Forgetting

I had a sign on my icebox for a long while a long while back. I still keep the saying close at hand, though for some reason other things crowded it from the icebox front. 

 It reads:

What really important thing are you forgetting to do?

I ask that question on many different levels.  Did I pay the fuel card bills?  Did I ask him to check the propane tank level?  Did I ask the Lord forgiveness for my recent failures of character?  Did I put water in the dog’s bowl? Am I sure I checked all the supply levels for baking Christmas cookies?

From trivial to profound and back to trivial.

One question that haunts me was asked me on the day we buried Mother.  What are you going to do with the rest of your life?  At the time, all I could think of was raising the children.  At ages 10 (nearly 11) and 12, things were just taking off.  And my father was still living and needed assistance.  The Butler sale launched that year as well.  The question didn’t mean much for a long time. 

A few years later, the children were grown and Daddy and his mother and his father, too.  From September 2003 through April 2007, there was a lot of leaving for us.  We also lost a dear friend during that time.  And Hurricane Rita blew through.  We got down to just having our jobs and the cows for the most part.

Eventually, the children married and finally a couple of duchesses came along to add glitter sparkle to our lives. Figuratively and literally! 

Still, there are some long days of not much going on.  I have been retired just past a year. He is still working.  The duchesses are too far to come and go on a regular basis.  I have some hobbies I have dabbled in through the years. I am so accustomed to not having time to really dig deep on them, I still just dabble. 

I am forgetting to dig deep.

I love to plan things.  Have my tidy little lists of things.  I passed that trait on to our son.  I have notebooks of lists.  I have spent my idle hours for thirty years making lists.  What do I list?  I have a list of plants I want for the jungle garden.  I have lists of household supplies I use so I can try to make a more efficient shopping list.  I have lists of my favorite foods.  I have a list of songs I like.  I have a list of books to read and authors whose works I want to read.  I have a list of topics for essays to write.  I spend more time and energy on my lists instead of attending the things on the lists. 

I love to sort things.  An offshoot of listing or the listing is an offshoot of sorting.  I will sort and reorganize my closets and pantries several times through the year.  I haul off stuff to the Salvation Army or bag it up for some of the teen girls at church or a friend I know would love it. I pass through the thrift store and get some more things and then go through the sifting process again.  I thought for a while I was off my rocker. 

When I look around my house, I see the results of the process.  I have several areas that show my love of tropical things.  I have book cases full of a full range of topics.  I have lovely dishes to use every day.  The walls have several original pieces of amateur art.  Some is my even my own work.  I have a modest collection of evening bags of which I plan to start using for everyday as soon as I can get my load of things I think I need to haul around with me pared down to fit.  I hear several of my besties reading this and cackling with laughter over that remark.  And he just rolled his eyes.  One of the things I get called is bag lady.  I still consider it a lofty goal to achieve.  Maybe beyond my scope. Nevertheless…….. 

I am getting better though.  I have been taking the time to read.  And yesterday, I took time to watch one of the movies on my movies to watch list.  I put in a new flower bed this summer.  I have the photos on the table and have begun the sorting process to make a photo album. (This is from the days of film style cameras.)  I have a number of digital photos I want to print and put in the album eventually.  I make time to spend with my friends and my family.  I am terrible at calling to check on folks.  I hate talking on the phone.  I would rather see someone face to face. I text painfully slow.  (I did learn how to talk to text and my phone seems to understand my accent.)  I go with him to check the cows most times. 

Nothing profound.  Just ordinary living. Working on not forgetting the really important things.  Time with him, time with the offspring, time with friends, time with my own creative muse.   Mundane things in a quiet house on a dusty dead end lane in the boondocks of Southeast Texas. 

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.