End of the Year Reflections

newyearIt’s that time when the annual news retrospectives are everywhere. Why people want to live through all the tragedies and horrors of the past year once more is beyond me. We are saturated with news headlines hourly, and I’ve never quite understood the point of going back and hearing and seeing all the natural disasters, bloodshed and general mayhem one more time.

Nevertheless, each year can bring fresh insight in life, and sometimes it’s helpful to look back and ask whether we are better off spiritually/emotionally/mentally/physically than we were the year before. Any lessons learned? Anything come into sharper focus in the past 12 months? It’s worth mulling over.

Not all lessons are especially enjoyable, nor do they lead to insights that are necessarily positive in nature. But if we have a better handle on life and relationships and the challenges they can present, we aren’t really worse off than we were 12 months before.

I want to write for a moment on acceptance of bad things in life. Whether it be the loss of a loved one or some other kind of loss in life, we as humans have a hard time letting go. Really letting go. As Christians we are taught that all things are possible with God, that God can do anything, that God can heal anything or restore what’s broken or lost. There are verses galore in the Bible that say it.

The fact is, what do you do when He doesn’t choose to do it? What do you do when blind eyes you pray will see continue in blindness? What do you do when Jesus doesn’t fix things, restore what has been taken or make things better? How do we reach a point of acceptance? Years ago, I read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book, On Death and Dying, where she laid out her theory about the stages of human grief. The last one was acceptance. But the journey to acceptance is not a neat one for everybody. People don’t just travel a straight line to acceptance after ticking off the various stages on their personal chart. Sometimes it is a circuitous route where stages are visited and revisited before shifting to the next phase.

Maybe we don’t talk enough with our children about accepting things that cannot be changed or people who will not change. We want to teach hope to our children and the importance of prayer, but we probably don’t do them favors by making God seem like a cosmic fix-it genie who will give us what we long for (because it is right and good) if we beg hard enough, long enough. Because He doesn’t, many times, for reasons known only to Him.

If we continue to wait and agonize for some desired change, we can stall out spiritually and emotionally. You can’t wait to live life. You can’t let some thing or someone that will not change take your ability to move forward in a positive way. The truth is, that change may never happen. What then? That’s why letting go is so important, yet, of course, hard to to.

I think that is the lesson I am focusing on for 2014. It is to discard old worn-out hopes and to look ahead towards light and living what God has more fully in the present. We are fools when we stake our happiness and intense prayers and hopes on something that, quite frankly, God may never grant (even though what is desired is right and godly.) It’s up to Him. He is in charge, we are not.

Keeping this focus is really a daily (hourly?) decision, because old thought patterns die hard. Old hopes die hard. I think, however, there is great freedom in shedding the baggage. We can travel much more quickly and easily without it.

Here’s a New Year’s poem written by Victorian hymn-writer, Frances Ridley Havergal.

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee;
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above;
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee

~ Frances Ridley Havergal

“Where Light and Shade Repose, Where Music Dwells…”

“Where light and shade repose, where music dwells…”

When Sammy was homeschooled for 6th grade, we spent a lot of time in English literature. We read through three Shakespeare plays, and Sam had a poetry journal where he sketched illustrations for the poems he wrote out in longhand.  Sammy was always my reader and poet, and I treasure memories of that year as we read through some of the world’s great literature together (while William and Mary played at our feet!)

There was a price war among the airlines that year, and it became cheaper to fly to London than it was to go to Florida. Tom took Charlie and Sammy on an unforgettable trip to England and France, and the boys were able to visit places like Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to see a play acted out by some school children, Spurgeon and Wesley’s churches, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey and all the usual historical sites. Sam came home also talking about the daffodils he saw in the French countryside which he informed me were “just like in the poem by Wordsworth.”

One of the poems he memorized before he knew he would actually get to see the place, was Wordsworth’s Inside King’s College Chapel.

TAX not the royal Saint with vain expense,
With ill-matched aims the Architect who planned–
Albeit labouring for a scanty band
Of white robed Scholars only–this immense
And glorious Work of fine intelligence!
Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely-calculated less or more;
So deemed the man who fashioned for the sense
These lofty pillars, spread that branching roof
Self-poised, and scooped into ten thousand cells,
Where light and shade repose, where music dwells
Lingering–and wandering on as loth to die;
Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
That they were born for immortality.

~ William Wordsworth

Those last four lines about light and shade reposing in those ten thousand cells of the roof are so beautiful. Here is a fascinating little film about the architecture of King’s College Chapel. Will has taken to reading about the architecture of some of these old cathedrals where theology was expressed in the building’s design itself, something we don’t see much of in church architecture now. It is astounding that buildings like this could be built so very long ago without any of the technology we have today, and yet when you see what is built these days with technology, it appears we’re going backwards.

Here’s a photo of Sammy and Charlie in front of King’s College Chapel at Cambridge University with the statue of its founder, King Henry the VI, in the background. (Why Sammy is wearing that huge Navy jacket, I do not know. Kids! Unfortunately, it shows up in all the photos, LOL)

Last Evening’s Sunset on Cape Breton Island

This was the sunset last night on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where our friend Francis lives. He sent me this photo this morning, and I had to share it. Thank you, Francis, for bringing God’s creation to us through your camera lens! The photo reminds me of the famous lines I memorized long ago:

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

~ William Butler Yeats

The Solitary Reaper

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listen’d, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

~ William Wordsworth

When You Are Old…

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

~ William Butler Yeats

Nobility by Alice Cary

True worth is in being, not seeming,-
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good-not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.

We get back our meet as we measure-
We cannot do wrong and feel right,
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

‘Tis not in the pages of story
The heart of its ills to begulie,
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile.
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas it is only to prove
That nothing’s so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world , early and late,
no jot of our courage abating-
Our part is to work and wait.
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth;
For he who is honest and noble,
Whatever his fortunes or birth.

–Alice Cary

A Salute to March

There is a poem by Wordsworth that is much quoted because it is much loved. I had one of my sons learn it when he was a young home school student, and he wrote it in nice script in his poetry journal along with a pencil sketch of a daffodil. A few months later, he accompanied my husband on a trip to France. It was March, and they drove through the countryside from Calais to Normandy. When Sam returned home, he told me, “Mom, you know that Wordsworth poem I learned? I saw fields of daffodils, just like he described…”  In light of my yearning for spring and in gratitude that March (however cold, it’s still March and not December) is finally here, I’m posting Wordsworth’s famous poem.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

–William Wordsworth

Whose I Am

harpOne of my treasured books is one that was written and owned by Frances Ridley Havergal, author of Take My Life and Let it Be, Like a River Glorious, I Am Trusting Thee Lord Jesus, O Savior, Precious Savior, and so many others. The copy I have was given by Frances to her sister Maria. The inscription in the front of the book in Frances’ own hand says, “Maria F.G. Havergal, With the Love of her sister, Frances Ridley Havergal, May 28, 1869. “Thus Will I Bless Thee While I Live”. I think of Frances’ hand lying there writing that loving inscription to her sister, and how God used that same hand to bless so many millions over the course of more than a century. If you’ve never encountered her devotional writings, they are rich, rich, rich. C.H. Spurgeon gave them out at one of his pastors’ conferences once. I was looking at the book, Ministry of Song, tonight and here is one of her poems:

Jesus, Master, whose I am,
Purchased Thine alone to be,
By Thy blood, O spotless Lamb,
Shed so willingly for me;
Let my heart be all Thine own,
Let me live to Thee alone.

Other lords have long held sway;
Now, Thy name alone to bear,
Thy dear voice alone obey,
Is my daily, hourly prayer.
Whom have I in heaven but Thee?
Nothing else my joy can be.

Jesus, Master! I am Thine;
Keep me faithful, keep me near;
Let Thy presence in me shine
All my homeward way to cheer.
Jesus! at Thy feet I fall,
Oh, be Thou my All in all.

FRH

For more of the beautiful writings of Frances Ridley Havergal, please visit the All for Thee blog. My friend, Sherry Goodwin, posts these writings as a labor of love for the Lord. You will be greatly encouraged spiritually to visit there.

A Poetry Break

My friend, Margaret Been, has written poetry that I love. She manages to capture the feel of things so well in what she writes. I will share more of her poetry soon. Here is just one of my many favorites. In this poem, she aptly likens anxieties to cats.

Anxieties

Evenings
they go out
to forage wild things.

At dawn
crescendoed cries
come loping home
to wind about our feet
and trip our day.

Hungry cats…
we feed them
and they stay.

–Margaret Been