LESSONS FROM THE GATHERING CLOUDS

I was enjoying the beauty of a crisp fall morning yesterday, adjusting to the time change and the earlier daylight that it brought.  The sunshine on the fading yet still colorful leaves was helping to fuel my energy on this Monday.  I was busy going about my morning routine when a quick glance out the kitchen window showed me that there was something new on the horizon, out past our tree line and the farmer’s fields across from our house.  The entire skyline was filling with clouds.  Not soft, puffy clouds – but a mass of darker, thicker clouds was filling the Kansas sky.  I wondered if these clouds were just a passing layer that would dissipate in the rising sun, but as the minutes went by I knew that they were instead building into a covering that would soon blot out the sun and turn my shining morning into a darker one.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long until the entire sky was filled with this grey spread that totally transformed the outdoor scene.  Now instead of glowing sunshine bouncing off the yellows and rusts and evergreens of our trees, the view became one of muted tones………of drabness…………of coldness.  And though I’ve never minded cloudy days, I did miss the brilliance of the sunshine on the colorful leaves, along with the energy and the warmth that the light had given me on this Monday morning.  I watched helplessly as the clouds built and spread across the blue sky, unable to change their momentum or their effect.

All of us either are facing, or will sometime face, these building clouds on the horizons of our lives.  We look ahead and we sense, or know with certainty, that there are changes waiting on the outskirts of our present happy situations that may change our lives………..or at least alter our current secure world.  For me, today, I don’t think I want to hear what my surgeon will say about my shoulder injury.  I don’t want to face surgery, nor the long recovery and inconvenience that may be awaiting me.   For many others, there are far more serious situations.  They watch as a tiny baby struggles to grow and thrive in the NICU;  they await the biopsy results that are coming for someone they love;  they struggle with serious undiagnosed health issues as they go from test to test with various doctors;  they deal with chronic pains and depression;  they watch with broken hearts as their children walk away from the Lord;  they seek God for wisdom in making major, life changing decisions;  they see their marriage fail and their finances plummet; they see their homes destroyed in a hurricane and their entire lives in upheaval.

And today, we watch and wait as our country selects a new President.  With the selection of either candidate, we wonder how our nation’s people will respond.  We know that there may be conflict and we pray that there will not be uprisings.  We wonder if our country will ever be as we remembered it years ago, unified and vigorous.  Or are the building clouds threatening to change our nation forever?

In all of these situations, there is one constant………one point on the compass that is sure.  Listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 42:5 – “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”   God hasn’t left us – He hasn’t abandoned us, even as the thick clouds cover our world.  We don’t need to despair or be disturbed, for we have the help of His presence!

Again, in verse 11, the Psalmist says – “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”  Again, even in the bleakness we should praise God……….and in focusing on Him, even our countenance will change. 

Finally, verse 8 – “The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.”  Wow!  Not only will God exhibit his love to me in the daylight when my surroundings are full of light………….but He promises that His song will be with me in the dark times.  A prayer, the writer says………..my response to the growing clouds that threaten my happiness is a prayer to this God Who commands His love in every situation of my life.  A prayer of submission to God Who orchestrates my cloud cover and a prayer of praise to God Who commands His love to me. 
 
 

We submit and we praise, even when we don’t feel like doing so.  We submit and we praise, even as we watch the clouds fill our sky.  We submit and we praise, even when the news isn’t good news.  We submit and we praise, even when the decisions are very difficult.  We submit and we praise, even if our candidate doesn’t win.  We submit and we praise because we have a God Who is with us in the sunshine and in the clouds, in the good and the bad of life.    

Thank you, God, for Your presence……….for Your hope……….and for Your love!

More About Nuns!

This past Thursday, Aaron went to the mall with his group.  He loves mall days because he loves the food court or Auntie Anne’s Pretzels or Dairy Queen……….it’s his Thursday food fest.  On this particular mall trip he was proud to tell me that instead of making his lunch a super duper extra large Triple Chocolate Blast Sundae, he instead chose to eat a sub at Subway.  I praised him for that decision and then asked him what kind of bread he decided to order.  He answered, “Normal!”  This means Italian.   It’s scary that I know this.
             
 Anyway, in addition to all the food he adores, he also loves all the fascinating sights and sounds of the mall.  Remember the day he couldn’t wait to tell me about the very unique sight of a mannequin, wearing……..well, in Aaron’s words:  “Mom!!  I saw a statue wearing BRAS!!!”  I didn’t even bother to ask him just how many bras she was wearing.  Some things are better to just leave alone.

So on this past Thursday, Aaron rushed in the door and hurried to find me downstairs so he could tell me about his latest mall experience.  Let me preface this by saying that Aaron has a great interest in nuns.  Yes, nuns.  Maybe it’s because one of his very favorite movies is The Sound of Music.  Maybe it’s because of the habits that they wear, which are very foreign to Aaron’s world………..so therefore merit his full attention.  And when something merits Aaron’s full attention, watch out.  He will stare, he might point, and he will most definitely comment – sooner or later.  We often hope it’s later but it’s usually sooner.
 
Anyway, here is Aaron’s story:  “Mom!  Guess what Cody saw me looking at?  A NUN!!!”

So you saw a nun, Aaron?  Where were you?
I was fighting fear at this point, wondering what had transpired.                                                                                

“We were eating and I saw a nun!  She had on those loooooong clothes that go like this!”  And he proceeded to make hand motions from his head down to his feet, describing what this nun was wearing.  This in itself is hilarious.  He continued:  “Cody told me to quit staring at her.”

 
Well, Aaron, we always tell you not to stare.  Were you pointing at her?

 
“No, I was just looking at her.  And you know what, Mom?  It was a WOMAN!!!”

 
Good grief, Aaron!  Yes, SHE is a woman………SHE is not an IT!!

 
But this was not all that Aaron had to say about this nun.  “Mom, I didn’t know they were in the United States!  I thought they were in another place outside the United States, like China!!!  So they’re allowed in the United States?” 

China.  Why on earth does Aaron think that nuns are in China?  He couldn’t tell me and I really have no clue………unless he’s heard that nearly everything “American” is actually made in China.  I don’t know.  I will be on the lookout now for Chinese nuns because this has made me curious.  Chinese nuns that are allowed in the United States, actually.

 
I do hope that if Aaron made comments about this nun (who is a woman, possibly from China but somehow allowed in the United States!)………..well, I hope that his comments were made quietly.  Aaron doesn’t do quietly very well, though.  This poor nun may be wondering about Aaron’s stares and about his surprise that she’s a woman and about the Chinese connection.  

 
And I would like to tell this woman nun not to worry – that we are often left wondering, too.

 

 

 

Timely Matters

Aaron keeps close tabs on matters pertaining to time or seasons or special events.  I talk about this fairly often here in my blog.  He is so precise and very aware and sometimes frustratingly regimented.  When I’m not rolling my eyes, or chewing on my tongue to keep from either cackling or making a smart comment, I will often laugh at his displays of rigidity.  He looks at me as if I have surely taken leave of my senses since he sees nothing humorous in what to him are perfectly normal behaviors. 

When it comes to the changing seasons, Aaron is often confused at oddities such as warm days in the fall or winter, or cold days in the spring or summer.  If Aaron was in charge, every single winter day would be cold; every single spring day would be warm; every single summer day would be hot; and every single fall day would be slightly cool.  How logical that would be!  How precise! 

I wrote before about how confused he was at the end of last winter, in early March, when we had some warm days.  He found me outside pruning when he came home from his group and he said, “Mom, those kids said it’s spring.  It’s not spring until March 20!”  And later, “So is it spring yet?  I don’t understand that!” 

I tried to explain that we sometimes say it’s spring when it turns warm, even if it’s not precisely March 20th or after.  But he was having none of that!  It’s not spring until it’s really spring, in Aaron’s world!  People are so confusing sometimes! 

And sure enough, during some recent cold weather Aaron asked, “Mom, is it winter?”  I told him that no, it was not winter yet…………and I knew exactly what was coming as he responded, “But all this coldness!!  When will it get warm?”  He gets very annoyed sometimes at how the weather jerks him around. 

He’s been on his birthday countdown for some time now.  He counts the days and makes his plans and has everything sorted out in his mind.  On October 4, he said, “Mom, we only have till my birthday one month and four days.”  I had to stop and think a minute, but as always he was totally right about that number. 

Last night as we played Skip-Bo, he said, “Mom, tomorrow’s the first of November!”   I said, “Yes it is, Aaron.  What do you think about that?”

“It’s almost my birthday,” he flatly replied.  Well, of course that’s what Aaron would think about when the month of November is mentioned.   He may be egocentric, but at least he’s honest about it!

He has really missed the absence of his portable clock that he carried around the house.  He broke it one day and I have refused to replace it.  But if you remember, his birthday is coming up……….in 7 ½ days, to be precise………..and I imagine he’ll get the same portable clock for his birthday as the one that he is missing.  It tells the indoor and outdoor temperatures, too, so he can see if the seasons are cooperating.  Anyway, he keeps this clock with him by his computer……or beside him as we play Skip-Bo………..or with him when he comes to the family room to watch TV…….

Last night as we played Skip-Bo, he lamented once again the absence of said clock.  He showed me how he has to take his watch off and “roll it”, as he says, and place it on the desk so he can check the time when he’s on his computer.  No matter that his watch is conveniently on his arm, pushed half-way up but still there, for him to check the time.  No, he must have it right beside him in the place of his absent portable clock, in order to keep track of the time.  To try to make him think otherwise is futile.  I may as well go outside to convince the pine tree as to try to convince Aaron.  He also has a clock on his night stand, but that clock is strictly for telling the time when he goes to bed and when he gets up, so he can record the precise minutes in his notebook by his bed.  That clock is not to be used when he is on the computer.  I feel sometimes as if I live in some sort of asylum.

And finally, speaking of time, as we began playing our Skip-Bo game last night, Aaron asked his usual question – “Mom, can we play more than one game?”

I said, “Probably not, Aaron.  It’s almost 9:30.”

Aaron pushed up his sweater sleeve and he pushed up his shirt sleeve in order to retrieve his watch that he keeps half-way up his arm.  He looked at his watch after hearing me say that it was almost 9:30 and he then replied, “No, it’s not.  It’s 9:24.  So how about it?”

He still thinks his mother is very silly for laughing.  What’s wrong with demanding precision?!

How about it??!!