Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Next Best Thing

It's funny, sometimes,
how a little phrase, a
quote or an exchange
of words gets stuck
in my mind....

A sure sign that I need
to unpack it, smooth it
out, and share it 
with you.

On Christmas Night,
after the feast had been
eaten, the crackers
snapped, paper crowns
cast aside and board
games played, we curled
up on the couch and
watched an old holiday
episode of The Waltons.
(Gracie, too!)

At the end of this episode,
as everyone says goodnight, 
the youngest Walton,
Elizabeth, asks the eldest
Walton, Grandpa, which
Christmas, of all those that
he'd celebrated in his long
life, did he like to think
about best?

His answer?


None? she replies, aghast.

The Christmas I like to think
about, Miss Elizabeth, isn't
this year's, last year's, or the
one in '06.  

It's next year's Christmas.

I love Grandpa's philosophy.

I love his optimism.

I love his child-like 
of the future.

Despite living through very
challenging times and 
enduring many losses,
the patriarch of this beloved
American family wasn't
going to get stuck in the past.

I want to embrace Grandpa
Walton's outlook and apply
it consciously to my own life.

Instead of looking 

I want to look 
forward ~

to my next birthday 
my next vacation 
my next summer 

or simply, the next day,
convinced as my head hits
the pillow each night, that
tomorrow is going to be

the best.

As children grow and we
age, as the world around us
shifts and changes at warp
speed, it would be easy to
cling to what has been, 
persuading ourselves that
those times were the 
best times.

But in doing so, it seems
to me that we miss the
opportunity to continue
grabbing what life has to offer,
and I don't want to do that.

As Robert Browning penned,
...the best is yet to be.

He and Grandpa Walton 
were definitely on
to something.


{all images P&H}

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


The thermometer presented a
sub-zero number as I shrugged
into my thick wool sweater 
and settled into the corner of
our squishy couch, the gentle
flicker of the fire and Gracie
tucked up next to me the only
company on this frigid morning.

Everyone except my son was
back to normal routines.  He
was still snoozing, the second
of two school cancellation days
his last gift of the
Christmas season.

Leggy poinsettias and paperwhites
scattered around the house were
the only traces of another holiday
now behind us, with the exception
of a few cookies and the card basket.

Cradling the basket of Christmas
and New Years cards, I began to
sift through the happy greetings
and dear faces, lingering
on each as I had not been able to
do with a house full of guests and 
the accompanying busyness.

I studied one in particular, which
defined the Christmas of 2013 for
me and my family in a way that
we could never have predicted.

It was postmarked December 15th
and signed by a close friend--one of
seven women who form a small circle
we've dubbed The Yoga Girls, dating 
back to a time when we met for yoga
practice at one of our homes each
week, a habit long since abandoned
in favor of periodic lunches or coffee.

To All Things A Season was the
 theme of this card, and the
prophetic nature of those words
still takes my breath away.

You see, late in the afternoon on
the same cold day this card was
written and dropped in the mail,
a knock on my sweet friend's 
door would change her family's
life forever.

Authorities on the doorstep
delivered the news that her son
Jake, a freshman in college, 
had passed away that morning.

Although a few weeks have
passed since this tragic event,
my eyes still brim with tears
just typing these words.

To to all things a season,
but oh how my heart aches that
it should be true for one so young,
or for the family that loved him
so very much.

Holding the cheerful card in
my hands and gently stroking
the smiling faces shown in
winter, spring, summer and
autumn of 2013, I remembered
the kind young man whose life
was celebrated in multiple
ways that first terrible week 
after he died.

The stories of quiet good deeds
that he did for others overflowed
as people young and old shared
them in person, on-line and at
his funeral.

Jake's smile could light
up a room, and there were
countless tales of how he
he touched hearts with
both compassion and fun 
in his short life.

Two that spring to mind were
his enthusiasm for pushing the
wheelchair of a disabled friend
around courts and bases as well
as the gift of his time and hard
work on four mission trips
to serve those less fortunate.

But there were many, many more.

The church overflowed with
over 2,000 people at his service.

Like a pebble skipped on the
lake that Jake adored, his life


that will continue

As I looked again at the Christmas
card, brimming with the last seasons
of his precious life, I began to
consider the year ahead 
and how I want to fill it.

Instead of making the usual
resolutions to change something
about myself, I resolved to extend
kindness wherever possible and
find lasting ways to create ripples
that will affect other lives in
meaningful ways.

Thank you, Jake.

I will do my best.

Remember, there's no such thing
as a small act of kindness.  Every act
creates a ripple with no logical end.
~Scott Adams  


PS:  I hope all of you had a
blessed Christmas and will
be inspired to make your own
special ripples in 2014.

{All photos my own, except the one of Jake,
which I was lovingly given permission to use
by his mom, my dear friend Kristi.}