Light and Warmth Everlasting

There is something sacred about sitting around a fire and listening to stories when the weather is cold and the season is dark.

I think we tell ourselves we sit there for the warmth that the fire gives.

But I also think that while the warmth might begin as a spark from the fire that rises toward the sky, it’s only the beginning.  That spark lights a flame in the hearts of those gathered round that is fed by the laughter and love and shared joy in the moment.

It is then that we are loathe to leave, telling ourselves that when we move away from the fireside, we will feel the chill in the air, and the warmth will be gone, and we will be cold and all will be dark again.

Turns out that isn’t true.

Giving thanks for the warmth that is long-lasting, the kind that comes from good friends, good conversations, lots of laughter, and light and love.

Hang in there.  Though the dark seems long-lasting, the Light is coming.

Love to all.

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Speak Up!

It was early evening when she came down the stairs and told us she was going to church the next morning.  She needed to go, and so she was going. And anyone else who wanted to was welcome, more than welcome–she’d love the company–to go with her.

To say I was taken aback would be an understatement.  I was speechless for a moment or two.

Not because I thought she was wrong for saying it, but because I was a little shocked–and envious.

Here was a young woman, my sister, younger than I, speaking her mind.  Saying what she needed.

I want to do THAT.

The thing is, no one thought she was wrong or inappropriate for speaking up.  Quite the opposite.  We all worked it out so it could happen.

And so it did.  And it was a good thing.

Well then.

Over the weekend I heard two people sharing stories about a mutual friend.  It seems that he is a particular eater.  Not picky.  But intentional.  I get it.  So he went to a gathering at one of the friends’ house and under one arm he carried a blender.  In his hand he held a bag of things to blend.

For his healthy smoothie.

He was there for the fellowship, and knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to eat what was there, he carried his own vittles.

Okay then.

And no one thought unkindly of him.  Hearing the story I was again envious that this man was able to take care of himself, in the least obtrusive way possible.  He did what he needed to do for him, which made him able to be a better friend to all at the party–because he wasn’t stressed over the menu and what he could or could not eat.

My sister was a better parent, I’d daresay, after she was able to go and feed her soul as she had expressed she needed to do.

Good for them.

Sometimes I have a need, and yet I’m hesitant to express it.  Out of guilt?  Feeling selfish?  Not having enough time?  Perhaps it’s being raised in the south where you often hear, “Bless her heart, she was such a good person–never took a minute for herself, always doing for others. Such a gracious lady.”

Yes.  That.

I don’t mean to say that we need to become self-centered and egocentric, but I don’t think, as evidenced by the church visit and the blender, that folks will gasp in horror, clutch their pearls, and kick me out of polite society if I say, “Hey, you know what I need to happen right about now?”

But that’s what I fear, I think.

Offending.

Seeming selfish.

Bad parent.  Spouse.  Friend.  Family.

“Did you hear her just say what she needed?  I swanee, she’s got some nerve!”

The truth is that I think those who love me will likely shrug and say, “Huh, never knew that, okay.”  And the ones who don’t may very well tsk tsk and shake their heads and maybe even wag their tongues–but I can’t let that keep me from speaking up.  Besides, my needs are not really all that interesting fodder for gossip anyway.

Last fall I really wanted a fire pit.  I hinted around and no one was biting.  (Well, who can blame them–I was being really subtle so as to be more grace-filled…..*sigh*)  Finally I resorted to “sending pins” on Pinterest and YouTube how-to videos to the Fella and my oldest.

And you know what?

I got that fire pit!  On my birthday.

And the adventures we’ve had since we got it?

Priceless.  

It was hard for me to speak up.  (Well, I came close, right?  With the videos and pins?)  But I think my people were a little relieved that they didn’t have to guess or try to hack into my Amazon account to see what I might want.

A fire pit?

Sure thing.

Took me nearly twelve years of marriage to figure that one out, but now that I have, I’ve figured out it’s actually pretty nice.

And if it can’t be done or made or given, well that’s okay too.  That’s part of this speaking your needs thing.  At least someone has thought about it and tried.

What’s on your heart? What matters to you?  What would mean the world to you if someone would just…..?

Tell them.  Speak up.  It doesn’t matter what it is, if it comes from deep down within you, this need, then it’s okay.  Just tell someone you love and trust.  Tell someone what you need.

I’ll be you’ll be surprised.

Tonight I’m thankful for those who listen to me and who encourage me and give me permission to want and hope and need.  And speak up.  Most of all I’m thankful for my fire pit, which is fun in itself, but also warms my toes–and my heart, as I remember that I was heard when I spoke my heart…..and it was okay.

Love to all.

 

My fire pit being built, because I asked.

My fire pit being built, because I spoke up.

Mother Nature’s Obituary

What a beautiful day we had today here at the house!

While it started off a bit cold, it warmed up to be glorious and I may or may not have seen two boys (whom I might have been responsible for) running around outside in their bare feet. Sorry, Mess Cat.  (Now I get why Mama and Daddy let my baby brother do that in the winter–they always said he’d come in if his feet got cold.  And you know what? They were right.)

We had a yard full of children again today.  When I started a fire in the pit so Shaker, who was over playing today, could roast marshmallows for his snack, I was once again surrounded by children excited to roast and toast and eat them some marshmallows.

Except for one.

The youngest in the bunch was sitting next to the fire in a chair one of them had pulled up (we ran out of log space), playing on the iPad one of the others had brought with her.

From the moment I spied the thing, I eyed it suspiciously.  I wanted to shake it by the scruff of its neck and say, “Don’t you be messing up my nice day!”   First of all, I was nervous (thank you for showing up, Anxiety Girl) that something would happen to the expensive device while in our yard.  Second, from time to time, different ones were sitting and talking to it and touching it and playing one game or another and not taking in where they were…..what all was around them…..whom they were with.

I forbade mine from playing it.  Yeah, Cooter asked.  He even asked to come inside and get my device so he could “play” with them.

Just no.

Y’all.  Mother Nature is going to die, it’s already happening.  And there will be no one around who can write her obituary because No. One. Will. Notice.

Excuse me.  That was the sound of my heart breaking.

Already we are raising children who would rather watch a movie for the twelfth time than look out the window at scenery they may never have seen before.  We have folks sitting across from each other, never seeing anything other than the screen in front of them.  Young people who would be happy staying inside all day, playing games, listening to music, carrying on “relationships” via messages, texts, and emails–without ever setting a foot outside OR talking to an actual person.

At the same time the young one with the iPad was sitting in front of a fire I built all by my big girl self (okay it took me a while, but I’m getting there) surrounded by trees and birds and squirrels and bugs and all kinds of things to see–and her friends, I caught a glimpse of our Princess who had pulled a chair down to the corner of the yard.  She had in her lap a notepad.  I squinted in the sunlight to see what she was lifting up, and I realized she had a set of binoculars that had come in a kids’ meal.  She was making notes of what she saw in the woods behind us.  She was playing “Girl Scouts” with her friends and she decided today was Nature Day.

Ironic, isn’t it?

I blame us, the parents.  I’m not perfect.  While I am thrilled at what my girl was up to today, it’s not a given.  She and her brother ask to play on electronics quite frequently.  But it seems that the longer the time since they last played, the less frequently they ask.  It’s kind of like an addiction in a sense.  They have to work it out of their system, and then they seem a little better.  I’ve been known to call the devices in our house the “grumpy screens,” because folks sure can get grumpy when the battery gets low/it’s someone else’s turn/it’s not working fast enough/they are losing the game/I say no to purchasing add-ons, and so much more.  Definitely grumpy.

I remember what Daddy told me when I was thinking about signing up for Facebook: “Well as long as you make it work for you and you don’t work for it, you’ll be all right.”

Amen.

I’ve heard his words in my head today, and I think that truth applies to so many things, and today, especially electronics.

I’m afraid we are all doing more work for those devices than they are for us.

Speaking for my own family, of course.

And that is why I’m doing some serious soul-searching.  I don’t want the flowers and trees to fall to their knees and return to the earth which gives them life.  To ponder a life with no frogs hopping across the yard, no squirrels scampering along the back fence, NO BIRDS SINGING–FORTHELOVE.  I can’t even fathom it.

And I don’t want to.

I think it’s time we need to be showing Mother Nature a little more love.  Beg her not to give up, to hang in there.  We need to start paying more attention to her, getting to know her better.  Have a real relationship with her.

If we don’t, I’m afraid she and all of her kin will perish, with no one left who remembers what she was like, because no one took the time to look and see what she has to offer.  All too busy with eyes on screens and ears plugged with sounds that are all man-made.

Tonight I’m thankful for this wake up call.  I give thanks for a beautiful day with friends that reminded me who Mother Nature is, and what all she and Creation have to offer all of us.  I am better for the time I spent tanning my soul today.  My boys got along like a house on fire and weren’t ready to stop playing when it was time to go.  I am so happy that my Princess sees the beauty around her, and I hope to borrow her “glasses” one day and see what she sees.  My Mama once told a young mother watching her son play outside, “You brought him into this world, now let him show it to you.”

Amen.

In the meantime I will put down the phone, the laptop, the distractions, and take at least a few moments each day to sit with the Artist and Mother Nature and soak it all in, like art skillfully created and hung on the wall in a gallery.  Appreciate, compliment, and leave a richer, fuller, better person.

It’s a start.

Love to all.

 

Partying at the Pit

To tell this story, I need to share some background information.

First of all, last Monday the Fella took the day off from work to build me a fire pit.

A fire pit!

I’ve been thinking about one for quite  a while now, and I finally decided to drop that as my official hint as to what I wanted for my birthday.  (Subtle ones, you know, like sending him how-to-build-your-own-fire-pit youtube videos and website links and coming right out and telling Aub and the littles, “I want a fire pit for my birthday.” Very subtle, and yet it somehow worked.)

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He went and got the supplies from the getting place, and they even had a kit to make it a little easier.  When he got home he had all kinds of help in the form of the zoo crew.  They dug, plotted, placed, and poured.

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And we had us a fire pit.

Only we had no firewood or roasting sticks, so we decided to hold off until we got those things.

It’s been a fun week of imagining what it would be like.  Our Princess wants her big sister to bring home her guitar and for us all to sing songs around the fire.  She’s the idyllic one.

We made to another trip to the getting place to finish our list, and then–today was the big day.  The First Ever Wienie Roast at Buckingham Bottom.

I don’t know who was more excited, me or the littles.

Or their neighborfriends.

We had a yard full by 9:30 this morning and they were still playing strong when the Fella went out to start the fire an hour later.  Of course our Princess excitedly told them what we had going on.  About 11:15 she came to the porch door and called me over.  “Chloe has something to tell you.”

I walked over.  “Yes ma’am?”

This little eight year old peered in through the door and said, “Well since I haven’t had lunch yet, can we–well, I can’t speak for the rest of my friends, they might have had lunch, but could we roast hot dogs too?”

Oh me.

A simple Sunday was all I was after, y’all.  Lunch with the family, wrap up laundry necessities for the week, and then a nap.  Yep, that was all I was hoping for.

And yet–

As though lit up in lights, my “words” for the past couple of years came to mind–interruptible, intentional, open, with.  How could I turn away someone who was hungry?  Or at least fascinated by the idea of cooking hot dogs over a fire?  I once told someone who asked “what I was” that “well, I love Jesus and how he led his life”…..not trying to be cliche’, but I knew what Jesus would do.  And I was sorely ashamed.

I told Chloe I needed to wrap up what I was working on, and while I was thinking about it, what would her Mama think?

“Oh, I have a walkie-talkie, and I can just call and ask her.”

Brilliant.  Do that.

After making sure the Fella was okay with us adding to the guest list, I told our Princess to have all her friends run home and ask their parents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to invite them or that we didn’t have enough food, I think it was that I didn’t want to be responsible for other people’s children around a fire, handling hot roasting sticks, or for feeding other folks’ children.  (Food allergies can really make you paranoid, for your child and for others.)

But once we committed to it, I felt at peace.

Which is what You were aiming for up there, huh?

I cut up apples (I cannot feed other people’s children just hot dogs, save that lack of nutritional balance for my own crew) and put everything we needed on a tray.  When I walked out they were so excited; they were all sitting by the fire on logs from our old tree, empty roasting sticks already in their hands.

Bless ’em.

They were too sweet.  No one except mine had actually roasted hot dogs much if at all.  Chloe said she didn’t even like hot dogs until today.

Well there you go.

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There’s something magical about a fire, isn’t there?  The flavor it adds to food, yes.  But the camaraderie of sitting around it and talking and cooking over the flames, watching the smoke chase the “pretty ones,” and mouths watering in anticipation–it takes us back to our roots, doesn’t it?  Cooking outdoors, over a fire.  Yep. Magical.

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And I could see it in their eyes.  Everyone wanted to keep roasting, they each ate two hot dogs, with the exception of Chloe (but she did enjoy the one!)–only the second one was with no bun.  I know that they would have kept roasting many, many more if we hadn’t made the rule “You roast it, you eat it.”  I’ve felt the same way over many years of wienie roasts.  The roasting is the best part, but you can only eat so much.  The struggle is real.

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When we moved on to the marshmallows, I was faced with giving them a number, their limit of the max they could roast and eat.  We came up with four, and I honestly have no idea why.  It just seemed like a nice round, even number.  I didn’t want anyone to get too hyped up or go home sick from all that sugar.  So four was it.

And again Chloe was brave and tried one.  One.  She doesn’t like marshmallows, but she found out she does love roasted marshmallows.  Awesome.

Listening to them as they sat on the logs they’ve rolled around the yard for months now, realizing that I almost missed out on this fun and fellowship, I knew some church was going on around that fire–and not a word of sermon preached.

Of course there was some smack talk going on about who could cook the best hot dog ever, and I might have been the one to start it.  I finished it too.  After all had their fill, I sat down by the fire that was, by this time, dying out.  I found a sweet spot over white ashes and sat and sat and waited and waited.  Yeah, the roasting is definitely my favorite part.

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And after a long time of sitting and waiting, I had the perfect hot dog.  Maybe that’s what folks who love to fish feel.  All that sitting and waiting coming to fruition…..

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By this time the children were all running around the yard playing “Mother, May I?” and “Hide and Seek” with occasional breaks to build their “earth” in the sand/water box.  I called them over to see my perfect hot dog.  One wrinkled up her nose in distaste and said, “That’s burnt,” but her brother looked at me incredulously, “We could cook them that much?”  I nodded.  “Okay then, next time, I’m going to cook mine that long and I’m going to win.”

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In the end we decided by a show of hands that everyone had fun and everyone loved the food, so we all were wieners–I mean, winners.

Yeah, I like that.

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This afternoon I saw this quoted by Advent Conspiracy.  And my heart breathed a sigh and said, “Yes.”  And I knew what this is saying, because I lived it today.  I got to reclaim my own real life today. And oh, was it a glorious one!

Tonight I give thanks for a family tradition started by my Granny years ago and continued on by my Aunt and all of our family still.  There truly is nothing else like it.  I am grateful for my family and their gift of time and energy in making my dream a reality.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a little girl’s question that turned my day on its end, and for an unplanned journey that wound up being the best one after all.

Who can you be interruptible for and be with? What can you be open to and intentional about?  It just might make your day. Go reclaim your own real life.

Love to all.