Becoming Miss Virginia . . . Or the Art of Being Happy . . . .
- By Brenda Buckingham
- 28 Dec, 2013
Greetings from Past Blessings Farm!
I hope you had an amazing Christmas that was filled with love and blessings. We were very blessed this year . . . Ron was on vacation, we actually had our shopping done early, no one was sick and things went smoothly. We enjoyed our time with each other, time with our kids and time with extended family and friends. We celebrated the birth of our savior and the amazing gift of salvation He brings to us.
As we approach the New Year, I have spent some time contemplating . . . I am not really a resolution kind of girl . . . I think it puts an undo pressure on us to strive for an unrealistic perfection and then be disappointed in ourselves and feel like a failure as the year goes on and these resolutions aren’t met. Each year at least one person sends me an email or has a list for me to respond to of the things I want to change in the coming year . . . I am supposed to address bad habits I need to give up, new things I need to try, etc. Typically, in order to not offend the friend requesting this, I throw a quick list together. But it is not a deep desire . . . a true resolve to change. It is simply another pressure of unrealistic perfection. So this year I will not be responding to yet another list of things I will change or do differently. I am always changing, transitioning, evolving . . . as I seek to become the woman God wants me to be. I strive to be a good Christian. But that is a daily walk . . . something I consecrate daily to the Lord. Each day I ask for grace, for patience, for kindness and gentleness. I fail miserably sometimes, but God knows the desire of my heart. He knows I want to be a Godly woman . . . He knows I desire to please Him and to be pleasing to my family and friends. He knows I want to grow in the fruits of the Spirit . . but He also knows it isn’t about a list, but about a daily walk with Him. So I suppose this is one small resolution . . . I resolve to never come up with a set of New Years resolutions again. I might post silly ones on Facebook or things that may inspire or encourage, but no true lists that I will only break and be disappointed with. But there is on thing I want . . . one thing I am searching for . . . I don’t know if you would call it a resolution . . . more like a life quest or a deep unending search. I am on the search for and in deep pursuit of true happiness.
Throughout my life, I have had the joy of knowing happy people . . . not just people who smiled occasionally or who had a belly laugh every now and then . . . but people truly filled with joy. These people are rare though and I can only think of three that I think fully fit what I would describe as “truly happy” . . . that is a deep-seeded happiness that is not based on life’s circumstances or the happenings of the moment.
The first was my great-grandma . . . we called her Grammy. I was only 7 when she died, so I do not even really know that she totally was what I thought her to be. But my memories are of a truly jovial old woman who always had a ready smile and a contagious laugh. We would go out shopping with her . . . four generations . . . me and my siblings, my Mom, my Grandma and Grammy. Always, she would make sure we had a treat . . . there is a certain oatmeal cookie . . . soft and chewy with a wonderful buttery flavor . . .that reminds me of her. She would make sure we got one of these cookies from the grocery store bakery (I am guessing now, looking back, these were given to us, not purchased, but Grammy was the one who always made it happen.) Or she would buy us those nasty tasting orange marshmallow “peanuts” they still sell in the candy aisle. At the time, I thought they were divine. I still buy them every couple of years, just for the memory. And she loved comfort food . . . mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese with extra cheese, pie, cookies . . . anything loaded with calories. And she was always happy to share it with us. She lived next door to my grandmother, with a large beautiful garden between the two homes. My Grandma, though I know she loved us, was not a big hugger . . . .so we always would slip off to Grammy’s for lots of hugs and embraces. Looking back now, I know she was in the last few years of her life when I knew her. Her bones ached and she was tired. But I never knew anything but warmth and love from her. She always had an instant hug and smile for all of us. With her, we were always safe. We never felt judged, never felt like we didn’t measure up . . . we just felt safe and happy. When she passed away, it seemed a bit of life’s magic went with her.
The second person that showed me that deep inner happiness was an older woman named Ellie Long. She was my Sunday School teacher in the sixth grade and she took a great shining to me and my then best friend, Tina. She would take us to Disney movies and have us over to bake cookies. Whenever she saw us she would embrace us so deeply into her large bosomed chest that we could hardly breathe. But you still wanted to stay in that embrace, because it felt so safe and happy. All the while she would be sharing this happy chuckle . . . just a laugh that made us know she was happy to have us share the day with her. She had an easy laugh and always wanted to hear all about our lives and made us feel so important. She was widowed and lonely. I know now, looking back, she needed us probably more than we needed her. But even in her grief of being widowed (she constantly talked about how much she had loved her husband) and in her loneliness she always had a joy about her that was contagious. I wanted to be near her and when I was I felt truly happy. But I grew up, and as I did, my time with her became less and less . . . squeezed out by what I thought was more important at the time. And then one day she was gone. But my memories of this joy-filled woman will be with me for always.
The third and final person I can think of, who truly showed me deep happiness, was a sweet woman named Frances Newell. When I met Frances, she was widowed and still carrying for a handicapped son. A few years later, her son, Ronnie, also died. While she grieved for both her husband and her son, she still always had this “glow” about her that drew me to her. She lived in poverty in a very unsafe part of town referred to as “The Twilight Zone” because of all the drug deals that go on in that area. She was riddled throughout her body with arthritis that was completely disfiguring . . . her knees were twisted, her ankles turned completely sideways, so that she was walking more on her ankle bones than on her feet. Her pain was immense. But she always had a smile and always told me how blessed she was. One day, she took a bad fall in the alley behind her home. This alley was seldom used and she knew she might lay there for days. It was winter and she was unable to get up . . . lying helplessly in the snow. But she prayed, in her simple faith, for someone to “just show up” and within an hour, a utility worker came down that alley and rescued her. Most people I know, if telling this story, would have went on about how cold they were or how the fall hurt. Not Frances. She boldly thanked God for that day . . . for sending that man to find her and for “so clearly showing her it was time to move.” Knowing she could not stay in her home alone anymore, she asked me to do an estate sale for her and we then moved her to a tiny studio apartment for seniors. During the time of preparing for the estate sale, I spent many days going through her things with her. Memories would flood over her and she would tell me stories . . . stories of her and her husband Gale in the early years, stories of Ronnie and the joy he brought to her life. Her life had been simple . . . no earthly wealth to speak of . . . yet happy. But when the people she loved most were ripped out of her life, when poverty threatened her very existence and when arthritis disfigured her body and left her in terrible pain, the happiness still remained. I know she missed her loved ones and grieved at what was gone, but she never pitied herself, never questioned God. Instead she would repeatedly tell me how blessed she was. She was blessed to have been Gale’s wife. Blessed to have been Ronnie’s Mama. Blessed to have been able to help others over the years as she worked in social work and home care. And she always made it clear why she was so happy . . . she knew the secret. This life . . . this life of so much pain and hurt . . . is temporary and she knew the eternal was just around the corner. I had the privilege of taking her out shopping each week for a couple of years. During that time, she was always so gracious and appreciative for the help I gave her. When I knew, I was the one who was being blessed by the privilege of being with this Godly woman. She would always ask about my boys and would laugh as I would share their antics. She made it clear she truly loved them. She spent several holidays with us and always had a kind word for all of us. She passed away a few years ago and I knew she was finally happy for eternity . . . . she had made it around that corner and is now rejoicing with the Lord she trusted through great heartache and is happily reunited with her beloved Gale and Ronnie.
I am very blessed to have a wonderful family and amazing friends. I believe most of us are striving to be the Christians God wants us to be. But sadly, that deep-seeded inner happiness is not something I see easily. I see moments of it in myself and in those that are in my life, but it isn’t the steadfast, never changing happiness I seek.
I recently read a book called “Quaker Summer” by Lisa Samson. It is a great read and very thought provoking. It is the story of a very worldly woman who has it all . . . . the fancy house with a pool, new furniture, fancy trips, the whole nine yards. And yet she is terribly unhappy. This book follows her through a journey of letting go of things, of asking forgiveness for sins and of choosing to live for God only . . . . and letting go of all the trappings of this world. This little excerpt spoke to me, in my quest for happiness:
“Tonight as I settled between plaid flannel sheets, I was thinking about the truly happy people I’ve known in my lifetime and how few there really have been, which seems so very sad. Miss Virginia was the crossing guard in our neighborhood when I was in first grade.
A joy shone from inside her that made us kids want to be around her. And never once was I scared coming out of school, because Miss Virginia would be there, and she’d call me ‘baby’ and smile, her gold tooth gleaming. Nothing ruffled her, and even the mean kids smiled at her when they walked by.
Miss Virginia was happy, so therefore, Miss Virginia was safe to be around. I wish I thought of her more after I grew up. I want to be a Miss Virginia. I want to be safe . . . that place where people can fail and still be loved. Heaven knows, there are enough exhorters, enough admonishers, enough people with a lockdown on life, enough people who can tell all of us what to do and why and sometimes even how. They don’t need me.
But I want to be the person around whom people don’t have to do a thing to be loved. Perhaps all of humanity can’t fill that role, and maybe there’s only room for a few of us on earth or it would be all chaos. I don’t know. But as I see it, there is definitely room for more Miss Virginia’s. And I aim to fill her shoes.”
Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Something so simple as simply loving another human being where they are. Loving them in their darkness and brokenness, just like Jesus did. I have to admit, this is not a love I have found often . . . even with close friends. Rarely do I feel accepted simply as I am. While I appreciate others trying to prod me on . . . to push me to be a better Christian, I have to admit, I have felt many times like I am not good enough in their eyes . . . that I haven’t earned the “Christian Seal of Approval.” And as I think about this, I wonder how many times I have done this to others. Being judgmental is not what I want . . . it is not the person I want to be.
So today I say a prayer . . . “Lord, help me to be filled with love for all . . . .regardless of who they are or what they have done. Help me to be a safe place . . . a happy place. Forgive my judgmental eyes and instead give me your eyes of love. Help me to be my Grammy, to be Ellie and Frances. Help me to be Miss Virginia. Mostly help me to be filled with the deep happiness that can only come from You and to share it with others regardless of where they have been or what they have done. Amen.”
Let it be so!
(The meaning of the word Amen!)