Back in October I wrote a post about my sacred space and seeking that small, still voice. Then I lost focus, wandered aimlessly while grasping at things I thought I wanted or needed, until I re-read that post this morning. It struck a chord with me as much as it did the day I wrote it. Follow the link to read it for yourself. It is worth the time. Then come back here. I have more to say.
Eight months later I am feeling somewhat lost again; for so long I haven’t been able to figure out why. I’m doing the stuff I thought would make me happy and fulfill my soul. Guess what? It hasn’t worked and that caused the feelings of hopelessness and emptiness to grow. Nothing shows what is going on in my head like that view of my desk I took this morning. Disorganized, messy with no real ability to function or be productive much less be conducive to peaceful meditations.
This morning, while sipping coffee and reading The Truth And Beauty by Andrew Klavan, I sat and quietly asked for guidance; and then I waited. What happened next was amazing. It was a fantastical experience of life flashing before my eyes that gave me a glimpse into the purpose for which I was brought to this earth.
In my mind’s eye images of me through the years came flooding back as if they had just happened, but these images encompassed most of my life and all of them revolved around faith in and love for Jesus Christ. These images include being the only one in my family passionate about church, to baptism, teaching in the church, going to Bible college to learn as much as I could and being identified as having the gift of teaching, mentoring youth, receiving unsolicited encouragement to write, and realizing that the only writing I can consistently do is when I write about faith its value to life itself.
God has given me a gift. I can write in a way that seems to resonate with people. I’m a simple person and what I have to say is not academic, flowery or fancy. I write about the ways God touches my life. I do it in the hope that someone somewhere connects with Him through my words.
I am on a new journey. I know it will be transformative for me and I desperately want to document it here. I want it to be a consistent and enriching experience for myself and anyone who wanders across the path of this story. I will save the rest for another day. If you have found me for the first time or this is your first time…welcome. This blog is not new but it is renamed and repurposed. I contemplated erasing old posts, but decided against it. We all come to Jesus at different times and in different ways.
I never really left, rather I allowed myself to loose focus and look towards other things to fill the emptiness. Without daily worship and listening there is no way to know what direction life should take. Jesus will never lead me (or you) down a path of harm or destruction. There is no need to fear or worry. Jesus suffered and died so that we all may know God. With that much love what is left to fear?
I feel as though I have been living in a fog the past two weeks or so. The last thing I remember was researching and writing about Charles Schultz and the significance of A Charlie Brown Christmas. And now here we are, January 4, 2022. The simple story is that I got sick. Covid test was negative, I only took one; however, the symptoms were very much like a friend of mine who did test positive. In addition to the physical symptoms, I was in a mental fog. I just existed, interacted when needed but basically was not mentally with the program. I felt like I had hit a brick wall, both physically and mentally. Fortunately by Christmas Eve I felt well enough to host my family and then I collapsed for another week. And, that brings us to today.
Onwards Into 2022
I have the well deserved reputation for starting things but never finishing them. Call it short attention span or creativity run amuck, whatever causes this personality trait, I wish there was a vaccine for it that actually worked. Therefore, there are no big resolutions. I don’t need the baggage of failing yet again – said very tongue in cheek. I don’t really feel bad about quitting; I accepted this part of me many years ago and I avoid people who try to make me feel bad.
No, instead of resolutions I have a couple of things that I am calling my Focal Points for this year. No specific tasks or firm goals, just areas of my life to focus my heart, mind and body. We will look back at the end of the year to find how this focus shifts the quality of my life from so-so to rich and full.
Without God nothing makes sense. This is a complicated subject in many ways. My relationship with God is uniquely mine. I have written about my move away from organized religion. But I have not moved away from God, in fact that relationship is stronger than when I depended on an organization for the definition of my relationship. I feel a definite tug on my heart to give back and do more. Now that I know we are staying in this community I want to get involved somewhere – maybe even get to know my neighbors, most of whom are new. There is much I can do to move outside of myself and allow God to work through me. It just requires leaving the house occasionally.
We are all born into a family and then we go into the world and make our own families. These days what is considered a family doesn’t look like it did when I was growing up. Friend circles, blended families, adopted families all fill the need we have to belong.
In June we made room for our oldest granddaughter to live with us. The details aren’t important. She needed a safe place to land and we are that place. In six months she is well on her way to creating her own life and learning what it means to be an adult. It is a joy to watch the transformation. This move caused some stress in other areas, but as the months rolled by, those things began to ease and it all culminated with the best Christmas we have spent together, maybe ever. Our daughter, son-in-law, and other two granddaughters joined the three of us for an evening of laughter, giving, eating and love. It was the perfect ending to a crazy year.
So, this year I will focus on my family – the one I chose. I married a man and received a daughter in the deal. These relationships deserve my time and attention and quite frankly, I love being the mom who sets the stage for family fun. Also, while we have our granddaughter here to care for the house and the dogs, we are going to do some of the traveling we have been unable to do in the past. Our lives together have always been focused on externals – parents, child, grandchildren, ex-spouses, etc. Our life has not been our own, but now it is our time. We have earned this, and will live out the motto, “If not now, when?” Neither of us are getting any older.
We have vacillated for many years on whether this is where we would live forever. I wanted to move; he didn’t. Just when I got him to agree (despite little voices of doubt in my head), we moved heaven and earth to make room for a teenager. Shortly after that I realized that my home is here. I have bargained with God for years to let me live somewhere else. It has only taken me thirty three years to finally decide to settle down and stay put. So, I will now focus on making this house the home I have always wanted.
First comes a new kitchen. Other than new appliances and my attempts at DIY, this kitchen has not seen an upgrade since it was built in 1985. It is time. After the kitchen I will move outdoors. We have a large backyard that has never been used. That is going to change. My goal is less grass and more fun. I want this to be the home our family wants to gather to make more memories.
I come from a long line of creative people and I must have a creative outlet. One day, as I looked at one of my grandmother’s quilts, the name Continuous Threads came to me and I knew I wanted to use it in some way. I saw myself and my desire to repair her quilt as a way to continue her life and story. I got nervous because I knew I didn’t have the skill set yet, so I set it aside. But, this will be the year I will patch, mend and sew to bring this cherished quilt back to life.
It has been a journey of a couple of years, but the vision is beginning to form. For now I am learning all I can about hand stitching and embroidery including reading books about the historical aspects of textiles and their relationship to us and our quality of life. The past seventeen years have been very much wool, hand spinning yarn and knitting focused, but now I am ready for something different. I am ready to create with needle, thread, fabric and assorted found objects that tell a story. I am ready to mend clothes and my grandmother’s quilt. I am ready to weave cloth for uses I haven’t even determined yet. I am ready to learn and share with a younger generation so that these skills continue to be valued and passed to along. Our history matters.
If this subject interests you as well, I have an Instagram account, @continuousthreads as well as Continuous Threads, a separate website and blog for my textile adventures.
Onwards Into The Future
With my new focus this year I am not promising a posting schedule that life can erase in the blink of an eye. I would like to post once a week and have it be an informative and entertaining glimpse into my life. But, truthfully, from now on I write this for my family and a few close friends who care. I want to leave something behind. I have no biological legacy, but I have left a trail of Sheryl everywhere I have been in my life. For the most part I think the trail has been a good one but I’m working very hard to stop over thinking and analyzing. It is a worthless waste of time and emotion.
So, there you have it. Out of the fog of 2021 (how appropriate the year ended in a state of mental fog?) and into the light. It is going to be a good year despite what goes on in the world around us. By staying connected to God and focusing on living a life that is full of loving kindness to all who cross my path I can’t go wrong and the trail I leave in my wake will make the world a better place. What more can we ask for in life?
Both Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown had nicknames. Schulz was called Sparky when he was just two days old. His uncle gave him the name which was based on the character, Sparkplug in the Barney Google comic strip. Charlie Brown received the nickname Chuck from Peppermint Patty, a sandal wearing, tomboy like girl who had a crush on him and never seemed to realize his name was Charlie. But, that is not where the similarities end.
To understand Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts cast, we must first know, really, deeply know Charles Schulz. Why did his main character, a rather round and plain faced kid who could never do anything right, capture the hearts of everyone who read comics from the 1950s until the retirement of Schulz in December 1999?
In the book, “A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Making of A Tradition” we are introduced to Charles Schulz as a quiet and gentle man of deep faith with a love of country and an eternally optimistic outlook on life.
The Destiny of Sparky
Charles Schulz, the son of a barber and a housewife, grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Unlike Charlie Brown, Schulz was an only child. From an early age he enjoyed drawing; his artistic abilities were noticed by his kindergarten teacher who told him he would grow up to be an artist. Never underestimate the power of a teacher’s observation.
Schulz was a shy and insecure young man. His profound shyness made school unpleasant; even art classes were no refuge for him. His insecurities caused him to compare and always find his work lacking. For this reason when it came time to attend art school he did it via correspondence course to avoid the same issues of high school.
I was afraid to go to art school, because I’d be right back where I was in high school—in a class with a lot of people who could draw better than I could. And I’d be a nobody again.
Charles Schulz as quoted in A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Making of a Tradition
Despite this insecurity and multiple rejections, Schulz had drive and a sense of eternal optimism, and I believe a sense of purpose and destiny, that pushed him until The Saturday Evening Post published fifteen of his comics. The door had opened and he stepped through, never looking backward.
The Lessons Thus Far
I have loved the whole Peanuts gang my entire life; however, I have never really delved beyond the surface to really know and understand the individuals. I was content to read the comics everyday and watch the Christmas special each year, to decorate with my favorite ornaments and yard decor, but I didn’t take the time to dissect the deeper meaning to the characters and the story. The humor, as is always the case, is rooted in truth. I dare say there isn’t a person alive anywhere who doesn’t identify, at some level, with Charlie Brown and his insecurities.
There is no doubt that Charlie Brown is Charles Schulz. The story of Schulz and his views on himself shed all the light we need on Charlie Brown and his approach to life. The insecurity and acknowledgment of being different never stops him from trying yet one more time to kick the football or fly the kite. Everyone may jeer and tell him he is a bad baseball manager or horrible play director, but that doesn’t stop him from trying, again, again, and again. There is a very powerful message for all of us in the example set by “Chuck.”
As I spend the rest of the day pondering the depth of Charlie Brown and prepare for tomorrow, I leave you with this bit of Charlie Brown wisdom.
Yesterday I took a day off from writing to consider the previous post, and the significance of my Charlie Brown Christmas tradition. Realizing the depth of the story, the characters, and their value to me, I decided to write a series about these enduring and endearing characters.
A New Tradition Begins
A great deal of thought has gone into the history of my Charlie Brown Christmas tradition. The memories are deeply personal, and rooted in my life as a newly single adult. No one else shares those memories; therefore, the tradition just can’t mean the same thing to them. For many years all we did was just watch the show without setting the stage or going through the ritual. Soon it was obvious to me that my daughter and then grandchildren didn’t love the Charlie Brown gang as I did. My “other people focused” way of living leaves little room for self. I can’t enjoy doing something with people who are doing it for me, but are not really enjoying it. I’d rather not do the thing at all than know I am putting those I care about through some kind of torture. For me, there is no joy in that experience; Christmas should be about joy.
Last night was the beginning of a new annual tradition for me. Before then it never dawned on me to do it for me, and do it by myself. One night every year I will schedule an evening alone to set the mood and spend twenty five minutes immersed in the world of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang.
Setting The Mood
Last night, I was alone for the evening so I decided the time was perfect to recreate my Charlie Brown Christmas watch party for one. It is unseasonably warm in Texas this month, so I did what any self respecting Texan does to get in the Christmas spirit: turn thermostat down to mimic a chilly December evening. I then gathered the all accoutrements to make the experience complete. In the future I will plan this a little more in advance so that I can have a signature cocktail and season appropriate hors d’oeuvres. I may even throw pillows and a blanket on the floor for an authentic childhood experience. Well, maybe not. My knees aren’t what they used to be…I’ll probably stick with the recliner.
Being too lazy to cook then clean up the mess, I warmed up leftovers, poured myself a tall glass of homemade sweet tea, grabbed the blanket and settled into my recliner. My current set up is much more luxurious and lovely than when this tradition first began. Though the event has little to do with luxury or comfort, my lovely living room is a definite plus.
The room is dark, illuminated only by the two trees strategically placed in opposite ends of my open concept living room space. The ambience is warm and cozy.
The soundtrack to Charlie Brown Christmas is iconic and playing in the background as I write. I love the West Coast jazz made famous by artists such as Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and Stan Getz. Vince Guarldi, composer and arranger of the soundtrack for Charlie Brown Christmas, falls into this category. I have strong ties to the Southern California of the 1960s and this music is just a part of what reminds me of that time in my life. I can still remember coming home from elementary school, to our little house on La Reina Street in Anaheim, California, being greeted by Ray Charles’ voice singing “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Music is such a powerful trigger for me. Nothing can make me melancholy, reflective, worshipful, or joyful quite like music.
So, it is no surprise, that as soon as the music began, I was ushered into a place filled with memories, childlike anticipation and the aching loneliness of the woman I was in 1985. Those are powerful emotions and they set the stage for what was to come.
What Lies Beneath
Because of this series, and just where I am in life, I wanted to watch with eyes that see deeper than the action on the screen. There is much to unwrap here. I must watch it again. Maybe watch it several times in order to unpack the characters and the deeper meaning Charles Schultz wrote into his funny little band of childhood friends.
I know I am not alone in thinking about Charlie Brown on a deeper, more psychological level. Funny thing is, for my lifelong passion for the Peanuts gang, I have never done the deep dive. I have simply floated on the surface of the stories; content to enjoy the superficial humor. Call it age or just nothing better to do, that is not enough for me anymore.
That’s All Folks
I end the week with this glimpse into the rest of the Christmas season. I’m going to take the weekend to research. Watch the show a few more times and ponder all that Charlie Brown and his gang have to offer.
I hope that the weekend brings you all that you need: rest, peace, health, and laughter. Consider watching Charlie Brown Christmas again, or for the first time, then come back Monday and let’s have a dose of Christmas joy together.
As I continue my love affair with A Charlie Brown Christmas, I will be highlighting the different characters to see what we can discover from them. First up is Lucy.
Lucille Van Pelt
Or, Lucy as we know her is the bossy, opinionated, self appointed leader of the Peanuts group. She is the older sister to Linus and Rerun. On the surface she is a bully. We grew up laughing at her yanking the football away from poor Charlie Brown, but even as a child I felt bad at laughing. I felt sorry for Charlie Brown. Lucy was mean to him and he just kept being her friend. I think there is something deeper about this relationship.
Lucy is the oldest child in the family and, as all oldest children know, that means you have the most responsibility. For Lucy, responsibility translated to bossy behavior to keep everyone in line. She tends to be fairly black and white, this or that, in her dealings with other people. She doesn’t mince words, speaks her mind and moves on before realizing the effect she has on people. Don’t we all know someone like this in our lives?
Lucy wants real estate from Santa for Christmas. In this classic exchange between Charlie Brown and Lucy, we get a glimpse into her personality.
“I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes of something like that.”
“What is it you really want?”
I imagine that she grew up to be a corporate raider or hedge fund manager. She loves power, control and money. Her Achilles’ tendon is the unrequited crush she has on Schroeder; he is equally focused on himself but for him it is all about music, specifically Beethoven. It never mattered how flagrantly she throws herself at him, he never notices. There is some poetic justice in this relationship.
Lucy’s Soft Side
Lucy’s directness and take charge attitude doesn’t indicate she is mean, uncaring or a bully. It is still hard for me to watch the football scenes, but now I wonder, “Why did Charlie Brown keep coming back for more?” Is there something about Lucy that we can’t see but should know based on the fact that Charlie Brown continues to be her friend? I don’t have specific examples, but I think deep down Lucy really liked Charlie Brown and wished she had a little of his kindness and caring.
She didn’t have to make Charlie Brown the director of the Christmas play. Because he had visited her at her psychiatrist stand earlier in the story, she knew he was depressed and, according to her diagnosis, suffered from pantophobia, the fear of everything.
People like Lucy stare fear in the face and boldly march into battle. The Charlie Brown’s of the world take a step back into the safety of the known. Lucy drop kicked Charlie Brown out of his comfort zone and smack dab in the middle of chaos. Would she really have risked the success of the play if she didn’t think Charlie Brown was up for the task? She defended him to the entire cast, including Snoopy. Linus was the only other one who came alongside Charlie Brown in his moment of need.
What To Do With The Lucys In Our Life
Everyone has a Lucy. Some folks may have more than one. Lucys are not always easy to like. Their bossy, demanding nature and often gruff exterior is off putting especially to the quiet introverts of the world. I generally avoid Lucys at all costs. They are just too emotionally draining for me. But, I have learned that if I am patient, get to know them and vice versa, I usually find a really tender and kind person underneath the huff and puff exterior.
As with everything that matters in life if we set aside our own issues, prejudices and viewpoints for just a moment, there is room for something new to shine through. Sometimes the biggest hearts come wrapped in sandpaper. Wear them down and untold riches are just waiting to be discovered.
I am saving Linus for Friday. Tomorrow I will write about the rest of the supporting cast as well all have our very own Peanut Gallery sitting on the sidelines of life.
Today is December 7th. So I take the liberty of postponing my Charlie Brown Christmas stories to reflect on what happened eighty years ago today.
Our World Stood Still
There are two events in our country’s history that forever changed the trajectory of our politics, and permanently destroyed our innocence and perception of our place in the world; both involved violent attacks that resulted in death and destruction. Today we, as a nation, will be focused on the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii in 1941. I, however, am taking a more personal view of these events.
My Dad’s Home
In 1905, my grandmother was born in Honolulu to Chinese immigrant parents. I know so little about her, but her story is for another day. Today is about my family’s connection to Pearl Harbor through her and the missed opportunities to learn more and understand my father just a little bit better.
In the upper left corner of this map is Schofield Barracks. This is the army base where my grandfather was stationed when he met and married my grandmother. It is also where my father was born in January 1924. Honolulu is 23 miles south of Schofield, a relatively easy drive in today’s world. In 1922 when my grandfather would have been traveling that road I am sure it was two lanes, at best, and most likely dirt or caleche.
The landmark that makes it easy to know where my grandmother grew up is now the Honolulu City Hall. She lived in the area of King and Queen Streets near the Punchbowl. Both my grandparents lived there until their deaths, and for all I know I still have distant relatives in the area.
Pearl Harbor is only nine miles from Honolulu City Hall. This morning, as I sat to write this story, I realized for the first time in my life that my relatives would have experienced this attack on their home first hand. The sounds and smells of the explosion and subsequent burning of ships and people would have made their way to the area my family lived and worked. This realization has left me speechless and quite emotional.
Dad and his family moved from Honolulu when he was 14 years old. His mother died from tuberculosis when he was an infant and my grandfather remarried a woman with two sons when dad was two. There are no stories of my grandmother’s family after her death which leads me to believe my grandfather was on his own with his infant son. The only story I remember dad telling us was about him, as an adult, trying to find an uncle who worked at the Honolulu newspaper. This tidbit allowed me to find newspaper stories about Clifford Liu who worked his entire career as an office clerk at the Honolulu Star Bulletin. He was 33 when the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor.
As was typical for the times we never talked about the war. I knew my dad served as a paratrooper alongside Rod Serling who would later become famous for The Twilight Zone television series. We also didn’t talked about my grandmother Nellie. It wasn’t because dad didn’t want to talk about her but rather that he, himself, knew virtually nothing about the woman who gave him life. He just said that grandpa never talked about her. It could have been as simple as once he remarried, grandpa put the past in the past and moved forward. I tend to romanticize the events and think that because his heart was broken he could not bring himself to dwell in what had been. There is also the possibility that her family did not approve of her relationship and marriage to my grandfather, shunning both he and my dad. I will never know. Those stories passed with the men who lived them.
More digging on Ancestry turned up an address where my father lived after Albert, my grandfather, married Beridgetta Ivy and set up housekeeping with her two sons. In the 1930 federal census, the family of five lived at #55 Pearl City Village. Pearl City, as shown on the map above, is just a few miles north of the harbor. Fortunately by 1941 my father and his family had moved to the mainland and were living in Indiana. But what did my other grandfather and his surviving children experience on this day? What were the emotions and fears that radiated through them, Chinese people living in Hawaii, as the United States officially entered WWII? Martial law was declared and thousands of Japanese were interned. There are so many questions that I will never get the answers I seek. I lost that opportunity when my dad passed away sixteen years ago.
Heartache And Grief
I have never thought about all of these questions on December 7th before. For some reason this year is different. I am asking so many questions and the only place I might get a glimpse of my family history is through the little green leaves on Ancestry indicating there is a hint waiting for me. In all honesty, most of those lead me nowhere; but sometimes, a small nugget of information moves me just a little further down the path of my personal history.
So, today as we all look back together, it is my fervent hope and prayer that we will look back as Americans who acknowledge that our leaders did what they thought was best for our country and the world. My father, grandfather, along with Beridgetta and her two sons all served in the Army during WWII. They did their bit for the cause. Our country was united and proud; I am proud of them and their service.
Dad never liked talking about his service. My grandfather didn’t like talking about my grandmother Nellie. I think the commonality was heartache and grief over what they had experienced. So, today I honor them both and remember all who sacrificed and died to keep our country free.
After a week of cleaning and work, the house is ready. Now to prepare my heart and mind for the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. While it might sound odd, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of my most important advent events. This week I will be sharing what this classic Charles Schultz television show has taught me. But today, let me explain how it all began.
In my family, it is a well known fact that I love A Charlie Brown Christmas. Despite not having specific memories of watching it as a kid, I know I did. It is familiar and comfortable, funny and heartwarming. So, if I didn’t grow up with the tradition of watching it, where and when did the ritual begin? For the life of me I couldn’t figure it out. Did it just evolve or was it rooted in something more specific? I have been trying to figure this out for many years. My memory for such things is not great. Then, dawned on me. It wasn’t until I was an adult and could see with adult eyes that watching Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang became one of my most important Christmas traditions.
A Grown-Up Tradition
I was shocked to finally piece together the truth. Although I watched as a child, the specific tradition as it has come to be practiced was one I developed on my own as an adult.
It all began when, as a newly single adult, I had to figure out how to be alone at Christmas. The temptation was to be sad and pout because “everyone” else had family with whom they spent the holiday. My family lived half way across the country and travel for Christmas was impossible. So, I did the next best thing, I decorated my little apartment and watched something that reminded me of home. It was a difficult but crucial time where I grew up and started learning how to be an adult.
As I remember it, I decided to replicate the experience of being in a movie theater. Except for the glow from the Christmas tree and television, the room was dark. I curled up on the sofa with a blanket, something to drink and my little dog, Penny, who loved to burrow under the blanket with me. For thirty minutes I was transported back to the safety and security of home. It was a magical experience.
For many years, with childlike anticipation, I scoured the TV guide looking for when it will be broadcast. I planned my week around the special event. Part of the experience was watching it as it was being broadcast. In the days before we had access to VHS, DVD, a bazillion cable channels or streaming programs at any hour of any day, if I didn’t watch it the night it aired on network television I had missed it for another year. This made the ritual sacred.
Transition of Traditions
I tried to pass this tradition on to my daughter and grandchildren. It didn’t take. Their worlds are different and they will create their own traditions. They will always think of their Mimi when they see anything related to A Charlie Brown Christmas, but it doesn’t hold the same significance for them. And that is ok. My husband doesn’t get it either. So, I am back to having this sacred ritual by myself. And this, too, is ok. I think I will choose one day in December and make that my annual A Charlie Brown Christmas Day. It will be a day filled with anticipation and celebration. For thirty minutes I will be in charge – the lights will be low, there will be warm beverages, and snuggling on the couch with my dogs as I travel back in time to be reminded about the true meaning of Christmas. My family is welcome to join me…but being alone is ok too.
I’m a clinger. I cling to those I love, the things I love (or think I might use again one day), and I cling to ways of thinking that are no longer productive. Letting go of any of these lifestyle choices is frightening. The “what if” monster starts whispering in my ear and fear of the unknown takes up residence in my brain.
Now, before I go any farther down this rabbit hole, I need to make something quite clear. I have not fallen into the realm of satan and I have not lost my faith. Quite the contrary. During the past few months, as I draw nearer to God and Jesus, I have begun to see and hear, evaluate and either accept or dismiss spiritual concepts that, prior to this, I automatically dismissed because they didn’t fit with my traditional view of God and the world. I was simply unable to ask questions or think anything outside the mainstream; it was too frightening. I had to cling to the belief system as I had come to know it or what else is there?
Then God began doing an amazing work in me. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that when I am in tune with God, listening and waiting for Him to guide me, He is right there with me. I read Holy Scripture, meditate on what I read and know that in the fullness of His time, God will reveal his truth to me and increase my understanding. This is just one of the gifts given to us when Jesus came to earth and then died a sacrificial death. We no longer need high priests to mediate for us with God. We can go directly to the source. Thank you Jesus!
The human mind is finite. We can only know and absorb so much before our brains short circuit and we shut down. A discussion this week with a friend about people with brilliant minds who burn out early made me think about this phenomenon. God knows what, how much and when I can handle deeper revelations about Him and the universe He created. God is huge. I always heard, “Don’t put God in a box.” I am now seeing I have lived as if I knew all I needed to know about God because I have studied the Bible. I delved into original languages; I even went to a Bible College so that I would know the truth and be set free. For a while my human arrogance, armed with this knowledge set about to show folks what I knew. It didn’t end well.
Now I take everything I learned and I sit with God and let Him teach me. I pray to Jesus, “teacher, teach me.” I am their sponge. Not amazingly, one by one tiny little scales are falling from my eyes and I am beginning to see things with a deeper field of vision. I am more sensitive to God’s movements in my life and am seeing my life in a brighter light.
I used to dismiss any idea of cosmic energy, energy from so called inanimate objects as new age hoo-haw, aka nonsense in my language. But, like so much in my universe lately, I am rethinking this concept particularly as it applies to the spiritual realm.
While worshipping crystals is clearly pagan idolatry, I look at who created crystals…rocks, stones, dirt, water, air….and think, God made those too. They are part of creation; could they bear some kind energy? Could they be more than the sum total of their molecules? I have no clue. But still, I wonder.
In another conversation with my same friend, he shared a concept from quantum physics that made my head spin. He explained in a way that my brain could grasp. The theory states that what we see doesn’t exist until we look at it. If I stooped to using emojis here I would definitely add both the mind blown and shocked face emojis to express how I felt when I heard this idea. Since I do not have a scientific mind, I found the following quote to be sure I could explain what he was talking about.
Let’s take a look at some interesting quantum experiments that point toward the mind-dependent character of reality… Fundamentally, we’ve got a situation in which reality at the quantum level does not exist until it is observed.
Bruce Gordon, Physicist, Mind Matters Podcast April 20, 2021.
The Energy Of Stuff
I wrote all that simply to say, I think there is energy that exists around objects. The things we cling to or are simply a part of the background noise of our lives – all things possess a certain energy. This is where I know I might loose some of you, but hang in with me.
Yesterday I told the story of the furniture that came to live with us last week. What I didn’t talk about was what I got rid of to make room for that furniture. This is an epic story of clinging to something far too long.
In 1984 (or thereabouts) I purchased a solid oak draw leaf dining room table, two Queen Anne style wing back chairs, and a vintage sewing table. All from approximately 1900-1940. I loved these pieces of furniture. I was married to my first husband who had bought the home we lived in without telling me he was doing it. I bought these pieces of furniture without asking him. Tit for tat. Almost. When I left him about a year and a half later I took these with me. I moved into my first apartment as a single person with just these items and my personal effects. Since that time I have moved them in and out of three different apartments before coming home to Stately Means Manor. Finally, I took them to use in my store before coming back home for good. I thought I loved them. I thought that they were important. Until I watched them loaded onto a truck and taken away to be donated.
I thought I would feel something. I felt nothing.
A few days later I realized that I am different. I am thinking about things in a new and different way. I feel lighter; more focused and free. Could it be that the negative energy from an unhappy marriage has been sitting in my home and my business all these years? I never thought about them in terms of the relationship. I saw them as tangible evidence of me taking a stand and doing something on my own. In truth, I outgrew them. I am finally allowing myself to be who I was created to be. I breaking free of being the person I think I should be and becoming just me. Letting go of the things and any energy connected with them has opened a new window into my soul and there is light shining both in and radiating out of me.
I have way more stuff to let go of and now I feel equipped and emboldened to do it. Things, whose very presence in my life, weigh me down. Things that a few months ago I thought I couldn’t live without. I am ready for them to find new homes. As Marie Kondo espouses in her theories of organization and possession – I ask myself, “Does this spark joy?” I now have a true frame of reference to determine joy vs comfortable. Do I keep these things because they are familiar and comfortable or because they bring joy into my life? Do they represent the life I want to create or are they part of a past that should remain in the past?
All this is a process, a journey that each of us walks in a different way and for different reasons. Some of you will resonate with my experience and others of you will think I have lost my ever-loving mind. And that is fine. It could be a little of each, but this is my path and all I see ahead of me is the soft glow of God’s love and light drawing me forward.
Before moving on to Christmas, I am not done with Thanksgiving. I would be remiss if I didn’t share a story of generosity, friendship and thankfulness for the people God gave us for neighbors over thirty years ago.
It is a rare thing, in my life anyway, to have friendships that span decades. As a child once we started moving for better opportunities, I never lived in the same place for more than five years. As an adult my friendships have been all work based; when the job changed those relationships slowly faded away. None of the usual ways people make lifelong friends seemed to apply to me. I didn’t have a mommy group or college friends, and I didn’t stay long enough anywhere to establish and maintain relationships.
I do accept responsibility in this matter. I am not a great friend. Well, let me clarify. I am delightful to be around and willing to help anyone with anything. But when it comes to initiating contact, following through and actually doing things to maintain a long term friendship…well, let’s just say I could do better.
Mr. Means has been a tremendous help in this department. He is a quintessential extrovert who pushes me out of my comfort zone and into social gatherings. Unlike me, he does have friendships that have stood the test of time primarily because he is the person who will call and stay in contact; every relationship group needs that person.
In February 1989, I took up permanent residence in Stately Means Manor — living in a historic house with a name has been a running joke between us so we gave our house a pompous sounding name. We were engaged and I didn’t want to renew the lease on my apartment. I thought I had won the lottery living in a nearly new home in a lovely master planned community. Never in a million years did I envision this for myself. It was a magical time. Kids playing in the cul-de-sac, neighbors visiting while doing yard work, decorating and playing house. One day Mr. Means called for me to come outside and meet the neighbors; they had a new puppy.
Puppy was the magic word. Little did I know that meeting Buster and his mom Lisa and dad Tim would change and enrich our lives forever. A friendship was born that has spanned thirty two years, and experienced births, deaths, laughter, tears, and lots of Mexican food. These dear people were our first couple friendship and to this day the only couple friendship we have made together. We dearly love these friends – they are an extension of our family.
Loss – Closure – Generosity
When we first met there were eight parents between the four of us. Now we have three. A few months ago, after several years of battling an invisible illness, Lisa’s mom was tired; she went home.
When the time came for her to prepare her mother’s home for sale, Lisa made an incredibly generous offer. Knowing my affinity for mid-century modern decor she offered me a king size bedroom suite. I was elated. The day came to go see it in person to be sure it was a fit and I walked into a home full of furniture from that era. All of it was mine for the taking. I stood in disbelief in the middle of the living room and wept. I had to talk to Mr. Means and figure out what I could make room for in a home already stuffed with furniture.
This offer was so big that I initially turned it down. I felt a sense of responsibility for someone else’s family memories and wasn’t sure I was up for the task. But two days later I agreed to take a different bedroom suite as we will be needing guest bedroom furniture one day. It pained me to leave the rest behind but I just couldn’t accept so much. It was too generous.
There were two items I could not forget about. I could envision them in my home. I kept thinking, “surely someone else had snatched them up…but what if…” After sharing this story with family at Thanksgiving, I decided to ask if they had been given to anyone else. In hindsight it sounds kind of insensitive. “Happy Thanksgiving, and oh by the way can I have the coffee table and china cabinet?” Fortunately they have known me long enough to not think twice about my methods.
I am now the proud owner of these items.
All of the furniture came from the same collection manufactured by Drexel Heritage in the early 1960s. Lisa’s mom was a fastidious lady and she cared for her belongings so well that, despite a cross country move, her sixty year old furniture looks brand new. These amazing pieces are now living at SMM and will be cherished for as long as I live.
Tim and Lisa would not accept money for the furniture or even the rental truck required to move everything to our house. What was important was knowing that her mother’s furniture had a new home where it would be loved and cared for as her mother had lovingly done for so many years.
Humility & Gratitude
I am humbled to have been entrusted with these precious items. My heart skips a beat every time I walk in the living room and see my beautiful new treasures. I am grateful beyond measure for these friends. Not because they gave us stuff, but because they have been part of the fabric of our lives for so many years. It is easy to take people for granted. We go through our days preoccupied with the mundane and suddenly wake up and realize something has changed. I am getting too old to live like that. I know that in the blink of an eye life can change.
If we have learned nothing else from the Covid invasion it is the reminder that life is fragile and fleeting. We are mortal human beings with a finite number of resources at our disposal and the rest is left to God. How many times and in how many different circumstances does God have to tell me, “Trust Me. Lean not on your own understanding.” What I see with my eyes is only part of the story.
As we decorate and plan for Christmas, it is important to remember what we celebrate on December 25th. The real story is Jesus. Jesus came to earth as the embodiment of God and His love. To follow Jesus is to love others better than we love ourselves. To see the pain and need in the world then help as we are able; to love people not because of who they are but more importantly, despite who they are. Jesus turned the world inside out and left us to do the same. We are here to love because like the song says…love is all there is.
I’m still thinking about my life’s purpose and the path I should be taking during this season of my life. Since history is the best predictor of the future, I decided to look back and see where my life has been and where I should be looking in the future. As I analyzed all the things I have done, both consciously and unconsciously, one thread has continuously run through all the fabric of my life. That thread is children.
All Paths Are Personal
I never bore children of my own. The only profound regret of my life is that I never experienced the growing, delivering and raising a child of my own flesh and blood. Once it became biologically impossible the pain of this diminished and I was able to look back at my life and really see how God had given me hundreds of children. Granted none of them bore any resemblance to me, nor was I responsible for their well-being and life; however, I was given a chance to make a difference. The ripple effects of these relationships will continue to grow and affect the next generations. That is a powerful path.
Working at a school was the highlight of my working life. Both as a nurse and an assistant teacher I had the privilege of nurturing and encouraging children for ten years. I had always wanted to be a teacher and no other job fulfilled me like this one.
I left the working world to come home and be present in when our daughter was going through a particularly difficult time in her life. I was needed here to make a difference in her life far more than the kids at school needed me. The purpose was the same, the intended beneficiary had changed.
Next came our first granddaughter. Born to a single mom, lost and struggling as her own mother had died when she was sixteen (I am her stepmom). I now had two girls who needed me. My purpose continues.
Two more granddaughters come along; a marriage doesn’t work out and suddenly our empty nest is full again. The joy of a full house is indescribable. I loved the activity and purpose it brought to my life. Cooking for and helping with the girls brought so much joy. And then it was time for them to move on.
So, that brings us to today. Just when we thought we were done. Ready to live the retired life and wondering what we would do with this time on our hands, our first granddaughter — the one who changed everything for us — was in a crisis. So many experiences in such a short life left her in a rough patch. Her mom and stepdad were at wits end and they have two other girls to care for. We opened our home and brought her back to the place that was her first home. The past few months have been difficult but the growth and change are remarkable and she is well on her way to being the adult we dreamed she would be. Again…I (we) continue on the path.
Little Picture Living
I don’t always see what I do everyday as part of the bigger picture of life. I never had the “I’m going to change the world” mentality; never been the activist, or the person who wanted to accomplish big things. My goals were always about creating a home and family. I have written before about my one passion and that is children. I set out to care for children in my working life and I spent the vast majority of my career doing just that. But even that didn’t trigger any “bigger picture” views of myself. I just got up everyday and did what I was trained to do.
I think God protects me from thinking of myself in a grand kind of way. I am just an ordinary person who tries to be kind and do what is right. If I saw myself as some kind of saint I know it would go right to my head and all the good I could do would be wasted. The irony of all this is I spend so much time wondering what I am “supposed” to be doing with my life, when in fact I was doing exactly what God designed me to do all along.
I think because so much of what I have done just falls under the banner of you do what you gotta do. In the midst of the fire you don’t stop to analyze the fire, you just put it out. I have been on my path for all forty years of my adult life. During that time I never gave myself credit for doing anything to make a difference because I just looked at the big stuff. I never did anything big. I just left a crumb trail of lots of little things. Because what I did wasn’t traditional or I wasn’t the “teacher” I wanted to be, I only saw what I wasn’t not who I was.
One Path, Small Detours
I don’t want to leave the path, I’m just ready for it to look a little different. I want to use my talents and skills to improve the lives of another generation of children. I have always dreamed of writing books. I could write a picture book for emerging readers. I would love to write the kind of story that encourages children to be the best they can be, or tell a fabulous tale that is remembered forever. Maybe it should be a book for the adults on blended families and lessons we have learned through the years. Maybe I will volunteer with disadvantaged kids and help them with school work. After all I did want to be a teacher. That urge is still inside of me. I don’t know where I am going next, but I do know that my path to the destination is sure and I have history on my side.
Wherever you are in life, do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do, rather look at what you are doing and know you are doing your best. If, like me, you feel a nudge towards something, a tug at your heart, pay attention. God might be preparing you and showing you your path. If the time is right and you can do something about the nudge, then do it. If you aren’t able, just be aware and know that one day in some way, your path will become known and you can follow in confidence.