Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is It Really Over?

The most beautiful month of the year – the one for which I wait impatiently 334 days out of each 365, is almost over? How quickly it passed! Why do good things seem to disappear swiftly while less enjoyable times last forever?

I barely tolerate the other eleven months. No, that’s not quite true; I’m fond of April, too. Its freshness is so welcome after a long, cold winter - especially when the sun starts warming up the ground bringing to life the crocus, daffodil and iris bulbs I planted in late fall. But wait, I’m getting way too far ahead. I still have one last day of my beloved October. I must make the most of it – as if it were the last few hours of Christmas Day when one realizes it’s almost over and won’t be back for another year. 

What shall I do with this last twenty-four hours? I could go for a long walk and try to locate the last remnants of color on hillsides whose trees were clothed in a brilliant array of color only a few weeks ago. Most of them are either brown or naked now, limbs outstretched - bracing for the first assault from Mother Nature - a heavy frost or snowfall. I could stay inside, drink hot cider and curl up with a good book. Or I could invite the grandchildren for a sleepover, pop popcorn, watch scary movies and let them stay up much later than their mother would allow.

No matter what I do, I can’t stop time. Sadly, October is gone for another year. So I will probably do what I’m most inclined to do—stay right here at my computer writing about how wonderful the months of November and December are going to be!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick-Or-Treat

Halloween is an annual holiday observed on October 31, primarily in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Common Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, wearing costumes and attending costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, ghost tours, bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, committing pranks, telling ghost stories, and watching horror films. I find it odd that this day is listed as the second most popular holiday in the United States, next to Christmas.


In the small town where I live, little goblins will start ringing doorbells at six o’clock this evening yelling,“Trick or Treat!” I’m probably the only person in the world who dislikes this tradition. I’ve never liked Halloween. Even as a child, I thought it was a bore and just not worth my time. Why should I use up all that energy dressing up like a witch or ghost or whatever and go from door to door ringing doorbells just to get a bag of candy when I had candy any time I wanted it. I’ll admit I was a strange child; most of the time, I preferred mashed potatoes over candy anyway.

I probably would have ignored the day altogether, but when my friends started asking me to go trick-or-treating with them, I’d oblige just so I wouldn’t appear “different.” While others wore bought costumes representing Frankenstein or Dracula for the boys and beautiful fairy princesses or ballerinas for the girls, I’d go into my mother’s closet and don one of her outfits, a pair of high heels, apply some makeup and be on my way. It really didn’t matter to me – just as long as I looked like someone besides me.

I remember once, I didn’t have much time to get ready because my friends were waiting so I grabbed an old purple hat from my mother’s closet shelf, pulled it down around my face and applied lots of bright red lipstick. That’s all I did, but for some reason, it was a hit. Everyone howled!

When my own kids began to learn about Halloween, I pretended to enjoy it. I’d buy whatever costume they wanted or help them make one of their choosing. They had to dress up at school on the afternoon of Halloween and parade around the neighborhood. Prizes were given for the best costume. It was a big deal to them, but I still wasn’t impressed and was always glad when it was over. 

Rita Rudner summed it up for me with this quote:  Halloween was confusing. All my life my parents said, "Never take candy from strangers." And then they dressed me up and said, "Go beg for it." I didn’t know what to do! I’d knock on people’s doors and go, "Trick or treat." "No thank you."


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

They Can't Do This To Me


My daughter was complaining today because she had been summoned for jury duty. Oh my, was she hot under the collar! “They can’t force me to leave my job and my kids and go sit on jury duty for who knows how long for a fraction of the money I earn at my job,” she said. “Why my kids and I would starve!”

We couldn’t help but laugh at her animated fury. She said, “It’s not funny. I won't go; they can't do this to me!"

Oh, but they can. The United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Each citizen’s participation as a juror helps make that possible.  Furthermore, failure to appear carries dire consequences. 

Any person summoned for jury service who fails to appear as directed shall be ordered by the Court to appear and show cause for his or her failure to comply with the summons. Any person who fails to show good cause for non-compliance with the jury summons may be fined $1,000.00, imprisoned for not more than 3 days, ordered to perform community service, or any combination thereof. 

Both my husband and I have been called for duty.  My husband was promptly dismissed when he showed up the first day and told them he was his family’s sole money-maker, operating a small business which couldn’t run without his being there.

I served for about ten days, but when back problems occurred, making pain medication necessary, my doctor gave me an excuse that was accepted without dispute.

One of our sons served, too. Some say it’s a privilege. Perhaps it is – in a patriotic sense, but it is indisputable that it’s an inconvenience for young parents - especially single mothers, and poses a financial hardship in today’s economy. The small daily compensation doesn’t come close to what most people need to make a living these days.

Perhaps summoning some of the retired population would be helpful. Many in that category would probably look forward to having a reason to get up each morning. And the small amount of money may even be helpful to some. Surely there is a way to alleviate this hardship for those of the younger working class.

I wonder... will my daughter change her mind about showing up for jury duty, or will I be visiting her in jail?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Secret Hiding Place


When my granddaughter asked what kind of yard I played in when I was a little girl, I didn’t have to think very hard to remember because it just happens to be one of my most wonderful memories – that beautiful yard! 

My house was at the end of a dead-end street. It overlooked the Kanawha River. It had a large yard with many fruit trees. There were several different kinds of apple trees, a peach tree, a plum tree, a number of rose bushes, a large lilac bush and a grape arbor that extended the length of the house on the river side. This yard was a kid’s paradise. Not only did I love climbing the apple trees and partaking of their luscious ripe fruit, but I also loved hiding under the grape arbor. In mid-summer, the abundant grapevines wrapped around the arbor in such a way as to provide total privacy underneath. When I wanted to hide – and I often did – that's where I headed. There was an added bonus, too... the sweet, juicy, purple grapes that hung from the lush vines!  Some days, I’d sit there in my secret hiding place stuffing myself on them until I was almost sick.

Two hydrangea bushes with huge white flowers stood guard on either side of the steps that led to a long front porch on which there was a porch swing. When I was very young, the porch was my substitute playground on a rainy summer afternoon, and later, when I started dating boys, many memories were made sitting on the old porch swing with my latest heart throb. 

I love it when my grandchildren ask questions that allow me to revisit my happy childhood.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Adversity


Sometimes I find that shortly after I have read or studied a particular subject, I am presented with an opportunity to use my newfound knowledge to help someone.  Though this has happened many times, it surprises me each time it occurs.  I am awestruck by God’s perfect timing and have no doubt that He is in control.

Recently, a friend who had just lost her mother, was separated from her husband, and is faced with serious health problems herself, told me that she had been taught that God would not put more on her than she could bear. She is convinced, though, that He has done exactly that. Her question: “Why me?”

I deemed this an “Aha!” moment because, only the day before, I had delved into a study about why God allows adversity, and was able to share with my friend some of what I had learned.

The way I understand it, God allows adversity to come upon us when He wants our attention. If life is good, we tend to ignore Him. Becoming self-satisfied, we incorrectly think that if nothing is wrong, everything is right. However, God wants a relationship with His children, just as we long for a close tie with ours, so when we are so involved with earthly pleasures that we don’t have time for Him, He sometimes uses adversity to bring us around.

C. S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Think about what God did to Saul, who later became the apostle Paul. As he was traveling to Damascus to arrest believers, God struck him down with blinding light. Thinking his blindness was permanent, Saul was now ready to listen to God. 

Such is the influence of adversity. When we are preoccupied with our own interests and desires, we cannot see the need for His involvement in our lives, but things change quickly when trouble strikes. Challenging times have been known to bring even the most stubborn of us to our knees.

If God has allowed adversity to befall you, He may be trying to get your undivided attention. He wants you to trust Him. He wants you to talk to Him.  He desires a relationship with you. Seeing all things, perhaps He knows you are about to make a bad decision and wants to help you avoid it. Whatever your circumstances, rest assured that God has a purpose for everything He does. He may even have something exciting in store for you.

Surprisingly, my friend listened to my little sermon with genuine interest.  When I had finished, she wiped tears from her eyes and said, “Well, He certainly has my attention!”




Photograph courtesy of Jourdan Miller~





Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Few More Days Would Have Been Nice

Just a few days ago, I was excitedly describing the beautiful orange maple tree in my front yard. Well, guess what? Millions of orange and yellow maple leaves now cover my front yard. I swear, they're ankle-deep! And the few left on the tree are letting go willingly as the gentle October breeze nudges them. The scene seems equivalent to an overnight snowfall in January – when you go to sleep in one kind of world and awaken in another. I think it’s odd, too, that the maple tree is nearly naked while a pear tree standing a few feet from it is still covered with shiny dark green leaves. It’s as if the ornamental pear tree allows me a last look at summer even as I savor autumn days.

How the changing seasons delight me! Spring with the sudden appearance of a warm, yellow sun, welcome after a long, cold winter; showers that assist the sun in the gentle awakening of sleeping violets, crocus and daffodils. Summer with its sometimes unbearable heat and humidity; lightning and thunderstorms that both frighten and amaze us; evenings filled with the giggles of children as they play a variety of games or catch lightening bugs. My beloved autumn who flaunts her azure sky, brilliantly colored foliage, shorter days, and a quietness that foretells a more restful time ahead. Winter with its cold gray days, long nights, unexpected snowfalls that delight children of all ages, and joyous holidays that bring families together in loving celebration.

With only ten days left of the month I eagerly anticipate all year, I plan to enjoy each one to the fullest. But I must admit, while a few more days of admiring my beautifully clad maple tree would have been nice, I just can't wait for the first big snowfall!







Saturday, October 16, 2010

Precious Memories


October 16th. How could it be a more beautiful day? It’s a sunny sixty-five degrees; the sky is a clear blue and cloudless; the glow from a huge orange maple tree in my front yard makes its way through my windows and brightens every room of the house, leaving joy in my heart that is beyond description! 

This day on the calendar holds bitter-sweet memories for me because it was my father’s birthday. Had he lived so long, he would be ninety-five today! Instead, he surrendered his life to heart disease at a mere sixty-three years old. I loved him dearly! Still do. Memories of him invade my thoughts often, sometimes bringing a smile, other times, a few tears.

He was such a gentle man. He had twinkling brown eyes, black hair and olive skin beautiful enough to make any woman envious. I loved his hands; they were soft. Except for a few years in the coal mines, the work he did was easy – mostly done at a desk.

My dad was the happiest man I ever knew. I used to wake up in the morning to the sound of his singing in the kitchen as he brewed his coffee. He usually sang favorite old hymns like Precious Memories and Lily of the Valley. Sometimes when I'm alone – if I close my eyes and concentrate – I can still hear him singing these words, “He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul...”

This admirable man was an inspiration to many. 


I wonder... why does remembering good things hurt so much?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Never Lose Heart


Sometimes life deals us a disappointment. Some are minor; others are so bad that we almost want to die. The one I was dealt today falls somewhere in between. Out of the blue it came – changing my day from one that was supposed to have been very happy to one of the worst days of my life. One thing went wrong causing an avalanche of other mishaps and my emotions plummeted from the highest peak to the deepest pit in short order! I wondered for a while if I would find my way back. But thanks to my faith in God and His mercy, I know I will.

Some people seem to have no trouble dealing with unpleasant things and putting them behind them right away. I’m not one of those; I’m a wallower. After sufficient wallowing time, I can usually let things go... or at least, accept them and go on. My daughter says, “If it bothers you, don’t think about it!” And she doesn’t. Everything goes “on the back burner.” What worries me about that is that one day; all of the stuff on the back burner will come rushing to the front at once. Then what?

My son has a nice theory, too. He says, “Don’t worry about anything. It’s not worth it. You can’t do anything about most things anyway so just go on with your life and things will take care of themselves!” And then, there’s my husband – who never worried a day in his life! His little nugget of wisdom goes like this, “Why should I worry? You worry enough for both of us.” Sure wish I could follow any or all of these examples. I try but it’s just not in me. I suffer a lot more, of course, but, unfortunately, we are what we are. We can’t change just because someone tells us to.

So tonight, after wallowing all day, I picked up a little purple book by Frances J. Roberts that was a gift from my husband. It has 365 one-minute meditations in it. I read it every day, usually in the morning, but today was different. Perhaps it was meant to be that way because I needed the advice more tonight. The meditation for today reads as follows:

“Never lose heart when confronted by disappointment. Remember always that I control all that touches you, and as I move to order your life, I not only open the right doors, but close the wrong ones. Whenever a wrong door is closed, it is by My hand as much as when the right one opens. In this way, I not only bring you joy but spare you pain. Trust Me. Have I not said that nothing shall harm you?”  Inspired by Luke 10:19.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two Special Witches

     My daughter and I were talking one day about how quickly time passes.  Even though the temperatures were still reaching the nineties almost every day, we were ten days into August and we who live in this part of the country know that the weather could change drastically any day now. Usually, by the end of August - sometimes earlier - you literally start to smell fall in the air. Suddenly the sunny days are cooler, skies bluer, and nights are almost cold. The constant humming of crickets fills the air, and leaves start to change into a myriad of colors as Mother Nature prepares to flaunt her most magnificent season!
     My daughter, who loves fall as much as I do, confessed that one of the reasons she loves it is because she looks forward to Halloween. Then we started to reminisce about past Halloweens. One of our favorites was a few years ago when Izzy, the newest member of our family at the time, was dressed up as a witch. She looked so cute! 



Coincidentally, Izzy's Aunt Toney dressed as a witch that year, too.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sweet Memories

I remember waking up, as a child, to the wonderful aroma of bacon frying and coffee percolating. It was comforting to go padding into the warm kitchen and find my mother fussing over the first meal of the day.

The table would already be set with glasses of fresh orange juice at each place, and my mother would be standing by the stove frying bacon and eggs. There would be a plate of buttered toast on the table and a jar of jam nearby. Sometimes, she’d make pancakes, waffles or oatmeal instead of eggs. My favorite was blueberry waffles.

What has happened to the family breakfast?  Not only breakfast, but other meals have suffered also with the passing of time. Having been a homemaker for many years, I have no trouble creating a couple of pie crusts or a batch of biscuits from “scratch.” But today’s need for two pay checks and the advent of the working mother have left no time for learning or practicing the art of making homemade goodies.

Once, when my daughter and her family were visiting, I made homemade waffles. My young grandson toddled sleepily into the kitchen, climbed into a chair and waited while I placed a waffle on a plate, slathered it with butter and topped it off with warm maple syrup. I put the plate in front of him, expecting a display of happy surprise. But instead, he eyed the plate skeptically, pushed it back a few inches, looked at me and said, “Give me a real one.”

Sadly, a real waffle, to his generation, comes out of a box that is kept in the freezer. I’m not knocking frozen food. The convenience of it on a busy day is much appreciated. And I think it’s wonderful that today’s active young mothers have the very able help of Betty Crocker and Mrs. Smith. But something has been lost, to be sure.

One summer day, long ago, my favorite aunt and I spent the day picking blackberries in anticipation of a big bowl of my grandmother’s cobbler, which she made while we were taking our evening baths. She covered the warm blackberry mixture with milk and, after we devoured it, she tucked two sleepy kids with warm, satisfied tummies into bed. What a wonderful memory!

What kind of food related memories will today’s children carry in their hearts forever?  Will they always prefer frozen waffles?

Or will they ask for a real one, “like grandma used to make.”








Friday, October 8, 2010

Enough Joy to Fill a Book

I once read that Thomas Kinkade, well known artist and writer, keeps a “Joy Journal” and highly recommends that others might benefit from doing the same. Mr. Kinkaid wrote: “Life is a grand blessing, but it’s one that is made of tiny and simple joys. Every day, joys abound. It is a matter of perspective. For every trial there is a joy. For every loss there is a gain.”

I was so impressed by those words and the idea of keeping a joy-journal that I started one that very day. The concept is that you write only the things that bring happiness and joy to your life. Nothing bad goes into your Joy Journal! I think of it as a unique and pleasurable way of counting my blessings.

My first entry was about a birds’ nest that was in a tree right outside my living room window.  It was situated on a large limb so close to the window that, from my vantage point, I could look straight into it. First thing each morning, I’d run to the window and check on the three baby robins that were in the nest. Sometimes I’d see them awaken, stretch, and flap their wings, though they weren’t nearly ready to fly. “Testing their wings,” I thought. 

They’d peck at each other a bit, reminding me of human siblings bantering back and forth, and then they’d settle down – beaks open wide – and wait for their mother to provide breakfast. They seemed to know exactly when she’d be there. Suddenly, she’d appear, worm dangling from her mouth, perch on the outer rim of the nest and lovingly feed her three babies. That sight so overwhelmed me, each time I watched it, that tears often welled up in my eyes and spilled over.

I was reminded of Matthew 6:26 which says: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

That same nest was used every spring for three years. The excitement I felt while observing each new family of robins never waned. But I was always a little sad when, one morning, I’d run to the window eager to watch them have their breakfast, and the nest would be empty!

I’ve written in my Joy Journal many times since then. There are entries relating the sheer delight I felt with the birth of each new grandchild, and the fun I had watching them grow and learn about life. I’ve recorded the always welcome visits from each of our children and grandchildren, and the many wonderful holiday celebrations we’ve enjoyed with them. There are also descriptions of lovely weddings, graduations, and dance recitals. The list is long. My Joy Journal is almost full. “My cup runneth over.”

Thomas Kinkade is right. Joy abounds every day! All we have to do is throw our arms and our hearts open wide and accept it.


This story also appears in my book, Somewhere in Heaven My Mother is Smiling~





Monday, October 4, 2010

Out Of The Darkness ~ Into The Light



Since I had errands to run today, I was happy to awaken and find that last night’s rain had stopped, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning!

After breakfast and a few chores, I was on my way. Heading for the Interstate, which is my usual route, I abruptly changed my mind and decided to take another road – the one less traveled.

A true country road, with only two lanes, it could easily qualify as one in the famous John Denver song, Country Roads. All along the way, there are two story frame farmhouses—some complete with tin roofs and weather worn barns. A few newer brick ranchers dot the landscape, appearing out of place.

I passed a little frame schoolhouse, a white country church with a red door and a tall steeple, and I saw cattle grazing on a beautiful, sunlit grassy knoll. Two small children frolicked with a big black dog, evoking memories of my own childhood. Taking my time, I enjoyed every mile—each of my senses playing a part in my “being in this very moment!”

Encountering a slow moving tractor, I almost had to stop, but after a few moments, the driver noticed that he was holding me up and moved to the side of the road to let me pass. He waved like an old friend.  I smiled, thinking how different it seemed here… only five or six miles from home.

In one place, tall trees lined each side of the road like soldiers. Their lush green branches stretched over the road, touching at the top to form a shadowy tunnel. Driving through near darkness for about a quarter of a mile before emerging into sunshine again, it occurred to me that this country road was similar to the highway of life.

For long periods, everything is sunny and life is good. Then suddenly, we hit a patch of darkness. Sometimes it lasts for quite a while—but with perseverance and the grace of God, we make it through, emerging into the light once more!

I remembered a time when our family waited for a decision that could have changed our lives forever. On the day we were to hear this decision, it was dark, dreary, and pouring rain when we headed for our destination. Fearing the worst outcome, our moods were as dark as the sky. When we arrived, we were sent to a waiting room with a big window. I stared out at the black clouds, a silent prayer in my heart and mind. 

Suddenly, the dark clouds parted and the sun shone brightly between them, nearly blinding us! The fear I had felt was replaced by a wonderful peaceful feeling. Shielding my eyes from the sun, I put my arm around my daughter and said, “It’s going to be all right.” Wiping tears from her cheeks, she said, “I hope you’re right.”
 
I was. The decision was positive; the rain had stopped and we walked out into bright sunshine, knowing that God's grace had been sufficient to carry us through one of the darkest times of our lives.

Unfortunately, there are tunnels of darkness for all of us on life’s highway.  Funny thing about tunnels: the only way out is through! If we just keep moving - with faith and confidence - we can rest assured that we’ll make it safely through the darkness and back into the light again.

Finishing my errands, I hurried home, feeling refreshed and blessed by my pleasant excursion. Slowing the pace had given me time to see beauty that often goes unnoticed and to reflect upon some of the dark days of my life, while remembering to be thankful for the many times I had walked in sunshine.

Turning into my driveway, I promised myself that I would definitely take the “road less traveled” more often. It was well worth the extra time!


~~~~

You might want to check this story out, too. 



Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Beloved October

While I was passionately professing my love for October to a friend, she said, “Talk about waxing eloquent!  I thought I was listening to Elizabeth Barrett Browning for a minute there.”

I told another friend I felt a “stirring” inside, and she asked, “Are you expecting?”

Giggling, I answered, “Of course not! It’s October!"

Perhaps I am a little too exuberant about fall. But after a long, hot summer of watching those around me juggle already overloaded schedules in order to pack in more summer fun—I’m tired and ready to relax.

Today, it is 69 degrees and sunny with clear blue skies and a slight breeze. Leaves of all colors are beginning to decorate my front yard and a tall maple tree is rapidly turning orange, casting a warm glow throughout my house. In the evening, the scent of autumn is distinctive. The moon is surrounded by a hazy glow. It is a restful time.

Trees and plants prepare to rest… and while they are resting, their underground roots will prepare for a rebirth and the flourishing of new growth in the spring. 

My husband, who does not share my passion for fall, declares that there will be no rest for him until the leaves are raked. I appeal for a little more time to enjoy them, but it is to no avail. He will dispose of them long before the last one falls, leaving in their place a dull, colorless landscape.

But I can’t worry about that today. My beloved October has returned—with its brilliant colors, cool temperatures and sunny, cloudless, azure skies, and I must enjoy it before it escapes for another year.

Fall is so beautiful, yet so fleeting. I never understand those who say they hate it because it is the forerunner to a long, cold winter. I think there is a lesson to be learned here about “being in the moment.” Many wonderful things are missed by worrying about what is coming later instead of enjoying what is now.

“Let me stay in this moment... forever!” I said aloud, as I drove home from an appointment this afternoon. The hills are speckled with color. Dazzling reds, oranges and yellows stand out amid dull greens and browns. Warm sunshine, less intense than it was a month ago, highlights the beauty of the mountains.

I think about how the changing seasons remind me of the cycles of life. Spring’s awakening, summer’s bounty, autumn’s harvest and winter’s rest… each one a beautiful experience.

I liken springtime to childhood and youth. With the support of a loving family, we learn about life, acquire our values and begin to venture out and explore things on our own. In time, we break away from family and enter into our summertime. There, we may establish a career, get married and raise a family—or both. Perhaps we meet God in this season. Ultimately, we find our own special identity and make our mark on the world. Our lives are so busy that we are unaware of how quickly time passes and, before we know it, we move into the autumn years.

Autumn—the harvest time of life—when all that we have done during spring and summer comes to fruition. We reap the rewards of a successful career, or the years we spent raising children. We may begin to come to terms with our mortality. Like plants in fall, we start to prepare ourselves for a well-deserved rest. This can be the most fulfilling season. Almost unnoticed, winter occurs. We continue to enjoy life. We grow spiritually. This, too, can be a rewarding time if we keep a positive attitude and resolve to live each day to the fullest.

This is October for me. Withdrawing into my own world, blocking out everything except the beauty of the season, my reflections, and my relationship with God, I find that this is enough to sustain me through the long cold winter, and beyond….