Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Days in the South

Tomorrow marks the 4th snow day that our kids will be out of school...they only have 10 snow days for the year, and it's only the middle of January...hmmmm.  The strange thing is that I've been driving kids around for the past four days at all hours of the day and night and am wondering where's the line between safety and something else!

Actually these snow days have provided our family with an extended reprieve that I am kinda liking!  It's nice to sleep in, not have an agenda to stay on top of...and if we blow the hours in our day, it's okay!!! In a world that's consumed with time management and accomplishing more in less time, these days are the very proof that we need to take back more of our time and accomplish a little less...

My girls and I have actually caught up with one another and what we've been dreamng about...they've actually been able to spend time with friends...and if they stay up late, it's to read for pleasure or talk rather than stressing over an assignment or a project due.  Though this time will be short lived and school will soon be back in session making up for the lost days, it's nice to reclaim our family time!  With Keith home, laid up from shoulder surgery, it's made the time even more memorable!  With all the the curve balls life has been throwing at us lately, it gives me reason to pause and remember that my cup does indeed runneth over...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowflakes and Other Designs

I don't know what it is about snow that sets my heart on fire, but i'm about as giddie as the kids are at the sight of the first snowflake!

Even now as I sit here mesmerized by the wintery scene unfold through my window, I can feel the freshness of the air and hear the quietness of the earth as the falling snow hushes any movement.  Its reflection sparkles as the snowflakes dance downward in perfect harmony with each other against the stillness of the night.  And of all the thousands of snowflakes that are falling, not ONE is like any other!

How awesome of God to use the snowflake and its uniqueness to describe how His blood washes white as snow!    Maybe that is the attraction for me--an omnipotent reminder each time snowflakes appear of what God, through Jesus Christ, did for me...and what that means to me.

I am as pure and white as the falling snow that envelopes the world in the dead of winter, cleansing it to bring new life in spring.  And I am enveloped in it like a new garment giving me new life (Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24)--just as God's garment was white as snow (Daniel 7:9)!

I am awestruck by its beauty in me; and like the snow's beautiful design on the landscape, it changes me...that give me reason enough for my cup to runneth over and over and over!!!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Blessings Wrapped In Small Packages

I now understand the moanings of those who have gone before me when they entered the new season of their lives called retirement...i used to think, "how can you possibly not want your dear husband of many years not to be around you, etc., etc."

Not that i'm in that season; but today, I had my first taste of what might be awaiting me...Keith had surgery on his shoulder yesterday and that resulted in a sleepless night for us both.  He finally fell asleep about 6 a.m. on the couch, and i not to long thereafter.

About 10 a.m., mr. mockingbird's relentless singing awoke me my from a deep sleep.  Soon after, Keith began stirring, so I put on a pot of coffee.  That was the last thing I did by myself without being told...the rest of the day, Keith followed me around reminding what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.  Keep in mind, he is SUPPOSED to be resting--being still.  When he wasn't following me around, he was getting into everything else--all things that were against the rules for him to be doing...! 

And this is Day One--we have six more weeks of this!!!  I need to research how many women commit crimes against their husbands in these types of cases, because i've already threatened him countless times throughout the day!  Not to mention how many times i've had to yell at him to go sit down and be still because I have turned around with him right behind me, banging the wounded side (nearly sending him back to the operating table!) 

I finally became so aggravated that I yelled at him--"Look...i've been fully capable of taking care of this house without you here since Day 1...i don't need you telling me what to do...!" 

To which, this dear sweet man replied, "I know...i guess i'm just trying to make myself useful." 

This man, my husband, so used to being the provider, the one taking care of everything, never limited in any way by anything, never having had to accept that there was something he could NOT do...was feeling defeated--by his own body...and was grasping at a way to maintain some sort of control over something!

In that moment, I found a blessing wrapped in a small package...the gift of a partnership that supersedes all things "natural," created in a covenant promising "in sickness and in health" and fulfilled in the intimacy established from nearly 25 years of love...that's what makes my cup runneth over...!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Clean Slates and Empty Pages

It's a new year, a clean slate with 365 days of blank pages to fill with our passions, our purpose and our dreams!  The new year rings with nostalgia from resolutions of years past and yet, offers promises of better days ahead...

I have been challenged to commit to writing DAILY--which is something i've longed to do i'm rising to the occasion.  Today, however, I will cheat by sharing with you our family Christmas letter (that counts for at least three days' writing!!)

The view from my window is white with falling snow–the wind its only evidence of chilling temperatures–welcoming Christmastime with its beauty.

How strange that the weather is one of the headliners of an otherwise uninteresting year that started with a mild drawn-out spring but turned to disaster when the worst flood in 500 years hit Nashville and was followed by a summer boasting of cooler temperatures that continued into the fall.

With winter right around the corner, we are privileged with a sneak peak of what is in store. Snow has been falling all day...i’m always in awe of that first blanket of white that tucks us in our little corner of the world!

I just had a random thought of John Boy Walton and his voiceover reading the story of their lives...!

Though we began 2009 celebrating the births of our two newest granddaughters, we were saddened to end the year with the loss of my last grandparent, my grandmother–Ella B. Milliken Stewart. The B. in her name didn’t stand for anything...she was just Ella B., and she slipped quietly from this world, with my mom by her side, on December 23 taking with her 96 years of memories–but not before sharing many years of them with us. There are certain people in the world who help define who you are, and she was one of mine. I am grateful for the memories.

Our story this year, otherwise, has been rather routine and predictable. Though the road is long from here to Kennesaw, GA, Jessica has been awesome about making sure we see one another about once a month! The time in between, Elizabeth seems to grow in some new way, and it is only through pictures that we get to watch her enter those new stages. It was through one such picture that they announced the expectation of a new addition to their family in May! In the meantime, Jessica still pours herself out as a Psychology teacher at Pope High School while Bert’s job at UCB Pharmaceuticals involves a lot of traveling.

While Bert & Jessica prepare for a new baby, Jay and Melanie prepare to purchase a new home. Much like us, they desire some property and have found some potential prospects that they hope will create more space for Allie (Jay’s niece), Alexis, Aleaha, Alivia, and Alaina.

Now that the girls are growing older, Melanie is ready to return to school to pursue a nursing degree. She has already put in her application and is waiting to take her next steps.

Despite the miles that separate Memphis from Nashville and keep us from seeing them regularly, we were finally able to gather everyone together at our home for Thanksgiving! Together with Bert, Jessica and Elizabeth, our home was full of the sounds of kids and family–our only wish is that we’d had more time with them all.  But just like us, they have places to go, things to do and people to see, so we are grateful for the time we had with them.

It was also great to be able to fit all the kids in the bonus room, too! Yes! It is finished with only minor details to tend to...the girls have already made grand use of it and it is their second favorite place to hangout!

Hannah’s first favorite place to hangout is her room! At 17, she finally moved into her own room–we spent a weekend refinishing the old bedroom suite and surprised her with it when she returned from their summer vacation with Bert & Jessica!

It’s a good thing she had a great summer vacation because this year has been anything but a vacation for her...the I.B. programme has lived up to its reputation; and for someone who has never had to study, Hannah is gaining a new connotation of the word. She has applied such concepts as discipline, perserverance, determination, passion and diligence to her has most definitely been an uphill battle! But give credit where credit is due–I don’t know how I’d fare taking 4 AP/IB classes, 1 AP class and 1 honors class.

She still managed to make time for the fall play, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as an “oompa loompa” and ventured out to perform in her first “open mic” show and to sing in 2 pre-performance shows. She plays the guitar as well as the piano and has found “the greatest music teachers in the world.”

She also managed to find time for a certain young man...Tim...the curve ball in her life from way out in left field! We were so sure she would graduate not having time for a relationship...ha! Though they are young, their relationship is one of the most mature I have seen.

Rebeka, on the other hand, sees the work that’s required to make a relationship work and has decided that, at 16, it’s not worth it. She’s content with having her driver’s license and access to the truck...! Her second year in I.B., Rebeka is earning all A’s except for 1 B. With 1 IB, 1 AP and 4 honors classes, that is quite a feat! She has set some high standards for herself and sticks with it–despite the stress! To de-stress, she took up track and cross country and has found new loves to compete with her violin...she lives with passion and joy.

Moving into her own room filled her with more than joy. We just finished painting her furniture, and now both girls are ready to pick out paint for their walls. They have two completely different tastes in decorating, so it should be interesting to watch their personalities extend into their spaces. These days they don’t get together like they once did with their activities taking them into two directions. So I haved love it when they get together with their instruments playing and working on Christmas songs...I also love it when they work together to clean up the kitchen! 

The biggest thing we’ve been doing together is college previews...what a change since Jessica was in school. Both girls are most impressed with Belmont so far, but with its expensive price tag, they’ll need to secure some serious we keep looking.

They did finally make a decision on a church home–Fellowship’s quite a bit larger than I would prefer, but the girls like the youth group and are already plugged in, so we will be calling it home...

Keith’s schedule limits his ability to become involved in too much of anything, but he can be found skiing or playing racquetball after work with his buddies who share the same work schedules. When he’s not at FedEx, he spends most of his time working to fix up the house.  Though FedEx has cut his hours, we feel blessed that he has a many around us have lost jobs, and we realize the times are still fragile.

I have found myself feeling that fragility in my own life and have spent more time and energy reinforcing my spiritual footings as I reevaluate all that is mine. It’s not easy to let go of those things God wants to prune from my life, but already I see the budding of fruit it will bear.

I am left wondering where and how I spent the remainder of my time and energy, but I am reminded that my investment into the lives of my family, though often unseen, will be multiplied for generations to come...and that is enough for me.  One of my mentors used to say that parenting is not for wimps...and, indeed, it is the hardest job i’ve ever held, but it is also the most rewarding of all.

Reading through all the prior years’ Christmas letters, we’ve reminisced about what each year has brought and what we have loved about each season of our lives...each one offering its own magnificence and each one presenting its own growing pains. Hannah asked us which age we have enjoyed the most, and we honestly could not choose one...We have loved, yes LOVED, every year for its uniqueness and the joy it brought to our lives...and yet, to think back upon it all brings feelings of bittersweet to realize that those times are gone forever and remain only as memories to cherish and hold close in our hearts. So, as 2010 comes to a close, we remember the seasons of our lives that we have spent together with you, and it is those memories that we will carry with us always.

And like the snow that welcomes the beauty of Christmas, we pray that you will welcome the love of Christ into your hearts this season.

The final pages of 2010 are filled...and as we turn the page to a new year, I am looking forward to seeing the empty pages filled with how my cup runneth over in 2011