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Countdown to 2011 – Part 2

Here I am again with more tips on  getting organized in 2011.  Just remember, I am not a pro.  I am only sharing information that has helped me or that might help me in the future.  Organization is an ongoing project.  It only takes a little accumulate of things to feel out of control.   And I like to be in control.  Just ask Sweet William.

Work on the areas that are visible first.  For sure, those closets need your attention, but putting your visible surroundings in order first will give you a respite when you take a break from the closet chaos.  Besides, if someone drops in unexpectedly, you don’t have to make excuses for the whole house being in an uproar.

Keep only one, and I do mean only one, calendar.  This takes some discipline but is well worth it.  Whether you use a Day-Timer binder, a Blackberry or some hand-held computer, or a simple calendar on the refrigerator door, use only one.  Otherwise you will mark an appointment on what is at hand and forget to transfer it to your personal planner. 

Keep an ongoing box for Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Regularly deposit items that need to be re-positioned out of your house into the designated box.   Don’t go back through the box when it’s full and ready to be removed. 

Remember the stuff you keep is really keeping you.  Have you realized this?  The more stuff I have, the more time it takes to dust it, wash it, straighten it, and protect it.  Is that really the way I want to spend my life?

Reward yourself.  After you complete a number of tasks, take a break and do something you enjoy, like paging through that new magazine (stacked neatly with your other reading material) while sipping a great cup of hot coffee (made from the pot that is sitting on a neat kitchen counter).  Set the timer so you can get back at the task at hand.

The wise man Solomon said this in Ecclesiastes 3 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . . ” (verse 1 and 6).

January is my time to cast away.   More to come tomorrow.

I wish you a happy, safe New Year’s Eve and a blessed New Year 2011

 

Are you making resolutions or goals for next year.  Leave a comment.  I’ll share some of mine with you later. 

Merry Christmas Eve

Speaking of interruptions, (see yesterday’s blog post) I burned the ham I was planning to serve our family for our Christmas Eve dinner. My Sweet William said, ‘Don’t worry about the money. Just go get another ham.” Interruption.

Bill struggled in the bathroom (he’s just had knee surgery) and knocked several things onto the floor. Nothing was broken, but water from a vase went on the floor. Interruption.

After bowls of oatmeal and raisins (the last good-for-us-food we will probably eat today), I donned my Neiman Marcus green felt fedora (a cast off from my cousin – a find for me), hoping to cover the bed-head hair, threw my cape over my PJ’s (actually sweat pants and an old shirt of Bill’s), put on my sunglasses, and set off for Kroger, hoping to see no one I knew.

I quietly asked the Lord for a close parking spot. He gave me one, bless Him! I rattled my memory for the four items I was going to get: ham, a package of dry yeast, whipped cream, and a replacement soap dispenser for the one in the bathroom that quit working this morning. Interruption.

I only saw one person I knew at Kroger. She looked at me with her head slightly turned, smiled and wished me a Merry Christmas. It was the hat, I’m sure.

I grabbed my items quick as I could, trying to be pleasant to other last-minute shoppers like myself. I bought chocolate cream puffs from the frozen section, a substitute for homemade cookies this year.

I went through the self-serve check-out and wished the young man stationed there a “Merry Christmas.” The car trunk popped open with the press of a button, and I deposited my purchases. I took two bascarts back to the store, and a Kroger employee smiled sweetly and said a genuine ‘thank you.’ I smiled as I walked to the car.

At home, I put the new ham in the oven, careful to follow the instructions this time. I went into a food preparation frenzy. In between recipes, I grabbed stockings and stuffed them, put gifts in bags and added some tissue paper hoping they would look OK. It’s been such a busy few days with quite a number of interruptions.

Before the family came, I managed a quick shower and change of clothes, fixed my hair and make-up. Soon the house was full of my loved ones, lots of smiles and laughter, hugs and hearts filled with thankfulness that we have each other. And after all, isn’t that the best Christmas gift of all?

Merry Christmas everyone. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

Driving Incognito

Just a couple of months ago, late October, I said good-bye to an old friend, my 1993 Blue Cadillac Deville.  Sweet William and I had purchased it used in 2001 from a couple who only drove to Southeast Christian Church on Sundays.  Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.  We did, however, feel like we got a great used car that had been cared for and had low mileage for its age.  It was big and roomy, had leather seats and a few bells and whistles, luxurious compared to what I was used to.  And it had horsepower!

At the time of purchase, my two granddaughters fit comfortably in the back seat.  When the grandson came along, there was plenty of room for all three of them.  People who rode with me often said, “This car sure rides nice.”  And it did.  I loved driving that big blue car.  We became friends.

I was fairly recognizable driving around my home town.  Not very many people drive light blue Cadis, so I was spotted easily. 

As the years and the mileage crept up on the Cadi, more repairs were needed.  It was in the shop so many times our auto repair guy at Chuck’s Automotive came to expect us regularly.  The last time the Cadi broke down on the side of the road this summer, I didn’t know whether to call Chuck or the county coroner. 

Bill and I began to think about looking for another car.   After trying out several makes, models, and sizes, we found a pretty little black Honda Accord, 2007 with low mileage.  It was another gently used car that we hoped would serve us for many years.

Now I’m driving incognito, no longer easily recognized as people pass me on the street.  Have you noticed how many black cars are on the road?  Do you know how many black cars are in the parking lots?  A bunch, let me tell you.  I stood beside one, pressing the key’s remote unlock button over and over while nothing happened.  “Is the battery already dead in this thing?”  I thought, quite exasperated.  Then I discovered it was not my car. 

Recently I was walking through the church parking lot looking for my black car in the dark of night, pressing the button over and over hoping the lights would flash where I could see them.  Several cars looked promising until I realized people were in them with their lights on ready to exit.

It’s embarrassing.

I’ve been reading Matthew and Luke, reliving the story of the first Christmas. I find it so fascinating that God concealed Himself in the womb of a young virgin. His birth, though miraculous for certain, was still quite ordinary in most respects. Think of it – God Incognito!  The glory of the Almighty God was hidden, disguised, and undetected by most. 

Scripture tells us God revealed Himself to a choice few in the days surrounding his birth:  Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, Simeon, and Anna.  After that, Jesus lived an undetected life for about 30 years, walking the earth disguised and hidden.  Do you know how many Jewish boys ran along the paths around Galilee, how many were budding carpenters, hammering out wooden creations? 

People watched him grow up, become a teenager, take on his manhood, and yet they didn’t recognize that He was God incognito. John 1:10 tells us He was in the world, and though the world was made by God through Him, it did not recognize Him.

Just a few verses down, however, John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” (verse 14b).

Ah yes, God is still willing to reveal Himself to those who have eyes to see.

There is a funny thing about my little black Honda. It recognizes me when I push the unlock button. It flashes its lights at me even though I may not always see it.

God recognizes those who are searchng, those looking for something they think they need, somthing they hope will satisfy.  And all the time God is flashing His Light at them as if to say, “I’m right here!” 

Over and over in the Bible God says, “Call unto me and I will answer . . . ”  It is His assurance that He does not want to remain incognito any more.  He wants to be found, to be recognized as the Savior who came in mystery, only to reveal His glory and His love on the cross.  

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Remember the blog from a few of days ago, Christmas fun – December 8? I wrote about Elyse searching on-line for the perfect Christmas tree. Well, I found it! It was just like she saw it on Walmart.com. There is was at Wal-Mart dot Preston Highway. I spied it in the Christmas section, soon-to-be garden center when New Year’s Day comes and goes.

It was sitting on the corner display with a price tag in my range. It was a bit narrow and small enough to fit in and later be stored in our house. I bagged it in my bas-kart and called Elyse. “Guess what?” I said. We giggled together as I told her about the tree and anticipated how we would soon decorate it.

When I arrived home and unloaded the car of all the things I’d bought (why can I not get out of Wal-Mart without spending $100 plus?), my sweet William started unpacking the tree from its box. I saw its colored lights and was disappointed. I was expecting clear white lights, and I began wondering if this was the tree I wanted at all. 

But Bill was excited, as excited as I can remember him being about a Christmas tree. He was like a little boy again, transported by memories to his boyhood days when the family tree was filled with large colored light bulbs. Perhaps you can remember them, too. The bulbs were huge in comparison to the tiny lights we use today.

Bill reminisced and talked about happy Christmases past as we unfolded and fluffed the tree. I was no longer disappointed in the colored lights. It was well worth not getting my first choice just to see Bill’s delight.

The next day, the grandchildren came to the house. I carried down boxes of ornaments. There are the vintage ones, saved from my childhood, fragile and losing some of their color. Then there’s the collection of plastic bells my dad bought the year after his little girl (me!) broke too many of the glass ornaments. There are ornaments from Bill’s and my first Christmas together, and the yearly ornaments bought as our son, Travis, grew up. Some ornaments were gifts from other people and provoked a sweet memory. The grandchildren had fun hanging them as I told stories of each one.

Better late than never, our tree is finally decorated.  I remember Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas when he said, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.  It’s not bad at all, really.  Maybe it just needs a little love.” 

Love makes everything better, doesn’t it? 

Christmas fun – December 8

After an early morning appointment, I went to Little Flock to help set up chairs, music stands, and lights for the orchestra.  The music department and media are gearing up for the annual  Christmas Choir concert.  This year’s “Gloria” promises to be glorious.  I can’t wait to hear the drum line march in and play during “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Afterward, I picked up the three grandchildren to help me with a little Christmas decorating.  Pulling the multiple boxes from their storage area, I was amazed again at how much there is.  The children and I looked at some of the items and remembered them from years before.  I told them the story of the ceramic carolers I painted before I was married and the small village their daddy gave me to go with the carolers when he was old enough to buy a gift himself.  They carefully placed them on the piano.

Celeste found one small box and exclaimed, “The Snow Man Tea Set!  I love the Snow Man Tea Set.”  She took it immediately and set it up in their room.  Later, Celeste took a thow-away box and created a stable.  She set up a manger scene in it.    

Ethan pretended to be a puppy, dressed up like an egyptian sheik, then became Robin Hood with a mask I made him from an old Christmas card.

Elyse got on line to search for a Christmas tree for our house.  No, I don’t have a tall tree this year for all the beautiful ornaments I’ve collected through the years.  But Elyse and I are still looking for the perfect one.

All of us decorated the Jesus tree.  Only two feet tall, it holds small ornaments like a lamb wrapped in a red ribbon, a star, a heart, a tiny Bible, a cross, and other things that remind us of Jesus and tell his life’s story.

We took a break with hot Tazo Apple Red tea steeped in a pretty new green teapot given to me by one of my piano students.

I unpacked the Candy Cane mugs my mother gave me the last Christmas she was with us.  The children already know that story.  The mugs are treasures to me, and I think of her when I look at them.  It just isn’t Christmas until those mugs are hung on the little rack and sitting on the kitchen counter.

After the children left, there were boxes and greenery strewn about.  Dishes needed washing.  Stuff was in stacks here and there.  The house was rather a shambles.  I had to rush off to church for work, piano lessons, and choir practice.  No time to pick up and put things in order.

Back home, I looked at the mess that still waited for me.  I thought about the good time we had today, the memories we had made, the food and laughter we had shared.  This mess represents a little Christmas joy.   And I am so glad for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What a wonderful country we have where a day is set aside each year to remember, to consider how blessed we are. 

From the pilgrims’ simple beginning to the present day, we are reminded that being thankful on at least one day a year is, as Martha Stewart would say, “a good thing.”

My Sweet William and I drove back our lane to the home of my cousin, Candi May, and her husband, Flavius, today.  Hors d’oeuvres were waiting.  Families began filling the house with their joyful noises.  We missed one precious relative this year, my Uncle Leo Lockard.   His death last February leaves his place forever empty.  My almost 89-year-old dad and step-mother arrived last.  The house bursts with people greeting one another, sampling the snacks, talking and laughing. 

We could barely move through the kitchen as we brought in our special food dishes.  Each one added to a bountiful buffet. 

About 1 pm, it was time for the dinner.  My dad prayed, blessed the food, and asked that we all be ready for the Lord’s second coming.  It is his theme and heart’s desire that all his family are ready for Christ’s return.

Then the real eating began.  We crowded around tables, knees bumping and elbows close so as not to jostle one another.  I wonder how we all fit together.  We are a diverse group, different personalities and different opinions.  The thing that binds us is love, family, and our devotion to each other.

The children got lots of cousin-time, eating all the sweets they could stand.  The adults got their fill and settled in for another cup of Flavius’ good, strong coffee.

The dishes were cleared, the leftovers put away for tomorrow’s Hot Browns.  We relax, talk, share, and remember.

Bill and I brought the grandchildren home with us to spend the night.  Bill began playing the guitar while Ethan accompanied him on the bongo drums.  The rhythm was contagious.  Soon Elyse and Celeste were dancing around the room. 

We wound down by cuddling on the couch and watching Kung Fu Panda, while I typed away at the next blog post.

At movies end, we brushed our teeth, and I tucked the three little/big ones  into bed, saying a prayer of thanksgiving over them.

Ethan snuggled in the downstairs bedroom, hugging his daddy’s old pot-bellied bear.  With sleepy eyes, he said, “I love Thanksgiving.”   And I agree.

The practice of gratitude

Back in 1995 I made a Joy List.  I heard about it somewhere, so I listed the simple things that brought me joy.  Some of the entries went like this:

  • Saturday morning on the deck with a fresh cup of coffee
  • Hummingbirds
  • Listening to the night sounds
  • Daisies in a blue and white pitcher
  • A freshly mown lawn

I would look at that list occasionally and think of the good things in my life and be thankful for them.   In November 2000, I made a new list of things that I appreciated, a second Joy List.  And from then on, it became an annual exercise.  Each November I write down things for which I am thankful, the simple and the grand.  And each year the list has become longer.

Joy Lists, Gratitude Journals, Thanksgiving Lists – they are not new, certainly not an original idea from me.  Anyone can suggest we be grateful for the blessings around us, admonishing us to have an attitude of gratitude.  It is a good idea.  It takes our focus from the problems we deal with.  It makes us look outside ourselves.  It makes us . . . well, thankful.

David, the Psalmist, had it right centuries ago.  His words flow with thanksgiving for the wonders of God, for His forgiveness, for His presence, for His continual grace, and more.

We have entered the busiest time of the year for most people.  Retail employees, UPS package handlers, postal workers, and families with too many events to fit on the calendar will be hustling and bustling around town from now until December 25.  We will all be trying to squeeze one more activity into our lives, one more shopping trip, one more long day at work. 

Gratitude can become lost in it all.

I challenge you to take thirty minutes this Thanksgiving weekend and make a list of the joys in your life.  Not just because it is a healthy activity, but because the God of the universe is worthy to hear us say “Thank You for all You have done for me.”

He is the reason I breath in and out.  He is the One who provides my food and water, my shelter and clothes, my family and my livelihood.  He sets the sun in its place and calls the moon and stars out at night.  He keeps the seasons on schedule (despite daylight savings time!).  He clothes the lily and feeds the birds. He puts thoughts in my head for such a thing as a blog.  He makes it possible for me to think, to reason, to create, and to enjoy life.   He is the presence that sustains me in the harsh realities of life.  He is the strength I need when I think I can’t take another step.  He is the Savior who redeemed me out of darkness.  He is the joy and the hope that awaits me each morning.  He is God.  He is all I have ever needed.  He is I AM!

Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.  His mercy is everlasting.  His truth endures to all generations.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

 Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits,

Who forgives all my iniquities, Who heals all my diseases,

Who redeems my life from the pit,

Who crowns me with loving kindness and satisfies me with good things

so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 Bless the Lord O my soul!

(from Psalm 103)