Sunday, December 10, 2017

Softer and More Beautiful

Good Sunday evening.

I have a three-pronged plan tonight. First, I'll update you on my health. I will then share with you some recent photos as I've finally transferred them from my phone to my computer. Finally, I need to talk to you about some of our neighbors. Shall we begin? 

On the health front, things are improving. The fever blister I developed at some point during all the coughing is almost gone. As far as fever blisters go, this one wasn't bad; I've seen considerably worse in my many years dealing with fever blisters. I usually sleep through the night now, & if I am awakened it's by Henry, not a hacking cough.

The week we were out of school for Thanksgiving Break, the kids & I had a sleepover at my parents' house. I snapped this pic below that night while I was sipping coffee. I guess if Reagan or Henry ever write a book it will likely be on display somewhere in my living room, so I can't fault my mom, but I still found it surreal & a little funny.

This is your friendly, unsubtle reminder to leave me a review on Amazon if you've read Dear Miss Moreau. If you're on Goodreads, give me a shoutout there as well. To be honest I've fallen completely off the promote-my-book-wagon. She sort of entered the world, & then I totally neglected her because life is just hectic. Anyway, Amazon reviews are author's gold, so I'm not going to beg & plead for you to buy the book, but if you did buy it (or you borrowed it) & you read it & have a few thoughts . . . even if they're not all positive . . . share them, please. 

I took this while exercising. I just love this tree. My parents have lived in their current house for four years now; watching this tree change with the seasons is one of my favorite things about their new location. I may look like a mom in her mid-thirties, but thriving inside me is the soul of a seventy-year-old woman who loves coffee, silence, & observing the changing seasons. 

Scroll down for our various attempts at a family photo on Thanksgiving Day. It's a good thing I like Henry.

My mom sent me this below last Saturday. You may recall I was in the bed hacking while Reagan attended her Aunt Deni's baby shower. 

After the baby shower, the kids accompanied my parents, Jessica, Maisie, & Michael to select Nana & Papa's Christmas tree. The following are courtesy of my sister as I was, if you recall, in the bed. 

Yesterday, Nana invited the grandkids over to frolic in their matching pajamas & "help" decorate the tree. Michael & Henry inherited the same knack for group photos.  

To conclude this evening, I want to talk about a residence near our home. My German ancestors are begging me to take this opportunity to discuss the importance of zoning laws, but my goal is different. We've lived in our current home since early 2012. I first spotted our house in October of 2011; I knew immediately I wanted it. After a long, winding, & emotional road (that you longtime blog readers may well recall), we finally got the keys in January of 2012.

There is a residence near our home I've passed countless times since 2012. I don't use the word residence to sound fancy; I just don't know what term is appropriate to describe this situation. On my drive from the Interstate to my house, there is a place where the road forks. I go left at the fork to get home, & as I do so, on my right, situated right in the fork in the road, is a living situation that perplexes me.

There are two dilapidated trailers sitting in the fork in the road. They are situated, oh, maybe a few feet apart. I am terrible at judging distances, so let's just say these two trailers are extremely close together. In front of the trailers, in the area we'd traditionally call a yard, is a dusty area where nothing green grows. Dotting the dirt are old cars, children's bikes, an assortment of lawn chairs, perhaps a toilet, several large trash cans, & who knows what else. A thousand times I've been tempted to slow down & look closely, or even take a picture, but then I think to myself, Why? Why would you do this, Anna? Thus, I've never done more than casually gawk as I drive on down the road, making the sign of the cross & feeling the German in me so deeply I just cannot stand it sometimes.

Occasionally there are people populating the dirt-yard area. My guess is at least six, maybe as many ten, children live in these two trailers. I am unsure of the number of adults who regularly live in the two trailers. I know at least some of the children attend school, as I've seen a school bus stop at the residence in the past. Sometimes at night when I can't sleep & am lacking mental discipline, I think about the situation inside those trailers. Maybe it's fairly clean inside; maybe I am judging these strangers too harshly. Sometimes I pray for the kids who're growing up in this situation. 

Obviously I don't know the specifics of the situation. I know whoever these adults are, they take little pride in their residence, at least there is no evidence of this from the outside. Based on the fires they build in the winter, I am not certain they routinely have heat, but perhaps they just enjoy a nice outdoor gathering. I just don't understand the situation. Are there aunts & uncles & cousins sharing this living space? Are there multiple families who're unrelated living in the trailers? Do any of the adults have a job? I know at least a few of them are home during the day because I've seen them coming & going & mulling around the dirt-yard area in the middle of the day. Maybe they work nights. I don't know.

Imagine my surprise when I passed the residence last week & noticed, to my utter bewilderment, the front door of the trailer that faces the road has been wrapped in festive Christmas wrapping paper. There is a Christmas wreath on the door. It is the first sign of home I've seen since I began regularly passing the residence over five years ago. I am perplexed. Someone took the time to wrap the entire door in wrapping paper, & then hung a wreath. I think it's wonderful. It gives me hope for those kids who live inside the two trailers. I hope they have a Christmas. I hope there's a tree inside with a few presents underneath it.

Now, every time I pass, I look at the recently decorated door. It continues to baffle me, honestly. Why would they not clean up their dirt-yard area first? Why would they not plant some grass or a few bushes? Why would they not make needed repairs to their trailers? I don't know. Maybe they did what they can afford at the moment, which is to buy a roll of wrapping paper & wrap their front door; they haven't sought my financial advice, so I haven't given it (yet). I am certain they have no idea their decor decision has thrown me into a philosophical tailspin.

The newly wrapped door reminds me of a lesson I've learned & forgotten & relearned in my life, & that is to just do the good thing, the fun thing, the helpful thing, now. My tendency is to wait until . . . wait until I've lost weight, wait until the house is clean, wait until I've cleaned out the kids' closets, wait until I've graded all the essays, wait until the stars align just perfectly, and then I'll be able to relax & truly enjoy whatever the thing is I tend to put off until my life is absolutely perfect.

I am a perfectionist; it's the German in me. Perhaps I should say I was a perfectionist. Motherhood will drive the perfectionist right out of you. One of my fears is that one day, I will sit down in my stunningly clean living room, all the essays graded, all the clothes folded, my coffee steaming hot, my fire roaring, & I still won't be able to enjoy the moment because I'll be filled with regret over the things & people I put off aiming for finished perfection—perfect house, perfect laundry room, perfect closest, perfectly graded essays. The thing is, a lack of perfection is the surest sign of life. Wrap your door today. The floors don't have to be spotless first. The floors will likely never be spotless, & if they are, it will be because little feet no longer dirty them up, & little hands no longer spill things.

If you'll allow me an analogy, I am that trailer door, & you are that trailer door, & Christ is the wrapping paper. He didn't look at me or at you in our filth & decide to wait until we could get our act together, tidy up the dirt-yard area, & then He'd offer Himself for us, then He'd love us. He stepped past the mess in the yard to offer us hope. He loved us while we were still sinners, when we were a complete & utter mess.

 I love the Norman Vincent Peale quote above:

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world 
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. 

Think of the way a roll of wrapping paper or a Christmas wreath or a string of lights can transform a box or a structure or a door or a tree. We are perpetually an uninteresting, mundane, sinful, dirty structure, but Christ makes us softer and more beautiful constantly so long as we let Him. He offers us this every day; He offered us this knowing what it would cost Him & knowing we may not ever accept His offer. 

Since I've revealed my obsession with the trailers in the fork in the road, I'll close with another confession: I struggle with people at times. At this time of year, with all the parties & the carbs & the germs, I often want to be alone in a dark room away from all the people. People can be difficult. People make questionable decisions. There are people who're the human equivalent of those trailers in the fork in the road; I don't understand them & I raise my eyebrows when I see them. Maybe more important than daily reminding myself that Christ loved me in my filth & my sin is daily reminding myself people were made in the image of God, & Christ loved them when they were in their sins. If He found them worthy of His sacrifice, I have to stop raising my eyebrows at them & make an honest effort to see them as Christ does, softer & more beautiful when bathed in His light. 

Christ poured His blood out over the world and behold,

everything is softer and more beautiful.


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