Leaning Into The Curves

scan0002

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.

aunt jenny

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.

72012_10150111571272216_522077215_7674719_6387360_n

Thanks, Aunt Jenny. I love you.

Remembering in Grace,

Teresa

 

 

Advertisements

Simplicity Unwrapped In The Dining Room

PicMonkey Collage.2

Last Tuesday I shared with you how I love the concept of Simplicity and I wrote about finding simplicity unwrapped in the Kitchen.  I will be joining Emily and others for Tuesday’s Unwrapped.

100_2426.2

Today’s post centers around my little French Country Dining Room. That has been a thorn in my side for a while.  I had a dream.  A dream of simple grace. My grandmothers wooden table with the muslin table cloth my mother made for it in the seventies (with blue fringe around the bottom) and cane chairs painted white.  I would have a white large mirror (the one I found at Home Goods was gone when I went back) leaning against one wall and possibly a piece of white painted furniture for storage etc. The walls would be a shade of white and  the ceiling would be painted Martha Stewart enamelware blue. My accessories would be a combo of French Country and shabby chic.  It wasn’t all planned out because, of course, part of the journey of decorating is in the unknown – the part that happens over time.

Well, it happened. Over time.  The chaos, the misdirected decor and the clutter. I wish I had taken a picture this morning.  But, if I’m being totally honest, a part of me is glad (if you change the l and a around you get a totally different word. glad I caught that).  I am glad that you didn’t have to see the mess that had become of my little dining room.

Oh, I do have the enamelware blue ceiling and walls that are bleached muslin. I do have the dining table with the fringe on the bottom table cloth.  I do have the cane chairs painted white.  Ok, so only two of them made it under the paint brush. But, we were on track.  And then we moved out of our apartment (our other home) and had to squeeze a lot of stuff into one house. So, I had to add my dark bookshelves to the dining room and an extra chest of drawers and a bench.  And the look was a little more eclectic and not the simple grace of French Country and Shabby Chic that I had intended.

Then, we sorted through an estate of a family friend and acquired more junk lovely stuff. Then I helped my cousin go through some of my Aunt’s things and acquired a few family mementos.  My dining room became hoarder central (and my kitchen counters too, if I am going to be completely honest).  Seriously.  So, today in addition to doing some basic cleaning, I decided it was time to get the chaos under control. I thought it was time we unwrapped simplicity in the dining room.

PicMonkey Collage.proverbs31.17

I found a home for everything (not all in the dining room), did some rearranging of accessories, pulled out a quilt of my grandmother’s to make a topper for the muslin table cloth and what I was left with was a little bit country and a little bit shabby (not so much French or Chic).  But I did unwrap a lovely gift. A gift that was more than simplicity.

100_2427.2

A gift that brought order, a gift that properly displayed  memories. A gift that brought balance because now I can walk through the room without worrying that my friends and family are going to report me to the hoarder police.

I also learned that simple order is more important than a specific decorating style.  I still have a dream, but in the meantime I am enjoying the simplicity of a gift unwrapped.

I will leave you with a few more pictures of my little shabby country dining room with it’s enamelware blue ceiling.  (Keep in mind that these pictures were taken after dark by a non-professional photo taker.)

100_2421.3

100_2437.2
Drop-cloth curtains, blue ceiling, garden bench, grandmother’s quilt and another of her quilt tops on the chair.

100_2431.2

100_2432
This quilt of my grandmother’s is all done by hand, at the time of her death my grandparents had been married for 73 years that was 10 years ago – I am guessing this quilt is probably 75- 83 years old. The enamel wash basin on the table has a light blue rim, I found it at an Antique shop. It is the center piece for now, subject to change when something better comes along. The linens on the back of the chairs were from the estate of a family friend.

100_2434.2

Unwrapping in grace,

Teresa

I Have Been With Family

You may have noticed that I wrote everyday in October and have only posted a few times in November.  In fact it has been 8 days since my last post.

I have been with family.  Which is very important to me.  On November 3rd I lost an Aunt.  And on November 16th I lost another aunt (barely two weeks apart). The one aunt had suffered with her health for several months and God saw fit to heal her by taking her home to be with him.  The other had been declining for a few years and had recently been taken to a nursing home.  She no longer knew the family.  So, God in his mercy, also saw fit to take her home where she too is now healed.

scan0104.1.crop

I find the way we process grief interesting.  Some people process by celebrating the joy they had in the relationship with the one they have lost, others mourn their loss and cry.  Some find comfort in humor.  But almost everyone finds solace in the company of others.

Companionship is something we all need.  It is sad to me that we sometimes wait until we have lost someone close to us to realize that connection is vital. We somehow think that we have time.  But we don’t.  Life is short and people are too important to wait for the visits.

Growing up my cousins and I were together a lot.  We spent time in each other’s homes, we celebrated birthdays together. We played together.  Even when I started dating my now husband we still hung out with my cousins.  One of them and Rocky shared a birthday so we would get together to celebrate. We had many late night game nights.  We have a lot of wonderful memories.  I am thankful for those memories, but I am more thankful for the opportunities to connect with my family.

scan0043.crop

After we were married, jobs took us away and over time we didn’t see my cousins as much.  Even though we still felt close to them, our time spent with them was limited by distance and busyness.  We moved back home in 2012 and had a few times of  celebration, but we weren’t together nearly enough.  Then, we lost my Aunt.  Connection became more important than ever.

The week she passed away we were with my cousins nearly every night.  They were at our house or we were at theirs.  Until midnight most nights.  It was good to share memories and just comfort one another.  It made me realize that life is too short to not spend time with family.

During the visitation and funeral for the one Aunt, we met (re-met) one of my cousins and two of his children. I had not seen them since the seventies; Rocky had never met them.  It was a great time reconnecting.  And again, I was reminded that family is more important than our busyness.  This past weekend, my other Aunt, their grandmother, passed away.  And we once again find ourselves getting ready to lay a loved one to rest.

The cycle of life goes on.  God in his mercy helps us part with dear loved ones.  Family gathers around to comfort one another and we connect and realize how important we are to each other.  And if we don’t forget this lesson, we’ll make sure we find time to meet for fellowship and break bread together just because we can.

Connecting in Grace,

Teresa (Sadie Grace)

Favorite Aunt Nancy – 31:8

scan0047
Aunt Nancy, as a young girl, in the middle beside my mother and her brother. Aunt Ruth is hanging from the porch rail.

My Aunt Nancy has been gone for thirty-two years.  I still miss her.  She was my confidante, my advocate, my partner in fun.  We had such good times together.  I would stay at her house as often as my mom would allow.

I remember once, when she lived in a large house across the corner from our house, she gave me the use of one of her upstairs rooms to make my own.  I would hang out there listening to Jeannie C. Riley sing Harper Valley PTA – I knew all the words.

I don’t remember us ever doing anything profound or taking major trips together.  We just hung out.  We had a soul connection that is rare.  I would go to the grocery with her, or out running errands.  I remember she and my grandmother would hit all three grocery stores in town in order to take advantage of all the sales.  They’d have store flyers in hand, along with their lists and then buy meat at one store, bread at another and so forth.  It was exhausting and took the better part of a day.  I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.

She loved to sing old songs and play her accordion.  I remember once sitting on the front porch with her, accordion playing loudly.  Sometimes I find myself humming a verse of an old song, and I remember it is one that I heard Aunt Nancy sing.

I have so many snapshots of times spent with her.  Like the time we painted a bedroom pumpkin orange.  It was bright.  To this day, orange is my happy color.  I’m sure it has something to do with being exposed to that paint.  And the memory of a good time.

That was the same summer she let me watch the movie Ode to Billy Joe.  I remember her telling me that was probably a movie my mom wouldn’t want me to watch.  I remember it being rather haunting.  I grew up without a TV, so watching at Aunt Nancy’s house was a treat.

During this particular visit, even though I wasn’t old enough to drive, she allowed me to drive up the back country road to the store on the corner to purchase some supplies.  I had my younger cousin with me and when we arrived back home, I gave him the wheel and he drove back up the driveway.  I felt so grown-up.   That was one of the best summers with Aunt Nancy.  I spent a whole two weeks just hanging out with her.  That was the same visit in which I made chili and mistook the cinnamon for chili powder.  We ate it. My cousins still remember this event.

A year or so after that, she was living in yet another farm house and again I was staying with her.  This time, I remember painting the windowsill in an upstairs bedroom for her son.  I also remember catching the oven on fire.  She was down the road at my uncle’s shop and I went to the door yelling at the top of my lungs, but she couldn’t hear me.  I finally managed to grab the flour and throw it on the fire.  I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I know I had the oven on, not knowing that something was already in there and it caught on fire.  She still trusted me after that.

It’s funny how our memory takes snapshots.  I have so many scenes in my head of times spent with Aunt Nancy.  Just a portrait here and there of a moment spent with her.  Moments talking about boys I had crushes on, moments dreaming about the future.  Oh, how short that future was.

The summer she passed away I didn’t realize how sick she was, how soon she’d be gone.  She was in the hospital and wanted me with her.  I was babysitting and couldn’t go until later in the weekend.  The Sunday I arrived, everyone finally cleared out and I was sitting in the chair by her bed.  We were talking about Rocky, whom I hadn’t begun dating yet.  She knew I had a crush on him and she loved the idea of me dating him, because he was related to her husband’s family.  We were just sitting there innocently, dreaming about the future when she asked me to go get the nurse.  I never saw her alive again.  It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life, having to let her go.  I know she is in heaven surrounded by God’s grace and beauty.

I lived with her family for two weeks, just trying to keep a daily routine of meals and laundry going.  But, I had to go off to college.  I was too young to take on such a big role. I wish I could have kept them safe forever.  Safe from the pain of losing a mother and the heartaches they endured as a result.  There is pain in loss, but there is healing in memories.  I treasure the memories I have of Aunt Nancy.  I have an album full of memory snapshots that I browse through when I’m missing her.   Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have new “pictures” to add to that album.

Treasure the times you have with your loved ones.  Make sure your memory album has lots of snapshots for future reference.  Relish the everyday moments because they are precious. Never forget, that even in death, God knows what he is doing and he always has a plan. He can heal our hurts and give us peace.  No matter how much someone loves us (and Aunt Nancy loved her family very much), God loves us even more.

Remembering in grace,

Teresa (aka Sadie)

Favorite Revisited – 31:7

(If you’ve been here already, this post has now been updated with a link to music at the bottom of the post.  Enjoy!)

Last Monday when I posted the introductory post to the 31 Days of writing, I mentioned that on the weekends I would revisit one of my favorites and write about it on Mondays.  On day three’s Random Favorites I said that one of my favorite things was my husband’s hands when he plays the piano. I love to watch him play.  Every time I hear him play a concert I fall in love all over again.

This weekend, Sunday morning, He had a concert at a church in the next small town over from where we live.  His hometown.  He did a phenomenal job.   Several people told me they knew I must be proud of him.  Of course I am. I am proud of his talent, but I am more proud of the fact that he uses it for the Glory of God.  He knew when he was fifteen that he wanted to use his music for God.  And he always has given back.  Whether for a large crowd or small, paid or volunteer he gives his best. So Sunday I added another favorite memory of him playing piano to my collection.  And his hands?  Beautiful instruments proclaiming God’s grace and love.

Fact is, a lot of my favorite memories have to do with my husband playing the piano and they center around our falling in love.  The first time I met my him it was at a Youth Rally at one of our local churches when I was seventeen.  He played a very rousing rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers on the piano and I was mesmerized.  I think I fell in love with him that night.  My mother did too.  She claimed him (unbeknownst to him) right then for her future son-in-law.  At the time she thought it might be my sister who would nab him though, since my sister was more of a pianist than me (I was a lazy piano student).  What she didn’t realize is that I was the one who needed a pianist, but God knew. It all worked out as it should and a few years later I got the piano guy. As far as I know, my sister never wanted him – she was much too young. My mother’s gut was right though – he did become her son-in-law.

That evening after the rally, my (future) husband had a good time flirting with me, but he told me years later he thought my glasses were too big!  What did he know about fashion?  Anyway, a few years later we were in college and I stalked ran into him at the music building where I was pretty sure he would be.  I was with a friend and her mom.  We asked him to play for us and he obliged.  He made a big show of explaining the piece he was going to play – something about a gondola and a couple in love.  I’m pretty sure he was letting me know he was interested.  On the way back to the dorm my friend’s mom told me he was the guy I was going to Marry.  I’d already decided I was going to marry him.

A few days later we talked again and he eventually asked me out and we began dating.  Most of our dates consisted of him having dinner with my family and then serenading us at the piano.  Something about playing for his supper.

After a couple of years of dating we were married.  When we were first married there would be times that I’d feel like I had been punched in the gut and it would hit me that I was the lucky girl that caught the guy that everybody loved.  He chose me.  And when I watch his hands caress the notes I feel like the young girl in the gondola falling in love with her guy.  All over again.

If you want to hear him play – Rocky playing his arrangement of Danny Boy.  This song is on Tindeck.  If you can figure out how to download it you may do so with my permission.  However, if you use it in any way on your blog or another public forum you must link back to this post and properly credit the song as being the property of Rocky Hardymon.  Thanks.

Ah yes, relief - all went well - Prof called him later that evening  to say he had an A!  As if I was worried about that one!

Loving in Grace,

Teresa