Monday, May 21, 2012

Lift up your hearts

The morning news promises a rainy day on this Monday morning.  But even though it is a rainy day and a Monday, neither will get me down...and that is good news indeed.  You see, two weeks ago we learned that my husband will be having open heart surgery two weeks from today, and truthfully, since that time, I have felt as if a raincloud hovers overhead, blocking the sun from my spirits.  But over these past five days, I have felt my heart lift and lighten....

Our daughter and grandson spent four days here. How can one feel gloomy with this face toddling around the house?

On Saturday, a brilliant, blue-sky day, I enjoyed a charming and joy-filled afternoon with my dear friend Carol and her vivacious daughter Margo who make me smile just by being around them.

And together in a room full of happiness, we celebrated the upcoming wedding of one the purest and sweetest souls I know.

Then, yesterday, I gathered with several other pure souls, The Disciples' Class, my son's Sunday School Class while we shared a breakfast together, ending our Sunday year in high spirits.  I love these men and the women in my church who love them too.

I worship in a liturgical church and more and more as I age and life's mysteries seem to clarify and deepen, I find comfort and meaning in the ancient ways and words of my faith traditions.  Each week  before we partake of Holy Communion, we say these words:  

"The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord."

I love the image of lifting up our hearts.  It never fails when I say those words, my heart really does lift...above the storm clouds that hover, and beyond the fears I harbor, moving nearer to the one who holds it all so gently. It is so very right to "give thanks to the Lord our God." And thus today I do, with a softer more trusting heart.

Monday, May 14, 2012


While rummaging through the attic, I uncovered a special box I haven't opened in far too long--the box my wedding invitations came in, the box holding my love letters from Jim, and wedding congratulations from many family members no longer with us, the box housing special notes and snippets thought worth saving.  Sorting through my life of 40 years ago, I wondered if young people still write love letters. I hope so, although truthfully I don't know if I want my children to read these letters. We were so young and a bit sappy.  The beginning of love is lovely but awfully naive, isn't it?

I found a scrap of newspaper, yellowed and small enough that I almost threw it away. It was from the once-upon-another-time "Good Evening" column in the Centre Daily Times, the local paper I still read, now delivered in the wee morning hours rather than the late afternoon.  The small clipping reads:  

APPRECIATION: From Ellen Herman, of State College and Jim Campbell of Pine Grove Mills to two big men in a snow plow for showing us that a blizzard isn't all bad.

My future husband and I were stuck in a winter snow storm, ready to walk and abandon his Mustang to a snow drift. And then we were rescued.  A good story with a happy ending.  An attitude of gratitude is always good.

Yesterday was Mother's Day and on Saturday, my eldest son arrived home with a bunch of tulips to proudly present to me. I love tulips. Then Jim, Matt, and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. My other two children both called.  I am so grateful for my family both near and far, for the town I live in, for the friends who gift my life, and the animals who live it side-by-side with us. I am grateful for my church and the daily grace of my God. I am grateful for the rain that nourishes the spring grounds, the beauty of the azalea and rhododendron blossoming, the birds at the feeder, and the woodpecker in our wood.  I am grateful for the easy abundance of good food and clean water that sustain us every day.  I am grateful for years of meaningful work to do and the gift of retirement to begin something new.  For all these things and so much more, I give thanks...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yard Sale

40 years of marriage, three children, two apartments and three houses, two dogs and six cats have multiplied into countless permutations of furniture, furnishings, appliances, books, dishes, paintings, and knick-knacks.  Lots and lots of stuff.

Preparing this past week for the “Spring Extravaganza,” a church-wide yard sale, I thought a lot about all the things we possess—so much to use, organize, manage, and store.  Eventually, we sort through it all, deciding what to keep, what to give away, and what to tote off to our local thrift stores.  We really don’t need this much, yet have it we do.  

Much of our married life was spent building our family and our home.  Now one family has become four, with our three children living lives independent from ours with partners, housemates, and children of their own.  We are back to where we started, the two of us (plus three fur people) in one place.  But where we are now is far different from the second-story Nittany Avenue apartment, simply furnished with wedding gifts and hand-me-down furniture.   Substantial mass accumulated along this 40-year journey.

 Assembling items to set out on a table for the yard sale is a retrospective.  I found a box of things that hung on the rough-hewn kitchen wall our our circa 1815 two-story in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  These items, beyond vintage in age, have sat in a box in our attic for almost twenty years.  These old cooking utensils, trivets, and cookie cutters held watch over our dinner table while our children grew up and our family formed.  What they represent is priceless; however, their real value lies not in their tangibility but rather in the significance all the times gathered in that kitchen, all those ordinary days and years flowing together to form a family.  I no longer need the stuff of that time to honor and preserve its memory.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Parallel Play

Last weekend, six of us went into the woods to quilt, all weekend, in a cabin, with no cell phone service.  It was intense sewing and intense fun.

Using Civil War reproduction fabrics, we embarked upon the making of the first blocks from Eleanor Burns' Underground Railroad Sampler.  We pieced the Underground Railroad, Monkey Wrench, Wagon Wheel, and Carpenter's Wheel blocks (and some even pieced Bear Claw as well).  Our goal is to stitch our way through the entire book, replicating quilt blocks that were possibly used as code guiding runaway slaves to freedom.  Quilting lore suggests that these quilts hanging on a clothesline or "airing out" draped over a fence signaled specific directions or steps in the Underground Railroad journey.  It is a intriguing story of feminine ingenuity and compunction.

Sharing a common purpose and passion, we set up machines and stitched and cut...

and ate and laughed and sewed some more.  Several of us (not all of us) even left the cabin to wander the mountain roads and paths and visit another group of quilters retreating up the road at the same camp.  I have never been to hunting camp but I imagine the shared purpose, fellowship, and time to be away in the natural world is very similar to quilting camp.  Being away this way offers time and space to grow specific expertise while at the same time develop the friendship of women.  Coming home and returning to the routine of the week is refreshed, renewed through the lens of shared experience.