Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE GIFTS OF AUGUST

Every month is a gift. We didn't plan for it. We didn't shop for it. We didn't even, perhaps, know we wanted it. But it arrived anyway. 

August is a gift that brings even more gifts with it. 

A quick scan of my neighborhood reveals surprise lilies in every other yard. Mine appeared on August 2nd. Surprised me! 

Another beauty is the hibiscus--pinks of every shade from delicate to intense--flowers as big as a dinner plate.

And everywhere in my town I see snowball bushes. Mine, alas, was old and got itself involved with bad company (a lilac and some poison ivy); all three had to go, and that was years ago. But I've never forgotten the snowball bush and its tight-packed white blooms the size of a small soccer ball.


Besides visual delights, I'm enjoying cool nights--in the 50s most weeks--that we always called "good sleeping weather." My a/c still runs to keep the humidity at bay, but by morning the fan is off and I leave for the Y with a sweatshirt on.

A couple of days ago my Ohio daughter gifted me with some of her garden produce--just-picked cucumbers (baby size, just right for a salad), colorful little tomatoes, and early yellow summer squashes. Yesterday I passed the Farmer's Market, already busily shifting the good stuff from farm to town.


My friends and relatives with school-age kids report that football has started. Seems a tad warm for sports, but then school starts earlier than back in my day. Before long, though, we'll be enjoying bonfires and fire pits, parades, marching bands down the main street and around the court house square.

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My favorite gift of August is the love I have from friends and family, and special people in my life. Birthdays this month are writer friend Liz Flaherty, great-grandson Bayne (the 6-month baby I wrote about last year who will soon be one year old!), and my confirmation mentor at church, Anita. Each one blesses my life in ways I never anticipated. Thank you!

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August has never been my favorite month, except that when it arrived I knew I had to endure only one more month before school started. Now that I'm far removed from the school year influence, I value August for other reasons.

Have a blessed week!






Thursday, August 3, 2017

FRIENDSHIP

[Something happened to remind me that I'd written about Friendship last year . . . and when I reread last year's post, I liked it so well that I wanted to share it with you again in 2017. Hope you enjoy it the second time around.]


I should wait a week to write about friendship—August 7 is friendship day. [There are several dates celebrated in various countries.]

But the subject has been on my mind and heart lately and I want to explore some definitions and thoughts on what friendship is, and what it is to have—or to be—a friend.

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The most elemental definition I’ve ever seen is the title of Joan Walsh Anglund’s book, A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You. It was published in 1958 for children 4 to 7 years old. A friend is…someone who likes you. Simple. Direct. Easy to understand.

But as we all know, we grow older, and life takes twists and turns, our experiences cause us to make leaps and bounds. Or go backward. Or fall on our prats. Sometimes what we go through is, well, less than joyful. Here are some thoughts to keep your hearts and minds engaged in friendly paths as you find your way through the jungle.

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Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.   --C. S. Lewis (1898-1967)

Who among us has not had a friend who kept us sane, even for a little while? Or who held our hand in a dark time? Who talked us down from a scary place—real or metaphorical—to continue living?

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Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.   --Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

If you have a friend, then you, yourself, are a friend. It’s a reciprocal relationship, not one-sided, but a meeting of equals. So if you are a friend, you know what it means to remain silent when they “hurl themselves into their own destiny.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But we know we can’t live other people’s lives for them, no matter how much we care, how much more experience we have, how clearly we can see the pitfalls they will face. We can “prepare to pick up the pieces,” and I would add, resist the temptation to say I told you so. Even if you never said it in the first place.

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One more idea:

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.  -- Joseph Roux (French surgeon, 1780-1854)

Ignore the out-of-date pronouns and focus on the thought.

No one wants to lose a friend. Friends are more precious than silver and gold, than perfect gems, than all the possessions we can ever amass.

Yet, sometimes a friend is lost. To death, yes; but that is not the harshest loss. The loss that stabs our hearts and wrenches tears from our souls is the loss we have caused—or have been unable to prevent—for whatever reason.

John Donne (1572-1631) wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” I would add, “Each friend’s loss takes a valuable part of me, and I’ll never regain it.”

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To send you off with a happier thought:

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.  --George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Celebrate your friendships. They may not number in the hundreds or thousands, they may not be virtual friends you’ve never seen. True friends are the ones who know you, warts and all . . . .