Friends Giving

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.

February 1989

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.

The Work Of Gratitude

Sometimes being thankful is hard. Seeing the good in the midst of pain, sadness, illness, loss, grief, disappointment or even everyday inconveniences is sometimes a difficult task to accomplish. Life is messy. The holiday season is in full swing with the movies and television shows that portray a version of the happiest time of the year that many people simply cannot identify with or want to participate in. There are a myriad of reasons for this, all personal and no one else’s business; however, if this is you, I have been where you are, I understand.

To my aging vision, so many people seem hyper-focused on how they have been marginalized, slighted, ignored, overlooked, mistreated, or wronged. I don’t mean to dismiss them or their feelings; that is their reality and I would never deny someone’s experience. What I know about me and my thought process is when all I do is focus on how others have hurt, offended, or mistreated me I get bitter, resentful and more angry; I then allow my imagination to create scenarios that don’t even exist. It becomes a vicious cycle that steals the joy and peace from my life. There is no room for thankfulness. Because I understand my weakness for this mindset, I work really hard to focus on the good, the pure, and the kind things of life. It changes my perspective. It changes my mood. It changed my life.

Brain Filter

I guard my brain. Please be careful who you listen to and what you allow into your head. Don’t let just anyone or anything make themselves at home in your brain. Be ruthless in this area. Change whatever needs to change to only allow the things that build you up and fill you with peace and love. The issues you used to stew over will still be in the world, but you will be equipped to tackle them from a place of love rather than anger. In my case I have stopped listening to political news. I keep up just enough to know what is happening but I don’t allow the pundits of either side enter my consciousness. It wasn’t healthy for me. I pray and I vote. I have peace of mind. I spend enough time being mindful of myself and all that usually gets me is worry and anxiety — over thinking is a true buzz kill. Now I write all those worries down and throw them away.

Pull Out The Pen & Paper

This might sound trite, but writing down all the thoughts in my head has transformed me. It goes by many names, but it is basically “stream of consciousness” writing. You don’t censor yourself. You just put pen to paper and write whatever is in your head. Sometimes there isn’t much, other times you will fill pages and pages with the thoughts that rob you of peace and mental quiet. Do a web search for this and give it a try. What you write is for no one else to read. In fact, the best thing to do is to think of the paper or journal as a trash can. Write then destroy. There is also something important about writing by hand on paper that seems to really work for most people. But no matter how you do it, get that crap out of your head and then refill it with the good stuff. This process is how I am learning to live in the moment which makes me more aware of those around me. Now I see the world through the lens of loving kindness; what used to annoy me I more easily overlook; what I used to ignore now calls my heart to action.

And finally, if you are the one in need—let others help you. You will actually be giving them a gift by allowing them to give. Accept what is needed today then pay it forward when you are able.

My hope for you is that this holiday season, no matter what that means to you, is one of renewal, hope and joy.

Let Go

Life is just one long exercise in letting go. Letting go of something requires change — and most of us resist change. Too frightening. Too unknown. No thank you. I’ll stay right here in my safe little world and hold on tight.

Letting go is an all encompassing fact of life which begins the moment we are thrust out of the nurturing womb of our mother’s body. From warm and safe to the cold, harsh reality of breathing on our own, our little body is forced to let go and learn independence. We crave the safety of the womb yet some unseen force pulls us forward; an internal drive to grow, change and break free. It is a life long battle.

I Don’t Want To

This is my first response anytime life seems to want me to let go of something or someone. Nope, I’m fine. I like the safety and security of my little world. And that is the key. Without letting go of something, our world just keeps getting smaller and smaller until one day we suffocate from the trap we have set for ourselves.

When toddlers begin discovering their independence, the first word they learn to use is “No!” And when that word does not yield the desired result they resort to crying, screaming and sometimes amazing displays of physical wailing and flailing. We really aren’t so different from a toddler, our bodies are just bigger and we get more sophisticated in our wailing and flailing skills. But, really, we often react with similar maturity when the change of letting go is knocking on our door.

The Letting Go Season

There are seasons of life that go hand in hand with letting go of something or someone. And, there are times when letting go is forced upon us unexpectedly. I am in a season of letting go and, in one case, I am hanging on for dear life.

Turning a child loose into the world is, without a doubt, the scariest letting go of all. First of all there is nothing to be done about it; it is inevitable and short of locking them up in a closet (for which a nice long stint in prison would be the likely outcome) there is nothing to do but stand by and wave goodbye. Hopefully when this moment comes the years of nurturing and teaching will pay off as they learn to make their own way in the world. We walked this path once but that doesn’t make this current season any easier on our hearts. What we do know is that there is life after letting go.

I am in a different kind of letting go season. This season seems to be a tsunami of letting goes. Some of them are small and seemingly insignificant, others, such as releasing a new adult into the world, are huge.

Letting Go To Grow

Life, as in nature, we must let go to grow. I am having a hard time letting go of certain possessions. Hanging on to them is making me anxious and yet I can’t let go. I’m just going to rip the bandaid off and do it. No looking back or second guessing. The what if you need this again voice will be ignored. But first, Thanksgiving.

I wish everyone a memorable Thanksgiving. Remember those that don’t have a home or family; that could be you one day. Invite them in, serve them a meal, and experience the blessings of the day.

November 1, 2021

Today is the first day of November; 2021 is drawing to a close and my favorite time of year is rushing by far too quickly.

The last three months of any year means different things to different people. It can be the season when summer is finally over; the financial fourth quarter and time to focus on ending the business year successfully; or in years like 2020, relief that the end is in sight.

I fall firmly in the first camp. Houston summers are legendary and true fall weather doesn’t usually arrive until the end of October and even then it is fleeting. But, I embrace whatever we receive and rejoice in the cool dry temperatures. I feel energized and optimistic.

This year I have stopped to ponder and analyze what these three months represent in relationship to the big picture of life. Each month is significant and represents some very powerful life lessons. For now we will look at October and November. December will come in due time.

October

The month known for brilliant colored leaves, pumpkins, and Halloween is my favorite month of the year. It is a month of anticipation…when will the weather change, the leaves turn, and how much longer before we can wear scarves, hats and sweaters without looking ridiculous? There is so much about October to love.

We have made four trips to New England in October. We are overdue; it is time to go leaf peeping again. The fall sky is a particular shade of blue. Brilliantly blue without the harsh glare of the summer sun. The gold, red, and orange leaves stand in stark contrast to this blue sky and the affect is almost three dimensional. It is beyond breathtaking and should be experienced at least once in your life. Vermont is the most gorgeous place for fall leaf peeping. It is an idyllic place that must be experienced in person.

Once the brilliance of the leaves burns out, they wither and fall to the ground. In the perfect cycle of life, they must die so that the tree can rest during the harsh winter months. Those leaves, in turn, decay and nourish the ground which feeds the tree. What a beautiful metaphor for so many areas of life.

I am in the October of my life. I hope this season lasts for a very long time. I have completed most of my early and mid life tasks. The final one is in the home stretch right now, so maybe I’m still in the last days of September…but either way the best is on the way.

November

And this brings us to November. In our house November ushers in hunting season. The preparation for this season actually begins in August. By November the rut is underway and the time comes to go sit in a stand for hours waiting on just the right buck to cross into the right-of-way. I am not a hunter. I am a deer hunting widow for the better part of November and December.

Early in our marriage I resented him getting to go out into the woods with his friends and have a grand time while I was ‘stuck’ at home. I’m over it. I now relish this time as I view it as the gift that it is. With age comes wisdom.

I used to book a weekend to myself for the first full weekend of November. Then we had a beach house for a while and I went there for opening weekend. For several years I have just stayed home enjoying the peace and quiet. But I am still home. There are still things to be done – or ignored only to have to face them later. This year I decided to do something for myself again. I am simultaneously excited and nervous.

Image from http://www.journal.getawayhouse.com

I have booked a tiny house in the woods for two nights. There is no WiFi, but all the other conveniences are available. I plan on reading, writing, knitting on my sock project, walking in the woods and taking a few pictures. Mostly I want to spend time in nature. I feel the presence of God most deeply when I am surrounded by trees and the expanse of His creation. I find myself in awe and so very grateful to Him for the beauty and serenity.

And that brings me to the significance of November. Yes, we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, but I think the entirety of November is a time for thankfulness.

Thankful for time to prepare for winter’s rest.

Thankful for life, breath, and each new day.

Thankful for pain because it is a necessary part of life.

Thankful for the people in our lives.

Thankful for….

The list could and should go on and on. In the world of mindfulness we are instructed to write down the things we are grateful for so that we take nothing for granted. I have never subscribed to this practice as I would likely only express gratitude for the good stuff, get frustrated because I couldn’t think of something new every day and ultimately feel like a failure and give up. Instead, I thank God each morning for a new day and all that it brings. I am constantly thankful to Him for every aspect of life, the good and the not so good as it all serves a purpose.

Just like the leaves letting go of their hold on the tree and falling to death below, the heart breaks and disappointments in life serve as a foundation for new growth. I embrace them and know that only good will come from the experience as long as I am connected to the One who makes all things right.

May your November be filled with thanksgiving.

Who’s In Control?

Wowza! Last week was certainly a doozy. I feel as though I lived several lifetimes in the course of the past seven days. I don’t recognize much of anything in the world these days and that may not be a bad thing.

Real Old Testament Stuff

Movie buffs will remember those words as part of a famous scene from the original movie Ghostbusters. Follow the link to watch the scene, it is worth it. But the truth is, we are living in an Old Testament type state of mass hysteria and there is only one answer. It is the same answer that existed for the Israelites of the Old Testament and the only one that would really solve the problems that exist today.


His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who call us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

2 Peter 1:3-4

Powerless Without Humility

Humanity relying on its own knowledge and wisdom, trying to solve the problems created by that knowledge and wisdom is doomed to make matters worse. Without God, we, by nature, do all that we do with a personal bias and self interest. It is only with God that we are able to step outside of ourselves and do that which is righteous.

The United States has moved further and further away from the principles on which it was founded. This is not a right vs left, Republican vs Democrat issue. This is a wide spread humanity issue. We are all guilty and fall short of God’s perfect plan. We are all sinners and must humble ourselves before God and pray. I am regularly wakened in the middle of the night with a thought in my mind that I know has been placed there by God. I lay still and pray until I fall back asleep. Once my job is done, sleep returns. It is a beautiful symbiotic relationship that I cherish more than life itself. The giver of life is calling on me to assist in his precious work.

Humility

I recognize my weakness and my flaws (well, most of them). I understand that if I believe that power resides within me to change the world then I am a fool. However, if I live in humility and supplication to God, the creator of the universe, then his power works through me to accomplish more than I could ever dream possible. He is at work in advance of everything I am to do; he is paving the way, softening minds and hearts and will bring to me the people and circumstances that are intended for me. The result will be his glory shining in the world through me. I am made less, that he is made greater.

There is not been, in my lifetime, a greater example of humanity grasping for power and control than we have right now. Some would say it is President Trump who is trying to overthrow our democracy. I say it is the ones that are trying to destroy him. It is not enough that he will no longer be the President; no they are attempting to destroy him as a human being. He has less than two weeks before leaving the White House. Let him walk out and back into private life then move on. But that is not good enough for the people who are anxious for power and control.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are promised not an easy life, but a life that looks much like what Donald Trump has experienced during the past five years. We are targets of those who do not believe. We are targets of other ‘religions’ and their followers. We are targets of those within our own denominations and between denominations. Standing firm in one’s faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone is guaranteed to bring earthly isolation and pain.

But take heart as we are not alone. Remember I said God goes before us? If everything we do in life is preceded with prayer and thankfulness to God through faith in Jesus Christ, We will be able to endure the arrows and stones sent our way. How does President Trump keep going day in and day out? It isn’t under his own power. There is only one way to survive what he has survived and that is the knowledge that his path was set before him by God.

Spend time with God every morning. Come to him with an open and thankful heart then wait for him to show you your way through this season of mass hysteria. We all have a job to do and no two paths are exactly the same. But if we each just do what we are given to do, change will happen. Nothing is impossible with God.

~Sheryl

A Very Good Week

I came outside later than usual today. It seems that every day of the week, or at least Monday through Friday, a different neighbor is having their yard mowed first thing in the morning. I am sure it has always been this way, but now that it is disturbing my peaceful backyard time. I am annoyed. We are coming to the end of the growing season, so maybe this will change. One can only hope.

Friday Reflections

Each Friday I am going to examine my week and see how I did in my effort to build the life I want rather than just living in reaction to what comes to me. On the whole, I think I did well. I took more steps forward and can call this one a win.

There were frightening events that happened to people I care about as well as family members. In my fear and dread I turned to God and allowed Him to do His work. I was available but knew this was not my battle to fight. It is a helpless feeling to know a grandchild is suffering and in danger. It is not my job to rescue, though that is my initial impulse. It is my job to cover her in prayer and let God and her parents do the work.

I took proactive steps in the planning of my kitchen remodel as well as purchasing a few plants that will, if I keep them alive, end up in one corner of my garden or in pots on my patio.

I Knit

I took time to knit.

Katie’s Kep – A Fair Isle style hat.

I’ve always been fascinated with stranded color knitting. Living where I do there are few times when such a garment is wearable. I decided that the experience is worth it even if it only gets worn once a year. This is the annual hat design for Shetland Wool Week, a celebration of all things wool in the Shetland Islands. My Scottish heritage and my love for the television show Shetland, determined that I give it a go. This is the perfect knit for my ADD type personality. Every row is different and the color changes are charted. Slowly, row by row the design emerges. I lost the blue ball of yarn I intended for one of the patterns. After days of looking for it I decided to just use what I had on hand and make the best of it. This green, brown, white and gold hat will be my ‘sunshine through the trees’ hat.

I Stitched

Mindful stitching with coffee.

I worked a little everyday on my mindful stitching. Repetition yields peaceful consistency. I am not enjoying working on this muslin. My next piece will be linen…preferably hand dyed.

Hand dyed thread.

I received three spools of hand dyed thread for embroidery. They came from a lovely young woman (@gatherwhatspills) I follow on Instagram. She also has an Etsy shop and I couldn’t resist these beautiful little spools of thread. I am saving scraps, and hunting for just the right inspiration to use them. It will be special no matter what the project.

That was my week. There was more, I cooked some delicious meals, I planned for my kitchen remodel, and I slept…really, really slept. My body and spirit were exhausted. All in all, it was a very good week.

I pray that each of your days moves you just a little closer to living the life of your dreams. Until Monday…

~Sheryl