Friday, August 22, 2014

What If?

K-Love is my favorite radio station, and I enjoy the uplifting stories as much as the music. One of the DJ’s told a story about having her coffee paid for by the person who had checked out before her. Of course we all know this is called “paying it forward.” She was surprised and felt blessed, even though in the past, she had done the same thing for other people. She shared about another event when “paying it forward” continued at a place of business for eleven hours. We need to hear those stories, to be reminded that many people are good and kind. Later as I was checking out at the local grocery store, her story still speaking to my heart helped me to see a need and gently nudged me into action. I only needed a box of spaghetti, and I was in a hurry. I was on a roll, I thought, as I quickly found what I’d come for and headed to the check-out. I went to the Express lane since I had less than twenty items. One item, that’s all I had, just one! But, isn’t it always the same, the express line clogged with people who can’t count. I looked for another lane, but the only other lane open had several people impatiently waiting, and I was sure the Express lane would be faster. The clerk was scanning groceries for the customer she was serving, and as the counter started to empty, the lady who was in front of me and next in line began trying to unload her cart. She was slow and struggling to lift some of the items up onto the counter. At first, all I could think about was the large package of frozen Sister Shubert rolls I had purchased at Sam’s Club that were surely prematurely baking in my hot car. But then I looked at her, really looked at her. She was probably in her eighties, and appeared weak and somewhat withered. Instantly I felt compassion. So I began to help her. By this time, the line behind me had extended out into the store with many more people who were also in a hurry. The clerk was obviously stressed and not very friendly. The lady checking out became confused when it came time to pay her bill. The clerk was curt and impatient which caused the customer to be even more confused. Finally, the lady behind me graciously asked if she meant to pay with a check. The mention of a check must have reminded her, and the lady reached into her purse, pulled out a check she’d already signed, gave it to the clerk and paid the bill. I loaded her bags of groceries into her cart and told her I would come help her get them in her car. After I paid for my spaghetti and left the store, she was still slowly making her way to her car. As we loaded her groceries into the trunk of her car, she said she suffers from COPD and the heat made it difficult to move any faster. She also said she knew she slowed things down and that people were upset with her because they were in a hurry. I told her those same people might be a little slow someday too. She thanked me and we said goodbye. All the way home, and for the rest of the day, I wondered how many people had passed her by and not really looked at her. I also wondered how many people I had passed by and ignored. Maybe not everyone would have needed the same type of help. What If people just wanted to be seen? What If some just wanted to be acknowledged with, “hello, how are you today”? What If you let the person speeding toward you in their car in the parking lot have that one empty spot? What If you slowed down to let the person in the fast lane who had sped past several cars (too fast, I might add) just ease in front of you at the exit? What If you hurried to open the door for the mom pushing a stroller, carrying a toddler, with two other young children holding on? What If you answered a sharp remark with grace? What If you spoke to or waved to everyone you passed in your neighborhood? What If you took a meal to a sick friend or neighbor? What If you volunteered at your local nursing home, even if you only had an hour to spare? What If you smiled at the people you passed in the store, actually looked at them and smiled? What If you held the door open for someone? What If you offered, without being asked, to get your neighbors mail, feed the cat and watch their house while they are away on vacation? What If you are nice to your server in the restaurant even when they aren’t? What If you helped a co-worker, even if it “isn’t your job”? What If you remembered to always say please, thank you, your welcome, and have a nice day (and mean it)? What If you kept your word, your promises and your commitments? What If you knocked on every door of every house on your street, introduced yourself, told them where you live and told them if they ever needed anything to be sure to let you know? Manners have disappeared and language has become crude and offensive. If you don’t go through the light when it turns green fast enough, the person behind you will honk their horn. There was no such thing as “road rage” until a few years ago, now our highways seem to be heavily traveled with armed, angry people. Fights break out in department stores on black Friday over electronics and other “good deals.” I know there are good people, kind people, people who volunteer in many places, help their neighbors and maybe do all the things I mentioned above. But What If everyone did? What a wonderful world that would be (sounds like a good line for a song). The incident at the grocery store gave me pause and I was convicted of my own occasional selfishness and lack of concern for others. My speech isn’t crude and I still have manners, but I admit to being rushed and becoming impatient when I am being detained by others. I will try to change.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Friends of all Ages

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

My youngest friend is only seventeen, and the oldest, who recently passed away, was ninety-one. True friends can be any age.  It is the connection, the hearts of two people that seem to know each other, that creates a solid, long term relationship. Everyone has acquaintances, people you've known for years that you might consider to be your friends. But a true friend will jump in the trenches with you, listen and then be brutally honest.
Sometimes a good, long phone conversation can cure the ills of the world, or at least our own personal world. Last night was such a time.  A young mom of four who has been a friend for a few years texted me with a message that a return text wouldn't suffice. So a long phone conversation ensued.
When we are in the trenches, and sometimes they do feel like war trenches, where we hunker down and hope the fighting we hear in the next room will miraculously stop, but it doesn't and we are coming undone, then we just need to vent. A two-year old toddler can overwhelm two adults with lightening speed, leaving the parents to question their abilities to see this little person through to adulthood. And when that toddler has siblings at other stages of development, the parents began to feel that everything they are doing is WRONG!
Since I don't have answers to most situations, I listen and I share.  And I remember. Once when my boys were ages one and four, they were sick, really sick.  For days all I did was hold one or both of them.  My house was in shambles, I was in shambles and I remember thinking I would not survive. I did.
She shared some of her stories and told me how she felt she wasn't doing things right, worried about making mistakes that would scar her children in the future. So I told other stories, things that happened a long time ago, things I said or did to my children that can still haunt me today. As we talked we began to laugh which is sometimes the best medicine.
 But, she said, your kids are successful adults with wonderful families, you must have done something right.  I did, I said! I prayed and I asked God to fill in the spaces that I left blank.  To give them grace in the places where I failed to teach them the right way. To give them strength in the places where I'd been weak.  We are human, we aren't going to get it right every time.
My friend had stolen an hour away from her family to have a much needed talk.  But I could hear the children, they'd found her, she had to go back to her present day life with her precious husband and family. Hopefully, with strength and hope restored to face another day fulfilling the most important calling in the world, motherhood.
 My memories were tucked away and I returned to my husband in the home we share where there are now empty bedrooms. But our conversation had helped me too.  As I told some of my own worries and stories from long ago, I realized something I've always known, but too often forget, God answers prayer.  He did fill in the blanks  And, He will fill in the empty spaces for her too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Freedom to Parent

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
The necessity of God's intervention to experience freedom, both from imminent, life threatening dangers and from terrors produced by the imagination when all one's senses must be kept on constant alert to dangers lurking around every corner. (taken from the Holman's Study Bible for Women)

I have been involved with the MOPS program at the Heights Baptist Church as a mentor for several years. For those who aren't familiar with MOPS, it is an international organization and the acronym stands for Moms of Preschoolers.  It was started in 1973 by a group of moms who needed each other to lend their own experiences and support as they raised and nurtured their babies and pre-schoolers. A place where they could land softly when the stresses of motherhood became too much to bear alone.  And sometimes a place where they could also share their fears.  And fear has prompted this post today.
Our MOPS group has a facebook page that is very helpful to find a multitude of things needed in this journey through the landmine called parenting. Yesterday there was great discussion on allowing your child to play freely in their neighborhood without  parental surpervision.  The discussion was polite and very understanding of everyone's views.  I wasn't surprised, because we have some of the brightest, loving, understanding and Christ following moms you will want to meet.  The conversation ranged from a few who allowed their kids to play in their cul-de-sac with others, to a few that won't let them out of their sight, for several reasons.  Some reasons were because they lived on a busy street, or their children were still too young, or the moms weren't quite comfortable with where they lived. Some of the moms who were comfortable with not being present was because of where they lived or that they had a large fenced in backyard, etc.
My job as a mentor is to listen, sometimes offer advice (when asked), support and share from my own experiences as a mom. I try to stay involved, and facebook offers me a glimpse into their lives outside of our meetings.  When a conversation occurs such as the one yesterday, I am interested and sometimes concerned with the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis.  When I went to bed last night I couldn't stop thinking about everything I read about the fear of losing a child.
Since I grew up in a very different era and also raised my own children many years ago I always try to think about the differences. I lived in a small town as a child and raised my own children in that same place. Were there registered sex offenders then? No, they weren't registered, but they were there.  Did child abductions occur then?  Sure they did, but if it didn't happen in your town or close by you never heard about it. The difference I think is the media.  I researched child abductions and before there is criticism about what I am about to say, I know, I know, not everything you read on the internet is true!  However, I've heard this before and if you pay attention to the news when an abduction occurs, most of the time it is a parent or a relative who has absconded the child.  When I hear about a child abduction, right or wrong, I sigh with relief when I find out it was a parent or family member.  So, how do I feel about this issue?  A little sad.  I think about the freedoms I enjoyed growing up and that my own children also experienced the feeling of safety as they played with the neighborhood kids. It's another individual decision that parents have to make for their own children. My only advice would be to be aware of sensationalism from our news sources.  After all, they are out to make money and they very rarely come back and admit they were either wrong or they added into the story what they think, not what had really happened. And pray, for relief from fear and for discernment.  I sure do love my MOPS Moms!  Note: I realize abduction is not the only issue, could be bullying and many other things.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wannabe Writer

  Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

     Welcome to my blog!  I confess I'm a wanna-be writer.  I've loved the printed word since I began learning to read.  For years I've been an avid reader, and the passion for the rest of the story can seriously interrupt my life, until the last page of the book is turned.
     Six years ago I began writing a book about my parents.  Their love story had been tucked deep inside my heart for many, many years.  I yearned for the opportunity to tell about the life they shared to a really good author, maybe Nicholas Sparks, and watch him work his magic into a riveting book and possibly a movie, so the rest of the world could know what I knew.  But, successful authors are hard to reach!
     So I knew if their story was told, it was up to me to do the telling.  Where do I begin?  How do I do this?  This thing I want to tell the world about the two people who gave me life.  I began to pull to the surface the memories, some happy and some painful, written in black ink on stark white paper and bound into a book that I was bold enough to share with others.  What would they say after they read it?  Had I been capable of explaining what I felt?  Then would they know what I knew?
     My bookHer Final Gift, was the result of four years of struggle and yes, sometimes tears, to tell the love story of Harmon and Eula Dunlap. It was gratifying to see it in print, and know that their story in book form was resting on bookshelves in many homes all across America. No, it didn't make the New York Times bestseller list, but it did touch many hearts.