What I Learned In October – A 31 Day Recap

In October I participated in write31days.com.  It was my third year to do this and, while I finished, I did skip a few days.  I also did mostly pictures on several days.  It seemed that my whole October pivoted around the writing challenge, so I thought I’d review from those pages to see what I learned through the process of the challenge. The numbers in the list refer to the day from the 31 Days, Prompted To Write, that corresponds with the learning experience.

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2.  I learned that in the midst of my deepest pain, I can still laugh.  With Joy.  On this day I also learned that the essence of my Mom is still here, even if her mind is confused.

3.  I learned that I can’t be all things to all people and still be me.  I need balance and perspective. It’s ok to know this, because God’s grace is enough.

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6.  I learned that I love rainy days.  I don’t love depression, but I can still praise God in the storms.

8.  I was once again reminded that my mom wants to be Minnie Pearl.  I also learned that life does not have to be perfect and the ability to laugh at yourself is priceless.

9.  I learned to be thankful for slammed doors and to wait with expectation to see how God will open a window.  And he will. He will provide the work he wants us to do.  I’ve also changed how I pray for that work.

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13. 14. 17. 20. 29.  I was reminded once again just why Autumn is my favorite time of year and how much I love drives and taking photos of the fall splendor.  I also discovered that there is much beauty not too far from my own back door.  I found a breathtaking view just a few miles away in a most unassuming location, just waiting for me to bask in it’s panorama.  I was once again reminded of why I call this My October 

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16.  I was reminded that the testimonials of a man’s character and how he was an influence in the lives of so many is the real legacy left behind.

25.  I learned to look for Vignettes around my own home and was inspired to share a few with you, thanks to the Nester and her 31 Day Topic, Vignette Me.

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27.  I was inspired to worship under the ministry of my husbands piano playing for a congregation in his home town.  It was a sweet day.  Like getting a glimpse into heaven.  (in the original post I linked to him playing a bluesy version of Nothing But The Blood)  Go ahead, click over, I promise you’ll be inspired.

28.  I was blessed by the wonder of friendship and reminded of how important it is to meet halfway for the sheer joy of celebrating that friendship.

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31.  I found an old letter from my mom that reminded me of the beauty of forgiveness.  I was also reminded why my ears don’t stick out (just go read the note at the end of Day 31).

If you want to know more, you can read the entire 31 Day series here. If you wanted me to point you to say, my top three recommendations form the series, then I would say here, here and here.

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I’d love to hear from you – what did you learn in October?

I’m linking with Emily over at Chatting at the Sky for her monthly link-up on what we learned.  You can check out what others are learning here.

Learning and remembering in grace,

Teresa

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Prompted By A Man’s Life

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Today’s post is Part of a 31 Day writing series where I will choose moments from my life and let them be my writing prompt for the day.  Click on the button to the left for the complete series.

 

A man’s life is defined by What he leaves behind. We live and work.  We worry about living well, but in the end all that is left when we are gone is the memory of how we touched the lives of others.

Yesterday evening my husband went to choir practice where he was filling in for a friend, mentor and former professor.  He came home saddened by the news that this fine gentleman was in Hospice care.  This morning the news came in an email that he had passed away.

He had been battling cancer for the past year, so we knew he was ill, but my husband had just talked to him last week when he had called to see if Rocky would play for him this week at church.  He mentioned that he was so tired, but never gave any indication that he was so close to the end.

Over the past year and a half, this man was such an encouragement to my husband as he was searching for teaching positions.  He was one of Rocky’s references and he kept Rocky on his list of people to call when he needed someone to fill his shoes when he was out of town playing gigs.

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He was an award-winning jazz pianist and had a prolific career.  He was well-respected in the music world.  I went to his Facebook page earlier to read some of the many condolences and memories from friends and former students.  Many people referenced how he was now playing for the angels.  I’m pretty sure this is his biggest gig yet!

There are always memories and stories to tell when someone leaves this world; there are always the accolades and the list of accomplishments but the testimonials of a man’s character and how he was an influence in the lives of so many is the real legacy.

Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that the work that you do for the Lord isn’t wasted. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Remembering in grace,

Teresa

Love Bears All

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“How much do I owe you?” she said.  She kept repeating it several times.  Each time I assured her that she didn’t owe me anything.  I assured her that I had helped her because I loved her, not because I wanted anything.  I think she knew she didn’t owe me, as we have always joked in our family about “sending the bill”, but still a small part of her seemed to feel the need to offer.  I think it was because she was grateful.

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Grateful that I helped her bathe.  I don’t do it to be noble or garner praise.  I do it because somebody has too.  It’s not my natural inclination to bathe others, or help them to the bathroom or with whatever personal needs they need met.  I mistakenly entered a nursing program when I was 18.  How naive of me.  I lasted until mid-October.  When our instructor told us that the next semester we’d be giving shots that was the last straw for me.  That was my aha moment that I was not meant to be a caregiver.  I mean, the bed baths and the perverted old man had been a clue, but the shots just pushed me over the edge.  So, I’m a nursing school drop-out.

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She made me pay for that.  Not to be mean, but to teach me a lesson.  Uniforms, shoes, stethoscopes etc are expensive and I had entered into a noble profession lightly, without much thought, other than the memory of the cute lab techs I’d witnessed when my grandfather was in the hospital a few months earlier.  I mean decisions have probably been made for worse reasons, but really.  As I said, I was very naive at 18.  And such a romantic.  So, I worked at babysitting and paid back some of the money to my mom who had worked hard as a school lunch lady to help me.  Thankfully, she was able to use the uniforms and shoes as this was in the days when school lunch ladies wore white uniforms.

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This sense of making things right and being responsible still lurks around the fringes of her current state of dementia.  She needed to tell me that what I’d done was worth something to her.  She compliments me whenever I do something to help her and tells me that others would be glad to have someone do the same for them. She tells me I could probably get other’s to pay for my services.  I patiently explain to her that  I am not certified to do these things for pay.  Nor, would I want to.

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She is always grateful and even though there is a vulnerability in letting me help her, she does so because she trusts me and because she knows she needs my help.  It is hard for her to give up her independence, she who has always been the caregiver, always the one to meet the need.  It is hard for me to see her lose that independence, to realize that she doesn’t remember to bathe, or lotion her skin, or brush her teeth, all those little things that we take for granted and do habitually.  She is still particular and loves to be clean, she just doesn’t realize when she isn’t.  So, I remind her as gently as I can that it’s shampoo time.  I help her in as practical a way as I can because I know she wants to be as normal as possible. It is a humbling experience to be given that kind of trust.  Especially, from one who has always been so independent.

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So today, when she yet again asked what she owed me, I tried to make her see that she was the reason I was able to do these things for her.  Over the years I have watched her take care of others; it is her love language.  No job too dirty.  She has wiped many a dirty bottom and washed many a dirty feet.  She never sees the dirty part of the job. She just sees the need; her compassion and love for others compels her to act in loving service to them.  By watching her in action, I have seen that love bears all things.  Love takes care of the dirty. Even though it doesn’t come natural to me, I am able to act with compassion because her example taught me how.

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Love is a wonderful thing when we let it drive our actions.  It will take us out of our comfort zone into places we never thought we’d be capable of inhabiting.  When we remember the price love paid for us, it enables us to show that same kind of love to others. Especially to others.

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Loving Because of Grace,

Teresa

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choosing a slow settle

The house is quiet this afternoon.  After a few days away, it is nice to come home to the quiet of my own home.  Getting away for a few days was a necessary reset, but being back and settling into the everyday rhythm is good too.

I’m choosing a slow settle into familiar routines.  The whites are washing in the laundry, reminding me that home is a good, safe place to be.  The unpacking was done earlier as I got my morning started.  I think for today the unpacking and washing of whites is enough.

I’ll just linger a little longer in the getting away from it all mode and enjoy a rare afternoon of quiet solitude to unwind the treasures of being in another place and time.

Then, quietly, I’ll inhabit my sense of place.

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(all images property of Stoneleaf & Co. taken by T.L.Hardymon. Please do not use without permission.)

You may have noticed my absence the past six weeks or so.  I meant to tell you ahead of time that I was taking a break for a while.  I just wasn’t quite able to put into words all the reasons why I needed time away and then one day led to another and I’d been away long enough that I figured you had figured out that I was on break.  I guess I just needed a respite from anything that wasn’t totally necessary for survival.  At the end of the day what we actually need for living is a very small requirement.

I’m not really sure that my impromptu hiatus is over, but since I was away for a few days and took lots of pictures, I thought over the next few days or weeks, I might want to unfold the story of my journey and see what tales come forth.

Slowing in Grace,

Teresa

Today Was A Beautiful Monday

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.  Psalm 150:6

Today was a beautiful Monday.  Even though the temperature was a little warmer than this time of year calls for, it was a low humidity day, so very pleasant.  When Rocky came home from work we went to the park for a walk.  Two laps is a mile.  I did not make two laps today.  It has been a while since I walked and I was breaking in new walking shoes, so opted to take it slow and easy.  I did one lap and a small stretch in the parking lot.  Rested.  Then, did a few laps in the picnic shelter. When not walking, I enjoyed sitting at one of the tables  looking out over the countryside.

Towards the end of the walk there is a fairly steep (at least to me) hill to climb.  I usually turn on this hill and walk a few steps backwards.  This affords quite a beautiful view of the surrounding hillsides.  In the middle of one little hilltop there is a charming barn with a silo standing at attention as if on guard. It was quite idyllic with white clouds floating in blue sky, balmy breeze and birds chirping.  I, of course, did not have a camera to capture the view, so you’ll just have to paint a picture in your mind with my words.

That is one of the things I love about words that are written.  It gives me a chance to use my imagination.  I can picture the barn and silo the way I want them to look.  I can make the barn any color I choose, or even weathered gray with a tin roof all rusty around the edges (my favorite, I think).  The silo can be stone, or galvanized metal; new or timeworn. The sky can be whatever shade of blue I need it to be and the clouds can take on shapes that spark further fantastical imaginings.  And the bird song.  Sweet melodies composed just for me.

Yes, today was a beautiful Monday.

Imagining in grace,

Teresa

Leaning Into The Curves

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My Aunt, Virginia Miller, better known as Aunt Jenny, leaned into her last curve and made it home on Friday, March 28.  On Tuesday April 2, we gathered and gave her a proper send-off.  It was amazing to see how many lives she touched over the years.  Many of them, like me, people who learned lessons from the way she lived her life. She was the third of my mom’s sisters to go home over the past five months.  A great loss for our family, but what a gain for them to be home with Jesus.

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A few years ago I wrote the following essay about Aunt Jenny, but never published it on my blog, or even shared it with her.  I kept thinking I would send it to her and I wish I had, but as with a lot of things in life, we never quite do all that we mean to.  I know she loved her family well, including her nieces and nephews.  I also know we loved her well.  I want to share the story with you today as a way to remember.

(Written January 10, 2011)

Aunt Jenny is the real deal. A bona fide woman of God. She loves Him. She lives by his book. And She trusts him with everything. I know this because I’ve known her all my life. And I know her family. I know where she’s been and I know where she’s going.

I remember one time we were going somewhere and Aunt Jenny was riding with us. She was in the backseat with my sister and me. We were on a curvy road. I don’t know what I said (I was probably secretly a little scared of the winding road), but it prompted Aunt Jenny to remark that the curves weren’t really all that bad; you just had to lean into them. And she proceeded to do just that.

So, here we were riding in the car, leaning into the curves whether we wanted to or not because Aunt Jenny was. At the time I remember thinking the whole thing was a little silly. I even remember my sister and I laughing about it later. In fact quite a few times over the years it sort of became our mantra – just lean into the curves. Wow, how little did we realize how profound that advice really is.

Now that I’m no longer a silly teenager, well at least no longer a teenager, It turns out Aunt Jenny was right. When riding in cars, if you lean into the curves they don’t seem so bad. They especially didn’t seem so bad a few years later when I had a guy and was in love. Leaning into the curves then was rather fun, but that’s another story.

I’ve come to realize that Aunt Jenny’s advice applies to life. Life throws us a lot of curves and it just works better if you lean into them and ride them out. Sooner or later the road unwinds a little and you can breath again.

I think Aunt Jenny probably knew even then that leaning into the curves is a metaphor for living life. She has had a lot of curves to lean into over the years. She has ridden them out well. With grace and dignity. She taught her children to do the same. She still rides the curves with grace and dignity and so do her children.  There is a gentleness about her in her golden years that reminds me of my grandmother. And those who know me well, know that to equate anybody with grandma is the utmost in status.

I saw a picture of Aunt Jenny on Facebook recently that one of her family had posted. It touched a chord deep inside of me. It was taken during a time when Aunt Jenny was riding out a curve in her life. In the picture she is hugging her son, Jeff, and she has such a sweet expression on her face. You can tell she is holding onto him for dear life as if pouring all her love into him. That’s just the kind of woman she is. That picture, for me, tells the story of Aunt Jenny. It shows her strength and her vulnerability. It shows her grace and her trust. It shows the heritage she is building for her children.

Honestly, it is the perfect picture of how God loves us. I just imagine him holding us for dear life, pouring all his love into us and letting us know that he is leaning with us in the curves.

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Thanks, Aunt Jenny. I love you.

Remembering in Grace,

Teresa