Let it.

“The farmers grew impatient, but a few

Confessed their error, and would not complain;

For, after all, the best thing one can do

When it is raining, is to let it rain.”

From “Tales of a Wayside Inn” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Slow down.

I found this fragile slip of paper in some ancestor belongings. The words belong to Wilferd Arlan Peterson, an American author. His words remind me as I step increasingly into public spaces to not always be in such a hurry.

Slow me down, Lord

Amidst the confusion of my day, give me the calmness of the everlasting hills. Teach me the art of taking minute vacations… of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read from a good book. Remind me to look upward at the towering oak, and know that it grew tall and strong because it grew slowly and well. Slow me down, Lord.

One human race.

“All that inhabit this great earth,

Whatever be their rank or worth,

Are kindred and allied by birth,

And made of the same clay.”

These lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Keramos”, were written almost 150 years ago. They remind me of what I fundamentally believe about my fellow humans: we are one human race, and God desires us to be molded more into His image as we live our lives.

Tilling the mind.

As the melting snow reveals my garden soil, I think about tilling—working the soil to help seeds grow and produce. Tilling is deep cultivation (6-10” deep). Tilling disturbs and breaks up the settled soil, enables the mixing in of new material, makes planting seeds easier, and helps control weeds. But too much tilling reduces the fertility of the soil. And so it is with my mind. I use my senses, especially reading to break up assumptions, enable new ideas to mix in and grow, and weed out untruths. As with my produce garden, the garden of my mind needs periodic tilling.

Show love.

“Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!”

From “Evangeline” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

These lines from Longfellow paraphrase what my ESV bible states in 1 John 3:18: “…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” And this reminds me of a basic rule of writing you may have heard from an English teacher: “Show, don’t tell.” It’s harder to demonstrate love than to simply state it. But the effort can make love more meaningful. How to do that? Well, I’ll offer a portion of the wedding vow I wrote to my husband. Confession; my inspiration came from I Corinthians 13:4-7.

“I promise to:

Be patient with you,

Care for you,

Be kind to you,

Encourage and support you,

Be polite to you,

Be honest with you,

Trust you completely,

Be totally loyal to you,

Carry hope with you in all that we face.”

Pace yourself.

“Labour with what zeal we will,

Something still remains undone;

Something uncompleted still

Waits the rising of the sun.”

From the “Something Left Undone” poem by Longfellow

My favorite bread recipe requires only a minute of kneading (easy on my arthritic hands), uses a half cup of beer (helping the yeast and adding flavor), and yields dough that is OK with sitting around unattended for 18 hours (easy on my schedule). I mix the ingredients after supper and we have fresh bread with our meal the following evening. For most of two days, the bread sits undone, uncompleted. But, all the while, the dough is working, pacing itself, using the ingredients to produce a delicious result. I strive to use my ingredients, my talents and gifts, pacing myself as I work. What are my gifts? What I love to do. What I’m good at. What draws me in and makes time fly!

The secret to my calm.

This is a first. I’ve never reused a previous blog post. But these are extraordinary times. Many times this past week I’ve been asked how I manage to keep calm within all the craziness in the world. My “secret” really isn’t a secret at all. It’s written in a book that has been preserved over thousands of years. I readily share my strategy—even dedicated my November 1 post to this “secret”. So, due to recent requests, here’s my November 1 post… again.

Hard times. I’m often asked how I make it through hard times. My history includes divorce, death (spouse, parents, friends, sister, grandchild in the womb), cancer, and decades of caregiving that included repeated life and death medical situations with both positive and devastating outcomes. Very recently I experienced another difficult time with, thankfully, a positive outcome.

My secret to successfully moving through difficulties? 1. Foundation. Have a relationship with God before the hard times hit. I’m talking more than belief, more than faith. A relationship like you have with a close friend. Learn about Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. 2. Focus. I keep close to God as I move through the struggles. I do this by reading my Bible – my Heavenly Father’s letters to me – and meditating and praying. 3. Fall. Release control and allow myself to be held by God. Trust God. Fall into the arms of Jesus, and let Him support and guide as He brings me and my concerns to the Father.

I can’t control the outcome, but I can control the FOUNDATION on which I stand, my mental FOCUS, and the decision to do a trust FALL to the only One who can be fully trusted.

Endeavor.

Precious worn copies of the Longfellow Birthday Book and The Friendship Birthday Book are now in my custody. These small volumes list a quote (mostly from Longfellow) for each day of the year with space to enter names to remember birthdays. As I flip the pages, I see the names of those important to my female ancestors.  I will be using these little books throughout this year. I will select one of the quotes each month and post the quote along with a photo I take that reminds me of the words. A new year, a new endeavor. “No endeavor is in vain; its reward is in the doing.” from The Wind Over the Chimney poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Impossible?

How is it that I have a sounder of swine flying above my writing desk? And what do they do for me? Well, the first flyer was a black and green paper mache pig with black fighter jet wings—a product of my son’s schoolwork. As an IT professional at the time, I decided to hang it in my office as a representation of making the impossible happen—the magic of technology. Over the years, coworkers, family, and friends have contributed the many flying pigs that now soar above my writing desk (and many more parked around the house).

Every creature reminds me to:

— Stretch my wings.

— Look up—see from a different perspective.

— Question my limits.

— Think beyond—use my imagination.

— Not be too serious—have fun!

— Wonder how my late-husband and I somehow managed to raise a good human.

Impossible? Maybe not.