Day 13: Bringing Christmas

It is one of the great joys of my life to sing in the choir at Providence Presbyterian Church. But this year, due to an out of town wedding, I won’t be here for our annual Christmas music program.

Tonight I went to rehearsal anyway. But instead of sitting in the choir loft with music and pencil in hand, I moved to the back of the church where I sat and listened.

 

my beloved choir

 

What joy it brought to get to experience the gift of the Advent promise from there.

Here’s a tiny little snip snip for you. (Please pardon the recording quality since at the last minute I decided to grab it as a voice memo on my phone!)

 

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 3: Putting Up The Dern Tree

It goes like this at our house.

  1. Annual conversation about how tall tree should be even though we have been in the house 10 years and have put said tree in same spot with same ceiling height Every. Single. Year.
  2. Eliza and Tim head out the door with rope and straps and all manner of things required to attach a big Fraser Fir to the top of a big SUV.
  3. Dynamic duo returns home flushed and joy-filled with a big Fraser Fir properly attached to the top of the big SUV.
  4. They unbind it.
  5. (I hear grunting. And laughing.)
  6. In a flurry tree is unloaded and hauled into the living room.
  7. I am called in to oversee proper tree placement and straightening.
  8. (It is clear these two jokers think they can achieve perfection on their own but have come to the conclusion–misguided as it may be–that I represent an impossible standard and it is better for everyone if I am simply humored.)
  9. They string the lights.
  10. I leave them to it as they string the lights.
  11. I go to the kitchen and leave them to it as they string the lights. All the while I visualize the web of wires that will crisscross that tree horizontally and vertically and diagonally and horizontally again by the time this exercise is complete.
  12. They come to the kitchen, delighted. We return to the living room, together. I praise, praise, praise their glorious work.
  13. (I wonder how we will ever manage to place a single ornament lest we hang it from the green light wires.)
  14. They smile at each other, then exit the room.
  15. Where are you going? I ask.
  16. Our part’s done, they say.
  17. No! I say. Decorating is the best part! Come back! 
  18. They ignore me.
  19. Please? I say.
  20. (Silence.)
  21. I’ll make White Russians.
  22. They return but refuse to even lift the lid of ORNAMENT BOX #1 OF 4 until they are each, in fact, holding a White Russian.
  23. Ornament hanging commences.
  24. Dogs Barking Jingle Bells plays in the background.
  25. I itch with every ornament hung.
  26. (Everyone knows the big, shiny balls go in the big, empty spaces and delicate angels go higher on the tree. Plus those precious birds and the yarn basket and the pretty gourds and the sand-in-the-clear ball Suzann made in 1997 go right in front, where I see them from my desk.)
  27. These people.
  28. Twenty minutes in Eliza pronounces That’s enough ornaments. Don’t you think, Mama?
  29. Tim shakes his head agreeably.
  30. I open my mouth to scream IT’S A WONDROUS TIME OF YEAR then spot a Little Drummer Boy who is, in fact, hanging from the lights.
  31. Yes, I say. Yes. You guys go on and I’ll just clean up a bit.
  32. They head for the kitchen and the big oven tray of Party Mix.
  33. I reach for the lid.
  34. ORNAMENT BOX #2 OF 4, here I come.

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 2: Real.

We were on the road and in need of a quick, late lunch, landing me smack at the front door of the Weaverville Ingles. Hanging right there so festive were long lovely winds of fresh greenery, twists of white pine and fragrant cedar in coils 10 feet long.

I kept walking–my mission grab-and-go from the deli–but I also kept thinking about that garland. It has been my practice to drape the mantel in our keeping room with a pre-lit catalog version I’ve had for many years. There are a thousand reasons: it’s well designed with perfectly placed little bundles of fruit; it is clean and manageable and just the right length; it will not dry out, drop needles, make a mess.

Still something about this possibility took hold of my heart.

Real, live greenery for the mantel.

I grabbed two.

 

 

How pretty it looks. How pleased I am!

 

30 Days of Joy

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Day 1: Gathering

And so it was his birthday, my sweet husband’s, the big 6-0. And his greatest wish was to spend it at our mountain retreat, 5,000 feet of altitude and 200 miles from our regular, beautiful lives.

But we’ll be all alone, I reminded him, something that suits the introvert in me just fine but that might not be what his big extroverted heart actually desired.

And before you knew it our dear Richmond friends agreed to come for the birthday and the holiday, and our precious mountain neighbors said yes to an invitation for turkey dinner, and Eliza and her sweet beau agreed to make the long drive from Atlanta, and Tim’s brother, John–one of the Island Monettis–made plans to fly from Florida to Asheville creating the greatest, most joyful birthday surprise of all.

It has been one beautiful week, that’s my point, one of those times in which you can hardly hold it all, the gorgeous moments coming so fast and furious.

 

Proof John can, in fact, find sunshine anywhere

 

our giddy Thanksgiving crew: Doug, Jim, Tim, Preston, Jessie, Vickie, me, Eliza

 

And then we had this sunrise, one I want you to see and feel and experience with me, one that took my breath away.

 

 

AND SO DAY ONE is a big one, bursting at the seams–a cumulative, week-long celebration of the best things in life: love, and family, and friends, and food; of God’s great reminder, new every day, that every moment offers the chance for great, surprising joy.

30 Days of Joy

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30 Days of Joy v. 3

In years past I’ve chronicled bits of my holiday season here on The Daily Grace, with two things in mind.

One: To experience this holy season with greater intention.

Two: To bring the joy and light of its sweetest moments into sharper focus.

My heart is pulling me in that direction this year, and it is my hope you will join me as we travel these last days of 2017 together. Here we go, 30 Days of Joy, III!

 

XXOO,

Cathy

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28. The Old Timey Fall Festival

 

THE CALLISON’S JOINED US for the weekend in North Carolina, a good deal of Tree Felling in the boys’ futures, a good bit of porch sitting in ours. And although it is against my mountain religion to drive off this ridge (but for an emergency), we were going to be here for four full days. So I opened my heart to the possibility of a Saturday jaunt to Mount Mitchell.

A little road trip could be fun, I thought, particularly if the result was a mountain view even more spectacular than our current 5200 foot elevation.

And then I learned it was also The Old Timey Fall Festival on the town square in Burnsville. That made it a Done Deal.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-56-37-am
you can see why i was so excited

 

Of course Leslie and Scott were game. So Saturday morning we loaded up the dogs, the people, and the trash* and we pointed the 4-Runner for Burnsville.

That festival did not disappoint.

 

 

AND THEN WE STARTED the climb to Mount Mitchell. It was a beautiful drive that took us along the Cane River, the South Toe River and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. In no time at all we were unloading our crew at Mount Mitchell and making the short hike to the top.

Oh, those views.

 

img_0165-copy

 

 

Mount Mitchell is the highest spot East of the Mississippi, and its peak just happens to be in sight from the back deck of our place. We’ve spent hours sitting there looking across at it, discussing the weather, wondering whether or not a person standing there could see our house and meadow here.

With binoculars, we could. (That was pretty cool.)

 

We're there on that second ridge between the pines!
our little slice of heaven, on the middle ridge between the pines

 

Then we hopped back on the Blue Ridge Parkway and continued in the other direction, eventually taking a (planned) Forest Service Road shortcut that offered a pretty–if slightly unnerving–path down.

 

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It was a perfect day with dear, dear friends, a perfect way to officially move from the fun of Summer to the fun of Fall.

Yay!

 

Sweet traveling buddies
Cinder and Little Bit: Sweet traveling buddies

 

 

30 Days of Fun 

*Needless to say there’s no trash pickup on the mountains so a trip to the dump is cause for rejoicing

 

 

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27. I’ll call you.

I’VE BEEN THINKING LATELY ABOUT LIFE’S SEASONS, something that happens to me every Fall when nature shifts to a different gear. For so many people the changes come with an exclamation point, while for others this passage is quiet, less dramatic. But there are always transitions, I suspect.

This year, for me, the move has been marked by two gatherings that reminded me how important it is to lasso the here and now while it is here and now.

 

FIRST THERE WAS THE BABY SHOWER. Eliza made the long journey home to celebrate with her long-ago friend, Kati. It was a biggie for us, my sweet Eliza and me, this realization that her Little Girl buddies are all grown up, living lives of their own, beautiful and celebratory. She and Kati met in first grade when we became across-the-street neighbors and they became do-everything-together besties. Years later Kati’s precious family moved to another city, and high school brought them both new friends and other focuses. Then college sent them yet again in other directions.

How poignant it was that the girls reunited at the joyful occasion of a baby shower. What heartstrings it pulled as we, their Moms (and good friends ourselves) watched them hug and laugh together.

They were six only yesterday, we both were thinking, riding bikes, going to girl scouts, braiding each other’s hair.

Oh life does have a way of moving on.

 

AND THEN I RAN INTO CHARLIE and made a promise so rarely kept.

We need to catch up. Let’s get together soon. I’ll call you! 

It’s the kind of thing that seems to happen after life brings into your orbit an acquaintance who then becomes a friend, and then a good friend. Eventually the connection that brought you together is over–you change jobs, or baseball season ends, or your kids graduate–and without this gravitational pull, drift begins.

It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, how we genuinely treasure people life brings our way, and yet it can be so difficult to maintain those relationships.

I’ll call you soon!

This time, I actually did it.

 

Ringers
Charlie, Cathy, Eliza, Vicki and Tim–missing Sally, but having a blast on the patio at Moonshiners

 

What fun it was to be together. We talked and laughed as the years melted away and we shared story after story of all that’s happened since our girls’ high school days. It took no effort at all to just let go and be joyfully pulled into the sweet gravitational orbit of each other’s lives once again.

 

LORDY IT WAS FUN. So much fun, in fact, I’m thinking of making this a seasonal practice in my life. A celebration, if you will. With each change from Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer, I’m going to reach out to a distant friend and plan a Let’s catch up event. Happy hour, lunch, dinner or just an it’s been too long what are you up to these days phone call. The last weekend of August reminded me life passes too quickly–and friendships are too important–to let them simply slip away.

A Changing of the Seasons Celebration.

This is a good idea.

 

XXOO

 

30 Days of Fun

 

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25. Everyday Grace

Like so many folks, I am an Instagram lover. There’s something magical about simply clicking on the app to find photographs from all over the world sent just to me*. I’ve chosen the feeds I want to see–most are remarkable nature shots, some are people who make things or blog, a few are celebrities**, and many are people I know who make me laugh, smile, feel inspired, or simply give me a little peek into their daily lives.

(Instagram is one reason I love social media.)

I have posted to Instagram myself for several years and include in my feed a little of this and a little of that. Then it occurred to me some readers of The Daily Grace might enjoy a little grace daily! So I’ve created a new feed that offers one photograph I’ve taken each morning…a sweet moment of grace to start your day.

Here’s a sampling.

 

pink clouds

 

hummingbird

 

flower

 

women

 

cloud form

 

tree

If you are an Instagram user, I invite you to follow me there. And if you’re not, perhaps you will consider joining. (Even those who don’t participate in much social media find this app easy to love.) It is my hope you will find The Daily Grace on Instagram to be a sweet spot for calm, joy and gratitude amid the chaos of this hustle bustle (wonderful) world!

Find me here: The Daily Grace on instagram

*Not really, but it feels that way.

**highly curated

***If you already follow me on Instagram, you will see this is a new feed dedicated to The Daily Grace. My original, personal feed is still there: CathyRiggMonetti on Instagram.

 

30 Days of Fun

 

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