Sunday, January 24, 2010


Winter landscape with skaters by Pieter Bruegel

I was blessed today, to have a Sunday like those of old - Church, a houseful of family, a huge mid-afternoon dinner, all topped off with apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Days like this are golden threads in God's hands, with which He weaves a little sparkle into the homespun wool of winter. We were ten people here today, mother, father, sons, daughter, aunt, cousin, Grandpa, and our church's music director thrown in for good measure!

The music man was made to pay for his dinner by playing two of my requests on our piano: Carol of the Bells (yes, I know Christmas is over), and Pachelbel's Canon.

Now those who remain this evening are watching the Vikings battle the Saints. Of course, this turned out badly for the real saints, the Irish monks who hid out on tiny, rocky islands in the sea, fervently copying the Scriptures while the real Norsemen ravaged the Irish coast. At least these saints are holding their own at present with these paper vikings. They are tied at 14 apiece.

I like to think about other people and what they might be doing on a Sunday night in winter. Are they making their lunch for tomorrow? Doing laundry in between watching TV? I imagine that little ones might be getting their bath, and others are having their bedtime story read. I pray that those who must be out at work tonight will be blessed and protected, and that those who stay at home are enjoying all the comforts that may bring. And I leave this post with one of the many precious prayers of Compline, from the Book of Common Prayer:

"Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Decluttering Update

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working on unloading and organizing in my home. As I wrote in previous posts, I have moved some pretty horrid furniture out of here, as well as a pick-up load (at least) of old clothes, other textiles, decorative and other household items.

I do not know where all this boldness is coming from (though following Flylady at is helping), but after Christmas, I went into our walk-in closet and took out every single piece of clothing that does not fit me - all of it. I was shocked at how much came out, and I am not even one of those people who likes to shop all the time for herself. And that is an understatement. Since I also started a new eating plan on New Year's Day (lost 3 pounds as of this writing), I put all the displaced clothes that were nice enough to keep into one of those space bags (jumbo size). You know, it is the one where you seal it and suck all the air out of the bag with a vacuum cleaner until it turns into a what looks like a giant shrink-wrapped chuck roast.

I also got rid of some other things that were hanging out in the closet, and just between you and me, some of these things were not just on my side of the closet! Things like old cell phones and electric adapters whose "adaptees" have long departed, etc. On my side were old magazines (what was I thinking?), a lovely snowman table decoration who can bless someone else's table, and a lamp shade, to name a few.

Speaking of the "other side of the closet", I was able to appeal to my dear husband about the value of doing this to his clothes, too. "Think of it this way", I said. "You will not be getting rid of anything, but you can put your (too small) clothes into these space bags and keep them for when you lose weight. But in the meantime, you will be able to see and choose easily whatever it is you want to wear, because every single thing in there will fit you."

The hook was that he didn't have to part with anything (well, I did cull a couple of things that weren't even fit to wash cars with), but could now store his two large space bags on the floor of the closet. He agreed. All he had to do was go through there and pull out the stuff, throw it on the bed, and he was done. But he did go the further step and arranged what was left by putting all his pants in the front, then shirts, etc. and arranged them by color, as I have always done with mine.

After I turned his bags of clothes into two flank steaks (since I had used the only chuck roast sized bag), and stored them, I announced the final part of the process, which of course is voluntary on his part. What I plan to do is leave my too-small clothes in the bag for several months to a year. If, after that time I am still too big to fit into them, out they go! But, if, at that time, my current boat sails and circus tents are way too roomy for me, then ha, ha, out they go!!!!!!!! Because I will not keep them as an exit strategy and good excuse to indulge in gluttonous behavior again.

Unbelievably, my dear husband said he will do the same thing. Quite a Christmas miracle, eh?

Other victories this last week included the fact that my darling daughter went through the under-eave storage area and cleaned that out, which included all those receipts and tax-related papers that stretched back to 1981. She got rid of a lot of other stuff too, but made me promise not to look. I also went through my desk and have started on going through the Christmas boxes and other knick knacks. Time to give someone else a chance to enjoy some of these extras.

My efforts, and this report, I hope, are to be continued.....

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


New Year's weekend at Colonial Beach, VA - Photo by Julie Hockensmith

Barely had the year begun when someone trudged out into it to explore. I agree with C.S. Lewis that joy, always unexpected, always a gift, can be so intense that it is painful. That is what I felt when I looked at this photograph: a sharp slice of heaven piercing me through. How can I better describe this? The colors, the newness of the day, the fresh snow, the lonely footprints, the tranquil water, the sleeping boats, all hit me with a beauty so intense that they caused my heart to ache.

Life is breathtakingly beautiful and is heartbreakingly sad. With the hopeful promise and snow-blank slate of each new morning and each new year comes the parting of ourselves from what was, and can never be again. Each moment is precious and has it's purpose, though I sometimes long to be unaware of all that, just to live inside of the moment like a puppy and not be always on the outside of it, looking in. But truly, no moments are ever ordinary to me anymore, but singular, holy and sacred. Despite that, my bad behavior often tries to make them profane. And knowing that each holy moment can so easily be wasted or mocked makes for deep regret and the need for a good confession.

But then, I pick myself up, because some force compels me to trudge on out into the still and frozen new year while others are yet sleeping. I take a deep, fresh breath, and hurry back to wake you. And feebly attempt with my words to tell you how the morning air contains the smell of snow.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Late Snow at Riverwood, by Bob Timberlake


I am looking forward to getting back to it again, and I'm always surprised each year that it is so. After all, dreams of Christmas often dance, like the proverbial sugarplums, in my head on those impossibly hot, humid days we get down south, or when things just seem too dull and dreary to endure another mundane moment. These little flights of fancy often get me through, but there comes a time each year in early January, when I know that its time to let go and sweep it all away. A time to sit in the cold sunrise of a winter morning and let the house just be a bit bare, like an unvarnished piece of truth.

Truth, like Ordinary Time, is often avoided, feared even, but is oh, so necessary to living a healthy life. For example, when you take a deep breath and allow yourself to see a person as they really are instead of through the sugary confection of what you had hoped they are, or would at least become, you can actually find peace and/or change things on your end. It's like playing cards; you must play with all the skill you have to win with the cards that are actually in your hand, the cards you have been dealt. You wouldn't think of fixating on the cards you would like to have received, not if you hope to win, and not if you do not wish to get thrown out of the game.

So it is, with accepting reality, and with making the most of the blank days of January. Take this time to clean the house, declutter the closets, eat some plain food, and take off those sugarplum eye glasses.