McCall’s Magazine Cover

Last week, on my birthday, I was scrolling Facebook.  I follow a page called “Phantom Stranger’s Wild Wild West”.  The page posted a photo of Natalie Wood in her role on “The Searchers”.  It was then I learned her birthday was also July 20th

I was immediately reminded of a “birthday gift” I received several years after my mother passed away.

I have never worked on my birthday. I have always taken the day off.  One of those days, I went to an “antique” mall and was browsing through the booths.  My eye was caught by the magazine cover in the picture I have included with this letter. 

Several things were significant enough to me for me to have no doubt in my mind it was my mother reaching out to me from the spirit world or the Holy Spirit providing very specific comfort.  Not trying to be spooky or flaky.  I just can’t overlook these things as coincidence.  First, my mother’s favorite color was orange.  That in itself is unusual.  She is the only person I ever heard say orange was their favorite color.  She loved Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.  I think McCall’s was one of the the only magazines for which she ever subscribed.  And most significant.  This issue is July 1965. The month and year I was born.  I wish I could remember how old I was when I found it.  Maybe 40 or so? I bought it and framed it and had it on the wall for a few years. 

So then again last week, I felt Mother wishing me happy birthday through a Facebook post on some random page I follow. Natalie. July 20th

I don’t care if anyone thinks I am stringing too much together.  Making too much of it.  Even my mother would have looked askance at me for this, I think.  But she knows more now, living on the other side with the Lord. 

Anything I can latch on to that helps keep her memory renewed in my heart and allows me to forward her legacy of love on to her descendants is worth anyone thinking I am flaky. 

Thank you, Mama! I love you, too!

Wintertime (Spring) Cleaning

I am definitely not trying to hasten spring. The winter is needed. I simply want to be ready for the spring when it does arrive.  Here in this part of the world, the spring flowers will be blooming by early March. Summer arriving by mid-May or sooner. I want to be done with the clearing out and cleaning up and rearranging and deciding now, when the wind is chill and the skies gray and sullen. When the jasmine covers the pines, I want to be ready to get out there and smell it.

Once upon a time, houses were heated by coal or wood. Kerosene, fat candles, gaslight were used to see in the twilight days.  The soot made it needful to wash everything down in the spring at the returning of the warm sunshine. It would be too soon to clean in the midst of the winter. One would wait until the windows could be flung open and freshness could blow through the home.  These days, in our air tight dwellings, there is little fresh air any time without deliberateness of the housekeeper.

This is a new time for me. I have retired. Not since I was 20 something have I had the leisure to plan my work over days and weeks rather than around school schedules, care of parents, working days. It does not seem to appeal to women these days to want to simply keep house. It is difficult for even me who loves to keep house to find “permission” to do just that.  I have a nagging in my mind that I am wasting valuable time and energy in such a mundane pursuit. 

But is my pursuit mundane? According to the Lord, any productive work is honorable done with the right heart.  Washing dishes and mopping the floor are honorable tasks.  It is needful for a home to run well. So why shouldn’t I give myself permission to pursue what has all along been my dream? Keeping a well-run house.

I had the privilege of doing so in the early days of our marriage. And when I did seek outside employment, it was in a capacity that allowed generous time off to continue keeping house.  It was later, when a job change reduced my time allowance, when grief continued to mount with continuing losses of my family members, when the little birds flew away from the nests as warrior eagles on their own, then my home became more difficult to attend.  My heart was lonely and the tasks felt meaningless in my sadness.

How is retirement? I am at almost five months along with it.  I have been busy with granddaughters and holidays and learning the tasks of a very part time job. It isn’t “new year resolutions” driving me at this time. It is simply timing.  Holidays past, decorations to put away, weather conditions conducive to being indoors more. I decided rather haphazardly this would be a good time to do some clearing out of things.

First was to go through the decorations I didn’t use this year to see of what to dispose. Then to decide what I used this year but didn’t love and get those things gone.  Since I currently use the washroom for storage, I went through things out there, too.  I have hauled away a few bags already.  The washroom seems organized. I only have two tubs of Christmas decorations, the tree itself, and three ornament boxes.  I also have a tub of antlers and a tub of pine cones. The cones were brought to me from California by our son.  I use them and the antlers in table centerpieces. 

Next, I have gathered “projects” on the back porch (sunroom sounds too uppity). It is down to do it or dump it.  I have a bad habit of going to thrift stores and picking up things to “makeover” then getting the materials to do the makeover only to box it up and stuff it in the closet.  Excuses of I don’t have time, I’m not sure how to start, I have no place to set up to work, I don’t know what to do with the finished project.  Where would I display or use whatever it is?  Who could I give it to? I am trying to break the acquisition habit.  I believe this ultimatum I have given myself may work to strengthen my resolve to keep my focus on what I actually do want to spend time and effort doing.

What is that?  I love to embroider.  I like reading and I love writing.  I have a half dozen or more stories begun or first drafts done. I do like to keep house, cook, do yardwork.  I still have him to look after.  He needs the care I give him.  Of course he can get along without me.  But, isn’t life sweeter when I take the time to take care of him?  He isn’t difficult to tend anyway.  A good supper, clean clothes, an occasional haircut, a simple lunch packed for work, a ride up the road to see the cows.  He can be a bit cantankerous, but then so can I.  He’s worth every bit of it and more.

Starting this new year, this new month, right here in the middle of a Southeast Texas “winter”, I am clearing out and cleaning up.  Setting up for the coziness needed now. Setting up for the long season of outdoor living afforded by this part of the world through early springs, long summers and warm falls.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I don’t even know how this day will play out and end.  But I am ever so grateful I know the One who does.  I have been through many dark times and no doubt will be through many more.  But His light of hope has sustained me even through my weeping and mourning.  As painful as things have been, I am grateful to find myself not bitter.  I am grateful to find myself not stuck in the mire of self-pity that I fall in to at times. 

My life is not charmed; not full of blissful days.  I have been through bad times. I have made bad decisions. I have behaved poorly.  I used to criticize myself brutally for my failures.  Somewhere I heard the phrase: how arrogant I must be to think that the blood of Christ is not good enough for my sins.  That is what is boils down to for me.  I am too bad for the blood of Christ to work on me and the Spirit to work in me and through me.  That was the lie I believed.  That was my mountain to climb.  It is a slippery slope going up, but I continue to gain altitude. It is only by seeking Jesus, I will be able to summit the peak.

How raw and open is my confession.  How vulnerable I have allowed myself to be.  If you are reading this, please know I will have wrangled with myself to allow it posted. This is not how I intended this to go.  I suppose I needed to hear it. 

I am looking toward the coming days with expectancy. Seeking an ever-sweeter walk with Christ, an ever more tender connection with Him and with him. Moments of delight with our children and our little grand girls.  Deeper connections with friends and extended family. If I can provide encouragement or a little cheer to the hurting, I pray I am allowed to do so.  

Pain will come this year. I pray I am quick to seek Him for courage, strength, guidance, comfort.

Blessings will come this year. I pray I am not blind to see them. I pray I am quick to praise Him for them.

Already feeling the blessing of today.  The comfort of simply knowing Jesus.  May you know Him, too.