You were the first to say ‘hello’….

One day last summer, while I was kneeling in the dirt planting seeds, an elderly lady stopped her van to see what I was doing. She was a sweet elderly lady, the kind you would want to adopt as your grandma. Now using your best quivery grandma voice, imagine her telling the story of how she and her husband use to plant gardens together for years. She reminisced of years of planting flowers and vegetables in the damp soil. Clearly, this was a treasured past time in their marriage. A tradition now ended due to her husband’s death and her daily struggle with arthritis.
“I think I’ll stop by your garden again so I can watch it,” she tells me with excitement in her voice over finding another kindred spirit. Off and on through the summer, I saw her van drive by. I didn’t know her name, only that she loved to garden and drove a white van.
Through the following year, I randomly visited her house with little gifts of welcome. First, it was green beans from the garden, then pumpkin bread at Christmas in the snow. She often responded with “well, bless you” and seemed delighted. She was still my mysterious elderly neighbor, with not much known except her religion and her love for gardening.
This spring marked the year anniversary of us first becoming “friends”, and just as naturally as the first time, her white van crept up while I was tilling the garden. “What are you planting now? I need to plant mine.” And as delighted school girls, (her being delighted to find help with her flowers, and me being delighted to make a new friend) we exchanged numbers and names. With eager delight, I awaited the opportunity to get to know this mysterious neighbor who stopped at strangers’ gardens.
When I visited her a couple weeks later, she shared most of her life story with me. Pining for someone to talk to made her pour forth a wealth of history when someone finally listened. She told me of her deceased husband, her time as a nurse, stories of her grand kids, and how she used to be able to plant. Mind you, this was all shared in the first two days we met this summer. She is a feisty one, full of determination not to live in a nursing home. “I’m going to fight it, kid, I am!” She often called me kid, or dear, or a version of my name. I didn’t mind, it was like having my grandma live down the street.

I had to laugh when she kept inviting me to borrow this or that, or to come over again. “You and your husband are welcome anytime, don’t worry about dressing up, I’m just like this, this is who I am.” “You and your husband can come and we’ll roast marshmallows, then you don’t have to be lonely up at that big house.” “Do you want to borrow a puzzle? Then you can do it on lonely nights.” It was evident from her frequent use of the word ‘lonely’ that it was a familiar emotion to her. All of her family lived out of town, and I doubt she had many visitors.

With an almost giddiness, we bustled around the yard planting morning glories, moon flowers, lilies, sedum, and more. For four hours, she ambled around the yard and talked non-stop, while I planted her flowers. Our conversation was a hilarious one, for she often didn’t hear what I said and she just kept talking to me unaware when I moved somewhere else to work. But no matter where I moved around the yard, I would keep hearing the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of her cane as she tried to kill the hated dandelions. 🙂

As we walked to the garage, she made a brief comment that made my heart stop and think in it’s tracks. “You are so dear to me.” (me? dear? we hardly know each other) “Why?” “You were the first to knock at my door, just to say ‘hello’.”

The first to say ‘hello’….
In a world where we bustle around to each activity, rushing to get our to-do lists done, do we miss the ‘hello’s’ that mean the world to someone?

I admit, making phone calls, writing letters, and planning visits is one of my biggest struggles/weaknesses. I hate my inability to maintain contact with those I love dear, and desire the Lord to continue to grow me in this.

If not to say ‘hello’, why are we here? For ‘hello’ is the beginning of demonstrating we are Christians by our love. It is the start of the Great Commission, the seed to every relationship, the dawning of a new opportunity, the origin of the deepest talks. Too often I leave missed ‘hello’s and passed opportunities for hope for the sake of something seemingly more important.

Lord, teach me to say ‘hello’ more often. To the widowed lonely neighbor, to the kid riding his bike down the street, to the lady across the street sitting on her porch, to the man tending to his landscape…all in need of a simple ‘hello’.

As we ended our time that day, she for the first time complained of being tired. No wonder, as for four hours she had hobbled around the yard telling me stories, and stamping out this or that weed. But you should have seen her eyes…..her eyes glowed with a new life as she got to participate in her favorite past time once again. “I think I can make it through the winter, as long as I have you to give me new life.” Yes, dear one, and perhaps…Jesus.

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I thought we would miss it…..

Quick good-byes then hurrying home. Time to leave for lunch.  Will they wait for us? Will they hold the food?  Or will we be left behind?

Drop off my stuff, grab my husband, and off to the van.  Hurry, hurry!  I’m afraid we’ll be left behind!

Anxiously watching the miles signs passing by, worrying all the way.  Hoping that they would wait, hoping this would be a good day.   Will they hold the food? Will they wait for a while? Or will they rush in impatiently?  Are we worth the wait? Do we matter to the rest?   Or will they hurry on to follow some invisible schedule?

Pull in the driveway, rush in the house.  Are they eating?  No…they’re not….they’re playing, talking, and having fun.  No dinner has happened, no worry was needed.  I was an invited guest, and they wanted to eat with me.  

 

Reminds me of another banquet, once of much greater importance.  One to which each of us has received a personal invite: “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17)

This one doesn’t require any rushing, any worry or stress.  I don’t have to hurry down the highway or quick race out of the house.  I just to to choose ‘yes’, to make that final choice. Will I accept Jesus?  Will I live to be at that banquet?   Or will my rushing, my busyness, my ‘accomplishing’ this or that interfere with that date.   Am I too busy to accept his life long invitation?  

You don’t want to miss it. Accept his invitation.  This banquet is…out of this world. 🙂Image

 

When sad goodbyes lead to happy hellos….

It’s done.  It’s over.   Sticky fingers have loaded the bus.  Arms full of new books, treats from the end of the year party, projects to take home to show to family,   Hearts a flutter with emotion, not sure if they should miss their classmates or be excited to be free. Minds filled with uncertainty when the steady routine is replaced with inconsistent meals and activities. 5th graders leaving for middle school, and students moving away.  Today many tears were shed as everyone said their final farewells to our principal who is retiring after about 42 years. More tears were shed as a 1st grade teacher said her farewells before moving to another state.  Good byes rip something out of us, something that cries out for security and community.  Good byes force us to trust, that both of us will be fine.  Good byes are a sort of grieving, the loss of time together.  But without good byes, we may never say hello

 

As much as my students and I love each other’s company (well, perhaps not everyday), if we never said good bye, we could never say hello.   Hello swimming, and soaking in the sun, planting tiny seedlings, and watching the flowers bloom!  Hello family trips to the zoo, park and to see the grandparents.  Hello books to read, time to laugh, time for walks or to ride a bike.  Some of life’s most treasured moment would never be greeted if we didn’t say good bye.  

 

Yes, some good byes we may never understand and they may leave us aching in pain for months even years.  When my cousins said good bye to their mom, or my friends to their unborn babies, they couldn’t see any hellos in the moment.   But my aunt did…..and those babies did……when Jesus touched their sweet faces.  For when they said good bye to us, they said hello to Jesus.  And unless they said good bye here, they could never say hello there. Who would deny them that unspeakable joy to say hello to Jesus…..and yet our hearts are still here.. in this moment…. on this side of it.  Where it hurts. Jesus said goodbye, and many of his disciples wondered why.  But he knew he had another job to do, a home to prepare for them, to be ready to greet them when their time on earth is done.  I wonder if he missed his walks with John, or fishing with Peter.  If he missed the campfire chats, and longed for them to join Him. 

 

It is said that a tapestry only makes sense if you look at the top.  For underneath, the colors mix.  Intertwining, criss-crossing, looking like a mess.   And that is where we live.  Down where the colors intermix and look randomly stuck together. But Jesus sees the other side, the woven picture.  He sees how each color blends together, intermingling like notes of musical harmony. He sees all the hellos that we can’t see through the fog. He IS the certainty in my uncertainty.  The sureness when I am not. The calm and steady voice that calls through the clouds and whispers gently ……..hello.

Lord, help me to trust you.  To hear your voice when there is fog.  To say goodbye when needed, and cling to your forever promises. 

 

Hellos and goodbyes, hellos and goodbyes.   With out the good bye of retirement, my principal could never greet new adventures in retirement.  Without good bye to our school, my coworker could never say hello to living near family.  So much would be missed.  I had to say good bye doing things my way, and good bye to my time with my parents, to say hello to my sweet husband.   

 

For today, I am thankful for this goodbye. Good bye IEPs, good bye lesson planning, goodbye meetings and paperwork….until we meet again.    Hello, sipping coffee on a Friday afternoon watching the kittens play. I welcome you.

 

 

 

Spring Seeds

Listening to the thunder roll and the spring showers water the ground is an answer to my prayers. “Lord, please water the garden so I don’t have to. ” 🙂 Spring is a time of hope, a time to pause and prepare for a new season of growth. The hard and dry ground is just coming out of a long cold snowy winter, and waiting full of potential for new life to be born. I can’t wait for it to warm up! My husband would have to agree as he is probably tired of hearing me whine, cry, and complain as I anxiously watch the weather and calender for warm days. No matter how many times I check my seed packets, they all say “wait till all danger of frost is past”. As much as I would like to dump everything else in life and go running outdoors to plant like a wild schoolgirl just let out for the day, I know it would cause more harm than good to my precious seedlings. For love of them, I will wait. To preserve future harvests, I will let the sun warm and the worms wiggle in silence.
As I think of this summer beginning with school ending this week, it makes me reevaluate my own life. Have I allowed the Lord to melt the cold ice built up in my heart from previous hurts? Has he melted my fears with the warmth of his love? Am I willing for him to till up my hard ground and prepare it for his seeds of patience, joy, perseverance, commitment, and love to grow within me?

Far too often, God is ready with his seed packets, anxious to start the summer harvest. But out of wisdom and love, he waits. God waits! For what? For my heart to melt, for the ground to soften, for the hard soil to loosen it’s cling on the things of this world and to embrace the flowers of life.
“Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.”(Hosea 10:12).

Lord, soften my heart. Show me the habits, the wastefulness, the hardness of ground that may have come over the winter. Prepare my heart for spring, for your fruitfulness.

John 15 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.