Realizing the Truth: Set Free Indeed

Free to Visit but Not Participate

Free from packing today; we’re in a stage where what we need to pack is what we need while we stay in the house. So this morning I decided to bake some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and drop by the school where I taught seventh grade English and History for twenty years. School, the world where I always feel I belong, where I’m comfortable and at ease. I know what to do and how to do it.

The counselor, Beth, both loved and hated my 365-day-a-year Christmas countdown. And even though I made her a year long calendar counting down the days until Christmas (Today? 130 days until Christmas. Share the joy!) I wanted to give her a small token of my love and appreciation of her and her support of me through joy and sorrow, success and failure. The small Christmas ornament said Joy, which I knew would remind her of her silly friend. I wrote a note on the back,

Free

Free to Listen

I planned my visit to coincide with lunch so I could say a last goodbye to colleagues. Sure enough, as I swung into the parking lot, someone pulled out, on their way to lunch.

Free

Out of habit, I walked through the staff door. But immediately, I saw differences. Usually, when I walked into the office, Joanne greeted me. Like me, she retired in June, so someone I didn’t recognize sat in Joanne’s chair. I must have looked like I belonged, because she didn’t question who I was or why a person she didn’t know came through the staff door. I smiled at her, and stopped at Judy’s desk. We chatted, catching up on family and summer. Again, I realized changes. Instead of worrying about all I needed to accomplish in a precious 40 minute lunch period, I gave Judy my full attention, listening without watching the clock.

Done chatting, I walked past the teacher mailboxes. My eyes automatically flitted to the middle of the rows. Oh, I thought, I don’t have to check my box. I don’t even have a box!”

I opened the lunchroom door. A chorus of hellos, how are you? greeted me. Hugs. Gratitude for the cookies. I settled into my chair and listened to the conversations. Getting ready for back-to-school night. Learning names of students. Juggling family and work. All of it made sense. None of it applied to me.

I was in this world of school. Comfortable. Familiar. I could empathize. Listen. But I didn’t belong here anymore. Retirement set me free to spend my time differently

Free Indeed

Now, instead of racing out the door, answering the same questions over and over, I drink another cup of coffee. My time with God doesn’t get cut short. In the quiet of my offie, I listen to His voice while He speaks to me through His Word. He reminds me of how truly free I am. Free of the wages of sin and death (Romans 6:23).

Just like I’m free from the fetters of school, I can walk by the things of the world. I don’t have to stop by the things that weigh me down, keep me from peace and joy. I can listen for His voice and follow Him.

Of course, this didn’t happen at retirement. Freedom comes the minute Jesus becomes Lord of our lives. Walking in this world I knew, but no longer tied to the demands of teaching, reminded me because the Son set me free and I am free indeed (John 8:36).

Linking with Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light  Grace and Truth, Faith of Fire, Dance with Jesus, Fresh Market Friday, Counting My Blessings

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The Importance of a Clean Heart

Clean Amongst the Chaos of Moving

I dusted and vacuumed today. Big deal, you may think. Except, we’re in the midst of packing everything we plan to move to Arizona. Piles of stuff waiting to be boxed up sit all over the house. Only nail holes remain where pictures once decorated the walls. Tiny pieces of paper, torn to wrap china and crystal, dot the floor. Things we don’t want wait in different piles, until either Van or I make a run to Goodwill. And everywhere I look, I see the dust and grime of life coating tables, chairs, and floor. Oh, how I long for a clean house!

Clean     Clean

I toy with the idea of waiting until all the boxes are packed and nothing is left to do but clean, but I find it hard to sit still and relax. Just a little order along with the chaos is all I need. Maybe it’s my need for control, but I always function better when things are neat and tidy, even if it’s mostly on the surface. So today, I take a little time to run a dust cloth over the table tops, vacuum high traffic areas, make sure the sink sparkles. As Mom would have said, the house got a lick and a promise.

Clean

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

Believe me, I’m a much more pleasant person to be around when things look straightened up. So I sigh with satisfaction, able to relax a little better despite the clutter that is a necessary part of moving.

God calls me to keep order in my relationship with Him, too. When sin clutters my heart, I put distance between myself and God. Nothing goes well. My stomach churns and my mind goes in circles, searching for peace that refuses to come.

King David said when he kept his sin close and refused to admit it to himself or God, his bones wasted away and his strength was sapped. But as soon as he admitted his sin to God, he received forgiveness. (Psalm 32). The sin he chose, that he pretended offered happiness, instead robbed him of joy and peace.

But I can’t give my relationship with God a lick and a promise. To be at peace, I must do a thorough cleaning. God wants my whole heart.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:17

The Benefits of a Clean Heart

God calls me to draw near with a sincere heart. When I do, I receive the full assurance that faith brings, having my heart sprinkled to cleanse me from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22).

Oh, yes, the benefits of a clean heart far outweigh any clutter of sin, no matter how I may try to convince myself the dirt can wait; I’ll get to it soon. Once I truly surrender to God, I can rejoice and sing. The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds me (Psalm 32:10-11).

Linking this week with God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

My Special God Place

My Favorite Place

If you ask me what my favorite place is, I’ll answer the beach. San Clemente to be exact. There are few places that fill me with as much joy. The sight of the many blues and greens and grays the water holds. Palm trees reaching up into a sky so blue it takes my breath away. Pelicans soaring and diving. Kids shrieking and laughing as the water laps at their toes. The water lapping and crashing on the shore. Seagulls crying “Mine! Mine! Mine!” I spend part of the day sitting in my chair, breathing in the sights and smells, reading, staring at the beauty everywhere and thinking my own thoughts. Then I wander, sticking my toes in the water and feeling the champagne like bubbly foam. Finally I gather my things and go to the restaurant on the pier to watch the sun sparkle on the water, leaving a trail of light as the sun goes down, turning the sky brilliant shades of pink and orange.

Place

Place

Place

At this special place, I feel close to God. I see Him everywhere in His creation. He fills my heart to overflowing with praise and thanksgiving. When I feel downhearted, I head to the beach. Somehow, in the depths of sorrow or anxiety, I focus better on the truth of who God is. I listen more closely when I meet God at the beach.

Finding a New Place

Soon I’ll leave the beach behind. No ocean in Arizona. Lakes, yes. They hold their own beauty. But it won’t be the same. And that’s OK. God doesn’t call me to one place.

That’s one of the beauties and mysteries of God; unlike me, He isn’t limited to time or place. Wherever I go, He’s there. Even when I get stuck in traffic, God is there. Reachable. Listening.

I don’t have to be at the beach. Standing at the kitchen sink. In front of my computer. Sitting on my front porch. On the shore of the ocean or in a kayak on the lake, God is with me.

I look forward to exploring my new community. I know without a doubt someplace will become my special God place.

Where is your special God place? I’d love to have you share with me in the comments.

Linking with Five Minute Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith of Fire, Dance with Jesus, Fresh Market Friday, Counting My Blessings

I Remember Sunday: God’s Special Gift of Memories

Van and I started packing with a vengeance today. Of course, many things hold memories-a special gift from God. They bring joy, mostly. One of the things I tucked into a box was a notebook titled, A Garden of Memories for Momfull of poems and stories I wrote in honor of her seventieth birthday. This week marks six months since Mom went home to Jesus. I miss her every day. And since it’s Sunday, I remember our traditional Sunday afternoon dinners, family time. Precious memories and traditions that often get passed on to future generations.

I Remember Mom Cooking the Sauce

I remember every Sunday, Mom poured the tomatoes into the dull, gray pot, and squished them between her fingers. She crushed basil leaves in the palm of her hand, sprinkling them into the tomatoes. Then she shook a few flakes of crushed red pepper, stirred everything together, and covered the sauce with a lid. By the time we left for church, the rich, red sauce bubbled on the stove. As we walked out the door, Mom turned down the blue gas flame so it simmered gently all morning.

I Remember Joe’s Italian Store

I remember every Sunday, we stopped at Joe’s Italian Store on our way home from church. As soon as we opened the door, the aroma of cheese, lasagna, salami, and pepperoni greeted us. We stood and examined the ten cent candy bars, knowing we could each have one. While we chose our treat, Mom talked to Joe. She chose the pasta we took home for dinner and a loaf of unsliced Italian Twist, covered with sesame seeds. Sometimes we needed a pound of Romano cheese, which Joe grated with his big, shiny machine.

“See you next week,” we told Joe on our way out the door.

I Remember Helping Mom

I remember every Sunday, we walked through the back door. Mom dropped the brown bag from Joe’s on the kitchen counter and changed from her Sunday dress before she came back to the kitchen. She lifted the lid of the simmering sauce pot, and the steam filled the whole kitchen with the smell of the red, bubbling sauce. She tasted the sauce, then added meat balls, sausage, spareribs and braciole. Even though she covered the pot again, the smell of the sauce permeated the house for the rest of the afternoon.

I remember every Sunday, Mom asked me to fill the cheese container. If I found the small rectangle of unrated cheese Joe left on top of the white mountain of finely grated Romano, I popped it into my mouth and savored the sharp tang that spread over my tongue. Mom never made me share that deliciousness with anyone else.

I remember every Sunday, Mom called me into the kitchen to help set the table for dinner. She put the pasta of the week–spaghetti, shells, ziti, bow-ties, stove pipes–on a plate and topped it with the thick, red sauce. I carried each plate to the table. Then she filled a huge platter with the meat, and I added a basket of the sliced Italian twist, the salad, and the cheese container. Daddy, Mom, Keith, Robyn, and I sat in our places around the table and bowed our heads. “God is great; God is good; let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”

I Remember Learning from Mom

I remember every Sunday, Mom let us drink Coca-Cola instead of milk. The fizzy bubbles tickled my tongue, throat and nose as I swallowed the sweet, icy cold, brown liquid. I savored every swallow; there wouldn’t be more until the next Sunday.

I ate my Sunday dinner like Mom–pasta first, then we dipped our bread into the sauce still on our plates. Finally we ate salad and meat. Sometimes I’d enjoy a second piece of bread, dipping the crust into the salad bowl to relish the tart vinegar that soaked into the bread.

I remember every Sunday, Mom moved back into the kitchen. She poured any left over sauce into a glass jar and added any left over meat. “It’s good starter for next week,” she said. Then she’d put the pasta she cooked for our German Shepherd, Schatzi, in her bowl. Finally, Mom took some time to rest in the family room with Daddy while Robyn and I finished the dishes.

I remember every day of the week, Mom made us feel loved and special with her delicious meals and loving care.

Family memories hold joy. They shape us and our favorite traditions get passed on to future generations.

What are traditions you cherish? Memories you hold dear?

Linking this week with God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

Participate in Life: My Retirement To Try List

Adding a To Try List to My Life

Try

Today, I feel officially retired. Because today is the second day I didn’t go to work. No sitting in meetings, watching the clock, thinking about all the other things I should be doing to get my classroom ready for Monday’s first day of school. Instead of a list of things to duplicate, check, plan, I have a Retirement To Try List. Things I hope to try now that my days don’t include working.

I spent much of my summer getting my feet wet with how I want to behave during retirement. My first retirement adventure involved trying water aerobics-something I never thought I’d do. A planner at heart, I gave spontaneity a try when my daughter invited me to go with her for a weekend in the mountains. The joy of that experience encourages me to try spontaneity more often.

Retirement To Try List-So Far

As Van and I prepare to move, we discuss what to keep and what to give and throw away. We plan where our furniture belongs, the style of window coverings, whether we need a new refrigerator. We’re also talking about new things we want to try as newly retired people.

  • Kayaking-Prescott has several lakes, and since we both love the water, we want to make kayaking part of our life. Kayaking isn’t really new, since we’ve done it before, but we hope to buy a kayak and spend time out on the lake on a regular basis. On our last visit, we kayaked with Judy and David and loved every minute.

Try List

  • Ballroom Dancing-Judy and David took us to two concerts; one at the old opera house and one in the town square. At both events, we watched people get out of their seats and dance. Even though I may not have much rhythm, I want to seize the moment and participate in life instead of merely being a spectator.
  • Bike riding-It’s been a long time since I rode a bike. Van and I used to do a small amount of bike riding in the early years of our marriage. We hope to make biking in our beautiful new city a regular part of our life. Of course, we have to start with circling the driveway until we build up enough stamina, but we have all the time there is!

Whether you’re retired or not, seize the moment! Start a to try list. And then, act on it. 

What’s on your to try list?

Linking with Five Minute Friday, Grace and Truth, Counting My Blessings