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Monday grace

I wake to the alarm, walk to the kitchen to make coffee, open the window and feel some little coolness. The dark liquid begins to flow into the pot and I remember: It’s my birthday.

How can I be this old when I still feel the same age on the inside?

I looked on the world wide web to search the day of the week I was born and this poem came to mind:

Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

peggy little girl

While I was a Saturday child, my experiences have encompassed each day of the week. Haven’t we all?

Birthdays make me contemplative. Deep thoughts swirl and twirl and pull up scenes from the past. I remember a few simple parties when I was young, my mother and dad being the focus of my life, an only and beloved child.  I’m reminded how becoming an adult changed birthdays, because there are responsibilities and work to be done even if it is your special day.

The first birthday after my mother died was hard. She made it significant. She remembered, even if everyone else forgot. Birthdays were never quite the same without her thoughtful touch on the day.

There was one birthday not too long ago when Sweet William was recovering from one of many surgeries in a span of three years.  I expected nothing, but he’d arranged with some of the nurses to have surprises for me when I got to the hospital. It was especially meaningful.

There have been times when friends remembered me with cards and gifts, and I was shocked that they knew and took such sweet initiative to make me feel special.

I recall the year I turned sixty, coming home after a day of work, and being surprised by my precious ones who then lived next door. They came to celebrate. The grandchildren made a cardboard birthday cake for me, and I wore it as a hat. It became the symbol I coaxed each of them to wear as they celebrated their birthdays that year. It is a tender memory today as I look at those dearly loved faces.

Sweet William and I pre-celebrated simply on Saturday, and we anticipate dinner with good friends this evening. We will feast on their fellowship as well as the good food. And we will eat cake! Or something sweet and delicious.

I expect calls from those precious ones I long for who are miles away, sweet wishes bathed in love, their voices the gift I crave more than anything.

I have penciled dates on my calendar, plans with more precious people in the coming days. I intend to savor this birthday week as much as I can.

While there are projects I need to do, I sit and think and type away and look at pictures and remember, sipping on the second pot of coffee. The projects will be there tomorrow, of this I’m sure.

The plants have been watered, breakfast cooked and cleared away, bed made. I will do chores as needed while music plays sweetly on the CD player. It is another day in my life, a day to be lived. It is a time to be treasured, a moment to worship, because I will not pass this way again.

Life is a gift, to be lived joyously, to be treasured. Our days are determined by God alone. He will decide when it is enough.

Until then, let me live, strengthened by the grace of Christ Jesus.

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Finding treasures

I guess I’m a treasure hunter by nature. I like old things, and exploring is part of the fun.

One of the first pieces of furniture Sweet William and I bought as a couple was a rugged looking, six legged table he found in someone’s garage.  We gave it the tender loving care it needed, and it sits in the bay window of the living room.

I’ve enjoyed scouring antique and junk establishments, garage sales and thrift stores. Unique things are the reward.

We ventured to our first official yard sale this week, a rite of spring, at an ancient little church not far from home. The women of the church host a sale twice a year in their modern multi-purpose room, and it’s always a good place to search out something of interest.

This year I spied an item that was a close duplicate of what I have at home, a small china hand that I’m sure was originally meant as an ash tray, the gold-plated indention at its wrist just the size of a cigarette. Mine rests on my kitchen counter, near the coffee pot, as the holder of a cream-stirring spoon.

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The small hand used to sit on my mother’s gas stove where she placed the burnt match she used each time she lit a burner or the oven. Because the gas did not run continually in her stove, Mother pushed the burner knob and held a lighted match where the gas escaped to light the fire that would get the cooking started. I’m sure that is against all safety regulations now, but that’s the way it was done in mother’s kitchen.

When she died, that little hand was one of the first things I wanted to take to my kitchen. It held years of memories of good food and my mother’s daily activity. Feeding her family and anyone else who happened to sit at her table was primary, and she did it well.

At the yard sale I snatched that little hand and carried it to where Sweet William was now sitting with a plate of chips and a hot dog. “Look what I found” I said, and we took it home with us, the treasure of the day.

Last week, I decided to go through the contents of the cedar chest that doubles as a window seat in the upstairs office. I had not looked deeply into that space in a number of years.

I pulled all the memories out of the chest and laid them around me on the floor. There were items from our son’s childhood: a baby blanket, high school ribbons and awards; a child’s hand print on burlap and colorful boy scout patches; a green frog costume I made for his elemenatry school play; a couple of baby spoons and a small wallet housing his name and “F.B.I Agent” written on notebook paper.

There was Sweet William’s high school choir sweater, my girlhood autograph book and one belonging to my mother with wooden covers; baby shoes worn by the grandchildren and a faded picture of my dad in military uniform on cloth emblazoned with the United States flag, American Eagle and the Liberty Bell. There are a slew of stick pins, awards for piano auditions, safe driving, school clubs, and employment. An old Bible was wrapped carefully with no one’s name in it. I have not idea whose it was.

I found a stack of 3 by 5 inch recipe cards, the ones we used to keep in boxes before Pinterest boards and on-line organizational tools. They were in my mother’s handwriting, and I thought they had been tossed in the trash years ago for lack of thinking. I looked at each one of them, some written neatly, some scrawled quickly, no doubt in a hurry to get a friend’s delicious dish written down for future meals.

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When I held the items from the ancient cedar chest, nostalgia rose, memories came and tears welled in my eyes. They hold a treasure of experiences, remembrances of days gone by and the people who made those days important.  All of them, even the unknown owner of the Bible, left their imprint on my life.

This week I had opportunity to talk to family members I don’t get to see as often as I like. Those few minutes on the phone are precious, the laughter and love expressed in words and intonation are held close in my heart.

I think once again of how valuable people are, the ones who come for a while and the ones who stay a lifetime, how they all leave a mark in one way or another. They are the true treasures of a life.

I heard somewhere that we have “the precious present” to hold and give our attention. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Today is a gift to be enjoyed.

I think how time goes by swiftly, children grow up before we are ready, parents die, and I am getting older by the minute. I pray that I can be aware of these days of my life, not only capturing them in my memory but taking the opportunity to express love to people on a daily basis.

There are still words I want to say, encouragement to be offered, prayers to send heavenward. I have life to share and hope to extend.

Time is always moving. I have the precious present and I know that people are my greatest treasure. I don’t want to miss a single one.

be present

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Remembering February 11

I started looking through the photos this week as I do whenever I think about organizing the boxes of pictures. I get a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of bringing order to a hundred years worth of family images.

When I come to the old black and whites, I linger long. There is one of my maternal grandparents looking young and sassy, and then years later they are with their three young children at the beach. I gaze at faces in sepia, my newly-wed parents, in the flower of their youth, and it’s hard to imagine them that way.

There are pictures of my dad in his army uniform and small portraits of mother that she regularly sent to dad when he was overseas during World War 2. I think how handsome he was, how beautiful she was. I only know those young people by photograph, and I wonder what life was like for them with their dreams and plans still ahead of them.

 

With those faces in the back of my mind, it’s not surprising to me that I walked down another memory lane this morning.

I’ve been reading the Psalms during February, and today I landed in chapter 56. I love the songs of David, Asaph, and the sons of Korah. In deeply troubling times, I have lived in the Psalms, the words reflecting my anxious heart and my dark emotions. Always, the writer points me heavenward, encouraging me to praise the God of mercy who is full of compassion and loving kindness.

This morning, this verse made me pause – Selah – and think:

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.   — Psalm 56:3

The lyrical King James language is so familiar and how I quote the verse to myself. It is the language of the Scriptures I grew up with and learned to love. Since then I have expanded my library to include lots of versions and paraphrases, all with the aim of understanding what God is wanting to say to me.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” I’ve been afraid, more times than I care to admit. One particular year comes to the forefront this morning. It was 1983, the year my mother took to a hospital bed in the living room of her and dad’s home, the one with red carpet on the floor. Mother loved red, and she had her way with this house.

Dad was a builder and over the years of their marriage, he built and sold our house four times that I remember. The red-carpeted-living-room house was to be the final home, and mother was a happy homemaker in it.

My mother, who had never been seriously sick, became gravely ill. When there was nothing else to do but make sure she was comfortable, we did all we could to see that she was, surrounding her with our presence. Friends and family filled the house during the early months of 1983, bearing food and fellowship, prayers and support.

My dad made gallons of coffee all throughout the day, standing at the gas stove stirring grounds into almost-boiling water. It was his old-fashioned way of brewing, and I suppose it gave him something to do. Coffee was our drink of comfort and he doled it out generously.

My mother loved to laugh and have fun. She was a warm and welcoming kind of person, inviting people into her life, loving them like they belonged. She was a woman full of faith in her Savior, and she had a voice that could “bring the Spirit down” as we used to say in our church. People loved to hear her sing, and everyone had their favorite song request.

As her life ebbed away, and that strong, vibrant voice became a whisper, she never seemed to waiver in her confidence in the God who was the subject of her songs. The words she sang so often were still true for her.

Sometimes when my faith would falter, and no sunlight I can see
I just lift my eyes to Jesus, and I whisper “Pilot me.”
“Fear thou not for I’ll be with thee.  I will still thy Pilot be.
Never mind the tossing billows.  Take my hand and trust in Me.”

Like those who experience heartbreak, I struggled with questions and doubts, not understanding why all this was happening. Why weren’t my prayers being answered in the way I wanted? I was grappling with my own faith, and fear was a companion.

When mother died on February 11 , dad and I were devastated, as were family members and those who felt like family. We wandered like zombies through many days and weeks, wondering how to live without the person who brought joy, laughter and love to our lives. But time passed as we tried to learn how to exist without her.

One day, I happened upon mother’s wallet. I opened it and saw her driver’s license. Those pictures are never good, but this time it was precious to me. Upon further looking, I found a strip of paper folded inside the wallet. There in mother’s familiar script were the words of Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” Then I remembered that she has written that verse on paper and tucked it into the strap of her bra, wearing it like a badge of courage during the days of uncertainty.

She had faced fear too. In her love for us, she tried to be brave, but she had been afraid. It was astonishing to me at first, but I recognized my mother’s humanity in that moment. She had been my rock, unwavering, unfaltering, always there for me with a listening ear and words of wisdom. Looking at her handwriting on a scrape of paper I saw that she was much like me, me with my with questions and struggles and my grasping for faith when it is hard.

What made the moment profound was the understanding that she had taken hold of the only One who could calm her fears, and she learned to trust even in her fear. And here was an answer for me in my own weakness.

My heavenly Father knows I am prone to frailty and fear. He speaks “Fear not” to me and asks me to trust Him when I can’t see what He is doing. His provision of grace through Jesus gives strength when I have none.  He runs to my cry of Abba Father.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of mother’s death. That day long ago is forever etched in my mind. Grief overwhelmed me then, and I didn’t think I could go on. But I was strengthened by grace, the same grace that strengthened my mother as she walked out her calling on this earth, the same grace available to each of God’s children.

I’ve learned a lot in the years since that heart-wrenching day, learned that God is trustworthy in the darkness; that He has a bigger plan than I can comprehend; that He is good and showers us with daily blessings; that He fills the hungry with good things; that He loves the unloveable and watches for the prodigal to come home; that He gives a second chance, again and again and again.

I have found God to be faithful through my years, every single time. And when I am afraid, I can trust in Him.

 

 

 

 

The memento box and Thanksgiving

I’ve had a box in the garage for a long time. When I stored it away, I wrote on the box an identifying mark, MEMENTOS. I’ve added to the box through the years.

memento – 1. something that reminds one of past events; souvenir (thefreedictionary.com)

Perhaps some of you will understand. I’m a saver, a keeper of memories. Often I keep things too long and end up with a banker’s box full of cards, letters, notes, etc. that were just too precious to throw out at the time.

So I tossed them in a box. And now it’s filled to the brim.

During my semi-annual clean-out-the-garage day, I determined I really should go through the box of mementos. I would look at the things saved one more time and throw them away. After all, one can only keep so much stuff.

My children will thank me one day.

As I am going through each item and reading hand-written messages, I travel back in time. There are birthday cards, valentines, and thank you’s, the happy sentiments with sweet messages of endearment. I smile as I read.

Then there are the other messages, ones sent during sickness, operations, long months of illness, and seasons of tribulation common to us all. These take me back to a different occasion, the difficult times when the prayers of others held up my hands during the conflict and the struggle.

I linger over the handwritten words, remember each precious individual who took time to choose a card, write their thoughts, address and stamp the envelope and mail it to the Wright House. I consider the effort and cost.

I am reasonably addicted to the quick email, the Facebook message, or the text sent on the run. I appreciate the quick way of notification and staying in touch. Often those messages convey appreciation and care.I like sending and receiving those fast and efficient communications. But I can quickly loose them as the phone memory gets full or other messages take their places in chronological order.

So to be able to read again the thoughts of those who cared enough to send their very best, I am touched anew by their demonstration of love.

I chuckle at some of the cards. One particular couple sent Sweet William get-well cards regularly during the years of suffering with his knee. So often they were funny quips with the wife’s dry wit of humor thrown in for extra emphasis. We needed a reason to laugh. And so I do laugh again as I re-read them.

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There are notes from piano students now grown up and pursuing adult endeavors. The “thank-you” for being a good teacher from young students is rewarding.

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Some of the cards were from the grandchildren when they were small, their childish scrawl and penmanship evident of their different ages. Those unstructured letters spell more than words. It took effort for those tiny hands to hold pencils and crayons and write a few simple words or draw pictures. They are love to me.

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I read beautiful prose from my daughter-in-love, her artful way of using language. Short notes written in my one and only son’s familiar script are equally dear.

Sweet William’s cards were always well-chosen, him looking for the perfect printed words that conveyed what his heart wanted to say.

A faithful friend’s remembrance of me shows up in the annual birthday greeting. Another friend wrote a note on half of a card, making it a post card. I love that about her. She and I like to re-purpose, re-use, and as she wrote “re-mail.”

I discovered a copy of a nomination for Mother of the Year written by my one and only son when he was a teenager. I cherish his tender words even now.

I dug down deep into the bottom of the box looking for the oldest of the contents. The treasure hunt produced the funeral book when my mother died over 30 years ago. It contains a record of people who paid their last respects, people who loved my mother dearly. Inside the book was a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson that was read at mother’s funeral. I have wondered where that poem went, and it was pure delight to find it.

This isn’t death – It’s glory! It is not dark – It’s light!
It isn’t stumbling, groping, or even faith – It’s sight!
This isn’t grief – It’s having my last tear wiped away;
It’s sunrise – It’s the morning of my eternal day!

As I read again this treasured poem, I am aware that some who wrote me have died. They also have seen their eternal day.  At 30 years past, I am nearer mine, and it does not seem fearsome at all but pure glory.

I’ve just touched the surface of the box of Mementos. This is going to take a while, because I simply must read each card again.

I consider these people represented by saved mementos, some who came into my life for a season, and others who came to stay. Both are vital to us as human beings. Relationship is the gift God offered in Eden and once again at the cross.

As Thanksgiving week implores me to remember my blessings, I count my friends and relations. I am blessed indeed to have people who care about and love me. I am equally blessed to be able to reciprocate that love.

Jesus told his disciples, “I have called you friends.”

Friends walk with us in this journey of life. They help us carry our burdens. They laugh with us, cry with us, pray for us, and sit in silence with us when there are no words. Without them we would be poor indeed.

I am thankful for God’s gift of people. They show me how to love.

 

Little girls and dollhouses

The dollhouse came to me as a rescue, kind of like Maisie but not exactly.

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[from Pinterest. Different house but a close idea-picture]

 

Parents periodically go through the mass of toys and clothes that accumulate in a house full of kiddos. Children outgrow things or there just needs to be space to walk on the floor. Thus the large plastic dollhouse had been marked to go.

My daughter-in-love asked if I would like to have it at my house for the grand girls to play with when they came to spend time with us. I said, “yes,” of course, because what Grammy does not want to have cool toys for her precious ones to enjoy.

The big house stayed in the downstairs extra bedroom, the one that used to be the one and only son’s room until he went to college; then years later I transformed it into the Grands Room. It was the main play place. There was a closet with boxes of dress-up things and toy dishes, a child-size table and chairs perfect for a tea party. The chest of drawers, an heirloom of my dad’s making, held changes of clothes, PJs, and underwear just in case they got to spend the night on the spur of the moment. And there was a bed waiting for me to tuck in sleepy heads.

It was a room they could call their own. The dollhouse found a new home there.

The girls and their cousins played with the house, furniture, and small-size family for hours. Sometimes I had visiting little ones who enjoyed the house. It was a fixture in the room.

I carried the house upstairs to a different room after the family moved from the house next door. I needed a change in the Grands Room, not a reminder of their absence.

For years, the house lived upstairs, its contents boxed away in a storage area. The box came out occasionally for play when the grands came here or when other children visited.

This year, I wondered if it was time for the house to find a new home. My grand girls are growing into young women. I didn’t think they would sit in front of the house and play like they used to.

So I asked the two girls, via Facebook, if it was OK for me to give the house away.

Their comments were sweet and filled with memories of the house, but they graciously agreed to let another child have it to enjoy.

I knew who the little girl might be,  the tiniest and youngest member of our family, so I texted her mother. She said, “yes.”

This past Sunday, this mom, her husband and children were in our neighborhood, visiting our common relatives and celebrating their daughter’s second birthday. I decided this was the day to deliver the house.

I carried it and the box downstairs and out to the garage. I walked the box down the lane to the neighbors’ house. Many family members were out in the yard enjoying the beautiful evening weather. Maisie was an attraction to the littlest girl as she reached her hand and said, “Me woof-woof” to Maisie.

I went back to my garage and carried the big house down the lane. When the littlest girl saw the house she began to smile and bounce up and down with joy. I grinned at her excitement, my heart warming to her enthusiasm. She began to play with it immediately, right there in the driveway. Her 15-year old cousin, the one who had played with my grand girls, began to help her pull furniture and tiny people from the box and place them in the house.

The experience was melancholy for me. It begins to close one era, the childhood of my grandchildren. They are growing up, each one of them gradually turning into young adults.

I walked back to my house, my eyes a little misty, remembering their childhood and how much of it I got spend with them, how precious those days together were. It is a gift I don’t take lightly.

As I talk to those young women who are now my grand girls and my growing-up grand boy, they sound mature in many ways. They are looking toward the future, and I wonder what God has in store for them.

I pray for His hand on their lives, that He will direct their choices, that He will show them His path.

Life changes and life changes us. We have to accept it, allow it to help us develop and blossom. We are always becoming, even as we age.  If we dig our heals in and refuse to see change as an opportunity, we will stagnate.

I anticipate a different kind of relationship with my growing-up grandchildren, one where we share ideas and experiences and we begin to relate as adult to adult. They will always be my sweet Grands no matter how old they get.

The dollhouse has left the building. It’s OK. The memories are still here.

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Simply remembering

I planted the last of my perennials today.  Fall planting is not as exciting as spring planting, but I anticipate beauty will surprise me in the months following snow.  After the plants were watered, I sat to rest on the swing in the front yard.

fall 2013 008Sitting there in that spot, I suddenly had waves of nostalgia overtake me.  I remembered the years when our grandchildren-too-far-away lived next door and the fun we shared in this very yard.

I recalled us playing badminton without a net and the accomplishment of them learning to keep the birdie in the air. My mind could see our son and daughter-in-love holding onto and running beside the two-wheeled bikes as the children tried to balance for the first time.  I saw picnics on blankets under the trees, kids swinging on ropes attached to limbs and climbing higher than I thought was safe.

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There sat the old wagon that once belonged to our son and had pulled the next generation.  And the pole house in the back yard that still leans.  Each year we wondered if this is the season that house falls to the ground.

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I remember when we squeezed onto the swing to rest or to talk, looking up at the feathery leaves above our heads.  And there was that one autumn, a Sunday afternoon and all three grands with us, when we heard the faint sound of cranes.  We searched the sky, scanning the horizons until we finally saw flocks of birds flying so high they looked tiny.  The thread of birds up above seemed to go forever.  It was that once in a life time experience that we got to share.

Again we sat on the swing together while parents took the family’s beloved dog, Blessing, to the vet for the final good-bye.  We waited until it was time to go to the grave site where our sorrow mingled.

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I resisted tears as I sat on the swing this afternoon.  Instead I chose to rejoice in those years when our activties were interwoven regularly. I said it out loud, “They were good years.”  It’s true that I don’t get to see my grandchildren as often as I would like anymore.  The road is long between us now.  There’s that longing for their physical presence, something texts, phone calls, and even skype cannot satisfy.

I could let myself be sad, feel deprived.  But today, I simply remembered the good years and was thankful for them.

Resurrection cookies

Day 33 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Make Resurrection Cookies with a child, yours or someone else’s.

Today my friend Robin and her kiddos visit to share an activity that teaches a lesson, making Resurrection Cookies.  Then they get to eat the results.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

“One of my absolute favorite things in life is baking with my girls.  We bake cakes, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, breads, you name it.  We pick our treat, don our aprons, and get messy . . . I mean busy.

Tonight as we act silly and have fun measuring out ingredients. we also reflect on the sacrifice of Christ and the salvation He offers. The girls take turns adding ingredients and reading scriptures.  We talk about how badly Jesus was beaten and ridiculed by the soldiers, how He was given vinegar to drink when He was thirsty, how His death brought life to His children, the salty tears of the women who loved Jesus, the sweetness of His love for us, and the blood of the Lamb that washes our sins away and makes us white as snow.

The discussion was light and fun.  Memories were being made.

 After the cookies were in the oven and the door taped shut, the girls went to bed.  We sat and talked about the cookies and reflected on the ingredients and the significance of each. 

As I kissed the girls good-night I asked them to think what the cookies might look like in the morning.   I do the same as I lay my head down to sleep. 

NEXT MORNING

GOOD MORNING!  It’s time to check on the cookies!

The girls removed the tape from the oven door in excitement.  They wanted to see what had happened to the cookies overnight.  They didn’t look much different than the night before.  Curious Maddie poked the top of a cookie and crushed it.  Then Emma noticed holes in the tops of other cookies.   I cut one open and we discovered the cookies were hollow.   Before I had a chance to ask them about the empty-looking cookies, Emma smiled and said, “ah-h-h, just like the empty tomb!

 

Yes, that’s it!  The final symbolism is the empty cookie representing the empty tomb!  

The power of death could not hold our Jesus!  He has risen

As we get closer to the season of Passover and Resurrection Sunday,  I remember the importance the Israelites placed on passing stories down to their children and grandchildren.  As we talk about Jesus, we can also make memories our children and grandchildren will share with future generations. 

These cookies are easy and fun to make.  If you don’t have children in your home, make them with your grandchildren.  No grandchildren around?  Borrow someone else’s children!  The memories will be just as special for you.”

For the recipe for Resurrection Cookie, go here.

Here is a list of supplies and ingredients you will need for this project:

Supplies:
1 cup pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Zipper baggy
Wooden spoon
Mixing bowl
Mixer
Cookie sheet
Spoons
Tape
Bible