black shoes

In Her Shoes

 DECORATED IN ORANGE AND BLACK crepe paper, the room was festive and gay.  It was a day to honor my stepson Tyler’s achievements after his graduation from high school.  Family and friends had gathered and talked quietly in groups at various tables inside the club house, while Tyler and his friends played a beanbag toss game in the front yard.  An assortment of food was arranged buffet style for guests to munch on.  A table displaying Tyler’s achievements and childhood paperwork, along with a colorful board of pictures, stood next to the door entering the party room.

                When my husband Ben and I arrived, we spotted Katie (my husband’s daughter), Scott (her husband) and our new grandson Owen.  We sat next to them.   I quickly scooped the baby up into my arms while Ben filled a plate of food.  I gazed around the room.  The collection of people gathered were friends and family members from Tyler’s mom and stepfather’s side of the family, a few parents of his friends, and some of his friends from school.   A small number of them I had before met at past gatherings.  So after doting on the baby, I made my way around the room visiting with people I knew and introducing myself to those I didn’t.   During the party, I occasionally spoke with Tyler’s mom and stepfather, and when the it was over, I offered to help them clean up.

                After arriving home from Tyler’s graduation party, and while pondering the events of the afternoon, my thoughts flashed back to another graduation party.  It was my son Casey’s fourteen years earlier in June of 2000. I had rented a beach pavilion close to his high school campus and decorated it with maroon and white streamers.   Just like Tyler’s, there was a buffet table on one end and a gift table on the other displaying various plaques, achievement certificates, and a board with pictures.  Family and friends had gathered to help Casey celebrate his special day.

                When my ex-husband and his woman friend arrived, they sat at the opposite end of the pavilion.  Even though it had been two years since our divorce, my emotions were still raw.  My ex had moved on.  I hadn’t.    Moving on for me was difficult to do after almost twenty years of marriage.  So needless to say, when they arrived, I felt almost betrayed.  It was a difficult day for me being around them.  What irked me the most was the way my ex’s friend seemed so carefree and friendly.  She talked to me as if we were friends and chatted with my parents in the same manner.  When the party was over, she pitched in and helped with the clean up.  I couldn’t believe the “other woman” had the nerve to mingle in such a manner.

                As my mind returned to the present, I suddenly became aware that I had now walked in the shoes of the “other woman”.  My actions at Tyler’s graduation party were no different than my ex’s friend’s actions at my son’s graduation fourteen years ago.  I mingled and chatted with family and friends from Tyler’s mom’s side of the family.  I offered to help clean up.  I even sat and chatted with Tyler’s grandmother and grandfather.  When I did this, it was because I loved Tyler.  I was proud of him and wanted to share with others in his accomplishments.  My intentions were not to upset his mom or make her feel uncomfortable.

                I realized that my ex’s friend probably had the same feelings about Casey as I did about Tyler.  She was proud of Casey.  She was proud of his accomplishments. She wanted to share in his excitement.   She mingled and served out of love for Casey, such as I did for Tyler.  She had no deliberate intention of upsetting me or making me feel bad.  It was probably just as hard for her as it had been for me.  The uneasiness and tension for her was overruled by her love for my son.

                I am mystified by how and when God chooses to reveal a lesson.  This one took fourteen years and started way before I even knew I would have a stepson or his graduation party to attend.  How amazing is that!

                I am awed that God sees my entire life from beginning to end.  He knows what will happen in the days ahead and puts up with my cries of distress and despair all the time knowing that at some point, He will reveal to me something positive from my pain.  This time, He wanted me to see through her eyes and walk in her shoes and know that love was the genuine force that drove her actions.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NASB)

Prayer:  Father, thank You for Your love and gentle teaching.  Help me to realize that my thoughts can be one-sided.  Let me put myself in the other person’s shoes and try to see the situation through their eyes.  Help me to realize that hurting me may not be their intent, but perhaps have other, far more honorable reasons for their actions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

photo

What Kind of Cloud are You?

CLOUDS.  Puffy white cottony clouds.  Billowy dark menacing clouds.  Rain clouds lined with silver.  Early morning clouds tinged in pink.  Hazy clouds set against a blazing orange canvas. Turning day by day, hour by hour, or minute by minute, the sky becomes a kaleidoscope of tinted textures.

                Lately, I am fascinated with clouds.  My eyes fixate on the sky mesmerized by the vast array of their shapes, colors, and sizes .  My interest is piqued most by a mixture of big puffy dark clouds and white fluffy cottony clouds.    These seem to emerge right before or after a summer rain.  What draws my curiosity is the way they overlap.  Dark clouds hover over the horizon low enough one could almost poke them with their finger releasing a deluge of rain.  Then, peeking out from behind these dark billowy clouds, are the fluffy cottony clouds framed by the brilliant sun.  Both kinds of clouds are set against a backdrop of azure blue.  The mixture of hues is absolutely stunning.

                The combination of dingy and bright reminds me of my life.  Some days my countenance is dark.  One, often innocent, remark pokes my emotional surface bringing forth a flood of tears.  Offended, my demeanor takes on the appearance of the deep gray ominous storm cloud hovering over the earth ready to erupt sending forth wind and rain from within. With my somber mood, I anger easily, and often times end up saying things I can’t retrieve.  My words leave a path of destruction.  Rebuilding becomes cumbersome, awkward, and slow.

                Then there are days my disposition is sunny and bright.  It doesn’t take much for a smile to radiate across my face; the silver lining around the puffy white cloud.  Little things bring me joy such as the sweet song of a robin outside my bedroom window on a summer morning.  Or maybe, it is seeing a child’s excitement when he finds his long lost blanket.

                Finding pleasure in the unique moments God creates for me is my challenge today. Will I hang on to the unpleasant and cling to its darkness allowing it to affect my energy and behavior?  Or will I seek the wonder wrapped in each encounter?  Will I allow negativity to pierce my mood?   Or will I allow the radiance of God’s love to wrap my soul in warmth and protect my heart.

“…consider God’s wonders.  Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?  Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who is perfect in knowledge?”                            (Job 37:14b-16, NIV)

Prayer:  Lord, today I pray brightness and radiance win.  Let me be a puffy white cloud suspended in Your firmament encircled by Your brilliant love.  Let Your light shine forth from my soul casting wonder and amazement in a world of dingy gray.  Let me be the light in someone’s darkness today.  I ask this in Your son Jesus’ name, Amen.

2007 Maroon Ford Taurus

God Provides

“OH NO!  NOT AGAIN!”

            Mom glided her light blue 1997 Buick LeSabre into a parking lot just off the busy street.  This was the second or third time in the past week the engine shut off while she was driving.

            “Thank goodness I made it off the road safely,” she breathed with a sigh of relief.   “Now, let’s see if it starts.”  She put the car in park and waited a moment before turning the key in the ignition.  Once turned, the motor started right up.  Holding her breath, she pulled back out onto the street.  Just like that, she was on her way.

            “Thank you, God.  Please see my safely to where I need to go and then back home again.”

            Mom has owned her Buick for over twelve years.  Other than normal oil changes and new tires, repair costs have been minimal.  However, with the age of the car and the current engine problem, Dad voiced his concern that Mom should start looking for another car.  A newer model.  One with lower mileage.  Both being retired and with finances tight, Mom realized it would take a miracle to find a perfect fit.

            On Friday this past week, Mom picked her friend Toni up for lunch.  Toni’s mother Nancy, another good friend of Mom’s, passed away a couple weeks ago.  Both Toni and Mom miss Nancy very much.  Now that Nancy is gone, there is a huge hole in their hearts and an emptiness in their lives.  Lunch was an opportunity for Mom and Toni to share their thoughts and draw encouragement from each other for the upcoming days of loneliness. Both looked forward to this time together.

            When Mom pulled into the parking lot where Toni worked, she spotted a maroon car.  At first, she thought Toni had driven Nancy’s car to work.  But as Mom pulled to the other side of the car, she noticed a “For Sale” sign in the window.  At that point, she really couldn’t tell if it was Nancy’s or not.   Mom and Toni spent an enjoyable lunch together, and when Mom brought Toni back to work, she noticed the car again, but did not say anything to Toni.

            Later that evening, when I stopped by to visit Mom and Dad, Mom shared about her lunch with Toni.  She recounted the events of her car engine shutting off again while driving that day and about seeing the maroon car for sale in the parking lot where Toni works.  Mom thought sure it looked like Nancy’s, but couldn’t image the family selling it.  Mom remembered Nancy’s excitement in getting the car and her taking very good care of it.  If it was Nancy’s car, Mom knew it would be a good replacement for hers.  I offered to contact Toni for information about the car.

            By the next morning, the pieces fell into place.  The car for sale belonged to Nancy.  It was a maroon 2007 Ford Taurus with 57,000 miles on it.  The asking price fit exactly into Mom’s price range.  Mom contacted Toni right away and told her she wanted to buy it.  Toni even drove the car to Mom and Dad’s so that they could both look at it.  Toni was thrilled that Mom wanted her mother’s car.  She knew her mom would be tickled with my mom being its new owner.  And Mom was ecstatic to purchase it.  It was as if Mom’s friend, who just weeks earlier brought joy to my mother with her visit when Mom was in the hospital after having back surgery, was still watching over Mom.   Nancy was providing something tangible for Mom to remember her by.

            While talking with Mom Saturday morning, I shared with her about a devotion I had just read.  The devotion titled “Enough”  talked about God providing for our needs.  The writer cited three different examples from the Bible where God provided for his people:  the story of Moses where God sent manna from heaven to feed the Israelites (Exodus 16), the story of Elisha and the widow where she was instructed to fill jars with oil to pay off her bills (2 Kings 4:1-7), and the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:13- 21).  The writer went on to say, “It’s a consistent message in the Bible.  There might not always be abundance, but with God there is enough.”

            Once again, I am utterly amazed at God’s grace and provision.  When Mom needed a better vehicle, He provided it.  Not only was it one that fit her financial budget, but it had belonged to her good friend.  She will have peace being able to trust the source of the purchase.  God also provided for Toni’s family in that He provided a buyer for Nancy’s car.  Again, the purchaser being someone the family knew and who could be trusted to take good care of her car.   Since Mom and Toni attend the same church, Toni will have the joy of seeing Mom arrive in Nancy’s car, and I am sure at some point, get to ride in it again as they go on future lunch outings.  It will be just one more thing for the two friends to share as they reminisce and keep Nancy close to their hearts.

“Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.  Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”(Exodus 16: 12b, NIV)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, Thank you for providing for our needs. Thank you for giving us just enough.  Let us not be greedy with wanting more than we need, but be satisfied with what you provide.  It is in your precious son Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Tractor

In Memory of Him

PEOPLE OF ALL SHAPES and sizes, dressed in colorful summer attire, lined the paved street that wound its way through the center of town.  Children with bubble guns, metallic pinwheels, and candy sat on soft blankets next to the curb; parents keeping watchful eyes on them.  Red and blue coolers with white lids dotted the grassy spaces between the sidewalk and street.  Hot dogs and cotton candy flavored the air as their aromas floated above the crowd on a gentle breeze.  Puffy white clouds hung suspended from the bright blue sky.  The air? A comfortable 75 degrees.  With a police escort in the lead, the first parade participants made their way along the parade route signaling the annual Fourth of July parade was in full swing.  This year was bittersweet for my husband and me.

                For the past several years, our friend Bill entered his orange antique Allis-Chalmers tractors in the parade.  Bill gathered his older grandchildren and put them atop a tractor to drive his collection through town.  He was proud of his tractors, but more importantly, he was  proud of his grandchildren who drove them.  Bill normally drove a tractor himself, or like last year, rode in a wagon being pulled by one of his tractors.  This year, however, the tractors with Bill’s grandchildren came through the parade without our friend.  Bill passed away earlier this year.  His family kept up the tradition of entering Bill’s tractors in the parade.  This year it was in memory of him.

                Earlier in the day, I had gone into town to run an errand.  On my way back home, I passed the grandchildren on Bill’s tractors coming into town on a side street to take their place in the parade line-up.  My breath caught and a tear trickled down my face as I thought of Bill and knew how proud he would be.  His grandchildren were honoring his memory.

                As I thought about this act of honoring their grandfather, I thought about Sunday mornings at church when I partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a way we can honor Jesus.  In 1 Corinthians 11:23b-26, Paul states,  The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

                The Lord’s Supper is a means of centering our hearts and minds while remembering what Jesus has done for us.    When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we participate in his death.  We remember his ultimate sacrifice, his cruel death, and his amazing love.  We humbly accept his willingness to die in order to take away our sins so that we may live eternally with him.

                In America, the Fourth of July, is a day of honor.  It is a day to honor the fallen soldiers who gave their lives fighting for our freedom.  It is a day for Bill’s grandchildren to honor his memory by driving his tractors in the parade as they had always done as a family. And, it is a day to honor Jesus for giving us our ultimate freedom. Our freedom from sin and death.  Our gift of eternal life.  An opportunity to thank Him for the sacrifice he made.  May we celebrate today in memory of him.

And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  (Luke 22:19-20, NIV)

Nancy

Going Home

“I’VE GOT A MANSION just over the hilltop,” we sang with cracked voices and tear-filled eyes.  My mom’s friend, Nancy, was lying comfortably in her own bed.  With eyes closed and labored breathing, she was surrounded by those she loved.  We knew her time left with us would not be long. We just didn’t know how long.  Believing Nancy could hear us, we wanted to sing of Heaven.  The home she longed for.

                After Nancy’s diagnosis of terminal cancer a couple months earlier, she decided against chemotherapy.  She realized this decision shortened the length of time she had left with her loved ones.  Rather than spending her remaining days undergoing treatment, Nancy insisted on living life normally. She vowed to be an example to those around her.  She openly confessed she looked forward to going to Heaven.  In Heaven, she and her daughter Cindy, who had passed on before her, would be reunited.  Nancy was excited that she had “her ticket home.”

                In spite of her prognosis, Nancy’s attitude was amazing.  She had the most beautiful smile and shared it with everyone she met.  She laughed and lived each day to the fullest determined to get the most out of the time left with her family and friends this side of Heaven.

                Her daughter Toni cherished each minute spent with her mother and drew encouragement from Nancy’s unwavering attitude.  It was a blessing passed on to Toni from Nancy.

                My mom was also blessed by Nancy.  Being church friends, they spent a lot of time together.  It was just two weeks ago, Nancy, Toni, and another friend Jennie drove over an hour to visit my mom in the hospital after having back surgery.  When Nancy walked into the room, my mom’s whole disposition changed.  Nancy was the turning point in my mom’s recovery.

                Now, here we sat at Nancy’s bedside giving back to her a smidge of what she had given to us.  Singing to her of Heaven was a gift I could give. I hoped the soothing melody would bring peace from deep within and help her focus on her final destination.  I hoped the words would bring encouragement inviting her to let go and cross the threshold into her eternal home.   I wanted to assure Nancy it was OK to say goodbye.

                Nancy was ready.  Jesus was calling.  It was time to go home.

                At 1:30 PM, just a half hour after my mom and I left Nancy’s beside, Nancy took her final breath, crossed Heaven’s threshold, and stepped into the loving arms of Jesus.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.”  (John 14:2, KJV)