Is it summer or me?

blogIMG_1049Summer and I have not always seen eye to eye.  There once was a time when summer rocked my world.  I couldn’t get enough of the season.  But somewhere along the line, summer lovin’ became summer hatin’ and we actually became enemies.

When I was a kid, summer and I were besties.  I. Could. Not. Wait. Would count down the days until summer came beaming its sunshiny way in.  Warm weather prompted wearing shorts and flip flops.  No school.  Sleeping in.  Playing outside all day with neighborhood friends.  Big family picnics.  Lush green grass to sink into and run around in barefoot. Baseball games.  Splashing in the cold creek.  Bike rides coasting down hills with the wind rushing in your ears.  And enjoying all the Kool-Aid you could drink and popsicles you could eat before they melted slithering down your arm leaving a sticky trail.  And if you were lucky and Dad could swing the time off and extra money, maybe even going on a family vacation to someplace you’d never been before. Staying outside until long after dark playing hide and seek and catching lightning bugs in glass jars or lying on the cool, evening dewy grass staring at the smattering of shiny stars lighting up the velvety nighttime sky.

Back then, what wasn’t there to love about summer?  Yes, summer was my best friend and it dismayed me to watch it depart.    

Fast forward to my teen years.  Summer and I were still best buds.  No school.  Sleeping in.  Hanging out at the pool all day with your friends with the transistor radio blaring the popular music of the day. The smell of Coppertone and baby oil while toasting in the sun trying to acquire that sun-kissed tan on fair, freckled skin.  Long, uninterrupted daydreaming in a hammock under the shade of the apple trees while discussing love, guys, and futures with a best friend.  Loading up the car with a group of girlfriends and taking in the drive-in movies after the sun set or joining up with friends at summer carnivals, boarding the thrill rides and screaming your lungs out until you were dizzy with excitement while bright lights glowing in the dark spun around you. Staying up reading your latest favorite book until the wee hours of the morning when all the neighborhood lights were out and nothing could be heard through the open window but crickets and an occasional dog bark.

Summer, how I loved you and you were still my favorite season of the year.

“The summer night is like a perfection of thought.” ~Wallace Stevens

Even after jobs and marriage, summertime’s allure still beckoned.   Summer brought time off.   Picnics and bar-b-ques.  Adventures with family and friends.  And lounging by the pool, still chasing that elusive summer bronze.  

By the time our twosome became a family of five, I beheld summer through the eyes of my children.  Raising our three, we eagerly awaited summer’s appearance. No school.  Exploring.  Playing outside all day.  Neighborhood block parties.  Baseball games.  Sleep-overs. Wet swimsuits and towels hanging on the deck to dry.  And if you were lucky, a vacation might include a trip to the beach, soaking up sunshine, sand, and salt water.  Teaching little ones how to ride a bike and how to catch a firefly in the dark.  Showing them how to find the North Star and the Big Dipper and listening to crickets chirping. Falling asleep after a long day of mothering to the white noise whirring of a fan in the window bringing welcomed cool breezes.  

“Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood
.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

But then came the rift.  Either summer was changing or I was.  Summer became a weary chore.  A long seemingly endless ordeal of scorching, sweltering days that no amount of ice water or air conditioning could quench and even longer, stifling, muggy nights when sleep couldn’t be found while air was so thick with humidity, the oppressiveness made me gasp for any hint of comforting relief.    

Summer seemed relentless and monotonous and the heat caused me to feel like I would literally burst into spontaneous combustion.  No longer did I look forward to summer, I dreaded it.  I counted the days till its demise and scoured the weather channel for signs that it would soon depart and my misery would cease.

“Heat, ma’am! it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”  ~ Sydney Smith, Lady Holland’s Memoir

So summer and I became enemies in my mid-life years. I couldn’t wait until summer was shoved out of the way by autumn’s cooling ways.   “Bring on the snow,” I would retort.  “I’m ready for winter.”

Summer, that once loved, slower season of relaxation fell from favor faster than plummeting temperatures in the middle of January.  In the ranking of seasons, it came in dead last and stayed there.

Until this summer.  Summer is attempting to lure me in again.  This is the first summer in many years that I have not had a job to rush off to or major work projects to complete.  This is the first summer in quite some time that the temperature has hovered near 80 for the most part or lower.  Nights have been relatively cool and the whirring of my window fan instead of my once-overworked air conditioning maintains good sleeping weather for me .

The yard is covered with lush, green grass, not yet browning or withering away in scorching sun like most summers.  Flowers are in abundance as is the produce from the garden.  Our summer fare has included lots of rainy days but pleasant sunny ones as well.  I’ve been able to throw open the windows and breathe good, fresh clean air and enjoy being outdoors in daytime hours without wilting from smothering heat and humidity.  And last night while talking with Papa, I confessed this thought that has been rumbling around in my brain for weeks now: “If summers were always like this one, I might love summer again.”

Yes, something is changing.  I just don’t know if it’s summer or me.

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”
~ Anton Chekhov


Treasured Relics

blogIMG_3578You know the old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?”  Well, I imagine the same could be true about what constitutes a relic.  This week’s photo challenge theme on Word Press has been relic.

One of the definitions of the word says a relic is “an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest.”  For some, a relic may be just an uninteresting piece of old junk, for another it is fascinating.

On our recent trip south, we visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  Now that place is full of relics – items of historical interest that truly are captivating like furniture, vintage clothing, period décor accessories, old photographs, and original artwork by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and John Singer Sargent.   

But I suppose if you weren’t interested in history or the culture of that bygone era, you could find it boring.  Not us.  My history loving husband found it intriguing and my imaginative self found it equally enchanting. 

The impressive ‘big house’ is a 250 room chateau-style mansion which was built and completed in 1895 for George Vanderbilt as a retreat for his family and friends.  It sits on 8000 acres, much of it wooded and all of it beautiful, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  

As we toured only the rooms open to the general public, I could imagine folks a century ago coming and going.  Arriving in the foyer with trunks in tow for an extended stay.  Enjoying the elaborate indoor winter garden on a blustery cold day.  Lounging on a chaise reading in the library with floor to ceiling shelves holding 10,000 books.  

Genteel ladies escorted by well-mannered gentlemen on a carriage ride through the estate. Elegantly attired folks feasting in the banquet hall where 64 guests could dine around a 40-foot long table.  Getting some recreation in the indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, or gymnasium.  Enjoying a summer breeze and gorgeous view on the loggia.  Strolling arm and arm through the magnificent gardens.  It is the stuff that historical romantic novels are made of.

Taking a day to ‘go back in time’ proved fascinating for the two of us.  Hubby’s love of historical trivia was sated.  He posed a question to a Biltmore staff member about an aspect he noticed in the banquet hall, and she answered with surprise that he was correct.  She added that in the 11 years that she had worked there, no one had ever gotten that connection on his own.  That’s my husband!

And my fascination with vintage things and love for photography was equally satisfied, although I had to be content with only taking pictures outside as no indoor photography is allowed since it is still a privately owned home.  Still there were many photo ops to capture my eye.

All of those relics at the Biltmore have been carefully preserved because someone believed they were worthy of being safeguarded.  And that makes me think about my own relics.  I have a few – they’re not priceless by any means when it comes to monetary value.  They’re only priceless to me because they belonged to a family member now long gone. 

As I glance around my home at my furnishings, artwork, and personal belongings, I wonder if there’s any item here that someday might be considered a relic and if anyone will consider it precious enough to keep. Time will tell.

 “Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.”  ~ Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights


Vacation messages

blogIMG_3644Life isn’t always as rosy as we paint it to be on our social media canvas. I try to put on my happy face and do my best to be encouraging, but sometimes, I feel absolutely overburdened with the trials and troubles this world has in abundance.  Inhumanity.  Greed.  Economic woes.  Political unrest.  Warfare.  Natural disasters. It’s depressing to read the news or watch it on television.

Just the other evening,  Papa and I tuned into one of our local stations to catch the latest since we had been away for several days.  One distressing story after another.  Murders, fires, robberies, drownings…it went on and on until suddenly my husband (keeper of the remote) hit the off button.  He said he’d had enough, and I nodded in agreement.

But I must remind myself that in every dark cloud that hovers over us, (and there sure do seem to be a lot lately) God still sends His rays of light to reach us.  We just have to be on the lookout.  Be sensitive to His voice.  Be open to see and hear and experience Him.  I wish I could say I always do that, but I am remiss way too often.

Early last week, Papa and I prepared to go on a much-needed vacation.  He had a few days left and the old use it or lose it rule is in effect where he works.   So we discussed where we might be able to travel by car for a short trip.   After some thought, discussion, and internet searches for a place to stay, we landed on an opportunity.

I’ve always wanted to see the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  If I had a bucket list, it would be on it. We found a cottage nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville that one could rent for less than a week, and amazingly it was available over the 4th of July.  We promptly booked it and started packing.

Lately, I’d been feeling listless.  My job search proved fruitless and since school is out for summer, there’s no substitute teaching.  Oh, plenty of projects and chores called out to me here at home, but frankly, I just didn’t have the heart to even start them.   I even felt distant from God, slacked off on prayer and Bible reading time, and found no inspiration for blog writing to boot.  And to top it off, I’ve felt so weary of all of the attacks on people of faith that are constantly being highlighted in the news, not to mention the prevalence of downright rudeness and crass ways people  seem to have adopted. 

Yes, I decided, I needed a vacation away from the hum-drum of everyday life as much as my hard-working husband.  The day before we left, I stopped in a department store on my way home from getting a haircut.  As the store clerk was ringing up my purchase, I noticed a piece of paper taped to the side of her cash register, facing the customer side.   A small metal object in the shape of an angel dangled from the paper, which was a little poem about God’s angels.  I read it and frankly, I don’t even remember what was written.

I was surprised that the poetry was allowed in this public place because someone or other always complains about such things and forces their removal.  But that’s not what amazed me the most.  Underneath that printed poem were these handwritten words:  “God loves you!”  The word you was underlined twice to emphasize it, and I felt as if it were a message just for me that day – one of those little rays of light that God shines down that I must be willing to notice.

And He continued radiating His light all through our vacation.  State by state (we drove through six states in one day), God made Himself known to me.  Along the highway in one state, I glimpsed numerous sets of three crosses on the hillsides.  The middle and largest cross was always painted gold and each time I noticed the cross, it reassured me of His willingness to pay the price for my salvation.

Viewing the countryside of mountains, creeks, and woods on our scenic drive reminded me that only a majestic and powerful God could speak such spectacular creation into being.  Once we arrived at our destination, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the cottage we had rented.  It felt like a haven, a lovely spot of rest, and I knew only the God who loves me and wants what’s best for me provided this little sanctuary for a few days.

As we spent the following day touring the Biltmore Estate (which is absolutely amazing, by the way), we encountered kind and gracious folks, not discourteous or ill-mannered.  Not hearing one bit of foul language proved refreshing and pleasant.  It was as if the Lord was showing me that there are considerate, kindhearted people around us.  Again, that little spot of sunshine in a dark world.

We prepared our own meals but did dine on good North Carolina bar-b-que one evening.  And on our drive back home, we stopped at a chain restaurant in another state for dinner.  Even the waitress was well-mannered asking us politely, “May I take these plates?”   Papa picked up the bill and handed it to me, pointing to what was written on the bottom:  “Bring in your church bulletin on Sunday and get 15% off your bill.”

Another sign for me that there are people out there who still believe in God, who attend church to worship Him, and aren’t afraid to let others know.  People just like the bluegrass quartet of fellows playing guitars, banjo, and bass fiddle and singing their hearts out while beautifully harmonizing in a courtyard in downtown Mt. Airy, NC (Andy Griffith’s hometown and the real Mayberry from his TV show).

It surely was no coincidence that just as Papa and I sat down to listen to them, they began singing “Have a Little Talk with Jesus.”

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
He bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole
(Now let us) have a little talk with Jesus (let us) tell him all about our troubles
(He will) hear our faintest cry (and we will) answer by and by
(Now when you) feel a little pray’r wheel turning
(Then you’ll) know a little fire is burning
(You will) find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
I may have doubts and fears my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night
I go to him in prayer he knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.

Those good ol’ boys didn’t know how they blessed my heart that day and reassured me not only that God is there listening to our cries but that He answers by and by.

Sometimes He answers with obvious rays of sunshine like He showed me one evening on one of our scenic drives through the mountains (my photo above).  Other times he sends us less conspicuous glimmers of ‘Sonshine.’  We just have to be willing to receive His message.  It just took a vacation trip to remind me.

“Whenever I see sunbeams coming through clouds, it always looks to me like God shining himself down onto us. The thing about sunbeams is they’re always there even though we can’t always see them. Same with God.”  ~ Terri Guillemets


Let Freedom Ring


“America, America, God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

Happy Birthday, America!  

May we seriously reflect on the great courage and sacrifice our forefathers endured just to provide us, the future generations, with liberty on this Independence Day.   And may we thank God for our freedom and do everything we possibly can to preserve it.  Will you join me today in praying for restoration of our great nation?