Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Children place Christmas orders and wait to see what turns up. What about us? What will we do with the offer of a lifetime, lying in a manger? Was He on your list? He wasn't on mine, until God sent Himself in the flesh 2,000 years ago. Up to that point, the list was kind of up for grabs. People put in their orders for centuries, waiting to see what turned up. Many supposed answers arrived. False prophets claimed to be the gift. Some were fooled and followed false prophets, whose leading was ludicrous, and whose answers didn’t satisfy. People continued to cry out to God, as Hannah begged me, “Put your eyes on me, just me.”
At the appointed time, He did, in the person of the Christ child. At first, the babe of Bethlehem wasn't whom they expected. He seemed so ordinary, from His birth until about 30 years of age, except for that incident in the temple at 12. His mother, Mary, knew from the moment of the angel’s announcement, the child she would bear would be the Son of God. She must have been anxious for that gift to be unwrapped, revealed. It was following her insistence that Jesus showed her His stuff, remember, when He performed His first miracle -- turning water into wine.
How many more of His gifts would come in the days ahead? With each and every one, what was revealed but the power of our Almighty God. So when people cried out, “God, look at me, just at me!” He proved Himself by healing the sick, giving the blind sight, casting out demons, even raising the dead. Now, talk about gifts.
The heavenly gift that delivers stands in stark contrast to the other gifts we’ll throw away or outgrow from Christmas. This one is imperishable, good for a lifetime. How will you and I celebrate this gift from God? Let’s keep it, treasure it, and tell about it. After all, His eyes are on you. He chose you to be His for a Merry Christmas and a blessed hereafter!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Then my eyes cast on the old wooden box full of cards coming in the mail. There He was, again and again, sent across the miles from people who know, worship and adore Him. There He was on the piano music stand in the music our family played in church on Christmas Eve with violins, oboe and piano: J.S. Bach’s “Beside Thy Cradle Here I Stand!” In my Christmas jewelry box I found Him in a manger on a lapel pin to wear on my jacket. My Christmas cookie cutters include a cross (totally Jesus!) and a church we paint with frosting each year. There’s Jesus, too, all year round, on a wall icon a nephew brought from Greece.
Last night I made sugar cookie shapes with Lew, 3 and James, 5. We rolled out the dough, side by side at the kitchen table, me with my marble rolling pin and them with their child-size rolling pins. There were stars, bells, angels, gingerbread man, and candy canes. No Jesus, until little Lewie handed me several globs of dough she’d rolled in her tiny hands to bake. “It’s Baby Jesus in His manger, Oma!” she explained. Indeed, there He was, head obviously rolled and placed in that hand-hewn shape. She painted Him white with a touch of yellow, perhaps His halo. I hadn’t even thought much about that until just now, writing this. There are several nativity scenes in their home. There are also lots of car, princess and baseball ornaments on their children’s trees. But Lew pulled out the real meaning of Christmas when she fashioned the Christ Child that night with her heart and her hands, and I almost missed it because it wasn’t the prettiest cookie shape we painted, or the most obvious.
Isn’t that how the Bible describes The Christ? He was not the most handsome of all men, not to be noticed. He wasn’t that obvious. But what He did and what He does for us is the sweetest message in all the world. It fills your life with hope and joy when you find Jesus in the Baby Boy. Then Jesus will live at your house and be shared there with all who come. Merry Christmas!
Luke 2: 8-15
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
Monday, December 21, 2009
“I spent Saturday morning with Emma & Lillian. Jennifer was in AL visiting Christy and Phil had a business meeting, so I was enlisted to watch the girls. After being soundly beaten in Wii, I decided to take them to the mall to see if we could find Jesus anywhere. All we could find were two stores that sold nativity ornaments (which we had to search for amongst the millions of Santas, snowmen and reindeer).
“We boldly asked the lady in the puzzle store if Jesus was in the store and she had to search hard to find a 1000 piece puzzle of the last supper. Finding it impossible to find Jesus, we searched just for the word ‘Christmas.’ Only one store had the word in their promos. To say the least, we were bummed. On the way home, Lillian found 23 Santas, a couple dozen lit up reindeer and lots more inappropriate indications of the reason for the season. Finally, we saw a Jesus banner hanging from a house, and a plastic Mary and Joseph adoring a plastic Jesus. The girls concluded that people were missing the point of Christmas. It was a big learning experience for all of us. It was sad not to find Jesus in Christmas. Hope your Christmas overflows with Jesus. – Karen”
Now we know it’s not the retailer’s job to tell the Christmas story, and we may not be able to change the world’s mind about how to celebrate Christmas, but we can introduce the world to Jesus. For starters, someone gave me an “It’s ok. Wish me a Merry Christmas!” button to wear! It’s ok not to, also, or to not put Christmas on your store signs. It is interesting, though, that Christmas is about the birth of Christ…whether you believe He is the Savior of the world or not. Lots of people cash in on the merriment of Christmas cheer, even though they miss the message for one reason or another. Can you celebrate without Him? Sure…but then you’re not celebrating Christmas!
I don’t know if He’s in your mall or your mail, on your coat, in your spouse, or on your City Hall lawn. The question is, is He at your house? I just looked for Jesus in my own home, like Emma and Lillian looked for Him at the mall. In a few days I'll tell you what I found. Meanwhile, take a look around. Is He there?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
There was plenty of truth in the movie version, however. Their mother did die, leaving seven children. The Captain “wasn’t as strict as portrayed in the movie with his whistle. He adored us and provided lovingly for us in every possible way.” It is true that he called a monastery to find a teacher for his daughter, Maria; she had a weak heart and required home tutoring. The monastery recommended another “Maria,” sent home from the convent with headaches. This was the musical Maria who came to teach with guitar in tow. The children’s mother had taught them instruments and to sing, but not in parts. Now they would learn Austrian folk songs and harmony and eventually take their show on the road…around Europe and all the way to the United States. The new Maria taught the ailing young Maria in the mornings and in the afternoons developed the little troupe for the stage. Somewhere along the way, she also found the time to fall in love with the Captain!
They married and ultimately brought three more children into the world. In fact, Maria was pregnant with their last child when they escaped. I asked the younger Maria how she could be thankful with so much loss in her life. She said her mother’s death, her own childhood heart disease (which she noted joyfully brought a new mother into her life!) and her family’s flight with no money from Austria all appeared to be tragic, “but it turned out to be a blessing that sent us around the world singing! So tell people to praise God under all circumstances. The devil cannot win when we do that!”
If all that glitters is not gold, I learned from Maria Von Trapp that all that shatters is not loss. Maria’s life message is to wait on the Lord. He revealed to her over time that just as He took her beloved mother home to Himself in heaven, He sent another mother to pick up where the first left off and finish the job. It was her work teaching them musical parts, after all, that was their ticket out of harm’s way. Christmas reminds us of how, for thousands of years, God’s people waited and watched for The Messiah to come. And when the time was right, He came! This Christmas, He comes with joy to the world. He comes to you, in your waiting, in your circumstance, to bring you His peace. Merry Christmas!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Do we see the possibilities or do we look through the same glasses and see the same-ol’ same-ol’ in our lives? Is it a pregnant woman’s table or a pregnant woman? God’s examples in the Bible lead us to look at people and circumstance more like He does -- in terms of possibilities. His Word indicates that things are not as they appear. We see the impossible. He sees the possible. Not only does He see our hurdles and setbacks, He uses them for good. He can change your mind, your situation, your tomorrows, or all of the above! When God sets the table for us, it’s always with a fresh perspective, a better way, and a hope we can count on. Have a seat at that table where there’s always room!
Monday, December 7, 2009
A few more months and we’ll all be able to give them a kiss. Meanwhile, we appreciate lessons from the pack-and-move crowd. It can be so hard to move, to relocate, to face change. Maybe if we look forward to it like Hazel did and look for the babies and the new opportunities to love, it will make the move -- the change -- easier. Waiting time can be excruciating or, when left in the Lord’s hands, more than possible. Take courage from Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” That in itself makes the wait worth it
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I’m still clueless, until Hannah says, “Mom…Maa-aahm!” What was I missing? Oh goodness, Sarah … are you? … is it? … do you? Are you telling me you’re giving us grandchildren numbers eight and nine?” Yes, mom! Hugs galore over this complete and total surprise! Such happy news -- on cookies, no less! I was reminded that evening of the Bible verse from Psalms 34:8 that says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” As we watched the sunset over Lake Michigan out the cottage windows that night, I was filled to overflowing with thankfulness to God for the sweet taste of family gathered from far places, loving one another, forgiving one another, and taking refuge in Him! What a taste of life that is! I savor even the memory of it now!
Monday, November 23, 2009
With no plan, other than childcare for the evening, we head into the streets of NYC, expecting something grand. Oops! Pelting rain, umbrellas up. The temperature had dropped to 35 degrees, so the elements were taking their toll on us after the first uphill block. We passed two ordinary looking restaurants, not at all what I’d imagined. Finally, we get to the corner, with traffic honking and splashing and racing home from work. We look both ways and nothing but Internet cafes, laundromats, liquor and flower stores. Suddenly, the goal became fill the tummy and head home to a nice warm fire!
How hard can it be to get a decent meal in the last block? We head back and I hear myself saying how many times over the years, in how many cities, have I walked in and known instantly if it’s going to be good or not. Down some steps we go -- lots of steps -- into a restaurant that claims to be “Italian.” A good salad, a hot cup of tea, some nice bread, and some comfort pasta sound just fine. Upon entering the restaurant, apparently the image in my head of home and fireplace obliterated my keen sense of is this going to be good or not? I saw linens, silverware, waiters who looked like waiters, and candles on the tables. As we shivered coming in out of the cold, we noticed the sound of shrill sawing somewhere in the back. The other diners didn’t seem fazed, so we ignored it. It never did stop. A gentleman dressed in a tux was playing an upright piano as we gazed at the menu. I think it was when he played the same seven measures for the fifth time that we felt annoyed. Mid-piece, he stopped and stood up, leaned over to remove an empty three-foot tall glass vase and placed it on the floor and opened the top of the upright. He peered in, tinkered around, and seemed satisfied. Down goes the lid. Back goes the tall empty vase and the man sits down to play, looking as relieved as we felt. By this time we’d decided to order two items and see if it was going to be any better than the saw sound and the piano sound and then leave if we must.
After we ordered a salad and a starter with water and a soft drink, we relaxed and started writing down some of Rachael’s tips before we forgot them. Nothing was permitted on the laps of the audience, so no notes on the spot! I guess that left more room for her cousin’s snack. And there it was -- the same maddening seven measures on the piano, this time with a trill or two and the pianist looking around smiling as he made up a melody, or tried to. This time he kept at it for about four minutes, going nowhere with the tune. It was driving me crazy, to the point of barely being able to eat my half of the starter.
But alas, the man stops playing (what a relief!), stands up, removes the tall empty glass vase, opens the lid, tinkers with something inside, closes the lid, replaces the vase, and sits down looking quite pleased with himself. And still the same melody continues, embellished with a few variations, including wrong notes, from this pianist in his upright -- or was that up-wrong -- position? Every time he took the vase in hand I would think, Dear Sir, you are empty handed in more ways than one, puh-leeze take lessons or take up another hobby! This up and down routine was repeated two more times, with a great deal of discordant sound in between, before we could summon our check and exit.
One of the great gifts in life is to be able to laugh at oneself. And so I will every time I remember this dreadful dining opportunity with my eldest daughter. I think we’ll always laugh about it because it was so improbable, so unexpected an ending to this special day together! Some may say, “Expect nothing and everything you get is gravy!” Frankly, I would have enjoyed some good gravy that night! But instead, Jennifer and I made a memory we won’t forget, even if we want to. We also learned a lesson about lightening up in the face of seeming failure. A great TV shoot experience, followed by mundane food and music, and lousy weather, did not dampen our spirits in the long run. Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…. And be thankful.” I’m thankful for His peace that passes understanding in every situation He allows in my life. And the next time I’m in NYC, I’ll thankfully plan ahead for a more successful finish to the day!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Earlier that week, a huge Rachael Ray devotee and new mom told me that Rachael taught her to cook. I know this woman’s mom is a good cook, so I wondered why she learned from Rachael Ray rather than at home as a girl. I found out that, after teaching all day, her mom really didn’t have the extra time and energy to teach her kids to cook and, instead, served her large family an easy meal from the crock pot. Sound familiar? I can see why Rachael is so successful in luring women back into recipes and the delights of bringing people together with good food!
“Our” Rachael Ray show will air on Black Friday, when you’ll hear financial guru Bill Rancic's tips on saving money with online holiday shopping. (Hilary Swank was the scheduled guest but had to postpone, so we learned about money matters instead.) I was as fascinated with Bill’s initial sit-down with Rachael as I was with his spending tips. A friendly, spontaneous, brilliant guy, he walked in, they greeted each other and then got right into the holiday shopping piece, cameras on! Within two minutes, someone approached Bill, who was looking crisp and spiffy in his lightly starched white shirt, and he hopped up and left the stage. Rachael indicated to us that she was as clueless as we were as to what just happened. Moments later, he came right back with a blue blazer on, sat down, and they began the interview again. It turns out that white on camera doesn’t work as well without contrast. What was funny was the size of the new, “better” jacket. I’d say the sleeves were about four inches too short, so Bill didn’t move much, being in a straight jacket! But the show must go on and he was loaded with good information. Darling guy!
Then we were treated to some incredible makeovers. A team of makeover artists had chosen three couples from applicants who wanted to look like famous couples, for example, David and Victoria Beckham. The couples were shown before their makeovers, next to pictures of the famous couples they wanted to emulate. In each case, the couple then walked on stage and we all gasped. The artists literally made the couples look like their dreams—and the team did this in only a couple of hours! Even Rachael was wide-eyed and open mouthed over this feat. What a difference cut, color and fashion can make!
The audience that day was treated to parts of several shows, showing off Rachael’s flexibility in going from paring potatoes or stirring Arborio rice with animated patter (“always throw in some freshly grated nutmeg with green veggies to enhance their flavor”) to interviewing her guests or chatting with her audience. The woman has the energy of a hummingbird! Our four hours, start to finish, included a waiting time with a good comedian between segments to keep us smiling. But it was always intense interviewing, cooking, wardrobe changing or commentary time for Rachael.
In the audience, I happened to sit next to the PR woman for Rachael’s hairdresser. She confided that Rachael had gotten her hair done prior to the morning’s taping, so it was no wonder she was having a fabulous hair day! But where does she get the energy to record an entire show in the AM and then work on stage with us watching all afternoon? If only she could bottle that like her bottled EVOO; I’d be first in line!
I knew ten minutes into the session that there would be no “meet and greet,” but it was so worth it to come close! I left with a huge appreciation for Rachael’s professionalism, her sincere interest in her guests and her passion for convincing us that cooking is a privilege -- not a big deal, but with big rewards. She had to be exhausted going through all those paces. Experiencing her in person motivated me, even though I was already a cook through and through. Now I’m inspired to enjoy the process and the outcome with a little more gusto. That energy can be applied not only to the kitchen but to working on a radio interview or a keynote, with enthusiasm and joy, even when I’m fading fast! Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “Do not grow weary in well-doing!” This holiday season I’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that…and hopefully I’ll face my audience with a smile, knowing I’m serving the Lord as well as my guests, listeners, and readers! And if you catch me fading…whip out one of those blue blazers, will ya? I know how that works, too!
By the way, after an entire afternoon of watching and sniffing the culinary delights from Rachael’s kitchen, you’ll want to know what we got to eat in the studio for our snack and where I took my daughter to eat in NYC afterwards. Remember…we were in New York City, just “us girls” with no kids – the sky was the limit, but you’ll never guess where we landed! Stay tuned…
Friday, October 30, 2009
One of my guests was Bruce Meyer who lost his wife, Carol, at age 57 to cancer last year. Or was it? Bruce agreed to talk about his situation publicly for the first time, to help us learn more about advocacy and what can and does go wrong. You can listen to that interview at your leisure and share it with friends. During her treatment, which went well, Bruce and Carol trusted her doctors. They also left everything in God's hands, while trying to stay on top of available information. They faced her possible death standing on the promises of God in Christ and looked forward to eternal life.
After Carol died, Bruce honored her by designing her tombstone, pictured here with Bruce. He discovered an outlet for his grief and a way to use his artistic gifts to comfort others when they visit the cemetery. Some of the feedback on his art and its impact gets back to him, even though it is not a signed work.
Another piece of this story, not on the air, is featured in Dr. Dale Meyer's "Meyer Minute," a daily devotional available online. Dale is Bruce's brother, and the Brad mentioned is Bruce’s son. I include it here as a reminder that life does go on:
The Meyer Minute for August 21, 2009
When it comes right down to it, each of us lives life alone. Hopefully you have good support groups, family, friends, church and other groups. Still, each of us faces life in our own skin, no one else’s. What a great blessing then to know that there are people to be with us as we make our solitary way.
My nephew Brad has learned that, and in a way that makes his family burst with pride. About to enter his fifth year in pharmacy school, Brad realized a dream by riding his bicycle from St. Louis to Denver...about 900 miles…solo, all alone. “This has been a great experience,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of help from strangers along the way; people I didn’t even know. It’s really rewarding knowing that people want to and will take the time to help a stranger. For example, people I don’t even know have fed me dinner. I’ve sat at the table with people I didn’t even know…and that’s cool.” (Press release, St. Louis College of Pharmacy)
I have a mental picture of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan but in my mind the traveler is on a bike. There are Good Samaritans that help all of us in our pilgrimage to the city more than a mile high. And, Happy Birthday, Brad!
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I know -- it’s weird and thrilling, fun for everybody who visits, to witness and write home about. People leave shaking their heads. It’s tough to explain, except for my dad, a civil engineer, who would quietly explain after people had fun with it that it’s just an optical illusion. He knew people wouldn’t believe him. The car was pulled uphill, after all! He seldom mentioned that his level proved his point. He was content to know the truth and let people have fun with the fiction. As the saying goes, he knew “which hill to die on!”
Off Putney Road, I can have fun with fiction and ignore the truth about the stacks of stuff overtaking my area of the basement or the porky pounds accumulating to help me bulk up for winter. I can fool myself with mirrors that start at the neck and by avoiding the basement. But at some point I have to face it, or face the consequences. Even my access to some of the best minds and guests on the globe through the Woman to Woman® show doesn’t put me on auto-pilot for good habits.
Occasionally there is sweet victory. I change best when I level with myself and take inventory of where I’m living an illusion compared to the truth of God’s Word, which is like the level my dad put on Putney Road. When life’s journey gets bumpy and feels like an uphill climb, you might ask God to put down His level to show you the Truth so you can find the Way. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) Great place to start, whether it’s uphill or not!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This summer, we went with James’ family to Grant’s Farm, a wildlife preserve on the land once owned by Ulysses S. Grant. While I noticed the ominous storm clouds moving in, James was too busy feeding the goats and delighting in the Galapagos turtles to notice them. Nothing was said until the obvious happened -- the gates of heaven opened and poured out 3 inches of water in 30 minutes. We were annoyed that our umbrellas were in the car, but then again, the water wasn’t the real concern; it was the lightening that stopped us in our tracks. Our only options were to stand under trees or beneath a metal roof over an animal staging area. Let’s see, metal roof or trees. We opted for the sturdier, albeit metallic, overhang. Every four minutes, an automated announcement would calmly apologize, “The bird show has been cancelled due to inclement weather, until further notice.” The adults faked bravery for the kids’ sake, but we were all shaking as the lightening struck around us -- but not on us and not on our shelter, thank the Lord. Six of us, two being 5- and 3-years-old, stood wide-eyed hoping to avoid the eye of the storm, which had to be out there somewhere. After about ten minutes, James piped up with great bravado, “I can’t believe it!” Believe what, James? “I just learned I can stand right in the rain with the lightening and not be afraid. It’s amazing!”
It is amazing! On this day for James, being surrounded by loving adults who were not bothered by bolts and sounds, who chattered and laughed just like normal right through it, calmed his fears. It's one more way God’s love works, eh?
I heard a radio announcer the other day say that he’s still scared of the dark and just as afraid to admit it to other people. Fear can be fierce and tenacious; just try to convince the person -- little or big -- that thunder and lightening are just God moving the furniture or that they won’t be scared forever. When you’re afraid, conquering that fear seems a formidable challenge, but His love allows us to remove that fear. As 1 John 4:18 reminds us, “There is no fear in love. Perfect loves drives out fear.” The next time you shiver in your shoes in the lightening or face whatever strikes fear into your heart, ask God for His perfect love to drive out that fear. It will put a fresh face on the expression “lighten up!”
Monday, September 21, 2009
It energized me when she said that. It sure wasn’t my energy that day. Seriously, I wasn’t having that great of a day myself; it wasn’t a bad day, just an ordinary, lots to do, lots of interruptions day. But hearing how my message affected her, I wanted to do that again for someone. How easy is it, to be upbeat and cheerful -- not silly over-the-top inappropriately slam-dunk vociferous, but pleasant and uplifting and assuring. I’d like to be that kind of woman, and apparently I was... without knowing it. How does that happen? And how can I be that woman more consistently and more purposefully?
I found a clue in the Bible. It turns out that God put us in relationships with each other, even strangers we meet in passing, for all kinds of reasons. We don’t have to know what’s going on in someone’s life. In fact, we can’t always and shouldn’t always know, because it would be too heavy to carry all of that weight around. But what we can do is help others lighten their loads. Proverbs 12:25 tells us: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
There we have it. Have a kind word for everyone, yeah even that one woman who drives you nuts! How hard can it be, and how much it could cheer the person up! It happened for me when I left a voicemail. Good grief, I bet it could happen “in person” as well! Let’s try it and see. In either case…voice mail or “in person,” they’ll get the message! So now I know how it happened that day when I called my friend and left words that energized and cheered her up. It wasn’t my energy; it was His! I love when that happens. So does He!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I grew up in a family where age was respected. We honored our elders with visits and letters and interactions, so it was natural for me to fall in step when I married into the “older but wiser” family of my husband. His parents were older than mine; his mom was already 65, a big difference when mine was 50. When I moved to my husband’s hometown, I was surrounded by smart, older women, including three of my mother-in-law’s sisters in town and two who visited frequently from out of town. They were lively, talented and interesting women who reminisced about the early 1900’s like it was yesterday. They grew up quilting and sewing, a bonus for me because “Spooky,” my mother-in-law, welcomed our mending in her sewing basket. Eventually with four kids, I had plenty of holes to patch and pants to hem, and she rejoiced in helping us with those projects. That shed a whole new light for me on helpfulness with a “servant’s spirit!”
Holidays and birthday parties were at our house and the older but wiser crowd came. My kids entertained them with their instruments and antics, but really they were just fine entertaining themselves with stories about the good old days. They were good storytellers, and we learned a lot, never knowing how much was true and how much was embellished. Everybody went home with enough favorite food to last for days, including my curried zucchini soup, which Nannie loved.
Twenty years later when the kids had all left home, I realized our social lives had pretty much revolved around the older but wiser women and two husbands who couldn’t hang on quite as long as their wives had. It was around that time at Christmas when Nannie, 94, said that she and Pickie, her 92-year-old sister, couldn’t handle the trips to our house any more. We were stunned. We thought it would never end. It didn’t bother us when Nannie’s vision faded so much that she’d try to eat the pattern off her plate. It was fine when Aunt Ada brought a “dish” of about 16 string beans because she thought they couldn’t afford any more, and we didn’t bat an eye when Spooky added grapes to her formerly fabulous potato salad. We had no problem picking them up and driving them home. But it was too much for them.
When the family gatherings stopped, I co-dependently tried to do “parties to go,” to jolly ‘em up with my meals on wheels, with my college kids thrown in for good measure when they were home from school. “No thank you,” the aunts said. When it was over, it was over.
I think it was a lot harder on me than anyone, and they weren’t even my aunts. I thought for a long time that since I was the most shaken, no one else got as much as I did out of these visits. But I see now that, as a result of those times with the sisters, our grown children genuinely enjoy spending time with their own “older but wiser” people. They all live out of town now, but I notice how they find the elderly in their neighborhoods and churches and take their kids to visit them, even though they’re not family. They’ve even invited them to family birthdays and holidays.
I’m guessing that some day -- not too long from now -- when I am the “older but wiser” one, I may be blessed to reap what I have sown in my own; it’s part of what makes me look forward to growing old. And, oh the stories I will tell at their tables! Did I really meet Art Linkletter and Miss Americas and host a radio show and make my own jams and cook from scratch and live along Lake Michigan? The younger ones will have to guess which stories are true and which have been embellished!
When we live life with honor and respect for those ahead of us on the journey, it sets a good example and it brings deep satisfaction to us and to those we honor. It pleases the Lord enough to bring it around when it’s our turn! As Lev 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD!” Find the older but wiser woman in your life; it just might be the time to pick up the phone or go next door and learn what she has to teach you!
Monday, September 7, 2009
It turns out you can’t lock your car with your remote key and expect the extra key to open it. I didn’t know that, obviously; did you? The person I was with at lunch when I got the call looked at me in shock. “Everybody knows that, Phyllis!” he volunteered. In fact, I learned that not only does the extra key not work, but it sets off the alarm, which then has to wear down, at which point the extra key still won’t work because the car’s in theft mode. Six hundred miles away on a Saturday, I was up a creek! Finally on Monday I learned from the car dealer that I’d have to mail the key… yada yada yada.
From my August e-newsletter “Little Think,” you may know I’m a firstborn with a component part to prove I’m right. It’s annoying and I fight it, but in this case I did ask my engineer and my senior producer at the studio if they knew about the key deal… and they didn’t! Neither did six others I asked. I won’t tell the person who doubled my guilt about this -- I’m not that much of a firstborn -- but it did ease my angst a bit!
Now this story could go on. I hope it doesn’t, but the thing is that the key should have arrived at another friend’s office in the little coastal town where the airport is located, and I have not heard from her yet. Did the key make it to her? I can only imagine the car being towed, or the battery being dead after warning of theft until the alarm wore down. I already owe the first friend who drove with her kids 30 minutes each way to the airport to come up with no car to drive back. Now I’ll owe another friend for receiving the key in an envelope. My lunch advisor would be saying right now, “Everybody knows that, Phyllis!” and he’d be right!
I’m just hoping and praying the key isn’t lost in the mail because it’s the only one of its kind. This car is 13-years-old with 94,000 miles on it, and it works great as my summer metal Clydesdale. But without the master key, that thing will become a monument right in front of the Greater Blacker Manistee Airport forever. Then I’d owe two friends, their husbands and their kids who came along to drive the other car back, plus the airport folks who have to stare at the car stuck outside their workplace. I’m thinking either homemade hot fudge sauce or black raspberry jelly. What would you do?
Stay tuned for the rest of the story, and please be forgiving of people who insist that “everybody knows that!” God knows I hardly know anything. He’s the only one who really knows everything, including where that key is and how this will turn out. The Bible tells me there’s nowhere I can go to hide from God, not to the depths of the sea or the ends of the earth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say much about misplaced keys. But then it is the key to receiving His plans for me for good and not for evil. So however this story ends, it’ll all work out. I can count on Him for that. That’s what I need. And when nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…I know where to go! How nice it would be if everybody knew that!
Monday, August 31, 2009
This reminds me of how God isn’t bored by sameness. He seems to revel in repetition. I’m on vacation this week, on Lake Michigan in a cottage built four generations ago. Three of my daughter's children were hiking a nature trail this morning with their mom and came across another longtime cottager who asked, “Are you Phyllis’ daughters?” She recognized a sameness there in God’s handiwork! God didn’t get bored with features He repeated through generations. Her children play on the beach with the same sand toys I used and read from some of the same cottage books on which I grew up -- same-o same-o! Repetition like this through the ages can be strengthening to families, to cultures, to organizations, even to the Church.
Are you hesitant to approach God with a dilemma, either temporal or eternal? Afraid He’ll be bored because you've been to Him before? He’s opened the buds on millions of rose bushes, created new life for every person ever conceived, healed the skinned knees of how many children and mended broken hearts since the beginning of the time. How could your problems be any less interesting to Him?
Waves lapping softly on the sandy shore produce the same calm in us that they have for generations here. The spectacular sunsets never bore me, nor the fall colors, the winter icebergs, the spring trillium and cherry blossoms. Even more importantly, God, my Creator, never gets bored with me, even when I get bored with myself. His mercies endure forever, and He says He is with me always. He forgives every sin, every offense, except the unforgivable sin of rejection of His Son as the Christ, our Savior from sin. He doesn’t tire of protecting me, revealing His plans for and to me. God doesn’t fake enthusiasm or commitment; He proves it in His Son who died on the cross and rose again. He doesn’t tire of you reading the Bible, the same Book generations before you have known to be The Truth. Just as Jennifer and I bonded through “AHgain” moments, so God bonds with us “AHgain” and “AHgain.” He is the ultimate AHgain from beginning to end. Ask Him, “AHgain!” He’s hoping you will!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
A major lesson here: never take your eyes off a child in the kitchen; we thought we had that one down pat. But it was another lesson that brought tears to our eyes. The instant this happened, all the children scattered as if on cue. Lewie, three, ran off for her night-night bear; James for his blue bunny, Lillian her Minnie Mouse and Emma, a dancing and singing frog! They were back in a flash, laying each treasure at Hazel’s feet while she sat on her mommy’s lap on the kitchen floor. As the picture shows, it was more than a gesture; it was a shrine and Hazel was beautifully distracted and comforted by her cousins’ outpouring of love. Eventually the entourage accompanied her mommy carrying her upstairs for naptime. All of the offerings, seldom if ever parted with, much less given away, were held up to the crib just in case they were needed.
How often do I drop everything and give attention to the most important matter of the moment? How much more often do I overlook something because I’m self-absorbed or on a roll with an idea or trying to meet a deadline? This picture of typically and naturally self-absorbed children dropping everything to focus on someone else’s needs will inspire me for a long time! It’s the picture of God dropping everything, in a sense, to hear and answer my prayers, to heal my cut finger, feed my anguished soul. Of course, being omnipotent, He can do everything at once. But since I can’t, I need to remember to put something down to tend to something else more important. To know when to do that, I personally have to read a bit of the Bible daily. It tenderizes my heart to watch for the moment to drop everything and go where He might need me to be, as the children did that day.
It may not be as obvious as the physician on the airplane who jumps forward from his seat when the flight attendant requests a medical person or an off-duty police officer chasing down a suspect. But all around us are people needing something we can offer. Hazel didn’t ask for anything, but her cousins knew without a word that she needed comfort, and they delivered! Ask God to nudge you when the time is right to give of what you have. And if, by any chance, it’s your beloved night night bear, may He help you loosen your grip. When we do it for Him, it’s with no strings attached! Ecclesiastes 11:1 says to “Cast your bread upon the waters: for you will find it after many days.” God takes care of you. Now go do it for someone else!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Her mom would know, or did know, but she never mentioned it to the family and apparently no one else has a clue either. So, likely, the anniversary will go on without being able to take “time” out of a capsule, review it, savor it, and learn from it. When I was finally able to speak with the hygienist, we found humor in such a ludicrous situation where things had carefully been gathered and stored with pomp and circumstance, only to remain hidden, maybe forever!
And then with a newly polished smile, I reviewed some of the questions I’d love to ask my own mom and dad, who’ve already gone on to glory. My dad was a civil engineer who specialized in concrete and bridges. As we approached a bridge in the car, we’d get a sound byte description of some facet of that bridge. I was usually deep in thought about my haircut or how to get through some class, so I didn’t pick up on that stuff ever. Now my mind is less cluttered and I’m interested in what he tried to share and, even more, what his experience with each bridge had been. It’s the same with my mom -- lots of questions about recipes, what she was thinking when a certain picture was taken, and why she did this or that.
A little take-away from this pondering is to always tell people where you put “it!” You may not have a missing time capsule in your family, but I bet you have a story or two that would mean a lot to generations to come. Send me one that comes to mind! For sure, write it down where it will be found.
God went to great lengths to be sure His Word, The Bible, gets to us. Seriously, thousands of years later, and experts still come across old documents and scrolls that authenticate the exact words that soothe our souls today. Just check out the new Bible study How We Got The Bible, featuring Dr. Paul L. Maier (yes, that Dr. Maier who discussed the history of Christmas with me last year on Woman to Woman®) -- The Bible has been, and still is, banned, burned and misinterpreted, yet the Word of God lasts forever. I know from friends who’ve been deprived of it in, for example, POW camp or in countries where it’s illegal to have a Bible in your home, that the words they memorized and tucked in their hearts never left them.
Some of our “stuff” may get buried and lost, but we’ll never come up empty-handed on the timeless truths from The Lord of Life Himself. That should put a smile from our faces down to our hearts to share with others, even without a dental hygienist’s mother to remind us about “it!”
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I long admired and respected Gigi, and her memorial service made me even more aware that she was one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. You know those birthday candles that you blow out and they keep on relighting? Gigi was like that. No matter how horrible the symptoms, how much they flattened her, drained the life out of her…she kept coming back. At the worst moments, she wrote poetry, giving God credit for the lines, and counseled others who were drawn to her peaceful spirit. At Gigi’s memorial luncheon, I met person after person who had the same memory of her that I did: that she was a kind of angel-in-waiting, always encouraging us with Scripture verses or personal stories to send us on our way rejoicing!
I suppose that in a way, we’re all like candles. Some of us, like Gigi, seem to burn so brightly. Some, like my young friend Kurt who died at 20, go out too quickly in our human eyes. Gigi’s candle lasted for 57 years here on earth. Others, like my parents, burn nearly 90 years or more. In each case, though, these people of God reached so many others with the light from their lives that their light is still visible today.
Christ is like that. He calls Himself the “Light of the World.” Believers in Him as the Son of God who died for their sins and rose again have that same “Light” to share with others. No wonder our lights can keep on shining like Gigi’s; they’re a reflection of Him.
*Gigi Davidson graciously provided Woman to Woman® with the following information about her battles with cancer last October in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To view these items, please click here and here.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Despite the minor annoyances -- like ignored bedtimes and putting out snacks for locust-like devouring with pleas for “more” -- we will pack up our beach glass collections and the Petoskey stones and head back home with a soft spot in our hearts for coming back to this land laid out by our forefathers generations ago.
It’s one of the things I’ve “done right” -- kept up the heritage of the cottage in the tradition of my parents to pass on to my children and theirs and on and on. We make it work because love is forgiving and tenderhearted. We trust that God put us all in the same nest for a reason. This is part of it. Scrabble games, rock skipping, and tennis matches get competitive. It takes some effort to make it work. But in the end, perhaps little 2-year-old Hazel put it best tonight when her mommy tucked her in: “Mommy, this is a great fun!” (We have no clue how she came up with that phrase!)
I thank God for the great times, all the time! There’s something renewing about pulling them out of the memory box when times and seasons change. Treasure your great times this summer so you can pull them out when you need them most!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
God is in the delivery business. He delivers joy, hope, peace, and calm in the face of fear -- all this -- based on what His Son Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. When Jesus died and then rose again, that sealed the deal for us. When we believe that, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we can come to God with everything, assured of an audience with Him. He invites us to lean harder. When you write “lean” backwards, you write N-E-A-L. It’s misspelled, but you can see the word there: kneel. Kneel more, at least in your heart. It helps see where God is directing your delivery!
Put your favorite power verses on your dashboard, computer, or mirror. Say them out loud, make up a tune and sing them, or memorize them. Woman to Woman® shows are always online to support you, too. My guests and I have tried to give you information to help you get through these tough times. Check out Sarah Hamaker’s ideas about working from home on “Hired at Home,” and listen to Mary Hunt’s advice on managing credit in “It's Your Money!” Their insights will cheer you on during the lean times!
Monday, July 13, 2009
But in southern Illinois, what could be eating my hostas, zinnias, and poinsettias? There’s a lumbering groundhog and its family living under the hill where my compost pile is out back. I’ve thought of capturing him/her and relocating the troublemaker to a spot out in the country. I can’t be sure to catch the entire family, though, so I just let them dig holes into the back hill and resent them for it. But this week I was getting “chuffed,” as my daughter-in-law would say, because I assumed these guys were the ones eating my greens for their salad.
Then my husband suggested it might be deer. No way, I said, not this time of year with so much traffic and so many people. We’re in a southern Illinois neighborhood for Pete’s sake -- and in a subdivision, no less -- near a big mall that recently went up and major highways. When he told me a friend of his saw a huge buck one street over, I started thinking, maybe he’s right; it could be deer. This morning on the way to church, there she was, a deer chomping down on one of my big hostas right in the front yard. The nerve! I clapped and she ran off. But she and her deer friends will come back and party tonight, I’m sure.
You know what it reminds me of in real life? People. Those people who come right in uninvited, through your boundaries, munch away at your pocketbook, mental and emotional health, and sense of fair play. They’re called “difficult people”… or just plain annoying! They’re dangerous for many reasons, including that you cannot stop them easily, if at all. That’s why I recommend the July 11 Woman to Woman® show, “Fool-Proofing Your Life.” Its concepts have helped me tremendously to cope with my “fools.” There are ways to take care of yourself, when you know them. So be sure to listen in and learn lifesaving, mind changing tips from Jan Silvious. Go to womantowomanradio.com. Click on over to the site, pull down the show right now, and get back in control of your relationship with your “difficult person.” You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in freeing up your life!
As for the deer eating my plants, there’s probably nothing I can do to solve this problem. Jan’s concepts may work beautifully with people, but deer are another story. They are going to keep eating me out of house and garden. If you have ideas about how to keep them away, please be a “dear” and leave a comment to let me know!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
History repeats itself in lovely ways, with traditions that bind us as a nation, as a family, as friends. I recalled trying to write our names with the sparkler before it went out and lighting the sparkler of the person next to us, my dad carefully sending up rockets to thrill us as they reflected in Lake Michigan with the neighbors coming over to watch, sliced garden tomatoes and potato salad and corn on the cob, and feeling like all was well with the world. I had sweet dreams that night, thanking God for the freedoms only dreamed about by my friends in other countries. I thanked Him, too, for the great Woman to Woman® 4th of July show we did with Jeff and Cindy O’Leary this week. Catch that one for sure online.
I also realized how dependent I am on Christ, The Light of the World, who doesn’t just show His colors once a year. His Light is for now and eternity, where He’s leading us by His grace. His mercies are new each morning, when I can’t find my way from point A to point B on a project or a trip, or when I’m just thinking something through. He stays around much longer than it takes to write my name with a sparkler. He has written my name in the Book of Life. He is always there with His light when mine’s out. How does He do it? With His Word and any way He wishes! “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!” Read it and count on light for your next step, because you’re not in this alone!
Monday, July 6, 2009
There are several lessons within this story. When do you share a secret? Do you have the right “tools” for telling others about Jesus? Do you know how to use them? Why is it intimidating to talk about our faith? Maybe it’s because we think it’s all up to us, when actually it’s the Holy Spirit of God who does the work. We just report for duty and tell the truth.
You know how to talk with people; you do it all the time. You know when to speak up and when to shut up…most of the time, anyway. You can share a favorite recipe, a tip on how to keep your six-year-old content while you’re on the phone, the pitfalls of eating too much, and how to work out with results three times a week! So how hard can it be to share what Jesus means to you, why you’re a Christian? What your listener does with what you share is up to her. It’s a secret so worth sharing that there’s a reward in it for you. Jesus Himself said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me!”
In a sense, He meant to go give someone a lift by sharing who Jesus is! If you don’t, who will? And like the pastor’s offer in the church, Jesus promises to be available if you want to talk about that!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Our school sells gift cards to make money for special projects. I’m happy to support that program, especially with grocery gift cards. Preparing to have company over for lunch this Sunday, I ran into Shop ‘n Save to pick up a few things, sailed through the aisles, bolted up to the checkout, grabbed the gift card in my wallet, and, upon the ka-ching of the register, handed over the card. Oops…only $4.27 left on it. How embarrassing! With two people waiting behind me, I dashed out to the car and ran back in with the other card, much relieved. I knew it had $100 on it; I hadn’t used it yet, and it rang up with no problem. Fortunately the women behind me were ok with my fiasco, saying not to worry about it (they were great spokespeople for whatever churches they went to that morning!), and I continued on my way rejoicing.
Guests were waiting with my husband at the house. We all unloaded the car, and I quickly prepared a tasty and pleasant lunch. We laughed and visited, and the rest of the meal went off without a hitch.
But that’s not the end of the story. Three days later, I stopped past the same store for a few items, gift card again in hand. I handed over the card, knowing I was covered because I only used $9 from it last time. “You have a zero balance,” the checkout clerk said sweetly. What?! I couldn’t have a zero balance. As I paid with a credit card, I was beyond perplexed. I stopped by the business counter on the way out of the store to see if we could figure out what happened to the $91 on that card. The assumption quickly became that I was still using the first card; the second card had gone missing. All they could do was give me an office number to call.
After explaining my dilemma on the phone, with no receipts to back up my story, I figured I’d lost a lot more than a year’s worth of coupons! But the Shop ‘n Save office representative, Marsha, took a personal interest in my supposedly tossed or lost card and went to work. Two days later, I noticed a plastic shopping bag in my car trunk. Inside the bag was not only the grocery receipt showing the two card numbers I’d used, but also the missing card with all the credit on it! I called Marsha to learn that she’d somehow traced down the card number and was ready to mail me a new one with $91 credit.
Everybody needs a lost and found story with a good ending now and then, right? I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost things and memories I needed back. I even lost my three-year-old once for 15 minutes when she hid in a round rack of clothes in the department store and fell asleep. Talk about feeling helplessly frantic!
Obviously, the stories don’t all end with joyful reunions. On my refrigerator, I have a picture of a man trudging through a snowy forest of enormous trees, a child on his shoulders, his wife behind them clutching a bundled baby in her arms. The caption reads, “An Albanian Kosovar couple carry their children through the woods on their way to join a group of several thousand refugees on the Macedonian border, as they try to escape what is viewed as ethnic genocide ordered by Yugoslav President Milosevic.” I’ve prayed for them for years as “lost.” Did they make it, all four of them? Are they ok today?
Whatever the reason we lose or are “lost,” I take comfort in how many times Jesus refers to Himself as a seeker of the lost. He is the Good Shepherd who leaves 99 sheep who are fine to seek the one that is lost and in danger. He watches and guides us, and He wants our eyes to be on Him, too. God knows where all of your lost items wound up. Can He direct you to them? Yes. Will He? I don’t know. I do know, though, that He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world. That helps me remember that we’re not in this alone.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I haven’t sat and watched the rain for years. As I did today, sweet memories of times with my dad flooded my mind like the waters flooding large puddles in front of me just now. I recalled running through puddles with him as a child, water skiing in the rain on the last day of high school summer vacation, and, as adults, playing tennis until it rained so hard we had to stop, all the while laughing our heads off. One summer, when lake levels got so high that the waves splashed onto the shore banks and over the roof to water the gardens behind the cottage, we even pretended it was raining.
My dad’s been safely tucked into his eternal rest for two years now, but today the lessons he taught me comforted me in his absence. The best part was thanking God for realizing now what my dad knew back then: God gives us little moments for our pleasure that we can easily miss or dismiss. My dad had the ability to translate the “rainy days of life” into sunny days. Daddy laughed in the rain and at the rain, always looking for the rainbow. He thanked God for the rain even as he steeled himself against storms. Come rain or shine, I knew my dad was a rock for our family and for me because of his faith in Christ, the Rock of our Salvation. Sure, we had good times and tough ones. In the end, though, nothing rained on our parade that we couldn’t handle by taking it to our Lord, the Creator of rain and sunshine!
My dad couldn’t carry a tune, but if he could, I know he would have enjoyed singing in the rain. Instead, I have memories of the two of us sittin’ in the rain. It was good -- and it still is. Next time it rains, maybe you’ll pause and let the Lord speak to your heart and soul. Let me know what you hear!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
According to the Mom’s Closet Resource Center’s Web site, the organization is dedicated to developing the potential of single moms in the state of Kentucky with encouragement and education and by setting a good example through a Christian viewpoint.
Is this something you could do where you live? Perhaps, you could help Sheila Day in the work she has already begun to do.
Friday, May 29, 2009
…but it turns out I went for a different reason than I’d planned!
Bad choices spiraled a friend into a bad place -- physically, emotionally, spiritually, and legally. I wrote him a letter when I heard he was in jail, but I felt a nudge to go and visit. He was only allowed one visitor each week. His wife lives far away, and I didn’t know if anyone had seen him that week. I called the jail, but they couldn’t tell me if he’d had a visitor or not. I didn’t have two hours to spend on a wild goose chase, but I couldn’t not go. For some reason, that nudge just wouldn’t go away.
So I appeared at the appointed time, stuffing myself into a jam-packed waiting area. It was like standing in an elevator that didn’t move. Same unspoken rule: no talking! Everyone stared straight ahead, peering through a long glass wall at a stern, uniformed woman behind a tightly secured desk. Instead of surround sound, it was surround sad, mad and fear. We were not there because we wanted to be, but because we had to be.
After 20 minutes of waiting in this silent, unmoving limbo lunacy, I couldn’t take it any more. I asked the fellow next to me, “Is this like a bakery? Do you take a number?” He looked scared. “No. No number!” he said in his best English. The spirit of oppression in that room was suffocating. On a six-foot bench along the side wall sat a large man with his pregnant wife and their toddler who kept throwing down her bottle and running into the motley crowd. The mother’s sharp words to the child put us more on edge, as the father gave chase, and then it would all start again. Other than that commotion, we were mostly catatonic, except for two young boys at the front. They were brothers, five and four, and their manners were impeccable.
To break my own boredom and, hopefully, theirs, I asked their mother if we could play a game. She seemed to regard me as a cross between Captain Kangaroo and the Cookie Monster, but nodded okay. I started, “Hey you guys, do you know what a beehive is?” “No,” was their reply. “Have you ever tasted honey?” “Yes,” they offered shyly. “Who makes our honey?” Starting to trust me now, I prompted them, “Bees?” “Yes!” they exclaimed. And we were off for five minutes with a hand game they caught onto right away. I told them how smart they were and loved the back and forth of their playfulness. This could be a long night, so we may as well do something with the space we shared.
Suddenly, the door opened and the feared uniformed woman checked ID’s and let us in. Into what exactly, was not clear. Everyone lined up in front of her desk for another long wait. By now I was thinking it’s almost as difficult to go to jail as it is to be in jail, but I was on a mission to be my friend’s one visitor that week. It’s the least I can do, so no more whining, girl!
I found myself, out of 40 people in line, in front of a bench on which sat my two new little friends. They were next to their grandmother whose face had been the saddest one by far in the first waiting area. Next to them sat the same man who’d been on the foyer bench; this guy knew his place on the bench! I introduced myself to the boys who happily told me their names. They had been so enamored of the bee game we’d skipped formalities! Their grandmother said, “Say, Hello, Miss Phyllis!” The boys and I broke out into another game: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat!” all the way through, dropping off the last word until you only say “Row!” The noise in the room let us get away with it. I was grateful for the companionship. I hoped the uniformed woman wouldn’t take this moment of light-heartedness away from us as I waited to see my friend and, the boys, as they told me, waited to see their daddy.
By now I’d been in line so long, I’d only have about seven minutes with my friend on the other side of wherever he was. And he didn’t even know I was there to see him! So my evening was pretty much gone, but I was on a mission. No way was I going to skip out now. Besides, I had friends. It’s nice to have friends in high places, but I was really enjoying friends in low places this evening; thank you very much.
Half way through the song I heard my friend’s name called. “Who’s here to see him? The guard wants to see you.” I wasn’t sure why, but I guessed I was getting bumped ahead of the others. Stepping past everyone to the front of the line, including my friends’ mother, I heard the warden say my name. “Yes?” I responded. “No visitors,” was the blunt reply.
It hit me like a bucket of cold water. All I could come back with was, “Why?” The guard then informed me he already had a visitor this week. “Oh, sorry,” I said. “I called and the jailer couldn’t tell me.” “We have 300 inmates in here,” she told me. “It’s their job to let visitors know.” “Thank you,” was all I could manage. Deflated, I walked back to say goodbye to my boys and head home.
Had I failed? Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Besides, the boys were happy I was back. I explained I couldn’t see my person inside, like they could. They were special. We finished the song and gave each other high fives. As we quickly reviewed the beehive bit, I realized we had bonded and that it would be hard to leave. I suggested they show their daddy what they learned, because they were so smart and he would be so proud. I told them I would pray and ask Jesus to watch over them as they grew up, and the next time we met, maybe we could do the beehive and singing game again. They nodded with big trusting smiles. I pulled a dollar bill and four quarters out of my purse, pressed them into their little hands, and told them to buy something fun, whispering a prayer for what those hands would do some day. I bid them quiet farewells, with the boys waving and discussing which was better -- the silver coins or the bills.
In an instant, the experience was over, except for the man at the end of that bench calling out, “Hey, if I’d known you were giving out money, I’d have sung that song myself -- and in Spanish!” A lot of us laughed, really laughed, and it felt good. It was a moment of much needed relief where there was none to be had. It took his calling out to me to let me know my trip to jail was for a reason different than my first intention. I went with one plan, but God turned it into another.
Ultimately, that visit amounted to no more than a few minutes out of my schedule. Still, that time counted for so much to me and, perhaps, those two young boys, their mother, and even their grandmother whose body language and facial expressions changed before my eyes. Who knows? Maybe even the large man on the bench with the frustrated wife lightened up for a minute or two. We will never all be in that same place together again. But that moment was engineered by a loving heavenly Father, who simply asks us to report for duty.
I can’t gauge anyone else’s reaction that evening, but I know mine. Now when I pray for the man who informed me there were no numbers in the waiting area, and for the others with whom I shared that evening -- including the woman who told me I couldn’t see my friend (a woman whose sternness I understand because I once worked in a prison) -- I don’t ever expect to know how their stories turned out. I simply thank God for the opportunity to bring His love into a loveless moment. He’ll take it from there.
But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t listened to that nudge and gone to jail.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Have you ever found yourself coming full circle?
Maybe after several -- perhaps even dozens of years -- you’ve returned to your old elementary school to read a book to second-graders. Maybe you’re sitting in the old high-school bleachers, watching the younger crowd maneuver through life, and you’re thinking -- if I knew then what I know now . . . . Or, perhaps, you’re facing a familiar circumstance or trial and wondering if God is trying to tell you something.
Maybe He is.
Earlier this week, I was struck by the fact that Jesus was in the garden when Judas carried out Satan’s desire to betray Jesus to His enemies (John 13:27).
It was also in a garden, the Garden of Eden, where Satan’s desire to derail Adam and Eve succeeded. He tempted them to go against God’s will and eat the forbidden fruit. What wicked glee Satan must have had as he watched the first human beings God created turn their backs on Him.
Even in this dark garden moment, God, the lover of your soul and mine, had a plan. One day, the last Adam would do what the first Adam did not. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would choose the will of His Father over His own (Mark 14:36) and through the cross defeat the downward spiral to death. Through the cross, death has lost its victory -- forever.
This, of course, is the overriding source of joy and hope for those who believe. However, the message is also this: My God -- your God -- is in the redeeming business. He can bring you a second chance -- again. He can and will help you through it. How do I know this? I know that my Redeemer lives, and He loves the garden, too.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
This call caught me totally by surprise and pierced my heart. The quote was from an elderly woman I’d considered a good friend. She was a Christian role model whose amazing life I tried to copy. Now she’s failing physically and mentally, but this report -- even in the context of encroaching dementia -- cut me to the quick. Where in my head and heart could I file these disturbing words? This woman, now bad-mouthing me, had regularly prayed for and encouraged me.
What happened? After she moved to the retirement center, I stopped by her home to dig up a rose bush she told me to take. Her son was there packing up the last of her stuff that no one wanted. She was a painter and, after family members selected all their favorite pieces, he saw no option but to haul the unwanted paintings off to the dump. It was terrifying to think of her work destroyed. Surely, there was some place for her finished artwork.
I rescued a dozen paintings and stored them in my husband’s office attic. I planned to someday give them to her grandchildren, the school auction committee, a library -- any place but the trash heap for her handiwork.
I had an equally hard time dumping what she said about me. I asked God to help me forgive the words that she wouldn’t have meant and never would have said before her illness. I remembered St. Paul’s words to the Galatians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a). Through these words, He settled my soul so that I could let go. Thank God that through Christ we are forgiven and can forgive! Our intentions are sometimes misinterpreted where feelings get hurt, and rifts are created, but Jesus reconciled us to one another.
Finally, I hauled the paintings to her nursing home and put them under her bed. As I left her room, I thanked God for His Words. Stored in my heart and mind, they reminded me to care more about what He thinks and knows about me than what others do.
Friday, May 1, 2009
With more than 12 million alumni of foster care in this country, there are countless stories of inspirational women who have come forward to be "Mom" to a child in need.
If nothing changes in the United States by the year 2020, the following scenarios are expected to play out:
- Nearly 14 million confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect will be reported.
- 22,500 children will die of abuse or neglect, most before their fifth birthday.
- More than 9 million children will experience the foster care system.
- More than 300,000 children will “age out” of our foster care system, in poor health and ill-prepared for success in higher education, technical college, or the workforce.
- 99,000 former foster youth, who aged out of the system, can expect to experience homelessness.
Here’s Tammy’s story. “I felt from a very young age I was called to be a foster mom. I believe my gift is the ability to nurture and love children.” No group of children is in more need of care then foster kids. Four years ago, Tammy and her husband made the decision to become foster parents. They contacted Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois* who helped them through the licensing process. “We were referred to LCFS by another foster mother in our community. The staff has always been there to offer me encouragement and listen to my concerns.”
Tammy is now a foster mother to four children ages 6 months to 10 years old, in addition to her four biological children. She sees the most important aspect of being a foster mom as giving a child a safe place to live and helping him realize his full potential. “These kids have so many gifts, but they need someone to take the time to recognize them and push them to succeed. Being a foster mom is the most amazing thing I have ever done.”
Being a foster mother is not an easy calling. Most children are in foster care because their own families are in crisis and unable to provide for their essential well-being. Like all young people, youth in foster care deserve and benefit from enduring, positive relationships with caring adults. The rewards of being a foster parent are in knowing you helped keep a child safe, taught a child to believe in himself, or just showed that someone cared.
Over the past two years, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, with the support of the Lerner Family Foundation and, most recently, a gift from the Christopher Family Foundation has significantly increased its capacity to recruit foster parents. As a direct result of the initiative, they have raised awareness, initiated prospective home referrals, licensed and developed homes and, ultimately, placed more children with families. In fact, over the past two fiscal years LCFS has licensed an additional 46 foster homes!
Still, much more help is needed. Now is the time to get involved. Please join LCFS in your State to address the needs of these children. You can help our nation’s most vulnerable children realize their full potential by considering the following items:
- Become a foster parent: for more information see www.lcfs.org or call 800-363-LCFS.
- Learn the facts about foster care at www.fostercaremonth.org.
- Make a financial contribution to support the personal enrichment or education of a young person in foster care.
- Wear a Blue Ribbon during May in support of National Foster Care Month.
Support LCFS activities, such as the Christmas Drive, Back-to-School Drive, Wish List needs, etc.
Wherever it operates, LCFS is striving to provide safe and loving homes to as many foster children as possible, but your support is needed. Help us honor women like Tammy who answer the call to care for our most vulnerable youth, or consider whether you might be able to make room in your home for one of the thousands of children who are still waiting to receive the powerful gift of a mother’s love.
In Illinois, to inquire about other ways you might be able to support foster mothers and the children they care for, please contact Phillip L. Jiménez, LCFS director of development at email@example.com or 708-488-5555.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
You, like I, might be thinking, “What would make a person do that? Why would someone make such a foolish choice?” Few details were given, except that the woman was distraught about certain life circumstances over which she felt she had no control.
Although, I wouldn’t dive into a polar bear enclosure, I can identify with making a leap from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Can’t you? It’s like the moth drawn to the flame. We all know it firsthand, to one extreme or another.
It’s one reason I love to hang out with you on Woman to Woman®. We meet others who have taken ineffective -- sometimes desperate -- measures to try to fix what’s wrong in their lives. Whether it’s a marriage dilemma, parenting issue, or health challenge -- these people have found a way out. Their “life ring” has been Jesus Christ, who restores their faith, always in personal and creative ways, so they realize they’re not in this alone.
Back to the bears. The zoo isn’t planning any updates to security after the attack. God doesn’t plan to change His security measures either; He doesn’t need to. He put in place the life ring that will not drop us back into the jaws of our enemy. Even when we can’t hold on, Jesus holds on to us. That’s what faith is all about. Even if you “look before you leap” into what you consider being the only way out, God is there to rescue you. We’ve just celebrated Easter, when God fully reveals His plan to save us from the mess in which we find ourselves, which He calls “sin.”
No matter how dark it gets in our situations, instead of jumping into more darkness, let's go for the Light of the world, which is how Jesus describes Himself. There's no darkness that can put that light out. To shed more light on our daily challenges, I invite you to listen to any one of the numerous Woman to Woman shows in our program archive. Any questions, please contact me.