I’m sitting at the south window of our bedroom looking out at sun dappled woods. The pale winter sky peaks through a mix of intricate gray lace and pine green plumes.
This is my darkest month. I have always struggled with the cold dark days of February. The odd thing about my trouble is that I love the winter. I love all the seasons in their turn. It doesn’t seem logical that I would struggle emotionally through any of them. I love the steel gray of the low sky that comes with the Southeast Texas winter. The long shadows that stretch across the land and the colored leaves which cling to trees till spring ones push them off at last.
I have promised myself I will do all the things needed to not let the bottom fall out of my emotions. What are all the things? Seeking sunlight at every opportunity. Lighting candles everywhere. Soaking in a hot tub of bath water in the evenings. Getting fully dressed even when staying in for the day. Riding with him when he goes on cow business. Making time for friends. Making time for Duchesses. Making myself see the beauty around me.
I have set myself a real challenge. This Valentine weekend, I plan to have both Duchesses spend two nights. We may go to a birthday party Saturday I’ve been invited to or we may stay here and have the tea party I had already planned. It will depend on how well we all sleep Friday night for the most part.
Thinking about the weekend, making plans, gathering supplies, making ready has been a very good way to keep the gloomies at bay. Looking forward to all the love and affection exchanged between the three of us is a perfect way to keep my heart up.
Most importantly, I am trusting in the Lord to comfort me as He always has. Rock helps me get through this. I have him and some others who pray specifically for my difficult days of winter.
This year they don’t seem so dark after all…………………
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.