WHO’S THERE?

Later, I wished I hadn’t seen it.

Dan and I were off for a vacation by ourselves, the first one we had taken after our children had been born. Being history buffs, we planned to visit Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg, and Washington, D.C.

Our first night on the road we stayed at an unimpressive, old motel attached to a truck stop somewhere in Appalachia. Being novice travelers, we had failed to make a reservation.

The morning after we stayed in that old motel, we ate breakfast at the truck stop. At some point during our meal, the door opened and two women walked in. The younger of the two women carried a baby. They sat in a booth near ours.

Everything about this threesome shouted poor. The women were shabbily dressed, their hair was unkempt, and the blanket around the baby was soiled. As Dan and I were about to finish and leave, I glanced at the booth where they sat.

To my surprise, I saw the older woman, possibly the grandmother, open an empty baby bottle and pour into it the remnant of the coffee in her cup. She screwed on a lid and they prepared to depart.

What? I wondered. Would that cold coffee later in the day be fed to the baby because there was nothing else to feed him? My thoughts flew back to our own children, well fed and well tended at home with their grandmother.

Dan and I left the restaurant and soon were gliding along on our way toward Gettysburg. But the image of that old woman pouring coffee into that baby bottle stayed with me. It is with me even now.

I was more timid in those days than I am today, more fearful of a rebuff. Today, at the very least, I would have ordered milk from the waitress, paid for it, and had it taken to their table for the baby.

Why didn’t I do something?

 

My sister Joni makes frequent mission trips to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. She encounters wretched poverty in all of those places, but none of the others compare to Haiti.

Living conditions in Haiti were barely survivable before the massive earthquake that hit the country on January 12, 2010. The millions of people who live there today manage to stay alive despite having almost no shelter, no food, no clean water, no medical care, no education, and no organized political system.

I asked Joni, as soft-hearted and compassionate a person as anyone you will ever meet, to tell me a bit about her visits to Haiti.

She said, “Haiti is a very dangerous country to visit.  For safety, I stay with the other members of my group, and we are very selective in the places we choose to visit.”

Joni says her ministrations there are the equivalent of treating a severed limb with a Band-Aid. But at least one person is blessed when a caring woman, motivated by the love of Jesus, gently does what she can do to help.

She also said, “That country’s need is so great, it is overwhelming when viewed as a whole. I simply help the person God puts in front of me.”

I believe Joni’s philosophy of “helping the person God puts in front of me” should be the standard for all of us. That may mean assisting a neighbor whose house has been flooded, buying a winter coat for an old man who needs one, or tending to a child whose parents are lost in a world of drugs and alcohol.

It may be as simple as buying milk for a baby who needs it.

 

Joni works with Hope for Haiti’s Children. This photo of Joni with a little boy cared for by HFHC was taken in 2009 before the earthquake in 2010. When this picture was taken, the child lived with his family on the roof of a church. During the quake, the church crumbled into the street, killing many people, including a group of nurses who were studying there. Joni couldn’t bear to ask if the little boy survived the quake.

http://www.hopeforhaitischildren.org

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‘TWAS WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS

‘Twas weeks before Christmas, December one,

The holiday season has really begun.

I drink some caffeine and roll up my sleeves,

While thinking of presents, stockings, and trees.

 

I go buy some candles, red, green, and gold,

New napkins, a tablecloth, nice to behold.

Some tinsel, some garland, a grand treetop star,

A red nose and antlers to put on my car.

 

Some gift wrap and ribbon and Scotch tape galore,

Fake snow for the windows, a wreath for the door.

I make up a menu and order a ham.

I’ll bake it and glaze it with raspberry jam.

 

I go buy a tree and put on some lights

To glow through the window on cold winter nights.

I shop for the grandkids, a bike and a dolly,

And candy for stockings, some gumdrops, by golly!

 

I’ll cook each one’s favorites: fudge, cookies, and pies,

Make a gingerbread house to dazzle their eyes.

Some yams and hot yeast rolls to warm each one’s soul,

A salad and, of course, green bean casserole.

 

I’ll spruce up the guest room and tidy the house,

Dry clean my best pantsuit and iron my new blouse.

I’ll turn on some carols, spray a scent of sweet pine.

I’ve checked off each task now, right down the line.

 

I wait for the phone call to say when they’ll come.

With anticipation, I happily hum.

I hear my phone ringing, I grab it and shout,

“Merry Christmas to everyone, hope you’re en route!”

 

My granddaughter laughs and says, “You are so funny.

Didn’t we tell you we’re down where it’s sunny?

Enough of cold weather and snow and reindeer.

We’re having a Disney World Christmas this year!”

 

I’M FIXING TO

I grew up in the South, and as a child I heard words, phrases, idioms, etc. that are not commonly heard in the North, where I now live. One such phrase is fixing to.

I hear the single word fixing here in Indiana, but seldom do I hear the phrase fixing to.

For example, in the North people fix flat tires, fix dinner, and fix their hair, just as people do in the South. Northerners also speak of fixed rates and fixed incomes. Rarely, however, is anyone or anything in the North fixing to do anything.

The phrase fixing to is essentially the same as the phrase about to, but with a slightly stronger meaning. Fixing to as we used it when I was growing up in Arkansas carried a sense of immediacy that about to didn’t quite capture.

The phrase about to worked fine in some sentences. For example, a Southern woman might have said, “Guess what! I’m about to become a grandmother!”

A few moths later though, that same woman might be heard to say, “I’m fixing to tell my daughter to put a cap on that baby’s head!”

Down South, we routinely heard sentences like these.

“It’s fixing to rain.”

“School is fixing to start.”

“I’m fixing to spank your bottom.”

I don’t know what we would have done without that useful phrase. For example, if Mom asked me if I had done my homework, I often responded, “No, but I’m fixing to.” Enough said.

Dad often told us kids to clear all of our stuff out of the yard because he was fixing to mow. Dad didn’t need to add the words “right now” to his instructions because we knew if he was fixing to mow the yard, he didn’t mean later today.

On Sunday morning we kids were encouraged to get a move on because “It’s a quarter to ten and we’re fixing to be late for church!” We complied because we knew anyone walking into church late was fixing to get the evil eye from the on-time arrivers.

Most of us grew up using terms that other people are not familiar with. For example, some people (not I) say, “I carried my grandpa to the grocery store.” Of course they mean they drove him there. Other people refer to shopping carts as buggies and to bottles of pop as bottles of soda. (How can some people be so wrong?)

And depending upon where you grew up, those Sunday get-togethers when church members take food and share it after the worship service are either potlucks, pitch-ins, basket dinners, or covered-dish meals.

I try to be tolerant and sensitive with word anomalies used by people who grew up differently from me, but it isn’t always easy.

A few years ago I taught the Cradle Roll class with a woman who grew up farther south of the Mason-Dixon Line than I did. One Sunday she and I were using a flip chart and leading our baby students in singing the song, If I Plant a Button, Will It Grow?

When we came to the end of the song, I sang: “A button’s not a living thing so it won’t grow. God didn’t plan for buttons to grow.”

My friend sang: “A button’s not a living thing so it won’t grow. God didn’t aim for buttons to grow.” Same theology expressed in different words.

But her “aim for” struck me as so funny I had to turn and look away because I knew I was fixing to laugh.

WRITERS WRITE?

(This is an oldie posted again especially for my fellow writers. I feel your pain.)

WRITERS WRITE?

 Singers sing and teachers teach.

Fighters fight and preachers preach.

Tailors sew and smokers puff.

Catwalk models strut their stuff.

Writers think and rant and scribble,

Find their thoughts are merely drivel.

 

Cleaners clean and painters paint.

Gossips slur and smear and taint.

Bakers stir and spread and mix.

Gymnasts show off springs and kicks.

Writers stew and sweat and swear,

Chew their nails and pull their hair.

 

Sculptors sculpt and tenors sing.

Rappers dance and show off bling.

Builders measure, pound, and saw.

Dentists put shots in your jaw.

Writers ponder, walk the floor,

Scratch their heads until they’re sore.

 

Doctors doctor, drivers race.

Cosmeticians fix your face.

Lawyers argue, cowboys rope.

Moms and dads find ways to cope.

Writers grimace, growl, and drool,

Practice much self-ridicule.

 

Tourists visit, nurses tend.

Pavers pave and fixers mend.

Suitors woo and hackers hack.

Chiropractors fix your back.

Writers quarrel, fret, and stress,

Find their efforts are a mess.

 

Politicians plot and speak.

Plumbers come to stop your leak.

NASA workers study Mars.

Golfers concentrate on pars.

Writers whine and writhe and weep.

Stand on ledges, poised to leap.

 

When one struggles to compose

A story, poem, theme, or prose,

All ideas leave her head.

Her creativity is dead.

Though she tries with all her might,

She can’t think of a thing to write.

WHY I DISLIKE SOCIAL MEDIA

I am not a fan of social media.

First of all, I dislike social media because it was not designed for people my age. We resist buying things that cause us to pull out our hair and run screaming for help from our kids.

Please understand that I am not opposed to all electronic devices. After resisting, I finally learned to use three remote controls to operate our TV. I have made peace with using a “virtual teller” at the bank. I have even become a little less impatient when listening to a recorded list of menu options before talking to a real person on the phone.

But becoming accustomed to electronics wasn’t easy.

I know it was easy for you in the under-50 age group. That is because you are “native” electronics users. You cut your teeth on an iPod. I, on the other hand, am an “immigrant” to this land of electronics. I don’t know the landscape and have not learned the language. I am not sure I want to live here permanently, as if I have a choice.

I do not like social media because I rarely see anyone’s face anymore. What I see are the outer edges of a face that appear around the phone in front of it. This is particularly disturbing when the person is driving a car or leading a toddler across a busy street.

I don’t like social media because it gives people an opportunity to rant, criticize, campaign, promote products, forward other’s people’s opinions, brag, and inform anyone who is interested that they are going to Starbucks for a pumpkin cinnamon latte. Can anyone say TMI?

I do not like social media because in some cases, the use of it ruins lives. People fall victim to scams and unwittingly expose their children to sexual predators. Marriages are ruined when one partner connects with an old love interest and rekindles a one-time romance.

I do not like social media because it provides yet one more way for people to know specific details about me without actually knowing me. Via Facebook you may learn I am a fan of the Dateline series and enjoy scrapbooking, but those facts reveal little of who I am.

Truly knowing me requires personal interaction, eye contact, body language, and sincere back-and-forth conversation. Most of all, it requires time spent with me.

Some people think because I resist using social media, I am not engaged with the world around me. They assume I don’t care about current issues; I don’t want to stay in contact with friends and family; and I am, in fact, ignorant and antisocial.

I suspect I have lost friends because I failed to accept their friend requests.

But true friends should know I was not rejecting them. I was rejecting the social medium they were using. I reject that medium for the reasons I have already listed.

If you are my friend, it is not because you requested, via an electronic device, to be friended by me. It is because I know you well and I care about you. I look forward to seeing you and receiving your hugs, which social media will never be able to provide.

Don’t even try to tell me that { } is the equivalent of a real hug. If you do, I may give you a virtual punch in the nose.

THE RIGHT QUESTION

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I am a wannabe minimalist. Stuff suffocates me. I daydream about living in one of those newfangled tiny houses. Whatever neurotic disease hoarders have, I have the opposite.

Thus, when Dan started getting rid of outdoor items he didn’t want to store for next summer, I jumped at the opportunity. Out went the grandkids’ plastic swimming pool and turtle sandbox, the rusted plant stand off the patio, the cracked lawn chairs, a leaky hummingbird feeder, holey gardening gloves, faded pool noodles, and pots of scraggly marigolds, once yellow and orange but now brown and leafless.

What else? I queried. I scoured the yard and patio for more potential victims of this autumnal cleansing. Then I spied it, one tiny splash of color in a landscape growing drabber by the second: my potted pink geranium.

Yes, the same geranium which has inspired the writing of more than one blog post over the past few months, the great-great-great grandchild of the geranium for whom my website is named. The geranium I almost tossed out weeks ago when I thought its life was at an end.

There it sat in the center of the round table on my patio where it had resided all spring and summer. I approached the plant with the aim of finally doing away with it.

Yes, it had been a good and faithful plant, had given me more than my money’s worth, and had spurred the writing of several articles, but all good things must come to an end. Mustn’t they?

I approached the plant. What yet do you have to give? I asked it.

It moved not a single leaf, offered no defense, no plea for indulgence, no request for more time.

“I am yours to do with as you choose,” it seemed to say.

Well, this is just great, I thought. One more thing to feel guilty about.

Did I really want to be the woman who tossed out a plant that had done nothing but pleasure her for months and still had life in it?

“You know the frost is going to get you, don’t you?” I asked it. “One of these mornings, and very soon, I will find you limp and icy, your head drooping over the side of this pot.”

Nothing.

“You knew when I placed you here that it wouldn’t be forever, didn’t you? You knew this day would come.”

Nothing.

“Most people would have thrown you away weeks ago and replaced you with a basket of artificial fall leaves and plastic pumpkins. You realize that, don’t you?”

Still nothing.

I stood with my hands on my hips and took a deep breath.

“Why would I save you?” I asked.

A leaf moved.

Had I finally asked the right question?

I leaned closer and turned an ear to it.

I listened.

“Because you can,” I thought I heard it say.

I watched Dan pull his truck out of the driveway, spilling a torn screen from its overcrowded bed.

And what of the geranium?

That geranium sits now in the middle of my kitchen island, illustrating once again an ageless truth: Grace is not extended because it has been earned. Grace has little to do with the recipient.

Grace is bestowed because someone has it to give.

 

SENSES AND NONSENSE

“Five senses,” God said, “these I will give,

To the humans who on my new earth come to live.

To hear and to see and to smell and to touch,

And good things to taste. That should be enough.”

 

He went about making things they could enjoy:

Snowflakes and music and rainbows and joy,

Berries and cinnamon, blazing white stars,

And bunnies and bird songs and fireflies for jars.

 

He gave them blue skies and valleys and hills

Summer for warmth and winter for chills,

A lover’s sweet kiss and a baby’s first breath,

Flowers and moonbeams . . .  and no hint of death.

 

Colors and fragrance and honey and wheat,

The smell of the sea and warm sand for their feet,

Silky new kittens, red roses, soft rain,

And friendship and dewdrops . . .  and no hint of pain.

 

Handholds and warm hugs and smiles for their faces,

And richness and newness and infinite spaces.

Today’s wondrous gifts would be here for tomorrow

From God’s gracious hand . .  . and no hint of sorrow.

 

They bathed in the sunshine and shared all they had.

They wanted for nothing. What was there to add?

They frolicked and wandered and listened and ate.

They drank in earth’s sweetness . . . and no hint of hate.

 

‘Til one day a thought came they knew not from where

Who bound us to this place? Who told us to share?

We want something different, we want to explore.

If we take charge maybe we’ll have something more.

 

They drew up some boundaries and set up some rules.

They guarded their foodstuffs and trinkets and tools.

They challenged and argued and gave evil looks,

Marked off plots of land and laid claim to the brooks.

 

They cursed at their children, cheated their neighbor,

But had less to enjoy despite all their labor.

They ravaged the landscape and killed their own kin.

They turned from the good and indulged in great sin.

 

With no use for God now they went their own way,

Pursued sordid pleasures by night and by day.

They trusted nobody and cared for no one.

They endorsed every evil thing under the sun.

 

Death now touched each one of them. All endured pain.

Sadness and sorrow poured down like the rain.

Their hatred was thick and their families were wrecked

The goodness that once was there none could detect.

 

‘Til one day a thought came, they knew not from where,

Is life meant to be this way, hard and unfair?

Who caused this? Who cursed us? Who brought us such pain?

There must be a better way. This is insane!

 

They lobbied their leaders. They looked to their heroes,

They questioned their gurus who offered but zeroes.

They Googled and pondered and searched everywhere

For answers to fix it all, end the despair.

 

And God, as He always does, opened his arms,

And offered His answer, a rescue from harms.

But each one rejected him, each of them said,

“We don’t believe you. We think you are dead.

 

We don’t really need you. We’ll fix this, and plus,

All answers are stored somewhere deep inside us.

We’re smart and we’re focused, our theories are prime.

We’ve got this. We’ll handle this. Give us some time.”

 

God said, “I warn you, my patience wears thin.

You’ll never fix this, can’t even begin.

One day you will know as you drop to your knee

The answers you’re looking for all rest in me.”

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.