Joy of Gardening

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Last week, I turned off my computer and completely tuned out the news. I tuned out the vile vitriol, the hatred, the distortions, the bias, and manipulations that have come to characterize the 24/7 media of our day. Alas! Media distortion isn’t new, however. Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) penned a poem in 1913 entitled The Old Stone Cross in which he takes issue with journalistic integrity (or rather the lack thereof). Here is William Butler Yeats poem:

A statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote. 

A journalist invents his lies and rams them down your throat.

So stay at home and drink your beer and let your neighbors vote. (poetryverse.com)

Taking a cue from Mr. Yeats, I have done just that—-stayed home and, well, while I’m not really a beer drinker I do enjoy myself an occasional Guinness Draught Stout. It reminds me of Dublin, the city after my own heart!

In my garden, I have planted a variety of peppers, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, daisies, roses, lemon grass, lemon balm, peppermint, basil, hibiscus, sage and lavender.  It the middle of my garden, I have placed a  stone statue of Mother Mary. She is surrounded by roses, pink, yellow, and lavender. In the tranquil early morning, I sit with my hot coffee, listen to the red cardinals, blue jays, brown-winged hawks, and rust-colored robins sing like a heavenly chorus high above the cherry laurel and oak trees in my backyard. It is in this tranquil setting that I meditate and focus my mind on God’s blessings, on Jesus and his message of  love, forgiveness and redemption, on Mother Mary and her obedience to God’s call in her life. In the stillness I pray. In the stillness I rest and accept those things I cannot change and I ask God to bless me with discernment to change those things that I should change, and that I have the power to change.

I find peace and truth in the quiet of my garden. I find peace and truth that only God can give. This world and all that is in it passes away. Only God’s peace and truth remain.

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us: You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in youTrust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal.

In John 14:27 Jesus comforts us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I cannot tolerate the constant onslaught of violence and hatred in which the media relishes. They no longer report facts, but rather design “stories” to incite hatred, anger, strife, division.  High drama sells.  I, for one, choose to step back and not allow myself to be manipulated, to be made afraid.

Of course, I do not stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is perfect; of course, it isn’t.  I choose to rely on My Lord Jesus for strength in the storm. I choose to rely on My Lord Jesus for help in danger. I choose to rely on the comforting words of My Lord Jesus.

Jesus told me not to let my heart be troubled and to not be afraid.

I put my complete trust in Jesus’ holy words and  in His promises.

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

 

Remembering a Summer Past

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Way back in the summer of 1994 I was driving through Texas with my three year old son Alex. Life had not been kind to me. In 1991, my sister Sara Jo died at the age of 49 years old of lymphoma. In 1992, my husband decided that he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father anymore either. In 1993, my mother died of spinal cord cancer. In 1994, I lost my job as a legal review specialist at a mortgage company.

I can still remember the sickening feeling in my stomach when I was presented with the white envelope in which my one month severance pay was enclosed. I can still remember sitting at my cubicle staring at my name plaque and all my awards for being a top legal reviewer. Scattered among my awards was my little son’s photo and my mother’s funeral notice upon which Psalm 46 was printed.  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fail into the heart of the sea. . .” Each morning those words got me through the pain of loss and the challenges of the day.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Those words rung in my ears and mocked me.  My earth had given way and my mountains had fallen into the heart of the sea. I couldn’t even cry. I sat stunned. I had lost my precious sister Sara Jo. My husband whom I loved dearly had abandoned me and our baby son without even a glance backward. I had lost my beloved mother. And now, I had lost my job upon which I depended for support of my son and me.

I remember wondering how I was going to survive. I remember getting angry at God. I remember begging God to help me. I was lost in the dark. How much more could I take? How much more could I lose?

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). That verse struck me in the dead of night along with the smothering gloom of anxiety.

Be still. Be still, Be still.  I decided to do just that. I took a deep breath and decided to just be still.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:11).

Anxiety ate away at me, but I decided to just keep moving forward. I committed this psalm to my heart and prayed it continuously. God promised me that he was an ever-present help in trouble and told me not to fear. I had to trust Him. I just had to. He was all I had left to carry me through the darkness to the light on the other side of the abyss my life had fallen into.

So, in the summer of 1994, I drove through Texas from Houston to a beautiful little town called Glen Rose. My son loved dinosaurs. I had found out about the Dinosaur Valley State Park at Glen Rose. My son was overjoyed about going to a place that had actual dinosaur prints in the earth. He loved cowboys, so I bought him a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. His little face lit up as he eyed all the ranches along the way and saw actual cowboys riding horses. The Texas countryside sparkled like a beautiful comforting paradise to both our souls. That long drive was a balm to our spirits. It lifted us up from the darkness.

In Snook, Texas, I stopped at a little market and bought a two-dollar lottery ticket and won 500 dollars. The cashier gave me the money on the spot. I was shocked. I walked back to the truck with the cash and was speechless.

That has been twenty-six years ago this month.  God has brought me through  those dark days and has given my life light, purpose and joy. In Him, I place my absolute trust. He promised me that he is my refuge and strength. He was then, is now, and will forever be my refuge. He is my fortress upon whom I depend.

 

Jenny Andrews Copyright 2020

 

 

Missing Aunt Gladys

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This is my Aunt Gladys.  That smile was contagious. Her laughter was boisterous and as loud as she was. A small woman, barely 5 feet tall, she filled up a room with this sheer joy that radiated from deep within her heart; she was generous, loving, kind.    Having grown up with eight brothers, she had to learn how  to hold her own in arguments. She was a strong lady. She also had two sisters, Myrtle and Eltrum. I honestly don’t know which aunt I loved the most. That goes for my uncles. None of them are alive anymore. They have all left me alone in this cold world with just these childhood memories of Sunday dinner, of funerals, of laughter, of tears, of family stories of a paternal grandpa and paternal grandma I never knew.

Time moved on. The world turned. Nothing is left of that childhood of mine, except photos of those whom I loved. Photos of uncles, aunts, and family who are no longer here.

It is summer that reminds me most of them. Summer brings back watermelon spread out on tables in the yard. Summer brings back memories of all my uncles and aunts gathered on the front porch reminiscing about their childhoods.

I miss them all.

Time moves on. Our time on this earth is so very limited; our time on this earth is so very precious.

I resolve not to waste one moment of the precious time I have left on this earth. Like Aunt Gladys, I want to laugh and find joy in the simplest things. I want to choose to be happy. There is good in this world. If I have learned anything from those summer Sundays, it is to give thanks to God who loves me, to share with others, and that it is better to light one candle rather than curse the darkness.

From them all, I learned that my strength comes from the Lord. With the Lord all things are possible. I believe this with my whole heart, mind, and soul.

Thanks, Aunt Gladys for the laughter. I still can hear you in my heart all these decades later. I love you, always.

 

Copyright 2020 Jenny W. Andrews

 

 

 

 

Remembering My Brother George Willie

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This is a sketch of my brother George Willie. I sketched this from an old photograph. He drowned at age 16 the summer before I was born. He and some friends had gone to a lake and were celebrating the end of the school year. While I never knew him, I knew the void that had been left by his absence. My mother, father, and older brother and older sisters never stopped grieving over his loss. His memory haunted that space inside their hearts. I always felt like a stranger on the outside looking in; all I know of him is what they told me. He was almost six feet tall, liked to joke, was good at math and wanted to join the United States Air Force after high school graduation. Sadly, those dreams never came true, his life was cut tragically short. Sixteen years is such a short, short time.

Sixty years ago today, my brother died at sixteen years old. On that sunny June day in 1960 he had no idea that he would never see the next day. Life is so very fleeting; it is so very fragile.

I know one day that I will see him, that I will see all those whom I love who have crossed over into eternity. I love my brother George Willie although I never met him. He is my brother and I feel that he is my guardian angel and that he is always with me. I look at his photograph which I keep on the shelf of remembrance in my home and I know that he is  with God.

Psalm 90: 12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Number our days. Life is so short and so precious. We often get so caught up in life’s dramas that we forget that this life is not forever on this earth.

I choose to look towards eternity. I choose to look towards the hope and promise that one day I will be in the glorious presence of my Lord. I trust that it will be a homecoming, that I will meet my brother George Willie and spend eternity with all those whom I have loved.

Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2020

Rescued

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Rescued

In a remembered hour, wine colored circles expand around an amber-hued memory.

Spiraling down a tunnel; drifting, darkness, decay.

Expecting not to be rescued; God reached for me, anyway.

 

 

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

I am currently working on a second poetry collection.  I plan to include this poem in that collection.  I am including my original photography, as well.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Thanks.

 

Jenny

What’s Essential?

 

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Six weeks later, liquor stores are still open.

Churches are still closed.

Lines wrap around the liquor store’s sidewalk, shoppers maybe two feet apart , wait to purchase spirits.

Churches are still closed.

Liquor stores have been classified as essential by the powers and principalities that control this world.

Churches are still closed.

Only God Himself can save me.

 

 

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

End of the Road

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Will this isolation ever end?

Will this emptiness ever be filled?

Will the distance ever be bridged?

Will there ever be laughter again?

Or has the damage already been done?

Or is it too late to go back and start over again?

 

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

Dancing in the Rain

 

woman holding umbrella dancing in the middle of the road near cars and buildings
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“It isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain-” Vivian Greene

Yesterday marks one month since I taught in my classroom. In my community, restaurants have been reduced to only take-out service, other businesses have been closed indefinitely. The plan is for us to get back to normal by April 30th; some speculate it might not be until May 15th.

The media outlets have overdosed on the worst possible case scenario stories with emphasis on the problem rather than a solution. Is there a solution other than locking down the entire world? Surely, scientists with their wisdom can come up with a solution. Surely.

While I am teaching online now, I prefer to be out of my house and in the classroom.

Social distancing/social isolation is not emotionally, mentally or spiritually healthy. People need actual interaction with others.

Curious fact alert:  In my community, the liquor stores are open with lines out the door, but houses of worship  are closed.  Seriously? Who came up with this plan? Obviously someone who did not have their thinking caps on. Standing in line at the liquor store a few feet from each other?  Ha! Ha! Ha!

That’s a great recipe there for disaster-alcohol use while in social isolation.

No one thought this through-did they?

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ve tried to keep my spirits up. I am a positive soul and I  focus on solutions rather than problems. I’ve tried to share positive and uplifting messages here on my blog.

I like this quote “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” because it focuses not on the storm but on what can be done in the midst of the storm.

In the midst of the storm that we are all in right now I ask what can we do. Can we adjust our thoughts toward learning something positive about ourselves? Have we learned to persevere in the face of discomfort and fear? Have we learned to slow down and take a closer look at our lives and decide to make changes that we hadn’t previously considered? Have we learned to find joy in the little things?

For me, I have revisited my art work and I have started to edit that novel I kept telling myself  that I didn’t have enough time to work on. Well, time is all I have had these past few weeks. I have taken the time to organize family photos and clean out my closets.

In the midst of this storm I have decided to focus on the joy of painting, the joy of writing, the joy of early morning and watching the birds flying into the blue skies and landing on the branches of  the old oak trees.

I’ve decided not to give into the panic; I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on the future.

I cannot change what is happening around me but I can control my reaction to it.

I prefer dancing in the rain to complaining about the storm.

Jenny W. Andrews, Copyright 2020

 

 

Sisters Forever

100_0073_0227_0001This is a photo of my sister Sylvia and I in the Republic of Ireland in 2008. This photo brings back warm memories; it also brings back a few bitter memories, as well.

Family has a way of lifting us up as well as tearing us down.

Family is complicated. We never can completely burn those bridges or completely sever those ties that bind us to those with whom we share blood and history.

In our current world, everyone is worried about Covid-19 and the potential of death. Truth is that we all must face death one day. If not now, one day, surely each of us will face it.

In looking at this photo, I remember laughter and I remember tears.  I remember stories. I remember inconvenient and unpleasant truths.

In this photo, frozen in time are two sisters born twenty-four years apart who could never quite make that connection as we had hoped our meeting in the Republic of Ireland would have.

Too many differences, too many obstacles, too many years between us.

I look at this photo and wonder how my sister is doing so, so far away from me.

Truth is I pray for her with my whole heart. I pray that she is kept safe from Covid-19 and that she is happy somewhere out there.

I remember seeing an ancient stone bridge in County Kerry. I think of that bridge sometimes and how it was there in that isolated mountainous distance. I think of how it represents in my mind’s eye what my sister and I had tried to accomplish. We had tried to bridge that gap between us. In the end, she and I were like the mountain peaks, impossible to reach.

 

Jenny W. Andrews, Copyright, 2020