Father’s Day was quiet at the Wright House. I fed Sweet William well, and he did as he pleased. No suggestions or agendas from me. He said it’s been a good day.
I remember my own sweet dad, now gone from this life many years. I miss him today. I think of two friends spending their first Father’s Day without their dads. I know it is hard.
I thanked God for the man who influenced me so much. God meant for children to have loving fathers in the home. Our culture is missing out if we negate that fact.
I honor fathers and those who walk in the role of fathers. You are important to the world. This is my tribute to you.
To the fathers who walk crying babies at night so mommas can get a little sleep, To the fathers who are brave enough to change a diaper, change their work schedule, and change their ways for their children, To the fathers who run alongside kids on bikes without training wheels, who sit on hard bleachers while the game goes on, who take their children to music lessons and sit through recitals and keep giving encouragement along the way, To the fathers who teach math and science in the evenings and who teach life by their actions more than their words, To the fathers who show their boys how to treat women with respect by doing the same for their wives, To the fathers who show their little girls how precious and beautiful they are and that they are worth waiting for, To the fathers who protect and fight for and provide for their families, To the fathers who pray for their children, who take them to church, who read the Bible in front of them, To the fathers who are faithful to their children’s mother and treat her like she is a precious treasure, To the fathers who offer grace when their kids mess up, To the fathers who make mistakes, fall down even, ask for forgiveness, and pray to be more like Jesus every day, To the fathers who love and care for other men’s children like their own, To the fathers who become grandfathers, stooped and aging, yet still standing tall in spirit, offering wisdom born of years, To the fathers who show their sons how to be men and dance with their daughters, We need you to be strong. We need you to be men. We need you to show us what it’s like to be loved in a small measure by God the Father. On this Father’s Day, I pray God’s blessings on you as you stand tall and walk brave in this world.
Grace, mercy and peace to all of you from God the Father and from His Son, Jesus Christ.
Anxiety catches me unaware as I turn the page to a new month.
My plan was to retreat during spring break at a cabin in the treetops somewhere in Tennessee. Away from home responsibilities and work. I would breathe fresh air, contemplate my life direction, write in my journal, read good books, visit a few thrift stores, eat out, and generally relax.
That changed a few weeks ago as I canceled one thing after another, marking out time with friends, church, band practice, piano lessons, doctor appointments, and trips to the grocery. Two weeks of confinement looked doable. Thirty more days feels daunting.
I walked with Maisie after watching the morning news, talking myself down from the ledge of worry and fear, speaking Bible verses I’ve learned, hoping to change my thought process. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” “The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”
Even the glass-half-full people are dealing with the angst of world crises. Anyone watching the news is susceptible to uneasy concern. Change happens daily as I try to keep up. Am I allowed to leave my house? Can I work in the garden? Is it OK to walk my lane and wave to my neighbors? Do I need a mask to visit the grocery or will a scarf protect me?
And what is really happening to my dear ones who are miles away from me? How can I support them when I’m in confinement?
I read tips for coping with the pandemic. I wash my hands until they are beginning to crack. Authorities say dark days are ahead.
On the positive side of my coin, I work hard in the garden. Minimizing and making them more manageable is a way to use my hyper energy.
I plan virtual piano lessons with my students, looking forward to a sort of normalcy with them. This challenges me technologically, but I know seeing their faces will boost my mood.
At this point, there is little I can do except stay home, self-distance as directed, reach out to people any way I can. And pray. Praying focuses me on mighty God who is stronger than any virus.
I remember a story in 1 Samuel 30:6.
And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
David encouraged himself in the Lord. I can do the same. I look backward, remembering the days of my life, how God was with me, how He brought me through difficult pathways, how He taught me to depend on Him, how He is the strong God and my Savior.
I encourage myself in the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5-6 became a song my mother sang when she was alive. I can almost hear her powerful voice, filled with faith, eyes closed in a prayer of worship. In the great cloud of witnesses in Heaven, I wonder if she is singing to us right now. I will join the chorus.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.
If you are fighting anxiety, join the multitude. Admitting and naming a thing takes away some of its power. But then encourage yourself in the Lord. He is here, as near as your next breath.
A friend sent me a verse after we talked by phone, 3 John 14. It seems an appropriate closing to my friends, wherever you are.
I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here [Sweet William and Maisie] send their greetings.
My parents were young during the Great Depression. It marked them. They learned to save for a rainy day and conserve their resources. They were the original recyclers. My dad threw away little, keeping unusual items in case he might need them some day, like a single flip-flop stored in a cabinet in his garage. And what do you know, one day he did need it.
My step-mother washed and stored fast food containers. She had a stash of unused paper napkins and straws in a drawer in her kitchen. Their generation embodied the motto, “Use it up, wear it out, make it last, or do without.”
It is day twelve of our confinement. The days run together, today looking very much like yesterday. I try to remember what day of the week it is.
I’m realizing I don’t need as much to survive as I may have thought. My breakfast prayer includes thanks for food, shelter, and basic necessities. How often have I taken them for granted because I wanted something shiny and new?
My life is slower. Simple things are a gift, like the young man’s friendly greeting at Kroger as he loaded my groceries in the car’s trunk, and the person who handed me two deliciously prepared blizzards through the take-out window at the oddly-dark Dairy Queen. A blizzard and a refrigerator re-stocked with food are luxuries.
Sweet William helped me sharpen my garden tools yesterday. He knows his way around a file better than I do. It felt good to accomplish something on my list. I need to see some check marks in my bullet journal, some task completed.
The world seems a bit crazy. When we expectantly wrote the year 2020 for the first time in January, who could have predicted this, confinement and uncertainty that would drive us indoors for an undetermined period.
It is interesting that we have been thrust into a time of stillness in a culture that thrives on busy. Being busy is our mantra, the badge we wear. Busy makes us feel necessary. Busy is how we function best. Or maybe not.
I wonder how we will be marked by our days of confinement. Will we look back and recall how strange it was for a while, how toilet paper became a valued commodity, and the time encased in our homes with family was a blessing in disguise?
Will we be changed by our experience in 2020, imprinted like my parents were in 1929?
I believe we will learn things about ourselves, like how we focus on lesser things when what is most valuable is right before us.
When the world returns to a normal status, I hope it won’t be business as usual. I hope we remember what matters. People are the most important treasure. Small irritations are not worth the upset. We really can invent new ways of doing things. Sharing what we have blesses the giver and receiver. Prayers are to be prayed for our leaders. Church is not the building where we gather. Loving one another is still the second greatest commandment.
Maybe we will even keep one flip-flop, just in case we might need it.
They first met at our house, these two who became one in holy matrimony only yesterday. The beautiful wedding was sprinkled with grace and truth, and those who know their story marvel at the narrative.
I first met him when he was in fourth grade with my oldest granddaughter, sitting at the lunch table with her. I remember his cute round face and the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled.
Not by chance, Sweet William and I became friends of his family, spending time at the breakfast table, hours talking over coffee, sharing Bible studies, and those evenings when he came to talk guy stuff with Sweet William. Relationships deepened.
I met her through our neighbors who live in the house next door, the one where my dear ones onced lived. These neighbors were a balm to my aching heart, me missing those I love, who now lived many miles away. These neighbors were her relatives.
She had a lovely smile and a gentle way about her. We became acquainted with her family, sometimes celebrating birthdays and holidays. I noticed her godly character.
Add the years, and I hosted Bible study at our house, a room full of women who love God and want to know His Word, including my neighbor, her sister-in-law, and my friend, his mother. At the end of the evening, I casually mentioned his name and her name, how maybe they should meet.
Maybe electricity was in the air, maybe the moon was full, maybe the angels were listening, as minds conceived possibilities, and my neighbor and my friend planned to introduce him and her. In a couple of weeks, the boy met the girl, and sitting at our kitchen table they got acquainted. During Bible study, while the rest of the women in the other room listened to Beth Moore talking about Believing God on DVD, he asked for her phone number.
That was about a year and a half ago. Yesterday they married.
I marvel at how this all came to be, how God orchestrated the plan, how He uses people to accomplish His purposes.
We offered our home, a place of gathering, a time to share the good gifts God gave us.
Some people hinted at giving us credit for this union of husband and wife, but we had nothing to do with the couple’s attraction to one another, to their budding relationship, their eventual falling in love and promise of commitment, or the hand of God all over it.
We simply opened the door to our house and said “Come in. You are welcome here.” It is that simple and simply that. When we offer what we have in the name of Jesus, He takes it as fish and bread and multiplies it to meet the need, to feed the hungry, and to bring people together in ways we cannot imagine.
The gifts God lavishes on us are not meant to be hoarded and kept to ourselves. They are meant to be shared. We give what we’ve been given, opening our hands and our hearts, allowing Him to perform wonders of His love.
What is in your hand? It may appear insignificant or small. You may wonder what good it can be. You may not think what you do is having an impact. But it could be you are an instrument in God’s hand, a pencil He is using to write His story.
What is in your hand? Give that. Leave the rest to Him to create the masterpiece.
Before the days of ultrasounds and 3D imaging, I was left wondering if I would have a son or a daughter. When I became pregnant, there were no expectations of knowing until I could hear my doctor proclaim at the time of birth, “You have a boy” or “You have a girl.”
I don’t recall a secret desire for either. I just wanted a healthy baby. People told me they predicted a girl, something about the way I carried the growing life nestled under my heart. Some were convinced and gave me dresses at the baby shower given by the ladies of my church.
When I consider the morning sickness that lasted all day long, the girth of my belly, the stretch marks, the pain of labor and eventual C-section, it was all worth it. Seeing that beautiful round head as my doctor announced, “It’s a boy” veiled everything else.
The first time the nurse brought my son to the room and placed him in my arms, his eight pounds felt like the weight of the world. Realization hit me that I was responsible for this child. How could God trust me this much and was it really such a good idea?
I hoped to parent as I had been parented, with patience and kindness, lovingly nurturing my son and teaching him the ways of a world brand new to him. I failed a lot.
I was determined he would not be a shy child like I had been. I didn’t understand introversion, extroversion or personality types. What I knew was how I’d suffered from being painfully withdrawn. So I encouraged him to speak up, say hello, don’t hide behind.
One day while riding an elevator, this small boy of mine was friendlier to strangers than I was, and I knew I had nothing to do with that. This was who he was. His very own personality was blossoming before my eyes. I would discover him rather than make him into someone I thought he should be.
More than anything I wanted him to know Jesus loved him and to learn to love Him back. We went to church a lot. I read Bible stories. We talked about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I tried to point him in the direction of the cross while being woefully imperfect at modeling Christ-like character. I prayed for him.
When it became apparent that he would be our only living child, I packed away the dolls, small china dishes, a little bed and high chair my dad made for me, things saved in case we had a daughter.
We made room for trains and guns, matchbox cars and star wars figures, drum sets and bikes that let him do tricks down our lane as he called, “Watch this, mom” over and over.
I stayed up hours at night with him to help with homework. I walked the halls of the school, confronting teachers and going to bat for him, mustering courage that didn’t come naturally to me. I fought for my son, my inner mama bear emerging if I thought he was being treated unfairly.
He grew into a handsome teenager and girls looked his way. I turned over the keys to my recently acquired, new-to-me blue Nissan Maxima so he could take his date to the prom. He never knew how often I stood at the window watching him drive away from the house, praying for his safety, that he would return home in one piece.
I tucked him into bed as long as he would let me. Sometimes after a tiring day of working a job and working a home, he’d be in the mood to talk, and I knew these were precious moments. I hope I patiently listened despite my weariness. I hope that’s what he remembers more than when I was in a rush, was frustrated or short tempered.
He became and man and chose a wife, and I knew things were going to be different for me. I determined I would love the other woman in his life. I also understood I had been displaced from being the most important one.
Years fly by, as they do. Time, distance, and circumstances have taken us on our own paths. He isn’t close enough to drop by for a cup of coffee like he once did. But when he calls, my world lights up. His laughter is sweet like honey. He probably doesn’t realize how his voice on the other end of of my smart phone is sunshine on what might be an otherwise cloudy day.
As I look back over the years since his birth, I see how his very first tottering baby steps were leading him toward independence. His first day of school, learning to drive, finding a job, going to college, all of that was designed to take my baby boy into adulthood, toward becoming a man able to stand on his own. Had I considered it, I might not have been so anxious for him to learn to walk.
After I sent my boy a picture of the birthday box I mailed on Tuesday, he texted that he had forgotten. My response was, “I remember. I always remember you, your birth, your life.”
I identify with Isaiah 49:15 where God describes his love for Zion like this:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.
How could I forget how he changed my life forever? How could I forget the child I loved when I only barely knew he existed? How could I forget this one who is always in my thoughts and prayers? I cannot forget.
I find it beautiful that the Creator gave us the privilege of sharing in the creation of life so we could understand on a smaller scale His magnificent, ever-faithful, unconditional love.
It’s my boy’s birthday today, and I thought of him first thing this morning, before I plugged in the peculator, before I washed my face or prepared to read my Bible. I thought of him. I can’t help but think of him. He is part of me in a way too mystifying to understand.
He has children of his own now and we have an understanding between us. His love for them mirrors my love for him. We get it, this inexplicable attachment and devotion, going deep into the heart and soul of us.
I heard this recently, that the heart has secrets no language can ever express. Indeed it does. For I will never be able to describe in words how I feel about this boy of mine.
Let it be enough to say, he is my son and I love him.
It’s been quiet on the blog for over a month. I’m not sure why I haven’t written any posts. I could offer several insights but none of them really resonate. Suffice it to say, I took a little break, because there were no words.
Contemplation seems my path in this present season. And I’m quite glad I am able to think and ponder. At my age, the ability to reason and understand is not to be taken lightly.
In the nearly two months of blogging quietude, Sweet William and I have not sat idle. We celebrated recitals, graduations and birthdays. We traveled far and came home again. We watched the seasons change from spring to summer, counting the raindrops and measuring the height of the weeds growing in the gardens.
We had the opportunity to witness one current and one former piano students’ accomplishments, finishing high school and college. I spent many hours at the piano bench and around the table with the two of them, talking, laughing, crying, and praying. It is an extraordinary privilege to be part of their lives as they have matured into young adults.
Sweet William and I drove the many miles and long hours to celebrate our second granddaughter’s graduation. It was worth every minute of time and effort to be there as people gathered on party day. I was comforted to witness the support system of friends surrounding my family in this city, answers to prayers. And our granddaughter was glowing.
Mother’s and Father’s days came and went, and we endured. With neither chick nor child close by, nor living parents to honor, it becomes challenging to observe those days with gladness. I tend to seclude and surrender to my introversion, practicing self-care and allowing my emotions to be present instead of pretending something I don’t feel. It’s the way I cope. When the day is over, I move on, recognizing it is one day in the year, that my life is full of valued relationships, that I am loved by my family, and that life goes on.
Early this month, I sent a card to a friend whose birthday is one month before mine. It’s a reminder that the day of my birth is 30 days away. Birthdays have not been bothersome except when I turned twenty, leaving my teens behind. That was hard.
However, I am giving this birthday, my seventh decade, considerable thought, evaluating my health and my mental state, wondering about my work and the retirement years where Sweet William and I find ourselves.
Recently I pulled my 2009 journal from its upstairs shelf and read what life was like ten years ago. There were joys and sorrows mingled then as now. I understood the year as one who looks at the past. Events that occurred then had profound influence on what would come later.
The coming decade I enter presents me with quandaries that are different than ten years ago. When I entered my 60s, the aches and pains were less; my hair was darker; my figure was not as lumpy; my eyeglasses were not so strong.
Along with twenty or so piano students, I still worked part-time away from home at a job that challenged me and gave me a creative outlet. I loved the people with whom I worked.
My aunt, dad and step-mother were still living, though their growing frailty was apparent, requiring more attention and help.
My family lived next door then, and I was involved with their lives. I saw them weekly, sometimes daily, and enjoyed watching the grandchildren grow. In the old journal I wrote how I felt called to invest in those dear children, filling them with the assurance of my love, so that it would be a reservoir to draw from. I didn’t know then that in two years the family would pack up a big yellow truck and move west permanently. I hope I filled them full enough.
An old clipping I saved starts with “Grab Your Purple Hat!” as it describes how a woman sees herself through the years. Age 70 says this: “She looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter, ability. She goes out and enjoys life.”
I believe there are still things for me to accomplished, meaningful work, projects to complete, art to create and music to play. I know there are people for me love and point to Jesus. I have questions to ask and I want to be the person who leans in and listens well.
I expect sorrows because that is the stuff of life. But I also anticipate joy, celebration and miracles.
The Bible is a familiar companion for my journey. The years of reading and study brought insight, confidence, and hope. The promises I hold close are more precious than ever.
Thankfully, life has taught me wisdom, a reward of growing older. I adapt more easily to things I might have taken too seriously years ago. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and am continually entertained.
God has been good these many years. I have no reason to doubt His faithfulness in my future. His plan is working its way in me. Sometimes it’s difficult, painful even, and goes against my grain. But I’m realizing His way is best. He knows more than I ever will. He does all things well.
The future is now. I can face it because I know the One who guided my past, who holds my present, and who will be there in the days to come.
I became acquainted with Christie Purifoy when I read her first book, Roots and Sky. The story of her moving to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, with her husband, three children and one on the way, moved me, and I gave copies of the book to friends.
The writing is lyrical, sentences and paragraphs creating song and melody. As Christie describes the places she and her family lived, she tells a story of life and loss. And she talks about trees.
Chapter titles are named for them: Citrus Grove, Pine Tree, Saucer Magnolia, Honey Locust. Because making a place you call home is not just about the building where you live. It is about the city, the neighbors, the parks, the church family. It’s about settling in and calling this place home for however long you are there.
I’ve not lived in as many locations and states and Christie. My homes have been within less than a fifty-mile radius from birth to present day. Yet home, with all the meaning I can give it, is significant. Memories evoke the places where they occured. The yard where I celebrated a birthday with childhood friends. My teenage upstairs bedroom with white cape cod curtains. The carport with wood neatly stacked ready to be carried inside for the fireplace. The kitchen where my mother taught me to cook and the one where I orchestrated thousands of meals. The lane where I walked to visit a neighbor. The gardens where I planted herbs, vegetables, and flowers, bending low to pull weeds and cultivate something akin to beauty.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Placemaker:
“Making and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. It is a holy pursuit.” “Every place made by God is loved by God, and that includes every place where His people dwell. If we are willing to look through the lens of His love, then we will see that every place has some particular magic.” “The trees know what we struggle to accept: it is right and good to love my neighbor as myself. My fate, and my neighbor’s fate, are bound up together. No human and no tree are an island.”
Placemaking is making a place, whether that is creating a comfortable home for husband and children, making room for friends at the table, getting to know the neighbors and looking out for one another, or opening one’s heart to love and be loved.
We’ve all been given places to inhabit and to tend. Christie Purifoy tells us her story in her own beautiful way.
[God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:26b
Though spring is three weeks away, signs are evident in February. Frogs croke in the puddles. Birds sing early mornings in the little woods. Geese pair up and honk loudly. Fat brown rabbits emerge from holes and search for patches of grass. Buds appear on trees. Crocuses surprise me by the front steps. Day breaks earlier, just before we ruin the natural rhythm with daylight saving time.
Maisie celebrated her 4th birthday in February. Actually, we don’t know when she was born. I’m told she was found on the streets of Mississippi with a litter of pups before she was rescued and restored to good health. We gave her a birth date because everyone needs a beginning.
Sweet William and I watched a lot of basketball, cheering our home team. Our guys are doing well this season. With the approach of March Madness, we will wear our colors with pride.
I finished a project that languished on my goals list far too long. Today black and white photographs of our families hang on the wall. Generations are represented, history is framed, and grace is revealed on faces. God has been good to us.
My favorite movie this month was the 2018 version of Little Women, the March girls thoroughly modern set in the sweet familiar story. Near the end of the movie, when grown sisters gather in their childhood play room, I watched, misty eyed, and wished I’d had siblings.
Bathed in Prayer, Jan Karon’s latest book, is my pick of the month, and I was the very first to check it out of my library. Father Tim’s prayers, sermons, and wise counsel are grouped together according to each book in the Mitford series. Tender and sincere, the requests seek God’s mercy and strength, with large doses of the prayer that never fails* filling the pages. I’m inspired to pray better.
I cleared out a couple of file drawers that held too many papers I’d saved through the years. I went through the alphabetic folders one by one. The file marked Stress Management was full of articles and helpful technics, and I recall when my life felt stressed on a regular basis. I was always looking for something to relieve it.
Thanks be to God, I’m not there anymore. I threw away the entire folder.
A friend asked me to help her organize her quilting shop. She has a great space where she sews and gives classes to help people like me learn the art of making a quilt. She pulled everything out of cabinets and drawers so we could see what she had and decide what to do with it. I told her more than once that she really didn’t need to keep this item or that. We decided that it’s easier to get rid of someone else’s stuff than it is to let go of our own.
“Lo, the winter is past,” said the wisest man. It feels like it should be as February ends. But we’re not out of the wintery woods yet. I’m not ready to put away my warm snuggly clothes. But I can already feel my energy rising. I notice that it is still daylight when my last piano student leaves my house.
Nature knows the seasons. Sometimes I think the animal kingdom has something I don’t. When the river rose from days of rain, we drove to the bridge to see how high it was and felt anxiety rise with the water. The geese on the lake across the road were not concerned. They continued to do what geese do.
Granted, they don’t have the same understanding as I do. Yet I have knowledge of the holy, the God who feeds the birds and the geese, who controls the wind and rain, whose promise to be with me no matter the situation gives me reason to rejoice.
I gaze at the pictures of my family on the wall, some of them I never met. There lives confirm God’s plan, His grace, and His redemption, and they have left their fingerprints on my life, in some way or another.
The sound of singing is in the air, the birds sensing a change. The season of winter will pass and spring will follow. Because God has purposed it to be.
He is fully trustworthy. My life is in His hands. The faith of my fathers resides in me. I have no reason to fear.
As autumn marks her days, we propel toward the end of another year. Can there only be one month left?
Ten weeks of Bible study concluded the first week of November, and it was a blessed journey. My study-sisters and I bonded through shared experiences, open hearts and vulnerability. We will keep declaring our commitment to Believe God from this day forward. The end of a study is bittersweet, the triumph of the finish line coupled with the poignancy of its ending.
Some of my piano students participated in a fall recital, and I was proud as a peacock. These three have been playing for a few years and shone like stars. As I listened to their skill, I marveled that I get to be part of this, the gift of sharing music with a child. Teaching came late to me, after years of administrative/management work. I believe I was meant to be a teacher right now, in this season of my life.
Sweet William and I watched God’s Not Dead: Light in Darkness, third in the series. It presented a balanced view of Christians who seek to follow God and yet we stumble. Sometimes we make wrong decisions and hurt people. But we hope in a forgiving God who gives second chances, who tells us to seek reconciliation, to make amends with those we wound, and to start fresh from a clean slate again. God helps us learn from our errors and grow in grace.
I’ve had a number of doctor visits this month, unusual for me. But I’m trying to take full advantage of my paid deductible. I often find I’m the only one in the waiting room with a book to read. This month I re-read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, a must read for every woman who wants to understand the men in her life.
The appointment with my primary care physician revealed I’m in pretty good shape for the years I’ve spent in this body. My doctor, who is the same age as my son, said she wanted to be like me when she grew up. Then she took x-rays of my knees. They show their age, and I certainly feel it.
Thanksgiving gave us food, glorious food. Our family knows how to put together a meal. I enjoyed the day with loved ones who are dear to me. My favorite comment of the day came from one of our youngest. This five-year-old was eating a piece of my sour cream cake and said, “This is the best cake I’ve ever tasted in my life! What is the secret ingredient?” I leaned down close to his ear and said, “Butter.”
The very next day, however, caught us off guard when one of own was diagnosed with a mass in her brain. Again we are faced with the fragility of life, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and the immediacy of prayer in times of trouble. We find comfort in knowing our God is sovereign. He is not caught off guard by troubling news, and He is very much in control when situations seem overwhelming.
The last days of November for this teen were spent in the hospital, being poked and prodded, having procedures and tests. The outpouring of love and concern, as witnessed through social media, texting and calls was heartwarming. People are our greatest resource and wealth. We don’t always realize how rich we are until something arises that saps our reserves of strength. We look around to see love being poured into us.
I began thinking about Christmas even before November began, purchasing gifts ahead of the frenzy as much as I could. Sweet William and I talked about paring down this year. It seems like that has become my theme. Do less and enjoy it more.
Years ago I had a friend who was a retired school teacher. She put Christmas in every nook and cranny of her modest home, and I loved going to her house. As she grew older, she used to say it was foolish to keep doing all of it, yet she did. And I delighted to visit her for a cup of Chrismtas tea, my eyes wandering to all the spaces filled with ornaments, elves, Santas and festivity.
There were years I tried to duplicate her holiday spirit at our house with red and green in every corner, on every surface high and low. But now I’m choosing to be content with enough. Temptations to add something else crop up when I view TV, Pinterest, and magazine covers. But I am determined to be satisfied so I can focus on what is more important. For me, less is indeed more.
I’m enjoying podcasts these days, and the ones about holiday stress are what has my ears perked up. One woman said she makes an “I Won’t List” of things she will not do that would only add to her anxiety. If I made such a list, first would be “Do not put out every single thing in those multiple Christmas boxes.”
What would I put on a “To Do List for December?” Share a Christmas devotional each morning with Sweet William. Respond to serendipitous opportunities with a friend. Attend a Christmas musical. Watch some classic Christmas movies in the comfort of home (The Bishop’s Wife,The Preacher’s Wife, and The Nativity are some favorites from my library). Read a novel set in the season. Relax and enjoy the holiday.
Perspective is everything, and it was crystal clear as we sat in the hospital waiting room. I heard my 12-year-old cousin, twice removed (or something like that; I never know) talking about something that happened “a long time ago.” How long ago, someone asked? “About a year,” he said. A year is more like a sprint to me.
As I turn the page of the 2018 calendar for the last time, it seems obvious that my year’s goals are a done deal. December is not the month to catch up on the big projects I had planned. If I deem them important enough, I’ll transfer them to next year and try again. The last month has a conclusive feeling. We are coming to the end.
Just as I view January as a new beginning, I’m seeing December as closure. The question I ask myself is this: How shall I spend these final days of 2018?
Some of my illusive, intangible objectives at the beginning of this year were to go deeper, keep trying, be creative, keep learning, listen more, enjoy this life.
This is where I shall focus time and energy as the next thirty-one days are checked off.
I pulled out the Christmas CDs from the back of the cabinet and put five of them on to play as I busy myself with the mundane today. Life is a beautiful thing and we have this day to live fully or to waste with unhealthy emotions. It’s my choice.
So let the music play. Advent begins. Sing Gloria!
How quickly a ride in the park can turn on its heels and take you in another direction, down a dark tunnel where you cannot see the light.
After a companionable family gathering on Thursday, I got a call while still out on Black Friday. “A mass in her brain . . . being admitted to the hospital . . . it’s very serious.”
Entering my house, I tell what I know while I fumble about with the insignificant, still trying to assimilate in my own mind what I’ve just learned. When unexpected trauma appears I ask the same question, “How can this be happening?”
I put on my coat and scarf, gathered Maisie’s collar and leash to go walk. I aimed for the end of our lane where an old cedar post used to stand. It was a place my dad went to pray when trouble blindsided our family.
As I reached that spot, I paused to remember.
My cousins’ parents and mine moved to this piece of undeveloped property in the 1960s. We grew into adults on this lane. We added spouses and then houses sprung up, all of us living in proximity to one another. As our children were birthed, one by one, the sounds of childish play roamed these 40 acres, all the neighbors being our kin. It was unusual for sure, and it was beautiful beyond description.
I think of all the prayers our parents prayed for us, sometimes when we knew it, but more often when we had no idea.
The family leaned on my dad as our prayer warrior, his habits and customs unusually disciplined and structured. It was his agreement between him and his God. He called all our names in prayer daily, nightly, and he interceded when we were in trouble. He stood at that cedar post at the end of our lane on several occasions that I can remember to speak to the One who knew us well.
Dad had a list with family names on it. It grew longer through the years as we increased in number. After mother’s death and his remarriage, he moved away from this lane into the house of my step-mother. Though miles away, he had a nightly ritual of going outside and turning toward the south, where we still lived, to pray for each of us one by one.
I returned from my reverie of memories to the present. The old cedar post that stood as a memorial is gone. I looked about my surroundings. The fields that used to surround our homes are filled with subdivisions, privacy fences and apartment complexes. Other people live in the houses that used to be home to my family members. Things are different now.
As tears rolled down my cheeks, I prayed too. The words that came were simple: “Lord Jesus help!” I knew He heard me just as He heard my ancestors years ago.
He is a God who leans down to listen. He was not surprised by a devastating diagnoses like we were. His intention and purpose are already in place.
Our family has a traditional day-after-Thanksgiving evening meal of Hot Browns to finish the leftover turkey. I asked my cousin, who hosts us, if she still wanted to do this. She answered “I think we are better together than apart.” I agreed.
Sweet William and I entered the house and the atmosphere was somber, so unlike the day before when cheerful noises greeted us at the door. This night we are quiet, faces solemn. The axiom, “when one hurts, we all hurt,” is true.
Before the meal we were not really hungry for, we joined hands and lifted our praise to our God who has been faithful to us through the years; who has seen us through troubles great and small; who has shown Himself huge and performed miracles we didn’t deserve; who has given grace to walk the hard places; who has never left us alone to ride out the stormy gales.
We asked Him for mercy, for healing, for strength, for wisdom, for His comforting presence. Our hearts are assured He will answer our cries.
This is what my family does in times of crises. We gather and we pray.
Today I turn on music to soothe my heavy heart. This is the song I wait for: