Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Lovely that Remains

I have spent a lot of time recently viewing the dogwood tree through the kitchen window.  Each year it takes my breath away as the white blossoms appear to glow in the dark.  Even yesterday in the midst of very heavy rainfall and high winds, the dogwood was standing strong and lovely. 

I was quickly washing dishes as a storm approached (I came within seconds of having my hands in soapy water when the house was hit by lightening before!), washing and rinsing and gazing all at the same time.  The county was under a warning and I knew I must hurry if I wanted the kitchen clean before heading to the sofa to read but the Beauty of that tree was quite distracting.

Now I must admit, the tree is no longer as lovely as it once was for the men from the rural electric co-op came through a few years ago and cut off branches near the power lines.  (The photo above is not my tree.)  Although we begged them to be careful (as did our "across the fence" neighbor who can view the tree from his house), they took off enough that the tree appears lopsided.  We were not amused.

However, each spring since then I choose to look at the lovely that remains.  For in that lopsided tree is a lesson I must continually learn... often I have to look past that which is imperfect and settle my gaze on the Beauty that remains.

Normally I'm a very hopeful person and I look to see God's presence in every situation and every "thing".  Even when the snow is on the ground and the wind is blowing icy on my face as I walk down the gravel road to get the mail, I look at the pop of red in the midst of white which is my neighbor's barn.  If the snow is fresh, I stop (after pulling the hood of my down coat over my ears) and view the silent forest covered in pure white, the trees creating sculptures with their lack of foliage.  Beautiful...

However, there are seasons when I struggle with grasping that which is lovely even when it is all around me.  Sometimes there is a reason and I don't try to push the joy in a time of sorrow.  For instance, this past Christmas was wrapped in deep grief after my beloved Victoria died suddenly.  I love Christmas so I decorated as usual and listened to music and watched Christmas movies and did some baking... but I did not force joy.  No, there is a time for joy and a time for grief and they do not always coexist.

As the months have progressed since that time, I found myself increasingly sad and even those things which usually bring delight appeared dimmer than usual.  For instance, I usually bring in almost every daffodil blooming on the property and place them in a vase to enjoy.  This year I only made two bouquets and left the rest where they grew.  They were just as lovely but I didn't feel the joy I usually do as I view them in the cut glass vase.

I noticed the same thing as the crab apple bloomed next to the garage.  Its' scent was wonderful and the blossoms were such a pretty color but what I noticed most this year was that the crab apple is slowly dying and soon must be cut down.  At least it is not a threat to the house as is the black walnut tree in the backyard which is also living it its' final years.

While Victoria's death affected the Christmas season, I realized that was just part of what was making me feel so sad.  Adopting Florentine has helped a great deal and while she will never replace Victoria, she has made her own place in our heart with her kittenish antics.  No... I think Victoria's death just pushed me over the edge of something that had been coming on for at least a year.

The human heart can only take in so much darkness before it dims the eyes of how we view the world.  The presidential election was brutal and as a conservative Christian, I had never felt so much hate before.  I still receive comments from time to time here on the blog but I don't publish them.  There is a certain cleansing in the ability to push a delete button.

I have mentioned already having to un-follow people on Facebook and Instagram... some of them people that I have followed and enjoyed reading for years. I even had to remove a few blog links from the sidebar when people I had been able to find agreement with in areas of life such as gardening, whole foods, homeschooling, etc. began to delve into social and political rants.

The world news was just as bad and there was not a day that went by in which it seemed some atrocity was committed and announced on the 24 hour news cycle.  There was just as much anger in the world as there was here at home.  More in those parts of the world where terrorism and war was already raging.

I came to realize that I was world-weary and tired. I was tired of counting pennies at the grocery store while I watched people who make a living pretending to be someone else (aka: actors) getting paid millions and complaining about their life.  I was tired of decorating shows on HGTV with sniveling people who would not buy a house because the kitchen was thirty years old. I was tired of politicians (all of them by this point), and tired of pastors who did not believe the Bible, and tired of this rainy spring, and tired of... life the way it is in a fallen world.

Thankfully, I have enough of a sanguine personality that I don't feel comfortable living with gloom. It brings me down not only emotionally but physically.  I live with Puddleglum so one of us has to be optimistic.  So I began to look for the lovely in situations where it was possible and slowly found the sadness lifting.

I also had to be realistic that some of us feel tired because we are tired.  I remind my husband once in awhile that there is a reason they send young men to war.  The  younger one is, the physically stronger one is, the more likely one feels fearless and charges ahead into the unknown. 

We also have something else that carries us along... or should I say Someone.  The verse which constantly nudged at me these past few months was, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). 

If I feel uncomfortable in this world, it is because this is not my permanent Home.  I think I've never understood that as I have these past couple of years.  I will continue to look for all that is lovely in the midst of the darkness and do that which He asks me to do in this world but realizing all the time that nothing is ever going to be perfect.  We grasp the good we can find in the imperfection.

Like my lopsided dogwood tree, it is just as lovely as it always was if I focus my eyes on that which is left and not wish for what is missing.  Perhaps that lesson alone is why God allowed rural electric men with chainsaws to invade my backyard.  I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Image:  Not my dogwood tree but one that shows what it used to look like.


Anonymous said...

Recent events in our lives have left us rather gasping the past year and a half. Not so bad as some years, but like you, just way too much smaller things to deal with. We are still in that stage really...this past couple weeks helping care for our small granddaughter who has been super ill (thanks immunizations). She is still not well. We know that her eyesight has been impacted some. Lots to be worried over. But overall, we are in the stage of life to be looking forward to our next life, while at the same time not in a hurry to leave this one. Perhaps it is as it is supposed to be.
Gave me a chuckle your saying you live with an extent I also am in that arena.
BLessings on you. Enjoy your writing.
Elizabeth in WA

Carol said...

I also try to see beauty around me. The look of my grand dolls' eyes, the beautiful green that is surrounding my home, the fact that my mom is 81 and in great health following some terrifying days a few years ago. I have my adoring husband of 22 years and I have three great kids, but with the storms and torrential rains that we have had recently it can be quite the challenge at times to see those things.

Anonymous said...

It definitely seems that the world has become even more dark and evil in these last few years. Evil has become good and good, evil. I am encouraged though as I and many others believe that the Lord's return is on the horizon and we look forward to that glorious day! If we had no dark, discouraging times we might love this world too much. A website that helps to keeps us up to date is Prophecy News Watch. I appreciate all of your posts and am encouraged by your blog.

Sue said...

I am a conservative Christian too! Thank you for sharing these thoughts!.

Joy said...

I'm in agreement with you in reference to those who turn up their noses at 30 year old kitchens... I have to chuckle--they do not know what hardship is. They look at a kitchen larger than mine and swear there is no room to cook! On the topic of this last election, I had a life-long friend drop me because she figured I voted for Trump... we were friends for 53 years yet she let this past election get in the way of our friendship--but maybe it wasn't as solid as I thought it was? I was her friend for the past 8 years of Obama--who she loved--and whom I didn't criticize even though I wanted to many times! We had so many other interests in common outside of politics, but looks like that wasn't enough. It has felt like a betrayal. As you say, we must look on the bright side of what we have left. Life goes on. I enjoy your blog.

Sandi said...

"the lovely that remains"

That's a beautiful way to look at it!

I know what you mean about looking away from the world. It's a jungle out there! encouraged. "There are other forces at work in this world, besides the forces of evil." (I am paraphrasing that from Lord of the Rings!)

Sallie Borrink said...

I was quite sick for about a week this winter and barely touched Facebook. I binge watched "When Calls the Heart" and "Downton Abbey" and rested literally in bed which I never do. When I was better I realized how much happier I was off of social media. I think the election cycle changed so many of us in profound ways whether our person won or not. If I could figure out a way to leave FB, I would. But I need it for my business and so I stay on there.

I wonder how much of it is also age. People 50 and over remember life before the internet and before social media took over our lives.

Anyway, I made the decision to start up my A Quiet Simple Life blog again because I desperately need someplace of my own that is quiet and positive and not related to parenting or homeschooling. I also spent a lot of time going down rabbit holes and finding new-to-me blogs and websites to break out of the rut I was in. I was looking for other quiet places with positive messages.

So all that to say, I don't think you are alone in some of your feelings about life in general.

Carol said...

Thank you so much for sharing the lesson of the Dogwood Tree! Jesus has blessed you greatly with many gifts. Thank you for sharing them with us. (MD)

Vee said...

Ahhh, Brenda, you have a way of sharing a thing. World weary is an apt description. Even my friend and I in our discussion and realizing that we were not in the same page could agree on Maranatha. We need Revival. I do anyway...a fresh outpouring.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I agree with everything you've said!

I also think, as we've talked about before this is why we need to create beauty as we can. Today I cut Bridal Veil spirea and brought some into my house. I want to see its beauty and not just when I go outside! Beauty touches our hearts deeply and soothes our spirits. In an article I'm writing for my state homeschool magazine, I'm trying to communicate the need for creating margin, and a place for refreshing your spirit. This is also a part of what you are talking about.

It requires that we be intentional and sometimes I just don't want to be! I want ease. But God uses our efforts for His glory, and I try to stop and remember that.

Little Penpen said...

You spoke my heart. Thank you. It's so refreshing to find a kindred spirit. About those kitchens....I read recently that our kitchens are supposed to be a workshop, not a magazine picture. I agree!

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head once again, my friend. So very well said. Thanks for sharing your heart. Pam (SD)

Deborah Montgomery said...

What a good post. I like how you say not to push joy. Just to be, and allow for the different seasons and times. I do think this election cycle has been very difficult for many. There is so much hate out there, and as a Christian, I feel so much mocking directed at those things I hold dear. I spend a lot less time on FB and watching the news, etc., because it has been too upsetting. I love how when we are quiet, and unplugged, we can get the messages He sends us, like the dogwood tree. Blessings, Deborah said...

Thank you for writing this piece.

Bess said...

Beautiful, Brenda. The depth of your writing never ceases to amaze me. Blessings, Bess

Carrie said...

Been wanting to comment on this (and so many of your Sunday afternoon posts). They are a blessing to me. Sounds like you're in what I sometimes call an "Ecclesiastes state of mind." I think many Christians (even non-Christians I know!) felt a deeper sense of pain during this past year's election cycle than ever before, accompanied as you point out by continual knowledge of traumatic world events (or at least, our 24/7 ability to know about everyone's suffering, all the time, at any part of the world--a type & volume of knowledge unprecedented in human history!). I do believe that one can be a faithful, orthodox believer and not identify with the standard American conservative political stance. (I find this especially true of believers in Europe, the UK, and Canada.) For me, the pain went in a bit of the opposite direction this past election cycle--seeing one's faith questioned for honestly searching one's conscience, and the Scriptures, and ultimately not agreeing with many positions of the conservative/right wing in the U.S. It's very sad that politics have become so divisive in the church. We ought all to be united around Christ and Him crucified. Thank you for continuing to write, Ms. Brenda. You have blessed me for years without knowing it.

Karla said...

I'm just now reading this but it has done my soul good. I, too, am world-weary and have had a year of sadness - my girls both moved out last fall, my mom died in September and I had to put our two pugs down earlier this year. I have had a delayed reaction and have spent the past several months simply crying it all out. And now, I'm tired.

Thank you for the reminder to look to the Source.