yet I will rejoice

I’m reading Station Eleven, after having watched the series on HBO. Something about the story pulled me in and inspired me and the more I think about it the more I know it is because of one of the main themes of the book is “survival is insufficient”. This book, this story, had soul.

Sometimes survival is sufficient. During a season of complete lack of basic needs (emotional, spiritual, physical), survival seems like everything, the main thing. “Survival mode”. “I’m just trying to survive” “I need to keep my head above water”. “One moment at a time”. Survival itself can be a full-minded and full-time job because something within us is telling us “You aren’t safe yet”.

Once those basic needs are met, during a season of safety and plenty, survival has now become…… insufficient.

But wait!

Some would argue that EVEN IN A SEASON OF LACK SURVIVAL IS INSUFFICIENT.

My own little life, my own ordinary story, my own history, my own past and my own “now”, deep deep within my heart, mind, and soul, I’ve always known that just beyond survival is something grand, something sacred and beautiful.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” ~Jesus Christ

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Hans Christian Anderson

Just a moment ago…….. I looked out the window. We live on a slight hill, the road runs by but the house faces not the street, but the woods. I feel part of humanity each time a car goes by, but facing forward I can see trees and sky. The birds are singing (not every bird has a beautiful song, and yet……every bird does indeed, to those of us who listen with more than our ears). The sunshine is bright this morning and because the trees are frozen and frosted, they glitter gorgeously in the sunshine. The sun is golden and the trees are silver. The ground is coated with snow, in shades of blue and gray and white.

I invite the world in every time I turn on the news. Every time I open my computer. I myself am of the earth, fully human, ugly (and beautiful) all the time with such variety that it’s next to impossible to even guess what sort of day I will have even without stepping outside or turning anything on to see what the rest of humanity is up to. We are a mixed bag of situations, emotions, work, and even our science and logic is often tipsy.

My great grandmother told me that the basic patchwork quilt looks it’s best when the squares alternate between light and dark fabrics. One light piece, then a dark, another light piece, then a dark.

good, bad, good, bad, good, bad

easy, hard, easy, hard, easy, hard

Just a moment ago………. I imagined the beauty outside my window gone. Instead, it’s rubble, or sand, or disaster.

There would still be the sky.

What if? what if? what if?

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

I find it pretty amazing that almost without fail, a person will naturally find something to be thankful for and enjoy, even when going through a truly tragic and difficult experience. And these people shine brightly in the darkness.

Because mere survival is not enough. We were made for more.

Tasha Tudor said she would read Shakespeare while making jam in her kitchen.

wildflowers in a tin can

a ribbon in a ponytail

a smile to a stranger

leaning close to admire the tiniest of insect

the taste of a fresh crispy salad

a child playing happily in a sand box

a handicapped girl, always fighting infections, often near death, yet ever-learning and ever-loving (I know her) living on her own, having a dog as a pet, taking care of herself the best she can

a man who lovingly remembers and honors his son-in-heaven every year on his instagram account

a friend who works from home alone during the day, yet lives faithful and honorably, minding his own business, yet reaching out to people he loves to make sure they are okay.

a poor man, with only a little lamb, but he loved it

a rich man, with everything he could ever want, but only wanting what he couldn’t have (that little lamb)

Will I be content with what I have? Will I hold sacred what I have been given? Will I act with a loving heart?

We’ve read of mothers raising children in poverty, and yet keep their children clean, continue to patch the same dress over and over, and why? Why bother when no one else will see and everything else is falling apart? Maybe because this woman craves something beautiful and desires something more. It’s important to her. Her children may not have enough to eat, but they are scrubbed within an inch of their lives and their hair is combed. They may not have shoes, but they are loved.

When I scrubbed the upstairs bathroom the other day, I found myself thanking God and blessing my own children who use the shower, who dirty the sink, those whom I mother and care for. So you see, even the most humble of chores can be sacred. Any task can be made meaningful.

I want to have what I have, and love it.

I don’t want to be caught up with a life of always wanting more, or worse, wanting my own way and being selfish.

We are living in a pandemic. And many of us are thriving.

“This strange and awful time was the happiest of my life.” Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

bonding moments

When I was visiting my Aunt Colleen and her girls recently she got out all the painting things and the four of us sat at the table to paint pictures. I realized how relaxing it was as we each thought about what we would paint and then set to work.

I had already noticed that all over the main rooms of the house there were paintings and drawings hung….that were painted or drawn by the family. And I really liked that. It made the house more cozy and personal and meaningful. I enjoy seeing people create things to feather their nests. I get the same inspired feeling when I visit my parents and my bestie Josephina.

I got out my paint stuff here at home yesterday. Before I knew it, Seth and Sarah joined me, without even being invited. We had our own little painting session together. Seth got out the hair dryer to help speed along his drying paint, Sarah quickly lost herself in her artwork and was never quite happy with her results, and I just started painting and ended up surprising myself.

It made us feel together. It felt good.

“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.” -St Augustine

a crazy cat lady

I didn’t want to get up this morning but Rich said I had to because he had important things to do today and we had to drive down and get my car and I said “I’m gonna sleep for a couple more hours” and he said “that won’t work for me” and I said “an hour then” and he said no and left the room. I stretched and yawned and twisted and opened my eyes and sat up. I flung the covers off and got out of bed. I put jeans and socks and shoes on, threw my coat on and grabbed a hat and my purse. It took me all of three minutes and there I was in the kitchen staring at my husband making coffee. I didn’t say a word as he turned to look at his wife. He had stayed up late to watch the college football championship and was sleep deprived and yet still couldn’t help but laugh the moment he saw me, taking out his phone and snapping a photo.

*fake smile

He texted it to me and when I looked at it I realized that I’m (see title)……

He handed me my coffee and off we went.

still reading the newberys

I plan on reading a lot this year. I’ve been a passionate reader since childhood so that’s a good indication to me that I should (as I heal from and process trauma) ….just go on reading. There’s something soothing, nurturing, and safe about books. This morning I finished a sweet simple tale from the authoress Elizabeth Yates. It’s about a little boy and his parents, and the hired man, who all work together on their quiet country sheep farm. One day a wolf went into the flock while they were grazing unattended and killed six of them, so the hired man stayed out all night until he could shoot and kill their predator; a wolf. I was reminded how in Scripture we are warned of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and for that very same reason; if not for a guiding Shepherd, wolves would seek out and destroy the gentle tender hearted sheep. I thought I would share this quote from page 83:

“ There are some things that can’t seem to live right with the rest of the world. They cause trouble to the good things and so they have to leave. I don’t like what has to be done at times like that but a man’s got to be able to do it. In the Bible, David the Shepherd boy was able to do it, and he wasn’t afraid to stand up to a big one named Goliath who was causing trouble in his countryside. Easy going is the way we all like to be, but we can’t let easiness take the fight out of us.”

As a kind and gentle woman, I am hurt by “the things that can’t seem to live right” with the rest of us. I try my best to be loving to and to enjoy this beautiful world we live in. Once in a while something tragic happens that frightens me. Once in a while someone comes along who says persuasive kind words, but their behavior shows them for the wolf that they are. We have all learned some valuable lessons through horrifying experiences. Like the boy in the story, we want to be easy going, but there are times when even the kind and gentle ones must stand firm and fight and say “no more”.

the proof is in the pudding

It was a lovely house to enter once the cold days came. The rooms, although clean, were not too clean; they were also large and airy and warm. The house had an especially wonderful basement, most of which was taken up by a large bedroom and laundry room, but there was also a storage area that rarely had visitors. The mice had plenty of room down in that basement, and an abundance of possibilities there to fulfill their simple yet necessary wants and wishes. They soon settled and thrived in the dark corners. In time they discovered the best place for bedding was the laundry room; dryer lint was soft and gently scented and even looked like mouse fur. There were many long passageways behind shelves and boxes to run and play, and soon it was apparent that the best foods to be had were left on the floors, especially underneath the boys’ beds.

However, the mice were not safe anywhere in that house. The family itself was large, the father had a pathological horror of mice and an unmatched determination to kill on sight, and there were four cats to keep aware of at all times. These four cats were sleek and well fed, but none could resist the sight of a mouse. Too often a mouse was killed and eaten by a cat, and once only a head was left on the floor which, when stepped on absentmindedly by one of the boys, looked just like a flattened mold-covered strawberry in the midst of its own red juice. Mother bent down to pick it up, after the door had slammed shut behind the last child for school, but when she realized what it really was, she quickly threw it out the front door and rushed to the bathroom, looking at her mouse-wet and bloody fingertips, and gagging.

The latest loss occurred last weekend when a full grown brown mouse unwisely ventured from the basement and up to the kitchen. He was the deadly triune combination of bored, hungry, and alone. After a while, he found a crust of pizza underneath Mother’s fiestaware hutch. He felt safe under there amongst the dust and dirt, small toys and bits of garbage, twigs and ping pong balls. The crust was hard and rock-like and it felt good to work his strong jaw and sharp teeth up and down, scratching and breaking bits to chew and eat.

From across the room, a large orange tomcat lifted up his head. He had been napping soundly for hours but a small noice and strong smell of mouse had lifted him from dream-land. He yawned and stretched. He stood and stretched again. Mr Brown Mouse was only aware of the cat when he was startled from his next bite of pizza by the thud of four cat feet.

Mother was busy and rarely noticed mice. She would smell a dead one in the walls now and then, which would cause her to perform cleaning frenzies and motivational speeches to her husband (speeches of which, as of this writing, have not worked their magic). However, she always and always noticed her precious kitty-babies. She saw her precious cat with an “I see something very exciting” look in his eyes, and she bent down beside him to look underneath the hutch. Sure enough, tucked into the very corner of the hot water base board heating, was a mouse. She got down on her stomach and called for her daughter. They both decided to try to save it from the cat, Mother by grabbing it with metal tongs, and daughter, by turning it into a pet.

Unfortunately, the tongs didn’t work and the mouse got away. Mother, Daughter, and Cat ran around trying to figure out where it had gone but soon gave up. Mother immediately became full of the urge to clean and scrub. Oh yes, a cleaning frenzy would calm her nerves in no time and she had seen all the dirt underneath her hutch of favorite dishes. She gathered her supplies and set to work, swept the floor underneath the hutch, wiped down the walls, washed off the top of it, and then lastly, vacuumed thoroughly. The hutch was heavy so she didn’t have much room to work so she pulled the attachment and reached blindly around as far as she could reach, bending down to be sure to get all the nooks and crannies. Her progress was stopped when she heard the sound of something flying through the tube. She held her breath but within that fraction of a second, the object passed completely through, ending within the bagless canister. She turned the vacuum off and said, “I really can’t believe that didn’t get stuck, ping pong balls always do.” It was truly a “Praise the Lord” moment for her, as ping pong balls are extremely frustrating to get out of the middle of a vacuum tube. Whatever this was, it had rushed through almost like it was made just for that purpose.

She unhooked the canister to take it outside. And what do you think Mother saw? Yes, it was Mr Brown Mouse, now in an alarming state, tail and legs in the wrong places at wrong angles, body and head twisted and bunched with all the other unwanted items; floor dirt and hair, legos, pizza crust, and strings. She lifted him by the tail, and he was still breathing, but after throwing him over the porch railing into the garden, his breathing slowed and eventually stopped. He is resting in peace underneath the shrubbery after escaping from a cat, but falling prey to a determined housewife with a vacuum.

******

Mother just came in and saw my story. She said she “just knows the men and women who read this will want to know that it was a Shark vacuum cleaner”, and because its powerful suction caused the death of a mouse just by its sheer force, she will never buy another brand again.

checking for signs of life
RIP

the porch in October

When you stand on it in the middle of the day and close your eyes you can hear in the distance the sounds of acorns falling heavy out of tall oak trees. Crickets are chirping continuously in the key of D, birds are busy eating from the feeders nearby. The air feels cool out here on the porch, insects buzz, the old dry leaves of dying sunflowers rub together like crumbled papers. Another nut falls in the woods. You can smell dry pine, rotting mushrooms, pond water, leaves, wood bark, wild grapes, earth and wind. Colorful zinnias are waving like upright magic wands back and forth, back and forth. Bees hum, chickens sing, and the clean dewy grass is lovely, you know it would feel so good pressed against your temples and forehead. Garden toads and worms are in the hidden parts of the gardens surrounding the porch. Wind-chimes, clothesline, bells, all dangle and wave. The sky is smoothly blue and dotted with clouds. If you squint at the trees all you can see is orange.

But in the morning all is quiet. Misty falling fog wraps around the porch. Large plastic spiders have woven a cotton doily web and a black cat sits, patiently waiting to be let inside for his morning can of food.

four dollar goodwill find

I’ve been obsessed with Goodwill lately and I go at least once a week. I’ve found so many treasures that I told my family they will be getting some Christmas gifts from second hand shops this year. It’s delightful to peruse the aisles never knowing what I’ll find next.

For example, yesterday I found a beautiful and scenic oil painting….for four dollars. Not only was the painting beautiful, but the frame was, too.

I didn’t even have to think twice!

Once I brought it home I had to contemplate where I would hang it, which is how I found myself eventually standing on my art table.

Whilst standing on my art table, I was able to reach up and hang the painting by a nail centered above the big picture window.

I found myself singing “Beautiful! Beautiful!” as I carefully got down to the floor….a song I made up spontaneously, but then…..I choked on my song as I noticed An Eye-sore. On the windowsill above was an unsightly plastic bottle of almost all gone water. It was there since the day the boys got a little wild “bottle flipping”. In fact, it was there for maybe even a year, so high up that I had easily ignored it. However, with a flash of insight I knew I could never look at my beautiful art piece without my eyes going up to that water bottle, so…..I got back on the table with a broom. Ugh! What a work out.

That accomplished, I dusted off my hands and started singing again.

“Beautiful! Beautiful!”

This time of year, what with my favorite season giving me joy, the colors inspiring me, the fresh cooler air and bright hotter sun, I delight in my little home. I’m getting it all ready for the coming cold months, when we will be cozily within the pretty rooms again for most of the day.

I put my flashlight away, which I had used as a hammer, and the broom, which I had used as an arm-extender, and started upstairs to gather laundry when I stopped in my tracks.

I couldn’t even believe my eyes.

I had to get the broom again! I was no longer in the mood to document. However, if I had, the video would have been exactly the same, only longer, and you would have heard me groan loudly and say to no one, “I don’t think…..I can….get it.” But with determination I figured out just the right angle to use the broom and eventually the tube of green paint fell just like the water bottle had.

And that’s how I hung my four dollar painting! I’m always having the best adventures in my little ol daily life. I am happy to say that once they came home, my husband and the children noticed the painting right away, too.

They looked at me with wonder and awe. “How DOES she do it?“

Rest assured, dear children, with pocket money, a Goodwill store, a nail, and a flashlight, you too can do little things with great love.

so this is the morning

As soon as the queen awakens, she is presented with both the morning’s news and with pressing problems to solve.

With coffee in hand, she waves in the first child; who requests a ride to the grocery store for “pizza dough so we can make pizza for lunch, there’s pizza sauce in the pantry.”

The Queen rarely wishes to give rides, so she demands the child to make his own dough. He leaves, satisfied with her ruling.

The next child is welcomed. She hands the Queen a folded up piece of notepaper, with a tragic expression written (not just on the *said paper*) but also upon her pretty face.

After reading the note, the Queen Mother is not surprised to be encouraged to write back, “now”. The child will wait.

The Queen has never hired a scribe, as she takes pleasure in writing all her own notes.

Thus begins a rather lengthy discussion, involving tears (on the child’s part) and gallant stifled amusement (on the Queen’s part). They share possible solutions, reminders of past times, comforting AND uncomfortable truths, and a baring of souls. Finally, seeing no end in sight and feeling that she had reached the end of her resources, (and also rather hungry for breakfast), The Queen eventually makes a proclamation:

“I have said all I can say on this topic. The rest is up to you, child. Life is full of times that are less than ideal to our personal wants and wishes, and we must all figure out life’s riddle; how to make do with Plan B.”

There was no applause. So she sent them away from her presence. By this time she had also been back and forth from the kitchen several times to help the dough-making-boy, and it was time to dress in her royal garments.