Blank pages await…

 

I am grateful that New Year’s Eve just isn’t a thing in my world.

I am grateful for whistlers.

I am grateful for women like myself who wipe down the counters and the hardware in public restrooms in order to make it look nicer.

I am grateful for fried chicken.

I am grateful for speedy internet.

I am grateful for onion rings because they remind me of Mom.

I am grateful for Natia howls.

I am grateful for time to bake.

I am grateful that God is still working inside of me, moving me to a place in the middle and no longer living at the extreme end of anything.

And I am grateful that He covers me with grace, showers me with blessings, and is my Confidence in moving on, leaving what was and accepting what is.

The silence of snow.

Yesterday, my boss surprised me with a “Go home, Rhonda. It’s getting bad out there.”

Yipppeeee! A snow afternoon to go home and warm up on the couch with a book, write thank you notes, make some cookies, and enjoy the beauty of the first snowfall!

It took a few minutes to clear the heavy this-is-snowman-kind-of-snow from the windows on the car, but I was careful and drove slowly on the snow packed road, sliding slightly when I turned the corner onto our street. No problem, though. I am an experienced snow pack driver.

Until I turned into the driveway and made it about five feet up the sloped runway and stopped, tires spinning. I backed up and went nowhere. I tried forward. Went nowhere. How completely ridiculous that I could maneuver this vehicle all the way home only to get stuck at the bottom of the drive.

I got it unstuck and backed up across the street to get a running gunning go. Woohoo. Halfway up the drive. Only to slide back down and stop in the same stuck place at the bottom.

And then I saw my hero open the door.

For the next 45 minutes or so, my rescuer worked to unstuck the car, get it up the driveway mountain and safely in its place in the garage, and then shoveled the entire driveway with me.

I was grateful for my Dad yesterday, and I am still grateful for my Dad today.

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I am grateful for the gift of being inside when snow is falling outside.

I am grateful for the silence of a beautiful snowfall.

I am grateful for a shoveled driveway and no falls while shoveling. I think that’s a first for me on Mount Scofield, driveway of the Rockies.

What we SHOULD have been doing on Mount Scofield,
except that we need it for vehicle storage.

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I am grateful for the sound of snow crunch.

I am grateful for just enough time to come inside, make cookies, write most of my thank you notes, and put some chili on the stove for dinner.

I am grateful for a new sweater that I could live in every single day if only no one noticed. Thank you, Sam.

And I am grateful for lots of Kleenex and Mucinex.

 

Christmas After.

 

I am grateful for an amaryllis that is in the kitchen windowsill.

I am grateful for busy Christmas weekends to numb the dull ache.

I am grateful for family gift exchange.

I am grateful for a sister and niece who stayed for dinner.

I am grateful for carols sung at church.

I am grateful for games played around the table.

I am grateful for family who wants to spend Christmas together.

I am grateful for hugs goodbye.

I am grateful for beds made with clean sheets all ready for company again.

I am grateful for early morning devotions with Sam.

I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid of anything – not even cataclysmic circumstances. The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter: terrorism, serial killers, environmental  catastrophes. If you focus on such dangers and forget that I am your Refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful. Every day I manifest My grace in countless places and situations, but the media take no notice. I shower not only blessings but also outright miracles on your planet.

As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My Presence all around you. Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting JOY. You have eyes that see and ears that hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world.

I am grateful for Psalm 46:1, my verse that I said over and over and over and over when I was in the hospital at 15 years of age with a broken leg and major surgeries to follow.

I am grateful for the beauty of sleet on a sidewalk.

I am grateful for the gray of a snowy day.

I am grateful for Michelle chocolate chip cookies.

I am grateful for sad thoughts of missing Mom.

I am grateful for Christmas tree twinkle to enjoy for one more week.

I am grateful for five little boys to share Christmas Day.

I am grateful that my girls have memories of Christmases at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and years of Christmas goodbye hugs and tears.

I am grateful for defrost.

I am grateful for memories of Christmas past. I may not have Christmas future, but I’m hanging on to my Christmas past.

I am grateful for mint flavored floss.

I am grateful for the smell of Christmas candles and tire department and poster marker and onions and green peppers sautéing in butter and cinnamon rolls baking and hardware store and wood burning. But not all at the same time.

I am grateful for news of a little first tooth pulled and excitement for the tooth fairy.

And I am grateful for sleepy Natia.

 

Holy Holstein, Batman.

I am grateful for the employees of Chick-Fil-A who have to put up with long lines inside and drive-thru, kids that are like ants crawling all over the place in and under tables and on top of and at the condiment counter and in and out of the play area, adults who don’t know a straight line from a mob blob, spills and chairs and bags and trays and order waiting and order ordering…oh my goodness. I learned a lesson yesterday. Never go to Chick-Fil-A at noon up. Those employees handle complete and total chaos with smiles and they deserve Christmas bonuses. Monetary bonuses, not pats on the back bonuses.

I am grateful for easy peel oranges.

I am grateful for time with Abbie and Lisa last night. I am grateful to hear the voice of an angel once again. And I am grateful for Lisa who knows how to clip dog nails like a boss.

Rhonda’s rules for living stress-free: no guns, no clippers.

I am grateful for funny Christmas movies.

I am grateful that Natia needed to potty at 4 am and she and I saw a surprise in the backyard – a mama deer and her two littles, enjoying Dad’s birdseed. 20 minutes of quiet and peaceful entertainment…and I am grateful that Natia wasn’t desperate and could wait until they moved on.

I am grateful for accidental sleeping longer than expected.

I am grateful for Carriage Crossing cinnamon rolls.

 

I am grateful for friends and family who still send Christmas cards with pictures. Or even just Christmas cards. However, I have never understood the purpose of sending a card with just a signature and no personal greetings or news, except that those people have one up on me…I have neglected to send cards since 2011, and even then it was just an email card, and I always say I am going to send New Year’s cards but then the new year arrives and the cards do not. This year, I will send New Year’s cards. There – throwing it out there to make myself accountable to my own writing.

And, I am grateful for memories of Christmas past.

  • Paper sacks with candy and an apple after the program at church
  • The baby food jar twinkly tree on the hope chest by the front door
  • The Rudolph Hi! and Bye! decoration at our front door
  • Shopping downstairs at The Better Book Room after the Johnson Christmas
  • Grandmommy’s pink popcorn balls and slobber kisses to avoid
  • Making kitchen towels with Delores
  • Watching the girls play Santa in Grandma and Grandpa’s basement
  • Mom’s peanut brittle
  • Miniatures and nativities and gag gifts and the signature tablecloth and the good silverware
  • Driving around to look at lights with the girls in the backseat
  • Avon gifts of cologne in cars and cute little pins that opened with perfume grease inside
  • Pulling out Mom’s box of recycled wrapping paper that had been used and re-used and folded and re-folded and then adding faded red ribbon and a stick-on bow that had been stuck on too many times and needed extra tape help to stay
  • Watching Santa’s Workshop and KAKEman
  • Decorating our tree with ornaments from my students and ornaments that the girls had made at school
  • Getting a BigWheel and a Chrissy doll and a parakeet and Pegues $25 coins and an Easy Bake Oven
  • Dishes of nuts with the silver nutcrackers to crack
  • Christmas caroling at “old folks homes”
  • My 21 years of music teacher Christmas programs: St. George programs packed with 500 students and parents in every crevice, Elyria and “The Candle Song” finale, CBA and “The Hallelujah Chorus” tradition and my favorite Christmas program there when we had the high school guys go out and cut down cedar trees from fields and decorated the gym with LOTS of trees and it smelled SO GOOD and one tree in the middle of the stage was trimmed in the shape of a cross…
  • Karissa and Katrina singing Grandma’s favorite, “Jesus, Name Above All Names”

 

 

My piano music is my feelings put to sound.

I am grateful for a really good piano.

Most people won’t have a clue what I am describing. There are five pianos in my past and present that have made me feel like I could play practically anything, and it was and is a tiny piece of heaven to sit at their keyboard and play.

The first one was an old upright with yellowing ivory keys, the edges of some no longer smooth but worn and chipped. Sneakers the cat sat on top of it, curled around the 8×10 pictures of my brothers and sister, and sometimes in the dark of night, that cat would decide it was time to walk the keys and wake the world. It was my first piano and was always decorated with John Thompson and Note Spellers and sheet music for recital practice. My sister and I played “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” on that piano.

I learned Fountain in the Rain, my favorite recital piece ever, on that piano. That piano earned me the right to take lessons at age 4 with my favorite Aunt Patsy and it got me through the rough years with the cranky and mean Mrs. Good who wasn’t very good. It was a partner to the organ that sat across the room, Angela’s fingers and feet making electronic music, and Rhonda on the old upright, thrilling our Mom with duets from matching books.

The next piano was a beautiful and sturdy Yamaha studio piano that Dad and Mom bought when we made the move to Hutchinson. It was brand new and even had that soft burgundy felt cloth that we were so careful to use and cover those keys.

This piano got me through high school, the years I played for the Chorale at Central Christian, the years I spent with Mrs. Schubert and grossly exaggerated my practice time for lessons each week, the concerto contests I participated in, the United Methodist youth choir I accompanied, the cassette tapes Mom and I made of her singing and me playing. It eventually moved with me when I was married and the girls came along, and it became my piano to teach other littles how to play, my piano to accompany my two little girls as they sang through their growing up years, my piano to practice for church offertories and major pieces for contests and recitals, and my piano to create music programs when I taught school.

A memorable piano is the one that sat in the sanctuary at the Mennonite Brethren church we attended. It had one of the best touches ever. I loved the “action” of those keys, not too heavy, played with ease, so that 16th notes and fast runs were not difficult. I felt like I could just let loose and be free. Every once in a while, I will find a rare piano that just allows me to create, and this was one that talked to me and told me with its touch, “Just make music. Sing with your fingers.” It was easy to have an open mind to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to speak, walk up to the piano during the offertory prayer not knowing what was going to come out, and begin playing. I would get lost in the moments, praying and worshiping through the music that came from my hands.

There is another piano just like that one, although a different color and name. It sits in the rehearsal hall at church and I am privileged to play it once a week. One of these days, I will go and spend time with it, all by myself, and just be. Just create. Just worship. It is an instrument that I am growing to love very much, and when I have the opportunity to sit at its keys, I feel like I can “sing” again and make the music that is down deep. There is just something about the touch, the action, the feel, that allows me to open up and create.

When life fell apart and I was at my lowest, I borrowed time and a piano across the street at a church during my lunch hours. I went months and months without being able to play, my piano gone. I felt like my tears couldn’t release, because the music was gone. Sam hadn’t experienced my lifetime of piano, but he knew. He knew that a piece of me was missing.  And so he surprised me with the gift of another. It doesn’t have quite the easy touch and action freedom as others – it needs many hours of music to loosen the heaviness – but this piano has been my medication, my crutch, and a vital piece of healing to this wounded heart.

 

Most won’t understand. It doesn’t matter though. It’s not about most. It’s about being grateful. And I am grateful for this “thing” that God put inside me. This “thing” that makes me want to play. This “thing” that allows me to worship and pray without words.

I am grateful for these Masterpiece instruments that have graced my life.

And I am grateful today, that God gave me such a gift.

 

Who eats just half a cookie?!

I am grateful for Christmas cookie time.

I am grateful for snowballs and peanut butter balls and now Nutella pretzel balls and popcorn balls, too.

I am grateful for little encounters with pleasant people.

I am grateful for Sam, because he creates little encounters with pleasant people, and it is nice to observe.

I am grateful for things to keep me busy during this time of year.

I have SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. They actually have a scientific name for the Christmas blues. It’s not just holly jolly depression. It’s SAD.  Yes sirree, it really is.

I am grateful that I can realize that this too, shall pass, and January will arrive and the memories and hurts will fade once more.

I am grateful for the ridiculous simple pleasure of watching a new washing machine spin.

I also watched Polar Express last night all by myself while I wrapped a few presents, so I am grateful for new Christmas movies and ones I have already seen.

I need some hay.

 

IMG_1351IMG_1354IMG_1357

 

Mom’s nativity scenes look a little hay-less. Maybe Bradford Pear leaves will work. We have plenty of those.

Actually, I was at that store that rhymes with Knobby Mobby today, and I ALMOST bought a bag called “Nativity Hay” for $2.99. I was going to PAY $2.99 for a bag of brown grass. Oh, Rhonda. You do know how to kill your paycheck. Thank you, conscience, for stopping me.

I am grateful for my conscience.

I’m also grateful that I can laugh at myself and don’t care as much anymore what others think of me. Don’t get me wrong, I still care way too much, but if I can live through what happened this morning and still face the crowd walking by the glass front of my office, I have come a LONG way:

I prepared myself this morning at home, and I stuck a couple of personal products in my pocket for just in case. (Yes, I know men read this. I am assuming the men who read this are not completely clueless and know what “personal products” mean when a woman refers to them.)

As I walked into the building at 7:40 am, there were two men behind me a few feet back. I stopped at my office door to unlock, since I was the early bird getting the worm. Just as I was unlocking the door with my lunch bag and purse in tow and arms loaded, the men walked in the building at the same time my personal products fell out of my pocket and onto the floor at their feet.

It was a lovely moment.

But…my cheeks didn’t even turn red.

I am grateful that it takes a little more than tampons on the public floor to make me embarrassed anymore.

I am grateful for tacos. I think I could live on tacos.

I am grateful for my counselor’s advice to keep the purple in our relationship.

And I am grateful for snowball cookies that made my boss cry, because her Mom used to make them and she misses her Mama like I miss mine.

Which reminds me to be grateful for those nativity sets – I have very little from my Mom, but I do have those. Hayless and beautiful.

In conclusion, I paired nativity scenes with personal products for this post. Wow. Nothing like keeping it real.