Archives

It’s November!

Yesterday morning, after two cups of strong coffee and an hour of quiet time and Bible study, I greeted Sweet William with enthusiasm. “It’s November!” I said. I was fully caffeinated and ready to face the day and the month.

As the cold temperatures become the norm, I admit unashamed that I don’t miss the garden work at all. Not. At All. Oh, there’s plenty I could do, things left on my outdoor to-do-list. But November gives me permission to stay indoors in fuzzy socks and flannel shirts while I think about projects that were laid aside when summer called to me.

This month of November, I want to focus on November and not stress about December coming close on its heals. One of my piano students told me yesterday, “Christmas is only 54 days away!” Please, I’m not ready to think about that.

November is the first pumpkin pie of the season, hot cocoa, fireplaces glowing (even if it is gas logs), shorter days that naturally cause our bodies to long for cacooning. I say, “Let’s do that.” Could we actually slow our pace in November instead of speed it up?

The anticipation of Thanksgiving will encourage me be more grateful for God’s bountiful grace and mercy. He is over and above the best gift giver. A sign over one of our doorways says, “Count Your Blessings.” Thinking about my blessings throughout the day and recording them in my Joy Journal each night will help keep me accountable to having a thankful heart, especially this month.

101_1808

I want to sit at the table with family and friends and enjoy those precious occasions. Eat slowly. Talk much. Listen well. Laugh often. Treasure friendships. Appreciate family. Marvel how the children are growing. Wonder where the time goes. This is the stuff of life. I don’t want to miss it.

101_1803

November is my time to leisurely shop for Christmas gifts, thus leaving December less stressful. Shopping on-line is the preferred method, avoiding the traffic, crowds, and advertising glitz that entice me to buy something I really don’t need. I’d rather be thoughtful about gifts and not just add to someone’s clutter and over-abundance of stuff.

I will consider how I might give to ministries I endorse: World Vision, A Woman’s Choice, Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Library International. These are the organizations that are doing something positive in our world. I’d like to be part of that by planning how I can fit it into the budget.

November calls me to celebrate in its own way. I will make an effort to stay focused on this month and what it offers, not allowing myself to feel pressured as December approaches, sapping the joys I could be experiencing today.

Part of my happy perspective in a season that has found me stressed in years past is due to a podcast I heard recently. Kendra at The Lazy Genius Collective talks about Opening and Closing Ceremonies on her podcast, making the most of each holiday. She has wise counsel to offer me.

If you are interested in getting a boost of happy as you move into these last two months, then give a listen.

November is Thanksgiving, Family and Friends, Snuggling with Hot Cocoa, Turkey and Dressing, All Things Pumpkin.

Let’s slow down and enjoy it.

 

 

101_1770

 

 

 

Advertisements

When it’s not all merry and bright

ornaments

My cell phone jingled with the notification of a text: “Can you play for a funeral on Saturday?”

It is my only day this week with nothing scheduled. I respond, “If you need me.” What a silly response. Of course I’m needed or otherwise I would not have been asked. I say “yes” because this is the gift I can offer.

Just because it’s December with Christmas around the corner, we are not immune to heartache. Death does not take a holiday. More email brings announcements confirming it.

I remember back to other years, other people, other funerals. Other sorrows.

I ache at the thought of families enduring heartbreak at the time of year when so many celebrate with gusto. Children are excited at the prospect of their wish lists showing up under the tree. Holiday parties fill calendars. Family gatherings are planned and anticipated. Preparation for out-of-town relatives is a labor of love as we look forward to being together once again.

If only it were all so merry and bright. We kid ourselves if we think it is.

For some it is not: a couple facing Christmas for the first time without a beloved granddaughter at their family table; a woman whose mother died in December and the anniversary brings poignant memories; a friend who is learning to live in the unknown of a diagnoses that is terminal.

Others deal with their own sicknesses and disabilities. Caregivers carry responsibilities that drain the life from them some days. A husband and wife wonder about a job that may be ending and an uncertain year ahead. Bills stack high on the desk as funds dwindle low. Families are divided for one reason or another. Plans we made for a joyful season implode when the unexpected report crushes them.

Life can be hard even at Christmas time.

The good news is Jesus. Jesus is Christmas. Plain and simple. He is the One and only reason for any kind of celebration.

God’s plan was formed before the foundations of the earth were laid, and He planned for Christ to come for us.

Jesus birth was not haphazard but detailed in every possible way. In the fullness of time, the eternal blueprint began to take shape exactly as the grand Architect designed it.

Jesus came for just such a time as this, to give us unspeakable joy and to share in our inconceivable sadness. His name is Emanuel, God with us. He is the Comforter, the Sustainer and Provider, the Friend of sinners, the Way to the Father, the open Door to forgiveness and freedom, the Wisdom and Power of God.

He is Wonderful. Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of it all. Period.

Who else offers this kind of relationship, who invites us to cast our burdens upon Himself, who bore our sins – all of our sins – on a cross and rose from the dead to assure us of an eternal home in the Heavens?

The circumstances of our lives do not dictate the celebration of Christmas. If we are expecting the picture-perfect magazine layout, where everything and everyone looks great, to be our holiday experience, we will be disappointed every single time.

But if we are looking for a Baby in a manger, a Child who embodies the very presence of Almighty God, we will find Him. He came to be one of us. He invites us to come to the celebration of real life.

There is cause for celebration this December. It is Jesus. 

The tinsel and lights may droop. The presents under the tree might be scarce. The family get-together could be somewhat dysfunctional. The cookies might burn in the oven. The hospital corridor may be familiar ground. There may be the sound a funeral song in the distance.

Do not be dismayed. Do not fear. Do not lose hope. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

He is the reason for this season of celebration. Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy!

nativity-vectorimage from freevector.com

Sweet William

Today is Sweet William’s birthday.

100_1480

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.

101_1120

 

In the quietness

Sometimes words fail me.

So it was last week. I had no words, no words to write, no words to say, no words I hoped would encourage or inspire. I was somewhat silent.

There is the ebb and flow of the ocean, and the ebb and flow of life. Waves bring the high tides and then they recede once again. The coming and the going. Seasons bring change, and change is always, always the constant.

It is appropriate to dwell in the hush, to break from the rush of chatter and babble. I make the effort to practice the discipline of a quiet spirit that I hope results in serenity in me. I pray for God to set up a guard for my mouth and keep watch at the door of my lips. The tongue can be a fire that sets a forest ablaze.

Sometimes I need to be silent and avert the burning.

I have never been the life of the party, the one person who lights up the room by her mere presence. I know people like that. I have friends with the bubbly personality that exudes laughter and fun. They lift spirits and bring lightness to any situation.

I’m thankful for those personalities, for those people.

I am of a different sort, the contemplative one who loves being with friends and family but who craves a calm space. Too much noise, clanging and clatter for too long, can overwhelm me, and I look for some place to escape, to pause and restore.

101_0645 (2)

While my week was one of few words, the ending was celebratory and festive.

Sweet William and I gathered with friends to rejoice in one has lived 70 years. Around the table, laden with delicious food and presents for the birthday girl, the conversation and laughter were just what I needed after days of stillness.

The very next day we were at an 80th birthday party for another friend. She was surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a tiny new great-great-grandchild. It was a loving family showering their affection on the one who has loved them all very well.

The house was crowded, and we squeezed around one another, observing and mingling with a family who celebrates.

To everything there is a season. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up. A time for solitude and a time to throw a party. It is the ebb and flow of life.

Last week brought both seasons to me. And it was good.

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.

Bill at dad's 90th2

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.

013104 227 228

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.