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Sweet 16

Today is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday. I was blessed beyond measure to celebrate with her last weekend.

Sweet William and I traveled the long road to where our precious ones live, the one and only son and his family. The drive was worth the hours on the road to see smiling faces and be received with such warm welcomes.

I’ve missed some birthdays since they moved from the house next door. Thankfully, I did not miss this important milestone in my precious Grand Girl’s life.

She is the middle child. At times she is the quiet, introspective one. At other times she is the comedian, actress, goof-ball who makes us laugh.

the-3-grandsShe was born without me being at the hospital. Her older sister was brought to our house early one morning in November when time came for her parents to rush to the hospital. I supposed we had plenty of time to shower and dress since her sister took her time coming into the world.

I was wrong. Before many hours had passed, I listened to the message on my phone, “You have another granddaughter.” Elation and disappointment mingled, but I was thankful for her birth. We hurriedly made our way to the hospital where mother, dad, and new baby girl were contentedly waiting for us.

It was a day to remember.

Memories surface today as I think of my Grand Girl, us miles apart and in different states but joined at our hearts.061-2

She was the queen of dress-up. She loved the costumes and cast-offs kept in a box in the back room. She emerged as a character of some sort and took on the persona and accents with ease. One of my favorite personalities was Dr. Bendova, dressed in a white shirt, silly glasses and top hat. She made us laugh a lot.

Being the second child, she was often the companion and follower of her big sister. Once when she was allowed  to spend “alone time” with us, all by herself, she climbed up on the stool next to the kitchen counter where I spend a lot of time, and commenced to talk up a storm. I was surprised at all the words coming from this child who was usually so quiet. It was as if she finally had a captive audience to hear what she had to say.

She loved to cook with me, sitting on that same kitchen stool, us sharing tasks of making meals. Her consistent game began with, “Let’s pretend we’re on a cooking show.”

100_1062-2A few days ago we made pumpkin pie together in her kitchen. It was as special as it always was.

She was a girl of many faces, most of them silly. For years we could not seem to get a serious picture of her. With everyone posed for a snapshot, she invariably make a goofy face just at the moment of the shutter’s opening. While it was frustrating at the time, it has given us myriad photos of this girl’s special way of bringing comic relief to us all.

This past weekend, we celebrated that special girl.

She has grown tall and beautiful, graceful and distinctly herself, studious and artistic, bright and cheerful. She is thrifty with her money and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

She brings gladness to this Grammy’s heart. I love spending time with her.

As Sweet William and I drove home after our three-day weekend celebration, I thought of the trip, the memories we had made, the joy of being with our precious ones, the fun and laughter, the shared table of fellowship where hearts are content just to be together.

Time slowed for me those few days. I forgot what day of the week it was, living in the moment with each sweet soul.

Good-byes are never easy, no matter how often we practice them. But good-byes are as much a part of life as the welcome homes are. We must receive them both if we are to be loved and to love in return.

As we headed east to our old Kentucky home, the sunset glowed brilliantly. A song came to mind:

I think of my Grand Girl on her special day. My eyes mist and there’s a lump in my throat as I remember the child and watch her blossom into a young woman.

Her life is a gift to all of us who know and love her. Her gifts and talents are from the Father above who planned for her life. My prayers seem unceasing for her, that she will know the way the Father leads her, that she will follow Him with all her heart, that she will understand how great the Father’s love is for her.

I pray that her heart is open to receive all He has in store for her. It’s her birthday today. I’m so thankful she was born.

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Sweet William

Today is Sweet William’s birthday.

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It’s one of those milestone birthdays, the ones where someone throws a party and invites lots of guests to celebrate life.

He chose to spend it quietly with me. I determined to treat him special and with as much kindness as I could. Nothing was going to deter me from that goal.

I cooked homemade biscuits with breakfast, a rare treat these days when we try to watch our carbs. We ate on the deck in the cool morning and watched Maisie play in her fenced yard.

We relaxed with some pre-recorded TV shows. He got to choose. I didn’t even ask for a Hallmark movie. I brought him coffee more than once.

For lunch I fixed one of his favorites, broiled salmon with green beans and salad greens.

In the meantime, I changed sheets and did several loads of laundry, never once asking him to fold or put away. This was his day, and I tried to allow him to do what he wanted, relax at home.

The day is almost done. There is a coconut-pecan pie in the oven, our evening birthday treat. I’ll light a candle and sing to him as we finish another birthday.

Expensive gifts are unnecessary at this point in our lives. We have most everything we need. Time is our greatest gift, and I gave it to him this day, his birthday.

Tomorrow the calendar date will turn and the birthday will be over. But there will still be the opportunity to show kindness and love to this man, the one I’ve celebrated birthdays with for over 40 years.

Tomorrow is another day. And each and every one is a reason to celebrate life. This is our life, and we can choose joy as we live it.

So let the celebration continue. Happy Birthday Sweet William.

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Simple birthday

Today is Sweet William’s birthday and we celebrate simply.  I gave him a silly card, a snickers bar and a CD of The Isaacs‘ The Living Years album.

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There is a time for everything and a season for big elaborate parties, complete with festive decorations and a gift-laden table.  This is not one of those years.

Truth be told, we are both a little melancholy today though joyful to be sure.  Perhaps it’s because at this age there are so many memories to contend with.  We recently went to the place where Bill’s parents lived until their death.  It was an emotional trip, visiting the few remaining relatives living in the area, some aged, some confined to a nursing-home bed, some so forgetful I wonder if our visit will be remembered.

We both realize we are getting “up there” in years.  We are the older generation now.

Today we tried to recall what time of day he was born.  I remember this day was also my mother’s birthday and how we celebrated them together so many years past.

Bill’s older brother called to wish him greetings this morning.  They laughed and told jokes to each other.

The one and only son from too-far-away called in the afternoon, and I could hear the talking and the listening from the other room.  Father speaking to son with words familiar and tender.

Family is so important, whether we are young or old, near or far.

We ate a simple breakfast of sausage and pancakes, his special request.  The CD was playing “Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days,” and I could barely eat for the lump in my throat as I thought of the goodness of God in our “good old days” and the present where we now are.  That we are even sitting here together is no small miracle.  He and I have sailed rough waters in our years together.  God has been faithful.

I remember fondly the many birthday celebrations around our big table.  Favorite desserts for the celebrant were made with love, and there were stories and laughter and love in the atmosphere.  There was one year when each of us wore the birthday hat that started on my special day.  It was really a cardboard birthday cake handmade by the grandchildren but fit perfectly on my head.  It was our joke of the year.

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In the next couple of days Sweet William and I will gather with friends, family.  We will enjoy their company and eat good food.  I will bake his favorite pecan pie.

It’s the simple pleasures I treasure most.  Memories.  Communion around the table.  The smiles and laughter.  Friendships bonded.  Music in the air.  A kiss and a tear.

Birthdays are to be celebrated.  This year we celebrate simply.

Birthdays

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They come slowly when you’re a child.  They speed up like a fast-moving train as the years tick by.  The clock moves at the same pace, but life seems to go quicker while the years of my life increase.

Birthdays.  Celebrations of life.  Years experienced.  Lessons learned.

I would not want to live it over again, but I would not take anything for what life has taught me.

The number of birthdays I’ve had astonishes me.  They are more than my mother and my maternal grandmother got to enjoy.  And while I am not nearing death by any means, I recognize that well over half my life has been lived.  I don’t say my life is half over, I say it’s been lived.  For living is what I’ve done.

I’ve live much joy and much sorrow.  I’ve lived successes and failures.  I’ve lived in plenty and in need.  I’ve lived with loved ones near and long, hard separations.

I get to choose to live or not.  Some people seem to be dying years before they ever take their final breath, looking at their lives as if they are in a long dark tunnel headed for doom.  Am I going to choose to live the rest of my days or choose to start dying right now?

A friend reminded me recently of a quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption.  Andy, one of the main characters, was incarcerated 26 years for a crime he didn’t commit.  Even behind the walls and bars of prison, he said, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

I plan to get busy living the rest of my days.  Why not?  Each day is a gift.  I will open it in the morning and find grace enough for whatever comes.  I will look for joy.  I will offer love.  I will give thanks to God.  I will serve in ways I am able.  I will work and play and rest.  I will laugh and cry.  I will invite people into my heart, my life.

For as long as the Lord above gives me breath, I choose to live the rest of my life.

Sweet William

It’s Sweet William’s birthday.  We will celebrate as we can, in ways he is able.  Life presents its challenges to both of us.  We are in process, he and I, the process to become more like Christ.  It can be uncomfortable.  Sometimes it’s painful.

Some have asked about me calling him Sweet William.  There were years when Wild Bill fit him a little better.  His hard  hat at work bore that label.  The wild young man I took as my husband was fearless to tackle any project.

The years have mellowed him, tendered him.  It happened to both of us.  God has continually worked to change us into someone different, someone better, someone more like Jesus.  Grace flowed down on both of us, and we are living proof that beauty indeed can rise from the ashes.

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There’s a flower called Sweet William, a perennial I’ve grown in my garden.  The flowers are delicate.  My Sweet William doesn’t look delicate at all.  He is tall and broad-shouldered still in spite of too many health problems.  In those tender years of our courtship, he was strong and able to do back flips leaving quite an impression on this girl’s heart.  When he wrapped his big hand around mine, I felt protected and safe.

Time and illness have taken its toll on him, but he is still not delicate.  With the health challenges and pain he has endured, he is anything but delicate.  He is courageous and the bravest man I know.

I pray for a year of hope and healing for my Sweet William.  Though the thorns try to obscure, the flowers, the roses, the sweet williams are still there.  We will look for them.  We will enjoy them in the ways we are able.  And we will thank God for them.

 

Pulling together

 

“When we all pull together, together, together,

  When we all pull together, how happy we’ll be.”

So says a childhood song I learned in Sunday School.  It proved to be true for me last weekend.

My father, John Rayhill, will be ninety years old at the end of this month, and shouldn’t a ninety year old have a party?  Of course he should.  Being an only child it was up to me to do something. 

The first part of the year, Dad was not in very good health and talked of dying and wrote his obituary.  I really wondered if he would see his ninetieth birthday.  About the middle of the year, his health made an amazing turn for the better as he began to grow stronger day by day.  Thank You, Lord!

I began to think seriously about a birthday party.  I reserved a large meeting room for a weekend in November.

Then my journey took an unexpected turn.  Actually, it was more like dropping off the cliff.  My Sweet William had surgery in the summer, and his recovery took longer than either of us expected.  The wind was knocked out of my sails.  I had a hard time concentrating on most everything and especially plans for a party.

As November drew closer, I became more and more frantic about the event.  By this time, Sweet William had yet another surgery in October, and I was in the midst of caregiving once again.   Adding to my cliff-hanging days was the fact that my son, my only son, and his family had moved to Tulsa in September.  My mind was foggy and my heart was grieving.  But, there was a party to plan.  I honestly did not know how it was going to happen.  

At least I had a room rented.

As the days closed in on me, my cousin-in-law, Linda, came to my rescue.  She offered to help with planning the menu, shopping for the food, and overseeing its preparation.  I felt part of my load lift.

Other family members and friends began to say they would help with this task or that: decorations, preparing the room, taking pictures, clean-up.  I began to realize I was not in this by myself.   

I asked a number of people to tell stories about Dad, and each one willingly agreed.  I could see a program taking form.

The day arrived for the big celebration.  Cousins, cousins-in-law, cousins’ children, (did I mention I am an only child?) and friends began showing up at the rented room.  Tables were soon covered with black and white clothes.  Simple curly ribbons became a festive decoration.  Final food preparation was taking place in the kitchen.  A display of photographs and memorabilia seemed to fall into order.  A piano was carried to the room for songs later on.  Suddenly, it was a party!

I am sure the Lord above wanted Dad to have a birthday celebration.  How else could it have come together so beautifully?  My Dad was greatly pleased with it and enjoyed greeting the crowd of over 100 people who gathered to honor him.  Dad is still talking about it.

Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families . . . ”  While I may not be in the category of “lonely,” I am an only child.  So I think I can apply this verse to me.  God set me in an extended family who have been my substitue brothers and sisters.  They have stood beside me when I needed a steady hand, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to lift me up when I could not stand alone.  He has also put friends into my life who have been there in the good, bad, and ugly of my life.  And they decided to stay.  They are like family to me.

These people “pulled together” with me to produce a tribute to my precious father.  I could not have done it without them.

Blessings come in so many ways.  I know the best ones are the people I call my family.

A senior moment

 This is me when I was a little girl.  Just kidding!  LOL!  I’m feeling my age, and it feels really great.

It’s my birthday today and I’m having a senior moment.

One of the highlights of living to my sixth decade a couple of years ago was being considered a senior in the eyes of Kroger grocery stores.  I signed up right away.  On the first Wednesday of each month, you will find me shopping the isles of Kroger with all the other old people  You see, Kroger offers a 10 percent discount to seniors on that one day of the month.  The store even plays oldies music over the speaker system so we can sing along while we fill our baskarts.  I’ve learned to stock up on standard non-perishables (paper goods, dog food, etc.) and to buy lots of the sale items. 

I’ve tried shopping different times of the day to avoid the crowd.  Don’t go between 10 and 12 o’clock.  The isles are packed, the stock runs low, and checkout is a bear.  Early morning is best, 8 a.m. or earlier.  After 3 p.m. is not bad either.  I think everyone must be home watching Dr. Phil or their favorite soap.

I remember my 55th birthday.  I was taking the grandchildren to Mr. Gatti’s for lunch and found out their senior rate begins at age 55.  What a great birthday present, a discount on my meal.

I also get an amazing amount of pleasure when I drive through McDonald’s and say, “Give me a senior coffee, please.”  The price is hard to beat.

Except when I left my teens and turned 20 years old, I’ve really not minded my birthday.   I happen to like finding cards in my mailbox, having people wish me birthday greetings, and of course, getting presents.   Growing older does have it advantages.

However, it is no surprise that getting old is not top on anyone’s list.  It seems we try to fight it tooth and nail.  We can’t do anything about the increasing number, but we will not give in to looking old if it takes all the Botox in China to do it!

There is a big difference between getting older and growing old. 

I am comfortable being the age I am.  Though we wish we knew in our youth what we know now, it could not have been.  So much wisdom has come through the experiences of life.  Some days the roads were rugged; other days were filled with joy. I could not have gotten here without all those birthdays.

For what its worth, here are a hodge-podge things on this senior’s mind.

 ▶I’m not concerned about pleasing everyone, whether it’s the way I dress, the color of my hair, or how I decorate my house.  I am content with the person God made me to be. 

 ▶I have a love-hate relationship with my no-line bifocals.  I’m glad I can see, but the glasses are not like new eyes. 

 ▶When my underwear draw is empty, it’s time to do laundry.

 ▶The dog has trained Sweet William and me to feed him when he scratches at his bowl.

 ▶Ears get bigger the older we get.  (Oh great!)

 ▶Being nice to people is important.  It’s how they will remember me.

 ▶The grandchildren think I am beautiful because they love me so much.

 ▶Being married to the same man all these years is pretty special.

 ▶What I wear is not nearly as important as a pleasant expression.

 ▶Cute shoes are nice when your feet are young.  Comfortable shoes are a must when your feet get older.

 ▶I am not too old to learn something new on the computer. 

 ▶Reading good books will never replace video games.  (At least I hope not!)

 ▶Older people have stories to tell that are worth hearing the second or third time (or more).

 ▶Wrinkles are not so bad as long as they are laugh lines.

 ▶I recognize people I’ve met almost every place I go these days (especially at Kroger).  Remembering their names is an entirely different matter.

 ▶Just because I’m 62 doesn’t mean I can retire – or that I want to. 

 ▶I miss my mother a lot on my birthday.  

 ▶The older I get, the longer I think I should celebrate.

 ▶I want to leave behind lots of fun stories, memories my family can tell at my funeral so they will laugh instead of cry.

Sophia Loren, a woman who aged  beautifully said, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. ”

Wise words, I think.  But here is the Word on which I lean and trust.  This is how I rest in the days to come:

”   .   .   .    you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He.  I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah 64:3-4

The rest of my birthdays are held in God’s hand.  I am at peace with that assurance.

Leave a Happy Birthday wish if you’d like.