Wednesday, December 1, 2021

December 1 - Candle of Hope

Looking back on my childhood, our Advent started on December 1st and ended on Christmas.  My mom handmade 25 little pockets of paper on a large piece of cardboard and filled it with activities for every night leading up until Christmas.  It was tradition.   It was long before all the dazzle of pinned ideas and social media inspiration.  It was simple, but magical and deeply rooted in faith and family.  The anticipation of opening up the slip of paper every night to see what the activity was exciting and part of preparing our hearts for the real meaning of the season.


Tonight's activity in our home wasn't as planned as my mom was so amazing at making it all happen.  Tonight was cutting some branches off our trees, in only the light of the moon, because I wasn't as prepared as I had hoped.  I quickly added the fresh greens to our centerpiece holding the candles to be lit each night.  This first week is Hope.   Our Advent Devotional reading is Unwrapping the Names of Jesus.
2 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.  Isaiah 9:2

We lit the candle of Hope, whispered a prayer, read the devotional, and listened to Silent Night.  The candle danced its light in the darkness around us.  I paused.  My heart and mind both met quietness.  This is tonight's handful of quietness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Quiet Moments - nature walking

 

 . . . because little hands teach us big things.

 

 . . . because the sound of water is worth listening to.

 







 . . . because walking with nature is stepping into the Master's creation.

 

I often get a bit wordy and ramble on, so these quiet moments posts will be a mere whisper of pauses where silence speaks louder than words and the camera captures the beauty of life.  These moments were inspired by a blogger I've truly found as a kindred spirit (a virtual mentor).  I now have a handful of these special mentors over the years of blogging. She's shown me that what I was already doing with my family was beautiful and to slow down and capture it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Finding my way

 

The crisp air is finally making its way to our little mountain top.  The temperatures are dipping below freezing and the daytime is still warm enough to feel the rays of sunshine.  Each fall I feel an awakening of renewed strength and I find my way back to that part of me that I lose come each summer as the heat steals away my energy.

 

I take a deep breath and look around.  

 

My home is cluttered, my hands are wrinkling, and trees are bending in the wind outdoors and I can sometimes hear a branch snap.  My back hurts nearly every day now.  It bends like those trees at times and I wonder what will be that point where I feel the break like the branch on a tree.  Elevation issues cause pressures in my head and headaches often follow.  I move slower, I function slower.   I'm getting what I've always dreamed, but not in the ways I had thought.  I was feeling the busy take hold of life years ago and struggled to find slow, and now it has come in the form of painful twinges that force me to relinquish what the mind wants to accomplish against what the body can actually do.


I've been gifted so many seasons of being able to push through the pain and I feel the slow now coming on beyond those dreams.  My once immaculate home suffers with piles in each room and I see dust where I've chosen to rest over perfection because I don't want to waste energy fighting it.   Chronic pain and I go way back to my teens and has added new layers over time.  It's my shadow and follows me everywhere.   Sometimes it tries to steal the joy in my everyday life, but deep within, I'm not sorry that it follows me around.   It's made me stronger.  I see the little things that I know I would have missed had I been walking life at a faster pace.  I see God in the gift of life and the challenges bring me closer to cherishing every movement.  Standing up, sitting up straight, every step is not be taken for granted.  Household chores are precious because I can do them.  I pause to reflect upon others who can't.  I am grateful for every load of laundry I've washed and folded, every pile of dishes that served my family and made it back clean into the cupboard. 

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.  - F. Scott Fitsgerald


I think the area I struggle the most is the inability to serve more outside our home.  I've been creative over the years in small ways like doubling up supper to bless a neighbor with a meal, but my heart feels a little let down that I can't keep up or do the things I'd love to.  I guess this is where writing became part of my soul. I've been told numerous times that something I've written has offered encouragement or inspired someone in difficult times.  Maybe it's a way to serve.   I've tried to let it go and pursue other avenues, but I am always called back to write the words of my heart.  I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a paragraph being written in my head until I'm forced to grab a pen and paper. It then turns into a chapter.   Eventually it gets lost in an old journal hiding in one of those piles that waits for my attention. 

 

It's hard to write the overflow of your heart and share something that potentially could be picked apart by others.  I've had my ups and downs of blogging in the past.    I've quit many times because I felt like the window to my soul or my family has been far too exposed.  This time, I'm trying to write from the same window, but with a sweet curtain to shelter the harmful rays.   I am inspired by other kindred people and don't want to copy, but share that because of them, I was able to bring similar moments into our home.  

 

I'm not really a writer. This is just a new chapter in the same book starting again as it gets "crisp in the fall".  I'm just part of the story - telling the story. . . becoming the story in the handful of quietness.   

Monday, November 22, 2021

It was November

photo credit: unknown

 


It was November - the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.  Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.   - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The full November twilight had fallen around Green Gables, and the only light in the kitchen came from the dancing red flames in the stove.  Anne was gazing into the joyous glow where the sunshine of a 100 summers was being distilled from the maple cordwood.  - Lucy Maud Montgomery


While Anne is famous for her "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers", I take delight in living in a world where there are Novembers.  A month of little teases of winter, the cold mornings where you see your breath.  The autumn colors paint the trees and the wind blows a shower of leaves.  The month of counting blessings and families gather to share a meal of Thanksgiving.


The pandemic of 2020 stripped the gathering part of this tradition across our nation.  Our table was set for only four and we gave thanks with a hope that this would surely end soon.  We were vigilant in staying safe from this infamous virus.  Days were long.  Staying home was hard and almost felt unbearable.    Empty chairs haunted my heart as I served that year's meal.  I missed the hugs and family outnumbering the chairs around the table.  Giving thanks among the longing is sobering.  We had escaped the virus thus far, we had an abundance of food as I learned to stock for the emergency, and we have never run out of toilet paper.  We live in a time period where church wasn't in a building,  but in our home, streaming live over the internet.  The days were slow and beautiful and although I've always felt like I belonged in different century, I am truly grateful for the virtual connection we now have in comparison to past times.

 

This year has continued to carry some remnants of the previous year.  We've all been changed.  People look different with masked faces and eyes of fear if you get too close or cough or sneeze.  Hand sanitizers greet you everywhere.  Quarantine became a common household event.  Mandates force people to choose between food and shelter or standing within your beliefs.  The lingering virus reared its ugly presence in nearly all our nearby family.  We learned creative ways to help without contact, and we lived the horror of a little one battling for her life in the PICU and witnessed the answer to prayers as she miraculously recovered.   We traveled across the country by car, taking every precaution and felt the familiar freedom we had been missing in outdoor spaces and truly perfect weather.  We savored an Arkansas rainfall and went on an alligator hunt in Florida.  We saw each state we crossed, handling the pandemic so differently.  We met with dear friends and family and slowly life was returning to a new form of normalcy.

 

But despite all our efforts, the virus made its way into our home in late summer.  Post trauma loomed like a grey heavy cloud, as we waited to see how it would affect the rest of us.  Learning to practice faith over fear, was tangible.  Just as unknown as the virus is, only one in our household was sick.  And only that one ever tested positive and suffered the fever, loss of smell, congestion, and a slight cough.  The rest of us repeatedly tested negative.   We feel spared, but yet, remain cautious because we know the other side of this, too.

 

As I plan for Thanksgiving this last week in November, I have much to give thanks, but my heart is somber.   I know there is so much unrest.  All conversations always seem to spiral back around this pandemic:  government control, vaccine status, rising costs, and the empty spaces on the grocery store shelves.  Among all the continued supply shortages, we were able to buy a turkey after two attempts,  and found most of the ingredients for our usual side dishes and pies.  Any empty chair this year seems so trivial compared to the empty hole of losing our neighbor and a nephew or the heartbreaking divisiveness and separation among family on political or medical topics.  The real division being spiritual. 


Our older children have their own growing families and time is now shared and our tradition is changing.  I am full of mixed emotions.  I am grateful.  I am rooted in faith.  I miss the days where I didn't know some of things I do now.   Oh, that sweet innocence of childhood is long gone.  Always though, it was and is the Novembers, my steady tradition,  that I continue to choose to reflect with humility, pause to give thanks while I seek a handful of quietness for my soul.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Once upon a time...

 

Once upon a time, there lived a woman whose heart grew quieter with each passing year.  Her voice, once loud and confident, became softer.  She weakened her quest, and she became more introverted looking for her inner self.  She found rest - the kind that only comes with silencing the noise.  She replaced busy days with slow days.   But, her heart remained just as passionate and overflowing of her deeply rooted faith.  She met grief and sees the beauty of each today knowing that tomorrow isn't always promised.  She knows lonely, but is never truly alone.  She feels the pain of others and empathy is now a dear and kindred friend.  Her heart is a messy blessing full of stories of how she learned about love and accepted grace.  And so she writes to spill the overflow like a tea kettle pours a cup of tea.  


Handful of Quietness

I really struggle with introductions.  I don't like attention directly on me;  like I really struggle having my picture taken.  In this day and age, it's not all that safe to share too much, so this needs to feel comforting and cozy, much like a warm blanket offers security.  So while anonymity is not the goal, safety among the world wide web holds the key as I expose the depths of my heart.

 

I'm a wife, mom, and grandma - titles I carry dearly and try not to take them for granted.  My husband is truly my best friend and over the years, I've come to love him that much more, especially for his patience as I still learn to be the wife he deserves.  My children are my joy, and my grandchildren allow me to spoil a little like I cautiously avoided with my own.

 

I'm a homeschooling mom with graduated students, while still yet deep in the trenches with a few more who continue teaching me as I learn beside them.  It's a beautiful balancing act - and the gift of grandchildren now, has made it bittersweet to see my children grown, raising and homeschooling children of their own.


I love to read, but not so much for myself, as aloud to my children snuggled up together.  Give me a pile of blankets, a good book, some candle light, and a good storm brewing outside, and I'm in my happy place.


I'm a Bible believer, simply put.  I tend to stay away from main stream commentaries and rely on only the scriptures to speak.  I stumble over and over and seek grace to humble me in this journey as I continue to listen to the Word.    I pray that my work to keep a home and raise our children with faith, will continue among the generations as my mama gifted me, and her mama gifted her, and .... I only hope it was passed along farther than I know.


If all that I am remembered for in this lifetime is keeping a house and raising our children Home to the Father, then I will have had greatest success one can hope for in life.


. . . and so I blow out tonight's candle and hope that I can find the words to become the story that I am called to be.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Broken purpose

 


I wasn't planning to start writing here today, but yesterday grief forced it's way into my life again.  I lost a dear friend. One of my only in person friends.  A neighbor.  I deeply believe that she was a gift in my life.  She gave me a purpose but hindsight looking back,  she was teaching me to love my neighbor.   The kind of love that Jesus spoke of in reference to the greatest commandments:

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.   --Matthew 22:39

The rain is pouring outside.  Rain and grief seem to go hand in hand together.   I love to watch the rain and so did my dear neighbor friend.  She and I both hated the heat of summer and would dream together for the cool weather to finally return.  She would have liked the weather today.


I'm writing through these painful tears rolling down my cheeks and off my face;  the kind that has sobs that take away your breath and your eyes get so puffy they are hard to open.  I feel guilt for not being a better neighbor.  I did try and in the worldly sense was a  "good" neighbor who brought her meals, called her often, and listened, but I know I could have done better and now it's too late and I'm aching inside.  That pain is what is suffocating my beating heart and the words need to be written as they overflow with the salty tears.


We were opposites in so many ways.  She could laugh out loud, really loud.  She drank a lot.  She had a really hard childhood.  She could make the best potato salad.  She would never forget to call.  And she had a special innocence to the world around her, which was God's grace as she would really worry herself sick - like physically sick.   


But something she did best, was to truly love greatly.  She was a friend to my children and I know she loved them and my grandchildren as much I do.  She always had a dish full of candy.  I was a wee jealous of her sometimes.  She got to give them candy and I had to play the good mom and not let them eat too much candy.  For these many years that our property shares a fence line, I wish I had taken more time to sit face to face like my children had and gotten to see her smile more or the light in her eyes.  My children knew it well.   My husband knew it and I know I missed out on a lot of special moments.  They were the ones that would trek back and forth anything we wanted to give each other.  I grieve this so much right now.  I'm already missing the daily phone calls and even saved her last voice messages because I want to hear her talk again. 

 

I have the macaroni salad in my refrigerator that she made the day she died.  She was so worried over spreading germs to us that she called to share that she had used hand sanitizer and made sure that everything was carefully washed.  My last conversation with her was about this macaroni salad and I shared how I wasn't worried about any germs and that I had already enjoyed a bowl of it for my breakfast.  I see that macaroni salad in the refrigerator and I can't seem to eat it right now.  I have no appetite and that irrational thought haunts me that saving it somehow will make it last longer and hurt less.  I know it was one of the last things, if not the very last thing she cooked.  Cooking was part of her love language, but she had so many love languages.  Over the years, cooking was really hard for her.  Her hands shook and she often felt dizzy.  I sent over some Circus Peanuts candy that I had bought for her when my daughter met her husband at the fence to get the macaroni salad.    It was her favorite candy.  I don't know if she even ate one and I don't know why I even bought it when I did with no special occasion.  Maybe a gentle nudge maybe from the Holy Spirit.  I hope that she knew that I often thought of her even though I failed to visit her like I should have.  It would be easy to blame the pandemic, but for years before that I failed at this too.  One day I hope I can forgive myself as I am thinking she would have already forgiven me now.


I do remember giving her a Bible on a visit.  I've only had a few moments in my life where I felt the nudge to give a Bible to someone.  I'm not even sure she would be able to read it with her shaky hands.  Again, I wish I would have helped her read it.  Guilt has a way of making itself bold in the beginning moments of grief.   I know she prayed.  She actually shared something one day about her prayer life that I am learning to be better at because of her.  She struggled with swearing and cussing and always said she had a sailor's mouth, but that she would pray anyways knowing that God made her and knew exactly how she was.  She knew He accepted her just for being her.  She would pray on her porch in the morning, with her cigarette and her Mexican coffee, spiked with alcohol,  but she showed up for prayer.  She showed up to pray looking up at the sky.  I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes, I haven't shown up - just like walking through our fence line to show up for a visit.  Oh I hurt.  I was hypocritical giving her a Bible and yet sometimes missing out on part of the relationship with God myself.  I realize now that Edie taught me this - she taught me relationship building with talking and listening.


So as I sit here, with raindrops on the windows, typing this out with my cloudy eyes, my faith is mixed with guilt.  Some say angels are walking among us.  The Bible tells us:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.     - James 1:17

Edie was a gift.   She was my good and perfect gift as my neighbor.  While I thought she was giving me some purpose in life, maybe, actually I know,  I was part of her purpose.  She was giving me purpose by teaching me about the very deeper part of purpose.    

 

Lately, my husband and I have been discussing a move from this home to another state, but there was always a struggle to move away from Edie.  I felt needed here by her and that I needed to help her.   I am so sorry that I didn't see that I needed her.  I needed her probably more than she needed me.

 

Edie, I miss you so much.  I needed you in my life and will forever be grateful.  And as we ended every phone call she would say, "If you need anything call me."  I'd return that same sentiment and then both of us would say, "I love you."   I never did "need" anything that I knew at the time, but always tried to stay in touch every day.  Today, I desperately want  to call and say, "Edie, I'm calling because I do need something -  I need you". . . I want her back in her house so I can walk over and get in all those visits that I should have done more.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,  I'm showing up for prayer.  I'm hurting so badly and don't even know how to pray right now.  Thank You for gifting me Edie.  Please help me to use her example in my life. ~amen


Sidenote:  Our house phone just rang and my heart pounded fast.  Edie was the only one who called on our house phone number beside spam calls.  We kept our landline for her calls.  We all knew that if it was Edie we answered it and all other calls just went to the machine.  Another trigger earlier today was hearing the sirens.  I will never forget sitting on my bed and hearing the firetruck.  I just knew it was too close.  My youngest daughter and I ran to the my bedroom window and pulled back the curtains to watch it pull up her driveway with an ambulance shortly following behind.  My husband went next door to offer support and I watched, texted my daughters to pray,  and then saw the ambulance leave with lights and sirens.  I just knew then, but hoped for something different.