The Carolynn Chronicles, Volume 5- Christmas in Carolynnland

The beautiful snow we have been watching fall for the past few days has reminded me of a story I wanted to include in the “Carolynnland” saga. Here it is…

 A couple of weeks before Christmas my sister and I agreed that we would help put up decorations and a tree for my parents.  I had the bright idea that it would be fun to get all of the grandchildren involved in this activity.  For those who don’t know- the grandchildren consist of Neely (age 11), Emmma (age 8), Ava (age 6), and Elijah (age 5).  Jessica had an after-school meeting, so it was agreed that I would begin the process and she would come as soon as her meeting was over. 

At the end of that school day I brought 4 very excited children to my parent’s home to begin decorating.  My brother-in-law Jeff had been kind enough to deliver a fresh-cut tree right to my parent’s living room.  The room smelled wonderful.  Few things are as synonymous with Christmas as the smell of fresh-cut pine. 

For as far back as my memory can reach, I remember the smells and the colors and the decorations that filled our house during this particularly wonderful season.  One of my mother’s biggest talents is her attention to detail.  If you walked into my parents home during Christmas you would be instantly greeted by the fragrances of spiced apple cider, pine, and something yummy baking in the oven.  I think smells are so important, but sometimes taken for granted.   I love to accidentally catch a whiff of something and to be transported back to another time, another place. 

Carolynn had taught us from a very early age the fine art of making your home look as lovely as it can and doing this all the while on a modest budget.  My mother can walk into a store and find all sorts of hidden treasures and trinkets for her home.  You could give her $50 to spend at a local discount store and she would come out with bags full of items, looking as if she’d spent well over $500 at Pottery Barn or some other wonderful shop.  My mom will take $3 Christmas ornaments, just plain balls (red, green, silver) and place them in unexpected places such as inside crystal goblets or up high in a clear hanging pendant light fixture, and it will look like something out of the pages of a decorating magazine.  I consider myself fortunate to have inherited even just the smallest taste of her talent for decorating.  Jess inherited it too.  Give the Elder girls $500 and we can decorate your entire house!

That afternoon I stood there with four children and a perfect Christmas tree- a blank canvas.  I called my mom at work to let her know we had arrived.  She was anxious for us to begin.  She thanked us and said to call if we had any questions.  Then we began.  I started looking around for Christmas ornaments.  I had already decided that I would be in charge of any of the “important” (i.e. breakable, priceless, heirloom) ornaments and the children could handle the rest.  Unfortunately, after our scavenger hunt for Christmas ornaments all I could seem to located were the fragile ones.  I called Carolynn.  “Mom, I can’t find your ornaments.  All I can find are the glass ones”….. and we enter Carolynnland…..

After a few words with mom I hung up the phone.  Of COURSE she only has blown-glass ornaments.  Why wouldn’t she?  Of COURSE every single ornament is so fragile that it will break simply if LOOKED upon incorrectly.  Why not?  Of COURSE I have four adorable children anxiously waiting to help and all I can visualize are the number of Band-Aids and emergency room visits I have in my foreseeable future.  Well, let’s begin.  I bring the boxes over to the couch to begin the delicate task of gently placing these ornaments GENTLY into the hands of these children and helping them ever-so-gently place them onto a branch.  But wait…. where are the hooks?  I look for a few minutes.  No luck.  Another phone call to Carolynn.

Well, upon the conclusion of this particular phone call, a sad realization.  I am informed that in Carolynnland all ornaments are to be placed onto each branch with individual, red ribbons tied beautifully into bows.  (insert profanity of your choice here)  Are you kidding me?!  Not only am I going to have to be guiding each delicate ornament from box to tree, now I’m going to have to supervise bow tying for each of these paper-thin, glass ornaments of the devil?  Keeping in mind that only 2 of the 4 children involved in helping with decorations even know HOW to tie a bow.  Help me!

Fortunately, the delay in decorating caused by my sporadic phone calls to my mother created just enough time lapse that my children were completely disinterested in helping with the decorations.  Thank you, Lord!  Little Emma, much like her Aunt Amanda quickly became frustrated with the tediousness of selecting your ornament, getting your red ribbon, placing ornament threaded with ribbon on a branch and tying said ornament to branch.  She gave it a good 10 minutes and then went to watch t.v.  Can’t say as I blame her one bit.

This left sweet little Neely and me to the task at hand.  That dear child helped me through the entire process.  It wasn’t until we had decorated about 1/2 of the tree that I realized we had forgotten one very important step- the lights.  Dang, dang it.  I told her that I though we could do it without having to UNTIE any of these torture devices.  Torture seriously.  I had the pine needle scratches to prove it!  She and I came up with our system and very carefully weaved the lights in and out, over and under the numerous red ribbons and glass ornaments.  We finally made it all the way to the top and were quite proud of ourselves. 

After all lights were placed and all ornaments had been strung and hung, it was time for the last step.  Tinsel.  It was now that I was able to bring the grandchildren back into the room and let them go to town with the one part of decorating that I knew wouldn’t cause any breaking or bleeding.  They went to town!  Tinsel was flying everywhere- like tiny comet tails zipping through the air and landing on branches.  Tinsel which, might I just add, will be saved during the “undecorating” of the tree because it is gold Martha Stewart tinsel… of course.  In Carolynnland Martha Stewart is a deity.  Not God, but mighty close!

By the end of the decorating Jessica showed up.  I told her the story and we had a good laugh about it.  Overall it was a fun experience and the kids were so proud of themselves.  That tree was a combination of chaos and perfection.  Much like our lives during this time.  

So, in conclusion friends, if ever in the future you’re ever thinking of helping Carolynn decorate a Christmas tree in her home please remember this-  In Carolynnland “decorating” actually means taking blown-glass ornaments and tying them individually onto branches in lovely, red bows.  BIG FUN!!!!  Happy decorating!

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Untitled

*** I originally sat at my computer today with the intentions of writing a completely different blog with a completely different title.  I put my title,  “I Am Mother, Hear Me Roar!” at the top of my screen and then proceeded to type.  After I typed for a few minutes I stopped to read what I had so far and realized that my words had NOTHING to do with my title.  This was not the message I intended to share today, but I think God must have wanted me to go in another direction.  Fairly typical of my relationship with Him.  I’ve learned it’s always best to let Him take the lead…. so, in obedience…. here goes….***

Today in church our pastor gave a very interesting sermon.  He discussed with us that as Christians we do not all necessarily view God in the same way.  He explained that there are some Christians who feel that when they are in the midst of a struggle (of whatever nature) all they have to do is sit back and let God handle it. 

I realize upon first glance you may think to yourself, “Sure, I feel that way too.”  However, the point of the sermon was that although God IS in control of all of our circumstances, He expects us to have a participatory role in our lives.  Say, for example, you cut your finger rather deeply and it begins to bleed.  Are you going to simply say, “Oh, I’m not worried.  God will take care of it.” and then just stand there and continue to bleed all over your linoleum floor?  Or are you more likely to go to the medicine cabinet and pull out the Band-Aids?  We all have choices we have to make and actions which must be followed through.  We should not feel that we have been given the luxury of simply sitting still and letting our lives fall into place around us.  Christ did His work for us on the cross.  That was His calling, His “action” role fulfilled in completion.  It is up to us as Christians to live our lives in every sense of the word, not as passive players but as active participants.

When I was going through my difficult time last year (whole ‘nother blog, whole ‘nother time) I  was inundated with advice from well-meaning friends and family.  “Let go and let God” was the jist of much of my counsel.  I agree with this plan in theory.  I do think we are supposed to let God lead us and give us direction.  However, we have to be actively listening to be sure that we hear His message loud and clear, and then we must have the strength and determination to follow through with it. 

I remember waking up some mornings last fall and feeling like my head would literally explode with all the impending decisions which seemed to be bombarding me from every direction.  Difficult decisions in the sense that whatever choices I made would be life-altering for both me and my children.  Maybe a better word would be “excruciating”.  There were painful choices set before me and essentially I was being forced to decide which would do the least amount of damage.  It almost hurts my stomach to think about it still to this day.  I remember immersing myself in the Song of Psalm.  Just as David had I would cry out to God, “Where are you in all of this darkness?  I know I’ve made mistakes, but surely I don’t deserve THIS.” 

I wondered how I would know what it was that God wanted me to do.  Yeah, yeah, yeah- I know God is in control and I know He already knows what choices I’ll make, but I don’t.  How can I be certain beyond a doubt?  I mean, I knew what my heart felt, and I knew what my mind thought, and I knew what my friends and family believed, but how would I know it was coming from HIM?  I jokingly told my girlfriend Kelli that I would be so relieved if I could just wake up one day and see on my living room wall in God’s handwriting the detailed instructions for the rest of my life.  Whew!  Imagine knowing the perfect plan for you from A to Z.  Sure it would take some of the mystery out of life, but think of all the heartache and trauma you could avoid….but realistically friends, isn’t that the whole point?  We are put on this planet, in one perfectly ordained time and place, and our journey begins.  I believe our lives become exactly what we allow God through us to do with them.  That can be a wonderful thing or it can be detrimental.  If you chose to play a passive role in your life, perhaps making decisions on a whim and not really tuning in to the voice of our Father, you will most likely find yourself in a world of confusion.  Lost in a dark and lonely place.  However, if we make a conscious decision to actively live this life of ours and listen for instruction, submerging ourselves in His Word to help us better distinguish what is true from what is not- I believe THIS is the only way we will genuinely know His plan for our lives.

Some of you may be wondering what happened with me and all of the heart-wrenching decisions set before me.  Well, I promise to blog on this in more detail one day.  I have to be sure the time is right because I want the words to be from Him.  But today I can tell you this- in spite of being human, making some bad choices in life, and finding myself in an almost unbearable place… He delivered me from that darkness.  It was not an easy road, but I listened to Him.  Throughout my study in His Word, my prayer time, and the counsel of Godly friends- I heard His voice coming through loud and clear.  It was unmistakable.  I have more peace in my life at this moment than I have known in 30 years of Christianity. 

When your situation seems bleak and your mind races wondering in which direction you should turn, I would encourage you to do one thing- commit to living your life with purpose.  Don’t sit idly by and let life “happen” to you.  Do any and everything you can to ensure that your life is aligned with God’s plan for you.  If you’ve got garbage in your life- get rid of it.  If you have habits that need to be broken- break them.  If you are surrounding yourself with bad/negative influences- stop it.  Our journey is too short for us to act as though this is just practice for us.  This is the real thing, baby.  Make it count.

My Garden of Friendship

I once wrote a poem for a group of my girlfriends.  I began the poem like this:  “I’ve been blessed in this life with a circle of friends, a garden of flowers which bloom ’til the end.”  I then proceeded to name each girl, compare her to a specific flower, and explain what I appreciated about her.  It was my way of showing how much I valued their friendship.  Now this poem was written back in 2000, so if you are one of my current girlfriends who is secretly fuming while reading this because you have never received such a poem- relax.  I’ll be happy to write one for you!  😉

I’ve always been a person who relishes friendship.  I love my friends and value their placement, importance, and input in my life.  I have realized that in order to be a good friend you must come to understand a few basic principles about friendship.  If it isn’t too sappy- pun intended- I’ll tell you what I’ve learned while continuing with our garden theme.

I’ve learned that as we grow into adulthood some of these friendships grow with us.  They move and twist and turn like a vine weaving itself in and out of our life journey.  Some parts flourish and blossom, while other parts may slowly wither away and eventually die.  Just as all beautiful flowers do, friendships require cultivation.  They can not be neglected and expected to thrive.  You must feed and nourish that relationship in order to see true growth.

In the same vein, I’ve come to realize (sometimes sadly) that our relationships with people can be seasonal.  I very firmly believe that there are some who God will bring into your life during a specific time and then let them softly float out of your world just as a visiting butterfly.  In some instances that butterfly may reappear sometime down the path or it may just fade into a sweet, loving memory.  I used to feel hurt or rejection, especially in my youth, when these times would occur; but now in adulthood I can see the necessity of them and the purpose those beautiful butterflies served in my life.  Hopefully, I was fulfilling a purpose in their lives at that time as well.

I have always taken great pride in the fact that my garden contains a variety of species.  I have friends of all ages, races, income brackets, and personalities.  I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity friend.  I do not discriminate.  When I set up this blog I included a link through my Facebook page so that my friends would have easier access to it.  Apparently Facebook will take your cumulative list of people following your blog and tell you from which “network” most of your followers are concentrated.  I found myself quietly chuckling when I read what Facebook informed me about my “followers” (friends).  “Followers are distributed among many areas.  No clear concentration in one network.”  Well, no kidding!  I could have told you that!  My garden is very colorful and fragrant.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am so blessed for the beautiful friendships God has allowed me in this life.  If you, friend, have spent time in my garden I thank you.  From those flowers still in bloom to the sweet butterflies who have already drifted away, thank you sincerely for being a part of my bouquet.

Running (a repost from 04/24/09)

I have very recently become a runner.  Okay, well more like a walker who will interject laps of running during specific intervals of walking.  Considering that I’ve not really run since college this has been a slow progression to say the least.

Day one consisted of putting on the clothes, getting the water bottle, going out to the track, and praying for about 30 minutes that God wouldn’t let me die alone at Rogersville City Park.  I did the 6 laps required to meet my one-mile goal and was quite happy with myself.  Day two was a bit better.  Then day three and so on.  I’m proud to say I’m up to an average of 4 miles per day- taking a day off only for these crazy torrential downpours that we’ve been having lately.

I have other friends who run.  One, in particular, likes to do her running through town.  I have another friend who runs on a treadmill.  For some reason, I have always preferred to run on a track.  I find some strange degree of comfort in knowing exactly how many miles I’ve gone and exactly where my destination point is.  I’m comfortable with the familiar scenery, as it is not a distraction.  It seems to give me my daily supply of much-needed alone time to think.

I started pondering the other day about how some people may think running on a track would be redundant or boring.  Sure, it’s fun to run through town where the scenery is always changing, but when some redneck in a camoflagued pickup truck honks and you jump so violently that your earphones pop out and your ipod falls to the ground, it becomes much less fun.

I’ve decided that I’m a person who likes to know where I’m going.  I thrive on having my goal in mind and achieving it.  When I get out to the track,  I know that I need to do exactly 24 laps to reach my goal.  I know exactly when I’m going to run and when I’m going to walk.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll mix it up a bit while I’m out there.  Some laps I’ll throw in extra leg lifts or some arm exercises.  If you’re lucky enough, you may even see me bust out a few of my STELLAR dance moves when just the right Pink or Jon Bon Jovi song is in rotation. 🙂

I’m realizing that this is how I maneuver through my life as well.  With each lap I complete, I’m running closer to my goal.  Some of those laps have been very difficult.  Some of those laps have required me to call out to God for support, literally.  Certain laps, though, have brought feelings of joy and success.  Regardless of the initial pain or elation, with each pass I know I’m getting that much stronger and that much closer.  It brings a great feeling of peace and comfort, and although I don’t know exactly what my final destination is,  I know that this race (my life) is the only one I’ll get and I’m going to make the most of it.

I want whatever goal it is that God has in store for me.  Our God is a just God.  He doesn’t promise us and easy “run” here on this earth.  He does, however, instruct us that if we are faithful to Him, He will give us the strength we need.

Deuteronomy 7:9
“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.”

I claim it. I’m gonna take that promise and run with it.

Be Still (a repost from 6/13/09)

My life journey is about to take me into completely unchartered territory.  It’s funny, how after 39 years, I still am amazed at how quickly circumstances can change.  Sometimes things, situations, people, and places that you count on everyday to be a constant, don’t always remain constant.  It’s a lesson God has been revealing to me throughout my life, but (unfortunately) a lesson that I still haven’t quite mastered.  Quite frankly, I think it’s one that I’ve been afraid of mastering.  I’m not a lover of change.  Small changes, okay, but the big life-changing events… please let me pour myself a drink and have a seat first.

There are a few precious things in life that I know for certain.  The first of those is that God loves me and has unconditional love for me, and all His children.  This is a constant.  I know that I can come to Him and crawl up into His lap, and cry to Him and He hears me.  This is a constant.  I also know that He is continually trying to speak to me.  This is a constant.  I just have to learn to be still and listen.

Psalms 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”

For any of you who know me, you’ve probably guessed that the “being still” portion of this verse is the part that always seems to bring me the most difficulty.  I’m a fairly busy person with a fairly loud personality.  As the mother of a 4 and 5 year old, I don’t often have moments of stillness.

Anyone who is a mother (or father) can attest, it is easy to get muddled down in the everyday living portion of LIFE.  School, soccer practices, doctors appointments, church, birthday parties, and all of the running here and there can certainly be a distraction.  This doesn’t even include the “She hit me so I shoved a Lincoln log into her nose.” or the “Mama, if Eli wrote on the wall in black crayon is he going to get into trouble?” scenerios that are an everyday part of my life.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Well, today is the day of reckoning for me, and I am giving in 100% to being still.  As with any new habit, I’m sure this is one that I will gradually grow into.  It’s so easy as a Christian to say, “Yes, God is in control. No, we shouldn’t worry.”  I would dare say that most people, like myself, have a bit of trouble giving up that control.  It’s a bit like driving your car 80 mph down the highway and throwing up your hands. (Please insert the “Jesus Take the Wheel” song by Carrie Underwood here.)  However, if we SAY we trust HIM, don’t we owe it to HIM to give HIM that control?

So, I’m doing it.  Amanda’s hands are off the wheel.  I’ve had 39 years of doing it my way and this path that I find myself on is not what I ever expected.  It is, however, what I created through my own stubborn (human) decision-making process.

I am looking forward with great anticipation to what God has in store for this life that I am handing right back to Him.  I thank you, God, for your patience with me.  I thank you for another chance.

I have learned my lesson.  Your child is being still and is looking forward to the conversation to come.

My New Year’s Revolution- Yes, I Said “Revolution” (a repost from 1/02/09)

For the past two days I’ve had countless conversations with countless friends sharing 2009 New Years resolutions.  Resolutions that each of us know (way deep down) won’t last much past the packing away of the Christmas decorations.

Well, I’ve decided to do things a bit differently this year.  Instead of making a list of resolutions that I don’t intend to keep, I’m making my first ever New Years revolution.  I pondered for a bit the different meanings of the word “revolution” and have settled on two which fit my intentions quite nicely.

I, Amanda Silvers, am entering 2009 with the anticipation of a revolution- an uprising, shall we say, of my soul and spirit, which seem to have taken a leave of absence the last 6 months of 2008.  Some of us feel victorious coming out of 2008 and others feel like we’re pulling ourselves across that finish line battled and bruised from unfortunate, unforeseen events.  I am challenging myself in 2009 to have a revolution of the soul.  I’m going to stop making excuses for myself (my situation) and realize that I serve a risen King who is able to move mountains.  Surely my small circumstances aren’t too much for the Almighty to handle!  I know He cares about me and I know He wants what is best for me…whatever that may be.  My revolution starts today and will be an ongoing uprising with each new day that passes.  I feel that I’ve been training for this battle all of my life and am ready to come out victorious in Jesus’ name.

Another interesting definition of “revolution” involves a cycle, or going in circles…a turning around.  That is exactly what I would like my 2009 to become.  I need to turn around. I need a “do over” (for you, Tracey).  Life is fragile and it is fleeting.  The world throws enough slings and arrows at us that it just doesn’t seem fair that we are having to dodge slings and arrows coming at us from our own loved ones, does it?  Let’s love like we are supposed to.  Let’s live like we are supposed to.  Let’s respect our fellow man (and woman) and make this our best year yet.

I invite anyone who would like to participate in my revolution to join me.  If I have no joiners I’ll be more than willing to take this step in faith.  I know that as a child of the King I am never truly alone.  It may feel that way at times; but that sweet breath of life that keeps breathing into my nostrils, and that sweet sound of laughter that I hear from my children are motivation enough to keep me marching.  I’m marching boldly into 2009 and am claiming victory for the year to come.

The Quiet Diet (a repost from 11/15/08)

During a wonderful Bible study last night which was lead by one of my most favorite people in this world, we discussed that as Christians we should put ourselves on a “Quiet Diet”.  Essentially, ridding ourselves of the extra NOISE in our lives and making a quiet space for God to dwell in and speak to us.

We were asked to name some of the things in our lives that create this noise, those unnecessary things which can occupy time that you should be spending focusing on and listening to God.  Things such as television, cell phones, computer games, Facebook (!), housework which needs to be done, all of the extra committees/projects that we get involved with, etc.

It was very eye-opening.  In all honesty, there have been many times that I would sit at the computer and play games or chat with friends, while knowing that I have about 6 thousand loads of laundry to do.  I rationalize that this is my time to “unwind”, but actually, I think it has become my excuse to escape.  Sometimes as a wife and mother of two very young children I feel like I deserve that break, but in reality, this should be the time I am MOST turning towards the Lord instead of creating barriers between us.

So, I am making a commitment to begin my Quiet Diet today.  I will limit my time on the computer, limit my NOISE, and focus on what is really important.  I will clean my house and create a pleasant environment for my husband to return to and for my children and myself to play in.  I will turn down all that noise.  I’m curious to hear what God may have to tell me.

Just something to think about.

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