It seems a bit strange to write about fall now that the house is decorated for the holidays and Christmas music is blaring from the living room stereo 24/7. But technically, it is still fall. And, as is always the case when I start evaluating the past three months, it seems I learned more than I thought during this season of brilliant colors and too-high temperatures.
We’ll start off with this family picture, taken by my younger sister on my parents’ back deck. Besides screaming “fall,” it reminds me of Thanksgiving Day—the first in many years that someone else did most of the cooking (thanks, sis) and I got to sit around all morning and finish reading two overdue library books.
The lesson in all this: Sometimes, it’s good to ask others to do something that you normally do (and it’s a huge blessing when they happily agree to do it).
• • •
My new love language is effort. I know it’s not one of author Gary Chapman’s famous five, but it really is a thing for me. My birthday was on an unseasonably warm Saturday in early November. I spent most of the day outside, building a stepping stone path around the side of my house. Meantime, all kinds of surprises were under way in the house. Like the Happy Birthday banner, made out of recycled blueprints, that stretched from one end of the balcony overlooking our living room to the other end.
Each letter was surrounded by adjectives that started with the same letter (such as “Bomb” for B and “Iffy” for I). I don’t use this word lightly, but it really was amazing. Besides bringing fresh meaning to the phrase “go big or go home,” it warmed my heart to think of all the time, care and thesaurus usage my girls put into making the display. Yep, for me, effort equals love.
• • •
While the girls were making homemade cards (my absolute favorite) and the fabulous banner, Randy was decorating my birthday cake. (I should pause here and mention that before I got married, the three big items on my husband list were that he had to be a Christian, he had to be taller than me, and he had to be able to fix things. The fact that I got a man who also knows how to decorate cakes has been an unexpected and tasty bonus.)
Anyway, Randy tried something new this year—big flowers on top of a layer of chocolate frosting, on top of a devil’s food base. The cake was beautiful. Even after 22 years of marriage, he still surprises me with his creativity. But I also learned something that day: It IS possible to have too much frosting.
• • •
One of the highlights of November for me was meeting a World War II veteran at Kohl’s on Veteran’s Day. As his hat proudly stated, he served from 1941 to 1945, starting out in Africa, then moving throughout Europe as the war unfolded. I thanked him for his service, and he told me he didn’t regret a bit of it.
The store was crowded, it was past lunchtime, and I was a bit distracted, so we spoke only briefly. As I got into my van, though, I was almost moved to tears when I considered all he had surely experienced and witnessed as part of the Greatest Generation. I wished I had thought to inquire about his age and perhaps ask for his perspective on the election just past. I resolved that, the next time I have an opportunity to engage in a conversation like this, I would ask more questions and listen more carefully. I missed my chance that day, but I won’t make that mistake again.
• • •
When you care for someone I love—in tangible, practical ways—I feel cared for too. There’s more I could say about this, but it’s not my story to tell right now. So I’ll leave it at that.
• • •
When one of my favorite authors shares her story of faith and heartbreak on Focus on the Family, how can I not tell you about it? I first wrote about Tricia Lott Williford when I did this Author Note about her book And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed. To this day, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. You can hear her Focus interview here. Even during this busy holiday season, it’s well worth the time investment. (But be sure to have tissues handy.)
• • •
One of the best parts of my Faith, Fear & the Life of a Writer series has been the comment section. Seriously, I’ve learned much and been encouraged more by interacting with readers (perhaps even you) about light and airy topics such as pride, working through fear and how to be more transparent in writing. So you can imagine how delighted I was when my friend Bethany took my post “24 Ways to Keep Your Writing Real” and turned it into an amazing graphic, which I’m now sharing with you here: 24-ways-to-keep-your-writing-real (Stay tuned for more of the writing series after the holidays.)
• • •
Classical music is my happy place. OK, so music isn’t really a place. And I only listen to this genre when I drive to pick up Lilly from her ballet class on Wednesday evenings. But no matter what my day has been like, the moment I hear Bach, Beethoven or Mozart drifting from my van stereo, the stress just melts away.
• • •
Nov. 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. I didn’t learn this until that afternoon, when I received the daily homework email from Molly’s social studies teacher. (Besides informing parents about assignments and such, Dr. M keeps us posted about all the “holidays” that apparently litter every day of the year.) I wouldn’t have paid attention to this particular observance if not for the fact that, earlier that very day, I had helped my 83-year-old dad clean out and organize his freezer. “What happened, I believe, is called serendipity,” he said when I told him.
That’s it for me. What did you learn this fall?
P.S. Linking up this week with Jami Amerine at #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Storms at #HeartEncouragementThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.