about it this year!

Thoughts barraged me.

Should I keep waiting and apply again next year? Why couldn’t I score better at my interview this year as last? I would have gotten in… one point away?

I questioned God.

Couldn’t you cause one of the interviewers to subjectively give me 7 instead of a 6?

What is the wisdom now to my last resort, of accepting the invitation to the JC nursing program for an AA?  For the same time commitment to either program, yet two years of study at junior college and I will graduate with an AA, instead of a BA?

Disappointment. Dismay. Discouragement. Eventually, I pulled out the Bible I had begun to use three years before, when I accepted Jesus at seventeen. My life manual. Where God guided me and counseled me. Where I found courage hope and strength.

“Help me Lord to feel better about this.” I felt so heavy.

Opening to Psalms 75:2 , I read;  You say, I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Selah.

On verse 5, the words jumped from the page. I felt deeply God was speaking directly to me through His Word.

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges. He brings one down, he exalts another.

I reread and pondered the Scripture. I had given God my life and asked Him to guide my path. He had heard – and He answered. No, to this place for me. If He wanted me in this program, it would have happened.

He did not… It was someone else’s spot to fill. The JC was the best place for me to learn and obtain my degree. My place in the program was already there waiting, and the people I would be involved with for the next two years. His reason and comfort lifted the weight of doubt.

I left the library that day and wondered if I might someday understand why I didn’t get in, but accepted the decision as sovereign. I now felt ready to pursue the path and course God had laid out for me at the JC.

Two years later I graduated with my AA, passed boards and moved to other cities and traveled, eventually returning to my hometown years later.

Then, I pursued another course of study at that same university for a different BA program that was terribly impacted. Many students complained waiting semesters for the class they needed. The people who did not already have a BA had first choice. I breezed through.

Now when I returned to that library floor I smiled. God helped a young college student grasp the message of His Word and the way He can speak through Scripture very personal and very real.

The perspective I gained years before, how He alone is The Judge behind any human judge or court, brought an understanding to my heart and spirit,  beyond what my human eyes could see.

I would return to this passage in the years to come, in seeking acceptance quicker of His will…not only for myself but for those I love and rub shoulders with. After all, there is no end to opportunities afforded to all of us to step into new territory at any time of our life, and be at peace with whatever the outcome…knowing, God is in control.

He is the blessed controller of all things

 

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The Doggies Next Door

allie

I loved the little greyhounds, Allie and Sammie, who lived next door. They both shook like leaves on a stormy day in their natural state. Their breed is specific. The closest match with human behavior would be Barney Fife, better known as Don Knotts, the eccentric police assistant to Andy Griffith in Andy of Mayberry—a series that would offer us classic characters we embraced as household names. Their stories represented American family and community at it’s finest.

Recently I learned that Don as a gangly teenager, plucked chicken feathers from a machinery belt—one degrading unsavory job. Allegedly, he was skinny and jumpy—bullied by a brother and father growing up. He saved his hard-earned money until he could invest in a mannequin  to practice his passion as a ventriloquist.

He joined the military as soon as he could. Within weeks the army discovered his hidden talent —he could entertain a crowd of servicemen and make them laugh. What an asset! His popularity grew and launched a career. The attributes God gave him proved perfect for the roles he played before an even vaster audience on American television. Many of us boomers grew up in anticipation of hearing and watching the nervous little man who made us laugh simply by being himself— jerky and tremulous, unlike any other human personality most of us had ever encountered.

I had never been around tremorous, fragile Italian greyhounds, until I first met Allie and Sammie in my neighbor, Donna’s, kitchen. Curiously intrigued by their physical demeanor, their timid, sweet personalities soon won me over as they darted almost on tippy-claws, in and out, toward and away as I stood and watched—like a circling disappearing act.

It seemed they could be quickly overpowered and bullied by a big dog. I wasn’t worried about my fifteen pound mini schnauzer, Benji, but I was a bit concerned how they would fare around Sam, my rambunctious clumsy 120 pound Lab. Even one wrong step and he could crush their little legs.

The inevitable day came for their introductions. Since Allie was a rescue and mending from past abuse, Donna decided we would introduce her dog, Sammie, to my Sam. How would my Sam respond to her 8 pound Sammie? Would he dare to attempt to bully him as easy fare, just as young scrawny Don had experienced from older bigger males. Smiling, speaking softly to little Sammie, Donna carried him trembling out to our property line. I waited with my Jolly Red Giant.

What would they do?

Sam stood next to me, the top of his head at my diaphragm. His big pink nose sniffed Sammie’s tiny paws dangling from Donna’s arms.

Eyes bulging, face riveted toward my Sam, Sammie bent forward. A little red tongue appeared and swept over large pink nostrils. Friends. Laughter from us. Declarations and the same kind of pleasure we felt as children watching Mayberry episodes.

Even though we all live in a sprawling metropolis, maybe dogs with peculiarities as vast as their masters, still bring a wholesomeness to life and neighborhoods that remind us a little bit of a place we always wanted to live—a safe, pleasant community where people care and share… like Mayberry, USA.

sammy and allie

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Gals Time Out… A Quick SF Weekend Blog for Foodies…

I always thought it would be fun to be a travel writer…well I’m not. But here’s a memorable experience during my single days riveted around food that still makes me smile. Perhaps you can save up and enjoy a fun weekend too, or even an evening or day trip and use a couple ideas for food. Foodies of the world never get bored traveling,eh?

“I need a vacation!” my friend declared a number of years ago.
“OK, where do you want to go…and when?” I asked states away.
“San Francisco!” she half-hollered. “Now.” Perfect for me—an hour and a half car drive from home…

Two weeks later I picked her up on a TGIF at the Sacramento airport winging in from Nashville. So far, she had as much fun planning the trip as getting there.
“I googled the nearest route and it’s 113 to Woodland,” she directed me right out the airport exit as I headed my routine left.
“I know how to get to San Francisco.” I wryly stated native born to the Bay Area.
She insisted this was quicker…reluctant, I gave in. “Ok, I’ll try something new.”
Sure enough we hit Woodland and exited at Main Street connecting us with 113 to Davis and shooting out to 80.
We saved time- impressive.
“We have to stop at La Bou! I dream about their almond croissants every time I know I’m coming.” After a quick call, my crestfallen passenger lamented, “There’s no La Bou’s outside of Sacramento in this area.”  Seconds later she popped another request.
“I want to go to In and Out Burger! I’ve never seen them anywhere outside of California.”  Interesting this is my Dad’s favorite “healthy’ fast food

“Wow, really?!” I learned another reason why I love California.

A few new reasons, surfaced beginning with our dinner at The Slanted Door located on Ferry One. It faces the lights of Treasure Island across the Bay offering a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge which grew more beautiful around 5pm, when the sky darkened into the black of night. The lights of the bridge flashed on resembling a swooping garland of lights suspended across the bay.
The dimly lit candlelight restaurant with the black walls and rich wood tables and floors hinted toward Asian design and corresponding cuisine. Since they serve family style ordering different main dishes means more to experience for all.

The scallops melted like butter. The filet mignon was soft and savory with an awesome sauce. The crunchy sensational jicama salad stole our palate; we were amazed to pull off to such a great start in our weekend of planned progressive meals in the City that crossroads all cultures and chefs into one dining dynasty.

We were surprised and delighted. The sauces were out of this world. Awesome sauce.
The pink bulb curled in our tea actually flowered as we waited for the hot water to cool. It was delightful to drink from our fragrant glass—like sipping a garden.

Following dinner our eyes feasted on grace and agility produced by the San Francisco Ballet Company, topped by the rhythmic rhapsody and engaging choreography of Divertimento no 15, truly a beautiful thing.

Saturday morning we bubbled with excitement decking out in our finest clothes for the weekend…at midday. Rumor had it this was a gala affair; it was dress up time. Eagerly we caught our cab and spun our gossamer dreams down to the lower floor of the Ritz. A couple rich paintings that resembled those decorating the walls of museums in Europe begged our attention. Otherwise the room we bequeathed did little to stir our imagination.

The $32 course of the Chef’s best further failed to deliver the dining wonderland we’d anticipated. Other than the sorbet cream desert, from the olive bread to the tasteless salad and the lackluster pumpkin sauce over ahi, we each left the Ritz much like Cinderella fled the ball, losing a slipper and as quickly as we could.

But that night a divine mistake led to a dinner spot as Delfina’s which was next door to Delfina’s Pizzeria (the intended). We encountered an unexpected surprise. I’ve never watched anyone mince garlic with a huge knife so quick and effortless…as their designated human garlic chopper.

Delfina’s delivered. First, the bread was “the best bread I’ve ever had in my whole life.” “Where did it come from?” The bakery on the corner makes it fresh everyday… it’s called the Country Loaf,” our waitress gladly imbibed. We just looked at each other wide-eyed as happy hungry monkeys swinging into a banana plantation. The half carafe’ of fruity banana pineapple and and Gavi di Gavi Villa Sparina 2005 Piemonte created a hearty toast of triumph. Once again we were on a good track…

Tips:

Check for specials. Amazingly, the rates for a hotel in SF can be cheap on the weekends. Our Marriott for 2 queen beds $87. Same with a Hyatt special once for 2 doubles $87.

It’s often cheaper to use hotel parking for $25- $35 for 24 hours… take taxi, bart and walk.

Cabs start at $3.50 in the city ½ mile. (beats looking for parking space and $$ if weekend)
Bring an envelope of dollar bills and fives for the taxi’s, buses and tips,
If you choose Uber download the app and set up your charge card on the smart phone ahead of time.
Travelocity for restaurant reviews.
Trivago works for comparing hotel prices.
Priceline for last minute specials, Hotel Tonight and vrbo.com provide options.

 

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