Better than February

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I woke up this morning feeling discouraged. It all started when I happened to remember that today is January 27th.  Much to my dismay, there are still four more days to go in this month. As I shuffled to the kitchen to start my morning coffee, there was but one thought in my weary brain:

Will January ever end? 

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Honestly, I don’t know why this particular month has seemed to drag by so very slowly. But it has, with one long day following another.

The two toddlers have been snotty-nosed, cranky and into everything that’s not tied down.  And if I’m not dealing with toddler tantrums, then it’s teenager angst. I can’t tell you which one is worse. Honestly, they are both bad.

January just also happens to be the month for our recertification as foster parents. It’s only slightly less harrowing than getting certified the first go around.  Together, Jon and I had to complete 15 hours of online training. Excuse me, but I’m so busy chasing our duel tornadoes (aka the foster babies) that I hardly have time to do anything else. Finding 15 hours to complete training is like asking me to find a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, I somehow managed to find them, so that particular stressor is finally behind me.

I haven’t been to church in 3 long weeks. Sickish toddlers kept me away two Sundays. The other Sunday I was out thanks to a two year old boy’s first science experiment involving a bottle of Zantac (that he somehow managed to open in spite of the child safety cap) and some kitchen cleaner. Concerned that he may have ingested some of the concoction, I stayed home and kept in close contact with a kind lady from the Poison Control Center.  Thankfully, no symptoms other than hyperactivity were noticed and calamity was once again avoided.

Then there is my house, the one which is once again for rent or for sale.  I could probably write an entire  blog post about that, but I won’t. It’s suffice to say that my current situation is nothing short of baffling. Changing renters should be simple enough. One renter moves out. Another one moves in. And yet this time around it has been anything but simple. I have never before had anyone threaten me to never contact them again, much less a person who was living on my property. <SIGH> Well, I have now. It happened this January.  And I didn’t even realize there was a problem between me and my former renter.

All month long it has been one thing after another. To me, it seems that …

January has become my prison. 

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Last Friday, my sister had her baby. Sweet little Mallory Piper was born via C-section at about 8 am on January 23rd, weighing in at 7 lbs 15 oz.  She is perfectly healthy with the most adorable chubby cheeks.  And I can hardly wait until I get to meet her in person.

In a way, it seems unreal that Mallory is already here.

Perhaps you can remember when we were picking names and debating on genders right here on my blog late last summer? It really wasn’t all that long ago, and yet it almost feels like a lifetime has happened between then and now.

One thing about grief is you never know what will blindside you. For example, I never anticipated my niece’s birth to bring up an entire host of intense emotions. But then again, I never anticipated my father wouldn’t be around to see the birth of this granddaughter.

I remember his delight as he announced to me what my sister had already told me, that he would be getting a new grandchild. While I cannot remember if he predicted this baby would be a boy or a girl, I do know he was tickled pink when Brooke announced she was expecting another daughter. And I certainly recall how he adamantly insisted that no grandchild of his would ever be named Hazel because a long time ago he had a mean teacher name Hazel and he had never liked the name since.

Now Mallory is with us, but my dad isn’t … and that leaves me with a strange lump in my throat that mingles with the joy and excitement of being an aunt again. As much as I already adore and love that sweet baby girl, her arrival makes me miss my father’s presence a little more. I definitely wasn’t prepared to experience these feelings along with my niece’s birth.

But truthfully, I wasn’t prepared at all for January 2015.

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Ask my children and they will tell you that I am often reminding them not to wish their lives away.

Enjoy being thirteen,” I tell my middle girl. “I know there are so many things you want to do … drive a car, go on a date,  You will be Sweet Sixteen you know it. But thirteen will never come around again.”  (Of course, I don’t tell her that very few are the number of adults who would actually voluntarily live through being 13 again.  She’ll discover that soon enough on her own.)

I know Geometry is a pain in the rear, but instead of wishing you could go back to elementary school, focus on the good things about being in the 10th grade.”  (Of course, the high school sophomore doesn’t want to heed that advice. It’s much easier to moan and complain.)

But lately, I haven’t been able to take my own advice either.

I’m stuck in the middle of January, and I can’t get out.

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Paige, Lately God has put you on my heart, and I’ve been praying for you.  What I’d really like to do is something that would help and encourage you. Can I take the two little ones one day this week? My girls and I would enjoy spending time with them and giving you a bit of a break.

I thought I was surely hearing things.

It was Sunday afternoon. Just that morning, while the rest of my family worshipped at church, I sat at home with two small children and prayed, “God, I just need a break. I’m weary and worn and I can’t go on much longer.

Now my friend had called me out of the blue, with an offer so sweet it felt as welcome as drops of water on parched, dry lips.

All month long I’ve felt alone in the trenches, forgotten in the battle, desperate for some piece of encouragement. Day after day I get up, put on a brave face and continue to soldier forward into the fray that has become my daily life … aching for February, and hoping that with it will come a blessed relief to my soul.

But here was my relief.  And it came while it was still January.

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The God of the Bible has many names, and one of my favorites has always been El Roi, which is translated as “God Who Sees.”

I might have felt alone, but God always saw me. He didn’t forget about me, and my little life currently filled with so much stress.

And while I desperately desired nothing more than a new month on the calendar as a hope of getting some peace restored, God sent someone to minister to me right in the middle of the longest, driest month of my life.

When my January wouldn’t end, God gave me something better than February.

He gave me a friend.

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Yes, it’s still January and all my troubles are still here. But I have been reminded that I am not alone … and today, my friend ministered to my heart, bringing to me a taste of God’s peace and love right in the middle of winter in my soul.

I am thankful for friends who do such nice things in the middle of January. I am grateful to be loved by a God who sees me and loves me and cares about my heart.

And both of these things are better than anything February might bring.

Two are better than one … For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  ~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Thank you, Lauren … you’ll never know how very much today was needed. I’m grateful for a friend like you.

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House for Sale

 The first time I saw it, I knew I was home.

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Don’t ask me how I knew … I just knew.

I felt it the moment I saw it in the realtor’s big binder of available houses. I felt it the moment I pulled my car into the driveway. I felt it the instant I walked through the front door to take a look around. And by the time I had peered into every closet and looked inside each cabinet, I knew this house was home.

I really think this is the one,” I told my realtor. “but I’m … well, I’m just not sure I’m ready to buy a house.

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As a single mom, I never set out to buy a home. I certainly didn’t feel financially ready for such a big purchase. Yet my hands were tied. If I didn’t do something quickly, my three children and I were going to be homeless.

The home that I had been renting from my parents had been sold, and I needed a new place to live before June 1st. Initially, I hoped to find another rental home, but the rural area where I was living had nothing to offer. I had been checking every listing every day for close to two months, as well as calling anyone I could think of who might have a lead on a home for rent. Nothing.

It was now early April. Time was running out. I needed to make a move … soon. But I had no idea of where to look. I was fresh out of ideas. The only option that seemed to be available was moving to a larger city, away from my job and the security of living near my parents. And I desperately didn’t want to do that.

And then my brother suggested buying a house. The very thought scared me, but with his encouragement I cautiously went to see his realtor. The realtor was friendly and warm, and took the time to share with me how even with my one-income budget I could afford to be a home owner.

Nervously, I finally said, “Well, there is no harm in looking around, is there? So let’s go see some houses.”

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Carefully, I chose three houses to go look at with the realtor … but there never was any other choice. One look at the photo of the little white house in her binder and I was in love.

Built in the early 1930’s, this home was full of character and charm, and I instantly felt at home from the very first moment I put my foot inside the door. The floors were hardwood. The ceilings were 10 feet tall, with original transoms over the doorways. The kitchen was outfitted with a Butler’s pantry. All over the house were pocket doors. In addition to the three large bedrooms, there was an office that had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a glassed-in sun porch.

I knew I wanted to buy the house, but I was nervous about making the final decision to go through with it.

Take your time. Think about it; pray about it. And when you are ready, give me a call.” The realtor gave me a warm smile as she shook my hand and we parted ways.

That was on Tuesday evening. Two days later, I brought my dad and mom by to see the house and get their opinion. After getting a brief tour, we stood in the yard under one of the large shade trees watching the children as they played nearby. My mom was the first to comment. “It’s really lovely, Paige. I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t buy it, but it needs to be your decision.

My father agreed. “After all,” he said, “You will be the one paying the mortgage.”

Part of me had hoped they would tell me what to do. Part of me was glad they didn’t. Even though decision-making has never been my strong suit (just choosing a restaurant can at times be a difficult task for me), this decision was still mine to make. And even I knew that I needed to make the final decision for myself.

Six weeks later, I was unpacking boxes.

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My  kids and I only lived there for a year and a half … but we did a lot of living in that time.

There were six birthday parties and two Christmases and a couple of rare Louisiana “sneaux” days.

Julia turns 7 years old!
Julia turns 7 years old!
Christmas 2009
Christmas 2009

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I bought a drill of my own, and learned to hang my own curtains.  Always before, someone had hung curtains for me, but in this home I proudly hung the curtains for myself.

(Some day, maybe tomorrow, I’ll share the story of how God told me I was not allowed to complain about my feelings of being unsettled when I wasn’t settled enough to even hang up a few curtains.)

Julia's girly butterfly room with the bright happy hideaway in the corner. I hung that in addition to the pink curtains ... there were 8 windows in her bedroom!
Julia’s girly butterfly room with the bright yellow hideaway in the corner. I hung that in addition to the pink curtains … there were 8 windows in her bedroom!

My new drill and I got along so well that I hung up a few hooks for backpacks …

The backpack nook ... about as organized as I ever got!
The backpack nook … about as organized as I ever got!

and added a shelf above my washer and dryer.

My new laundry area. Of all the places I've ever washed clothes, this one was my favorite.
My little laundry area. Of all the places I’ve ever washed clothes, this one was my favorite.

And then there are my two special memories from my little white house on the big corner lot.

The first one was the day I discovered the blueberry bushes. Oh, finding those blueberry bushes was like this enormous hug from God because I’ve always wanted to have a house with blueberry bushes in the back. When I bought the little white house, I didn’t pay any attention to three big bushes on the side of the house … but about two weeks after I moved in, I discovered them. Huge, enormous bushes, covered in the most delicious blueberries I’ve ever tasted. No doubt, it was God’s way of telling me He loved me. (Perhaps one day I will blog about my special love for blueberries, but that probably won’t happen tomorrow.)

Julia fills a bowl with blueberries from one our special blueberry bushes.
Julia fills a bowl with blueberries from one our special blueberry bushes.

And the second memory I love is how Jon and I shared our both our first kiss and our second first kiss in the living room of this house. (Now this is one story I’ve blogged about before. If you haven’t read it, you can get all the details here … but sorry, there is no photograph to go with that one.)

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I married Jon on the last day of 2010. Two weeks later a moving truck took all my belongings out of my little white home, and a renter took my place.

For four years, I’ve been renting my house. Mostly I’ve hated being a landlord, and that’s not at all because of the renters. Mostly God has granted me good ones. No, I hate renting out my house because I’m ultimately still the one responsible for the property.

My dad used to help us with the management of my house, serving as my property manager if you will. But after his death 3 months ago, Jon and I have had to take all of those tasks. And it quickly became clear to us that the house was like a millstone hanging around our necks. Instead of a pleasure to me, my sweet little house on the big corner lot has become a burden. It simply too much of a struggle for Jon and I to manage the upkeep of that property.

We discussed whether or not we should put the house on the market, but I didn’t want to run off my renter and end up trying to cover two mortgages. It was hard to know what to do, and honestly I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This morning my current renter called. “I’m giving you my 30 days notice,” she said. “I’m moving somewhere else. I’ve loved it here, but it is time for me to move on.”

And I’m wondering if it is time for me to move on as well and let go of the house I love.  As much as I knew the first time I saw it that this house was meant to be my home, deep down I know that I’ll never live there again.

I’m ready … ready for whatever God wants, whether it is bringing me a buyer or finding me another renter. He knows and I can trust He has this under control.

But just in case you wonder which way I’m hoping God choosing to work in this situation, there is a nice white house on a big corner lot for sale in rural north Louisiana.

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If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to make you a great deal!

A Christmas Birthday

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Although the entire Christmas season is generally a magical time, there is something spectacular about Christmas Eve.

When I was growing up, I had many favorite Christmas traditions: baking, decorating and delivering Christmas cookies to some of the elderly members of our church; listening to Chrsitmas music; watching Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life or Bing Crosby in White Christmas (and, for some strange reason, The Sound of Music ) all of which came on the TV as this was before the time of VCRs and DVD players.  Singing Christmas carols at church all through December; pulling decorations out of the box and hearing my mother recount where she had gotten them; caroling around the tiny village with my church; sipping hot chocolate in the glow of the Christmas lights. These were a few of my favorite things.

But there was one special thing about Christmas in my family that seemed to make the holiday extra exciting.  My mother is a Christmas Eve baby.

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I was always slightly jealous of my mother’s Christmas Eve birthday. How wonderful it seemed to me to be able to share a birthday with the baby Jesus! The lights, the decorations, the foods, the carols, the parties and gifts  … why all of those wonderful activities and traditions must make a Christmas birthday seem to last forever! And who wouldn’t want to extend their birthday celebration out for as long as possible?

The countdown to my September birthday began as soon as school started in mid-August. I was prone to making construction paper chains, snipping one strip off each day as a way of marking the time. I remember always hoping to receive lots of birthday gifts, delighting in the fact that inevitably I would be the center of attention on the day of my birthday.

But my mother never expected anyone to remember or make a fuss over her birthday. She didn’t seem to care if she only got one gift labeled for both birthday and Christmas among all the wrapped presents under the tree, and seemed to actually prefer to think about what good things she could do for others instead of thinking about how people might pay attention to her. And perhaps most of all, she seemed to insist that her three children put our Christmas focus on the Christmas Child in the manger and the reason for His Holy birth.

I suppose a part of me figured she did those things because she was all grown up and grown ups aren’t supposed to love their own birthdays quite as much as little children do. And yet I don’t think that was the case at all. My mother, it seems, was always gracious about her birthday and not prone to expecting a big to-do over it. I know this because …

My mom as a toddler ... pictured with her father.
My mom as a toddler … pictured with her father.

Tucked away in her wedding album was a letter, written in my grandmother’s beautiful cursive, the paper yellowed and dated December 24th of the year my mom turned 4 years old.  Most Christmases, I pulled it out and read it to myself, wondering about the little girl who had grown up to be my mother. I would looked longingly at the old photos of her childhood, thinking how her white-blonde hair, bright blue eyes and sweet smile gave her the appearance of a tiny angel without wings.

The long letter basically recounted my mother’s 4th birthday party, an event in which all the neighborhood children came because Santa was going to be there. When it came my mother’s turn to sit on Santa’s knee, she asked him to bring a doll to a little girl who didn’t have one to play with … my grandmother recorded her as saying, “I already have a lot of dolls and toys.” Even my grandmother seemed to marvel at her oldest daughter’s generosity.

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As a child, I believed that my mother got to share her birthday with Jesus because she was so very lovely and good … and I wished I could be that lovely, too.

I know my mom will read this and later on tell me that she doesn’t know where I get my ideas from, but I know deep down how wonderfully special my mom truly is. She has a generous spirit, full of concern and love for others. She is gentle, selfless, kind, and unassuming. Her outlook on life is positive and full of hope for the future.

And yet, as wonderful as my mother is, her Christmas Eve birthday is NOT the reason for the celebration. It’s another birthday that must always take center-stage … the birthday of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

There is a common Christmas saying:

Jesus is the reason for the season.

The only thing is that Jesus can’t be just the reason for the season. He needs to be the reason for our every action, every day of the year.

And tonight, as I think about my mother (of whose birth it is said was so late on Christmas Eve that she was nearly a Christmas Day baby), I feel so very grateful that she taught me the importance of loving and worshipping the Holy Baby in the manger every day of the year.

May you celebrate the birth of Christ today, tomorrow and every day to come … Merry Christmas and joy to the world!

The $12 Christmas to Remember

This is another Christmas Memory, inspired by The Artistic Christian’s Christmas Memory Giveaway. It’s a completely true story of what happened to my family just two Christmases ago in 2012. 

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The chiming of the doorbell broke the silence of the night.

Jon and I looked at each other in surprised alarm, and then our eyes instantly went toward the clock on the wall. It was nearly 10 pm.

“Who could that be at this time of night?” Jon mused . “And on Christmas Eve.”

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Until the doorbell interrupted us, Jon and I had been talking as we in the soft glowing light of the decorated Christmas tree. The kids already been in bed for more than an hour, but preparing for Christmas morning hadn’t taken us any time at all. There were no toys to put together. No mountains of presents to bring out of hiding and place beneath the tree. No items to be sorted and carefully stuffed into stockings.

It had been a hard year for us financially. As always, God had provided for every need, but now at the end of the year there was very little left in our savings.  Jon and I were determined not to use credit as we were working diligently to become debt-free, but that meant a lean Christmas budget. In fact, all total, we had just $60 to spend on our kids. Divided equally among the five kids, it meant I had just $12 per child with which to buy gifts and fill stockings. 

At first, such a tight budget had left me feeling discouraged.  How I could begin to make Christmas seem bright for our children?  It definitely felt like a monumental task. But then the words of a familiar Christmas tale echoed in my head:  

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

 

As a Christian, I already knew this truth, and yet how easy it was to get caught up in all the hoopla of  wanting to give my children the typical materialistic American Christmas. To add more fuel to the fire of my worried state, I knew that our five children would receive several gifts from their other parents that were bigger and better than anything I could have afforded if I had spent $60 per child instead of just the $12 I had in my extra-small budget. So I asked the Lord to help me use that $60 to give my family a real Christmas to remember and not to feel jealous when faced with the financial bounty I would see all around me during the season.

Almost immediately, an amazing plan began to fall into place, creative and simple and focused completely on Christ instead of presents. Instead of dreading Christmas morning and fearing looks of disappointment on my children’s faces, now I was excited and eager to watch them experience the Christmas that God was planning for us.

One idea came from my good friend Christie, who makes Sonshine Boxes to cheer up friends. She wraps small trinkets and labels them with Bible verse clues. So I did the same thing. I found some fun treats at the dollar store, and spent hours looking for the perfect verse to be the clue for each item. On Christmas morning, the kids would play a guessing game, reading aloud the verses and and trying to guess what was inside each gift before opening it. The gifts might be small, but I knew my children would have such fun trying to figure out the prizes.

Another idea that came to me had to do with Christmas picture books, in particular a book called Oranges for Frankie (by Patricia Polacco) and The Candymaker’s Gift (by Helen and David Haidle). In the first book, a boy name Frankie loses his Christmas orange and what his siblings do next is simply touching. The second book explains how various traits of candy canes can remind us of Jesus and the Christmas story. We already owned copies of both books, but as a special surprise I bought a chocolate orange and seven nice, fat candy canes. On Christmas morning,  I would read the books aloud to the family while we all enjoyed the candy treats.

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Finally, instead of filling our stockings to the brim with chocolate kisses and other small trinkets, a terrific idea came to my mind. The week before Christmas, I gave each person in our family several sheets of paper on which I had written:  “If I could, I would buy you something good!”  I asked each one to think of a special gift they would buy for every other member of the family. On the paper, they could draw a picture, write a note, or paste a magazine clipping there to communicate what they would get for the other person.  

All through December, I prepared for our simple Christmas with an excitement in my heart. I just knew that God was going to bless our hearts in a big way, and I was eager to share it with my family.

Soon it was the night before Christmas. After a simple supper, we read the Christmas story from the Bible and sang a few of our favorite carols. By 8:30, all of the children were tucked into bed. All there was for me to do was fill the stockings with the paper notes, set out the two picture books and the basket of candy canes, and set the small trinket gifts which I had already wrapped and labeled with the Bible verses under the tree. 

Now, all the Christmas morning preparations were complete. Suddenly, the old fears of not providing a typical Christmas for my children began to flood my mind.  As I sat next to my husband in the stillness of the Christmas Eve night, I felt lost in the glow of the lights on the tree and the growing apprehension in my heart about how my children would receive the meager Christmas Jon and I had to offer them.  

And then the doorbell rang … 

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Jon carefully peered out the window, but in the darkness he couldn’t see anyone at all. Cautiously he opened the front door. There was no one there. 

“Perhaps they went to the side door, Jon,” I suggested.

Quickly we walked toward the other door. Again, Jon peered out, but again there appeared to be nothing but darkness. Opening the door wider, he stepped out onto the carport concrete … and that’s when he noticed it.

Several extra large gift bags overflowing with presents. 

Once again, my husband and I looked at each other bug-eyed. What on earth was this?

Jogging to the end of the driveway, Jon looked around the yard, and up and down the street … but after a minute or so, he turned back. Shrugging, he said, “I didn’t see anything … not even so much as the tail lights of a car.”

“Do you think perhaps someone delivered these gifts to the wrong house? I asked.

Jon laughed. “Well, normally I would say Santa doesn’t make mistakes, but I suppose there is always that possibility.”

Together we brought the bags of gifts inside. We began to spread out the loot, noticing that the gifts were all labeled with names of each member of our family. “I think these are definitely for us!” Jon grinned. “I don’t know why, but someone decided to bless us with some gifts.”

Quickly, Jon and I sorted the gifts into piles. There were a couple of gifts labeled as family gifts, along with a present for Jon and another for me. Each child had a stack of five gifts … well, for every child except for Nathan. He didn’t have anything.

“Do you think our secret Santa forgot about Nathan?” I felt panicky. 

“Don’t worry,” Jon said calmly. “There are enough gifts here to spread out the love. Nathan will not be left out. We can unwrap the gifts, reassign them to the kids making sure that Nathan receives an equal amount. Of course, we’ll have to rewrap everything … Do you think we have enough wrapping paper?”

And then the doorbell rang again.

This time, Jon made a mad dash for the door, hoping to catch our family’s secret Santa … but again there was nothing. Nothing, that is, but a large bag filled with exactly five gifts, all labeled for Nathan. 

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It was early the next morning when the kids woke us up, eager to see what Christmas surprises lay in store. As we led them into the living room, a gigantic pile of gifts sat in the middle of the room.

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A collective gasp rose from the kids. 

“But I thought you said we weren’t going to get a lot of gifts this year!” Julia protested.

“I did. And truthfully, I didn’t think you were. But God had other plans.” I smiled. “Sit down and let me tell you about what happened after you went to bed on Christmas Eve.”

Jon and I retold the story. Then before we dove into the unexpected gifts, we went through our Christmas morning plan … playing the guessing game with the small gifts and Bible verses, reading the picture books and enjoying the candy, and oohing over the stockings filled with sweet notes from our family. 

Already our hearts were full, and yet we knew that through a friend God had provided even more for us to enjoy on the blessed Christmas morning. As we opened our unexpected gifts, each one seemed to be perfectly chosen for the recipient. 

To this day, we have no idea of who brought us the Christmas Eve gifts … but we remember how loved we felt by our special friend and by our Heavenly Father, who indeed answered my prayers and gave us a $12 Christmas to remember.

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 Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!  ~2 Corinthians 9:15

The Great Christmas Card Fiasco of 2008: A Christmas Memory

What you are about to read is my family’s actual Christmas letter from 2008.  I’ve written about it many times before, but never before on this blog.  Many of my readers might well remember “The Great Christmas Card Fiasco of 2008” and perhaps even followed my woeful tale on Facebook. If you have heard or read this story before, then I hope you won’t mind rereading it again. Maybe it will even bring a smile to your face as you relive a Christmas past along with me. However if you’ve never heard this me tell this tale, then may it bless your heart as much as God has used it to bless mine over the past 6 years. And if you laugh, don’t feel bad. It’s one of those memories I love to laugh about now, even though at the time it certainly wasn’t very funny. 

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December 24, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
Have you ever felt like things were going wrong at every turn, and that no matter how hard you tried things just didn’t go according to your plan? Perhaps you can relate … but if not, please bear with me while I tell my story.

Earlier this month I ordered Christmas photo cards. From the start, it all seemed to go wrong. I placed my order online, and discovered soon afterward that the company I used was brand-new. They were overwhelmed with many more orders than they expected, and so were unable to process my order in a timely manner. Once my order finally got shipped, winter weather kept delaying the cards as they slowly made their way to my doorstep. Originally I was supposed to have received my cards by December 10th, which would have given me plenty of time to address and mail out the cards in a timely manner. However, as my luck would have it,  the cards didn’t show up in my mailbox until the afternoon of December 22nd.

I was already somewhat upset about the lengthy delay, so imagine my shock when I opened my package and saw the the Christmas photo cards I ordered had arrived minus the photo! Who ever heard of a Christmas photo card without the photo?!?  I was livid! In that moment, all of my Christmas joy seemed to have been zapped away.

The more I thought about it, the more the situation seemed dire and bleak. It was too late in the day to call the company; too late in the season to order new Christmas cards.  I felt as if the entire world was working against me mailing out a few Christmas cards. My  heart was filled with a hopeless dismay.

My Photo-less Photo Card from Christmas 2008
My Photo-less Photo Card from Christmas 2008

Well, after the hot angry tears were all wiped away and a good night’s sleep had given me a new perspective, the thought occurred to me that maybe Joseph felt like the world was working against him on that very first Christmas. I wondered what thoughts and emotions went through is head as he tried and tried to find a safe place for Mary. And when he could find no room in the inn and had to take refuge in a barn, did he question himself as to why this was the best he could manage to do for his wife and the newborn Son of God? It seems unlikely that Joseph had first-hand knowledge that it was God’s intention for the King of Kings to be born in a lowly stable. Maybe he did, but I have a feeling that Joseph felt a lot of dismay and frustration with the situation.

Obviously my situation didn’t have nearly the same level of urgency as what Joseph must have experienced. After all, as awful as it seemed in the moment, “The Great Christmas Card Fiasco of 2008” is far from being the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind. In fact, it’s not even close to being the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Truthfully, I can’t even really say it was bad because in the end the company apologized for their terrible mistake and gave me a full refund on the cards, which is honestly the best thing they could do under the circumstances. And even though this is definitely not the card I had intended to send to all of my loved ones, my sweet children were very eager to help me make lemonade from the lemons thrown our way by drawing pictures of themselves into the blank photo spot so that the cards weren’t a total waste. Free Christmas cards can’t be all that bad!

One of the photo cards ... this one artistically drawn by Julia, who was 5 years old that Christmas
One of the photo cards … this one artistically drawn by Julia, who was 5 years old that Christmas

So maybe this won’t be the best or most beautiful Christmas card you receive this season, but I imagine it will be the most unforgettable card. I’m hoping to send out real photo cards sometime this spring, but until then the kids and I hope you will enjoy this original creation from our house.

May your home be filled with peace and joy … and may your hearts stay merry and bright throughout 2009!

with love,
Paige and the kids

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This post was written as an entry for the Christmas Memory Giveaway

sponsored by The Artistic Christian blog. 

Veteran’s and Service to Nation

Today is Veteran’s Day.

I realize this isn’t exactly a news flash for most people and yet somehow I feel as if it bears repeating. It is more than just a day off of work and more than flying the red and white stripes with pride. It’s remembering those who have served and the price they paid because

Service to nation is never free.

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Today is Veteran’s  Day.

For seven years, I was the spouse of a soldier. My ex-husband and I moved four times during those seven years. I gave birth to one baby on the west coast and another on the east coast, gaining my California Beach boy (almost exactly 13 years ago) and my Sweet Georgia Peach not quite two years later.  Additionally, we spent time calling Virginia and Texas home.

I’m grateful for all that those seven years of service gave me and taught me. From sea to shining sea, I got to spend time exploring our beautiful nation. Living in military housing afforded me the opportunity to meet a wide-variety of people from all walks of life. Their stories have stuck with me. Their friendships have blessed me. Today, as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I am amazed at how many of my 700+ friends came from those seven years of military life. I wouldn’t trade that time and those experiences for the world!

And yet, there was a price to pay.  While I’d never blame military service completely on the failure of my first marriage, I do believe that frequent deployments and the stress of separation played a major part in the death of that relationship.

Unfortunately, the high stakes cost isn’t over yet. Nearly eight years later, my children, who will always suffer to some extent as they deal with the effects of growing up in a broken family, still pay the price on a daily basis. They don’t have the pleasure of regular visits with their father, as he is stationed in Europe.  (Though I must say, summer visits to Germany and Italy are giving them a chance to become world travelers in a way very few other children are privileged.)

Currently, their dad is temporarily deployed to Liberia in response to the Ebola epidemic. My kids worry about their dad, fearful of what might happen if he gets sick while trying to help out another nation. Protecting their hearts gets harder and harder as they grow older.

Service to nation is not free.

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Today is Veteran’s Day.

It’s always been an honor to say that my dad was a veteran.

My dad joined the army shortly after he and my mother were married. I recall him telling me that he knew he would soon be drafted, so rather than wait for the letter to arrive in the mail, he went to the recruiters himself. By doing so, my dad was able to finish college before leaving for basic training.

I used to love to listen to my dad’s tales about the Army. One of my favorites was how he used too tell about how once he was put in charge of an entire barracks of soldiers. He was responsible for the condition of the barracks (neatness and cleanliness) as well as knowing the whereabouts of all the soldiers assigned to that barracks. He had to report any that were not in by curfew and each morning at formation account for everyone.

Dad would always elaborate on how the other barracks were in such a disarray, with soldiers always out past curfew or not up in time to stand in formation. He would go into great detail about how the other barracks were full of fighting, drunken soldiers.

But not his barracks. Dad would proudly say that his group of soldiers were always on time. Their beds were made properly, uniforms sharply pressed,  the floors were mopped and the bathrooms kept sparkling clean. He said not one soldier ever missed a curfew and each morning they were all standing outside, perfectly in formation with their boots shining in the morning sun. In fact, for three or four months in a row, my dad received the award for the best barracks, earning the right to eat a private lunch with the Lt. Col., and honor that still thrilled my dad years later.

Of course, it wasn’t until after my father thought he had duly impressed us all with his amazing leadership abilities that he would let you in on the secret to his success.  You see,  the barracks under his leadership was entirely made up of a group of Mormons. (Later, during my years as a military spouse, I began to understand just exactly how patriotic and honorable Mormons as a whole are … and even shared a laugh with my dad over the fact that my ex-husband and I were often mistaken as Mormons during the years we spent as a military family.)

My dad was so proud of his military service. A couple of Christmases ago, my siblings and I gathered all my dad’s military patches and medals, and put them into a special display case. I wish I could say it was my idea. It wasn’t. It is my brother who deserves the credit.  I’m just grateful he included my sister and I, allowing us to share a part in giving the gift to my dad.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had more pleasure in watching someone open a gift than I had that Christmas when my dad opened up the display case with all of his military regalia. I thought my dad’s smile was going to burst the seams on his face!  For as long as I live, I will never forget that moment.

Yet as proud as my dad was …

Service to nation isn’t free.

Dad receiving a commendation in Vietnam
Dad receiving a medal and commendation in Vietnam

Today is Veteran’s Day.

My dad was once a soldier who served his nation during a time of conflict and war.  Though he returned home, my father long remembered the names of those he knew who gave their lives in protection of our nation’s freedoms.

When I was in high school, a touring replica of the Vietnam Wall memorial came to our area. My dad insisted we go view it. I could tell it was a solemn event for him, far more than a simple wall or just a group of names. He knew each one represented a real man who never came home. He understood the price these soldiers had paid.

My father didn’t die in Vietnam. Rather the war took nearly 45 years to kill him.

You see, during his one year in Vietnam, my dad was exposed to Agent Orange. If you look up the effects of Agent Orange exposition, the list is long.  Everything from cancer and other debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  My dad experienced the last three, his first heart attack occurring in his mid-40’s. I think he had 3 more over the next 20 years. In the last year or two of his life, my dad’s heart functioned at just barely over 20% of full pumping capacity, yet he continued to wake up each day and live a full life.

Several years ago, my father began to receive a full veteran’s disability from the U. S. government as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. While he was open and honest about the fact that he had suffered from effects of the exposure and was receiving compensation, my dad never once complained to me (or to anyone else that I am aware of) about those resulting consequences.

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Today is Veteran’s Day.

I’m thinking of all the veteran’s I’ve known and loved. My two grandfathers who both served the nation during WWII, my husband’s father and brother, a couple of cousins, the myriad of friends I’ve made during my years wandering the nation’s military bases as the wife of a soldier.

So many people have given their time, and some their very lives, to protect our freedoms and rights as Americans. I think it is important to remember that service to nation is never free. The cost is there and paid by each one … and I’m so grateful.

May God bless our veteran’s … each one who serves or continues to serve!

And may we never forget to count the cost because their service to nation is never free.

I is for …

“Hey, Momma … can you tell me what instant means?”

I paused from putting on my make-up to look at my ten year old girl. “Julia, are you sure you don’t know what instant means?”

“I thought I did, but I got confused so I thought I’d ask,” she responded.

“Generally, people use the word instant when they are talking about something that happens very, very quickly, almost immediately.”

“That’s what I thought … but if that’s what it means, then I don’t understand this at all.” With that, she shoved the Sunday morning comics at me, pointing to the ZITS panel.

( Please humor me and click on the comic so that you can enjoy reading it in a full-sized version.  Be sure to click the back button to finish reading the rest of my story, which will now make a lot more sense.)

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I took the comics page, and quickly read through the strip, chuckling as I remembered my family’s polaroid camera. Seems like half of my childhood photos are polaroids. I recalled the exciting wait to see the picture develop before my watching eyes, the thrill of holding the photo just minutes after it was taken.  It certainly felt instant at the time, especially when compared to dropping off film at the local drug store and waiting a week for the photos to be returned.

“Mom … why are you laughing? What is so funny?” demanded Julia, her hands on her hips. “Really, I don’t get it.”

“Well …” I began, but then paused, trying to figure out where to start.  “Let’s see … okay, when I was a little girl, most cameras used film. You had to take all the pictures on the film first, and usually there was somewhere around 12 to 24 photos on each roll of film, though some film canisters had more.”

“Yes,” Julia sighed. “I know about film.”

“Ok, well, once the film was completely used up, then you had to take it to get it developed. Until then, you didn’t know what your photos might look like.”

“Why didn’t you just look on the back?” Julia asked.

“The back of what, dear?” I looked at her out of the corner of my eye as I tried to apply my mascara.

“You know … the camera?”  Julia sounded slightly annoyed.

I laughed again. “Sweetie, I’m not talking about digital cameras. When I was your age, there wasn’t a preview screen on cameras.”

Julia looked confused. “So …. how did you know what was going to be in the picture?”

“You had to put your eye up to the  corner. There was something like a little window. And when you looked through it,  you could see what was going to be in the photo.”

“Oh.” She paused, as if she were trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle. “Well, I guess it was a good thing you could just go  to CVS and plug up the camera to see the pictures before you got them printed out. That way you wouldn’t have to pay for any bad ones.”

“Oh, Julia,” I laughed. “You couldn’t even plug these cameras up to a computer anywhere. The person who owned the camera had to take the film out of it and then send it off to be developed. It would take several days, sometimes up to a whole week, before you would get the photos back. Most places didn’t have the one-hour developing. And even if they did, you still had to pay for the bad ones.”

Cocking her head to the side, Julia asked, “Then … why did you bother?  It seems like back in the old days, taking a picture must have been a lot of work. And it certainly was not instant.”

With that, she flounced out of the room, satisfied that her mother had indeed grown up in the stone age.

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I is for Instant.

Since the crazy conversation with my daughter, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this instant era in which we are living. It’s not just the digital pictures, either.

We have instant communication through text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.  There’s instant banking through online services or ATM. The news is so instant I can practically read about it as it happens. And if I am bored, then I can stream a movie instantly to my computer or TV.

The result is a life of no waiting. Everything happens at warped speed.

But is this such a good thing, after all?

The Bible talks a lot about waiting on the Lord. I don’t exactly how many verses there are in the Bible on this instruction, but I can think of at least three times the Psalmist encourages us to wait on God:  Psalm 20:22, Psalm 27:14, and Psalm 37:14.

Truthfully, in my life experiences, there have been few things more agonizing or trying than waiting on the Lord to answer a prayer, especially when His answer seems to be slow in coming. Waiting means submitting myself to His authority over my life. Waiting means depending on His timing rather than my own. Waiting means I am giving God the glory and not myself. And yet, that’s exactly what God encourages us to do … wait on Him.

Today I am reminded that though I live in an instant age, it’s good to do some waiting. It helps me learn to lead a life that is more pleasing to God … and besides, a little waiting never hurt anyone.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

What’s God asking you to wait for in your life? How is this time increasing your faith?

Coming Full Circle

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a movie person.  It’s a rare day that I feel the urge to sit down and watch a movie completely through.  It’s even rarer for me to be able to quote movie lines.

So you can imagine my surprise when I started hearing a random movie quote in my head during the Sunday morning sermon.

If you ask them, they will come.

Okay, so it’s not an exact movie quote, but it’s pretty close. Even I knew it was very similar to what actor Kevin Costner heard in the movie Field of Dreams.

I don’t even know if I’ve ever watched Field of Dreams from start to finish. I seem to recall the main character (played by Costner) heard a mysterious voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come.”  The IT was a baseball field which Costner built in the middle of a bunch of corn (I think). I’m not really sure who HE is, but a bunch of famous ball players from days gone by show up in the middle of the field to play a game after the baseball field is completed. I guess one of them was the HE that Costner was looking for or something.

See, I really am no good when it comes to playing the movie game. My mind just doesn’t work that way. Hopefully, I’m close enough to the ballpark though with my pathetic attempt at summarization.

(Yep …. pun intended.)

While I may not be able to fully explain the Field of Dreams quote, I do know the exact meaning of what I heard at church on Sunday, as well as who said it to me.

Sunday morning I almost didn’t go to church.  A messy house and the possibility of another family coming over for lunch after the worship service on top of an aching foot had me debating whether or not I had a good reason to stay home. In the end, I decided I could wear my nicest flip-flops to church (and thus ease my foot pain), throw food into the crockpot for lunch, and enlist the help of several children to surface clean the worst spots of the house. If I had chosen to stay home, I would have missed out on a huge blessing.

Early in the service, I noticed an unfamiliar family walk into the sanctuary, and felt an immediate tugging in my heart, letting me know I needed to go meet this couple. So, during the short break between our music service and the Bible teaching, I made my way over and introduced myself to them. David and Heather Evans told me they were missionaries from New York, here for a short 3 week stay in Cajun Country. I found out they homeschool, and since I do as well, suggested that perhaps we could have a park day while they were in the area. I figured that would be that, and headed back to my seat for the sermon.

But things didn’t go as I thought, for there was the Voice in my head that started talking to me almost as soon as Pastor George began to preach.

Go back after the service, and talk to Heather and David. Invite them for lunch. If you ask them, they will come. 

Mentally, I started to resist. “I’m sure they have plans already. Besides, they don’t know me at all. What sort of folks would come over to eat with a random family? It will be embarrassing if they turn me down. And what if I don’t have enough food …”

Again, the Voice whispered:

Invite them for lunch. If you ask them, they will come.  … They will come. … Ask. They will come.

Sighing, I leaned over to Jon and whispered, “I met this couple during the greeting time. I think God wants me to ask them to come eat lunch with us. What do you think?”

Without any hesitation, Jon said, “I think you better ask them.”  A moment later, he leaned back over and said, “Good thing the Guidry’s aren’t coming to eat with us after all. At least we’ll have enough food.”   Up until that point, I had not known Brandon and Neta’s family wouldn’t be joining us.

So it was settled. Only, I still felt nervous and uneasy.  Not so much about how they would answer my invitation.  After all, I knew how it was going to end. The Holy Spirit had already told me. And yet, there was the worry and doubt. What if they didn’t like the food I had prepared? Our family has a strange diet, especially for this area. No gluten. No dairy. What would we talk about? I didn’t know anything about them, other than the information I had learned during our brief introduction. Would our kids get along? Their oldest was the age of our youngest.

Following the service, Jon and I immediately walked over.  What happened next was completely unexpected.  After I introduced Jon, he began to talk with David about their missionary work. David told us how he worked with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, particularly with the sport of ice hockey.

My first thought was one of disbelief. Ice hockey in Louisiana? Lafayette is actually home to the Ice Gators, a  minor league pro hockey team. While they have plenty of fans in the area, I don’t know a lot of kids who participate in ice hockey.  It sort of reminded me of my 90 year old grandfather, who upon joining the US Army during WWII was immediately shipped off to Colorado where he was trained as a medic in the snow ski patrol.  Here he was, a young Louisiana boy, who had never climbed a mountain or put skis on his feet, trying to save the lives of others while doing both of those things.

The very next thought to come into my brain was, “Why does ice hockey ministry sound familiar to me? Don’t I know someone else who does this too?” Then it hit me. I did know another family who shared Christ through ice hockey.  So I said, “You know, I think I know some folks who do something similar. They live in North Carolina, though.”

David said, “Really? Well, we have some ministry partners in North Carolina. Can I ask who you know?”

“The Wagners. Scott and Kristin.”

“You are kidding me!” He gasped. “You know Scott Wagner? I work with Scott! How do you know him?”

Heather and Jon stood there gawking.  I laughed.  It was almost too absurd to be true … and yet it was.

I had first met Scott and Kristin at Gum Branch Baptist Church in Hinesville, Georgia. In fact, I think Scott was the first person I met at the church.  I had only been in town for 3 days. I had my two boys, ages 3 and 1, and was seven months pregnant with Julia. My family had moved into a rental home, but our furniture hadn’t yet been delivered due to a delay with the Army movers. When the Wagners found out that our furniture wouldn’t be delivered for nearly a month, they rounded up several chairs, a small dining table, a couple of air mattresses, and even a small TV for us to use. Kristin invited me over to wash clothes, so that I wouldn’t have to drag two toddlers to a laundromat.

I could rave for hours about the Wagner Family, and how they blessed me and my family immensely during our three years of life in Georgia.  Joel loved their son Josh, who was a year or so older. In fact, for years whenever he would write a story for school, he used the pen name “Josh Terry” a combination his two favorite people on earth at that time, Josh Wagner and his Papa, my father Malcolm Terry.  And Tori Wagner, their daughter, had a special relationship with Nathan.  For most of his young childhood, Nathan expected every babysitter to be exactly like Tori, and he was always disappointed when they weren’t.  While I’ve only really kept up with the Wagners through Facebook in recent years, the memory of their Christ-like love to our family has stuck with me for the past decade.

With a smile, I said to my new friends, “Well, I was already planning to ask you to join us for lunch, but now I feel like I know you so you must come eat with us!”

Heather said, “Oh, we’d love to  … but  we kinda have a special diet.  We don’t eat gluten.”

“That’s perfect” Jon said, looking at me with a knowing grin, ” We eat gluten-free too.”

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Just like the Holy Spirit told me, David, Heather and their four beautiful kids did come to our house for lunch. We enjoyed a great visit, which lasted most of the afternoon and included sharing our favorite God stories. I felt immediately comfortable with them, just as I had with the Wagners a decade ago.

I’m grateful to the Lord, who brings us full circle, through blessings and difficulties and back to blessings.  It was Him who, on a Sunday morning in Georgia, introduced me to the Wagner Family. He was with me as I suffered through a divorce. He blessed me with a new husband, and used a medical crisis in his life to force us to follow a gluten-free diet.  And brought it all full circle on another Sunday morning ten years later, when I heard His whispers in my head, meet the Evans Family and feasted with them on the encouragement of God.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

What’s your God-story this week?

Feel free to share, because there is nothing more encouraging than recognizing God in the little and the big things of life.

A Louisiana “Sneaux” Day

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There’s hardly enough to make a even a tiny snowball, but that’s far more than we usually get here in Cajun Country. Louisiana winters aren’t known for being snowy or especially frigid.  Typically it’s just wet and mild.

Not today.  It’s early afternoon, and the temperature outside is a chilly 27 degrees. It’s been sleeting since well before dawn. Our front lawn is one large icy patch, with accumulations of sleet piling up around trees and on cars.

Icy precipitation collecting in front of our home ... a rare sight for our mild Louisiana winters.
Icy precipitation collecting in front of our home … a rare sight for our mild Louisiana winters.

The kids have been in and out all day, playing in the sleet and snow. Their cheeks and noses are red, fingers and toes are numb. It’s been joyous sort of day, spent enjoying every moment of the rare icy weather. I’m sure it is a day these children will long remember. After all, we may not be used to all the cold and snow, but we certainly know how to enjoy a snow day when it does come along!

Nathan built a tiny snowman on the hood of our minivan, complete with a tip of a carrot for a nose and a happy scarf of many colors.  He named his snowy pal "Jimmy."
Nathan built a tiny snowman on the hood of our minivan, complete with a tip of a carrot for a nose and a happy scarf of many colors. He named his snowy pal “Jimmy.”

I remember snow days from my own childhood.  Icicles hanging from the roof of my grandparents home during an especially big freeze one cold winter.  Sledding down a big hill on a large piece of cardboard, squealing all the way down. Coming inside, to a warm house, welcomed by the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen. Nothing my mother cooked ever tasted quite so wonderful as those BLT sandwiches and the hot tomato soup.

Even though it’s so very cold outside, I’m feeling all toasty warm on the inside, just remembering the joys I’ve had in previous winters and in the making of new happy snow day memories with my children.  And in this moment, I’m perfectly content and exceeding grateful for those good memories the Lord allows me to recall, bringing to my mind the wonderful things He has done.

Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done … 

1 Chronicles 16:12

Birthday Riches

 September 17, 1983

My 11th birthday.  I was an awkward, chubby sixth grader, more child than anything, though I tried desperately to fit into the junior high school world I had entered on the first day of school. Though I had plenty of friends, I felt decidedly unpopular. And while my grades were great, I was certain I wasn’t terribly smart. Besides, I was somewhat immature and felt completely unsure of the nuances of appropriate tween-age behavior. For example, while the other girls my age were ga-ga over John Stamos, I was nuts about Garfield.

That’s right. Garfield. That incredibly lazy, fat cat who loved lasagna. Smarter than both his owner, Jon, and his doggy-friend, Odie, Garfield had a charming sort of dry wit I only dreamed of possessing.  As the ultimate fan, I owned everything Garfield, from notebooks, folders and other school supplies to the posters adorning my bedroom.  Every afternoon I tried to find a way to visit my grandparents’ at the store they ran so that I would have a chance to keep up with Garfield’s last antics through the daily comics in the newspaper, and every night I spent all of my spare time drawing pictures of my favorite fat cat.

To my great delight, my paternal grandmother, Mammie, agreed to make me a cake in the shape of Garfield for my birthday.  The day of my party finally arrived. With the house decorated, I spent an anxious afternoon waiting for my grandmother to bring over the cake.  An hour before the party, she pulled into our driveway. I was ecstatic!

As my grandmother came into the house, holding  a cake stand covered with foil,  a bright, playful smile stretched across her face from ear to ear.  After a big hug and the customary birthday check slipped into my hand, she sat down and said, “Well, Paige, I’ve got something to tell you about that Garfield cake. Garfield is just as naughty in cake form as he is in the funny papers.  You see, the oddest thing happened while I was making the icing to frost it. I never could get the colors just right.  In fact, the orange for his fur … well, it just came out … GREEN! Of course, I guess it makes sense, seeing as Garfield has been stuck in the sewer all week in his comic strip.”  

Slowly, she began to remove the foil which covered the Garfield cake. Soon, I was staring at my edible rendition of my beloved character … complete with the black triangular stripes on an pea green coat of icing fur. I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry. I felt like doing both.  My grandmother laughed.  The merry sound made me giggle as well, though I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if my grandmother had teasingly played a birthday joke on me or if the pea green icing just happened to be a coincidental mistake. 

The answer to this mystery still eludes me thirty years later.  To this day, I cannot reconcile in my head which way my birthday Garfield came to be frosted in such an interesting color of icing.  Yet even though the colors weren’t quite right, I seem to recall the cake tasted divine … just like every birthday cake my grandmother made in my honor. And in my mind, I can hear her cheerful laughter and see the twinkle of her happy eyes as she delighted me with a birthday cake memory to last a lifetime.

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A year ago today I struggled with the very idea of aging, feeling as if my life were slipping by too fast. Many of my lifelong hopes and dreams continued to remain unfulfilled. It seemed that for all the years I had lived, I had simply gone nowhere fast. Forty felt oddly old, as if I somehow woke up one morning and found I’d aged overnight.

God’s gracious. Over the past twelve months, He has taught me a lot about contentment with my age or rather with my current stage of life. I’ve grown to look past the number so that it no longer defines me.  To my delight, as September 17th rolled around again, I didn’t have the same sort of dread that I experienced, though a tiny part of me still wanted to whine about growing older.

This morning a friend sent me a message:  “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.” (Proverbs 8:20,21). So, as you get older, you can know for certain that you also grow richer!”

Rich.  Oh, and I do feel rich. So very rich.  

The riches of my life aren’t simply my family or health or home, those these are certainly things that I hold dear to my heart. Rather, my life is built on 41 years of riches, stored up from the memories I have of love, compassion, shared joys and shared tears, moments of instruction. They have been passed along and given to me through my parents, grandparents, great-grandmothers, aunts and uncles and cousins and friends from all walks of life.  Anytime I go back in my mind, I find that the memories there point me back to God, cutting through the confusion.   And like a treasure box filled with jewels,  my heart is full to overflowing with a richness, overwhelming my soul.

The inheritance of living each day isn’t in what happens tomorrow, but rather in what I’ve found along life’s journey so far.