Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Musings ~ Letting Go, or Holding On

It’s been said that the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.

I couldn’t agree more with that philosophy. 

But the problem often lies in the choosing—what to hold on to and what to let go.

From a distance, the choices seem obvious: 

Let go of the things that cause pain. 

Hold on to the things that bring joy.

But you know as well as I do that it’s not that simple.

And it takes great strength either way—holding on, or letting go.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Conquering Odd Places ~ The 4-drawer chest that stole my heart

The last few years found me wanting to change up this odd little space. The way it’s positioned, to the left of one of the sofas, and in front of the built-in bookshelves, posed a real challenge to find something that didn't impede the cabinets of the built-ins and didn't stick out too far into the room. 

When I discovered I was going to have a granddaughter, I began a serious look for a chest-of-drawers to fill the space. It’s always my goal to find something both practical and pretty, not to mention useful. It definitely had to be something used, something with a history, and in good condition. And I didn't want to shell out big bucks. Even more important, though, the size had to be just right.

After looking high and low, north and south, east and west (you have no idea), and even after buying something I thought would work, but was too tall and too deep, I came upon this beauty in a local vintage store. The price-tag said $399 and, quite frankly, that made me shiver. It was way over what I'd hoped to spend, but the measurements told me it would be perfect. And I knew it would be. 

I asked the proprietor for her best price and she came down $100, which, $300 wasn’t terrible, as the piece was in excellent shape and Camille's distressed painting is always exquisite, but it was still more than I wanted to spend.

So I went home and slept on the matter for three nights.

In the end, however, I was quite smitten. I knew it was the "perfect" piece for the space, so I laid down the money and brought it home. I've been in love ever since. 

The drawers work perfectly and the bottom drawer (which looks like two drawers from the outside) is quite deep. I envision it being useful for storing a few toys down the road. The chest is now filled with all sorts of baby blankets and quilts and clothes and will be put to good use for many years to come.

I wanted to create a monochromatic look, so I painted and distressed the frame holding a picture of my paternal grandparents, adding the little fondant shoes from my daughter's baby shower cake as a whimsical touch.

Most of the other items were things from around the house. 

 The only thing I went out and purchased was the little white pitcher—for $5.00.

I think the mirror I bought from my niece’s shop several years ago goes perfectly on the wall, complimenting the chest-of-drawers, while completing the space.

The odd little space now has a new look. Truth is, I don't mind going a little over my budget for pieces that I love, for pieces that will go the distance, because I know I'll get my money's worth in the long-run.


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Musings ~ As Time Goes By

Dear friends, as I write it is Sunday morning, barely daylight. Outside, skies stretch wide like a gray umbrella. Yesterday brought sunshine. Today, we may get wet again, as we have for the past few weeks. Despite the uncertainty of the day, the trees have budded out and the birds are in full motion, darting in and out of the red-tip bushes, preparing nests for the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, coffee has been made and I sit on the sofa watching my new granddaughter sleep, still in awe that she is here. I revel in her every breath, delight in her every expression. Did I mention the comforter she's laying on belonged to her mother? I've kept it 28 years for this very moment in time.

My niece and her family came last week. Sugar plum was impressed and took great pride in holding her new cousin. As we passed around the latest addition of the family, my niece recalled the early days of her daughter’s life. She said, “The first few weeks, it’s like time stands still.”

Yes, that is precisely how it feels, like a still-life painting. We wake and sleep. We eat as necessary. Everything else is barely there.

And in between our minimalistic existence, we watch this baby girl, fresh from heaven.

We stare at her, smell of her, study her chin and lips, and kiss her delicious cheeks.

On occasion, she opens her tiny eyes, not fully, but enough to peek out and maybe, just maybe, know we’re here, loving her and caring for her every need, our hearts overflowing, filling up with love and emptying out again and again.


Before I sign off, a funny thing happened this morning. After my daughter finished the night shift, it was just me and cupcake. I was playing the little music bear that one of Anna’s coworkers gave her. It plays the most gentle tones and plays religious songs, including “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” (that kinda made me chuckle when I thought about it). I left cupcake asleep on the couch and went to fix me an egg. When I returned, I saw this:

Somebody was getting her Sunday praise on. She’s never held her arm in this position, and it stayed up until the music stopped ten minutes later. I laughed and laughed and laughed some more. My darling cupcake, already making her memaw giggle.

Until next time, sweet friends, thanks for stopping by and for your sweet comments about my new granddaughter. I'm proud to be part of the Grand Club.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cupcake Has Arrived

In the galaxy of newborn babies, a bright new star twinkles. Our sweet Arabella Marie arrived Friday afternoon, March 6th, at 1:54 in the afternoon.

My precious cupcake.

8 lbs, 12 ozs, 20" long

The moment I saw her, I fell deeply and madly in love, just as I knew I would.

She is only five days old and already I look at her and hear the sound of music, the reading of poetry. I hold her close and feel the most profound joy surge through me. 

She is here, my darling cupcake, and nothing will ever be the same, not the sun, the moon, the sea, or the stars. In five short days, she has changed everything, and I can't imagine my world without her in it.

On the day she was released to go home, we celebrated with cupcakes, of course.

Later, the hospital photographer came to take her newborn photos. My daughter had her dressed so cute, and the pictures turned out amazing. During a break, I captured this sweet moment between mommy and her precious baby girl. To see them together makes my heart ache, in a bittersweet kind of way.

have been helping with the night shifts, until mommy is stronger. In the deep night hours, when it's just me and cupcake, I watch her sleeping, hear her breathing. I kiss her cheeks and wish that I could shield her from anything that could ever hurt her. I know I can't, of course, but I'll always be her advocate, one who prays for her and cheers her on, who loves her unconditionally and without measure.

Dear friends, my heart is full. My days and nights are busy. I may be even more scarce in blogland than I have been in recent weeks. Just know that Memaw is stealing sugar from cupcake as often as possible.

Until next time, sweet kindred spirits, on this Wednesday morning, I wish for you soft places and sweet faces. 


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wherever Thou Art : BLOOM

Like a herd of cattle, they came. Children of all sizes, shapes and colors plunged out of yellow buses and charged through the doors of the classroom. Six boys and one girl huddled around my table and stared at me expectantly.

A few weeks earlier, the superintendent at church had approached me, his shoulders slumped, his face weary. "You did say you would like to teach, didn't you?" he asked.

"Yes," I said eagerly. "Have you found a place for me?"

He stared at his shoes. "I do have an opening in a second-session class," he said, hesitantly, "if you're interested. It would be working with our bus kids." 

Ah, bus kids. Great, I thought. Just what I needed. A bunch of degenerate children to try and corral on weekends. As if my life wasn't stressed enough already.

But, in the end, I simply could not bring myself to refuse the superintendent's request and so, there I was, planting a smile on my face, hoping I fooled the lot of them.

Frankly, my heart broke a little each Sunday. Most of these children came from unstable homes, and it wasn’t unusual for the entire hour to be spent trying to break up fights. It was no fun. At every turn, I questioned my decision.

As I began the lesson this particular morning, the children fidgeted with great fervor. Before long, Sharla interrupted.

"I'm ready to work the workbook," she announced.

"Pardon me?” I despised it when they interrupted me.

"Ain't it time to do our workbook?"

"You'll work in the workbook after I've finished the lesson," I said, not a little perturbed. With a strained voice, I attempted to regain my momentum.

"Stop kicking me!” Sharla again, glaring at Eric, who looked guilty as charged.

I tapped the table sharply. "OK, guys,” I said. “Could I please have your attention, and Eric, please leave Sharla alone. Let’s finish up our story." I picked up the lesson book and proceeded to share with them the love of God.

Suddenly, Ricardo blurted out, "My daddy says there ain't no God."

His words rattled me, but I quickly recovered and said, "There is a God, Ricardo, and He loves you very much. Now let’s continue with the story for today.” Inwardly, I wanted this day to be over. I checked my watch. Ten more excruciating minutes.

Michael raised his hand. At least one polite one among them. "Yes, Michael?"

"My mama say she gonna give her kids away if we don't stop fussin' so much."

My pulse quickened. Nobody told me you needed a degree in psychology to teach second-graders. Not knowing anything else to do, I patted the lad’s sagging shoulders, a terrible ache lodging in my throat. “I’m so sorry, Michael,” I said, meaning it.

I wondered if these children were gaining anything by being here. And what good was I doing if all I did was sit here listening to them talk and argue and fight? This seemed little more than babysitting, and I felt like a complete failure.

When the bell rang, the kids filed out to the buses at the curb. On his way out the door, Michael handed me a crumpled piece of paper, awkwardly embracing me around the waist. He glanced up, his dark face breaking into a smile. "Bye," he said shyly, dashing for the door.

As my husband drove us home, I sorted through the things I had gathered up at the end of the session and found Michael’s paper. Inside, scribbled in childish scrawl, were these words:  Teecher I like talking to you I love you.

My heart smote me. Maybe these kids needed to talk to me as much as I needed to talk to them, and that should have sealed the deal. I should have known, just from Michael’s note, that I was in the right place. But I can be stubborn. Though I seldom seek a sign, this time I wanted one. Something that would scream out at me and say, “YES! TEACH THIS CLASS!” And so, I said a little prayer that went something like this: “Dear Lord, what would you have me do about Michael and his friends?”

The next week, I returned from the mailbox one morning and stopped to admire the bed of impatiens surrounding one end of the house, and that’s when I saw something I had only heard about. A few feet away, growing between a brick wall and a concrete sidewalk, stood a single pink impatiens, blooming for all it was worth.

I ran inside and grabbed my camera. As I focused on the flower, I sensed it was God's sign. I sensed He was saying: Bloom wherever you are! Anyone can flourish in fertile soil, but can you bloom in the middle of hot cement?

Many years have passed since I fielded hard questions from seven-year-olds, but the lesson learned has never been forgotten. Now, whenever I find myself recoiling from difficult tasks, I remember the little pink flower and am reminded that true devotion to our calling prompts us to stay put, to bloom where we are, even when challenged by uncomfortable surroundings.

Adapted from the book, Silver Linings, by Dayle Allen Shockley.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Counting Down ~ Scenes from a Blessed Life

Dear friends, as the cupcake countdown continues, I figured I might as well share some things that have been happening in the last few weeks, while I have time and inclination. Once cupcake arrives, I will only have eyes for her; at least that's what I've been told.

Thanks to Pawpaw (that would be The Man), Memaw (that would be me) got a new rocking, reclining, swiveling chair! I’m not much into leather chairs, but I fell hard for this one. It’s simply perfect. The right size. The right shape. So comfy, and I can picture sharing many special moments with my cupcake right here. 

Our days of late have been cold and the nights colder.

Occasionly, our winters surprise us. It was about this time last year when we were contending with icy conditions, but, for the most part, we have just enough winter to enjoy the warm comforts of home.

Did I mention Valentine's Day? Young love is a breathtaking thing, but there’s nothing more rewarding than looking across the table at your spouse and knowing that you’ve not only shared the sun-drenched days of summer, but you’ve clung together in hurricane winds, and huddled together in the bitter nights of winter. Love that has been tested, that has deepened, that has weathered a few storms, such is true love. I was blessed to spend my 34th Valentine’s Day with The Man. We have our ups and downs, as all couples do, but we're still hanging in there.

My grand-nieces are still just as grand as ever. I call one pie, the other sugar plum, for those who may be new to this space. Here are a few collages from recent days. I've often declared that it is remarkable, simply remarkable, how much love one heart can hold. These two keep mine pushing at the seams.

And this video of sugar plum and The Man making music ... oh my. It puts an unrelenting grin on my face every single time I watch it. Have mercy!

Until next time, sweet peeps, Arabella's friends are waiting for her arrival ...

And is this not the cutest baby bib ever?


Monday, February 23, 2015

A Serendipitous Sunday ~ Monday Musings

As I write, it is Sunday afternoon, the skies overcast, the air misty, cooling down yet again in these parts. This day has not gone according to my normal Sunday schedule, but it’s been a good weekend—from yesterday, visiting with my dear parents, to today, sharing leftover roast-beef with my daughter, and taking ginger ale and throat meds to my ailing twin sister (prayers appreciated for her).

The best part of the day came earlier, when I stepped outside with my little camera to capture a few shots of the rosebush, the one that has been showing off for weeks now. I was at once amazed by the silence that greeted me. It seemed as if the whole world was off taking a nap somewhere. No traffic. No neighbors out and about. Just the healing sound of silence that I need so often. I was surprised to find it here, on a Sunday afternoon.

I don’t know about you, but it is in moments of stillness that my spirit is renewed, that my faith is strengthened. Try as I might, I cannot find these necessities in noisy settings, whether it be a church service, a friend gathering, or even a family event. I find them only in stillness.

So, as I stood under a gray February sky, just me and the roses, in a serendipitious moment of stillness, I closed my eyes and let the silence sink deep into my soul. For a second, I wondered if God had ordained that I step outdoors and into the quiet afternoon. I don’t know. Maybe He did. 

This thought swept fully through me, reminding me of the words in James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no instability, neither shadow of turning.” The unexpected silence. The roses. Gifts from the Father. But that is not all. In a world that constantly changes, He, the Father of lights, remains always the same.

As I turned back to the house, the words of an old hymn welled up in me, and I wanted to share them with you here, dear friends:

"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside."

Lyrics penned in 1923 by Thomas O. Chisholm.

Until next time, sweet kindred spirits, may you encounter serendipitous moments of stillness this week, to renew your spirit and strengthen your heart.


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