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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Wee Fireplace

On dark days I love to close the heavy red velvet curtains over the glass doors to the patio and light up my wee fireplace. A low library table harbors a variety of candles and containers for tea lights, most of which I’ve found in thrift shops. Then I stretch out on the sofa across the room and with soft pillows propping me up, I soak up the pleasure. If I had a fireplace like some I’ve had before I’d be watching that, but never mind, there are some benefits to my present one. It’s not as exciting as a crackling wood fire, true, and it doesn’t change from leaping flames to glowing embers, but there are no ashes to clean up, no sooty chimney, no hauling in wood. I find my wee fireplace nearly as enjoyable as any of its predecessors. I watch the various ways each candle burns, and how its holder or container gives distinctive artistry to light.

Before I dig into the daily newspaper I just retrieved from the front door and tackle the world and its problems I watch my wee fireplace and congratulate each little flame. I don’t need music or anything but the gentle ticking of the grandfather clock and its occasional chime to play on my senses. It is enough to look around the room, soak up its ambience and count my blessings. Especially, I don’t need the TV at a time like this.

As I watch each tiny flame seems to have its own identity, dance to its own music and shine its own friendly smile at me from across the room. I actually just saw one of them laugh! I think it saw itself in the mirror beside the table. But with all their illuminations the “talk” of my candles does not intrude, disturb or drum on the auditory senses. Instead it reminds me of how fortunate I am, and yes, how smart I’ve become to take out time to sit by and just soak up my blessings. I don’t have to chase away worrisome thoughts because I’ve left no door unlocked in my mind for them to enter. 

My brother has a sign posted near his desk that says, “OLD AGE IS NOT FOR SISSIES.” I know what that means and I’m determined not to be or become a sissy in my old age. If I have complaints I won’t fight them or dignify them with complaining, even to myself. An hour or two in a darkened room beside my wee fireplace can cure them. I’ll keep company with the angels here and think of all the other so-called oldsters who, this very day, are lucky enough to be doing the same. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Among My Souvenirs"

Grandma’s attic used to be a great place to spend time in my younger life. I don’t recall much of what I found there or being very interested in the history of those odd unrelated things. It was more the atmosphere I enjoyed, the feeling of being among friends and relatives too far back to remember. There was a smell of the place, a temperature that only a midwest summer’s afternoon can duplicate, both dusty and humid enough to make me perspire and not stay too long. Today I own only one thing from that attic, - a heavy well-crafted hammer that belonged to Grandpa and was no doubt used in building the very house the attic lived in. That house is long gone, but the hammer is still intact, the most solid tool I own, ageless in usefulness, priceless to the eyes.

Even more fascinating to me though was Grandma’s china cabinet. In it was a beautiful cobalt blue glass vase. Sometime after Grandma died Grandpa took me over to the cabinet one afternoon and said, “Joycie, I’ve seen you looking at that blue vase often. Do you like it well enough to have it as your own? Will you keep it forever and remember Grandma by it?” Would I? I was too stunned to believe what I’d heard but I said, “Oh, yes, Grandpa! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

I loved it for its beauty, transparency and richness of color in the sunlight. It belonged in a window and I had just the spot for it in my bedroom. First I needed to clean out the old rose petals I found inside the vase. I wondered why they were there but never thought to ask Grandpa. The shape of the vase was lovely. An ample round bottom, a narrow stem-like middle and a top that opened out like a bell. Foolish little pre-teen  girl that I was, my main interest was in the visual delight this object offered me, not in its history.

Through the years I used it on special occasions for flowers but often I would be frustrated that the middle part of the vase was so slender I could only get a few stems of a large bouquet in it. Many years later when an appraiser came in to list our few antiques before a move she said as she held my blue beauty, “Do you know what this is?” I said, “Why, it’s a vase, isn’t it?” 

“No, she answered, this is a ladies’ spittoon!” She added, “You see the narrow middle? It’s meant to fit easily into a lady’s hand. The top is to catch both ashes from a special ladies’ cigar and, well, you can guess the rest.” 

In one stunned moment I remembered the comments I’d heard as a child about “Liza,” my great, great grandmother. “She was a tiny woman, always dressed like a lady of some means, even though she was a small farm wife.  She always wore white collars and cuffs. And she’d sit in her rocker and smoke a ladies’ cigar!”

I’d never met this ancestor of mine but I did know her son, my great grandfather, Thomas Pulford. He, too, liked smoking cigars and people were always bringing him boxes of White Owls. I used to sit at Grandpa Pulford’s feet on a little footstool and get him to tell me stories about when he was a boy of eight and his father gave up the life of a sailor to come to the New World and claim land under the Homestead Act in the rolling hills of southeastern Minnesota. 

Later I learned about how his mother, (the original owner of the blue “vase,”) was the daughter of a wealthy ship-builder who owned a fleet of ships. On one of these ships when she had accompanied her mother on an ocean voyage she had secretly married Great Grandpa Pulford’s father, a handsome young seaman aboard the ship. The captain had married them unbeknownst to her parents and when they were found out her father declared that the marriage must be annulled. Great great Grandma Pulford would have none of that and even forfeited her inheritance to stay with her husband. They soon moved to The New World.”

I could tell more, but what this illustrates is how much we miss of the history of old possessions. My great great grandmother’s blue vase is now in the possession of her great great great great granddaughter, Kimberly Milliken Wethe Rily. Probably her daughter, Samantha, will someday own it. I must remember to tell her the story.

 Hardly anyone knows the old song “Among My Souvenirs,” but I love that piece. I play it on the piano from a tattered piece of sheet music and weep when I come to the end where it says, “I count them all apart, and as the teardrops start, I find a broken heart among my souvenirs.”  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Liberated Woman

People sometimes ask me, “What did you do before you retired?” My answer is, “I ran my own business.” Then I add, “As for retirement, I’m not retired and I don’t expect I ever will be because the business needs me and I couldn’t be happier working.”

Of course, the questioner always probes further, “ Interesting! What might your business be?” I go on to explain. “I am a homemaker, I write, sculpt, play the piano, sketch, play bridge, read, sew, cook a little, keep house, garden and sometimes go back to school or volunteer for some good cause. On a day I look at my calendar and see nothing posted, I yell, 'Yippee!' I call that day a surprise package. Maybe, on second thought, you could call that retirement.”

If I'd been talking to a young and eager business woman attempting to break through the glass ceiling I’d probably lose my audience in short order. She’s likely to believe she can do what used to be called a man’s job, be a happy wife, raise a family and nearly everything I did just as well or better. Maybe she’s right. She’s the so-called “liberated woman” of the new century and I admire her. Sometimes I may even have envied her. I knew those secret yearnings to find some more interesting work and draw a pay check for it. Still, I’ve managed to love my work and never begrudge or degrade it. Somehow I’ve been too contented. I never aspired to finish my last two years of college and pursue another career. To get married to a good looking, intelligent and honest career Marine pilot at the age of nineteen was the ultimate for me. I felt I'd been catapulted over a sea of studies, tests, job-seeking, and hunting for the "right man" in one glorious leap. 

At first I did feel embarrassed to be sharing the money my husband worked for but he saw nothing unusual about it. We were of a different generation, of course. Soon enough I was able to see that I worked for our money too. I once wrote down an estimate of what it would cost my husband to hire someone to clean, cook, do laundry, shop, take care of the children, their pets, and generally act as CEO of a household. I kept that information to myself but once or twice I may have shown it to him. That would have been when some argument about money came up and I needed to strengthen my case. 

But here’s something worth thinking about: What do most working people look forward to? I’d wager that would be retirement. Unless they’re like my son, David, who told me once, “Mom, I’m so happy with my job I’d gladly work for nothing if I didn’t need the money.” That kind of person probably does not look forward to retirement. 

In one sense I’ve had that kind of job all my life. I’ve enjoyed taking care of my children and my home and occasionally taking on a volunteer job if it did not interfere with these. I’ve been able to do this without working for someone else with one exception. When I was newly widowed I tried a full time job as receptionist and secretary for a retirement community. It was enjoyable enough for the five years I was in it, but, since I no longer needed the extra money, I went back to home life and being my own boss. I’ve had some of “retirement” activity nearly every day of my life. If I haven’t made a name for myself or reached high levels of achievement it’s only because I didn’t have the interest or will. I may have missed many opportunities but I’m not sure I’d change much, even if I could.

There’s no real way to describe a liberated woman. I think that liberation in its highest sense comes from within. It is a state of mind, more than a condition of circumstances. So, somehow, I believe it’s within the reach of every woman on the face of the planet to become liberated, though it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, without hope, faith and love in her heart. 

There must be more definitions of liberated women than we know. Often we read about them, occasionally we encounter them in our own lives and, if we’re fortunate enough to count ourselves liberated, we women may save this weary world of ours.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Eat Candy

If you are overweight, I could tell you a simple way to eat that would reduce you to your optimum weight without a sense of deprivation. I call it my Forget Dieting Diet. I know it works because it worked for me. Whoever has struggled to stay on a diet and failed will find this one easy. You just need to start with one cardinal rule:

                                                           Eat Half Portions

Think what you’d like, no more than you’re used to, and divide it in half. Use the same pattern of eating you’ve had, just cut the portions in half. For instance, an hour or two after my morning meal of cereal, with milk and fruit, I hanker for a mid-morning sweet treat. Chocolate covered caramels are my favorites. I buy them at Trader Joe’s and they’re not quite an inch square. A sharp knife makes a clean cut through the middle. I put one half back in the box and I savor the other half any way I like, slowly by nibbles or in one big long lasting chew. That’s my candy break for the day. It’s a treat I can enjoy without guilt because I know I won’t even be tempted to eat more candy until tomorrow. After its gone my half piece of candy satisfies just as much as a whole one would have.

I tried this half portion program and in a few months I lost weight slowly until I reached a point where I stopped losing. Thirty pounds gone. Now I’m not skinny or fat. I'm not trying to look like a movie star. The best part is that I can, and do, forget about food until I get hungry. Then out come the half portions. I savor them slowly, including my favorite dessert, ice cream. I dig out a big scoop, take a sharp knife and slice it down the middle. Half goes back in the carton, the other half I enjoy without a trace of fear that it will make me fat. When eating out I either divide with someone or take the half portion home.

The main thing about this non-diet diet is to be absolutely honest. No cheating! Be consistent. When you’ve got it settled in your mind that the half-portion rule is fixed, non-negotiable, your cravings will cease. Then watch the weight leave. Be patient but persistent and satisfy yourself with some other interest. Believe me, there's more to life than food. 

When I think back on all the articles I’ve read, the books, the how-to-lose-weight programs I started before I made up my own, I laugh at money spent unnecessarily. This one idea doesn’t cost a cent. It seems to me to make perfect sense. So, try it. Save your cents (dollars) and give it a whirl. You’ll end up not only a better size but a better person. And you’ll feel satisfied. I guarantee it!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Working the Butterfly Way

One of the tricks of learning how to pray is knowing what to pray for. In my advanced (love that word!) years, I can see I’ve avoided asking for the one thing I’ve needed, a finishing school to show me the way to work in an orderly fashion. I don’t think that’s the kind of thing  most finishing schools emphasize. My finishing school would not just be for young women and, to tell the truth, I wouldn’t want someone else to be telling me how to work until a task is finished. I think I know that. So, I’m not sure I want to go to such a school, even if it exists. I’m stubborn that way. I want to figure it out for myself. Let’s talk Home-schooling.

Knowing how I’ve missed the mark all these years is a first step. I get started with great enthusiasm toward some goal. I keep at it long enough to see the possibilities and enjoy a degree of success, but after a while some other attractive option comes along and I get diverted. It’s like going down the road and being drawn into side roads. I don’t want to miss a thing.The side roads have their own side roads and before long I may or may not get back to the road I started on. I call myself a butterfly. A butterfly doesn’t stick to a road. But even a butterfly knows where to go at night. I, too, always go home, and I go to sleep blissfully knowing there’s another day to finish what I've started.

I’m not proud of this pattern. It’s just stating the fact as hitherto observed. So, what to do about it? My better self says, “Shape up, gal. Learn to stick to a job until it's done!” My other better self says, “No! Don’t become tunnel visioned. Take off those blinders you’ve been given and look around. Wander all you like; you have all eternity to succeed.” 

If a day has no particular commitments I love to approach it in my butterfly way. I start what I should do, like making the bed, but I deliberately let myself get side-tracked. Like seeing one of the “just for looks” pillows that occupy my bed during the day. It has frayed corners. I go to my sewing materials, find just the right fabric to make a new cover for it. I get out the sewing machine, and here’s where I generally do finish the task. The joy of seeing my new/old pillow on the bed drives me to finish making the bed. Then I get to indulge in the sight of it the rest of the day.

I’m at the point, this minute, where I’ve set aside both the bed-making and the pillow up-grading to write this blog. Now I know I’m not alone, and out there in the blue someone might exist who knows how I can be better with finishing my tasks and still not deny myself the option to start others before I finish them.

Somehow I manage to get things done eventually, but not in the order or pace that society likes to see them done. Dear God, I’m not really praying for a finishing school. It was only a random thought drifting by like another butterfly. Just let me exercise the free will You’ve given me and end up pleasing You. And me too. Thanks! You’re great and You’re good. And You see good everywhere. I’d like that too. Now that’s a task worth pursuing! Or no, I think it’s a gift worth accepting! Like a butterfly in a flower garden.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dusting the Gate-legged Table

In my house there's a gate-legged table that belonged to my mother. She brought it from her childhood home to the new little starter house Daddy bought for the two of them to begin married life in Minneapolis. That was sometime around the last of the year 1924. I came along shortly before Christmas of the next year and, when I was old enough to tackle the task, dusting that little table was my job.

The table was the one thing I chose when my father broke up house-keeping. It stands in my bedroom now and looks rather sad. What it needs is some extensive repair and most of all a thorough dusting and polishing. Murphy's Oil might do the trick. I remember how Mother  got down on her knees and showed me how to polish those spindle legs and the oval drop leaves. She made me feel it was a  privilege to have inherited that job, a link to generations past. I remember best however, when I was finished with the job, she'd come to inspect my work. She, unlike other housewives of that era often wore "slacks." ("Pants" were something you wore under them.) But over her crisp white blouse and slacks there would be a fresh apron with a ruffle around the edge. She'd come and stand back to look at the table and under her curly dark hair and beautiful dark eyes was a smile that only mothers can smile. That was my reward.

It is no wonder then that when Daddy asked me what I'd like to have of his household furnishings I claimed the gate-legged table. By then I really didn't have room for it and so wherever I've moved it's ended up in my bedroom. I use it to hold those countless small framed pictures of children, grandchildren and other faces of generations past that have to be identified when a little one asks, "Who's this, Grandma?"

Now I have a hard time getting around to dusting, let alone polishing, furniture. It's too easy to put that job off until I know company is coming. The table's drop-leaves are down and a long runner drapes over its top and sides so dust doesn't show much. But the spindle legs peek out as I walk by and remind me that someday I've got to get down on my hands and knees and tackle the job of cleaning and polishing my treasured table. I know of a place I could take it where the man has a business of antique restoration. It would cost me a pretty penny to give him the job and I suppose that's the one obstacle. Still, someday I simply must have the table restored so someone can care about it, love it, keep it, use it. The alternative is too tragic to contemplate.  No one has the memories I have to go with the table but someone somewhere will want it, I hope. In the back of my mind as I walk past Mother's table I see her standing by and I know I must make the effort to give it new life.

 I'd love to imagine her pleasure. I'd love to deserve that smile!

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Library Room

I've always thought that having a library room in my house would be...I can't find an adequate word. Let's only say that when I think big-time I can see it clearly. Not too large but furnished with a couple of the kind of fat leather chairs you sink into with a sigh. The chairs must face a fireplace, of course. There I could lay aside my book, turn off the reading lamp and watch until flaming logs dwindle down to glowing cities of transparent embers.

The room would be dimly lit by lamps and tall narrow windows where red velvet curtains could be drawn open or shut depending on the weather.  A large library table set up for in-depth study would have a corner in my library room. I suppose there would have to be a computer there, though inconspicuous. A beamed ceiling, a rolling ladder to access the floor to ceiling bookshelves. A TV too for a few select programs and the soft music stations.

My library room's door would not be shut tight. There must be space for small feet to enter and carry little ones into Great Grandma's lap for story time. Friends must feel welcome to come and family too. A place for tea and cookies would be handy and on rare occasions a lap dinner. But in the quieter hours when I'm alone I must grant myself the indulgence of short naps. There could be a canary cage in the corner high enough so a cat or small dog could not disturb him. I see my library room as an all-day refuge where I could go to live, explore, study and wonder. So complete this little room might be that the rest of such a house can remain vague in my mind's eye.

But would you like to hear about my present-day real life library? Well, it's spread over the whole house, which incidentally is small enough to embrace only a corner of the kind of stately magnificent libraries you see in grandiose mansions. Books and bookshelves are everywhere. The library table, (yes, I have one,) cannot contain my current reading. Its contents are spilled all over, including the bed and the dining room table. They occasionally stray out to the patio as well, but never into the bathroom. No reading there. I must have something warm and cozy and attractive to look at when I glance up from printed pages.

The simple truth, I believe, is that we get what we want. I'm not sure I could want my dream library room any more than my cottage-condo. Besides, if the library room of my dreams is ever to materialize, it will have to wait for my ship to come in. I'm not expecting that very soon!

Friday, January 18, 2013


In my present home, as in all the others, walls are not just a necessity for obvious reasons, but for hanging pictures. Or some of my clay sculpted faces. Or for mirrors. Or clocks. Or even one 3/4 size violin, (Katie's I'm keeping for when she gets a more permanent home.) I could write a piece about any one of my wall art treasures, where I got it, who was with me then, what stories go with it that are known only to me. I call my wall treasures my "Gallery of Good."

Much as I enjoy viewing model homes, watching the House & Gardens channel on TV, and paging through magazines that show me how beautifully simple wall art can be, I could never live without my egregiously crowded walls. No, if my walls look like artistic overload to most, to me they are simply a collection of sweet memories too precious to be buried in a store room. My only problem is to find time in my busy days to give each one the few minutes of focused appreciation it deserves.

In the 1990's I built my dream home. It was located on a hillside south of the village of Preston, Minnesota where I went to school in the '30's and 40's. The view of my small hometown nestled down by the Root River was charming. So, of course, I planned that long wall with a bank of windows. No room for pictures there. My aim was to have a one-room look and feel to this house. The only inside walls beside the outer ones, were those that enclosed a 12' x 12' bathroom. These were my gallery walls. I called the house "Rambler's Roost" because I figured I'd live there forever.

Somehow life hasn't followed through with a "last" home for me. I always find reasons to move on. It's as if there are no walls strong enough to enclose me that long, no matter how much I think they will. This Quail Creek paradise would satisfy me just fine, but it has no store room and so I'm needing to pare down. I'm doing all right, except for the walls. No walls of mine seem to tolerate large open spaces. They beg for eclectic and random display of all that is precious to me. They are fragments of a mostly happy life. It's strange to think that some in my collection will be like unwanted children and end up in thrift shops or even the dumpster. I do wish I could take them with me!

But where will walls factor into the hereafter? I'd think there must be some good use for them, even in Heaven. For shelter? For privacy? For a place to hang memories? These are some of the myriad questions that come up in one's late 80's. If I live as long as my friend Susie I have fourteen years and more to figure out all the answers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Would You Like Your Eggs?

Nancy is not a morning person. Still, she, a new bride, and my son had gotten in late visiting Grandma and Grandpa on the farm the night before and when she and Wally heard the rooster crow and smelled the bacon frying and the coffee brewing they knew it was time to get up.

Like every new bride, Nancy wanted to make a good impression with her new husband’s family so, since she’d not gotten to the table in time to say how she liked her eggs, she couldn’t complain when she was served those golden gems sunny side up. Now what was she to do? Runny yolks nearly made her regurgitate but there they were, looking up at her, daring her to possibly hurt Grandma standing there beside her, smiling down with a platter of buttered toast. She managed to consume them but it was not easy!

Now I’m asking you to make a mental leap and imagine Mother, God, standing beside you and asking, “How would you like your life?” If you’re too late to have heard the question because you’ve run out recklessly to make wrong choices or rolled over in bed for another snooze,  must you then take whatever comes along? What if you had slept in during your youth and wasted those early days dreaming, must you now take whatever comes along and deal with it politely or risk offending God when you can’t stomach the “eggs” the way She serves them?

I have yet to meet the person who has made no mistakes in life, going willfully ahead and off track or sticking to the road dutifully but begrudgingly. Either way life has not always turned out to be to our liking. Often in one’s youth, sometimes even later in life, we make wrong choices only to suffer the consequences. Breaking rules is a fact of life. Human life, that is. We want to live life to the fullest even if it means getting hurt now and then.

Why is it we hear of people with great talents and the discipline to improve them sometimes breaking away in other directions to taste the exhilarations of temporal dangerous choices? There seems a terrible attraction of the devil (or some force like it) to find a chink in our armor, a way to side-track our potentials for success. The good meal set before us gets old so we try out other spicier fare.

When I taught an older class of high-school boys in Sunday school one of the cockier of them challenged me. He said, “Aw, who wants to go to heaven? That sounds dull to me. Rules and regulations are no fun!”

I wasn’t prepared for such straightforward talk. Usually they’d sit dutifully in class and answer what they thought I wanted to hear, checking their watches to see how much longer before they got out. I’d seen that the Biblical characters and their lessons for life hadn’t taken hold in the imaginations of the new generation before me.  They hadn’t lived long enough to grasp the connection of Moses, Jesus, the disciples, to their own lives. Teaching had been a challenge for me and I wondered if I, myself, needed an answer to this. 

Then I was hit with an idea. It was as if God was saying to all of us, “How would you like your life, harmonious or chaotic?” There’s an argument to be made for chaos. The use of darkness and shadows relieves the glorious colors of light. The struggles of life make it at least interesting, if painful. This is, after all, the story of being human. Who wants to sit and play a harp all day?

But the space program had begun then. Our astronauts had set foot on the moon and left their footprints there. They’d seen our beautiful blue earth smiling back at them from the vastness of space. No doubt they were happy to get home safely, even though it had taken a lot of people a lot of discipline and sacrifice. I said to my young challenger, “Do you think it would have been more fun for the astronauts or the engineers to have not followed the rules and failed in their endeavor?” My answer at least gave him pause.

Looking back on my own life I see how I could have more diligently applied my talents and been a greater contribution to society. I’ve been too content to stick around in the lower grades where life is easy. I’ve ventured out on wrong paths just enough to see the consequences and turn back. The one thing that grabs my interest most is learning more about what is real and what is not. I believe in a better world, a heaven on earth, that is even now cooking.

On U-Tube the other day I saw a 12 year old girl who played the piano so professionally and joyfully it held the audience in breathless wonder. Obviously, she'd faced the challenges of obeying the rules, overcoming mistakes, and the joy on her face as she felt the same music of its composer was enough to make me cry. I love to play the piano but I never got past my recital piece when I was 14. Perhaps it was not my calling. One has to have a deep passion for whatever he or she pursues. I think I’m getting near to mine although not completely defined. Maybe I still have time to get out of the playground and back to work as if it were play.

On my computer screen I see Earth sailing in space. I’m on that gorgeous orb! I’m moving thousands of miles per hour, I’m  alive! I’m glad to be free, to be of help to some and I’m grateful that I can believe in those things invisible to the naked eye, like eternal life, joy, excitement, adventure, and excellence in all things good.

How would I like my life to be? I’ll take it any way, hard-boiled, scrambled or even sunny side up! I'll look for the good and give the bad reasons to shrink. I have a dear friend who is in her 101th year and she's doing just that. So can I!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"My Nice Warm Bed"

It was called The Gratitude Game in the youngest grade Sunday School class. I asked the children to think for a few minutes of what they were most grateful for. Then we went around the table one by one. The answers were fairly predictable. “My new dolly,” “the scooter I got for my birthday,” “our trip to Disneyland.” Then one little boy, still pondering his answer, finally lifted his head and, with deep sincerity replied in words drawn out slowly for emphasis, “I’m just grateful for my nice, warm bed!”
How often I’ve thought of this when I needed rest and comfort. What could be more satisfying than my own “nice warm bed?” 

Yesterday I helped my twenty-three year old granddaughter get an air mattress with a soft top to put in a room of her own. Katie works in a flower shop, has become a floral designer too, but times have been tough for her and up to now she has not had her very own room since she left home. “All I want, Grandma, is something I can afford. Just four white walls and the space inside to call my very own.” She added, “of course I’d need a bed.” With a lot of prayer and footwork, in the space of a few days her room came. It is in a well-kept condominium complex near her work and the church she’s currently attending. Not far from the library and a bus stop too. And, for frosting on the cake, it has a balcony overlooking a small grassy park with a few trees and some swings!

I’ve often thought about that chapter of independent living in a young woman’s life which was skipped over in my own life. After two years of college, when I was barely nineteen, I got married. Mr. Right came along sooner than usual, but at the right time for me. He was six years older, had begun a career as fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, and was ready to give up the bachelor officers’ quarters for family life. Having had a few years keeping house and cooking for my dad and younger brothers, becoming a young bride was probably the job I was most qualified for after two years of college.

From then on we had a pillar-to-post life, rearing three children as we moved every two years or less. I figured out the other day that I’ve lived in exactly thirty-two places in my lifetime and in each one there was a “nice warm bed.” Home, from the very start, was the core of my spiritual and physical well-being. Usually, it was my job to find one as Wally G., my husband, got checked into a new base and tour of duty. Often, especially during wartime, housing near Marine bases was scarce and base housing limited to Quonset huts until we found a place in the community. 

The first tour of duty after our wedding was an air base outside of El Centro, CA. We stayed in a small hotel at first. When Sunday came around we went to a branch church of the denomination we’d both been brought up in. It was small and homey and friendly. In the pocket on the hymnal rack I found a pamphlet with the words on it: “Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven. Stranger, thou art the guest of God.” Although the house-finding had seemed impossible before, (some friends even looked at a reconverted chicken coop,) I knew right then that God had a home for us. That very day a couple going away for the summer answered an ad we'd put in the paper and a delightful little cottage, fully furnished down to pot holders and piano, was ours at a rent we could afford. $65.00 a month! Each time we moved thereafter, with prayer and the true spirit of home in our hearts, a perfect place met our needs.

So, the other day when Katie needed to find a place of her own, and I was available to help her, our first step was to attend the local church. It was a sweet experience. The members were warm and friendly, but none knew of a spare room to offer her. After a couple of days' research on the Internet, Katie found an ad for the room I mentioned above.

We have high hopes that she is on her way to living out that chapter of a young woman’s life that I missed, independent singleness before finding Mr. Right, and going on to a long family saga that she can look back on, as I do, with rich memories in her grandmotherly days.

To begin with it will take faith, (her middle name is Faith,) prayer and her new “nice, warm bed!”

Friday, January 4, 2013

Light Beams Going Home

There comes a time in everyone’s life when the necessity of figuring out the meaning of it all ranks foremost. Granted, there are moments of this all along our ways, but sometime, somehow, we all need to open our eyes and see more clearly the grand scheme, the real purpose and the divine ends of life.

In this need I find the Bible to be my best help. Especially the parables of Christ Jesus. My favorite is the one of the prodigal son. I’m always getting new meanings from the story. The word prodigal means wasteful, reckless, and finally repentant. To look around our world it is easy to see that we all are, more or less, that prodigal son. We’ve been given life. So freely have we spent it in our own ways we’ve often lost sight of its core value and consequently lost sight of our own worth and identity. We don’t know who we are or where we came from or where we're going.

At extreme moments when we feel destitute we may come to ourselves and remember our identity, our source, our Parent-God, and our home, heaven. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That first Beatitude is a wake-up call. Then we leave the husks of a wasted life and set ourselves on the long road home.

As a grandmother who enjoys her home, family and a modest but comfortable income, I sometimes think, This is enough, dear Father. But then I look around and see that such a sense of supply and contentment is certainly not universal. How can I linger in such a world comfortably? So, I give where I can to others but I think, It is so little, and they need so much! Suddenly then I too feel poor. I must see and prove a better world, a wiser one, a world filled with goodness, the creation God saw in the beginning when He pronounced everything as “very good.”

I believe life evolves in cycles of divine light. First, the one Light which is God, then the light God allows to shine forth on the “darkness upon the face of the deep.” That light is us, each one a single ray, and then the reflected light cycling back to show the grand Creator what He has made. That last part is where we’re all coming to ourselves and starting to go home. 

Then what? A Sabbath day of rest in our heavenly Home before we shine forth again to reveal more of universal good? I can imagine that. But the "darkness upon the face of the deep," as mentioned in Genesis One, needs to be dispelled and it takes the “letting” of God’s light, His children, to go forth and do its work of illuminating and interpreting what is real everywhere. Light, divine light, is needed to dispel mere human conjectures and illusions. With the Light of God shining in us we cycle through the universe, dispelling darkness, ignorance, fear, and carry back the reflection of God’s creation to its source, divine Love. Thus we prove that darkness is only on the face of things, a mistaken first impression meant to be penetrated. 

I’d like to think that each of us is learning, growing, reflecting the light that is our very being and our divine Source. That’s what we’re here for. Self-satisfaction is never enough. The relinquishment of a self apart from God is what we’re destined to know as permanent satisfaction. I see, in my own case, that I cannot find true rest here in a personal state of well-being if it does not include all God's creatures. True happiness must be universal. 

I don’t know each morning what the day will offer me and others but I can know there is a divine Plan tailor-made for each of us. We are given today, this day, to discover some part of it, prove it, and enjoy the road going Home. Life is one grand adventure. Let’s all discover and enjoy it. Let's complete this cycle and go on to the next, and the next, and the next. Let's shine!