Grace Awakened Eyes

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Counting our common everyday gifts – our grace gifts from God – is the challenge I have accepted as a discipline of the heart. My current Bible study is encouraging me to take notice of God’s grace in the minutae of life and giving thanks.

Eucharisteo. To be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks.

It’s probably the last day in 2020 where the sun will feel so very warm and the air so beautifully crisp. Today was a good day to take a walk in “my park” just down the street. Today I step off of the paved path and take the lesser traveled pathways worn in the tall grasses in little patches of the park.

Today I take notice of the small things. The glimmer of sunshine low in the sky, streaming through the trees, forming halos around what remains of summer’s flowery offerings.

Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

I thank God for the sun. It’s there every single day, even when I don’t see it, reminding me that God’s grace surrounds us, intricately involved in our ordinary days – even on the darkest and most difficult of days.

My wandering feet cross the expanse of grass still green which not so very long ago hosted soccer games, picnics, and kites. A distant patch of color lures me to explore the paths that other feet have created. Such beauty. I thank God for placing me in a community that has such a wonderful place for families to play and explore. Even now, in the midst of the sickness that stubbornly refuses to loose its grip on humanity, people enjoy its respite and calm.

A colony of milkweed punctuates the wind-flattened grasses. I step into their abode to explore the spent pods which have long since burst open to release next year’s seeds. The fruit pods are dry now, grayed like me with age, yet the outer capsule still bears a design and texture placed there by the Creator. I marvel at the intricacy and find joy of heart when I find one lonely pod still not quite open. The cottony fluff feels like silk to my touch.

I thank God for this herbaceous perennial that beckons the Monarch butterfly to lay her tiny eggs in the shelter of its ovate leaves. One tiny egg for each plant, if she can, so as to make sure the babies she may never see will have food enough to grow, yet not destroy the hospitable host. [Read more about milkweed here.]

I spy Queen Anne’s Lace framed by amber colored grasses tipped in burnt orange and a band of blue sky. She sways tall in the breeze over the meadow grasses, her skirt drawn up and around her as though bracing for winter’s nip. As my aging eyes seek to see more, her Designer’s sage attention to detail reveals a gentle beauty, even though stripped of her ornate white petaled robe.

Somehow, this stately queen of the meadow makes me think of my mother’s gentle beauty. Many have remarked that there was something about her skin that was so lovely and fair – even in her 80’s. But what made her truly beautiful was the beauty of Christ in her. No beauty serum could impart more radiance than my momma’s beautiful reflection of Christ as she imitated Him in life’s ups and downs. Alzheimer’s could not steal that beauty.

I stand in the meadow and thank God for reminding me that this beauty can be mine too. Her faithful example still lingers, pointing the way. Momma’s life still touches mine, even in her absence. Today, I thank God for taking my beautiful momma home so gently. Though she went through many difficult days with Alzheimer’s, years actually, I thank God that now she knows fully they were truly light momentary afflictions when compared with the glory of her heavenly home for which she longed.

Tomorrow the snow will begin to fall and soon it will hurt just a little to take in that first breath of air when we walk outside. Yet, even in that, there will be countless reasons to thank God, be reminded of His grace, and experience true joy in the bounty of His grace upon grace.

Eucharisteo. To be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks.

The Parable of the Hosta

I’m not sure, but I think it has been gloomy and rainy since Sunday. The sun has made a few cameo appearances, but it’s definitely feeling rather fall-ish here in Wisconsin. I even dug my blue jean jacket out of the closet and threw it on before picking up my granddaughter Vi to transport her to a behind-the-wheel driving lesson this morning. (I know! How can she possibly be old enough for that?!)

Proof that Vi turned 16 in April!

Well, anyway. While I was gone today, hubby closed “my” windows and turned on the heat to take the chill out of the house. Thankfully, the weatherman tells me that the warmer, throw the windows open temperatures are returning soon. I sure hope so. Wasn’t it just last week that I was playing in the dirt? Yes, I think it was. I seem to recall being busy gathering seeds and dreaming of colorful annuals dotting my perennial flowerbeds next summer. Along with that fun task, I’d been cutting back spent foliage and taking diggings of favorite perennial plants I’d like to grow in other parts of the yard.

I wish I could say I accomplished everything on my garden to-do list during that spell of wonderful weather, but must confess that I am a wanderer in the garden – never quite finishing one task before wandering off to work on something else. Case in point, one glorious day last week, I was digging around in the flowerbed nestled under our locust tree when I spied a particular hosta plant nearby in a flowerbed by my 3-season porch. The hosta was looking a little tattered and sad. So, true to my garden-wandering self, I picked up my gardening stool and plopped myself down in front of this hosta, then pulled my pruning shears out of the pocket of my garden apron.

My sad hosta

As you can see, some of the leaves are blighted and stressed. I found a super informative and well-illustrated pdf publication on hosta disease and am really hoping this isn’t something fatal (you can find that publication here). Maybe one of my readers knows what I’m dealing with here.

I’m hoping this is drought damage and not some fatal hosta disease!

In contrast to the steady rain we’re having now, we had a pretty long dry spell in August where I wasn’t as faithful as I should have been in watering this area of my garden. Even though there is now a little river running through my back yard, last week there were areas of the garden with deep, water-thirsty cracks in the soil. I’m no expert on hostas, but I’m thinking this damage was due to drought stress. Most of the leaves looked really healthy and I didn’t see too much insect damage, so I decided to just snip away the unhealthy looking leaves. A few snips later, I had this bucket of damaged leaves.

With a little pruning and cleanup, the plant began to take on a bit of its former beauty. There! Now isn’t that better?

A few snips later, a bit of its former beauty restored.

The Parable of the Hosta

My garden often teaches me little lessons in life – parables, I guess. This hosta reminded me that neglecting the essential disciplines in life leads to a rather shabby looking life. There are always consequences to my actions (or lack thereof) when important things are neglected. Too little sleep leaves me sluggish and crabby. Poor eating habits affect how my body feels and looks. Forgetting to drink enough water leaves my skin looking 10 years older. Neglecting to exercise early in the day probably means I will neglect it altogether that day, and I will feel it in the way my body moves (or doesn’t move).

Likewise, time in God’s Word is essential to my growth as a believer. When I neglect spiritual disciplines in my life, it begins to show up in the way I think, my attitudes and actions, and even in the way I speak. The beauty of Christ in me becomes marred and difficult to see.

Word Before World

I am grateful to have been invited during the month of August to participate in a virtual Bible study challenge called Word Before World hosted by Well-Watered Women (you can read more about that group here). It was just the challenge I needed for re-establishing the habit of making time in God’s Word a number one priority. First thing in the morning, before social media and other things which vie for our attention. It was fun to virtually gather together with women all over the world. A few of my friends from church were part of this group, so that was a wonderful way for us to spend time together around the Word, taking the sting out of not being able to gather with one another in person right now during the pandemic. I absolutely loved the friendship, the sisterhood, encouraging words, prayer support, photos, videos, Facebook room chats, and desperately needed the accountability.

My favorite Bible study spot on pleasant August mornings.

“Put off” and “Put on”

My hosta parable falls short in perfectly illustrating this growth principle, but here’s the lesson I’m taking away from my little adventure in gardening. Just as my hosta needed me to take off the decayed leaves to restore its beauty, time in the Word helps me see what needs to be “put off” or “put on” in my spiritual life so that the beauty of Christ can be seen in me. And, of course, the water of God’s Word is as absolutely essential to my spiritual growth as the refreshing rain is to the lush growth of my garden.

A Month in Ephesians

During the month of August, I made an effort to read through the book of Ephesians each day (it only takes about 20 minutes). I learned something new each time through and there is still SO much more to glean.