Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year



Close the door on 2012.
Open the door to 2013.

My blog plan for January is to spend a quiet month, posting a photo each day. I will probably toss in a few words here and there, thinking a picture can't possibly be worth a thousand words without my help. But mostly, I will try to stay quiet.

I know you all are busy with your own planning and re-grouping for the new year. I'll take the month to work on a few projects and find the space to breathe, deeply. Let's relax, take a deep breath together, and look forward to all that 2013 has for us.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Higher


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55: 8-9

joining the quiet Sunday Community
also linking with http://myfreshlybrewedlife.com/

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Day After Christmas


A Short Story



As Beth opened the door of the coffee shop, bells jangled from the handle. Caught between the inside air and the crisp wind outside, her ponytail blew around her face, her denim skirt twisted around her legs. She closed the door, pushed her hair and skirt back where they belonged and inhaled the sweet, bitter, cozy scent of coffee. Jess waved to her from her corner table. The door opened behind her, the wind grabbed her hair and skirt again. She stepped aside to make room as Cara stepped inside.

The two friends greeted and walked over to join Jess, waiting for them with three cups of pumpkin spice coffee.

“My favorite part of Christmas is when it’s finally over,” said Cara as she plopped into her chair and took a sip from her cup. “Thanks Jess, this is good.”

“Don’t talk like that,” said Beth.

“You don’t have to survive my family,” said Cara. “The hateful glares between my mom and dad. My grandma lecturing my dad about all he should or shouldn’t have done while ‘Silent Night’ plays in the background. No, I am glad when the holidays are over.”

“Don’t you enjoy any of it? What about the music or the food or the decorations?” asked Beth.

“No, it all reminds me of what our family isn't. I can’t see past the animosity and resentment.”

Beth turned to Jess, “How was your Christmas?”

“You make me feel guilty, Cara. We all got together, had lots of presents and loads of food and lots of fun.”

“How about you, Beth?” asked Jess.

“After church, we each opened one gift, we had our big meal, read the Bible and sang hymns, each picking our favorite.  Later, we went to the convalescent home where my grandpa lives and my dad led a service for all the dozing old people. It was delightful.”

“You don’t sound too thrilled with Christmas, either,” said Jess.

“In my family, there is so much focus on what is right or Scriptural we forget to have fun.  We have to ‘do’ Christmas instead of having a relaxed, easy, happy, together Christmas.”

Jess leaned back in her chair. “There is such a huge build up before Christmas. Seems it starts earlier each year.”

“And drops harder when it is over, when all the disappointment and dissatisfaction hit. When you realize all you didn’t do or didn’t get or didn’t give. When the next three hundred and sixty-four days seem a relief,” added Cara. “I wonder if it is wrong to feel a sense of grief. Relief and grief, when finally, it is all over.”

“I don’t think it is wrong. Recognizing your feelings is a good thing. What you do with those feelings is what matters,” said Jess. “Acknowledge your feelings of sadness, regret." Jess paused, "Cara, can you think of three good things that did happen?”

“Three things?” She counted them off on her fingers. “Well, my dad did try to say something nice to my grandma instead of fighting back, even when she was hounding him. My brother and I had fun building a puzzle together.  The mashed potatoes turned out well even though I tried a new recipe.”

“There you go. Three things to appreciate and remember, with a smile and gratefulness. Does that change your perspective?”

“Yes, I guess it does,” said Cara. “Guess I could come up with more good things, too, if I tried.”

“Exactly. Isn’t that the message of Christmas?” asked Jess. “The gift of love, shared with us, right in the middle of our messy lives. Right where we are.”

“I can see what you are saying,” said Cara. “It would be hard to be angry and bitter if I think about loving, kind things.”

Beth added, “I can see that I need to work on my perspective, too. To see all I do have in my home and family, instead of thinking about all I think we don’t have. We do have some fun together, even if it isn’t exactly like I would like it to happen.”

“Look,” laughed Jess. “I am not trying to be a psychotherapist or something. But being grateful makes a huge difference. Focus on the negative, and that is what you will see. Focus on the good, even if it is just a little, and the little grows bigger.”

The three girls sipped their coffees, quiet with their own thoughts.

Cara said, “I came here to unload and complain to both of you, expecting you to sympathize with me. Instead, I see Christmas in a different light. A light, kind of like the Christmas star shining over everything.  Gratefulness, illuminating, shining light on the beautiful and on the ugly parts of life.”

“I like that,” said Beth. “The manger scene, the shepherds in the field, all lit up by the light of the Christmas star. Right where they all were, busy with their lives, their work. The light shining over all of it. And here, now, each of us with our own family challenges. The light shining over us, too.”

“Makes me almost look forward to next Christmas,” said Cara, and the three girls laughed.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Take the Slow Journey



"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life."

- Author Unknown

"And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
2 Peter 1: 19
joining with the quiet Sunday Community



Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

...In His Hands

"Mom, you worry about me too much."

Immediately, all the justifications, rationalizations, reasons (excuses?) come to mind. But I don't say them, because he is right. Instead, I say, "Okay, so how should I think about you? If I shouldn't worry, what is the opposite of worry?"

He didn't know, and I wasn't sure, either. Like fear not being the opposite of courage, worry is not an easy term to label, define. I told him I would work on it.

My well-worn Thesaurus and Webster's Dictionary and Strong's Concordance sit on the shelf next to my desk, an easy arm reach away. I love words, thinking about them, wondering, playing with meanings, attempting to use them in intelligent, meaningful ways. I pull out the Thesaurus and skim down the long list for synonyms of worry.

The image of waves comes to mind. Powerful waves pounding on the shore, the spray wetting everything within reach, the rocks worn smooth from the daily impact, the crashes resonating through the sand and air. Beaches re-configured day after day as the waves wear away at the shore. Tides changing, every day different. Anxious, uneasy, concern, dismay, grief, anguish, difficulty, agitation.

I skim down to the antonyms. Certainty, assurance, security, trust, calm, serenity, quiet, peace...The image I see here is water, perfectly reflecting the mountains, the trees, the sky above it. Not a ripple, still, smooth, even, glassy, reflecting. Steady.

Another image, of hands, the Lord's hands, holding, calm and steady, this crazy reeling world of ours. The song, "He's got the whole world in His hands..," murmurs in my head. It doesn't feel like it, these last few days, but He does hold the world, firm and certain.

A theologian was asked to give a brief statement of his beliefs. His surprising answer came in familiar words, simple, steady, not complex or hard to understand, another image, another song:
"Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so."
Perhaps the reason these water images come to my mind is from a series of recurring dreams. I take the kids to the beach, the same scene each dream, not a known place, except in my repeated dreams. We park about a block away and walk, lugging chairs and towels and shovels and pails and skim boards. During low tide, a tall brick wall separates the sand and ocean from the town. At high tide, the waves crash against the wall, the only sand available when the waves are drawn out. In my dreams, we manage to arrive at high tide each time, and we are swimming in the waves. Not little, fun waves, but twenty and thirty footers that roll in one on top of the other, smashing against the wall. I keep myself and little heads afloat, struggling, attempting to not be terrified. Really, it is a beautiful scene. The water is crystal turquoise, clear and smooth. The waves don't ever seem to actually crash, we just float over the huge swells, trying to get to the shore, which isn't even there. I wake up. Dreams are hard to describe, and I imagine some psychologist or whoever studies dreams could come up with implications. Over the past few years, I have had this same dream many times.

Perhaps this dream is a way of working out my worries for our children. They are not little now. Two of the three guys still at home are taller than I am, the third quickly catching up. In my dream the other night, the youngest had his arms around my neck, and I was working hard to keep both of us afloat.

Swimming in waves is not my favorite thing. I will sit on the shore and watch the waves all day long - from a safe distance. The Southern California beaches where I grew up had rough waves, and I know the feeling of being churned in the turbulence of a crashing wave and tasting sand. Not my favorite way to enjoy a beach.

Odd, that this idea of worry would be so intertwined with waves and water and a dream.

When my son tells me not to worry, I want to tell him of the crazy world, of his personal challenges, that it is my job to worry. But, no, my job is to trust.

To trust the steady hands, the whole world held, secure.

 To trust the strength of quiet love.

To accept what we have, here, today. Grateful.

To lighten up, and travel lighter.



Linking with Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky for
Tuesdays Unwrapped





Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guarding These Words


"And all those who heard marveled concerning the things which were spoken by the shepherds to them. But  Mary kept on continually guarding all these words in her heart and bringing them together for the purpose of considering them in their total import."

Luke 2: 18-19
Wuest Expanded Translation

joining the quiet Sunday community

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Listen to the Quiet Voice

I like to win.

I like life to go smoothly.

You are probably laughing right now.

Me too. I know better, but I still get frustrated when I don't win or life's road is rough and bumpy, with tough surprises around the corner.

When I wanted to put one photo on my blog post, the message came up, "Ooops, you're out of space. There is no more room." Argh. Last week our daughter helped me out of the same hole, and I thought we'd fixed it. My computer skills are in the barely-get-by category. Somehow I raised kids who are computer literate - must get that from their dad. They try to help me. Now that most of them are living in their own homes, it is harder to understand by remote. They are patient with me. More patient than I am with my computer.

It's aggravating. My computer, a machine, tests my patience. And I fail. Miserably. Sometimes to tears.

The quiet words, the quiet voice drifts through my head.

Be grateful for everything.

Even an uncooperative, misbehaving computer?

Yes.

I am vividly reminded of my need for grace and mercy. And patience.

I am reminded how much I appreciate each of our children (not just for computer skills).

I am grateful to have a computer and an avenue for writing.

Grateful to realize my whining is incredibly insignificant.

Grateful for a pleasant evening gathered around our table, laughing, drinking hot chocolate, challenging each other in happy games.

Grateful we have a warm, snug house, the snow outside.

Grateful we have cupboards full of food.

Grateful we can smile and laugh and talk together.

Grateful for family fun.

Grateful for time to relax and play and enjoy.

In all of this, I win, and life travels smoothly. Just like I like, grateful and awake to the joy.
(even weeds look pretty in the snow)



Linking with Ann Voskamp, listing One Thousand Gifts.
link to my list



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Unwrap this Moment

Our youngest son, thirteen, has some difficulties with memory. The situation is complicated, and for here, I don't need to share details.

The point is, I respond in two ways.

  1. It doesn't matter, he won't remember this moment anyway. Why bother?
  2. Or, this moment, now, is all we have. Pay attention. Make it valuable.

My default attitude, I admit, is to just get through this day, unaware, unappreciative of the passing moments. Survive.

How do I exchange that default attitude and live each moment full of value?

Last night, lying snug in bed, the house dark and quiet,  I listed three things in my head, three things to help me be more aware of each moment:
  • make sure he is secure, that he knows he is loved, cared for, protected
  • be sure he learns something - even if it's the same thing he learned this morning or yesterday or last week - be sure he is learning, growing, taking something in
  • watch for opportunities for gratefulness - reaching out to others and the Lord - responding to life with gratefulness. Each day I have him write three things on a gratefulness list. For now, it requires a lot of prompting from me, but he will grow in his ability to see.
These three words:
  • secure
  • learn
  • grateful
Perhaps he cannot articulate the impressions, the memories of his days. But he is aware at a deep level, and these are what I need to build into him.


And obviously, this has applications for all of us.

  • Love the moment.
  • Search for the value of now.
  • Seek to learn, be always looking, learning.
  • Enjoy, with an open heart of gratefulness.
Appreciate all that is here, now. Listen to the sounds. Look at the sky. Feel. Move. Go for a walk. Laugh. Smile. Play a game. Read aloud. Talk. Listen. Not just going through the motions. Enjoy the life we have here, now, together. Live. Alive. Awake. Unwrap the moment.


Linking with Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky, and "Tuesdays, Unwrapped."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wonder Full



         Full of wonder at the wonderful.


joining Deidra and the quiet Sunday community

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Awake to this Day

I woke up this morning, warm, in a cozy bed, my husband breathing deeply beside me, the early sunlight filtering through the blinds.

Awake.

A day ahead: shop for groceries, take books back to the library (one overdue - oops), go for a walk with our dog and her boy in the brisk air, chat with the guys, hang more twinkle lights, complete a writing project on the computer, read, plus all the minute tasks that filter through my days.

This day ahead, a gift. To enjoy. To relax and revel in its delights. To breathe, and smile.

Awake.





The short story, A Messy Thanksgiving, is posted on wordsbymo.blogspot.com. If you didn't get a chance during the busy Thanksgiving season to read it here on this blog, you can click to jump over there. With another major holiday a few weeks away, Sandy's messy holiday story is still appropriate.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's All in the Attitude

"Your attitude is an expression of your values, beliefs and expectations."

-Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and author.

"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.
Do you understand?" 

-Captain Jack Sparrow, a pirate. Perhaps not the wisest person to validate a quote, but the truth lurking here is worth the risk of the source.



drawing by littlebitzoart.wix.com/littlebitzoart

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Want More

Does this seem an odd title when my theme is traveling lighter? When I wrote last week about minimalism?

Dissatisfied isn't always about things. Sometimes it is discontent with me.

When I lie in bed at night, I think of all I should have/could have/ shouldn't have/said/done. (Take your pick. There are always regrets to mull over. This girl is far from perfect.)

I want to be more awake, more aware to each moment.

In this moment, what do I want more?
          This cookie, this second helping? Or, more health, more strength, more energy?

In this moment, what do I want more?
           The satisfaction of a caustic reply? Or the emotional confidence to love and give? Do I want more strength to give up what I want to gain more love, or do I choose to snap back a "smart" retort?

In this moment, do I skip daily Bible reading and turn on the computer to read emails?
           Or do I want more, the deep satisfaction of quiet moments with the Lord, preparing my heart and mind for the day?

In this moment, our son returning a painfully slow answer (that takes Forever...) do I show patience and kindness?
         Or do I bleat a hasty, impatient response that is all about me and my time, not understanding or acknowledging or meeting his needs?

In this moment, I want more. More awake, more aware of others.

In this moment, the setting sun fading the air to peach, to gold, to navy, do I see it?
           Am I aware of the beauty of the deepening day?
            Or am I too absorbed in dinner preparations, clearing up a daily load of clutter, or fretting over all that didn't get done that day?


In this moment, do I see the amaryllis bulb unfolding a tiny bit each hour, soon to explode in a firecracker of blossom?
           Or do I settle in the secure familiar of haste and hurry of anxiety over [anything] [everything]?

What do I want more?

I ask a lot of questions.

The answers are a process. Part of being awake, aware, realizing I have a choice.

And the calm beauty of the season is there. Here.

If I look for it.

More love.

More kindness.

More patience.

More strength.

More beauty.

I want more.


Emily Freeman, "Chatting at the Sky", is hosting a series for December, "Tuesdays, Unwrapped."
"Celebrate the lovely, the messy, the unexpected."
"Unwrap the small, secret gift of the everyday."
Linking with her, today, to unwrap the beauty, the gift of this Tuesday.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sunny Choice



"I have just come out of a gloomy room into a sunny room to write these words. I had my choice. I could have stayed in the sombre room, but I choose to come into the sunlit room and the warm, cheering beams are even now falling on my page. 'Walk in the light!' And I make my choice, and how often I choose to walk without Christ in the unfertilizing and unfruitful gloom of self-will! In the light of the Lord I could have a garden of Eden; how often I choose the dingy wilderness where I can grow neither flowers nor fruits...The way of light is the way of delight, and 'the joy of the Lord is our strength.'"

My Daily Meditation
-John Henry Jowett

joining the quiet Sunday community

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Awake

December first, the Christmas season officially in stride. As if we didn't know that already.

Last week I mentioned my theme word for this season is AWAKE.

To not coast through the next few weeks, unmindful, unaware. I want to open my eyes. To see, what?

The beauty and peace of these days, as opposed to the overload of clutter and chaos.

Our son picked out a book at the library, Listen to the Silent Night, by Dandi Daley Mackall. A book that messed with my thinking about the classic image of the silent night. All the not-so-silent noises of that evening: the jostling crowds, the donkey plodding, Mary breathing heavy, restless, the sheep rustling in the grass, the soldiers barking commands, sandals flip-flopping across the dusty roads, Joseph asking for a place, the innkeeper speaking, "No," the cows and chickens bedding down in the straw, Mary struggling with the birth, the newborn Baby alive, catching His first breath, full of life, angels with their message to the shepherds, the shepherds running, shouting the news.

There is a lot of awake that night.

A night, a season to pay attention.
A season to listen.
A season to see spectacular sights.
A season to sing.
A season to laugh with joy.
A season to be grateful, so very grateful.
A season to be awake, watching.


Houses glowing, inviting, displaying light, welcoming, are one of my favorite Christmas decorations. Houses saying, "Life is here." Friendly. Happy. Bright. Like the old tradition of keeping a lighted candle in the window to welcome family arriving home, to direct their path through the dark night, Christmas lights are a way to say, "Welcome, come in, we greet the season, and you, too."





I want to be awake, to not miss the now. How will I do that?
By stopping what I am doing when our son asks me to read him a book (just did that, in case you are wondering).
By baking cookies with the guys.
By putting up our decorations (doing that this weekend).
By playing Christmas music, all day long, and singing along (sorry, guys, maybe I'll stick to humming).
By opening my eyes to find the joy around me, especially in the littlest things.
By smiling.
By simmering cinnamon and cloves and oranges and apple peels.
By going outside in the dark, in the cold, to gaze at the stars.
By connecting with others - family, friends, neighbors.
By displaying the Jesse Tree ornaments each day.
By dipping into the calm assurance of the Gift given to us, the Lord Jesus.
By being AWAKE.

And, in all the busy-ness and the doing and the bustling of Christmas, to take the time to look, to see, to enjoy the depth of the season. Like a deep pool of clear water, I can keep it stirred and murky with all the activity and must-be-dones. Or, I can allow the mud and murk to settle, allow the calm and peace to prevail, revealing the crystal clear beauty and peace of the true message. Awake to the gift of life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wandering Wonder

Five Minute Friday
Five Minute Friday, today. The next one will be January, 2013. Sigh. Oh my. A deep breath, quick, before panic sets in. Before the unsettled nerves of all that has to be done in the next month, and all the unknown that spreads ahead in the new year...

But, today. Five minutes, right now, this moment.

Today's theme word, Wonder.

Go.

I wonder as I wander out under the stars...These words to a familiar Christmas song ring true to my heart.

I wander. I roam aimlessly through the days, the weeks, the months, the years. I keep busy. I do the next thing. I make lists (oh, I am good at lists!). I search to find a path. I blaze a new trail. I sit down and wait for someone to - please, oh please - show me the way. And, I get up and wander again.

As I go, I learn. I grow. I discover. I travel. I stay at home. I explore. I draw in tightly within my shell, keep my wanderings close, internal.

As I wander, I grow in wonder. The ocean waves unsettled on the shore. The mountain peaks, dusted with powdered snow. The sunsets coloring the town with peach and yellow and pink. Baby toes, growing quietly inside mama. A petal, unfurling into a splash of deep red. The full moon, glowing, illuminating across the dark sky.

So much, if I just open my eyes, awake to the wonder of it all. When I wander, my focus is down, on my feet, the path, trying not to trip. When I wonder, I look up, look out beyond myself, see so, so much more.

His mercies are new every morning. Ah, the wonder of it all.

Time is up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Simple Christmas Links

Traveling Lighter.

 I haven't written much lately with this theme. Since we moved five months ago, getting rid of over half our stuff, perhaps I have relaxed and lost a bit of focus.

There are some very good blogs I read about minimalism. These writers live far beyond my meager efforts at living with less and they give me courage to renew my efforts.

This post, by becoming minimalist includes seventeen links to other posts about simplifying Christmas, focusing on the important things, not on things. This is a post to browse over the next few weeks, with lots of  information and ideas to absorb.

I appreciate the variety of perspectives in these blogs. There is not one formula, not one way to live with less.  Each writer, each family, each home, makes their choices based on a process that changes with life's circumstances. Sometimes with more, sometimes with less.


http://www.becomingminimalist.com/simple-christmas-links/


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shout for Joy




"Thou dost make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy."

Psalms 65:8

joining the quiet Sunday community


Friday, November 23, 2012

Today, Thank You

Today's theme word for the Friday Five Minutes is Thank You.
LisaJo will be taking a break over December, so this is almost the last Friday Five for 2012.
The idea, write for five minutes, easy breezy - let the words flow, gentle, from the heart.

Thank You
     for today, another day to live and love and learn

Thank You
     for time that whirls and time that drags pokey

Thank You
     for the hope that there is adventure ahead

Thank You
     for the fear of what is ahead - that You will guide, always

Thank You
     for tough health conditions that cause us to slow down and pay attention

Thank You
     for winter blossoms

Thank You 
     for home, this home, our home

Thank You
     for sunrises and sunsets, the capital letter at the beginning of each day and the period at the end   (sometimes an exclamation point!)

Thank You
     for all here that gives us a glimpse into Your love and care

Thank You
     for the continuing challenge to list, daily a counting of one thousand gifts - and beyond

Thank You
     for awake, the word for me, for this Christmas season


Five Minute Friday

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Messy Thanksgiving, Part Three

Part Three, A Three Part Short Story

Wednesday


By noon, she felt ready. Almost. A few more tasks on her list, but everything was under control. She had cleaned the bathrooms, made up the guest beds, and swept off the porch, trimming some of the chrysanthemums that still bloomed. The day was cold and cloudy. At least I don’t have to sweep and wash the floors, she thought. She wiped down the front of the refrigerator and the stove and ran a dust cloth over the glass table top next to the couch. She looked forward to seeing the six grandkiddos all together. They hadn’t seen Greg’s twins since June. David, Becky and their two boys lived ten minutes away and they visited often. Jack and Kendra, with their two, Jessica and Ken, lived an hour away, not too far. Greg would be arriving tonight, the others in the morning. A houseful of noisy fun. She liked that.

Three o’clock. One last check of the lists. All crossed off. One trip out. She would stop at the florist to pick up the white osteospermum spoon daisies she ordered. And run into the grocery store to pick up the large white napkins she forgot to buy on Monday. With twine, she would tie them into a roll. Easy and simple.

Later, as she stepped in the door, out of the pouring rain, arms full of flowers and a grocery bag, the phone rang. She set the things down on the table. Dropped her wet coat on a chair.

“Hello?”

“Mom?”

“Hi Greg. I thought you would be on the road by now.”

“Mom. I am sorry. We are not coming.”

Silence. “You are kidding, right?”

“No, Mom, we are not coming.”

Silence. “Do I get an explanation?”

Greg answered in short, nervous, quick bursts. “Janet decided she wanted to have her own Thanksgiving. You know, in her own home, now that we have moved to this house, she changed her mind, said she wouldn’t come, wanted to stay home, keep the kids here, with her, on her time off from work, for the holiday.”

“Well, that is reasonable, except last minute. What can I say? Is this about not getting along with Kendra?”

“No, I don’t think so. Maybe, you know how they are together. She just said she wanted her own Thanksgiving. Mom, try to understand. I know you will understand. Please don’t be upset at me, or her.”

“I will really miss seeing the twins. I’m sure they have grown since we saw them last.” Sandy sighed. She tried to smile, at least with her words, but it was hard. Seemed these conflicts, lately, made family gatherings like walking on egg shells, afraid to offend, afraid to say the wrong thing, afraid, just afraid. She had wanted this to be different. And she thought it would be. Filled with laughter and fun, relaxed. Oh well, what could she do? Holidays could be messy. “Greg,” she said, “Say hello to the twins from me, and Janet, too, and have a wonderful holiday.” She didn’t mean it to sound sarcastic, but it came out that way, a little bit.

“You, too, Mom. Say hi to Dad for me.”

Sandy hung up the phone. She sat in the chair at the head of the table, looked down the length at the plates, already set, the golden gourds, the pile of flowers she had dumped at the other end. Four empty places. Should she rearrange? Wallow in disappointment? No, she thought, I’ll get the flowers in vases and water. No point in letting this ruin it for her, or for anyone else. 

Outside, the rain pelted the windows and the wind whipped the tree limbs. Darkness fell early, the storm clouds wrapping a dark, thick blanket over the sky. Again, the phone rang. Sandy looked at it, not wanting to answer. She heard her own voice, the cheerful message on the machine. Then, Jim’s voice.

“Sandy. Guess you are out shopping or something last minute. Our flight has been delayed…”

She grabbed the phone, interrupting his message. “Jim, I am here, sorry.”

“Oh, good, glad you are home. This storm is interfering with flights. I hope Greg will be fine on the road.”

“They are not coming. I’ll tell you later. When do you think you will get in?”

“They said about a two hour delay. I will call you when we board.”

“Okay. I want to take you out to dinner, to the pizza restaurant. I will meet you there, after you land.”

“Sounds good. I’ll call you, soon, I hope.”

“Be careful.”

Someone knocked on the front door. Oh, now who could that be, thought Sandy. She opened the door and saw her neighbor, a older woman she rarely talked to. “Evelyn, come in.” She helped her take off her wet coat.

“I am so sorry to bother you. I know you are very busy.” Evelyn looked at the table. “That is, ah, interesting. Straw bales and peanuts?  Rustic. But the table is pretty. I am so sorry to bother you,” she said again.

“That’s okay. My husband just called to say he would be late. Come sit down.”

“Well, we just had a big tree branch fall on the back of our house. Broke through the patio cover, broke two windows on the back side.”

“Oh, I am sorry. Where is Fred, is he okay?”

“Yes, we were in the living room. I wondered if you have some tarp or something we can put up over the windows. Not too much rain is coming in, but the wind is bad. And the cold.”

“I think so, I will go look in the garage.” She stood up. “Evelyn. I just had a great idea. Our son and his family called to say they are not coming. We have extra beds, all made up, and room at the table, ready. Will you and Fred stay here tonight, and join us for Thanksgiving tomorrow?”

“We couldn’t impose on you like that, don’t be silly.”

“It is not silly at all. Like I said, I have the beds all made, the places for you at the table. It will be much warmer here until you can get the windows fixed. Jim can help you, but with the holiday weekend, it may be a few days before they get fixed. Please, stay with us. That is, if you don’t mind a casual meal. And our kids and grandchildren. I thought the straw bales and peanuts would be fun, for a change. Comfortable.”

“I noticed. Wondered why you were doing that. Most people get all fancy.”

“I will get the tarp, then we’ll go over and ask Fred to come. Please, I want you to. I know Jim won’t mind. He will help you fix the tarp when he gets home. Oh,” said Sandy.

“What is it?” asked Evelyn.

“Well, we were going to go out to dinner. I was going to meet him after his plane landed.”

“I have a chili in the crock pot at home. Fred and I could still eat that, and come here after you and Jim get home. We would appreciate it, being able to stay here. It will be cold at our house with that wind and the damp. You are very kind.”

“Actually, it helps me not feel so disappointed that our son isn’t coming. I am glad you can stay with us. Very glad. You can see we have plenty of room for you.” Sandy pointed at the table.

“We will be honored. I wasn’t going to fix anything this year. Too much work for just us. Our kids are all busy, or too far away. We will enjoy being with you, being with your family. Much better than sitting by ourselves. Thank you.”

The scattered straw and peanut shells are evidence of my messy life, but even the messes are worth celebrating, and sharing, Sandy thought. I will accept this. An opportunity to help a neighbor, maybe gain a friend. I can enjoy what we have, use what we have, and share Thanksgiving, thankfully, with family and friends.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Messy Thanksgiving, Part Two

Part Two, A Three Part Short Story

Tuesday


When Sandy walked down the hall into the living room Tuesday morning, she wondered what her husband, Jim would think of their house. He was away on a business trip until Wednesday afternoon. By the time he got home, she would have it all set up and messy beautiful. Her email invitations had said, “Boots and jeans.” But would they imagine just how casual she meant it to be?  The floor needed more peanut shells, just like at their favorite pizza restaurant. In fact, she thought, that is where they should go for dinner Wednesday night. She would take him out to dinner. Get a few more ideas. Her son and his wife and the grandkiddos wouldn’t get in until late. She and Jim would have plenty of time to relax over dinner, talk about his trip, and enjoy some time together before the long weekend.

After her coffee and oatmeal, she spread the three lists out on the island, leaned on her elbows, her shirt sleeves rolled up, chin cupped in her hands. One list for what would bake in the oven. One for food that would be prepared and stored in the refrigerator.  One for menus, with added ideas for meals the rest of the weekend using leftovers. The tasks were already in order, prioritized by length of prep time and use of the oven. Normally she wasn’t quite so OCD, but she wanted this Thanksgiving to be easy breezy.  Certain people conflicts in the family had lightened up over the past year and she wanted, desperately, to be sure they stayed that way. But, not to worry. For now, start the pie crusts and mix the pumpkin bread. Turn on the oven.

Between tasks, waiting for the timer to ding, Sandy worked on the table. At each place setting she set out white plates. For place cards, she marked peanuts with a dark brown Sharpie, the letters of each person’s name. If the letters didn’t come out quite right, she smashed the shells and threw them on the floor. It wasn’t easy. She tried to make them fancy, ornate with swirly lines and flourishes. The bumpy shells were not a good writing surface, but she wanted to keep the theme. She decided that messy looked just as good, and it was better to fit each name on one peanut if she could. She experimented. Greg. Kendra. David. The longest name was Jessica. That took two peanuts. As she practiced and improved, the crunched, empty peanut shells deepened on the floor.

All day, the dishes rotated from island to sink full of soapy water and back again. Pie crusts baked. Pumpkin and cranberry breads ready to go in next. Sweet potatoes cooked, mixed, plopped into the baking pan, refrigerated until Thursday. Broccoli steamed, cheese sauce mixed, refrigerated in its glass baking pan. Water boiled, jello mixed with fruit, half of it chilled, then the other layer added and chilled. One by one, the items were checked off her list. She wiped up flour and spills and splatters, then made more messes as she worked.

For a late lunch, she made a sandwich and sat in the big chair tucked into the corner to admire her decorations, absorb the yummy smells. Bake the pies, almost done. She relaxed, imagined the room full of happy, comfortable people. To her, this work, this weekend was about reaching across the distance that was measured in more than miles.

As she was sliding the last pie shell full of liquid pumpkin on to the rack, her hand slipped, the pie tilted and splashed on the hot oven floor. It sizzled and smoked. Quickly, she set the pie on the counter and reached over to shut off the oven. That would have to cool before she could clean it out, then reheat it. She didn’t want the smell of burned pie overpowering the other wonderful aromas and interfere with baking the turkey Thanksgiving morning. She left the oven door open to cool faster. Well, it won’t take that long, she thought. She checked over her lists again. Almost done.  Not too bad, only one major mess to repair, then finish cleaning up the kitchen.

The cat came down the hall and stepped into the living room. She stopped and sat, looking around at the changes, unsure. She decided it was safe, took a few steps into the room. A peanut shell crunched under her foot. With the foot held in mid-air, she froze, like a dog at point, then turned and ran back to the bedroom. Sandy laughed at her. We won’t have to worry about her coming out here, she thought.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Messy Thanksgiving

A Three Part Short Story

Monday



Sandy finished the Thanksgiving grocery shopping in the pet department, piling two ten pound bags of peanuts on the already overloaded grocery cart. She smiled. No one would be able to guess what I am going to do with these, she thought.

At home, she organized the food, checked off her lists. This Thanksgiving dinner for eighteen would appear effortless. But, of course, it wasn’t. The work happened now, before. She had separate lists, all organized and thought out, what preparations needed to be made in what order. Some of the family would be arriving late Wednesday night and she wanted to be ready, then.

With the wood floors swept, the furniture moved back against the walls, she turned her dining room table at an angle, assembled the two folding tables and pushed them end to end at an angle across her dining room and living room.

At three o’clock the stake bed truck pulled up out front. She met the two delivery guys at the door.

“Where do you want these bales, ma’am?”

“In here, by these tables.”

“Inside the house, ma’am?” His eyebrows disappeared under the hair hanging over his forehead.

“Yes, they will be the seats for our Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Inside. Really? You know these straw bales are dusty, dirty, messy, right?”

Sandy laughed. “Of course. Yes, bring them in here, please, four on this side, four on the other side. Thank you.”

“Okay, whatever you say. It’s your house.” The tough delivery guys looked at each other and shrugged.

As the bales were moved, wisps of straw floated around.

“Sorry, ma’am.”

“No problem, that’s exactly what I want. Messy.”

“My wife would have a fit.”

Sandy laughed again. She wanted an unusual, a casual atmosphere. Unique. A memory. And they didn’t know about the peanut shells, broken open, scattered around. She felt like a giddy girl planning a surprise party for a special friend. A party where everyone has a good time and laughter echoes off the walls accompanied by the music of happy talk. Okay, she thought, maybe I am dreaming and being unrealistic. We haven’t had a peaceful family get together in quite awhile. Someone takes offense, someone irritates someone else, criticism flares. But, it is worth a try. I will do my part, and hope.

 Everything would be white or canvas or gold. Enough color, just in the food. And the people. The gold colored straw looked pretty scattered across the wood floor. She pulled more pieces off the bales and scattered them around. Then, she covered the bales with canvas drop cloths, their edges tucked in underneath. They would be heavy enough to prevent straw poking seated bottoms. Another couple of longer drop cloths covered the tables, hanging down the sides. Gourds she had spray painted gold were placed randomly on the table.

Oh, napkins. She forgot to buy white cloth napkins. Well, on Wednesday, when she picked up the flowers, she could go to the store and get the nicer, heavy, white paper ones. They would do. She added them to the list.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Giving Thanks


"...with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father..."

Colossians 1:11-12

joining the quiet Sunday Community

Monday, November 12, 2012

Operation Christmas Child


Are you familiar with Operation Christmas Child, sponsored by Samaritan's Purse?
This week, November 12 - 18, shoe boxes filled with toys, personal supplies, small games, any fun things kids would enjoy, are collected at churches, then distributed by Samaritan's Purse to children all over the world. Children, who would have very little, are delighted to receive these simple gifts.

If you go to www.samaritanspurse.org, you can put in your zip code to find the church near you that is collecting the boxes. There is a five and a half minute video to watch that shows the delight on the faces of children as they open their boxes. The categories are boy or girl, ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. There is also a list of suggested items for each age group.

A seven dollar donation per box covers the world-wide shipping and handling costs. If you pay the donation on-line, you can print out a label with a bar code to be able to track where your shoe box is delivered. Won't that be fun to know just where the box you filled with things to bring a smile to a child actually ends up?


Our daughter was here over the weekend, visiting. She wanted to put together some boxes, too, so we went to the store, had fun picking out items for different ages of boys and girls, then packed them up together. We played Christmas music and wondered where these boxes would end up, thinking about the children they would reach.


We delivered them to a nearby church this morning, and soon, they will wing their way to little hands, somewhere in the world.
Will you be able to put together a shoe box or two to bless  a child?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Value of Our Veterans

Henry David Thoreau said, "The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."





Our military veterans exchanged days, months, years - away from family, away from lives that were familiar and comfortable. Their exchange, in ways big and small, enables us to live lives of value, in ways big and small.

Political differences aside, these men and women have earned the honor of our gratitude.























joining the quiet Sunday community