Archive | September 2010

AUTUMN MUSINGS

It’s official, and it’s real. Fall has arrived. It doesn’t happen very often that the weather makes a dramatic shift right on time with the date on the calendar, but this year just as September 22nd, the first official day of autumn, crept upon us, the temperatures dropped and at last—ahhhh! Beautiful, cool autumn days are here again! At least here in my little corner of the world. It was still in the nineties down in Alabama, but take heart, Julie, this week your highs will drop ten degrees, too.
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I am so ready for fall! We had such a hot summer this year that the cooler temperatures are a welcome relief. It is wonderful to turn off the air conditioning and enjoy the cool breezes coming in through open doors and windows again! I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune in February and March when we’re all ready for spring to spring but for now I’m enjoying cool.
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My favorite things about fall: The leaves changing colors. (They haven’t started yet around here but they will soon.) Making a big pot of homemade soup. (I made two different kinds this week.) Pumpkins. Apples. Pies made from pumpkins and apples and cinnamon and spice. Popcorn balls and caramel apples. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?) Getting out the sweaters and sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts. Bonfires. Hayrides. (Bob and I met on a hayride.) Thinking about Christmas coming soon and sneaking out the Christmas CD’s because I just can’t wait to start listening to them again. Thanksgiving. Kids going back to school. Watching (and hearing) Canadian geese and ducks flying in V-formation over my house as they head south. Seeing the little squirrels in my neighborhood getting fatter and fatter as they prepare for winter.
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I dream about living somewhere where the weather is “perfect” all year long, but really, I think I would miss the seasons if I didn’t have them. I love the beauty of God’s creation, but even more, I think, I love its variety. What an awesome God to have planned and created all this for us, and then to hold it all together by His power! “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16, 17) How some people can believe this all happened just by chance is beyond me. Only an omniscient and omnipotent Creator could have designed it all to work together so beautifully and actually brought it into being.
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He is not only our Creator, but he is our faithful Creator. When Noah came out of the ark and built an altar to the Lord after the flood, God promised “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) As long as the earth exists, there will always be seasons; faithfully like clockwork He brings them about. Psalm 104:19 tells us, “He appointed the moon for seasons…” and Daniel 2:21 says, “And he changeth the times and the seasons…” He created them and He changes them.
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And though the Lord may change the seasons, He Himself does not change! “For I am the LORD, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6) More dependable than the sun, moon and stars, more dependable than the seasons or time or anything, because He created them, He is faithful. The Bible tells us in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” His love and kindness are forever. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) His mercy and grace are eternal. “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23) His promises are true. His salvation is secure and everlasting. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Corinthians 1:20-22) “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” (I John 513)
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I chose this morning to simply reflect on the arrival of autumn, and to praise Him for it and for all the beauty and variety of His creation. I praise him for His faithfulness to us and all that that means—His steadfastness and dependability, His eternal truthfulness, His unfailing provision of salvation and every other blessing we have in this life or eternity. It’s a good thing to simply pause and praise.
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I’ve shared the words of one of my favorite hymns before, but I want to do it again today—Great is Thy Faithfulness. They are so true and such a blessing to me.
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Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
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Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
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Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
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Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
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JUGGLING

Robbie never ceases to make me laugh. He can’t talk, but I can read the expressions on his face like a book (most of the time)—and he has a very expressive face.
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It’s been over three years, I think, since Robbie began his love affair with apples. He can’t eat them, but he loves to hold them. He is rarely without an apple in his hand during his waking hours, and I frequently have to try to sneak his apple away when he is asleep. I say try because his fingers clamp down like a vise if he senses someone is trying to steal his apples. He plays a mean game of Keep-Away with his apple, too, during playtime.
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Last fall I bought him one of those tiny pumpkins that are about the size of an apple. I wondered if he would accept it in place of his apple. Oh yes, he accepted it—in addition to his apple. There was no way he was giving up his beloved apple!
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Well, it’s that time of year again. Bob came home from one of his trips this week with a surprise for Robbie. “Robbie! Daddy has a present for you!” he sang as he shook a bag in the air. Robbie got so excited! He leaned forward eagerly and held his arms out. Bob gave him the bag and held it open so Robbie could reach inside. He pulled out a tiny pumpkin! Whoo-Hoo! Then he reached inside and pulled out something else—a small orange and yellow striped, pear-shaped gourd! Robbie was thrilled!
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There was just one problem. He had the pumpkin in one hand and the gourd in the other. His apple was in his lap. Three treasures. Two hands. What to do? He put down the pumpkin and picked up the apple. Ooo-but he really wanted that pumpkin! He set down the gourd and picked up the pumpkin. Wait a minute! I want that gourd, too! his face said. This went on for several minutes as Robbie tried to figure out how to hold three precious playthings in only two hands.
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Bob and I were cracking up. His eyebrows were going up and down. He was grinning and frowning all at the same time. We could just see the little wheels turning inside his head. And then Mama had to throw something else in the mix. “Robbie,” I said eagerly, “Mama’s going to buy you some more pretty gourds—all shapes and colors and textures—and another pumpkin, too, and you can have a whole basketful of fun things to play with!” (Can’t let Bob outdo me when it comes to pleasing our boy!)
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I’m not sure how much of that he really understood, but he turned and looked at me with such a look of dismay! “Mom!” his face seemed to say, “Can’t you see I only have two hands?”
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I laughed a few days later when I was sharing that with my ten-year-old granddaughter Melissa. Her response was, “So you’ve got Robbie juggling now! Maybe instead of more gourds, you should buy him more hands!” That tickled me. Robbie—juggling?
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Robbie could never juggle, but we’ve certainly all been there, haven’t we? Our hands are full, but we need to fit something else in somehow. We feel like we are doing a juggling act and something is going to fall at any moment—or maybe the whole thing will come crashing down! We are stressed out, dashing back and forth, trying to keep our eyes on the ball and everything going smoothly. We’re overwhelmed and crying out, “But I only have two hands!”
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I don’t know how some of the women I know do it. They are working jobs, taking care of children or grandchildren, cleaning house, cooking, doing ministries outside the home, home-schooling, being a help to their husbands, and on and on. I live an easy life here at home compared to them, but it never really stops around here, either, with Robbie to care for, writing deadlines to meet, projects to do for our pastor and church, as well as caring for home and hubby. It is a fact of life in our modern American lives. We are too busy, too stressed, too exhausted.
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Let’s face it—juggling not only saps our strength, it also saps our joy. Our most precious treasures become liabilities; demands on us that wear us down and wear us out. Instead of enjoying our children to the fullest, we snap at them or push them away with, “Not right now! Mommy is busy!” Our husbands often get put on the back burner, the last to get our attention. And remember the old chorus, There is Joy in Serving Jesus? Where’s the joy when our ministry for the Lord turns into just one more duty I am obligated to perform?
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I think sometimes at the end of the day when we fall into bed exhausted, that we feel as Solomon did in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Well, I got through this day. Tomorrow it starts all over again.
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You may remember the old commercial, “Calgon—take me away!” David, in Psalm 55:6, said it like this—“Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” Well, we don’t have wings to carry us away, and a Calgon bath will help for only a few minutes. What is the answer then?
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There are some things we simply must juggle—family, home, serving the Lord. Some of us simply have to work outside the home—not for the little extras, but just to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. Some things, like home schooling, are a conviction, and we know that it may not be right for all families, but it is God’s will for ours. All of these things are important; many of them are precious treasures. How do we juggle them and at the end of the day end up tired, maybe, but still joyful?
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There are four principles, I think, that can help us be successful, joyful jugglers! The first is so simple, and yet so hard to remember sometimes: Start the day, and continue all the way through, with the right attitude. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” God gave us these treasures to be blessings in our lives, not burdens! Rejoice in the little ones clinging to your leg when you are trying to cook dinner; in the teenagers wanting a ride to the youth group activity; in the husband wanting his share of attention, too! Think how empty your life would be without them! Praise God for the home that has to be cleaned, the food that has to be cooked, the job you have to go to. Think how many millions of people in this world go without those very basic things. Thank the Lord for the opportunities you have to serve him with a heart of love and gratefulness for all that He has done for you. He gave you a new day! Praise Him for it! And keep the gratitude going all day long.
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The second principle goes along with the first: Do whatever it is that you have to do in God’s strength, not your own. I say it goes along with the first principle because both should be a matter of prayer before we hit the floor running. Colossians 1:10, 11 says, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” So many times I have failed when I have tried to take on something in my own strength! When we pause to read a portion of God’s word—even if it is only a verse or two—we are “increased in the knowledge of God.” When we first praise and thank Him, and then ask for His power to get through the day with patience and endurance and strength, He gives it to us and we come out at the other end of the day with joy at all that the Lord has given to us and done in us and through us.
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The third principle is this: Don’t try to be a Super-Woman! Wait a minute! you might be saying right now. What about the Proverbs 31 Virtuous Woman? She certainly had a lot on her plate to juggle! Look at this: “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple…She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant… She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness…Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”
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Wow! Super-Woman? Maybe, but I think there are a few sub-principles that she can teach us. First: Don’t try to do it all alone—Delegate! It seems the woman of Proverbs 31 had maidens to help her. (vs. 15) Sure, the responsibility rested on her, and she jumped right in there with her own two hands and did her share, working from before dawn on into the night, but she had help. Second: Don’t try to do it all at once. I believe there are seasons to a woman’s life. When our children are young, they need us and we may have to postpone for a few years things that we would like to do in order to care for their needs. When we are old, we may not have the strength or physical capabilities that we once had, and we may have to give up things we once enjoyed. I cannot say for sure, but I doubt that the Virtuous Woman did all of this at the same time. She cared for her children when they were young, providing food and clothes for them. When they were older, perhaps, she entered the marketplace and helped the needy. Third: Whatever you do, do with strength and honor, wisdom and kindness, trusting and obeying the Lord. Verses 25-26, 30 say, “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” When our hearts are right with God, no matter what He has called us to do, we will rejoice in time to come.
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The fourth and last principle I want to mention is this: Be content with less. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” Part of our problem as modern American women is that we think we have to have more and better—a vacation or two every year, far more clothes than we could ever wear, a big nicely furnished and decorated house and so on and so on. We think we have to do more—run the kids to every activity imaginable, take on this project and that, have the perfect home and family. We add so much to our plate that it is no wonder we can’t keep up. If we could only realize that we can get along with far less, relax a little more when we demand less of ourselves—think what a burden that would lift!
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Psalm 90:17 says, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Our hands are filled with treasures. We have to juggle sometimes, but we can do it with joy when we do it in the Lord—with praise and thankfulness, with contentment and in His strength.
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Oh, I’m still going to get Robbie that basketful of gourds, little pumpkins and apples, but I think I’ll give them to him just one or two at a time!

GREAT LADIES IN THEIR EIGHTIES

It was a weekend to remember! In my mother’s words, no other weekend could ever surpass it. My aunt (my mother’s twin sister) told me it was her best birthday ever. “Bonnie and Connie’s 80th Birthday Party” at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana was a huge success, especially for the Birthday Girls. Almost all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there to celebrate with them—over fifty of us altogether. We were happy for our mothers, and excited about spending the weekend with our siblings and cousins and their families.

It is a wonderful thing to see twin sisters make it to their eightieth birthday together. We’ve always enjoyed seeing them together (and yes, indeed, they fooled us sometimes as to who was who), but now they’re just downright cute as a pair! All weekend long we remarked at the likenesses and funny little traits they shared.

Sunday was their birthday and we had a special luncheon to honor them. The Lakeview Room looked out on a forest, rather than a lake, but it was pretty with its tables decked in pastels, a fully loaded gift table, and the cake with their pictures at age sixteen as the centerpiece. The food from the Inn’s special Sunday buffet was delicious and plentiful. The company was relaxed, and the fellowship was sweet, and both our Birthday Girls were beaming!

We could not let this special day go by without some spontaneous tributes given by their children, grandchildren and children-in-law. My brother called them the “grand matriarchs of the clan.” Their reputation as pranksters was mentioned. Their love, encouragement, help and generosity were appreciated. They were lauded as wonderful mothers, best friends, special grandmas, and over and over—the best mothers-in-law there ever were! I think what struck me most, however, about these heartfelt, sometimes-teary and sometimes-comical sentiments was how many times Mom and Aunt Bon were referred to as women of faith and prayer. The spiritual heritage they have laid down and their prayerful support of their children and grandchildren had made an impact in all our lives, and helped to make us the people we have become—for now and all eternity. They have been found faithful in the calling God has given them as wives and mothers, and we are all eternally grateful and love them deeply. Proverbs 31:28-31 fits them perfectly: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:28-31)

It is hard to see our parents growing older. We see them slowing down, suffering from more and more physical ailments, sometimes even suffering mental disabilities. And always looming overhead is the knowledge that we may not have many more years left with them. For those who know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we know that the Separator called Death is but for a short time and then we will be reunited in Heaven some day, but still it is a grievous day when we have to say goodbye. We treasure the days we have left with our mothers and pray for many more years of good health to come.
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The Bible tells us to honor our parents and those elderly people around us. Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Ephesians 6:2-3 reminds us of one of the Ten Commandments: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou may live long on the earth.” Proverbs 23:22 tells us to “Hearken unto thy father that begot thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”
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Although it may not feel like it sometimes, old age is something to be proud of, and a blessing from the Lord. Many times the Scriptures speak of old age as “a good old age.” And although I have sworn to cover my gray hairs until the day I die (!) gray hair is a badge of honor! Proverbs 16:31 says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” and Proverbs 20:29 adds, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” I still have my gray hair, of course, hidden somewhere—I just refuse to look older than my husband!
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With old age come many blessings. Mom and Aunt Bon would tell you (and I agree!) the greatest of these are our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You just can’t comprehend how wonderful it is to be a grandma until you become one yourself! Someone has said that “being a grandmother is your reward for having been a mother.” Someone else has said, “Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old.” Whether or not we’ve earned them, the Bible says in Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]”
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Hopefully, with old age comes wisdom. Job 12:12 tells us “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.” and Job 32:7 adds “…days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” Old age also comes with promises. Isaiah 46:4 tells us that God does not forget us in our old age, but will carry us through: “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” He is faithful in providing. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)
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God also tells us that He does not set us on a shelf in our old age but that there is still work for Him that we can do. Psalms 92:14 says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age …” The elderly are to be examples of holy living and teachers. “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.” (Titus 2:2, 3) Prayer and intercession are vital ministries the aged can have. 1 Timothy 5:5 says “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” The elderly are also a testimony to the generations that follow. Psalms 71:18 tells us, “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” Eunice and Lois are examples of the impact we can have on our children and grandchildren. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
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It is God who determines the length of our lives. Job 12:10 says, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Oftentimes he blesses the righteous and those who are obedient to Him with long life. He said of David in Psalms 91:14, 16, “Because he hath set his love upon me … because he hath known my name…. With long life will I satisfy him…” 1 Kings 3:14 also says, “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments … I will lengthen thy days.” Proverbs 3:1, 2 tells us to “… keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” and adds in Proverbs 9:10, 11, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.”
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Psalm 92:12-14 gives us a picture of the beauty of old age in those who love the Lord. It says, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He [or she] shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” I see beauty in my mother and Aunt Bon, and I know the Lord does, too. What a testimony they are to lives lived for Him and for their families! Many years ago I sent a poem to my grandmother—their mother. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for it describes my mother and my dear aunt Bonnie—lovely in growing old. I hope I will follow in their footsteps.
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Let me grow lovely, growing old—
So many fine things do:
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?
-Karle Wilson Baker-