Saturday, December 30, 2017

She's gone

Mama and Daddy share the same gravesite
In a split second, her life is over. My sweet Mother has left this earth and slipped into heaven. The days have become a blur as we managed to say our last goodbyes and make funeral arrangements. So many details have gotten lost in the shuffle as our emotions ebbed and flowed.

And now that the funeral service is over, her casket placed with my Father's, we try to process everything that's transpired over the past days, weeks, months, and years.

We knew this day was coming. It wasn't a surprise, but we just weren't ready for it to be so soon. Mama was ready. She'd told us over and over that she wanted to go home to heaven, so how can we begrudge her that last request? She's gone and we celebrate knowing she's no longer in pain, no longer bound by the time constraints of this world, and no longer kept out of the presence of her Lord and Savior.

It's hard to grasp though. When you've loved someone for so long, how do you let them go? It's hard not to want to cling tightly and be selfish, but that wouldn't be the right thing to do.
Beautiful Allatoona

So in the days ahead, my brother, sisters, and I will find our own way of getting through our grief. I'm sure it will be different for each of us since we each had our very own and special relationship with our Mother. And I'm sure the grief won't be short. I'm sure it will come in waves, rolling over us when we least expect it. The memories, too, will be constant. Something we see or hear, smell or touch will remind us of Mama. And that's a good thing, I think.

Those memories will help us keep her alive. Learning how to accept the memories as they come and not be overwhelmed by the sadness that accompanies them will be the hard part, but I'm hoping I can choose to remember not only the memory but the way I felt when the memory was made. If I can do that, I'll be okay.

After her service, I spent the day at Red Top Mountain. One of Mama's favorite picnic spots. We used to go there as children with my Mother and my Aunt. It was an inexpensive day trip and we loved being out in nature.

As I sat by the lake and reflected, I could almost feel Mama's presence. Listening to the nesting birds in the trees overhead, I wished she were with me. We'd be having a heartfelt conversation, I'm sure. That's one of the things I'm going to miss the most - calling to share a bit of news with her or just hearing her voice. I sure hope I never forget the sound of her voice.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Don't keep Jesus in the manger

How precious it is to see the world through eyes of a child! Their perspective is uniquely different from ours because they see without the tainted distortions of worldly pressures. That sweet innocence is priceless and only lasts a season. But oh, if it could only last a lifetime...

Yesterday, my four-year-old granddaughter, Heather, blessed my heart. We'd been spending the day together while her Mommy and Daddy enjoyed some much needed time together. As they began their mid-day date, Heather and I were in the process of making Christmas cookies. What fun it was to help her mix up the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Of course, there was a dusting of flour on both of our noses by the time we got through, but we didn't mind. Then, we allowed the dough to firm up a bit while we went outside to swing. Her excitement was uncontainable.

When it was time to come back inside, we enjoyed a little snack and then pulled out the dough and began to get busy. As we worked to roll out the dough, Heather said, "Gigi, this is like ta-doh." (That's her word for Play-doh) I agreed and soon we had the dough flattened and ready to cut into shapes.

I'd placed a variety of cookie cutters on the counter and allowed her to choose the ones she wanted to use. She had great fun pressing the metal cutters deep into the soft, pliable dough. I watched with delight as she carefully cut and placed each cookie onto the pan then decorated them with colored sugar sprinkles. When the pans were full, we slipped them into the oven and I encouraged her to go play while I cleaned up the kitchen.

Heather placing baby Jesus in Mary's arms
As I was busy washing the dishes and putting things away, I heard Heather talking. I listened carefully to see what she was saying and this is what I heard - "Don't cry, baby Jesus! It's okay." At that, I had to peek around the corner to see what she was doing. Standing in the foyer, in front of the nativity scene, Heather had picked up the porcelain doll figure of baby Jesus and was tenderly holding him. I continued to watch and listen as she took the small figurine and lovingly placed him into Mary's capable hands. After she'd gotten them positioned perfectly, she stepped back, looked at her work and said in her sweet little voice, "There." She just stood there looking at the figures for several minutes and then ran into the living room to play with her toys. When she was fully engulfed in what she was doing, I tiptoed over to the nativity scene to take a photo. I couldn't help but smile as I saw baby Jesus exactly where he should have been, safely and securely in the arms of his earthly mother, Mary.
Baby Jesus safe and secure

There, I was reminded of a verse of Scripture - " And she will bring forth a son and you shall call his name Jesus." Heather knew, without me telling her, that the baby's name was Jesus. Her Mommy and Daddy have taken time to teach her well and even though she doesn't fully grasp all His Name entails, I'm sure she understands He's very special.

The Bible tells us that children were very special and dear to Jesus. In the New Testament, we're allowed to witness a scene as Luke describes the event: "People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” We learn in this passage that Jesus loves children and he considers their innocent faith a necessary part of entering into His kingdom.

Although Heather doesn't yet understand the importance of the nativity story, in her little heart, she determined that Jesus was upset and needed comfort. When she took Jesus from the manger and carefully placed him into his Mother's arms, she instinctively knew that was the best place for him to be. And I loved how satisfied she was with herself after she'd completed her task. That one word, "there," spoke volumes to me. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was okay and that everything was exactly as it should be and that's how she knew she could walk away and not worry about baby Jesus anymore.

Of course, we know, we never have to worry about Jesus! He is always okay and constantly keeping watch over us with His loving-kindness, and Heather will learn that one day, too. But, she did teach me a sweet lesson about childlike faith and she reminded me of its importance.

In closing, another verse of Scripture comes to mind but I'll only share part of it since it seems most appropriate, "...and a little child shall lead them." (Isaiah 11:6) We should all give Jesus the honor and respect due Him. At Christmas and throughout the year, we shouldn't just keep him firmly in the manger. We must learn to embrace Him and hold Him closely in our hearts, for that is the only way we can truly enjoy the true meaning of the season- love. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

May you have a very Merry Christmas and may you witness it, this year, through the eyes of a child! Don't keep Jesus in the manger...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The year is coming to a close

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains
Heavens! It's been a long time since I've written on my blog. I don't have any excuse other than life has happened and I've been busy enjoying it.

Since my last post, I've become a sexagenarian. Yep! My 60th birthday was a doozy. We spent it in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. And while I don't feel one minute older than I did before I reached this humongous milestone, I look in the mirror and realize I am sooooo much older than I used to be.

Time seems to be marching ever forward and at an alarming rate of speed. It seems like yesterday was January 1 and now it's December 10th! Where has the time gone???? And why does it seem to move so much faster the older I get???? As time seems to be fleeting, I realize we truly are a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.
Hubby and I in our Santa hats

At the time of this writing, my last remaining uncle on my father's side of the family has been admitted to hospice care. He isn't doing well and chances are, he won't be here through the end of the year. My mother is also not doing well. She's currently in hospice care, as well. The reality of the brevity of life looms overhead. And this truth causes me to stop and rethink my own mortality.

What do I want for the New Year? Usually, I set goal after goal in hopes of accomplishing great and mighty things. And while this is an admirable thing to do, I usually fall short and find myself wallowing in self-pity. So maybe this year, I don't need to make that list of New Year's resolutions. There's no need to aim for goals I know I can't reach. Instead, I think I'll focus on just learning to take one day at a time. That doesn't seem so lofty, and in fact, it seems like something I should have learned to do many, many years ago. Why haven't I mastered that feat yet? Why is it so difficult to practice the art of presence? Learning to live in the moment should be an easy thing but for me, it's not. I'm always, always, always thinking ahead.

Perhaps being given a second chance at life has helped hone my focus just a bit. Instead of taking life so for granted, I want to live each day forward with purpose. But how can I do that unless I become intentional about making each moment of every single day count? That's why I feel it important to learn to take one day at a time. 24 hours. 1440 minutes. That seems doable.

So I won't be making my long list of grand goals and plans for the New Year. That way, I won't disappoint myself. What I will do is take each day as it comes and enjoy whatever gifts or lessons each day brings. That sounds rather exciting, now that I think about it. Yes, that's exactly what I'll do. Starting now.

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