Yesterday’s verse: “The Lord takes pleasure in his people.” Psalm 149:4
Pleasure. The Lord takes pleasure in me, but when was the last time I took pleasure in anything? I couldn’t remember. Writing, yes. My writer’s conferences. The couponing and writing workshops. Any time spent with friends and sisters. But in the everyday? The cooking? I cooked for David. The shopping? His company made it fun.
“Thank you for the pleasure of your company,” I used to joke with David when he accompanied me to a workshop or during one of our “date days” when we’d hit a few thrift stores or a book sale. Did I take pleasure in any of those activities anymore? No. I haven’t traveled for a book sale since David’s death. Malaise could be my middle name when it came to those kinds of activities.
And I’ve certainly been dreading any holiday preparations.
I like the NIV version of yesterday’s verse even better; “For the Lord takes delight in his people;he crowns the humble with victory.”
Delight. God delights in me. Does that mean he also wants me happy?
It is my desire to lavish My love on You– 1 John 3:1
Every good gift that you recieve comes from My hand– James 1:17
And I rejoice over you with singing– Zephania 3:17
And I want to show you great and marvelous things– Jeremiah 33:3
Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart– Psalm 37:4 My plan for your future has always been filled with hope– Jeremiah 29:11
My thoughts towars you are countless as the sand on the seashore-Psalm 139:17-18
The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 all begin with “blessed or happy are they who….”
So, yes, God wants us happy.
A couple of week ago, my friend Mary and I had stopped at my sister’s consignment store after lunch (a true delight). When Mary and I headed downstairs to look at the Christmas decorations, Pat and my niece Marian warned us it was kind of sparse down there because some woman had just bought $175 worth of decorations the day before. Writers that we are, Mary and I had conjured up an imaginary scenario by the time we went back upstairs.
“We decided why the woman had bought $175 worth of Christmas merchandise,” I announced as I reached the top of the stairs, and Marian paused in her work to listen. “The woman’s husband had died and she couldn’t face bringing out all the old decorations so she bought new ones.” Marian laughed, but Pat must not have heard the first part of the conversation.
“Oh, no, I hope she kept some things for her children. I hope she didn’t get rid of everything!” her deep concern over the imaginary woman had Mary and I in spasms of laughter.
“We just made that up! We don’t know who it was or why she bought so much! We’re writers! We make things up!” we laughed as I said it, but I realized even then that the truth is stranger than fiction. I didn’t want to get out my old ornaments or the tree.
A couple of days ago one of my favorite deal-seeking websites mentioned a good deal on an artificial Christmas tree, a pre-lit 7 foot tree that normally retailed for $149, for just $35, and with a free shipping code. I jumped on it, smiling as I submitted my order. Let me repeat the middle of that sentence: Smiling. A few minutes later, the same tree was out of stock. Deals like that don’t last long, but I’d snagged it. It will be delivered on Friday.
That night I casually mentioned to Abby that maybe we should just go to my sister’s shop to look for ornamental balls instead of getting out our tote of old ornaments (a bin full of memories I just can’t face this year), to see how she would react to that idea. She’d been very upset when I’d commented earlier that I couldn’t bear to get the ornaments out.
“That’s a good idea. I like Christmas balls. I just want to hang something up. It won’t be a real tree without something to hang up.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and vowed to check out my sister’s store in the next day or two.
New Christmas tree? Check. Dilemma of the old ornaments? Check, if Pat’s shop had ball ornaments. But there was still the Christmas cards and usual Christmas letter to consider, a task that seemed overwhelming this year.
Yesterday morning, with just an hour to spare, I discovered an amazing Christmas card offer on the same deal site that had mentioned the tree offer. Hip2Save detailed a personalized greeting card offer with a special code, that would also mail the cards, for less than the price of the stamps. In other words, I could design and personalize Christmas cards and have them mailed to my recipients for less than what the stamp alone would cost me!
I had one hour before I needed to be somewhere, and I knew this deal could feasibly end at any time, so I wanted to jump on it. I spent a good 15 minutes going through all the photos I had downloaded on my computer, wondering just which one epitomized the very essence of the past year. When I realized which photo it had to be, I actually stifled back a giggle. I was appalled at my own maudlin sense of humor, but enjoyed the search for the perfect card to go with the photo, and the words I would add to it. I was surprised at how much fun I was having, smiling broadly the whole time I was designing the card, a card that may or may not be considered in poor taste, but amused me greatly. I was smiling, imagining David’s amusement. David did have a sense of humor. He would have laughed wryly at the idea that his wife planned a funeral dinner for a Catholic funeral on a Friday in Lent….and served roast beef. (My mother might not have been so amused) He would have also have found it quite amusing that someone forgot to order a hole to be dug at the cemetery on the day of his funeral so the priest offered to have his coffin stored in his garage over the weekend. “Even when I’m dead things manage to go wrong,” I could imagine him saying.
By the time I submitted my order of 58 cards mailed to my recipients, I was feeling pretty good. Cheerful, in fact. So cheerful, that when I stopped at my sister’s consignment store after my appointment, and my niece Marian asked me how I was doing, I could truthfully answer, “Good. Today is a really good day.”
And then I spotted them on a shelf; boxes of ball ornaments. Beautiful blue ball ornaments. Blue, my favorite color. Could this day get any better?
When I snatched them up, Marian commented that they “weren’t taking glass balls anymore, and yet they’d taken those for some reason.” Could the reason be me? I was instantly delighted. Now, I was really getting excited, imagining the new tree with shiny blue balls on it. I delighted in finding a few more Christmas things, including a long garland of evergreen that could be strung across my bookshelf and plugged into the outlet next to the television. When I got home there was a spring in my step that I hadn’t felt for quite some time. The girls stared at me as I arranged the garland and gushed over the beauty of it. “Mom! You’re smiling and happy about Christmas, without Dad!” The pitch and tone of Abby’s voice expressed perfectly both the horror and the fascination with the change in her mother’s demeanor.
“Daddy would want me to be happy,” I replied softly, realizing suddenly the truth of that statement.
David would want me to take pleasure in things. God wants me happy. Though I’m not entirely sure “shopping” is a God-sanctioned delight. I image communing with nature might be a more favorable activity. But I digress. My card “assignment” today was about pleasure, and all morning I’d been taking pleasure in life. I was just about giddy with happiness when my daughter Elizabeth called. “I can’t talk now. The girls and I are headed to Cedar Rapids to get Emily some art supplies. Oh, I better unplug the Christmas lights before I go.”
“You put your tree up?”
“No, it’s a lighted garland I bought at Pat’s shop,” I replied as I bent down to unplug it, and then I gasped in surprise. “There’s a feather on the floor! A big beautiful feather!”
“Are you drinking? You didn’t just find a feather.”
“Yes I did! And it’s beautiful,” I practically floated to my desk to take a picture.
“People don’t just find feathers on their floor.”
I was laughing in delirious delight by now. “I did. I just found a feather and we’re going to Cedar Rapids to have fun.”
The day only got better.
The girls and I left for Cedar Rapids, stopping at a Goodwill to drop off some bags of donations. I promised the girls I’d just run in quick to look, but as soon as I saw the sign advertising books were on sale for 44-cents, the quick look turned into an intense search. I was amazed at how many books I found;
Not only did I find a wonderful bird book, but there were actual birds; half a dozen beautiful colorful birds sitting on a shelf. I bought them all, $1 each. I’m not sure yet what I will do with them, but they made me happy. David and the girls had given me several similar birds from Hallmark for Christmas two years ago, after I’d mentioned how the bird displays made me think of my mother. (they made me cry, too, but that’s another story) And isn’t the basket amazing? I love baskets..Books, baskets, and birdies. That’s a new holiday throw pictured inside the basket, to replace the holiday throw I usually put over the back of my couch. (And a Relic wallet perched on the basket. I need a new wallet, but I digress again)
Really, could the day get any better?
The day wasn’t all about me; at HalfPrice books I took two bags of magazines and books in to sell and immediately spotted the perfect gift(s) for two of my daughters. (both gifts and daughters shall remain nameless) I received $16 for the two totes I’d brought in, way more than I expected when over half was magazines. That $16 paid for five of the gifts I bought. I also found greeting card holders filled with 30 greeting cards, regularly $14.99, marked down to $3.00 each, just ten cents a card. I bought the three remaining boxes. A little too late for the wedding of my nephew, who’d probably been confused that I’d sent him an anniversary card instead of a wedding card (to my credit I DID cross out the word anniversary). Now I am set for the next few weddings, along with birthdays, babies, sympathy, and friendship.
I love magazines and found a few I hadn’t read yet, along with a couple more books for me. Doesn’t the Book of Fun look, well…Fun?
We did eventually stop at the Michael’s craft store to purchase Emily’s art materials, using the 50% off coupons from the weekend paper. To top off a wonderful, delightful, pleasurable day, we stopped at Hy-Vee for the big, fat Holiday grapes we can’t get enough of, and discovered them on sale!
What could top off a day like this, but arriving home to find my inspirational Christmas essay included in December’s Julien’s Journal?
Except maybe the smiles on my girls faces at seeing their mother so delighted; delighted at a pleasurable day, and the knowledge that there are brighter days ahead. “Daddy would want me to be happy,” I’d told Abby that morning.
Maybe, someday, I will.