What happened to January? The bustling holiday season went into a busy January, and finally a weekend in mid-February set aside to slow down, stay home, read, and write. My blogging and writing curtailed with a new weekday office job, weekends in Farmington, cottage interior projects, and reorganizing. Dean and I last-minute traveled to Eureka Springs, AR to join in my first evening of readings with The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. I shared a couple of classics from Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti, and then a few of my own poems. I experienced the beatnik snapping fingers. Fun! One poetry submission went out in January. I may be able to get one or two submissions this weekend. My life changed its course starting in December. After working for 18 months with part-time jobs after my retirement from my HR position with the local government, I decided to seek a full-time job where I have dependable hours. I started this HR position just before Christmas. Much more to learn with this generalist role in a smaller organization. Thankful it has been a friendlier culture. I continue to teach a culinary class one or two evenings a month. Diligence and time management are all the more necessary to keep to my writing projects.
One day out of each weekend since Christmas have been helping my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids who live in Farmington, MO. Their house burned down Christmas night. They escaped with no injuries, thank God! They have a long road to full recovery from this tremendous loss. Miracles after miracles have been witnessed. The other day of each weekend are filled with home projects. The cottage guest bedroom had a face lift on one wall. Dean put up bead board, carefully cutting to fit around the window frame. We will paint the bead board an off-white when the weather warms up this impending spring and the windows can stay open for a day. It really lightens up the room, mellowing the cranberry red wallpaper and keeps to the Edwardian country decor. While Dean worked on that, I have been paring down and reorganizing drawers, closets, and rooms. We did a couple of furniture swaps between bedrooms to simplify access. Now Valentine hearts along with seasonal snowmen and snowbirds dot the rooms with a festive fever. I put together various candy jars for the kids and my fellow HR co-workers. I thoroughly believe gifts of love expressed from the kitchen can be given to everyone you meet.
“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
~ Linda Grayson
“At the end of the day, I believe you lead with your heart. This is all part of who I am, no matter where I am. My heart is my heart.”
~ Cindy Marten.
Autumn weather lingers well past Thanksgiving into December, now on this winter solstice. My purple pansies still bloom on the porch. This month severe weather plagued our Midwest. Over 8 years ago a summer tornado went above Dean and I while at our greenhouse on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. That tornado touched down in nearby Weldon Springs and Harvester that Friday evening. I wrote my account of the experience in this blog post https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures/. This year on December 10, another Friday night tornado touched down just yards from our greenhouse, leveling several homes, barns, and outbuildings in a 3-mile stretch on Highway F outside of Defiance. Sadly, one fatality. Farmer Chuck explains the hole in his barn door, “I can’t imagine the power needed to pick up the huge oak beam and throw it like a spear across the road, through the trees and into the barn door.” This beam was hurtled across Highway F from one farm to another. Dean and I watched online while the local meteorologists reported a tornado on the ground in Defiance. We waited to go out to the farm, went the following afternoon to allow utility linesmen to get the lines off the roads. By the grace of God our greenhouse still stands untouched. Mother Nature’s temper tantrum disrupted this rural town much like our granddaughter’s protest for her 2nd COVID vaccine. Wasn’t one enough? The community rallies around the survivors to clean up and rebuild as Christmas and the New Year approach.
This Advent season I wait for Him. I prepare my heart. “Make me blameless, white as snow through Jesus Christ,” I pray. “Keep me on task, direct me to Your purposes. Speak to me, Lord.” The word “advent” means “to come” or “arrive” in Latin. Holiday music, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking fill my unhurried post-retirement days. There was one Christmas many moons ago, 29 years ago to be exact when I was post-partum with my son that I was most relaxed and prepared for the holidays. Ben was due around Thanksgiving, so I knew I would need to get the holiday tasks finished prior to his arrival. I eased into the holidays at an easy pace and a peace like no other to this day because I prepared. My Ben was a miracle baby, and I knew God’s hands were on us. Let me approach this Christmas and New Year knowing Your hands on me and those around me. “Let the storms of this life dissipate.” As Alan Jackson sings …
“Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people both near and afar
Feel the love of the season wherever you are
On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow.
Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere …”
“Let there be love that lasts through the year.”~ Alan Jackson
My best Christmas was the year my son, Ben was born. He came to this earth the Saturday after Thanksgiving 22 years ago. Ben was my “oops baby”. Not planned for, but dearly wanted and loved. My son acquired pneumonia immediately after birth from a strep B virus I carried, which I did not know I had. A scary time, but Ben quickly recovered with hospital care his first 10 days. Within a few days I had my energy and strength back, made daily visits to see my son sometimes twice a day to cuddle and nurse.
I knew I would not have the energy or time to enter into the stores those first 3 or 4 weeks after my son’s birth. So I planned ahead, and had all the Christmas shopping completed before Thanksgiving. In those 28 days after Ben’s birth leading to Christmas I adjusted my sleep to his feeding and napping schedule. It had been 9 years before that when my middle child was a baby. I worked from home as the bookkeeper for our church, and was graciously given the month off from those responsibilities. Instead, I meandered into the advent season, wrapped gifts between naps and feedings. The silver pine was decorated one evening after my daughters’ homework was completed. Cookie baking with my mother during the Saturday just before Christmas was done with ease. I meditated on scripture and sang “O Holy Night” with feeling. Joy. Celebrated the miracle of my baby. It was a simply sacred season.
Since that year of 1992, I have yet to have all my holiday shopping completed by Thanksgiving. For many years, I am well into Christmas Eve almost into the wee hours of Christmas Day wrapping gifts to put under the tree. A dizzy daze the Christmas season can be. And how did it get that way? Too many parties, gifts, food, family, and expectations. Advent is lost, sometimes found again in those wee hours of Christmas Day before the pitter-patter of children’s feet as they hit the floor running to see what presents have been placed under the glowing tree.
“Advent” means “coming”. Jesus, the King and our Messiah is coming. I pray you and I have a simply sacred season this holiday. Less shopping, baking, eating, and doing. Just be in His Presence. Come, Jesus. God’s gift.
While painting and redecorating the interior walls of the home I have lived in for 27 years, I see how a mirror reflects light into a room, illuminating openness and beauty. I came across a mirror that has been many places in this home and two others over the years. This hand-crafted, wood-carved framed mirror has been in my bedroom, living room, and kichen at various times the past 35 years. I will part ways with this mirror, as it reflects memories of dreams not fulfilled. Given to me by my ex when dreams and promises were made, though empty. I am over it all, looking into a new reflection for life. I am loved. And I am beautiful in God’s eyes, to my new husband, and myself. You cannot lie to me anymore.
One of my favorite lyrics, and then a haiku poem coming from my heart …
“Well, the truth about a mirror
Is that a damned old mirror
Don’t really tell the whole truth.
It don’t show what’s deep inside
Oh, read between the lines.
And it’s really no reflection of my youth.”
That square old mirror
It is me, self, I inside
Mere reflection veered askew
Anna Marie Gall
November 27, 2013