2012 is still hanging around in piles around my house. Clothes, dishes, gifts waiting to be put away…
and I’m sitting here, composing my goodbye to another year.
Weighing regrets, decisions, successes and failures– how shall I remember 2012? I’m sure you’re doing the same thing. What worked, what didn’t, what will we do differently in 2013? Isn’t it wonderful to have that chance again? We turn the page all over again, to another blank year. The past is the past, and we look ahead. How refreshing.
But, while it is refreshing, and exciting, it can also be a little scary and uncertain. What lay ahead?
Well, we don’t know. Not entirely. Will business thrive? Will relationships be strained? Will health decline? Will governments fail? We don’t know. We pray that all good things will continue and all crises be averted, but there are no guarantees. A year from today, what will we be looking back on? There is no predicting the joys or sorrows ahead.
But, even so, we have no cause for worry. Because there are few things we DO know. And they are big ones.
We know that God will continue to be merciful. He will continue to save, to call, to answer, to heal, to work, to move. He will continue that work in you that He has begun. He will continue to hold the stars and sun in the sky. He will make caterpillars into butterflies. He will grow babies in the womb. He will sustain life, He will welcome home saints. He will bless you, keep you. He will forgive a thousand, thousand sins. He will redeem, He will restore, He will renew. He will be glorified in all things.
He will continue.
Because that’s what He does, what He is. He is forever. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Years pass, measuring a million lifetimes, and He is the One Constant through it all.
So, facing another year of unknowns– facing a 2013 that will be full of highs and lows that we can’t possibly foresee– we know this:
God will be there through it all, being Who He is. What have we to fear? He is King of All Time, and 2013 already belongs to Him. Let’s shoot the fireworks, pop the champagne, kiss our sweethearts! Let us look ahead with joy and anticipation at His lordship in another year. Christians, rejoice!
It is a happy new year, indeed, for it is another year of our Lord.
The Brimberry is quiet these days. The water is still. If it doesn’t rain much in the next few weeks, it will dry completely and we will be able to walk among the cypress trees. There is a small strip of land that Papaw and a neighbor built up many moons ago, that cuts through the water. It serves as a property line, and was intended to keep the once-upon-a-time cows from wandering all over. Now, it is the perfect peninsula for adventurers, young and old alike, to spy the wonders of the Brimberry, before the waters have receded completely. We carefully wind our way through vivid green iris blades and gnarled cypress knots and ancient barbed-wire, to stand in awe in this alien landscape.
I watch my boys, doing what boys do- plunking sticks into the solemn waters, spying on the beaver dam… I see my daughter, on the look-out for some little creature in need of rescuing. And my husband, whose eyes are filled with a brightness that only comes when he is here, in the Brimberry.
And my heart is filled with such sweetness, completeness.
I am home.
Long time. Pull up a chair, let’s have a cuppa and catch up. We have so much to cover, don’t we?
We are in full holiday mode over here. What an amazing time of the year! We were trying to do school up until yesterday, and I finally just called it quits. My head is in the clouds these days! I am fresh out of lesson plans, the school room needs organizing, and all I can think about it making some Christmas cookies and wrapping presents. So, I admitted the dominion of the season, and released the masses from their studies. There were shouts of joy and hallelujahs! The kids were excited, too.
Czarina started her orthodontic work yesterday: an expander. It’s a piece of metal that fits in the roof of her mouth, and you turn this key every night in it to push the teeth apart. It’s a bit uncomfortable and difficult to eat around, but she’s been a trooper. I’m just glad to get this thing going, and get her jaw aligned correctly! It pops out of place and gives her pain periodically, and this will resolve that for her eventually. After wearing this for a few months, she’ll get braces. She’ll be ever-so-cute, I just know it. She is less certain of this. But I can just see it now. Tweeny cuteness.
In other news, HeroBoy and the Duke have started basketball for the first time. They’ve never played before, so they are learning all the fundamentals and are pretty nervous about it all. I know they’ll have lots of fun, once they get the hang of it. We practice all through the month, and games start up in January.
Chipmunk is full of Christmas spirit– so happy. He’s just a happy guy, no matter what. But this time of the year, he is like a string of Christmas lights, all bright and shiny. As for the Mister, well, he is vacillating between the naughty and the nice list on an almost hourly basis. He is too cute, too sweet, and too mischievous all at one time. I don’t know whether to kiss him or spank him half the time! Pretty normal for a two year old, methinks. Although, his birthday is coming up! He’ll be three next month, so that whole “terrible twos” thing won’t jive for much longer.
As for King Pen, he is still chugging away with work. People ask us all the time how it’s going, and my answer is different every time. Some days, it feels like the world is at our fingertips and it’s just a matter of minutes before we’re up and flying. Other times, it’s scary and hard and I don’t want to burden anybody with my uncertainty. They say it takes a year before you really settle into a new business, and I always thought that was a bit pessimistic. But going through it, I can see the reality of that estimate. Keep praying for us, with us. I don’t think we’re on the wrong path, we’re just not very far along it yet.
Despite being in unknown territory with the business end of life, it doesn’t touch the contentment that has settled into my soul.
I am full.
And it’s not because my life is perfect. It’s really not, in case that’s what it looks like from the outside. We have our problems. Our bumps in the road. Our dysfunctions, our histories, our weaknesses and sins and challenges.
But God is good. He’s saved me. No, He’s saving me, day by day. It never ends, what He does for me, and in me. Every day is grand, even if it all goes wrong. Even if the milk gets spilled, and the car breaks down, and the pipes overflow. He is good, and He is with me, and I can count it all a joy. Because it’s LIFE. He gave it me- the highs and lows, ups and downs, all to experience and learn from. He gives me rain and He gives me fire and He knows what He’s doing every second of my life.
Am I a broken record? Do I dwell too much on my contentment, my satisfaction? It is a theme I find myself continually drawn back to lately– because it surprises me. It took a long time to figure out what was truly going to make me happy– and a lot of that searching I did publicly, here on my blog. I wrote where I was, sometimes foolishly, painfully, selfishly. Remember those days? Maybe not so much– I didn’t publish all the posts I wrote- and you can be glad of that. Those feelings generate a lot of words, but they are empty. They do not satisfy the reader or the writer. But the words found in peace… they are rich and full and nurturing. If I am quiet nowadays, it is because I am so happy. My heart won’t fit on these pages anymore, because it is fat and content.
It doesn’t mean I don’t want to write, or that I won’t write. But I am not desperate to fill a void with words anymore. I’m not clinging to them in panic. I can just use them, to draw a line around my life. I can use them to show the shape of the goodness I have come to understand, by God’s grace and mercy. Today, I’m writing my 2,000th post, and I’ll tell you, it took every single one of them to get me here today. Every word was a step to this place, and I’m thanking Him for healing these blind eyes along the way. It is hard to write when you just can’t see.
All these things on my mind lately, wrapping closely in with Christmas– well, it is the season to be joyful, isn’t it? What better time than this?
Okay, I must be off. It’s lunch time now, and there are ravenous beasts all around me. Happy Wednesday, my friend. I hope your step is light, and your heart is full today.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love technology as much as the next girl. I don’t have the budget to indulge in it much, but I am certainly drawn to gadgets and gizmos. Whozits, and whatzits galore. I don’t have the latest, greatest phone, but I am able to get online with it. I have a nifty little Facebook button on the screen that will hook me right up. And let me tell you, my finger has been itching to hit that button a hundred times in the last few days.
This Facebook fast has brought to light just how much I have been filling up the small seconds of life. I’m not gonna beat myself up about it, but the fact is, that’s not a good thing.
Because we need to be bored sometimes.
There need to be moments when there is nothing to do, but just sit there, with our brains idling. To observe. To think. To hum. To twiddle our thumbs.
I think about the kids, and how many days, I have to FORCE them outside to play. I have to endure their forlorn faces in the window, begging to be let back in where fun is only a click away. Sometimes it can take an hour for them to finally accept defeat, and be born away on the tides of boredom.
But you know what happens? Those turn into the best play days ever. They look around, find some old bucket, a couple 2×4′s, a length of rope, and a tarp. Suddenly, their bored little brains put all these things together, and their imagination cranks up. Forts are assembled, clubhouses are designed, grand schemes are hatched. Their moment of absolute and horrible boredom has sparked into something great.
We need that, too, y’all. We need a moment. We’re losing something here, by constantly providing our minds with an escape from boredom. What poems aren’t being written? What lines of music go uncomposed? What epiphanies are we missing because we’re texting or tweeting? With a phone in our hands, we’re closing the doors on the playground of the mind. And we need it no less than our children do. There is something in most parents that causes us to rant and rave about kids and their video games all the time. Go outside and play! we say. We know it’s important to their development for them to come up with their own games and occupations. The same is true for us. Boredom is the springboard for creativity. It’s uncomfortable- we don’t like it. But it’s what prompts us to change that discomfort, to make something where there is a vacuum. It is the birthplace of ideas. We can’t be afraid to go there, or we lose something magical.
So skip the ten minutes on your phone at lunch today. Instead, look around. Watch people. Don’t worry about looking like a tool sitting there all by yourself eating your meal. Let your mind roam freely, and see what happens. Be purposefully bored, and see if something good doesn’t come from it.
Happy day, everybody.
Another day, with no Facebook. I think I deserve a 48 hour chip or something. Sheesh! Who knew it would be this hard! But, on the plus side, I called an old neighbor in Pineville and caught up with her. I finally managed to change out the kid’s dentist and set up an appointment for them. Went to the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum for a fieldtrip. I’ve cleaned, worked out, and made fudge (okay, ATE fudge) with my grandmother. (Nevermind that I completely negated the workout with the fudge. Hush.) Listened to some of her old stories of her childhood and mine. It’s been a busy few days with all my non-Facebooky time.
It’s sort of weird, though. Engaged as I am in my real life, I do wonder what’s going on with everybody else. I feel like Halbach, Emily, and Teri have all snuck out of Facebook to come to talk to me on the outside. There is a little thrill at breaking the rules, passing secret notes when FB isn’t watching. Thank you, friends. (We can all sit in detention together if we get busted!) Seriously though, it is nice to know that although FB is convenient in a lot of ways, the people who love ya will go the long way ’round if they have to. Y’all are the best.
Okay, I’m off to bed. Nothing much to say tonight, though there are thoughts aplenty stirring in my head. After a few quiet months at the Sift, I do believe the wind is picking up.
Sweet dreams to all.
I am taking a break from Facebook.
And, OW. It hurts. I knew I was addicted to it, but GRRR. It is a hard habit to break! It’s in my muscle memory at this point. I hop on for milliseconds at a time, during tiny intervals of the day, without even realizing I’m doing it. Why? So I can know what someone ate for lunch today? Or how they killed it at the gym? Sure, it’s not all so trivial. There are good things to be gleaned from ye old social network. But I have only so many moments to dedicate to nonessentials… and FB isn’t helping me produce many things of worth. So, I’m taking a breather.
I’m hoping it will free me up to do a few things. If I add all those milliseconds together, what will I have? Maybe not much, actually- but I think the simple mental break, stepping back from the virtual world and back into the real world, is going to be good for me. It will motivate me to take care of business. Make some calls. Read. Workout. And maybe… write? I feel, like this artist’s manifesto, that I have been “asleep at the wheel.” This is me attempting to shake the complacency out of my life.
It feels good. Even if it hurts a little.
Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me. If you are one of the few people who read here even without a Facebook link (gasp!), then I’m sending a big old hug your way. There’s no “Like” button here, so you’ll actually have to comment to let me know you’re around. (Hey, don’t act like it’s gonna break your fingers. You’ve gotten just as lazy as me, haven’t you? Maybe I’m not the only one who needs a FB wakeup call! )
Kay, I’m out. Have a good Tuesday, everybody. Now, unplug this thing and go get some fresh air. [like]
I stood in the cold morning, my husband’s robe wrapped tightly around me. Darkness stretched a million miles above, though the sky was obscured with clouds. In one corner of the heavens, there was a small window into the universe, and stars winked down at me.
It was 3 a.m. I was on a scouting mission. A meteor shower had been predicted, and I planned to wake the children for the show, if there was one. But it wasn’t to be– this tiny hatch into the roof of the world didn’t reveal any shooting stars, and it threatened to close at any moment. And yet, despite the dark and cold, and the call of a warm bed waiting for me, I couldn’t quite shuffle back into my hobbit hole.
The longer I stood there, in the quiet… the smaller I became. Night grew large, darkness swelled, and I shrank to a little point of light. My perspective shifted under the celestial height, and I remembered. I am a tiny thing.
We need that sometimes, don’t you think? We need to see our humanity– the sum of all our existence, in relation to something immeasurable.
It’s okay to say it. We are measurable. We are blips. Just flickers in the great, unending cosmos. Though we shy away from the truth of it, the fact is, this life is moving at the speed of light, and we are zooming through our mortality like shooting stars. The good and the bad- our victories and defeats- our triumphs and our sufferings– they are all part of this tiny human flash of light that has but a moment in the sky.
And that’s okay.
It’s actually really amazing.
We can begin to see what’s truly important when we see our place in the bigger picture. We see what lasts, what matters. In the face of such vastness, how can we not be free from the small troubles of the day? How they wane under the night sky! But mostly, we see that we are not the center of the universe. And that’s always a good thing. That’s worth standing in the dewy grass all by yourself at 3 a.m. for.
I marveled a moment more, caught in thoughts too big for my sleepy head. I yawned up at the darkness. Yes, we move from this life like shooting stars. But it is not the end, oh no. We will wake up from this dimly lit world into a place of Brilliant Light. Where there is no night, no cover of clouds. We are not dying stars in the next life. We are not falling out of an endless sky anymore. We’ve made it, we’re there, in a place where the Sun never sets and joy never ends. Isn’t that marvelous? Does your heart not sing at the thought? Mine did, there in the solitude.
The night had revealed all it would, so I made my way back to the warmth that waited. I slipped into my bed, into my cozy earthly life.
Stars shined on, and I slept.
Time for a little drive-by blogging.
It was a long week here at Siftville. Lots of sickies and general malaise. We missed some fun meet-ups with friends and family, but what can you do? Thankfully, we all seem better today.
The cat keeps getting out. It makes me so mad! I realize it’s silly to be aggravated with a cat for wanting to do a very catlike thing, but still. She gets out and stays out all night, then comes dragging in when the sun comes up and wants to sleep all day. Uh, no. Get a job, cat. I’m not supporting this lifestyle.
Yesterday, they cut down the pasture for the last time before the winter. It’s sorta sad. The broom sage was coming up so pretty, and I kept meaning to get a picture of it. But, now the kids can run through it again without me fretting over snakes.
Snakes. Moving on.
We’ve been working on Halloween costumes. I had the best mom-idea ever, for all of us to go as Robin Hood characters. I know- right? Talk about CUTE. I could just see it. Calhoun could have been King Richard. Solon would be Friar Tuck– so, stinking, cute.
But I wasn’t able to sell it. Tough crowd. And if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that there’s nothing like a cranky Robin Hood to ruin trick or treating. So, we have a mix of Lord of the Ring characters, animals, myths, and community helpers. A motley crew bent on depriving their mother of her hard earned right to organized cuteness. Oh well. I’ll just eat their candy, and that will make me feel better.
EXCEPT for Calhoun. He doesn’t know it yet, but he is gonna be the CUTEST thing ever. Don’t wanna spoil it, but we match. Take that, older kids! He’s in the running to becoming My Favorite. There are benefits to that position, you know. Like, I don’t take as much of his candy. I know, it’s a corrupt system. (It’s the two-party thing, you can’t get out from under it.)
Okay, I gotta get outta here. Muffins to serve up, and Friday to attend. Hope y’all have a great weekend!
Friday, I am taking the kids on a field trip to the National Military Park in Vicksburg, MS.
I grew up in Vicksburg, and much of my family is still there. It is home. And the Military Park is a big part of my history, part of me. I know which hills are best for rolling down, when to hold your breath going under a bridge (ew, bat poo!), and where the secret waterfall is.
So, in preparation for this field trip, I am trying to think about what I want to say to the kids about the Civil War. We haven’t officially studied it in school. (We’ve just reached the end of the Roman Empire… looooong way to go.) So, I need to give a quick, simple rundown.
Unfortunately, what is quick and simple about the Civil War?
I have always been conflicted about the whole thing. Slavery- bad. No doubt. If the South wasn’t going to abandon this institution, then what choice did the North have? I am anti-slavery, end of story. But, it’s more complex than that, we know. The issue of state’s rights and an expanding federal government, etc. etc. Most Southerners were too poor to even own slaves. But, what does it matter? Whatever the complex reasons for the war, slavery trumps them all. It couldn’t be allowed, and can’t be defended. You can’t get away from that fact, no matter how much or how little that was the actual reason for the war. Arguing it is a lost cause, in my opinion.
So, I understand why people fought against the South. But, I also get why people fought for the South.
Going through the military park, tracing the names etched on the monuments, reading bits and pieces of Confederate diaries and battle accounts in the museum, walking the Cairo and touching the giant, black cannons, creeping through the underground tunnels that soldiers hid in…
I love them. I love those men and boys who loved the South, who loved it so much, they died for it. They died for their homes. They died for these hills, they died in these hills. I grew up in the relics of their heartbreaking stories, surrounded by their history. Walls with bullet holes, old ruins and cemeteries, musket balls or belt buckles out in the woods. Vicksburg isn’t stuck in time, but we bear the mark of those days still. The grass has grown back green and thick, but our hills are littered with their bullets and their bones.
We grow up with ghosts.
So, it’s tricky.
We acknowledge the bad, but celebrate the good. There was good. We’re skittish of saying it these days, because it looks like we might be defending an ugly thing.
But, there is no shame in loving the South. The South doesn’t equal Slavery. We were more than that, our history is so much more than that. That’s what I want the kids to see, to understand. I don’t want them to hang their heads. I want them to roll down hills, and climb on top of the cannons, listen to the stories of people who lived and died for something. I want them to be unafraid to scratch the surface of a difficult subject. I want them to sift through the ashes, and find what was good, what there is to be proud of.
So we’ll drive the park on Friday, stopping to play here and there. We’ll stomp our feet and yell our names in the Illinois monument. We’ll run and hide in the tunnel. We’ll gaze out over the Mississippi River at Fort Hill. We’ll walk the cemetery, with its endless horizon of stone markers, and remember.
No, it’s not quick and simple.
But then, almost nothing in life is, is it?
(Image, courtesy of Vicksburg Park Essay)
They are outgrowing my arms. I knew the day would come, when I cannot scoop them all so easily into my lap, into my embrace. Already, I have difficulty brushing my daughter’s hair, because I can barely see the top of her head.
I stood in the shower today and prayed, hard. I do my best praying in there. It is my cure to a sedentary prayer life. I prayed, God, thank you, I’m sorry, help me. I find these three thoughts apply well to everything, and they often come up as I think about what kind of mom I am.
Thank you for every. single. moment.
I’m sorry I blow it, repeatedly.
Help me do better tomorrow.
I think this is right, and good to pray. But, our pastor said something that really hit home for me during Sunday school the other day. He said, in times of trial, when things have gone awry with a child, the parents often ask in despair, “Oh, what did we do wrong?”
But that’s the wrong question entirely.
The fact is: You brought that child into the world. The end. That’s what you did wrong. You conceived this child into a fallen world, and he comes fully wired for sin. Even when you do everything MOSTLY right, there’s enough WRONG in our DNA to throw it all off anyway! Even if you don’t have complete meltdowns in the shower over your mistakes (who does that, anyway?), you’re still not gonna get an A on this one. You couldn’t help but mess it up from the start. Sorry. Not a very flattering view of things is it?
But, never fear. God’s grace is here.
He does what we can’t. He is perfectly patient. Kind. Merciful. He knows exactly what their hearts require. He fixes our mistakes, smooths out our wrinkles. He is clear and just and mighty in all the ways they need. He whispers into their hearts, into places we can’t reach. He stirs them, calls them, keeps them.
I panic a little with each inch they grow. When I have to crane to look over their heads, when my arms are too full to reach around them completely, I can’t help but cringe. This physical reminder that they are quickly approaching the time when I will have little or no control in their life is inescapable. It scares me. But, for all our fears, God has reassurances. He reminds me: it is not my embrace that keeps them steady and safe. It is His.
It’s always been His.
So rather than wring my hands and quake in fear that I have irrevocably damaged my children by dropping the ball (again), I will remember who is in charge here. I will remember who is the Author of their faith, and Whose grace is covering my imperfect parenting. I will remember that He is their eternal Father, and that trumps me and my earthly position any day of the week.
Still, I will do my best. And when I fail (which I do, with great consistency), I will repent, confess, and try again. I’ll keep my arms stretched around them, as far and wide as I can, but I will rest. I won’t worry as time begins to crowd my reach. They will outgrow my arms, it’s inevitable.
But they will never outgrow His.
The sky blushes lightly behind the trees as the sun rises this morning. It’s beautiful, and it makes me a little bit sad. That’s the way of truly beautiful things, isn’t it? They are so pretty, so perfect, that they leave a little ache within. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true.
But I am not melancholy today, oh no! It is a good day to be alive, a good day to be living my life. I feel rich today. I cannot stop seeing the good things– I cannot stop finding more and more to be thankful for. Sweetness falls from the sky in great sheets, and I am drenched.
How have I not known this all along? I saw such a small portion of it before… before what? I don’t know. I don’t know why I see things now; I don’t know what’s changed. But it’s like I was seeing a close up of the good things in life, and now the scene has expanded to show even more. The vastness of His mercy and abundance stuns me– the horizon of goodness stretches farther than I could have imagined. And it is breathtaking. Endless.
What have I done to merit any of this?
I imagine His great rolling laugh, His thunderous joy at giving a gift so undeserved. It is His pleasure to be generous, to make princes out of paupers. His will is a a wondrous thing, isn’t it?
Anyway, those are just my thoughts this morning. There are more things to say, more of life to share with you, but breakfast is calling, and good morning hugs to give, so I must be off. Happy Thursday, friends. May you feel the drenching rains of His goodness today!
Ah, it’s Birthday Eve. Time for the annual ritual of Contemplating and Analyzing My Life. Heh.
And you know what? This ritual doesn’t take long, cause Life’s good. I love it. My cup overflows. I live in the wealthiest, healthiest, freest country on the planet. I can worship as I please, eat what I want, when I want. I can have as many children as I see fit, I can get medicine when I’m sick, there is hot water that comes right out of the wall into my bath-tub. I go to sleep on a comfortable bed with conditioned air and no fear for my safety. I can read the Bible in my own language. Go to a dentist and keep my teeth from falling out.
My children are a joy. My husband is my best friend. I have family on top of family that loves me as I am.
It’s a pretty wonderful life.
All these things I have– I am so incredibly rich. I have more than many people will ever have in today’s age, and more than most people in all of history! I have enjoyed thirty-seven years of wealth and abundance and joy. I want for nothing– and it has all come from the Lord. Every good thing comes from above, let me NEVER cease to say it or believe it.
Happy birthday, me. Don’t even bother with the candles. There are no wishes left to make.