Monday, November 24, 2014

Longing for home


"Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays. . . "

That's always been one of my favorite songs.  I guess it's a Christmas song, but for me it's one that I happily start singing even before Thanksgiving.  I grew up in Tennessee, so I always loved these lines:

I met a man who lived in Tennessee and he was heading for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
Pennsylvania's folks are traveling down to Dixie's sunny shore--
From Atlantic to Pacific
Gee, the traffic is terrific!

Even the merciless traffic of holiday travel is bearable if you're heading home, right?

Graphic courtesy of Tatertots and Jello
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary.

Not the 15th anniversary of my marriage--our next anniversary will be 30 years!--but the anniversary of one of the most important days of my life.

15 years ago, on November 23, 1999, two days before Thanksgiving, my mother died.

Even as I type those words I struggle to believe them.  I was talking with my sister last night, who said it seems like a dream or another life.

Our mom was 58 years old when she left us.  She had scleroderma and died of renal failure.  She was in the prime of life when she got sick.

And that was it.  "Home" for me was gone.

Of course, I'd been married nearly 15 years when my mom died, so really "home" for me was my own home, the home I was creating for my three children.  I think one of the reasons I'm so deeply grateful for this house where we've lived for 10 years is that my kids think of it as home.  This is where they've grown up.  This is where they know every street, where they know the way to the grocery store and to school and to church, where they notice if an old house is torn down or a new one is built.  That matters to me.

This weekend my husband and I attended the funeral of a friend's mother.  How poignant it was to see our friend weeping over the loss of his mom right at Thanksgiving.

But the pastor who conducted this service gave me a great gift.  His message was one of hope.  In very simple, conversational language, he talked about heaven.

To be honest, we don't really know a lot about what heaven will be like.  Is it a physical place somewhere in the clouds?  Is it a city with walls and gates?  Does it stand beside a river?  I don't know the answers to those questions.

The pastor spoke of familiar verses such as the gates made of pearl and the streets paved with gold (Revelation 21). Is that language literal or metaphorical?  I don't know, but the pastor made a point that went straight to my heart:

Heaven is a place where precious things such as gold and pearls are just common building materials.

I'd never thought of it like that.  Because of the presence of the Lord, the radiant beauty of His presence, everything in heaven is good.  Things are as they should be.

My mother was a saintly woman.  A lifelong follower of Jesus, she nonetheless struggled with feeling any assurance of salvation.  She tried very hard to live a good and holy life, and she stressed over her failures.  I remember once hearing her say that she hoped she'd been good enough to go to heaven.

But early in 1999, my mom's mother died.  My mom was so sick at that point she was unable to attend her own mother's funeral.  But my grandmother's passing made a huge difference in my mom's understanding of heaven.  Although my mom had never felt any assurance of her own salvation, she knew without question that my grandmother, who was also a lifelong follower of Jesus, was bound for heaven.

After my grandmother died, my mother no longer talked about hoping she'd been good enough to go to heaven.  And as the end of her life neared, my mother told us that she was ready to go home. Those were her very words.

So this week, as I consider all the blessings for which I'm so thankful, I can't help but reflect on the fact that we're celebrating an anniversary.  My mom has been at home in heaven for 15 years now.

This is one of my most treasured ornaments. It belonged to my mom; the photo is her as a little girl.
I'm not ready to join her just yet.  I want to live a good long life here with my husband and sons.  God is working in my life to make me ready for heaven.

But as I think about a place so full of the glory of the Lord that even the most precious elements of earthly life dull by comparison, I find myself longing for home.

I think that's as it should be.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving week


The days are flying by so quickly.  It seems that Halloween was just yesterday, yet here we are at Thanksgiving week!

If you're like me, you'll have a busy week.  I'm preparing to host our annual Thanksgiving feast, and I'm so excited!

But in all the preparations, I don't want to forget what this week is all about.  So I invite you to prepare your heart along with me.


Perhaps the words of this glorious old hymn will help me stay focused.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers' arms, hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

--Martin Rinckhart

What helps you remember to focus on giving thanks?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Grace at Home No. 131


Welcome!  I'm so glad you're here for the Grace at Home party!

It's just one week until Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful today to share the news that my oldest son, Will, made it safely back from Nepal, where he trekked to the Base Camp of Mt. Everest.  It's so much fun to see your child fulfill a dream, isn't it?  But this mom was really glad for him to arrive home safely!

Last week's party included so many wonderful links that I had a hard time choosing features.  But here are a few that caught my eye.

Cindy from Dwellings: The Heart of Your Home shared her renovated kitchen.  Oh, my word.  This is jaw-dropping!


Lauren from Bless 'Er House transformed 1970's dining chairs into show stoppers.


Lisa from Texas Decor used a scrap piece of wood to create this adorable sign for over her pantry door.  Check out her easy tutorial!


Kim from Lou Lou Girls shared a bunch of family-friendly games for Thanksgiving.  Love these!


Diane from An Extraordinary Day created a beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape.  If you need inspiration for next Thursday's meal, you'll find it here!


As for me, I shared some memories and thoughts about social media in this post, "It's a Good Thing There Was No Pinterest Back Then."  I'd love to know your thoughts about this!


These are just a few of my favorites.  Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button (the code is right over in my sidebar).  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!

 

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's a good thing there was no Pinterest back then


Holiday preparations are kicking into full gear around here.  I'll bet that's true at your house, too.

As I was gathering everything I need for Thanksgiving, my eyes fell on an item that took me back over 20 years.



It was fall of 1991, and I was looking forward to my very first Thanksgiving as a mom.  I had recently resigned from my full-time job so that I could be a stay-at-home mom, and our budget was tight.  But when I saw these Thanksgiving cookie cutters at a V&S Variety Store, I was smitten.  I carefully counted out the few dollars to purchase them, certain of how I would use them.

I bore those cookie cutters home and tied them onto a grapevine wreath that hung in my kitchen. Then I fashioned a bow from ribbon of some autumnal color and stepped back to survey my work.

Honestly, I don't think my wreath was particularly beautiful.  But I was so pleased to have created a decorative accent that was just right for the season.

As I think now about that moment of homemaking satisfaction and pride, I'm grateful that there was no Pinterest.

It's not that I don't like social media; I do like it very much.  I've often wished that I'd had all that easy-to-access inspiration back when I was a young mom.

But I know myself better than that. I've always been terribly prone to comparing myself to others. And if I'd had all the beautiful inspiration of Pinterest back then, I'm guessing that I would have been ashamed of my wreath.  I might have noted that the cookie cutters were just cheap ornaments from the variety store or that the grapevine wreath wasn't the right size and shape or that the bow wasn't quite fluffy enough.

I might have weighed my efforts in the balance and found them terribly wanting.



And I might very well have taken my little wreath off the wall, cut down the cookie cutters, and put them back in the box.

Since I didn't have anything to compare it to, I simply enjoyed my wreath, that first year and for several years after. My little boys delighted in the cookie cutters, and we built lovely Thanksgiving memories.



I like to think I've grown a lot since then.  I love getting inspiration from Pinterest, and I enjoy sharing my own projects there.

But sometimes I wonder if I end up gathering more inspiration or insecurity from perusing all the pretty pictures.

What about you?  Do you ever find yourself feeling discontent as you compare your things to pictures on Pinterest, or do you just find inspiration there?

"I have learned to be content with whatever I have."
(Philippians 4:11b, NRSV)

Joining Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gratitude


This weekend, while I'm doing 101 routine jobs, I'm focusing my heart on this:



Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever (Psalm 118).

While I love the holiday of Thanksgiving, I'm thinking that it shouldn't be limited to one day.  So I'm starting today.  Will you join me?

Friday, November 14, 2014

A new skin care product


I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer Network campaign for L’Oreal Age Perfect. 
 Opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with 
L’Oreal Age Perfect and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.

One fun thing about blogging is that I occasionally get to try new products.  Since I don't want my blog to be one giant commercial, I don't do this very often, but recently I was given a chance to try some new products that really caught my eye: the L’Oreal Age Perfect line of skin care products.

I am blessed with good skin.  And when I say "blessed," I mean it.  I have good genes, thanks to my mom:
 
Wasn't she a cutie?  I'm so thankful that I inherited her creamy skin, and I've tried to take care of it.

But now I'm 51 years old, and caring for my skin has become more of a task than it used to be. Simply put, aging skin just doesn't renew itself as ably as young skin does.

Thankfully, the science of skin care has come a long way.  My mom never had much more than cold cream to care for her skin.  Now I have these weapons at my disposal.


I've been using the products for a couple weeks now, and I can tell you that I'm very pleased with them. One thing in particular I noticed is that the creams are luxuriously thick, yet they absorb very quickly.  I don't like to feel as though a cream is resting on top of my face, and I hate for my face to feel sticky.  No sticky feeling with these creams!  I love that.

I was a little hesitant to note that the creams are not fragrance-free.  I'm very sensitive to smells, and once I actually returned a very expensive night cream because its fragrance gave me a terrible headache.  The fragrance in the L'Oreal creams, though, are very pleasant, and they dissipate pretty quickly.  That's a good thing for me.

The other thing I noticed right away is the price of these products.  Good quality products for mature skin can cost a pretty penny.  These are very reasonably priced.  The MSRP is less than $25, but I found them at my local discount store for less than $20--and with a $3.00 coupon attached!  I'm so glad that L'Oreal is offering good products at an affordable price.

I'll let you know what kind of results I get after using these products for awhile.  For now, you can read all about them here--and look for them at your local drug or discount store.

Do you have any favorite skin care tips to share?  I'd love to hear them!