Blessings and Memories

As we prepare our homes for the upcoming holiday season, I’m grateful to have one special day set aside to give thanks to God for His many blessings. Gratitude is a daily practice for me, but there is so much in life that I take for granted.

Once Upon a Time

Holidays weren’t always as complicated as they are today. Before the arrival of the internet, cell phones and video games, Thanksgiving was about bringing family together. It was all about the food, the chatter around the table, and friendly football rivalries.

Thanksgiving brings back so many fond childhood memories for me. Sometimes we traveled to my grandparents’ house. Other years we drove to visit my aunts and uncles. My mom was always busy in the kitchen with her sisters, while my brother and I played with cousins we rarely saw. But my dad was always the odd man out. Being an only child, he never seemed comfortable around so many relatives. Making matters worse, he hated football, and that was the only thing on TV after the turkey dinner.

When it was our turn to host Thanksgiving dinner, our living room became a makeshift dining room. Card tables were joined together from one end of the room to the other, laden with fancy glass platters and bowls of delicious foods. There was a lot of laughter, and many stories shared from the “olden days”. It was also a day to catch up on family news while the coffee percolated in the kitchen. Sometimes my dad pulled out his slide projector and we re-visited vacations and holidays from years gone by. (That was social media, 1970’s style.) And he was happy because there was no football. The tables were blocking the view of our black and white TV.

Fast Forward

This year I am looking forward to another Thanksgiving with both children at home with us. Still, it will be a bittersweet day because there will be an empty chair at the table. My mom is no longer able to leave the nursing home to spend holidays with us. Her memory has declined further this past year, and any change in routine can be very stressful. She remembers some faces, but few names. Mom’s absence will be painful, especially for my brother. He has been her caregiver for many years. But in her honor, we will continue one of her favorite Virginia traditions. We will decorate our Christmas tree after dinner.

Life is always changing. I’m sure there will be years with more empty seats around our table. But there will also be years when tables are once again placed end-to-end to accommodate growing families and new friends. There will be laughter and reminiscing about my “olden days” and the ancient technology of the 1990’s, pre-Instagram. And sorry, Dad, but there will always be football.

While we cannot slow the march of time, we can control the pace of our holidays together.

  • Create new family traditions, but hang tight to the old.
  • Play a game together that doesn’t require batteries or a controller.
  • Dust off old photos albums and replay childhood videos.
  • Have that second cup of coffee and another slice of pie.
  • Enjoy the laughter and conversation. (The dishes will wait.)

This Thanksgiving, as I linger over every last bite of turkey, mashed potato and apple pie, I plan to be fully present with my family.

I wish you and your loved ones a Thanksgiving full of grace and abundance.

Simple Abundance

Simple abundance. Is there such a thing?

My husband and I are in our final years of employment as we inch closer to retirement. Weekends are spent updating our home, and weeknights are spent daydreaming about our next house. There is a long way to go between point A and point B, with a lot of clutter in between.

To Purge or Not to Purge

I have been reading articles about clutter purging, and I also have a copy of Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (Although, I’m not exactly sure where it is.) Organization experts agree that our adult children won’t want all the stuff we’ve been clinging to for years. Most young people have opted for simple living with fewer possessions than their parents. Whether that is intentional or a matter of circumstance, I’m not quite sure.

Our clutter situation isn’t quite this bad as this photo from, but it’s an accurate depiction of the overall task that lies ahead. However daunting that task might be, I’ve learned that replacing your floors really helps to speed the process along. Like any DIY project, it takes a lot of planning and we must set our own pace. Each room has to be completely emptied before we can rip up the old carpet and padding. But when we are finished, it’s a shiny new clean slate.

A Fresh Start

As we begin putting things back into each finished room, my goal is to define and embrace a new concept of simple abundance.

The Lord has showered our family with His love, and we’ve been blessed beyond our dreams. Although we have an abundance of “stuff”, we are being more thoughtful about what we save. This means keeping things that have a legitimate purpose, but also things that we cherish or that have special meaning to us.

Maybe that sounds similar to Ms. Kondo’s “spark joy” concept, but it has deeper meaning to me.

Our home will always be a welcoming space — not just for my husband and me — but for family and strangers alike. It may never be completely clutter-free, but it will be a place to share our abundance and offer welcoming warmth and comfort to all who cross its threshold.