The First Valentine

I did not think Valentine’s Day would be too bad.  We had been married for 37 years and didn’t really celebrate the day anymore, for goodness sake.

Or did we?

I opened FB that morning and 10 years of memories hit me.  We didn’t do elaborate celebrations anymore, but I realized we quietly marked the day with sweet little traditions.  He would cook me breakfast before work, which included a heart shaped omelet.  I would pick up a couple pounds of crawfish for a quiet dinner to be eaten in front of the TV (watching Walton’s re-runs, no doubt).  Filling a vase with whatever we could find growing in the yard to decorate our dining table.

I will never experience those moments anymore, and that made my cry.

I have been growing stronger each day, so this step back took me totally off guard.  The mourning was so tense, it became physical.  My heart was burning and felt tight and constricted.  I could swear someone had my heart in their hand and were squeezing as hard as they could.

I reached out to a few other widow friends, and we were all suffering.  Julia and I discussed how memories were normally comforting, but today we were drowning in them.  Debbie said even after 3 years the pain was still so raw for her.  Julie told me God’s got us, the firsts are always the hardest and we will make it.

I do not want to bring others down on this day of celebrating love, but my co-workers find me crying in my cubicle.  I do not want to allow this sadness and anger to turn my heart to stone and become bitter.  I want to celebrate love and I want to always be happy for couples who get to celebrate this time together.  God, please allow me to be happy for others even though my heart is breaking.

I’m still mad at him for taking his own life, and that anger continues to buffer some of my sadness.  I took his picture off of my cubicle wall, and threw it in my top drawer.  Then I removed the picture and flung it in the bottom drawer because I decided he wasn’t top drawer worthy.

But on this day, there was no anger, just deep, gut wrenching, heart constricting pain

My therapist advised me to accept these days and just to sit in my grief for a moment.

But oh God, it just hurts so bad.

For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  Isaiah 54:5

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

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Clutter Can be a Beautiful Thing

CLUTTER!  This time of year, parents start thinning out children’s toys to make way for an influx of Christmas presents.  People start looking forward to a new year, and vow to be more organized.  Markets are gearing up for promoting books and items to help you organize.  In other words, buy more clutter to help corral your clutter.  The irony!

I have been back home for 6 months, and have spent way too many weekends battling clutter – purging, donating, throwing away and burning.  I should be out with family and friends, starting to actually live my new life.  But no.  I only have two days out of the week to do this, so I grab every chance I get.  I even joined a site where I get daily messages for one year to re-train my brain how to deal with every type of clutter, whether physical or emotional.  Funny thing is, I rarely open the messages and this is now cluttering my inbox.  More irony!

Just about every weekend has been dedicated to simplifying my life by having less possessions.  I cannot believe how much clutter has been stuffed into this tiny house.  It’s insane.  First world problems.  Clutter is controlling my life.  I made a vow that once this massive project is finished, I will think twice before buying any item and bringing into my home.

This weekend, I parted with some of my husband’s kitchen items I knew I would never use.  That hurt.  I felt so guilty.  I was so sad going through his clutter, and this made me cry.  Did he even think of the mess he was leaving me in when he took his own life?  I guess not.  I am sure clutter was not the last thing on his mind.

I want to get rid of as much clutter as I can so that my children are not faced with clearing out my clutter when I join their father in heaven.

I had to take a break to regroup.  Of course, a break meant perusing FB.  Mental clutter.  A memory popped up from 5 years ago.  It was a picture of two of my oldest grands decorating our Christmas tree.  I remember my granddaughter was quite peeved we bought a tree off of a lot and didn’t cut a scrub pine out of the woods.  I looked at my dining room table and it was covered with clutter.  Groan!  That table clutter was the bane of existence for me and my husband.  We lack storage in this small house, so things ended up on top of our table (including a dirt bike my husband was working on for our grandson – but that is a story for another day).

We had a lot of good memories around that table – family gatherings – crawfish boils.  But when I moved back home 6 months ago, all I saw was clutter.  The table was really too big for our house to begin with.  And I just couldn’t see gatherings happening there anymore.  My mom was gone, my husband was gone, my stepdad is getting too old to head up this way.  No, it hurt too much to keep the table.  I gave it to one of my best friend’s.  Her family hosts other families after church, and I knew she would create great memories like we did.  This did my heart good.

But back to that picture.  I looked closely at the clutter.  My grandkids were wearing their Santa hats.  Ornaments were all over the table.  The plastic bin holding Christmas decoration clutter was sitting on a chair.  I saw my grandkids school pictures.  We had a clutter of egg cartons donated to us for our 60 laying hens.  There was a garden watering can, probably to fill the tree base.  That was my favorite little can to water my herb garden.

But the biggest memory was my husband’s flannel jacket thrown over a chair.  He wore his flannel jackets until they were in threads and embarrassing.  However, we couldn’t throw any away until we found one to replace it.  That ratty jacket was always thrown over a dining room chair, the back of a recliner or on the bed.  As he got older and was on blood thinners, he wore this jacket year ‘round because he was always cold.  Seeing this flannel jacket tugged at my heart.

This time, clutter was a beautiful thing.

A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  Ecclesiastes 3:6.

See – even the Bible is telling me to cast a way my clutter.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

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Christmas is What You Make it – so is Life

In 2008 and 2009 we were a little nomadic, moving between the coast and a little further inland.  I was ready to buy a house again and put down roots.  But where?

My son knew of an acquaintance wanting to sell his grandparents house.  We took a ride down a bumpy country road to check it out.  I pulled into the yard, took one look, promptly backed out and told my son, “No way in heck would I ever move there.  Don’t bother making an appointment to see inside.”

Fast forward a few months, no other deal panned out for us.  To make matters even worse, my husband lost his job.  What followed was a frenzy of fighting for his unemployment benefits and trying to find an affordable place to live.

God sure does have a sense of humor.

The only place I could afford on my salary alone was – you guessed it – the place I refused to consider a few months earlier.

We moved in December 1, 2009.   Christmas was going to be tight.  My husband took our 5-year old grandson and 3-year old granddaughter into the woods to chop a tree.  We do not live in an area that abounds with beautiful trees you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie.  They found a scrawny scrub pine, brought it in the house, put lights on it, and whatever ornaments the tiny branches could hold.  The grands and my husband were excited.  I was depressed and cried.  But in the end, we had a very good Christmas.  We made the best of our situation.

From that moment on, the grands wanted to go into the woods to chop down a miserable excuse for a Christmas tree.  I simply refused for that to happen again, and we bought our trees off of a lot.

Eventually, with my husband’s chronic pain taking over his body, I resorted to a fake tree.

Last Christmas, my then 14-year old grandson revolted.  He wanted a real tree.  I refused.

This year, with all he has been through, I was determined to get him a real tree.  I have been busy purging clutter in this house (yes, the same house I refused to move in to 10 years before), and decided I did not have room to store a fake tree.  I donated the tree, which meant I would be forced to buy a real tree.

My son and grandson took a ride to check out real trees and were shocked at the price tags.  Just great.  I donated that fake tree, and now I was stuck.  With other expenses happening, I knew this would be a stretch, but I would bite the bullet for my grandkids.

My now 15-year old grandson took matters into his own hands.  While I was at work, he headed out to the woods to follow his Paw Paw’s footsteps and find us a tree.  The little prankster he is – he chopped down a Charlie Brown tree, drug it into the house, put it in the stand – took a picture – then texted it to me.  Funny kid.  Why can’t you put as much effort into your homework as you do a prank!

I get home from work, just in time to see him setting up the real tree he intended to use in our house.  It looked better than the Charlie Brown tree, and even better than the tree he and Paw Paw cut down 10 years ago.

But it is still a sparse scrub pine and not really Christmas tree worthy.  Oh well!  This child put a lot of effort into this, and I didn’t have the heart to say, “Throw it out because I am going to buy a tree from a lot.”  He jacked it up in a stand, threw lights on it, and hung a few ornaments – all by himself.  We topped it of with his Paw Paw’s Santa hat.

This young man hasn’t shown much interest in many things since losing his Paw Paw.  I was glad to see his excitement in this project.

I took a chance to peek into my past, possibly opening my heart to some aches.  But looking back, what I saw as my only choice for a roof over our head as a severe setback, turned into years of a fun life I never could have imagined.  I learned how much I loved the country life and this former city girl was converted.

For quite some time, my husband, myself and the two grands were quite the tight little family unit.  They learned about vegetable gardening, harvesting, storing and canning.  They learned about chickens and had the fun experience of collecting their breakfast from the backyard.  They experienced walking down a country dirt road to a pond, catching fish for supper, gutting and cleaning them, and eating this fresh catch straight off the grill.  They learned how to build a campfire, roast marshmallows, make hot chocolate and s’mores, and watch a favored Christmas movie with their daddy on an outdoor screen.

They learned how to take a scrawny scrub pine tree and turn it into a magical Christmas wonder.

What I saw as a failure of not being able to give my grandkids a proper tree from a lot, turned into an adventure for them and their Paw Paw, and taught them to improvise, using what is available to them.  In hindsight, this ‘failure’ was pure lagniappe, giving my grands a priceless memory.

We made the most of our country life in our dinky house with our sad Christmas trees.  We had fun doing the best we could, until my husband’s chronic pain became so unbearable it changed his demeanor, which changed our lives, which ended up taking his life.

This Christmas, drawing upon our God-given strengths, we will start new traditions, while preserving some of our old traditions that are instilled in our brains as happy memories.

Last night I was blogging about not being okay.  I thought it would take quite some time to shake that feeling.  All it took was a 15-year old grandson, a sad looking scrub pine and great memories.  Tonight, I am okay, and I will take tonight for what it is.

Christmas is what you make it – and so is Life!

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)
YourAvon.com/ghegwood

6 Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

8 The LORD gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.

Psalm 28:6-8