Goodbye 2016. Hello New Year.

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The New Year has a way of haunting me as January 1 draws nearer. I know it’s just another day, but for me it’s a time of looking back, taking stock of where I am right now, and gazing ahead for perhaps a glimpse of what is in store for me in the coming year.

The past few nights I have been awakened by dreams reminding me of my past and filling me with a mixture of regrets, feelings of accomplishments, and memories of pure joy, deep sadness, and even loss – all jumbled together in a sleep-depriving slide show of my history. As I contemplated all that is part of who I am, I reached out to God in gratitude for delivering me from evil, for walking beside me during trying times, for teaching me about what real love is all about, and for giving me my life.

And now, today, on New Year’s Eve, I turn the final page of 2016, the pages filled to overflowing with my words, thoughts, prayers, and wishes. I close the book, but I don’t seal it. I can always return to this year in my memories, and be reminded of this great and wonderful gift called life and of the year of 2016. A new book awaits me, its pages blank and ready to receive whatever each day decides to grant me.

Last year I wrote a list of things to NOT DO in the New Year. I didn’t accomplish my goals entirely, but I can report proudly that I have not put on a sports bra backwards in 2016. (See my blog from last year to read my list: https://jennielousdays.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/my-to-dont-do-list/ ). But I also have to admit that I fell off the chocolate wagon over the Christmas holidays, and I enjoyed far too much candy and cookies. The New Year is a good time to re-group, get back into good habits, and take a bold step forward.

2016 is waving goodbye as she approaches the door into years past. She is taking with her tender memories of dear friends I have had to say farewell to this year, of great personal accomplishments that at times seemed daunting and unattainable, of prayers for healing and those answered prayers, of fears over the fate of our nation during the most disturbing political race I’ve ever experienced, and a plethora of moments and days that brought tears to my eyes merely from the pure joy of being alive and acknowledging my small place in this remarkable universe.

As she moves closer to that door, 2016 pauses to glance back at me and with thumbs up and a broad smile, she wishes me Godspeed into 2017.

I pull out my book with blank pages, and I am ready to write!

“I Can Do It Myself,” said the Little Red Hen — Again

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“I can do it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

I wrote these words last summer as I held my newly published novel, Fishbowls and Birdcages, in my hand, bursting with pride, and hardly believing that I had actually brought a lifelong desire to fruition. I felt like I Had Arrived. What else could I ever wish for in my life?

As I sit in the one space left in the living room of my little apartment that isn’t covered with various items symbolizing my life and all that is me and mine, surrounded by packed boxes and a rolled up rug, I look around me and again I can say, “I can do it myself.” And I can, and I am.

I never dreamed that I would ever live anywhere besides this little apartment, or one like it, for the rest of my life. The thought of living in a real house again was as far off my radar screen as the nearest star in the universe. A mere twinkle in the night sky, not worthy of my focusing on it for any more time than it takes to make a wish upon it.

But then, one day a couple of months ago, a thought popped into my head. Maybe I could buy a house. Or maybe the thought didn’t just pop in; perhaps it was planted. It so happened that in the prayer group I joined last winter included a real estate agent and a mortgage banker, who I know were put in my path to play a pivotal role in this crazy idea of mine. I began praying to God to light a path for me if this was something that I should do. My new friend, the real estate agent, volunteered to carry the lantern for me along this new path, and we began looking for houses I could afford. They were few and far between, and among those we visited were homes I couldn’t imagine actually living in. Who would have a small house for sale, one in my price range, and one that had been someone’s beloved home, and one that was looking for me?

Besides, could I do this on my own, all by myself? If the Little Red Hen could do it, then maybe I could, too!

One by one, things started happening – strange and wonderful things. The light on my path remained bright, in spite of bumps in the road and many hoops to jump through. Encouragement greeted me everywhere, even when I felt like I needed to forget about this venture and stay put where I am. I found a house I really liked – it seemed to draw me in and call me by name – but the asking price was $15,000 more than my budget allowed. My agent encouraged me to make an offer, and I did. A week later, I had a contract on the house, not at the price I felt was my upper limit, but at one close enough that I felt I could handle it.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve been on the verge of throwing up my hands and proclaiming “I quit!” a few times in the process. But the light on the path has remained constant, and the promise, “I will take care of you,” has been a daily reminder to me, evidenced through the encouragement from my friends and family, my daily devotionals, and my inner desire to have a home of my own.

Yesterday morning, I was awakened by my phone chirping and announcing I had a text. The words from my mortgage banker friend were, “File is clear to close.” I cried, I jumped out of bed and twirled. I thanked God.

And then I took my dog, Sunshine, for a walk, and took a photo of my lighted path.

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I move into my new home next weekend.

Bucket List or Shopping Bag?

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Bucket List – this is a term I hear a lot about these days. I saw the movie, I hear the term almost every time I get together with friends (especially those in my age group), and I feel like I need to find a bucket to begin filling it up with things I want to do before I die, if I am going to keep up with my peers. Whether I actually do the things I might put into my bucket is questionable, which leads me to the following pondering.

It’s something to think about. What size bucket do I need? What should go inside of it? Will it be cumbersome to carry, or light as a feather. Do I set it in a reserved spot in my living room, or carry it around with me all the time? Thinking about this reminds me of a blog I wrote, “The Shopping Bag” – http://jennielousdays.blogspot.com/2011/05/shopping.html a few years ago.

While the shopping bag in my blog was definitely not a bucket, there are certainly similarities in the two, as we travel through life, choosing what is valuable and what is not. As I consider the possibility of a bucket list, I can’t help thinking about my shopping bag. (Read my blog before continuing, and it will help you understand where I am coming from).

What would I put inside of my bucket, should I decide to get one? It seems to me what I am hearing from most people is that you put things you want to accomplish, places you want to visit, and things you want to do into your bucket. If this were the case for me, I’d be dumping my bucket out on the floor on a weekly basis, examining what’s in it, and constantly changing my mind.

The other night – one in which I was sleepless for several hours – I contemplated my life, where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going. I have been to some really neat places on earth, and have wonderful memories of my travels. As I considered my life – and got a little too deep into it in my wakeful condition – I began imagining places I might yet visit and what the impact of seeing, or missing, them would be, considering the big picture. I came to this conclusion, and it’s kind of a strange one, if you think too deeply about it. When I die, it’s not going to amount to a hill of beans where I’ve been or what I’ve seen on this earth. What will matter is where I am going – and I do believe that there is something for me beyond this life. When I die, what might have been on my bucket list won’t really matter. Right now, for example, I am hoping to go on an Alaskan cruise next summer. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. But, if I don’t go, what difference will it make when I look at my life as a whole? Not much, I think.

This all takes me around the bend to the idea of a bucket list again. I don’t think I want a bucket list. I much prefer the shopping bag that I wrote about years ago. But if I had a bucket list, it would be different from what I believe most other people’s are. Mine would include who I want to be, what I want to write, conversations and discussions I hope to have, wonderful smells, aromas, and tastes, laughter and music, hugs and kisses, licks and tail wags from friendly dogs, the wind in my face and sun on my arms, and knowing that I am God’s child no matter how often I come up short.

Bucket list or shopping bag? Take your pick! I’ll take the shopping bag and the journey!

Personally, I like rainbows, wildflowers, chips of robins’ eggs, birds’ feathers, and the song of a waterfall.