giving thanks #21

Daily thankfulness is good for the soul. 

There is a peaceful and soothing feeling I get when I am able to be near water. Seeing the depths of color and the rolling movement relieves the tension that builds up during everyday life.   Something about the openness and the breeze of a lake or the sand and the surf at a beach is cleansing and renewing to me.

Several years ago we were able to purchase a small cabin at a lake. Although we have worked hard and spent lots of energy and resources improving the property, it also provides a place of sanctuary where we are able to escape the pressures of the work week and reconnect with nature – and with our true selves.

The change of scenery, the disconnect from routine, and the surrounding presence of God’s creation all revitalize us and make us whole.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #20

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

Sunsets are a glorious gift from God. Each is unique, yet in its own way every single one provides beauty, closure, and promise. Sunsets light up our lives. They encourage us to pause, to breathe deeply, both in and out, to absorb, and to be filled with peace.

On a busy day I often get so caught up in the “to-do’s” that I forget to consider the “well-done’s.” A stunning sunset will catch my eye and remind me of all that has been good in this day and all the beauty in this flawed world. The last, long, color-tinted rays of the sun that that fill every nook and cranny as the sun slides from the sky – this presence covers the fields, the trees, the buildings and the people with a golden glow of contented fulfillment.  Brian Andreas of Story People writes this of the time following sunset: “My favorite time of day is just at dark when all thoughts  of what must be done stop & small pools of light come alive on tired faces everywhere.”  Sunset, followed by twilight, is my favorite time of day, too.

lake sunset

Each and every time the colors in the sky are almost indescribable – brilliant and subdued at the same time. Covering everything and filling the very air with a benediction for a day well-lived. Catching my breath and reminding me that I am so small and God is so very big.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #19

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

Many years ago, an acquaintance of mine found herself unable to stay at home for any length of time, especially by herself. She was dealing with some other issues in her life, but I remember thinking how disheartening it would be to not enjoy being at home. I have always found home to be the place where I can relax, regroup, rejoice, and rethink. Home is where I find myself again.

Perhaps I have spent too much time and energy making our home(s) into a place of comfort and peace, making choices of what I considered to be the right furniture, accessories, arrangements of pieces, paint colors, and lighting. Even with limited budgets I have been blessed to find the things that “fit” our family and make our house a welcoming place. When I suggest changes and movements (much to the chagrin of my husband who has to do the heavy lifting), it is because I know it will be just a bit better with a different look and feel. I firmly believe you have to live in a place for a while before you really truly know where things belong. I do love reading about design in magazines and online, and I have forever kept folders of rooms I would like to emulate in our own personal way. I have lost some of the confidence (or daring?) of youth, and I do find myself questioning my preferences and choices more than in the past – maybe because now there are SO MANY things to choose from! But one thing hasn’t changed – when I walk into a room at our home or at someone else’s, I love the feeling of the space when it is both beautiful and serene.

Home is the place that lets you be you. Home should wrap its arms around you and let you know that you are loved. Home is my happy place.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #18

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

In high school I did an independent study in art and determined that I loved doing it, but I wasn’t sure I could make a living at it. So I became a teacher; yet my classroom, especially during the early years of my career, had lots of handmade (or home-made) bulletin boards and activities, mostly because I loved making these pieces.  And as a newly married couple, my husband and I gave artsy gifts of calendars, painted signs, and such.

This love of art and design extended into my pursuit of learning about and using calligraphy. I also took a watercolor class. (By the way, watercolor is hard to do!) We have made our own Christmas cards every year we have been married, although now I am fortunate to have access to our daughter’s professional design skills to bring my ideas to life. I come from a family of seamstresses, but I didn’t inherit that skill. But I have done smocking when my children were young, and countless pieces of counted cross stitch designs.  I recently made drapes for our daughter and son-in-law’s home, too. However, along the way – with blurring eyesight, other demands on my time, and a bit of age-induced laziness – art and design projects have taken a back seat in my life. And things in the creative world have changed, from being done all by hand to using the accuracy and ease of computers. (I should say ease of revision and correction with computers. Not ease of learning to use the software itself. That takes lots of talent and practice, as I learned through my class in Adobe Illustrator, which showed me what being at the bottom of the class felt like.) However, all these things continue to inspire me, and I have a computer folder bulging with quotes and art ideas that have grabbed my attention and made me wonder, “Could I… Should I… Will I … can I do that again?”

I continue to be drawn to the beauty and joy in art. And I am getting the nudge that maybe it is time to try a little dabbling here and there again.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #17

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

Books have always been an important  part of my life. They enrich my senses, increase my knowledge, entertain my mind, and deepen my thinking. Sometimes they change my thinking. Often they make me cry. Occasionally they make me mad or stir me to action. Always they take me outside myself.

I remember the first book I read that transported me – The Plow Penny Mystery, in third grade. I was also a big fan of Freddy the Pig books by Walter Brooks. Another milestone came when I was sitting on a swing in our backyard in fifth grade and reading my social studies text about early America – the history became real in that moment. (Must have been an engagingly written text!) I had to work through “summer reading” assignments in high school that often caused me dismay, but I am a better, more complete person for having read and discussed those classics. And I had amazing high school “English” teachers who made even the driest literature come to life. As an adult I have been part of book clubs that have allowed me to process my thinking about stories and texts through conversations about the books and about how they relate to our lives. That talk time is SUCH a key ingredient to making a book your own and absorbing it into your being. My husband and I shared very special times with each of our children when we read books to them (repeatedly, over and over, with some of their favorites!) when they were young. Early on in my teaching career I got my Masters degree in reading simply because I had come to understand how vital knowing how to read would be in all the subjects I was teaching my students. I never imagined I would be able to use this certification in changing positions, but I did, and became a reading specialist for my last ten years of teaching.  During that time I became “friends” with so many amazing children’s books, and I was able to recommend them to teachers for their comprehension lessons with their students. Boxes of my personal collection came home with me when I retired, and I look forward to sharing those stories with my grandchild(ren?), too.

My life would be much less interesting, poorly informed, lacking spark and color, and so mundane without books. Maybe someday I can write my own, but until then I am grateful for the authors and illustrators that have created these wonders.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #16

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

Yesterday I wrote about my gratitude for my career as a teacher, and for being “called” into that service and using God’s gifts to do that job well for 34 years. There were times when I was “burned out,” as well as other times I was greatly disheartened, but I continued to hear God telling me, “I have called you to be a teacher. When I have something else in mind I will let you know.”

A few years ago I knew it was getting to be time to retire. I know God was letting me know it was time. I was able to work that last year with no one outside my family knowing it was my last, except for two dear secret-keeping friends and my principal. I was encouraged that so many said to me they had no idea I was retiring until we announced it about three weeks before year end. I hope that meant I didn’t slow down in my work or act as if I didn’t care about the future of the students and the school. Because I did care – I still do. But my retirement has been absolutely wonderful!  I am busy with keeping my grandchild one day a week, participating in a soul-strengthening weekly Bible study, chairing our local nonprofit library foundation, trying to be a better friend and attend to others’ needs more than before, and revisiting art and design skillsets I had abandoned for lack of time and energy when I worked full time. Even though I still find there is never enough time, Time has a different meaning to me these days, resulting in a better attitude and considerably less stress.

When I was finishing my last year, a friend asked, “How do you know it is time to retire?” I told her that if she didn’t know the answer to that, then it wasn’t time for her to retire. I have never looked back. I am immensely grateful for each new day in this new stage of life.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #15

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

When I was a child, I always loved school and wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. When I went to college on my way to being grown up, I started out as an elementary education major and never considered any other focus. I received my degree and later added a couple more. I went on to teach for 34 years.

I spent most of those years as an elementary classroom teacher, with three (l-o-n-g) years in middle school mixed in. The last ten years I was a reading specialist, working with students and teachers, and while I loved that position, I often reminded those I worked with that I would always be a classroom teacher at heart. I was blessed to teach at a time when nurturing and having fun learning were mixed with standards and memorization of certain math facts, scientific laws, and states and capitals.  I planned my own curriculum units and believed in project-based learning long before that term was ever used. I loved every minute of those years: I adored the children, I appreciated being able to set my own path, and I valued the relationships developed along the way. In the years before my retirement, I was saddened by the drift (the march) to testing-based instruction, and I was able to hold on to my integrity only because the school administration where I worked did not force the staff to follow the outrageous expectations from the central office leaders in our district.  Consequently, I was able to grow in my own knowledge and love for comprehension-based reading strategy instruction and deeper thinking skills. And along the way I met so many, many good books, which line my shelves today.

I believe God called me to be a teacher, and I was blessed abundantly to use the gifts He gave me to be able to follow that call effectively and with all my heart.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #14

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

My dad grew up in Eastland Baptist Church in Nashville, where his mother served for years as church secretary. My mother was a charter member of Dalewood Baptist, which was an outgrowth of Eastland Baptist as the city spread outward. (There is an old picture of Mama unveiling the cornerstone when the congregation started Dalewood’s first building. If I ever come across it I will add it to this post.)  I was “born and raised” in that church, and I am so grateful for that experience.

I have written about memories of that church, but church is really not the building, but rather the people, and there are so many who shaped my life.  Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, choir directors, hostesses in the kitchen, secretaries, friends of my family, friends my own age. The list goes on. After our first child was born I took her and attended a “Circle” meeting at my parent’s home. I can’t express the feeling of love in that room when I looked from one lady to the next, remembering the investment each had made in my own life, and praying for Godly women like this to be a part of my daughter’s life in the future.  My husband and I have had nurturing friendships in our own church experiences in our married life together. We are thankful for all the ways that various ministers and friends have supported us in our lives – through ordeals and adventures, these people have shared themselves with us and been the hands and feet of Christ in so many ways.

While my focus remains on God and His glory and presence in my life, I know He ordained churches to bring us closer together, and closer to Him. Hebrews 10:25(NIV) reminds us we should be: 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. The churches – the people – I have known have been an important part of my life as long as I have lived.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #13

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

I am an only child, which I think helps explain why friends are so important to me. Since I never had brothers or sisters, and only one cousin who lived far away, I am so fortunate to have been blessed with friends through the years that have become like family to me.

As a very young child I had neighborhood children as buddies to play with until sundown sent us inside. In elementary school my classmates became playmates to spend weekends as well as weekdays with. As a teenager I was part of our church youth group, with whom I spent loads of time on retreats, mission trips, church services, classes, and dinners together. (This group is currently planning a reunion in May, and I can’t wait to see them again!) I have so enjoyed my high school reunions that have rekindled old friendships and also established new ones. (Who knew, back then, that some of those girls were so fun?) In college I was blessed to find girls with similar interests and values as I was discovering who I was meant to be.  (Several of us still gather for weekends of catching up and making new memories together.) As an adult I have been fortunate to find pals at work, not just colleagues, but true friends who have nurtured and supported each other through all that life brings our way. My husband and I have also been blessed with the friendships of other couples who are in the same phases of life and who are fun to be with in all kinds of adventures.

Neighbors, walking partners, secret-sharers, antique shoppers, listening ears, laughter givers, shoulders to cry on. Friends make my soul so much richer than it would be all alone.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #12

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

We have a “mostly” golden retriever named Maggie. She is a “rescue dog” that came to be with us eight years ago, when she was 5, soon after our dog of eleven years had passed away. We weren’t going to get another dog so soon, so we thought, but God had other plans. So Maggie changed her name from “Goldie Fern” (thank goodness!) and became a part of our lives.

She was extremely timid and scared when we got her, and my husband Wayne was very patient with her curious ways. Consequently she is totally devoted to him. And now that I am retired and spend more time with her, she not only tolerates me as before, but I am convinced that she loves me, too.  She has come so far, but still displays those nervous tendencies around others: still, Maggie is a perfect companion for my husband and me. Her world has been rocked a bit by our granddaughter’s arrival and her weekly visits, but she tolerates it all very well. At 13, her arthritis makes it harder for her to get around. Her hearing has lessened, but that seems to make her life a bit calmer, as she doesn’t bark at every unexpected noise because she doesn’t hear them. There could never be a more faithful pet friend, and we love her dearly. The faithfulness and love that shine through those sweet brown eyes mean the world to me.

I am so thankful.

giving thanks #11

My thankfulness continues into the new year.

My family is quite small: my parents have been deceased for thirteen years, and I have no brothers and sisters. My dad was an only child and my mother had only one sister. So I have one aunt (and uncle) and they have blessed my life in immeasurable ways.

I remember looking forward to visits from Aunt Rosie and Uncle Larry as I was growing up, as they always lived in another state. Their visits helped me learn what family really means. As I grew older and they moved closer, I realized that my personality was perhaps a bit more like Aunt Rosie’s than my mother’s, and I relished the interest she showed in me and the way she seemed to understand my thinking. Years later, when my parents became seriously ill, and then soon passed away, my Aunt Rosie was right beside me through each step of their passing – moving them from their home of almost 40 years (and immense tons of “stuff”), being with them as they weakened, mourning their loss. And since that time she has been the mother figure that I lost when Mama died. Uncle Larry has been always willing to help us and also kind enough to “share” Aunt Rosie’s time when I needed her most. They both continue to bless the lives of my husband and children as well, even well into their 90’s with health concerns of their own.

Our granddaughter’s middle name is Rosalie – a tribute to the influence of a Godly woman who loves us all very much.

I am so thankful.