When Looking at More…

Ahh, coffee. We are now past Epiphany, which means I have spent the weekend putting away the Christmas decorations. Yes, the. whole. weekend. Every year there is new pressure to compete with friends who have their decorations down by the start of the new year. Because they are that on top of things. (I never—or rarely—feel that on top of things.) I staunchly hold out until Epiphany, in part because I can’t bear the idea of a bare, denuded house the entire month of January. No twinkly lights? No ribbon and pine cones and shiny red things? The days from Christmas to Epiphany are a time to savor. The rush is done, the big day has a arrived…and I hold on to the celebrating just a little longer.

It’s always after the decorations get put away that I feel that “clean start” to the new year, and it’s usually because the stairway garland has shed like crazy…which means a casual vacuuming of the stairs just won’t do. And while you’re at it, let’s oil the banister. Since you have that oil out, you treat all the rest of the furniture in the house, and before you know it you’re washing all the lace doilies in the kitchen sink… It’s like the grown-up version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, not as much fun but still rewarding. (There are antiques in this house; of course I have lace doilies.) It’s just too cold to shampoo the carpets, which means I’m spared wiping down the baseboards.

Somewhere in the middle of this I’m still working to figure out what my resolutions for the year will be. Don’t even think to shout, “Resolutions don’t work!” as though missing one is a sin you can never repent for. I’m talking about goals. Things you can write down and keep in front of you the whole year long. Small goals, like being more consistent with flossing my teeth. Goals that require a little more strategy, like trying to figure out if I can clean up the craft room AND make some yoga space (which seems like a complete conundrum). Fewer ultimatums, less proving, and more grace. More yoga because I feel better and learn more when I do it. More writing, because it helps me organize my thoughts and articulate my feelings. More reading, because it means I’m actually putting my phone (and all its apps) down. More photography, because I want to be more observant while seeing things creatively. Sending (real! actual!) letters to friends, because they matter and I don’t communicate that nearly enough.

Adding more can sound like a lot more busy, more stress, more stuff. But grace. When mindful adding of the right things push out the wrong things. (Think: More salads!) More time, more space, means less clutter. More—better—prioritizing. And I’m a focus-on-the-positive kind of girl.

Which right now means just a little more coffee.

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‘Tis the Season

It’s been a busy season. And I struggle with the word “busy,” as though it were a season of mindless time fillers. Because it wasn’t. So I will say it’s been a full season.

It’s been a season of learning. I’ve been working and studying and traveling and practicing to get my Holy Yoga instructor certification. It’s been an amazing journey with truly beautiful, amazing people.

It’s been a season of letting go. My grandfather, in hospice for many weeks, made his final move to Heaven the week after I returned from my yoga retreat. My family had taken quite a few trips a few hours west of Fort Worth to say our goodbyes, only to learn he wasn’t quite ready. I am happy he is free from pain and experiencing the fullness of Love’s presence.

And it’s been a season of trust, family, and finding my balance again. Trusting that I’m doing the right thing. Coming together with family again, sisters and cousins and aunts. Finding the balance between work and play (um, yeah, like anyone ever really gets that…). Unpacking and rescheduling and adjusting. And in all, feeling like I’m just a little less overwhelmed as things settle down a little.

Suddenly, it’s another season. I look up and I’m already in the middle of Advent. I love this season. But am I reflecting enough? Am I planning enough? Am I adding, doing, decorating, pepperminting enough?

But then I remember to breathe. (Breathing is one of the most important things one learns at a yoga retreat, followed by how to stand.) This breath allows me time to pause. This next breath gives me space to think. I stop the worry of what decorations haven’t been finished or the cards haven’t been sent. In this breath I can see what has been done. What I already have. And what joy surrounds me.

This is grace, this Advent, this season.

 

The Grace of Friendship

Hello, blog friend. It’s been a while. In the time since we last chatted, my baby sis graduated from college, I visited a friend and “did yoga” in Austin, and my grandfather had a stroke. I oversaw the production two books at work, helped lay sod in the backyard for my dad, and worked a weeklong Christian conference. It’s been a nonstop kind of time, a where-do-you-start? kind of time, and I’ve finally been able to take a breath and regroup.

Actually, the pace started just fine, but it’s easy to let get out of hand. I’m so grateful for the words of a very dear friend…a pact to stop apologizing for late replies, a pact to let go of the guilt, a pact to embrace the whole of our friendship and hearts of we are, wherever we are. I cherish my friends, and the gift of grace they offer me is beyond words.

It’s been a good season for friendship for me, in the midst of busy-ness. Reconnecting with my dear friend in Austin. She is a safe harbor for me, and we do yoga together. A conference downtown meant the opportunity to reconnect with friends, and make new ones. Hours (upon hours) on your feet and then breaking bread together. Another friend “from a far country” is coming soon for an extended stateside stay. We are Anne and Diana together, kindred spirits. I’ve also recently had the opportunity to make new friends from across the country and across the globe; I don’t know if we’ll all meet in person “this side of glory,” but it’s one of the blessed things about technology and social media. You cannot help but bond with people you’ve prayed and shared your heart with every week.

I treasure true friendship. I don’t take it for granted, and I hope to never exploit it. I believe it was Justice du Plesis who said, “Even in their absence, my friends are safe in my presence.” I love this.

Not Yet Really Feeling the Heat

Six days on a partially working air conditioning system, it is now repaired—and this evening the windows are open to allow the evening air in. For those of you who aren’t from Texas, you may not understand how significant this is. When I first moved here with my family (I had just turned 16), we came from coastal California and A/C didn’t exist in our house. We weren’t strangers to it, by any means, but I had no idea at the time what it meant to be acclimated to a region.

We weren’t sure we were going to survive our introduction to Texas weather, it being too hot to do anything we were used to—walking to the library, walking…anywhere. It didn’t help that it was one of the hottest summers on record! We had moved in with my paternal grandparents initially, and as is the right of aging grandparents, the thermostat wasn’t set very low. Just a week or to in, I remember staying up nearly all night with my family, waiting for the temps to drop enough to open the windows and let “real air” come in. It never happened. What kind of place was this, that the “cool of the day” happened at 6 a.m.?

Well, so-many years later and I’ve spent some of the best mild, May days in the yard this past weekend, weeding and planting and cleaning closets… OK, so spring cleaning is not one of my favorite things, but the rest was pretty great—sunny days with a nice breeze, the smell of gardenias and roses and freshly cut grass.

And as idyllic as this sounds, and as grateful as I am for the great weather, I still had opportunities to work at being thankful through it all. It’s as though one has permission—a free pass—to complain about things like the air conditioning being out. Fill in the blank, and you have any number of things that allow for griping. I had to catch myself from giving in to it a few times. Yes, it’s a hassle. And a huge expense. But more than a in-the-grand-scheme-of-things perspective, those little gripes and whines are seeds that take root in the subconscious and create an attitude for all the small moments in life. And lately I’ve been wondering…what if I didn’t have permission to complain?

The windows will soon close this evening, as another set of storms is scheduled to roll through (another one of the wild things I kinda love about this area). Which makes me grateful again that the A/C is fixed, after all.

Polishing for a Special Occasion

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of The Bookclub Tea Party, I polished the entire inventory of the family silver—what I had inherited, and bought, as well as my youngest sister’s silver. The “middle sister” is moving, and in need of storage space, so this weekend I added in a few more pieces.

Polishing the silver was another one of those things I hadn’t done since before my mom died. Putting the hosting of parties on hold sounds dramatic and forgivable when associated with grieving…cleaning and maintaining items in your house does not. Well, not after a certain point in time. So with an old bed sheet to cover the living room floor, and quick trip to the local Ace Hardware for a new jar of polish, I was ready to go. Oh, and TV. Lots of TV hours. This weekend I finished off the jar, and with quite a bit of satisfaction, too. There’s something about making something tarnished shiny again.

I’m just old-fashioned enough that I love using “the good silver.” Not just the nostalgia of it, but the look of elegance and attitude of celebration it lends to a table. It’s a special-occassion item that often goes unused because of the amount of maintenance it requires. (Though not terribly much, when polishing should only happen 1-2 times a year, max.) I have so many memories of its use during family holidays and celebrations. Always the “good silverware” for a family birthday party. The silver candy dishes filled with nuts and ribbon candy at Christmas. Even realizing, years later, that our childhood “play teapot,” among all the “play dishes” (real china!) and the dress-up clothes was really my great-grandmother’s little teapot. It had long since lost its look of respectability, but after some very determined effort and lots of polish, those flaws simply add to its charm.

I found my own (gorgeous) tea service at an estate sale, marked down to less than $75 because it had been left to tarnish for quite a while. I could say that no one wanted to take the time to bring it all back, but I’d prefer to think that it just in hiding, waiting just for me! (Teapot, coffee pot, hot chocolate pot with warmer, sugar, creamer, waste pot AND serving tray…really!)

It’s easy to always save something “for good,” or for a special occasion that somehow never quite seems to happen. The dining room that never gets used because of the kitchen table, the good china still packed away. My grandmother was one who saw so many moments as that special occasion, worth celebrating, no matter how small. Birthdays, anniversaries, even a good day at work. And when I see the cabinet of time-invested pieces, I’m reminded to make a few more moments special.    

A Delayed-but-Still-Lovely Post About a Weekend

Its a beautiful spring day again here in Texas, and with the sun shining this morning  I find myself quite inspired—or at least motivated—to write and accomplish a long list of things.

This past weekend was also beautiful, and filled with accomplishments. I went to a nursery, I bought a fancy hat, and I hosted my bookclub’s tea party. I planted and transplanted, and I cleaned out boxes in the garage. I even cleaned up after the tea! (There were lots of hand-wash-only dishes.) 

I started to blog all about the lovely tea this weekend, one of those “favorite things” I hadn’t done since before my mom died. It was…cathartic (the tea party, not the blogging). I was reminded of all the reasons why I love a tea party—particularly one themed around books! And really, there’s something about a girl never quite growing out of playing dress-up for a fancy tea. It was nice to spoil guests and make them use the “fancy dishes” we otherwise can’t justify for everyday use. It was fun to watch people enjoy lemon curd for the first time. For me, these little parties (with “little” bites of food) is a way I can tell my friends, “You’re worth feeling special.” 

The bookclub girls are lovely and offered all kinds of help, but it was an important marker for me. I had to do this “on my own.” But of course I couldn’t do it all on my own, and these girls are so full of grace that when they arrived they went right to work finishing up the sandwiches. I didn’t have to be perfect, because when I “failed” at being the perfect hostess, no one paid any attention. They enjoyed each other, the food, and the fancy hats! (We did a good job with those hats, too.)

Sometimes life, like losing one’s car keys and working 10-hour days, gets in the way of blogging about these treasured times with friends. But they’re still worth the recalling, and the digital memorializing. I had to “borrow” photos of the event, but again I resolve to do better. Maybe a take-more-pictures accountability partner? Ha! But I did enjoy this shot (I took) of the decorations, complete with moss and miniature ferns set in demitasse cups. I have a strong feeling a terrarium is in my future…