Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

In case you have never been to an Ash Wednesday service, those are the words spoken as the ashes are imposed. It is a powerful reminder of the temporary nature of earthly life.

The past month has been a good reminder to me of my human limitations. Since high school days, I’ve had a strong tendency to take on more than I can actually do. Over the years, I’ve worked very hard to respect my limits and live a life that is gentler to myself, and consequently gentler to others.

January could be considered a “relapse,” I suppose, and February has been spent evaluating my activities, getting a better perspective, and making some changes. Changes that better respect my nature as a human being made of dust, with limitations.

So, in time for Lent, I have finished some things (a seminar, a recital, a conference, a talk at church . . .), given up some things (taking piano lessons, time spent on the Internet), and committed to saying “no” to everything new until my MFT licensure exam is behind me.

I hope that this renewed discipline will allow me to write more often, so please do come back to my blog when you can.

And remember that you are dust, and that to dust you shall return. It just may bring about powerful change in your life, too.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Grandmother and Birthdays

(Photos are of the birthday card sent to me in 1974, if you can't see the date. The front of the card is faded from touching another paper in the scrapbook.)
Almost three weeks later, here comes another significant day in my life: the day I was born. And it gives me a wonderful starting place in the series about my grandmother.

(I hadn’t planned to wait this long, but January was “crazy busy,” resulting in my getting sick, so it just hasn’t been a good time for writing.)

Grandmother and birthdays go hand in hand for more than one reason.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Grandmother always, and I mean always, sent birthday cards. To her family. To her friends. To her former preachers. And to their wives. To friends she had met while traveling and did not want to forget. I’m sure I’m leaving someone out.

She kept a large calendar in her kitchen, from Gulf Oil Company. Granddaddy used to own some gas stations, so she received a calendar every year. The calendars had wonderful big photos of various subjects, usually some kind of landscape or scenery picture. And the blocks for the days were large, too.

And Grandmother filled them up with birthdays, wedding anniversaries, anniversaries of the deaths of beloved people. Each month had many entries. She kept the calendar near the phone and would sometimes point out to us who all in the family had a birthday that month, and sometimes we would call the person who was nearest that day.

And she sent cards. She usually triple-underlined words printed in the card, like the Happy Birthday, or the [to a] special [person like you] . . . you get the idea. She always wrote a personal note, too. Like, “I remember this day x number of years ago! We were so excited. You were granddaughter number one!

And she always wrote the date of the day she was commemorating with the sending of the card. So now I can look back at all the birthday cards from her and trace them, year by year, through her (and my) life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I also remember Grandmother’s 80th birthday. We surprised her. Almost the whole extended family gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house, where Grandmother was staying while she recovered from a broken hip.

We have wonderful photos (not digital, unfortunately) capturing the look of surprise on her face when she returned from a little shopping outing with my cousin and found all of us, and balloons and streamers, and cake and ice cream, waiting for her.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mostly, though, I remember something she shared with me ten years ago.

I was interviewing her for a graduate school class, asking questions about her life and her spiritual growth. Maybe it had something to do with her father dying when she was ten, maybe not. For whatever reason, she said that on every birthday that started a new decade, she would always find herself reflecting on her life— and how she wanted to grow, what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. How she could serve God better.

Birthdays have become that for me. Not a time to worry about age, but to see what God has done and ponder what He may be wanting to do. So next weekend I’ll take off for St. Columba to do my pondering and my personal celebrating of my own birthday.

Today I’m not doing much pondering, but I am thankful to have been born into the family that gave me a very precious grandmother.