Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sunshine and an Open Gate

By Brenda Black

They bolted like school children released for recess, with tails curled up and over their backs. Weaned calves in a lot out back of the house provided my afternoon entertainment.Through the newly opened gate they darted as if hearing the starting bell on a race track. I giggled at their athletic antics. One would tear across the pen like she was making a great escape, only to charge a matter of a few yards before meeting the metal rungs of the corral – face to fence. In one swift spin, she'd turn and run again, this time with the rest of the herd in hot pursuit.

For several minutes, their game of tag and turn and sprinting continued. When the running waned, they stood head to head and practiced butting. If calves could smile, I'm pretty sure they were grinning from fuzzy ear to fuzzy ear with great delight. The mild and sunny day in the middle of a cold January was most welcome to the weanlings and offered up a healthy dose of doldrum-ending exercise.

It didn't take much to alter their routine and find it delivered such great joy. Sometimes all one needs is a bit of sunshine and a little more room to roam. Take me for instance. I get a bit stir crazy post holidays. I begin to feel cramped for space and eager to purge. It's like spring cleaning in winter when the Christmas tree comes down.

I broke an all-time record this year of leaving the greenery up all too long. It was Jan. 13, by the time I got everything packed away! Never in my life have I gone past the single digit point of the first month on the calendar when it comes to dismantling the holiday cheer. But travels and work and plain weariness had me postponing the dreadful chore.

Now that the Christmas ambiance is headed to the attic, my house seems quite spacious. In fact, I have yet to return many of my non-seasonal knick knacks back to their standard locations. I'm just enjoying the sunshine and the open gate. I feel freer and lighter and less constrained by so much stuff. I'm thinking of spring garage sales and wondering if I should just leave a lot of my things boxed up ready to affix price tags.

Life gets cold and cluttered at times. Like calves stuck in a pen where it's been snowy and cramped, we can feel constrained by symbolic fences that seem to close in on us in our homes and in our hearts.

What I haven't told you is that as much as I would like to blame the Christmas clutter for my claustrophobic feelings, it has more to do with worries that I'm struggling to turn over to the Lord. Bare walls and shelves seems to help when I feel like I'm going to suffocate from fearful thoughts of things totally beyond my control. So, for a few more days, I'm planning on enjoying the space and I'm not going to rush to fill it back up again. And I also intend to soak up the Son a whole lot more in the days ahead. For at His feet and in His light, can be found my joy and the perfect gate to freedom.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Year of Extremes Leads to One Step at a Time in 2014

by Brenda Black

The past twelve months proved to be a doozie of a dozen, offering up some of the most emotional, exhausting and exhilarating moments I've experienced in my five decades. I endured more surgeries than I've had accumulatively in my entire life, hit that big 5-0 the first day of summer, watched a family member struggle through a frightening diagnosis, earned three incredibly high honors in Missouri Ag, published my fourth book and began work on number five. I lost weight and it found me again. I turned grey and cringed. I celebrated 28 years with a sweetheart of a man and stood by helplessly as our baby turned 21. Through troubles and blessings, wonderful memories and days I'd sooner forget, I lived my life last year.

Mistakes and victories mark the journey. Words beautifully intended and those that never should have been spoken line and litter the path. Smiles and tears left wrinkles and stains on my face and in my mind. And it is now all behind. A new year is underway and the future looks like an untraveled highway stretched before me with unseen curves, hills and hazards; but also with breathtaking scenery, delightful surprises and leisurely side roads I'll learn of in time. It continues on and yet it just begins, this changing from past to present to future. And it's a good thing I know not all that awaits. I might never take that first step if I could see what lay ahead.

So I'll live each day as it comes just as Psalm 118:24 suggests: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I'll trust the Lord to meet me and provide my needs every day that the sun comes up, just as Jesus asked us to do when we He bid us come to the Father and pray: “Give us each day our daily bread.” (Luke11:3) No matter what comes, good or bad, I'll know that the experience is teaching me something necessary for the journey and that every step forward is a new opportunity to begin again as we're told in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when “...we are being renewed day by day.”

Maybe by the end of 2014, I'll be able to look back and see that another twelve months of extremes is the life for me. And for you! In all reality, it's the story for every one in humanity. Life is colorful, volatile, horrible, delightful, unpredictable, supernatural and incredible when we live it one step at a time.

May your journey be filled with more hoorays than heartaches, your days be more sunny than gloomy. May you know peace of mind no matter the trial; and be surrounded by love and laughter often and in great abundance! May you rest from well-placed labor and receive satisfaction for acts of integrity. May you experience thrilling adventures of unexpected pleasure as well as enjoy days of calm, smooth and predictable sailing. Above all, may you trust in the Lord every step of the way down life's highway.