Tuesday, December 31, 2019

More Beauty and Slowness in My Life

On Sunday morning we gave our microwave to our college-age daughter before she left on her long trip that will take her back to school. When she voiced a desire for a microwave in her dorm room, I said, "I'll give you mine, and I'll go buy another one." 

The microwave left in her car, but we didn't go buy a new one on Sunday. Adam looked at our local WalMart, but they only had large ones; we need the small size. Here's a photo from 2 years ago when we redid the kitchen:
It was a shelf just made for that microwave.

Anyway ... now it's Tuesday and we still don't have a new microwave. We were thinking of driving to Morehead to look for one there, among other errands. 

I asked Adam, "What do you use the microwave for?"
"Melting butter," he answered.
I use it for heating my chai in the morning. I never, ever make microwave popcorn; I make it on the stove. I began to wonder (you knew this was coming) ... do we really need a microwave?

The answer: no

I also wondered ... do I really want a microwave?

A microwave adds speed. I don't need to add speed to my life. Doing things fast and efficiently has been the theme of my life (and often its bane). I always, always need to slow down. Why would I want a machine in my life that helps me speed up?

We agreed to forego a microwave, at least for now. I'm heating up spiced cider on the stovetop for my mid-morning beverage.
I heat my chai in that same little pan. It's a leisurely, pleasant morning habit. It's soothingly fiddly, steams, and makes the house smell good. Plus, I'm not convinced the microwave fit well with my kitchen vibe. Here's what we did with the shelf:
I'm wondering if any of you live without a microwave? Or if you have one, would you like to get rid of it?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Good-bye, Christmas

On Monday:
 One last picture of this year's Christmas tree. I took down all the Christmas decorations. It's all boxed up. 
It rained in the morning at last. Our weather for all of Christmas week was stunningly warm and gorgeous. Rain is perfect for saying good-bye to Christmas and putting things away.
 I tidied up the guest room. Six people have slept in that room since Thanksgiving!
 Adam washed his silvery hair, put on a dress shirt and new bowtie ... to go to work! He's starting a Youtube "show" channel (which I'll tell you about another time), so he has to look spiffy. 
 You can't see his right pinkie finger, but some of it is missing. It was caught in a door Sunday morning, and a big chunk of it was ... well, caught in the door. Quite painful, and then he had to get it under control so he could preach. 
I played around with some new tube paints Adam gave me for Christmas.

 To end, here are a few more photos of sweet little Isaac, everyone's darling. He was an utter delight. We could not have asked for a better Christmas gift than to have a little grandbaby in the house.

 Baby selfies are challenging!

The Morning the Relatives Left

Dear Gramm and Anna,

I'm sorry I missed saying good-bye to you this morning, and baby Isaac. I'd planned to wake early enough to see you before your 6:00 flight. I must've been sleeping soundly. Thank you for leaving the guest room so clean!

I did wake though, at 4:57 to Trixie barking really loudly -- "woof!woof!woof!" She was demanding help. I got out of bed, realized I'd missed your departure and I was alone in the house, and went to find the dog who had to alarm-bark at such an hour. She wasn't in the living room or dining room or kitchen, or on the back porch. I decided Daddy had put her outside already before driving you to the airport, but wondered why her bark sounded so loud in my sleep.

I walked back through the quiet, dark house. You were gone. The baby was gone. I felt sad. The guest room door was open, so I stepped in. "The baby is gone," I whispered to myself, and held my hands to my heart. I missed him so much already. I stepped further into the room and turned to look at his little crib.

There was Trixie, in the porta-crib. Sitting there, quivering, looking at me as if to say, "Mama, I can't get outa here!"

Actually, that dog has springs in her legs like Tigger and can jump over a cattle fence from a standing position, so I'm sure that porta-crib was no prison for her. She wanted to be in there. She was fascinated, captivated by the baby the whole week you were here, always wanting to know where he was, paw-punching Daddy every time he woke and cried. At last, after you left, she had a chance to go in your room and conduct a thorough baby investigation and smell all the baby smells. 

I suppose she'll want a porta-crib for her puppies if she ever has a litter. But for now, I wanted you to know how much your sweet, perfect, delightful child is loved and missed here in our home, even by the dogs.


A Christmas Prayer

Deliver us from evil
 by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry
with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy
to be Thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thought,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus's sake,

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

This past year Adam has included prayers in the church bulletin each week from various authors, prayers he's found and recorded over the years. This is one. Most have been short and easily memorized. I plan to memorize this one too.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas Day

 Christmas Day was very fun! The weather has been absolutely gorgeous -- perfect Southern Christmas weather: sunny, nearly 70 degrees. We took baby Isaac outside.
He sported his Santa Suit all day long. Adam bought this for him after seeing one at the farmer's market.
 We opened presents, lounged around and nibbled a little, eating our big Christmas dinner at 2:00. Adam decided to make my mother's Sunday roast dinner: roast beef/gravy cooked with potatoes and carrots, asparagus, yeast rolls, and cole slaw - and he added stuffing too. I was in charge of cole slaw and was quite sad when we were out of mayonnaise and Adam informed me that ALL the stores had closed at noon. Then he said, "That's okay. I'll make you some mayonnaise." Which he did, and all was well. He'd made 2 batches of chocolate truffles, plus leftover cookies of various types, so we enjoyed all of that for the afternoon. Isaac was fed by a very cute elf.

 My amaryllis is blooming now.
 As Adam prepared dinner I set the table. I decided to dig out my wedding china and crystal and set a pretty table as the afternoon light filtered in from the west windows.
 Afterward, Julia and Anna crashed on the living room couches. 
Gramm decided to get the burn pile going in the pasture and spent the rest of the day (and evening) fiddling with fire, which is fun. Adam and I took Isaac outside to watch that for a little while. He loves being outside and calms right down when he's out there.
I got to chat with Kara and Philip, who are spending Christmas in Peoria with her folks, and I enjoyed talking with my mother, who is doing so much better after all her dealings with cancer this fall. I think she's on the mend at last!
Adam and I did dishes, and a silly movie was enjoyed in the living room while I played the latest "Myst" computer game ("Obduction") on my laptop. I haven't played one of those in many years.
Merry Christmas to all of you!
As I age, I realize more how important it is to embrace the Christmas that fills one's heart with comfort and hope: the infant Savior. All the Santa and presents and traveling and feasting in the world only leave a hollow place; it's fun, but it does not scrub away the sorrows of life. Somehow knowing that God Himself came to this harrowing world stripped naked, chased and threatened, a refugee, the lowest human -- yet in Him was the key to heaven for me. That is hope. Nothing in His poor life could extinguish the divine power of saving us. He overcame. He says, "I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly." That is hope. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Advent 23

 Picking up the grandbaby at the the airport. He brought along his devoted parents too. 
 Now we're relaxing at home. Ahhhh.
 Meeting Auntie Julia!
Riding Auntie Julia like a horsie!

This week should be a delightful series of days in which we do little, eat a lot, and enjoy each other's company. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent 22

A week or so ago I noticed a stem of irises in my shade garden. I don't remember having yellow irises there. Clearly they were trying to bloom, in December. Because this is Pamlico County where ALL the flowering plants are constantly confused about what season it is. (Hurricanes do that.)

Freezing temps were coming, so I cut off the stem, plunked it in some water by a window inside, and waited. I'm glad I did.

I am exhausted. I'm trying still to do all the things I used to do before Christmas that I did when I was a younger woman (well, the whole season, from sometime in late October ... until ...), and I'm not up to it anymore. I'm tired. Tomorrow I want to stay in my pajamas on the couch and play with my beloved, sweet grandson. I think I'll turn off my phone. Maybe he and I will look at the iris blooms together.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Advent 19

 A few Christmas watercolors! I like these well enough that I might get Adam to scan them.
 I painted these using some of Tasha Tudor's sketches from her books. She does such wonderful animals.
 These two must be Mr. and Mrs. Mouse, who disrupted the farm family's Thanksgiving dinner. I wonder what mischief they'll get up to at Mr. Willowby's house at Christmas?
Adam has been making truffles.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Advent 17

The boy Jesus in the temple
 A dear friend invited me to attend the annual Messiah concert in New Bern at Centenary Methodist Church. I'd never been in their sanctuary before - what stunning windows! Above is the west window, with the afternoon sun coming in.
Below is the east window. During a Sunday morning service I imagine it would be brilliant with light.
 The west window again:
 The sanctuary, before the choir and orchestra entered:
 A church member advised me to go find their chapel and see the stained glass in there as well, so I did. I entered a room that took my breath away with its warm golden walls and sense of worship.

The afternoon performance is actually a dress rehearsal, which was quite fun -- listening to the conductor's corrections and commendations. It was another music-filled day, and now (on Tuesday) I'm ready to stay home and paint quietly.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Advent 16

The weekend went crazy with 2 concerts (in which I played, sang, directed, and did a solo), farmers' market, regular church activities, plus a Candlelight Service in New Bern. Phew!
This is First Presbyterian Church in New Bern, where Adam and I went for the service last night.
It was gorgeous.
Candlelight, handbells, children's choirs,
beautiful readings,
all in a church building 
from the early 1800's, I think.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Advent 13

If Advent is waiting, then Beau understands Advent. Today he's waiting for Adam to come back home with Julia for Christmas break. He's pining. This spot on the back of the couch is his favorite perch.

We wait, as Mary and Joseph waited, for the arrival of the Christ Child. We wait in wonder and certainty; they must have been full of anxiety and weariness. But this year I wonder what it was like for Him ~ for the baby, waiting to erupt from the darkness of the womb. Like the amaryllis bulb I posted yesterday, a baby is ready, nearly ready, when will the hour come for him to burst forth into daylight, to bloom? He's pushing, twisting, uncomfortable, unwelcome where he is, not knowing where he's going. What was in the mind of God during those last days and hours before He came forth, surrounded by sheep poop and the songs of angels? 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Advent 12

 A friend gave me this bulb for Christmas. All it needs is contained in that stiff rubber shell - no additional water is needed.
I'm amazed at how the flower heads have sprung out of the bulb. How can that bulb sustain them all?
Above, I held it in a sunny east window. Below, it's catching the last sunset rays.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Advent 11

A peaceful day in which I can stay home
As a human, Jesus's first home was the safety of Mary's womb.
Our world was no home for God, the God who longs to dwell with people.
We all long for a safe home, but no home is safe if God is not there. 
God with us. He is our peace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here's what I'm reading lately.
Cheaper by the Dozen, 1948 - for fun
Alice's Adventures under Ground, a facsimile of Lewis Carroll's 1864 manuscript
Rose from Brier by Amy Carmichael, 1933

The Lewis Carroll facsimile is fascinating. Here are two sample pages.

A hand-written, author-illustrated book is interesting to me.

The Amy Carmichael book, as you'd expect, is deep and cuts straight to the heart. This book is a selection of letters she wrote, while suffering severe physical pain, to those who were also suffering illness. Her point is that the words written while you are IN your pain (not afterward, having been delivered from it) are much more meaningful to other sufferers.

She says the "ignorant stock phrases of the well to the ill" are damaging to one's faith and give a skewed view of God. "So, how can they, the unwounded, know anything of the matter?"

"Pain and helplessness are not rest," she says, in response to a friend who wrote to her about her "enforced rest" after a painful accident and broken ankle/morphine/surgery. "Pain and helplessness are not rest, and never can be; nor is the weakness that follows acute pain, nor the tiredness that is so tired of being tired that it is poles apart from rest. [God] knows that rest is found in that sense of well-being one has after a gallop on horseback, or a plunge in a forest pool ... in physical and in mental fitness, in power to do." (20)

So true. Age also distances one from rest, I'm finding. I'm only beginning this little book, but it's a gem. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Advent 10

I missed a few days of Advent here. I'm not going to let that lapse disturb my Advent peace ... what little I have of it. Advent peace is not precious because it is easy; it's precious because it's so difficult.
I'm crocheting little angels. 
Doesn't she look like she's dancing?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Bartering at the Market

A wonderful lady at the local farmers' market makes wreaths -- amazing wreaths. Today I brought this one home!
The fun thing is, because we're both craft vendors, we did a little bartering. She chose two pairs of fingerless gloves and a pretty wreath card, in exchange for that huge wreath. I think we were both pleased with the arrangement.

Bartering -- well, maybe this would be more aptly called swapping -- is so much fun! Now I have both a fall and Christmas wreath made by Chris! Here's a link to her Etsy store, if you'd like to see her amazing wreaths.

Advent 7

This Youtube has been my background music for about a week. It's the sound track from the Chronicles of Narnia movie. Very soothing and peaceful, like a lightly-falling snow outside a window. Enjoy.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Advent 6

Adam has a deep mine of quotes from old, dead preachers. He puts them in the church bulletin each week. One I clipped out and have kept in my Bible, finding it often and re-reading it. It made me weepy when I first read it years ago, and it made me weepy again this morning.

I'll paraphrase the quote to make it more understandable. Some of the vocabulary is rather opaque.

"Think of but one aspect of affliction -- the tension of the emotions. The exhaustion consequent on the unceasing strain upon our emotions is the hardest of all things to bear.
"It opens the door to all manner of temptations. It is the crucial test of fortitude. Now, the type of emotional stress has much more to do with the exhaustion of the nervous system than the quantity ... Just as we need human sympathy, assurances of human friendship and love, more at some times than at others, so we need the Consoler, and to this varying want He adapts Himself in the infinitude of His power and tenderness."
- C. Lipscomb

Each time I read it, I'm overwhelmed at the thought of the Holy Spirit, tenderly evaluating my state, adapting Himself to my weakness and need, giving me just the love and care I require at that moment. That is the type of gentle, attentive love the Christian can expect from God. Isn't it wonderful?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Advent 5

Yesterday Adam and I went on an afternoon adventure to the west. Driving home, he remembered a location he'd seen while doing Census work, an old brick road in a rural area. It's called Ernul Brick Road, near Ernul, NC. We went looking for it as the sun was setting behind the bare trees.
 The road is just the width of your car.
 In some places you can still see the old bricks.
Even more interesting are the granite edges they laid to keep the bricks square and contained. 
 Even portions of the road where the bricks had been covered with asphalt (sadly), the granite edgers were visible still.

I turned around. You can see the railroad track that runs along one side of the brick road. Across the intersection, an old building was once a bustling store or elegant home. This was an important road many years ago.
 We turned first onto the Old Brick Road, which is not the same as Ernul Brick Road.
When Adam did Census work out here, he had to hunt for houses you'd normally miss. He saw many unnoticed portions of rural NC. He says he read the Historical Marker for Ernul Brick Road, but we could not find it yesterday, and I can't find any record of it online. Someday I want to go back and take its picture too.

Ernul Brick Road is a short segment of a longer road from Boston, Mass. to Charleston, SC - the Old Post Road, the first paved (i.e., bricked) road in the country. It used to be part of U.S. highway 17. These roads have been rerouted many times. At some point this tiny bricked stretch of the Old Post Road was left alone, and some of its bricks left in place. How long until it's entirely covered with asphalt?
This link will tell more about the Old Post Road and shows a Historical Marker for it in New Bern. I enjoyed seeing something so old -- 1738 -- that is not protected, not under roof, not charging admission. It's simply a road you can walk on and know you are treading where Americans carried mail, nearly 300 years ago.

What does this have to do with Advent? Nothing, as far as I can tell. Except being there in the dwindling light gave me a sense of wonder that history always does, and a feeling of participating in that history. Isn't that what Advent does as well? We enter those weeks before His birth and walk alongside Mary and Joseph as they make their way to Bethlehem, all the while knowing the hardship they'll face. In both cases, the story remains, brilliant and clear through the centuries. We are all looking for that road.