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Christmas Day

A little Elizabeth Barrett Browning…
All are not taken: there are left behind
Living beloveds, tender looks to bring
And make the daylight a happy thing,
And tender voices to make soft the wind.

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Yesterday

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away now it seems as though they’re here to stay oh I believe in yesterday

 

 

Memories

This morning I’m listening to Ann Voscamp’s 1000 Gifts. It brings back a memory for me. Of Ezra. I was in the basement at Mash Em Inn (our first home in Tennessee). One of the things most people remembered was the food there. We were like pioneers then. We moved in groups up from Florida and didn’t have jobs waiting for us here. We had to make due with what we had. A donated deer here, food thrown freshly from grocery stores each morning into dumpsters, lots of overcooked oatmeal. Most people hated the food. I didn’t remember it that way. And we ate in the basement where Haviylah was teaching a Body Life class and someone, I don’t remember who now, ran down to tell me that Ezra had stepped on a nail and it went clean through his tennis shoe. We lived up the hill in a mobile home and he was playing behind the house. Okay, I said, and ran up the hill as fast as I could. On the way I remembered thinking about what I needed to do. Calm down, first. Then, as if someone had spoken it audibly, clear as a bell, it came to me. I approached the gathering crowd near the edge of the woods. There he was, afraid. I could tell. I was not. I was calm and assured of what I was going to do. I asked a question to distract him from his foot, bent over as if surveying the damage, put my foot on the board the nail was attached to, grasped his tennis shoe with the nail poking through the sole, through his foot, and through the top of the cheap vinyl, and pulled with both hands. He was free! Even before he knew what was happening, it was over. What grace I had! Remembering makes me cry, makes me miss my boy. Brings the pain back. Makes me wonder where was the grace now? Where was the calm? Where was the assuredness?

I am listening to 1000 Gifts to realize God’s love in my life, to realize Eucharisteo, grace, thanksgiving, joy. It is an audible book. Gannah told us about it at a recent ladies’ meeting. I thought, I’ll try. Today, she’s talking about being here, now. Being present. Not a new concept. But, I try to embrace it one more time. Today, now, is all I have. It is my goal today. I want to enjoy life, not feel like it’s always time slipping away. Enjoy the time. Rushed time is lost time. God, help me. If you are there, help me.

Hope

This morning, I had a wonderful time meeting with some of my favorite people, the Sojourner girls, Simchah, and Nora. We had asked Nora to come and give to us what she had shared at Samantha and Aubrey’s passages this year and she graciously agreed. She talked about what it means to be a woman and what the world needs women to look like.

So often, we are pressed by the society we live in to conform to their ideals and standards. In fact. pressed hard. We must hear from God in order to resist this pressing and to obtain the riches of His glory, not our own. God gave Nora such a picture that I wanted these young ladies to partake of it and be encouraged to live up to God’s standards and not give into the “pressing” around us.

The world doesn’t need more clones like itself, though it will tell you it does. The world is in ruins. Things have become very confusing in society. Fathers are scarce, mothers are trying to carry the heavy load of fathering, mothering, and providing. Children are left to themselves, most of the time. There is no picture of mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother. These things are becoming a thing of the past. The world needs hope. Hope that things don’t need to stay the way they are.  But what does that look like?

I was standing in line (I know that’s surprising) in a gas station restroom Saturday and had yet another experience with God. We had just been in traffic for over an hour trying to get home from Florida and finally arrived at an exit with a bathroom. Everyone was ready for that, including all the other cars’ passengers waiting in the traffic with us. The gas station seemed to be having trouble with its A/C unit as it was very warm inside the building and there was a long line of ladies waiting outside the bathroom door. As I stepped in line behind Hannah a woman and her children stepped in behind me and I heard her say gruffly to her children, “I need you to get in line and stay in line because people are just cutting in front of us.”  Okay….that meant me. I wasn’t aware that I cut in line and I don’t think I did. Hannah said I didn’t either. But, more importantly this woman thought I did. Okay, so, I said, “I am so sorry, I don’t think I cut in line. Were you here before me? I guess I didn’t see you.” And to that, she abruptly set her jaw and turned her head from me in the other direction and would not speak. I tried one more time, to no avail. She wouldn’t even look at me. I threw some thoughts around in my head as to what to do, like, you can get in front of me, but, I thought it would only make her feel awkward and dumb the whole time she would be standing in front of me while waiting to get to the bathroom because of the way she had acted. I didn’t want to do more damage. And, of course, I was a little frazzled myself at being treated this way for no apparent reason. 🙂 So, I tried to make the best of it and smile at her children, to assure them that everything was okay and I wasn’t upset and it was okay for their mom to be upset.

Well, as usual, I didn’t figure it out until later as to what I was supposed to do. I now know what that lady needed. What I needed to do was tell her to use the bathroom before me as soon as it was my turn. That way things wouldn’t have been awkward and I think that she would have cooled off by that time to accept that.  What she needed was a friend that loved her even though she was spitting mad, a friend that could help her when she needed help. She needed hope that friends do exist. She needed to know that there is a Friend who will lay his life down for you.

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus! Stay with us and then we will begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from you, none of it will be ours; it will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching, not by words but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do. The evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen

Dear God, Please make us into your hope for this generation.

Thanks to Rachel Fagan, I got these fantastic quotes off of “The Village Weekly” that she publishes here, weekly, in the village. 🙂 The Mother Teresa quote (found at the end of this blog) is commonly seen on picture frames and the thought is there but not this complete quote. It says something like, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” which essentially means the same thing. But, I love the whole thing, it makes everything much clearer for me and is exactly what God has been speaking to me.

Actually, God has been working on me my whole life, setting me free, emptying me out, and filling me with more of Him and less of me. I have a long way to go; I will be 50 years old this year, but, I believe it’s not too late to start!  This blog is about that start and my experiences in believing in God more and more.

I realize that the reason I don’t move in the things God speaks to me is because I don’t believe He’s speaking to me. So, now that I’ve got that all straightened out, I now believe that He has put His feelings and thoughts in me and I have begun to move in those feelings and thoughts when they come to me because I want to be His hands and feet.

Like the other day at Walmart in Selmer, TN. I heard a child screaming, not in a bad way, but screaming never the less. So, my ears were piqued. I began to search out the source of this noise and knew that other people in the store were probably cringing and thinking how negligent the parent/s were for one reason or another for allowing all this to go on. (I’ve heard alot of judgmental comments about this kind of activity while standing in the cashier’s line, not to mention my own, in the past.) No sooner had I turned the corner with my cart and there ran a little girl of about 6 with long blonde hair running through the store and away from her parents. She was having fun doing this and the parents weren’t too upset about. When her father would run after her, she would screech in excitement  and he would catch her. She would get down and start all over again. They were trying to get to the checkout, but, she wanted a toy. So, along with the screeching came, “I WANT A TOY, I WANT A TOY!” Well, this gets me everytime, especially if the family doesn’t look too well to do and this family definitely doesn’t. Right away, I wonder if she has toys at home. I know this isn’t the proper way to request a toy and the parents aren’t responding in the proper way either, but, I’m wondering if she really needs a toy, anyway. The problem is I can’t ignore what I’m feeling, sooooo…..I begin to move toward the front of the store to see if they’re still there. They are and the girl is still fussing. The father finally picks her up and begins to take her out of the store and the mother is paying the cashier. There’s alot of eyes on these people right now and I feel like an idiot for what I’m about to do. I’ve done it before and felt like an idiot afterward, but, I don’t care. She begins to walk away from the cashier with her cart and I approach her. She’s a little apprehensive, of course, but I try to put her at ease and I’m trying not to talk too loudly so everyone doesn’t continue to stare. I smile and say “hey” and that “I just wanted to check on you to make sure everything’s alright. I heard your daughter yelling and wondered if she really needed a toy. I know how sometimes hard times fall on us and we can’t afford what we’d like to and I’d like to buy her a toy if she needs one.” The lady looked at me, she wasn’t offended, and explained that they used to have their own business and made $500 a week and were able to buy whatever their 4 small children wanted, but now they don’t have as much and her daughter hasn’t adjusted to that. She said she had plenty of toys at home and really didn’t need anything. At that point, I smiled and said, “Okay, no problem, I just wanted to help if I could.”

That was pretty much the end of that experience. I don’t think I did the wrong thing; I’ve done this before and the grandfather of the little girl said she had one just like it at home. 🙂 So, why did God prompt me to do that? I don’t really know. I’ve thought, after all my previous encounters, that I’m missing something but I’m not sure if I am or not. I do believe that people are hurting in this world, I believe that some of them get up in the morning and say, “God, are you real?”, I believe people need God desperately, and I believe God wants to touch them, somehow. Maybe that lady asked that very question this morning. Maybe she said, “God, if you are for real, is this all there is?” And maybe God gave her hope when I walked up and said, “Hey, do you need anything? I’ll help you if you need anything.” I obviously didn’t help her with anything, but, like I said I believe God had me do that. And if I don’t approach the first person, there will never be a second….”I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time – just one, one, one. So you begin. I began – I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand…the same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin – one, one, one.” Mother Teresa

The Day with Ray

I thought I’d write about the fantastic day I had with my brother, Ray. Just a little background –  I have written, briefly, about him before; he is an incomplete quadraplegic. He also comes from a dysfunctional family. This is important to know because he doesn’t really know how to make good decisions. So, anyway, Ray needed some help getting to the bank to open a checking account and I was more than willing to help him (This is where the story comes in). Last month, my brother was admitted to the hospital with a bone infection from a pressure wound. This type of thing is common with paralysis, if you remember, Superman, aka Christopher Reeve, died of complications from  this type of infection. Quads literally wear holes in their bodies because circulation is bad in their lower bodies because movement is obviously impaired because they are stuck in wheelchairs or beds all the time. That wears holes in their bodies that are susceptible to infections. The infections that are common in nursing homes run rampant and my brother has been on antibiotics most of the time for the past 10 years. I have never kept track, but it seems he’s always on antibiotics for the same reason. We are hoping that once he can clear up this infection there will be less infections because he will be living in his own environment amongst his own germs.

He was in the hospital for about 2 weeks when they decided to move him to a skilled nursing home for a couple weeks so they could finish up this course of IV antibiotic. He was there two days before he threw a fit and they sent him back to the hospital for an evaluation with Pathways (a mental health program). He never received that evaluation but was instead sent home because the hospital couldn’t keep him and the nursing home wouldn’t. So, now he has to transport everyday to the hospital to receive his antibiotic treatment for 8 weeks (Thank God there’s an option.). During all this time, his rent and electricity bill became due and he needed them paid. Now, previously, before he went to the hospital, I had been talking to him about getting a checking account set up so he could pay his bills from home. He didn’t want to do that and protested. I finally figured out that he owed the bank money for overdrawing his last checking account and he had no plans to pay that back. I told Ray that I wold take care of his bills while he was in the hospital, but he would have to get a checking account when he got home so he could live self-sufficiently. I told him he’d made bad decisions in the past and I would help him make good decisions, decisions that would help him to be successful, versus, trying to find a ride every month to cash his SS check and get money orders for all his bills. That just wouldn’t work for him and sooner or later, I’d either have to pick up the pieces or he would lose his apartment for nonpayment of his bills. He needs to be able to take care of things by phone, internet or mail most of the time and not live a life of survival. This is all new to him, believe it or not.

Well, back to the good day…he did it! He actually called me and asked me to take him to the bank! I was thrilled. I loaded my car with my 2 boys, Josh and Yiri, friend, Manuhah, and my daughter, Katie. We had to use my van instead of his (handicapped van) because his was in the shop. That was a trip! He had to transfer himself from wheelchair to front seat of my van and back. He doesn’t have the strength anymore to do this so it was more like Yiri pulling and Josh pushing and then vice-versa the other way around. God actually gave my brother all the money he needed to take care of his past debt, over $500, and pay his current bills and have money left over in the bank. It was a good day and I think Ray is pretty happy about it. He is learning, little by little, how to live and I am learning, little by little, how to help.  Thanks to my great kids who always help with their only Uncle Ray!

Life is Other People

I actually posted this entry before the last one and wasn’t aware it didn’t post, so here it is. It would probably help you to understand my comment about my brother being like the homeless man in the video.

I was watching an instant Netflix the other day called “The Human Experience” and was most struck by a homeless man that was being interviewed. He was asked about his outlook on life, his reason for living; his purpose. He responded by saying he believed, in essence, that he was here to help other people. Now, you may think, or at least I did, how could a homeless man help anybody? Well, you would have to see him to understand; he had the most wonderful, happy smile and it was infectious. He said, “I try to keep a good outlook.  With that I can have my hopes and my dreams and I don’t have to lose anything including my dignity.” With a big smile.

Hence, the quote, “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Victor Frankl

What a fantastic testimony! The author of the documentary I was watching was looking for hope and he believed he could find it in the streets of NYC living amongst homeless people. Oh, to be more like that homeless man. He gave me hope! Hope to surmount anything that comes my way; knowledge that my joy can’t be taken from me, no matter what.  I’m going to write to somebody to let that man know how he helped me. It’s important that he knows.

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Woman at the Bus Stop

I was in Jackson a couple of months ago picking up some groceries for my brother. His name is Ray and he’s an incomplete quadraplegic. That means that he is paralyzed from the chest down and cannot walk. He is, quite honestly, a mess of a person (and not necessarily as a result of his handicap) and sometimes I struggle with helping him.

For most of his disability (10 years) he has lived in a nursing home. That’s not the best place for someone his age, he’s now 42, and it’s been hard on him. However, he took matters into his own hands a little over a year ago and got himself into an independent living situation in Memphis, TN. He almost died. He didn’t have the care that he needed and ended up in the ICU of The Med in Memphis for weeks. I swore that if he lived that I would help him more than I had in the past and I have tried to do that. I love him, but, he can be difficult. Hence, the struggle. Do you help people who don’t help themselves? Do you help someone even if they don’t appreciate it? Do you help someone if they don’t deserve it?

Anyway, my answer, so far, is yes. I really try to hear God and mostly I try to keep clear in my own conscience.  But, my brother needs me and I don’t know how long he’ll live. I want to enable him, empower him to change his life. He could be like that homeless man giving other people hope and if he had hope, man, that would be powerful!  It’s a bit ambitious and there’s probably nothing I can do to bring that about, but, I have hope and I pray that God will save him.

I have gotten sidetracked. My brother now lives in an apartment of his own since February of this year and I helped him get set up there by making sure he had the nursing care he needs everyday and also had alot of help stocking and furnishing his apartment from everyone here at Rose Creek Village. As I said, I was doing the initial grocery shopping for him to stock his apartment and saw a young mom with three small children and several packages at the bus stop right across from Starbucks at the Wal Mart in Jackson, TN.  I was getting ready to pull out onto Vann Dr. and I almost can’t believe I did this right. I rolled down my window (there were cars starting to form a line behind me because I checked my rearview mirror in that moment) and yelled across the road, “Hey, do you’all need a ride?” She didn’t hear me so I had to say it again. She said they were waiting for the bus and something to the effect that she didn’t want to put me out.  Of course, I was worried that she would think I was weird or something, but I quickly overcame and just went with my instincts. I got out of the van and said I wouldn’t mind at all. I asked where she was going and she described an area of Jackson that was actually on the way back to my brother’s apartment. (More cars were behind me now, but they didn’t seem to care too much, nobody beeped their horn at me!) She had a little boy, a little girl and a baby with a stroller and they were clearly poor. One thing that was nice was that I had pulled the middle seat of my van out because I had just finished moving some more stuff to my brother’s apartment, so she jumped in the back seat with her three little ones and I just put the stroller in the middle without having to take it down along with her packages. That made it a bit quicker for the people waiting behind me.  One thing I told her was that I had been in her situation before, myself, having to rely on a bus system for all my family’s needs and I just thought how nice it would be if someone offered me a ride. I drove her to her door, commented on how lovely her children were and wished her well. I wanted to tell her my name and leave my number so I could see her again and help her if she needed it, but, once again, I couldn’t figure out if it was appropriate. But I wish I would have. 🙂

I was at WalMart with Eileen, my fantastic mother-in-law, and Katie, my 5 year old daughter this past week when I decided to stay in the car with Katie while Eileen ran in to get a few things. I noticed, while I was parking, two ladies headed for the store with a little girl, close to Katie’s age, in the shopping basket cart (the main part, not the seat part). My thoughts at the time were that the little girl was nicely dressed and the ladies looked like they didn’t have alot of money, one of them was dressed like a biker and the other in a skirt and t-shirt. I don’t know why I notice these kinds of things, I just do. This was all while I was pulling into my parking spot.

The next thing I noticed about 5 minutes later was the ladies coming back with the little girl in the cart, still. It was apparent they hadn’t been able to get any shopping done. The friend of the mother of the little girl remarked, “I’ve never seen her do this.” The lady who seemed like her mother was upset and I heard her say, “I’ve never not seen her do this!”, clearly upset. She was only two cars away and I continued to eavesdrop. She pulled a diaper off the little girl, who was now standing in the cart and trying to steady herself. The little girl seemed a little bit old to be wearing a diaper so I immediately thought that was unusual and continuted to watch. The little girl started crying as her mother seemed very frustrated. She would let out little shrills of screams. She grabbed at her mother’s hair (I thought in an attempt not to fall) and her mother yelled, “Let go of my f—-ing hair!” Now, I was not okay with that! Here is where I begin to wonder what I’m going to do. The mother finished putting the diaper on the girl, put her in the car in the back seat and was very upset mumbling things like, “She’s always doing that, always pulling my f—ing hair”. I was worried for the little girl. I stared, once again, wondering what to do. I decided I would keep staring. The mother turned around to push the cart away from her car and noticed me staring. She came straight over to the van (I was glad of that because I wanted to talk to her and let her know I wasn’t okay with how she spoke to her daughter). She pushed the cart between my van and the car next to me (there wasn’t a cart parking area there), turned around and looked straight at me. She said, “It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, she’s autistic and I don’t know what to do!” She went on in this fashion for a few seconds and I just stared at her. The first thing that happened was that my initial judgments completely melted away, I took her arms into my hands as I was still sitting in my van (of course, my window had been rolled down this whole time) and said the only thing that came into my mind which was, “I know, I know, it’s okay, you’re fine. You’re doing everything you can, I know you’re frustrated. I’m so sorry.” Tears started to roll down her cheeks and it makes me cry to think of it now. I still wanted to tell her not to cuss at her little girl anymore, though, so I did. I gently and lovingly looked into her eyes and pleaded, “I know how hard it must be, but I don’t want you to cuss at her anymore. You are doing everything you can, you’re doing a good job, just please don’t cuss at her anymore.” After that, she said she needed to go. I didn’t get her name, I didn’t even pray for her while I had her arms in mine. My mind was racing as to whether I should tell her my name or ask her hers. (All those dumb thoughts like she might think I’m weird and trying to steal her kid, etc. came back to me.) So, she walked away. I prayed.

In retrospect, I wish I would have prayed right there, I wish I would have given her my name and number and told her that my husband works with autistic children and that I would love to help her anytime she needed a break. All I can do is pray for the unnamed woman in the parking lot and her little girl every time I think of her and I pray I run into her again because I will be ready next time.

The Woman at the Well

Well, the first thing I wanted to share with you is one of my favorite youtube videos. It’s called The Woman at the Well Monologue.

 http://youtu.be/Q49BbfgJbto

It will help you to get to know me. 🙂 I love Christ because He first loved me. That may seem like a trite saying, but, that’s really how it worked for me.  That’s probably why this video touches me. I want to cry every time I watch it. Every time. It never gets old. I hope it touches something in you whether you know Christ or not, yet. The truth is, He knows you, so it’s really just a matter of time for you to come into the reality of His love.

I’ll try to explain here why I’m starting a blog. There is a deep desire in me to help people. I don’t really know how to do that and I’m not good at it either. Now there are things I am good at: I can clean like crazy; I’m administrative, good at getting tasks done, keeping a schedule; I’m a concrete/sequential type of person; I like to cook and bake and I’m good at it. That’s just off the top of my head.  But, I’m not good at helping people the way I’d like to for several reasons.  I don’t really like to meet and talk to people. I’m not good at “small talk” so it’s not easy for me to just walk up to people and talk to them. Then, there’s also the other reasons most people have that keeps them from helping people: I’m afraid people will think I’m weird if I just walk up to them and try to help them in some way; I also make judgments about what people will do with the help I may give them ie…if I give a lady money because she’s asking me for some to buy food, but she ends up doing something else with it like buying drugs or alchohol, and so forth.

Well, I’ve been tired of all that for a couple years. The last time I passed a lady and her son up on the road with a sign, I turned around and by the time I got back they were loading into their van. Once again, I was afraid to go up them and ask them what they needed for all the reasons above and just went on. I was so unhappy with myself and swore I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Since then, I have tried not to do that anymore, and this blog will be about the experiences I have had so far and the ones I will be having. I will also be seeking advice because mostly my encounters so far leave me feeling like I’m not good at this. I am learning though, but it’s always after the fact.

This blog is getting too long, so see my next blog for my most recent experience with the lady at the WalMart parking lot.