“You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
Sometimes I feel a little bit jealous when someone says, “I married my best friend!” or when I find out they were high school sweethearts.
I married a stranger! There were only a handful of dates during the six months we were acquainted before the wedding. We met on a blind date and virtually dated on the old landline. After all, we lived over 800 miles apart. I knew he was truly serious when he paid the hefty Bell South bill each month! The day after our first date, Tom walked up to my friend Dolly, thinking it was me. We were sometimes confused as sisters. Another time when I picked him up at the airport he didn’t recognize me! I’d gotten a complimentary perm the night before from my overzealous (novice) friends.
We barely knew each other at our wedding; it’s true. I can still picture myself in a scene from our honeymoon. As we took a walk in a hilly area of Saint Martin, I had a surreal and scary feeling—thinking to myself, “What have we done?!”
After thirty-three years of marriage, we still don’t know everything about each other, but we’ve built a marvelous life together and written a history that’s even better than one of being ” high school sweethearts”.
We have a little joke between us that has to do with me being full of surprises, and Tom seems to think it’s fun to keep getting to know different versions of me. I assure him that he’ll never have me completely figured out. Especially since I can’t even figure myself out most of the time.
I didn’t know him that well, but here are some things that were true:
- I wanted a husband and desperately prayed for years that God would bring me one. As best I could, I surrendered my life to Him. I believed that my wishes were valid and that He wouldn’t give me, figuratively, a stone when I asked for bread. (Matthew 7:9)
- In a man, I wanted: someone who’d love my two children as his own, one who’d be always faithful to God and to me, a person who’d provide financially for us, and who had broad shoulders (because he’d need them and I liked broad shoulders!) God gave me everything I asked and more!
- He was a man of character and integrity. I’d watched him around work peers, church folks and friends who had utmost respect for him. I’d met his parents and was impressed by the mutual kindness and interest they showed each other. They acted like friends who really liked each other.
Things I didn’t know when we married:
- He called a package of peanut butter and crackers “nabs” and erroneously said “Cut the light on”, rather than the correctly stated, “Turn the light on.”
- I didn’t know that he’d never owned a pair of jeans and that his mother only bought him blue shirts. “His color”. That he called his black belt his blue belt and he wore it with blue shirts and pants as opposed to the brown belt. That he was a born engineer and came equipped with everything but the pocket protector!
- That one day I’d find myself delivering our baby and I’d watch as tears of awe and gratitude streamed down his face. That we’d borrow a huge dinosaur of a video camera and he’d film many hours of labor, only to be abruptly halted by a dead battery seconds before baby came!
- That another time, about ten years into marriage, I’d take a call from the paper mill where he worked. “Tom just got run over by a fork lift! He’s alive but will probably lose his legs.” That I’d live on adrenalin the next few days–and I’d be more grateful than I knew possible when he was very much alive. There’d be recovery time, but he most certainly did not lose his legs!
- I didn’t know there would be unimaginable heartaches and pain many times over, and that we’d lean on and comfort each other; ultimately relying on our faith in God.
- That God would call us into situations and places that we didn’t ask for or expect, yet we’d confess our trust in Him, and say, “Yes” to His direction.
- That somewhere around the twenty-fifth year I would begin to tangibly love him more deeply. I’d become a tiny bit less selfish and I’d nearly feel pain myself when he was in pain or hurting emotionally. That I could care so deeply for another human really moved me. I wondered if this is what “becoming one” meant.
- That today we’d say to each other that we’re more in love and enjoy each other more than on our honeymoon.
The whole notion of becoming one—who could have come up with such an idea other than the One who designed us. Who would ever think that such unrestrained, raw specimens like us humans could really love another person? That we’d actually serve, prefer and deeply care for them.
We’ve blended. We’ve acquired a private language; taken on family colloquialisms, anticipate each others’ answers and feel a bit lost when not together.
Glancing back over thirty- three years, I’m really grateful for that blind date AND that stranger!
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
Is your table big enough for folks outside your family? Is your heart large enough to offer a hand of friendship to a neighbor or a stranger?
I remember how scared I was the day before I hosted a dinner in our home for the very first time. As a new bride, I was very excited and anxious about setting a table and serving new friends— another married couple. I was a public school teacher and I worried about having time to get everything ready. I decided to prepare the meal ahead of time. I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t be ready otherwise. I wish I could remember how I arrived at my particular thinking and what food I’d served. I do remember that it wasn’t well suited to being prepared ahead. In other words, it was quite overcooked by the time we sat down to eat. Looking back, I could probably easily have whipped it together after school that day. That was back in the day when I’d sit in bed at night poring over cookbooks and imagining serving the lovely staged meals in the photos.
The meal surely wasn’t all that great, but I do remember the conversation being easy and the enduring friendship which began that night.
I recall another low point early in my culinary career. My sweet daddy went to the grocery store and bought me a chicken after he happened to see the one I’d planned to cook for dinner. It would be my first chicken and who knew they had expiration dates? If he hadn’t intervened, I may not be here today to tell my story!
My mom was wonderful in the kitchen, daily working her magic; I certainly didn’t lack an example. I likely had no interest in cooking at my parents’ home. That seems to be how kids are. Until it’s important to you, you don’t acquire the skill.
My first hosting experience came back to me recently along with the nervous feelings. It was such an odd feeling— I don’t remember having anxiety about hospitality in thirty years or more. Here was the occasion: our new neighbors were coming over for dinner! We’d barely met them and it would be my first time cooking and entertaining in our new home in Columbia.
Why show hospitality?
As Christ followers we’re connected to a large body of other people. We need each other. Hospitality is a practical way to show love to fellow Christians as well as to those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. As we sit around a table together we’re on common, level ground. Our homes are the perfect place to reach out to people of different backgrounds and lavish them with kindness.
1 Peter 4:8-9
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Romans 12:13, 15-16
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
- Call and invite someone over for a meal before you have time to get scared.
- Say yes if your guest asks to bring something. People like to help and it makes everyone more relaxed.
- Offer who you are and what you have–be authentic!
- Don’t wait until your house is ready!
- Order pizza & salad or prepare something simple.
- Don’t attempt a Thanksgiving meal!
- If you do the prep, a one dish meal is best. A pot of soup or large salad with a delicious loaf of bread, for instance. Band-Aid Bread (Recipe Included)
- Set the table ahead of time. Use what you have—light a candle and cut some flowers or greenery from your yard.
- Remember the essentials: a smile and a listening ear.
Our recent dinner with neighbors went well. We enjoyed learning about each other and they seemed to like the meal. I even told them a bit of my story and confessed that I was nervous that night.
My first entertaining experience lit a flame in me that’s never gone out. There’s nothing I’ve enjoyed more than inviting people to share our table. A magic happens there unlike anywhere else. Is your table big enough?
“People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
I stepped outside into a beautiful April morning and did a little trimming in our mini-yard. Compared to the acre we lived on earlier, this yard is on the tiny side. I stumbled into a small spot in between our house and Debbie’s. There, hidden away, was the most beautiful profuse light-blush-colored rose bush.
I was reminded again:
I’m reaping things I didn’t sow. Several times in recent weeks that truth has popped into my mind.
In John chapter four, there is discussion about followers of Jesus reaping a harvest of new believers after other people sowed Biblical truth into their lives. Maybe we’ll reap people, too! But for now, I’m looking around and acknowledging the current gifts in my life that I didn’t work for:
- The beautiful purple Clematis that previous owners planted. I’d never had success growing it!
- A metal arch in our new yard with a vine growing over; something I had on my want list.
- The fragrant lush rosemary and the light green shrub that’s good for cutting and arranging.
- Daffodils that popped up out of nowhere; fun and spontaneous.
- A screened porch which we’ll really enjoy! Someone who never knew us built it long ago.
- Miles and miles of walking paths in our new community which I love. I choose routes with views of the lake since I’m a bit obsessed with water.
It takes conscious work to focus on gains rather than losses.
I moved out of state to be with my husband. He has a job which is a fantastic fit for him. After he moved, I focused on our daughter and her upcoming wedding for about a year. I also procrastinated and delayed my move as long as possible. Tom knew how difficult it was for me to leave family, friends and home so he never rushed me or insisted I leave Wilmington. He’s like that.
So often I think, “How would I survive without a relationship with God?” How awesome to have an easy flow of communication with the Father and the entire Trinity. When I don’t know the answer to a conundrum I chat with Him about it and if I really listen and truly want to know, He’ll speak. Not usually in an audible voice, but a voice inside that’s nearly as clear and certain as a human voice. That’s been my experience for the last forty plus years. When I went to Him about moving from Wilmington, He encouraged me to support my husband and celebrate him. I already kind of knew the answer, but this was a big deal and I needed extra confidence—knowing it was all part of God’s plan.
God knew, when He spoke so unmistakably, that four months after my move I’d still find it difficult to drive by our old house. That I’d still almost take the familiar path home and then have a heaviness come over me when I realized my mistake. That our granddaughter, at twenty-two months would say, “There’s Mimi’s house”, when we drove near our old street. Each time sadness breaks into my thoughts, I remember that I made the right decision. I’m so grateful for a Father who cares about all the details.
When I cut some of those beautiful roses, I tried carefully to avoid the thorns but a big one got me! I was both mad and determined. That pain wouldn’t stop me. I thought again of the parallels.
You have to press through difficulty or inconvenience to get at the reward. Pain is often the tool to spur me on.
C. S. Lewis says:
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I’m such a wimp about pain. I hate it. But in retrospect I’m always thankful for what I learn during those hard times, and there have been quite a few of them.
I can’t imagine living several hours away from my husband. We’re having so much fun together– our marriage gets better and better. God knows what He’s doing! I am blessed.
In our new neighborhood we have a lovely walking path that I’ve referred to as “hilly” and “good for the legs”.
Last week I took out an instrument of torture on the lovely path— the instrument I formerly referred to as my bike.
The lovely hilly path was today, Mount Mitchell, NC, as far as my heart and legs were concerned. Any pretense of fitness on my part vanished in thin mountain air.
My legs fatigued oh so quickly. How long had it been since I’d been in the saddle? Apparently quite a bit longer than I’d remembered!
As I huffed and puffed up the
mountain incline, in second gear, I was comforted by three thoughts.
- I know how to gear down and ride very slowly.
- I know how to walk the bike.
- If all else fails, I have my phone for a 911 call.
Then, I started to realize how my maiden bike ride parallels my current life story.
I’ve been permitted to gear my life down as I am gradually adjusting to our move and big life transitions. To be less busy and move at a slower pace. To focus on deep and important things; investing time in relationships with people and God. I may appear to be covering less ground, as a lower gear indicates, but, sometimes the progress is deep and unseen by others. Considering what I’ve acquired from this time, I have no regrets.
Even at a slower pace consistency creates momentum. “Slow and steady wins the race”. One walk and conversation with my new neighbor. One letter written. One invitation for lunch to a single woman I’m getting to know. Baby steps count. Momentum becomes progress. Progress encourages me to keep going. Eventually my confidence is strengthened. I know I’ll fulfill my purpose if I keep going in the right direction. There will be habits and character created that will be with me for the long term. As I avoid obsessing over results, the results will happen.
I identify with Oswald Chambers’ take on purpose:
“We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything; wherever He puts us our one great aim is to pour out a whole-hearted devotion to Him in that particular work.” “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”. Ecclesiastes 9:10
I can call for help when I need it! We lived in our home in Wilmington for so many years; longer than any other place. It has been very hard for me to adjust to not being there. When I think of going home I still think of that house. There will always be a map in my heart that leads to that special place.
Sometimes I need to share my feelings, however awkward I may feel, with another person. I’ve been encouraged countless times by loved ones who’ll listen and empathize. Life is never meant to be navigated alone! We need each other. I’m adapting to our new home in Columbia and I have joy and anticipation—knowing it’s God’s plan for us to be here. I couldn’t have done it without the support of people who care.
My husband says after about ten more bike rides, I’ll laugh at how difficult my ride was. I’m not looking forward to checking those off my list! I wonder, will I also laugh one day at how difficult the move was for me? We shall see! His point rings true.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
I rushed to my sister’s side as soon as I could get there. Sisters of the heart, if not by birth. I told Dolly, “I must really love you to drive seven hours to see you!” She’d come close to death after a long hospital stay in her home town. (See http://tranquiliving.com/true-blue-the-splendor-of-friendship/.) Through the help of a caring friend, who just happened to be a cardiac nurse, she was admitted into Birmingham’s UAB Extreme Heart Failure Unit. When she arrived, the doctor had little hope for her survival.
She’d been there about five days when I entered her room on a Tuesday afternoon –I sensed an atmosphere of celebration. All eyes were on the doctor standing at the foot of her bed. Seconds earlier he’d agreed to the procedure she’d hoped for—a defibrillator/pacemaker would be implanted for her heart and her very life. Hope!
Dolly—my friend of over forty years. It’s funny that when you’re young and nonchalantly making friends, you don’t think ahead to how a friendship might play out. How you’ll find yourself years later, thinking like that person or even talking like her. I realize today that I’m pretty much a compilation of all my relationships plus the Grace of God.
One thing we remembered together is how people, through the years often asked if we were sisters. My husband even confused us when he and I first met! Then, it happened again in the hospital! “Are you two sisters?” We smiled and said, “Yes”, and then told our story.
A few years ago, our son John was about to be married. I called Dolly and said,” I don’t think I can get ready without you.” She answered, “No, you can’t, I’ll be there!” She did my makeup and hair just as she’d done for my wedding thirty years earlier. The celebration was a dream, and I never worried about how I looked!
At UAB, I was with Dolly for most of four days. I was there when the Doctor Without Hope stood again at the foot of her bed and said she was doing GREAT and would soon be released!
Rather than drudgery, as it sometimes seems during hospital visits, my time there was a pleasure. We reminisced and caught up on each others’ lives. We gathered around, held hands and prayed with her husband, Jack, and close friends. We shared together deeply and believed for what we asked. I sensed an unnatural peace wash over me. I’m using the term loosely, but I felt like I was on holy ground. Our talks and prayers were so weighty and real and heaven-focused. I could exhale and relax, knowing that everything would be alright. While praying for Dolly I kept pondering the word immortal.
adjective: living forever; never dying or decaying.“our mortal bodies are inhabited by immortal souls”
:marked by unswerving loyalty
March 9, 2018…. a text: “Hey Love…in jackson hospital in montgomery. chronic heart failure they say. on lasix and will be here a couple days. going to bed soon please pray. docs don’t know why its happening. Let’s talk tomorrow if you can…i love you…”
Suddenly, coloring my roots didn’t seem important.
Earlier worries vanished.
I thought, “She can’t die. Not yet. We need more time together.” Quickly you can tell that it’s nearly all about me. Dolly and I don’t visit as often as we should but I need her in my life. Good grief– she is part of me.
I know praying and trusting aren’t congruent with worry. But, right now I don’t feel full of faith. In between my worrisome selfish thoughts I’m thinking of her precious husband, kids and grandkids and how much they need her to be healthy. (Bless me)
We were fellow Jesus Freaks and fast friends. Early on, our appearances were quite different. She’d been a real live hippy and I was just a dime a dozen “good girl/ people pleaser”. On the inside—both of us were lost without Jesus. Being wired so differently, it’s a marvel that we’re so close. Dolly’s a natural born leader; I’m more of a follower. She’s a risk-taker; I appreciate sameness. She was the confident one; I was great behind the scenes support. It’s amazing and wonderful how God weaves his family together.
We attended the University of South Alabama at the same time. She stayed on campus and I lived at home, since I’d grown up in that city. I spent many a night in her dorm room because how cool and independent was that!
Dolly’s dad was in the Air Force so she’d travelled the world. I travelled with my family in the south.
She was generous. I wore her clothes all the time. I don’t recall her asking to wear mine. Ha. She had nice stuff and shared it with me like it was ours.
Dolly was in both of my weddings. The one that happened in the seventies didn’t last, as much as I tried. She stuck with me while I navigated my sorrow and grief.
I was alone with my young son when I was nearing the delivery of my second child. Dolly and her husband invited us to stay in their home. It was a good thing, too, because my water broke in the middle of the night! Along with other friends, they got me to the hospital and Dawn was born pretty quickly.
Sometime later we realized that Dawn had severe cognitive issues. Dolly spent days making phone calls, searching for answers, while I taught school. She told me about a special resource, Magnolia Speech School, that would help my daughter. I quickly enrolled Dawn and it proved to be perfect for that season.
When my wonderful second husband came along, Dolly threw us a beautiful engagement party, helped me decide on all the wedding apparel, and of course, stood beside me during our vows nearly thirty-three years ago.
Awhile back Dolly called me just to chat. In a few minutes tears came to my eyes. I’ve known her most of my life! It’s a magical thing to openly share your life—to be yourself, tears and all. It wouldn’t be my first cry with her or my last. Once, after a reunion with friends, she heartily congratulated me for not crying excessively.
The longer I live, the more I cherish relationships. What else is there of value? They’re richer than a decadent chocolate dessert and more beautiful than a breathtaking sunset over the ocean.
“My times are in his hands” (Psalm 31:15) is a phrase that has brought much comfort through hard times. I’m comforted, knowing God’s unimaginable Love. What more can I ask than to know He’s holding me? He’s holding Dolly and He has authored each day.
I’m praying for Dolly’s heart to heal; the other alternative is a transplant. We don’t know how many days are written in His book for us—she could outlive us all! I woke up in the wee hours and thought, “If I die soon, I hope Dolly knows she’s welcome to my heart.” I have a feeling our hearts are compatible.
I lost a dear friend this week. Actually, she’s not lost. It’s me who’s lost just knowing she’s not here. Her earthly ties were cut loose and she flew right into the arms of Jesus. I’m hurting for my loss but no doubt the loss is felt much more by her dear husband of over 60 years and all the extended family who loved her so much.
Charlotte Parker was a friend, a mother figure and a mentor to me. She lived large. Her presence wasn’t subtle. She knew who she was and knew how God had gifted her, and unlike many of us, she actually employed her gifts in gracious and abundant ways. She was like a walking Bible. She didn’t question whether the Bible was true or whether it was relevant today. That was a no-brainer.
In Charlotte’s mind there was never a doubt about the nearness of God and that He spoke directly to us through His Word. The last time I visited with her in her home, which was way too long ago, she had me on the edge of my seat as she expressed truth she was learning. When I returned to my sister’s home where I was staying, I quickly grabbed my journal and wrote everything I could recall that she’d shared. Her sermonettes were life-changing to me.
In my younger years, I was a single mom for what seemed a really long season. I’d occasionally have friends graciously help with all the children in my care—my two plus around five others. I’d go hang out with Charlotte and help in her home. She told me that she loved having me in her kitchen. I’ve enjoyed organizing things my entire life, and I’d empty the drawers and cabinets periodically and put them in better order. I remember snitching bites of the apple cake that had been sitting on the counter under the glass dome for just long enough to be extra moist. I’d clean out the fridge and help any way I could just to be around. I remember she insisted that I bring home lots of delicious leftovers (or they’d be thrown away).
Charlotte showed me how to cook summer yellow squash and onion in a skillet with oil–I can still smell it. We kneaded bread together and she taught me to spend that time praying for the loved ones who would enjoy the bread. I’d always wondered how to pass that boring time kneading. Many folks would agree she was a phenomenal cook!
I remember the time Charlotte asked me to prepare a layered salad for her house guests. A recipe from a bygone era—we used to make it often. The salad had layers of lettuce, bacon bits, peas, cheese etc. and was topped with mayonnaise for the dressing. It would keep in the fridge for a couple of days and was tossed before serving.
A week or so after I brought her the salad she asked me over for lunch. She served the yummiest soup. “Guess what kind of soup this is?”, she said. I made all kinds of guesses, then she grinned the biggest grin and said, “Remember the salad you brought me?” I was stunned! She’d used the leftover salad, added broth and served it proudly like the gourmet fare it was.
Here’s what is interesting and impactful about that story. Charlotte’s most profound and lasting lesson for me was her famous teaching entitled, What do you have in your hand? The salad-soup was a perfect example of utilizing to the best of her ability and creativity what she had available. The Old Testament reference for the story is from II Kings 4:4-7. It’s about a poor widow who encountered Elijah. Even now that principle resonates in my spirit as fresh and powerful. I need to pass these truths on to younger women who haven’t heard.
I keep looking for an end to my story, but memories flood my mind.
Not long before I married Tom, my friends gave me the sweetest shower. To make it extra special, Charlotte shared from her heart an encouraging message, especially for me. I wish I had the words written down somewhere. What I remember is that she gave me a little candle table; the kind with a hinge to let the top swing down. She set a brass candlestick on the table and talked about what it meant to be a light to those around us. I now believe her comments were prophetic. She said Tom and I would be a light to the people around us. Ironically, we received an unusual number of candlesticks for wedding gifts. And we’ve hosted groups in our home for over thirty years. I guess it’s just an extension of who we are.
The last thirty-two years Charlotte and I have lived about 800 miles apart. She’s visited me a couple of times and I visited her when I was in her home town. But for so many years we hardly talked at all. An occasional note perhaps, but I’m realizing now I could have been much better about staying in touch. It was my loss for certain. I’m mad at myself for not following the nudges I had from time to time to call her or even write. I’m very sad today and somehow it seems that writing my memories and feelings will help.
My post is probably (selfishly) mostly for me. But if there’s anything I can share with my friends, it’s this: Don’t wait to spend time with your loved ones and don’t ignore or put off those little nudges to take some sort of steps. Life is short and so unpredictable.
I think of so many things I haven’t mentioned; what a gifted artist Charlotte was, that she was a published author, how lavishly she showed hospitality, that she had a green thumb and grew the most magnificent roses…so many memories.
If you’ve been in our home, you might have noticed one or two of Charlotte’s paintings. I’m especially glad to have them now.
Finally, I’ll stop thinking of myself, and simply choose to rejoice for Charlotte. She’s happier and more fulfilled than ever before. In Heaven she knows no pain or sadness. I can imagine her reuniting with her friends and family who arrived earlier! I’ll gratefully carry the memories and allow what I’ve learned to change me. And I’ll continue to pray for the ones here who are bereft over her loss.
“Our house was not unsentient matter — it had a heart and a soul, and eyes to see with…. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome — and we could not enter it unmoved.”
Thinking back over my life I realize I was never one to get attached to a house. That is until now.
Virtually my entire childhood happened under the same roof. My parents brought me home to our little ranch when I was about one year old.
Growing up I didn’t know how deprived I was! We had one tiny bathroom and each room in the house was also quite small. The house was my home; my normal and it met all of my needs. Things like houses were different in the sixties.
As I entered adolescence, and my sister and I became more interested in peers, daddy took it upon himself to “close in the carport” and create a den. We’d have a place to gather friends. He’d work nights and weekends to get the project done; in his own time and own way. Looking back now, I can see why friends wondered if it was a house trailer.
At the time I thought we were moving up; adding a fancy den with indoor/outdoor carpet to our home. After the add-on our house was a whopping 1700 square feet! Huge.
I left that home to enter college and eventually marriage. I had fond memories of my home, but the future was where my heart was coaxing me.
Then, there was the little house that ultimately became a sad place for me due to an unwanted divorce. I loved that house and the way I creatively made it a home. It was the cutest 980 square feet you’d ever find. (Smile) But the pain from that era was all too close to the surface and I moved on.
Next came a long string of rental houses in another state. These included a mobile home. I was working full-time to support my little family. Over the years while I was at work, my friends moved me multiple times. (That reminds me; I need to remember to thank them for that!) I was in survival mode those years and guess I didn’t fully realize how much was done for me.
I came home from work on the day the mobile home became my home. Barbara walked me to the bedroom window and pointed to a small retention pond—a low spot that collected rain water, in the woodsy area. She pulled back the small curtain and said, “I put a chair here by the window so you can look at the water!” Her whole heart was encouraging mine.
All those rental houses were pretty easy to say goodbye to. Although there was that nice upscale house that had a swimming pool and just happened to sell right after I arranged furniture and hung pictures on all the walls. That one was a little hard to leave.
But now we are planning a move from the house we’ve raised our family in for 28 years.
I can’t look at the stairs without seeing Christmas garlands and decorations. In my mind’s eye I still see the kids sliding down on sleeping bags and other paraphernalia.
The dining room table speaks of celebration to me.
I love to open the front door into our foyer— it gives me that sweet happy anticipation upon entering.
I recall Tom and John side by side, building our deck. John had his own pile of scrap wood that he’d add nails to with his child-sized hammer.
This house…our home…it will not be forgotten. I’m convinced, even through my fears, that the feelings of sadness and sentimentality will give way to pleasant memories; just in time to create new ones in our next home.
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
My daughter Katherine was about three years old when I walked upstairs and saw a long row of shoes–our family’s shoes–up and down the hallway, near the bathroom door. There she was, bright eyed with that perpetual smile. “Joy” was the nickname I’d given her. When I asked about the shoes she said, “You told me we’re having a shower so I got everyone’s shoes ready.” One of those memories that will always tug at my heart. At the time, I realized that I was scurrying around like crazy preparing for a friend’s baby shower and had never fully explained what a shower is! Being the fourth child and very adaptable, she wasn’t always totally in the know about what was happening. (FYI- young mamas- write your kids’ adorable quotes and stories in a journal! You won’t remember as much as you think!)
I recall with such warm emotion the parties hosted in my honor. Over thirty years ago I was a pregnant single mom. My husband and I had separated the same week I’d had a positive pregnancy test. Not part of my plan. My dear friends threw me the most beautiful and fancy dinner shower at a nice restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. Looking back I realize the party was over the top because they wanted to heap encouragement on me. Believe me, I needed it. They even had matchbooks embossed with my name.
A wedding shower was given in my honor when I married Tom. As I walked in, straight ahead I noticed the expanse of small window panes were filled with blocks of colored paper and letters, resembling a quilt. The letters spelled, “Myra is a special friend.” And, would you believe, those precious women had created a friendship quilt, each one contributing a square? We were not casual friends. We were family. They had walked me through the most difficult times of my life to that point.
During the shower, a wise mentor shared her thoughts about our upcoming marriage. As she gifted me with a candle stand she said Tom and I would welcome people into our home and would be a light to them. That message has stayed with me all these years and emboldened me to keep going at times when I’ve been weary of flinging open the front door again. I’d continually think back on that moment and the words she’d spoken.
My detailed recall of these events is indicative of the powerful impact they had on me.
I’ve had folks come back to me years after a celebration and recall how much it meant to them. Maybe, like me, they recalled something said that would stick with them and serve as a road marker. Or perhaps it was just fun to be the center of attention and receive much needed gifts that lightened the load in their new chapter.
There are many reasons not to open our homes:
- “My home is too little”. I’ve hosted small parties in a house trailer!
- “My home isn’t pretty (stylish, organized, decorated…) enough. Clear it out and clean it up as much as possible; put a smile on your face and open your door! I had a fancy tea party for a bride, and had decorated all the main areas. I’d assumed, naively, that no one would go to the disaster that was the upstairs. There were some young people living there to whom I’d relinquished care of the bathroom. I hadn’t even glanced at it! Wouldn’t you know the bride ended up there! I was mortified!
- “I wouldn’t know where to begin!” Ask an experienced friend, and keep it simple. Focus on encouraging and “showering” the guest of honor and keep the focus off yourself. When I first started out I looked to library books for help..
Marriage and family are at the bedrock of all that’s important to me. Let’s celebrate what we value and honor! How can I not bless and encourage someone embarking on the most incredible of journeys?
Hosting a party works like magic motivation to clean up and beautify your home!
In your own personal space, you’ll have a captive audience and can speak freely to a new mom or bride. She may forget a gift, but she’ll never forget the words of life spoken and the love shown.
Your guest of honor will go home full of heart and full of gifts that will help her on her new journey.
Many years ago, I painted one of my favorite quotes on our kitchen wall. It was a sad day when we changed colors and painted over it. I’ll leave you with it here! From Emerson:
“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”