Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter from Past Blessings Farm!

No time for much of a blog post today, but I did want to pop in and wish each of you a wonderful Easter.

The past couple of weeks have been very emotional for me and I had to deal with realizing that other people will always fail us and I will always fail others.  It is just a sad fact of being human.  We will be too busy and not be there when we should for someone . . . and others will do the same in regards us.  We will not always look for the need, see how someone is hurting or be aware of the condition of their heart.  And others will fail us miserably in this same way.  I saw this clearly and painfully recently, but that is what makes Easter all the more powerful.  We can never and should never expect mankind to meet our needs any more than we should expect a broken vessel to hold fresh water.

Only Christ can fill that void.  He loves us so much He was willing to die for each and every one of us.  He was beaten, whipped, had huge iron nails pierced through his hands and feet, the weight of His own body pulling against those nails as He hung on the cross, tore him inside and eventually He died a horrible, painful death.  What a sad and violent story, if it just ended there.  But praise God, on the third day, He arose . . . Just as He promised!  He arose after paying the price for our sins and offering each of us the gift of salvation.  You simply have to accept it!

Please friend, if you do not know Christ as your Lord and Savior, meet Him today.  He is waiting.  He wants to be the one to fill that emptiness in your heart and be there for all of your ups and downs.  He wants to remold you and repair the broken vessel of your life . . . so you can overflow with the blessings of His living water.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And for that I shall rejoice!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pickin' On The Prairie HD

Video, Floods & Depression . . .

I know it has been forever since I posted on my blog . . . in fact, if we depended on my blog to feed our family, we would have all starved long ago.  So many things have been happening . . . some good and some not so good.  I have been all over the place on the emotional yo-yo.   I have allowed circumstances steal my peace . . . I want to be so grounded in my Christian walk that I my peace is not affected by the happenings of my life.  But, I hate to admit, dear friends, I have a long way to go.  But this journey, hard though it has been, has shown me that peace has nothing to do with our circumstances.

My home has always been for me a haven . . .  a safe spot . . . a shelter in a time of trouble.  But what if the haven IS the trouble?  In January I was frustrated with a small flood we had in our kitchen . . . not overwhelmed, but frustrated none-the-less.  Our sink drain was leaking and it had left the bottom of the sink cupboard warped, as well as leaving the sub-floor several feet around that area warped . . . meaning the new floor we had just installed would have to be redone and new sub-floor installed.  Yes, this was frustrating, but not insurmountable.  I had made a commitment to be positive this year . . . to not be self-focused or negative.  The words of a friend who had told me months earlier, "you are the most negative person I have ever known" still echoed through my mind and I was trying to not allow that to be true.

I tried so hard to "choose not to be negative" . . . 
So I made a simple joke or two about it on Facebook and to a couple of friends and tried to play it down.  I surmised the damage and decided it was something I could fix myself and didn't really let this problem have any power or affect on my sense of peace or well being.  In the meantime, other issues of life continued . . . helping with aging parents, planning 80th birthday parties for two of them just three weeks apart, dealing with the financial burdens brought on from my hand injury with the table saw and the accompanying surgery and therapy and the dealing with the emotions that come with now adult children who sometimes don't make the decisions we would hope they would make.  I kept trying to take my thoughts captive, to be positive, to be a light in a world of darkness.  And then the scale was tipped even more . . . in late February, we had a very quick thaw that lead to flooding . . . not a minor "let me get a towel or two" flooding, but a rushing mud river of flooding straight into our basement . . . the same basement that had been totally destroyed by a flood three years prior.  The same basement we had spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours redoing.  Panic ensued.  I tried to stay calm, but it was too much . . . how can we have yet another flood?  Who has repeated floods of this magnitude?  But there wasn't time to panic . . . instead we had to turn to the task at hand . . . stopping the flood and saving what we could.  Hauling belongings, shoveling mud, pulling out padding from what had been new carpeting

I tried to stay upbeat.  I posted about it on Facebook.  Several were kind and compassionate.  Others made jokes about swimming pools in the basement or would say things like it could be worse and would then tell their stories.  While I know the jokesters were just trying to lighten the mood and the story tellers were trying to give me some perspective, when you are in the midst of a disaster and seeing all of your hard work and finances crumble to the ground, this is not what you want to hear.  I simply hit the "like" button and pretended it didn't bother me.  I was determined not to be the negative person I had been told I am.  We called a company that deals with flooding emergencies and had them come out and begin vacuuming up the mud waters, while we tried to stop it from continuing.  Within hours they were gone, leaving a hefty bill as their calling card.  I felt numb.  Too many times . . . in our previous house our kitchen had been destroyed by a flood along with the flooring in the adjacent living room, dining room, laundry room and entry area.  It had also destroyed the drywall in the den directly below the kitchen.  It had caused months of chaos and havoc and costed a small fortune.  The first flood we had when we moved to the farm had completely destroyed the entire basement,  and now we stood, having sucked out several inches of mud from the basement in the midst of yet another disaster.  I decided I couldn't deal with the comments on Facebook for a while, so I took a bit of a reprieve.  Ten days later, the weather did it again . . . we had had a major snow storm and then immediately after, it warmed up to the mid 40's and thawed incredibly fast again.  The mud waters started flowing in again.  I was livid . . . not sure who to be livid at, but I was.  I couldn't take the financial burden of it anymore, the destruction of all we had worked so hard to create, the pure physical exhaustion.  I drove in total anger to the hardware store for more sandbags.  While in line to purchase the sandbags, people would ask why I needed them.  Once again, they made light of the situation.   They made jokes.  This time I was just not up for it.  I turned warily to an older man making yet another joke about our "inside swimming pool" and hissed, 'there is nothing funny about it . . . it is destroying our lives."  Poor man.  It shut him up and I didn't even look to see his expression.  I was enjoying my moment of anger and I didn't want it spoiled by a moment of guilt caused by my misplaced anger.  I stormed angrily home, speeding heavily, daring any cop to stop this crazy angry woman.  I am so glad I wasn't pulled over . . . in that state of mind, who knows what I would have said or done!

Eventually the basement dried and now we are in the aftermath . . . the kids are still misplaced from their bedrooms . . . one sleeping in the living room and the other one upstairs by his brother.  We have dressers in our dining room and amplifiers in the entry way.  Our house looks chaotic and nothing is as it should be.  It is not a haven.  We can't do an insurance claim . . . it is considered a natural disaster and not covered by our insurance.  I have been doing sales and anything I can to sell my signs, antiques and whatever else.  But of course, as life would have it, our car brakes are going out and more medical bills have come in.  We need to purchase new padding and have the carpets re-laid and re-stretched and then cleaned of the mud water.   We still aren't sure if the doors are going to be able to be reused and how badly warped the molding will be once we try to put it back on.   The only way to stop the flooding is to install a very long French drain along the edge of the driveway . . . which will take hours and hours to dig a trench and will cost a pretty penny.   I want to be a joyful woman, I want to be a woman of peace and serenity.  I want to speak love, speak calm, be an encourager.  I never set out to be a negative person.  I have been doing my best not to be.  But what do you do when every time you try not to be negative, something negative happens?   And then, because I have been labeled negative, I no longer feel safe to share how I feel.  I feel judged and disliked.  The anger from the circumstances begin mixing themselves with the feelings of judgement and disapproval.   And then an odd thing happens . . . Satan takes notice.  He sees me in my despair, he sees my anger, my depression.  And he says "I can do better."  So I get on Facebook . . . I notice how unloved I seem to be in the antiquing community . . . others getting together . . . taking antiquing trips together, dinner parties I wasn't invited to . . . and the depression increases.  "They all hate you" Satan hisses.    The misfit years of my childhood come back to haunt me.  I was shy and awkward.  I never felt good enough.  Satan continues . . . "You weren't good enough then, you still aren't good enough now."  I am reminded of my differences.  They hate you because you are conservative.  For a moment I wish I wasn't . . . I wish I could just be one of them.  I know these thoughts are wrong.  And even as I have these thoughts, I recognize they come from the author of lies.  But I have come to realize that just because you know something is wrong or is a lie, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.  I am a misfit.  I can try to pretend for all it is worth that I am not, but the fact is I am.  I believe the Bible and choose to live my life by it's precepts.  While I know this doesn't make me a hater, I know there are some that think I am.  I love Hobby Lobby and Duck Dynasty.   But I am not filled with hate towards those that see things differently.  Yet, I have felt the condemnation.  I have felt the unacceptance.

So tonight I am at a crossroads.  There is a big part of me that wants to wallow . . . to throw the biggest Pity Party Bash this side of the Mississippi.  To roll around in my anger and to justify my depression.  I spent much of today lamenting my life to my husband . . . telling him how no one I know has had the amount of flooding we have had, telling him how no one likes me and I don't know if I really have any "real friends".  I did such a great job with the pre-party, that the Pity Party could really be the event of the year.   Perhaps I could really wow the party goers with a flood of tears . . . or better yet a nervous breakdown.  Yes, it wouldn't take much . . . not really a stretch at this point, to reach the nervous breakdown point.  But there is just one problem with this scenario.  While a big part of me relishes the thought of the Pity Party . . . delights in the idea of the depression wallow . . . there is this still small voice . . . the voice that says, "Peace be still."  I don't understand this voice.  I don't see why all this keeps happening.  I question this voice.  I think this voice has me confused with someone far stronger and better equipped than I.  But I listen.  I know the voice is God's.  I don't like this chapter in my life.  I want my life of peace.  I want the life of order and simplicity.  Of quiet and calm.  I don't want what has been allowed.  But again I hear the voice . . . "Peace, be still."  How do I find peace in the chaos?  How do I find contentment in disaster?  Or acceptance where anger is prevailing?  I don't have the foggiest idea . . . other than this . . . "Peace be still, I am with you."

And therein lies the answer.  "Peace be still, I am with you."  When life's circumstances seem too great, when negativity threatens to eat me alive and anger bubbles from deep within, "Peace be still, I am with you."  It isn't about me . . . and I realize it never has been.  My circumstances, at this moment in time, quite frankly suck.  I don't like my life right now.  It "stinks on ice", to quote my son.  But it isn't about our circumstances.  It isn't even about whether we feel loved or accepted.  I don't.  In fact I am less secure in who I am as a human being right now than I ever have been.  But it isn't about that.  Who am I in God?  And more importantly, take me out of the picture . . . who is God?  What is life without God?  We live in a world where we celebrate ourselves . . . we are taught to build each other up and to believe in such things as self esteem and self value.  We are told we have rights and we can be anything we want to be.  We are woman, hear us roar.  But really?  Didn't God create us?  Doesn't the Bible teach us that we were created for HIS glory?  Doesn't anything that we are, any value we may have not only come from God but deserve to be ABOUT God?  The talents I have are not MY talents.  They come from God . . . I am created in His image and if there be any good in me, it is God.  Without God I am nothing.  I am not love, I am not kindness, I am not compassion.  Whatsoever is good, noble, of good repute, only comes from God.  This is more than I can wrap my brain around . . . so much bigger than my comprehension.  But I know it to be true.  So I know, regardless of where I am right now on my journey in life, I can have peace.  Because it isn't about me and it never has been.  I am a created being who's very existence is not only because of God but also FOR God.   This is why we can walk in victory regardless of circumstances.  This is why in James we are taught to "Count it all joy."  Because it is all about God.  Every breath we take, every move we make.  It is all about God and always has been.  While I do pray for relief from the present circumstances, I have come to realize that my joy should have nothing to do with my circumstances.  There is a song that begs the question, "If I lost it all, would my hands stay lifted . . . to the God who gives and takes away?"  And the answer has to be yes!!  Whatever my lot, though has taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."

So there you have it.  We can be wallowers or followers.  While wallowing is tempting and in our self serving society, very acceptable, it leads to destruction.  It feeds the sins of selfishness, arrogance and pride.  I am nothing but through Christ I have everything.  I am crucified in Christ therefore I no longer live.  Jesus Christ now lives through me.

I apologize if I have been a bit too heavy today . . . but I have been going through the fire and I am just now catching a glimpse of why . . . at the purification and cleansing the fire can bring . . . and the peace that comes by not only allowing, but fully accepting the "burn."

At the beginning of this post I also mentioned that there have also been good things happening lately in life.   And truly there has been . . . through all of these trials, I have not only come to the place of great peace with the Lord, but I have grown in my marriage to an incredible man who is a great spiritual leader to me and our boys.  I have come to see what matters and what doesn't (and believe me, most of it doesn't.)  My business is growing and I am praying that God will continue to show me the steps He does and does not want me to take with it.  Pride and self promotion are easy pitfalls in creative businesses and I so want to always be honoring to the Lord.  My sweet friends, Daniel and Abby, of Forgotten Way Farms, have started another avenue of business, called Forgotten Way Films.  I am honored that they chose to come to our farm, during last summer's "Pickin' on the Prairie" event and film a wonderful 69 second spot on the event.  I think they did a great job!  Take a peek here!  I do so hope each of you can join us at this year's "Pickin' on the Prairie, August 16th and 17th, here at Past Blessings Farm.  We have some amazing vendors and the show is filling up quickly.  From antiques, primitives, home decor, jewelry, art and more, there will be something for everyone . . . coupled with great food and music, it is an event you won't want to miss.  So mark your calendars.

God is good all the time . . . . regardless of my circumstances.  Praying you find joy in where you are right now and that the peace of God will fill your soul.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It's Coming!! Our New On-Line Store is Almost Here!!

I mentioned a couple of months back that we were in the midst of some exciting plans here at Past Blessings Farm . . . and the time is almost here . . . We are in so excited to announce that we will be introducing an on-line store in the very near future!

We have loved our customers at our shows and barn sales we have every couple of months, but we also have a lot of followers, on our Facebook page (click here to follow us on Facebook) especially, who have wanted to buy from us from throughout the country.  So, we will not only offer our original design signs that we have become known for, but also great home decor, jewelry and accessories.  And we will throw in a vintage piece or two every now and then . . . so it will be a store you will want to check out again and again as it will be ever changing.  We are excited about the vendors we are lining up to bring you the best farm fresh decor around and the western bling to accessorize that we know you love!

Here is a sneak peek at a few products we will be offering.  Our signs are all designed by me (as I have mentioned before, I am a typography geek . . . can't explain it, but designing with type just gets me excited).  They are printed on a heavy card stock, mounted on 1/2" thick MDF board, distressed, antiqued and sealed.  

I love this list of "things to do" . . . especially with "Pray Daily" being at the top . . . so our day gets off to the right start. It measures 10 1/2" wide by 16" tall.

I loved hearing Paul Harvey recite the "So God Made a Farmer" tribute to farmers on the radio.  We live in the middle of the wheat fields and are surrounded by farms.  Wheat is big where we are, along with canola, alfalfa and fruit orchards.  Our farm was originally a carrot farm!  So I knew I needed to make a sign as a tribute to farmers everywhere. It is 10 1/2" wide by 16" tall.

This sign just makes me smile . . . I think every bathroom needs one of these!  It 10 1/2" wide by 16" tall.

I first saw this "Be Cheerful" saying on an antique postcard.  Such a simple sentiment, yet it can change the entire way your day goes.  It is available in red, black, robin's egg blue and aged burlap.

We will have at least 30 designs on-line and I am sure, since this type geek just can't stop creating them, more to come. In the meantime, until we get our on-line store up and running, if you would like to order a sign, you can email me at  These signs are all $29 each plus $13 shipping.

I am also excited to be privileged to be a dealer of Montana West.  This company makes the most amazing quality leather purses, wallets, belts, bracelets, sunglasses and more . . . all with that Western bling I adore . . . and I know most of you do too!  The purses we sell have an added feature that has been popular with the rough and tumble cowgirls . . . there is a spot for a concealed weapon.  And if you don't happen to be a gun-totin' girl, just use this extra storage for organizing your purse . . . a purse can never have too many pockets!  These purses come in a wonderful array of colors . . . deep red, warm brown, turquoise, black and pewter, to name a few.  And matching wallets are available for all of them too!  These purses sell for $49, plus $12 shipping (that is almost half off of the retail price) and are an amazing value . . . I have been carrying mine daily for several months and it still looks like new.  Mine is the pewter one like you see below.  I love this color . . . goes with everything!

Lots of fun jewelry will also be available . . . along with farm style decor . . . I will have photos of some of this soon.  

We will keep you posted . . . we are in the midst of getting the site up and ready . . . we want it to be user friendly and somewhere you will want to keep shopping at.  Just need to add a few more finishing touches.  Can't wait to show you!!

Our life is full of wonderful changes these days . . . as our kids are growing up and needing us less, we know it is a new season.  The Mama in me is a bit sad to see that I am not needed like I used to be, but I am excited to see what God has in store for these amazing young men we are so fortunate to call our sons.  I am also excited to see how God will help us grow and evolve our business in the years to come.  We are still excited to continue with our sales and our shows here on the farm, but also thrilled to be able to take our business a step further.

For those of you in the area, we are also excited to be vendors in a new venture my sweet friend Coquille is starting.  It will be an amazing shop in the little farming town of Reardan, just West of Spokane.  It is going to be called the The Reardan Plowboy and it will be spectacular.  We are honored to have been asked to put some of our treasures in this wonderful new shop.  For more information on this shop, please go to 
And, the news just keeps coming . . . we are having our "Junk Love" Sale here at the Past Blessings Farm February 14th and 15th.  As you know, if you have been following us, I had a nasty accident with my table saw the day before my sale was scheduled in October.  So instead of having the sale, I was having surgery on my hand.  I was very fortunate . . . God truly watched over me . . . and was able to keep all my fingers.  But over 30 stitches later and a rod in my shattered finger, I was not able to create for quite a while . . . so we are excited to finally be "back in the saddle" again.  Our barn is extra full, so it might be tight quarters . . . but that just adds to the fun . . . more goodies to hunt for!  The sale is from 9 to 4 both Friday and Saturday here at the farm.  8521 N. Orchard Prairie in Spokane, WA.  Hope to see you there!

Don't miss our Junk Love Sale here at Past Blessings Farm Fri, Feb 14th and Sat, Feb 15th from 9 to 4
And finally . . . yes, still more excitement . . . we are planning and getting ready for our third annual "Pickin' On The Prairie" here on Past Blessings Farm.  It is always the third weekend of August and will fall on August 16th and 17th this year.  Our farm will be packed with amazing vendors, great bluegrass music and great food . . . you will not want to miss it!  To see photos of previous years, click here.

God is good . . . this has been a year of trials, but it is also a year of great changes.  I am learning (still on the journey) to trust Him more and realize that even when I can't see the future, He can . . . and He has great plans in store for all of us . . . we need only trust the planning to Him! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

From Stuffy to Fabulous . . . Redoing a Dining Set with Farmhouse Charm

I am constantly on the look out for great furniture pieces I can re-do.  I pay attention to the lines of the furniture, but really don't care much about the finish, since I know I will be redoing it.  So when I found a vintage dark cherry finish dining set for only $90 on Craigslist, I was thrilled . . . It had simple curvy legs, upholstered backs and French charm.  I instantly envisioned what it would look like.  When I first brought it home, it was dark and stuffy . . . not the casual farmhouse look I wanted.  So, digging in to my stash of gunny sacks, I reupholstered the backs with a mix of both coffee and potato bags.  I knew sitting on burlap is scratchy, so on the seats I used painters cloth . . . you can buy large paint tarps at hardware stores for very inexpensive . . . it is strong, washes up nicely and has the farmhouse look I like.  It is always a great option for reupholstering on a budget!  The finish on this set, while in good condition, was too dark and formal.

I am sorry I don't have "before" pictures . . . I always "mean" to take them, but I end up getting so excited to dig in and start creating that I often forget!  

So, first I roughed it up a bit, since it was shiny and I wanted the paint to adhere well.  Next, I painted it with cream chalk paint.  I do not use the expensive chalk paints . . . I have experimented with several recipes and finally landed on one that I love.  It is so inexpensive to make and works great.

Here is my recipe:

Because of the "grit" in the chalk paint, it adheres well and does not require a primer.  After painting all the pieces with this, I distressed it all so a bit of dark wood showed through here and there.  I just used a 100 grit piece of sand paper for this.  Then I used dark walnut Bri-wax.  I loved it rubbed over the cream color . . . since the walnut stain is a bit of a cooler wood stain color than most, it gave the wood kind of a barn wood look to it.  In the end, I had a set that was casual, chic and full of farmhouse character.  I sold it to a sweet young family who were so excited to add it to their decor.  I always love it when I know pieces I redo are going to somewhere where they will be loved.  I suppose it sounds silly, but those pieces kind of end up carrying a piece of me with them . . . I guess because I poured a lot of blood, sweat, tears and creativity into them.  Sort of feels like I am giving away one of my little chicks!  

One thing I always try to do when looking for furniture pieces to redo, is to look at it with my "after eyes" . . . that is to try to see it for what it "could be" not what it is.  There are those few pieces that will just be ugly regardless (such as some of the 70's furniture that looks like it came from the set of "Camelot"), but so many pieces just need a little love and imagination.  Try to envision it a different color, perhaps with new upholstery.  Would new hardware help?  Sometimes you can even remove certain "overdone' details such as ornate wood trim to go with the more simpler lines seen in today's decor.  So put on your "after eyes" . . . see what this ugly before piece can become.  It can open a whole new world of possibilities to you!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Pickin' on the Prairie" Antique Show 2014 . . . here at Past Blessings Farm!

We are so excited as we plan for our 3rd Annual "Pickin' on the Prairie" . . . each August our little farm becomes a wonderland of amazing antiques, artisan handcrafts, beautiful jewelry, artwork, repurposed furniture and amazing farm "junk".  Our farm will be packed with vendors, great music, great food and a weekend full of fun is guaranteed!

I just finished designing this year's posters and am planning the various little details of the show that I hope set our show apart from many shows.  One thing that most shows can't beat is location . . . not to toot our own horn, but Past Blessings Farm is set in one of the prettiest locations on earth . . . gorgeous rolling wheat fields, spattered with fruit trees here and there and rimmed with forests in the background.  To the Southwest you can see to downtown and beyond, to the west is the lovely grounds of the historial Mt. St. Michael's . . . I shared about it here.  To the Northeast is beautiful Mt. Spokane.  Surrounded with classic farmhouses and old barns, we couldn't love our location more!

So here it is . . . this year's poster!!

I love being able to use my rusty ol' graphic design skills every now and then and designing this poster was fun.  Of course, I still had to tie in our beloved pig theme, but I wanted it to look completely different than last year.

For pictures of past shows, click here . . . You will see why you don't want to miss it! In the months to come between now and August, we will highlight some of our wonderful vendors.  In the meantime, mark your calendars for August 16th and 17th, plan your road trip and get ready for some might good "Pickin' on the Prairie."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Becoming Miss Virginia . . . Or the Art of Being Happy . . . .

Greetings from Past Blessings Farm!  I hope you had an amazing Christmas that was filled with love and blessings.  We were very blessed this year . . . Ron was on vacation, we actually had our shopping done early, no one was sick and things went smoothly.  We enjoyed our time with each other, time with our kids and time with extended family and friends.  We celebrated the birth of our savior and the amazing gift of salvation He brings to us.

As we approach the New Year, I have spent some time contemplating . . .  I am not really a resolution kind of girl . . . I think it puts an undo pressure on us to strive for an unrealistic perfection and then be disappointed in ourselves and feel like a failure as the year goes on and these resolutions aren't met.  Each year at least one person sends me an email or has a list for me to respond to of the things I want to change in the coming year . . . I am supposed to address bad habits I need to give up, new things I need to try, etc.  Typically, in order to not offend the friend requesting this, I throw a quick list together.  But it is not a deep desire . . . a true resolve to change.  It is simply another pressure of unrealistic perfection.  So this year I will not be responding to yet another list of things I will change or do differently.  I am always changing, transitioning, evolving . . . as I seek to become the woman God wants me to be.  I strive to be a good Christian.  But that is a daily walk . . . something I consecrate daily to the Lord.  Each day I ask for grace, for patience, for kindness and gentleness.  I fail miserably sometimes, but God knows the desire of my heart.  He knows I want to be a Godly woman . . . He knows I desire to please Him and to be pleasing to my family and friends.  He knows I want to grow in the fruits of the Spirit . . but He also knows it isn't about a list, but about a daily walk with Him.  So I suppose this is one small resolution . . . I resolve to never come up with a set of New Years resolutions again.  I might post silly ones on Facebook or things that may inspire or encourage, but no true lists that I will only break and be disappointed with.  But there is on thing I want . . . one thing I am searching for . . . I don't know if you would call it a resolution . . . more like a life quest or a deep unending search.  I am on the search for and in deep pursuit of true happiness.

Throughout my life, I have had the joy of knowing happy people . . . not just people who smiled occasionally or who had a belly laugh every now and then . . . but people truly filled with joy.  These people are rare though and I can only think of three that I think fully fit what I would describe as "truly happy" . . . that is a deep-seeded happiness that is not based on life's circumstances or the happenings of the moment.

The first was my great-grandma . . . we called her Grammy.  I was only 7 when she died, so I do not even really know that she totally was what I thought her to be.  But my memories are of a truly jovial old woman who always had a ready smile and a contagious laugh.  We would go out shopping with her . . . four generations . . . me and my siblings, my Mom, my Grandma and Grammy.   Always, she would make sure we had a treat . . . there is a certain oatmeal cookie . . . soft and chewy with a wonderful buttery flavor . . .that reminds me of her.  She would make sure we got one of these cookies from the grocery store bakery (I am guessing now, looking back, these were given to us, not purchased, but Grammy was the one who always made it happen.)  Or she would buy us those nasty tasting orange marshmallow "peanuts" they still sell in the candy aisle.  At the time, I thought they were divine.  I still buy them every couple of years, just for the memory.  And she loved comfort food . . . mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese with extra cheese, pie, cookies . . . anything loaded with calories.  And she was always happy to share it with us.  She lived next door to my grandmother, with a large beautiful garden between the two homes.  My Grandma, though I know she loved us, was not a big hugger . . . .so we always would slip off to Grammy's for lots of hugs and embraces.  Looking back now, I know she was in the last few years of her life when I knew her.  Her bones ached and she was tired.  But I never knew anything but warmth and love from her.  She always had an instant hug and smile for all of us.  With her, we were always safe.  We never felt judged, never felt like we didn't measure up . . .  we just felt safe and happy.  When she passed away, it seemed a bit of life's magic went with her.

The second person that showed me that deep inner happiness was an older woman named Ellie Long.  She was my Sunday School teacher in the sixth grade and she took a great shining to me and my then best friend, Tina.  She would take us to Disney movies and have us over to bake cookies.  Whenever she saw us she would embrace us so deeply into her large bosomed chest that we could hardly breathe.    But you still wanted to stay in that embrace, because it felt so safe and happy.  All the while she would be sharing this happy chuckle . . . just a laugh that made us know she was happy to have us share the day with her.  She had an easy laugh and always wanted to hear all about our lives and made us feel so important.  She was widowed and lonely.  I know now, looking back, she needed us probably more than we needed her.  But even in her grief of being widowed (she constantly talked about how much she had loved her husband) and in her loneliness she always had a joy about her that was contagious.  I wanted to be near her and when I was I felt truly happy.  But I grew up, and as I did, my time with her became less and less . . .  squeezed out by what I thought was more important at the time.  And then one day she was gone.  But my memories of this joy-filled woman will be with me for always.

The third and final person I can think of, who truly showed me deep happiness, was a sweet woman named Frances Newell.  When I met Frances, she was widowed and still carrying for a handicapped son.  A few years later, her son, Ronnie, also died.  While she grieved for both her husband and her son, she still always had this "glow" about her that drew me to her.  She lived in poverty in a very unsafe part of town referred to as "The Twilight Zone" because of all the drug deals that go on in that area.  She was riddled throughout her body with arthritis that was completely disfiguring . . . her knees were twisted, her ankles turned completely sideways, so that she was walking more on her ankle bones than on her feet.  Her pain was immense.  But she always had a smile and always told me how blessed she was.  One day, she took a bad fall in the alley behind her home.  This alley was seldom used and she knew she might lay there for days.  It was winter and she was unable to get up . . . lying helplessly in the snow.  But she prayed, in her simple faith, for someone to "just show up" and within an hour, a utility worker came down that alley and rescued her.  Most people I know, if telling this story, would have went on about how cold they were or how the fall hurt.  Not Frances.  She boldly thanked God for that day . . . for sending that man to find her and for "so clearly showing her it was time to move."  Knowing she could not stay in her home alone anymore, she asked me to do an estate sale for her and we then moved her to a tiny studio apartment for seniors.  During the time of preparing for the estate sale, I spent many days going through her things with her.  Memories would flood over her and she would tell me stories . . . stories of her and her husband Gale in the early years, stories of Ronnie and the joy he brought to her life.  Her life had been simple . . . no earthly wealth to speak of . . . yet happy.  But when the people she loved most were ripped out of her life, when poverty threatened her very existence and when arthritis disfigured her body and left her in terrible pain, the happiness still remained.  I know she missed her loved ones and grieved at what was gone, but she never pitied herself, never questioned God.  Instead she would repeatedly tell me how blessed she was.  She was blessed to have been Gale's wife.  Blessed to have been Ronnie's Mama.  Blessed to have been able to help others over the years as she worked in social work and home care.  And she always made it clear why she was so happy . . .  she knew the secret.  This life . . . this life of so much pain and hurt . . . is temporary and she knew the eternal was just around the corner.  I had the privilege of taking her out shopping each week for a couple of years.  During that time, she was always so gracious and appreciative for the help I gave her.  When I knew, I was the one who was being blessed by the privilege of being with this Godly woman.  She would always ask about my boys and would laugh as I would share their antics.  She made it clear she truly loved them.  She spent several holidays with us and always had a kind word for all of us.  She passed away a few years ago and I knew she was finally happy for eternity . . . . she had made it around that corner and is now rejoicing with the Lord she trusted through great heartache and is happily reunited with her beloved Gale and Ronnie.
I am very blessed to have a wonderful family and amazing friends.  I believe most of us are striving to be the Christians God wants us to be.  But sadly, that deep-seeded inner happiness is not something I see easily.  I see moments of it in myself and in those that are in my life, but it isn't the steadfast, never changing happiness I seek.
I recently read a book called "Quaker Summer" by Lisa Samson.  It is a great read and very thought provoking.  It is the story of a very worldly woman who has it all . . . . the fancy house with a pool, new furniture, fancy trips, the whole nine yards.  And yet she is terribly unhappy.  This book follows her through a journey of letting go of things, of asking forgiveness for sins and of choosing to live for God only . . . . and letting go of all the trappings of this world.  This little excerpt spoke to me, in my quest for happiness:

"Tonight as I settled between plaid flannel sheets, I was thinking about the truly happy people I've known in my lifetime and how few there really have been, which seems so very sad.  Miss Virginia was the crossing guard in our neighborhood when I was in first grade.

A joy shone from inside her that made us kids want to be around her.  And never once was I scared coming out of school, because Miss Virginia would be there, and she'd call me 'baby' and smile, her gold tooth gleaming.  Nothing ruffled her, and even the mean kids smiled at her when they walked by.

Miss Virginia was happy, so therefore, Miss Virginia was safe to be around.  I wish I thought of her more after I grew up.  I want to be a Miss Virginia.  I want to be safe . . . that place where people can fail and still be loved.  Heaven knows, there are enough exhorters, enough admonishers, enough people with a lockdown on life, enough people who can tell all of us what to do and why and sometimes even how.  They don't need me.  

But I want to be the person around whom people don't have to do a thing to be loved.  Perhaps all of humanity can't fill that role, and maybe there's only room for a few of us on earth or it would be all chaos.  I don't know.  But as I see it, there is definitely room for more Miss Virginia's.  And I aim to fill her shoes."

Isn't that a wonderful thought?  Something so simple as simply loving another human being where they are.  Loving them in their darkness and brokenness, just like Jesus did.  I have to admit, this is not a love I have found often . . . even with close friends.  Rarely do I feel accepted simply as I am.  While I appreciate others trying to prod me on . . . to push me to be a better Christian, I have to admit, I have felt many times like I am not good enough in their eyes . . . that I haven't earned the "Christian Seal of Approval."  And as I think about this, I wonder how many times I have done this to others.  Being judgmental is not what I want . . . it is not the person I want to be.  

So today I say a prayer . . . "Lord, help me to be filled with love for all . . . .regardless of who they are or what they have done.  Help me to be a safe place . . . a happy place.  Forgive my judgmental eyes and instead give me your eyes of love.  Help me to be my Grammy, to be Ellie and Frances.  Help me to be Miss Virginia.  Mostly help me to be filled with the deep happiness that can only come from You and to share it with others regardless of where they have been or what they have done.  Amen."

Let it be so! (The meaning of the word Amen!)