All posts by dscales24

I am a wife, mother, and grandmother who enjoys sharing life experiences through writing short, lighthearted articles. These are intended to entertain, inspire, motivate, and inform my readers. I hope to receive responses in which readers tell me if they relate to the articles and share with me ideas that my writings generated in them.

MY SHADE AT MY RIGHT HAND

Scriptures speak of God as our friend, provider, helper, refuge, and strength.

God is all those things, and more.

A few days ago, I was surprised when I read this verse in Psalm 121:5.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

I was unaccustomed to God’s being referred to as a shade.

In the Bible, references to God as a “shade” or “shadow” may indicate His role as our defender.

He certainly is that.

But the discovery of this verse has caused me to think of God as the cooling shade provided by a big tree.

Summers in the South are hot.

I grew up in a house that had no air-conditioning. Its rooms were cooled only by air that sifted through our window screens. Hot and dusty, that air rarely stirred the curtains.

We craved shade.

Soon after we moved into that house, Dad planted a row of silver maple trees along the west edge of the yard. They were tall and spindly, but they shaded that side of the house.

On the east side grew a big black walnut tree. (The tree wasn’t black. It produced “black walnuts.”)

Another tree also grew at the east edge of our yard.

I only recently learned the name of that tree.

With help provided by relatives in Arkansas and articles on the Internet, I now know it was a Chinese sumac, also called tree-of-heaven.

This tree put off a unique scent, not pleasant or unpleasant. Some say the scent resembles the odor of burning nuts. I wouldn’t describe it that way, but I would recognize the aroma in a single whiff if I smelled it again.

My family members took tasks outside to work in the shade of the tree-of-heaven.

Under that tree, we shelled our peas, snapped our beans, and husked our corn.

When we were small, we napped there on handsewn quilts. We splashed in cool water Mom poured into a big washtub, so she could watch us as she hung out laundry.

When we were older, we did our homework on the cool concrete front porch that was shaded by that tree.

My brother had a seat in the tree where he sat and read for hours.

My sisters and I hula-hooped beneath the tree and made necklaces from the white clover that grew in our yard.

In its shade, my siblings, friends, and I played games like red rover, freeze tag, and ante-over.

Good memories, all associated with shade.

Sometimes, my life gets hot.

This heat does not come from the sun, but from people and circumstances.

Someone says something hurtful. I break a cherished keepsake. My well-made plan goes awry. I learn of yet another friend who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Sometimes the heat is kindled within me by regretted past mistakes or future scary possibilities.

Inwardly, I break into a panicky sweat.

I look for an escape from this heat.

Like a cool shade, God offers me a tranquil space.

In the shade of my Tree-of-Heaven, I pour out my troubles.

He asks me to trust Him and reminds me I am loved beyond measure. He gives me a glimpse into what Heaven will be like when I enter His eternal bliss.

And I am cooled by assurances no human can give me.

Make time today to rest in the peaceful shade of God’s presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW IT WAS

I just finished listening to the short autobiography of artist James Taylor. He titled it Break Shot: My First 21 Years.

Being a fan of some of James Taylor’s music, I was interested in the story of his early life.

Unlike many celebrities, who grew up in Appalachian poverty or on dirty streets of cities like New York or London, James Taylor was a child of privilege.

His mother was a socialite with ties to Martha’s Vineyard, and his father was the dean of the Medical School of the University of North Carolina.

Despite their wealth, the family, which included James, three brothers, and one sister, fell apart. Alcohol and drugs were their downfall.

I appreciated James’s telling of life lessons learned in his youth. Among other observations, he made this one.

Memory is tricky. We remember how it felt, not necessarily how it was.

He is right.

I recall specific events of my childhood, of course, but mostly I remember how I felt, the vague, deep-down-in-my-soul feeling that told me who I was.

This was my inner message to myself.

I was safe.

My childhood was spent among the woods and dirt roads of north Arkansas.

There were snakes, as well as wasps, spiders, scorpions, and even bobcats, though I never saw one.

The terrain was scattered with farm ponds, steep cliffs, creeks that gushed muddy water after big rains, abandoned cars in which nested heaven knows what kinds of critters, dark forests of pine trees, and fields of thick sagebrush.

But I stayed within my boundaries, and I wasn’t afraid.

I was loved.

I grew up in a house with my mom, dad, and three siblings. We lived just a short distance from both sets of grandparents and several aunts and uncles.

All these people loved me.

Every one of them wanted the best for me. I was hugged, snuggled, kissed, and read to regularly.

I was carried to bed when I fell asleep someplace else. When I called out, “Momma,” in the night, Momma always came.

I was pampered when I was sick and comforted when I was scared.

I had birthday cakes and visits from the Tooth Fairy.

Santa came every Christmas.

We had Easter egg hunts at my Aunt Freddie’s house, and big family get-togethers with yummy food and lively games of ante-over.

This little girl hula-hooped and made mud pies in her outdoor playhouse and knew she was loved.

I was valued.

I wouldn’t have known how to voice that feeling at the time, but what I thought, what I did, and how I felt—these things mattered to the people in my world.

My parents insisted that I do my homework, memorize my sight words, learn my multiplication tables, and go to school unless I was sick.

They bragged on me and told me I was smart. Mom and Dad encouraged me to read and write, to learn the meaning of new words, and how to spell them.

Dad, when he saw me reading a library book, asked me, “Who wrote that?” I made a point of knowing the answer to that question and came to appreciate the art of writing.

Not surprisingly, my favorite card game was Authors.

Ours may have been the only family within a mile radius that owned a current set of World Book Encyclopedia.

I was expected to do my best and received praise when I did.

Who can put a value on being valued?

I was a child of clotheslines and wire fences,

Bar soap, mercurochrome, and Vick’s salve,

Of bobby socks and hand-stitched quilts,

Mud-holes and wood stoves.

I was a child of hunting dogs,

And cows mooing for their missing calves,

Of homemade butter and yeasty-smelling kitchens,

Blackberry bushes and creaky wooden bridges.

I was a child of pickup trucks with cattle guards,

Long, cold school bus rides and the smell of burning coal.

I was a child of screen doors and woodsmoke,

Old, embroidered tablecloths thrown across picnic tables.

I was a child of book satchels and Big Chief tablets,

Of nursery rhymes and Dick and Jane,

Black-and-white television and 45-rpm records.

I was a child of the rural South in the 50s and 60s.

James Taylor has his memories, and I have mine.

You have yours.

I’ve Run My Last Red Light

I walk a pretty straight line.

I don’t mean I’m perfect. I am as flawed as the next person.

In fact, I dwell so much on how flawed I am that dwelling on my flaws has become one of my chief flaws.

But, back to my walking a straight line.

If I see a sign that reads, “Keep Off The Grass,” I keep off the grass.

If the speed limit sign reads, “Speed Limit 30,” I drive 30 MPH.

I may be the only person in this state who tries always to drive the posted speed limit.

Most people fudge a bit. I’m not judging. I’m just saying.

My husband Dan has been wearing an orthopedic boot on his right foot because of a sprained ankle tendon.

Therefore, his driving is limited.

For the first time in over 45 years of marriage, I am the chief driver.

And it isn’t easy.

For either of us.

Like you, I have established driving habits:

  • How and when I change lanes
  • Where I park on big department store lots
  • How closely I follow another vehicle
  • The route I take when entering and exiting our neighborhood
  • How I judge whether a yellow light leaves me time to continue

I have the luxury these days of rarely being in a hurry. I don’t have a job or kids to shuttle to events. I am, I guess you could say, a leisurely driver.

The kind of driver non-leisurely drivers hate.

I plan my car trips to make my stops in a prescribed order, trying to avoid making left-hand turns on busy highways.

And I get along just fine.

But now that I’m chauffeuring Dan, I have forgotten how to drive.

That’s because I’m trying to drive the way he drives.

And, I’m trying to drive the way he drives because I am a . . . wait for it.

I am a people-pleaser.

On about our second outing after I began driving, Dan asked, “Why do you take this street out of the neighborhood when you’re planning to turn south onto Sawmill Road?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just do.”

“If you go down one more street, you’ll avoid a stop sign.”

“Oh . . . well,” I said.

Now, at this point, a string of questions starts running through my brain. My thoughts go something like this.

Why does this matter to Dan? And, if it does matter to him, why can’t he just tolerate the way I choose to exit the neighborhood? Why does he have to comment? Why can’t he keep his mouth shut and let me drive?

You may be shocked at the route my thoughts took (not at the route I took exiting the neighborhood) because you think I’m a nice person.

I am a nice person. Most of the time.

Can you make a higher claim? Hmmm?

But, and this won’t surprise you, when Dan is in the car, I now take his route when I leave the neighborhood, intending to turn left onto Sawmill Road.

And why is that?

Because I am a people pleaser.

I also choose my parking spots based upon his recommendations.

I change lanes or don’t change lanes, stop at yellow lights or proceed through yellow lights, cross a double yellow line to go around a mail delivery vehicle or don’t cross a double yellow line to go around a mail delivery vehicle based upon what I think HE thinks I should do.

I try to do every driving-thing the way HE believes every driving-thing should be done.

I might as well wear a bracelet engraved with “WWDD?”

Not only do I do things his way, I—heaven help me—ask his advice as I drive.

“Do you think I should go around this truck?”

“Is this the best place for me to park?”

“Should I have stopped at that yellow light instead of going on through?”

“What would YOU have done?”

And, I hate myself for it.

Hate, hate, hate myself for this people-pleasing approach to life I have chosen.

On the first Sunday I drove us to church, the inevitable happened.

We were running late. That is not the inevitable thing. Well, it sort of is, but it isn’t THE inevitable thing for the telling of this story.

As I said, we were running late. I won’t go into whose fault it was that we ran late. That subject is for another day and another blog.

We were running late. Dan was checking his watch, sighing heavily, squirming in the passenger seat, looking at the speedometer, and showing other signs of discomfort.

We approached a traffic light. The light was at not a major intersection but not a minor intersection either. I would rate it a Class Two intersection. Moderately busy.

The light was yellow. It had been yellow for a prolonged time. No way I could make my way through the intersection before the light turned red.

Muhammad had met the mountain.

Should I break the law and proceed through the intersection, knowing the light would turn red as I was halfway through, or should I stop and wait for the next green light, knowing that would cause Dan more discomfort?

WHAT SHOULD I DO???

I gunned the engine and raced through the yellow/red light.

And then I was mad!

Mad at Dan!

In my mind I vowed, “That is the LAST red light I’m running for you, Mister!”

Now, if I had uttered that vow aloud, Dan would have been shocked.

“What are you talking about?” he would have asked. “I didn’t ask you to run that red light!”

“Yes, you did!” I would have countered. “I wouldn’t have run that light if you hadn’t been in the car! It’s your fault!”

“You’re crazy!” he would have said.

“Oh, yeah?” I would have said. “If I’m crazy, you MADE me crazy. When are you going to be finished wearing that blasted boot?”

I check our mailbox every day as soon as I hear the mail truck go by.

I anticipate receiving a traffic violation notice. Certainly, that traffic light at that intersection had a camera attached. It is probably the ONLY traffic light in the county with a camera snapping away all day every day to catch lawbreakers like me.

Me. A lawbreaker.

I can’t take it.

When that traffic violation notice arrives in our mailbox, I will tell you this.

Dan is the one who is going to traffic court.

He ran that red light.

I don’t run red lights.

I walk a straight line.

HE WAS THERE

 

 

 

 

 

He wound through the vines and walked on the ground.

He swung from tree branches, but made not a sound.

 

‘Til he saw her one morning, eyeing the fruit,

And he found his slick voice, this ill-natured brute.

 

“Just taste it, my sweet one. What could it hurt?”

Then he smiled a sly smile, and walked off ‘cross the dirt.

 

He saw the two brothers, watched the strife as it grew,

Eyed the planter, the herder, ‘til he knew what to do.

 

“Just kill him,” he whispered, in Cain’s ear one day.

“You deserve better treatment.” Then he slithered away.

 

He made daily rounds, planting mischief and hate.

Wormed his way into hearts ‘til the world was a state!

 

What had started as beauty grew tainted with lust,

And the enemy smiled from his home in the dust.

 

He said to old Abram, “Try and be a bit clever.

Take Hagar, you moron. You can’t wait forever.”

 

Through Rebekah and Jacob, he hatched out a plan

To steal Esau’s birthright and bless the wrong man.

 

Poor Joseph got sold off to be a man’s slave.

Moses killed an Egyptian, hid his sin in a grave.

 

Satan moved through the ages, this worst kind of lout.

He needed no rest. Seems he never wore out.

 

He was there at Mount Sinai, where God gave the Law.

Whispered lies to the people, liked the gold calf he saw.

 

He meddled and hinted and urged folks to grumble.

He saw the bronze snake and watched Jericho crumble.

 

In Canaan he kept it up day after day.

Despite judges and prophets, he led folks astray.

 

Said to David, “Just take her, that beautiful thing.

Deny yourself nothing. After all, you’re the king.”

 

Through battles and rescues for years it went on.

The people kept listening ‘til sin was full-blown.

 

God looked down from heaven, saw the time was just right

To send his dear Son, born one Bethlehem night.

 

Was Satan then beaten? Did he give up his trying?

No! He stepped up his game, kept deceiving and lying.

 

“I’ll beat this man, Jesus,” he thought, in his pride.

“I’ve got friends in high places, lots of folks on my side.”

 

He weaseled and bargained and tempted each man.

And managed, at last, to accomplish his plan.

 

But Satan, you liar, you scourge of the land,

God always defeats you with His winning hand.

 

Jesus rose on that Sunday. He still lives today,

In the hearts of believers, who give Him full sway.

 

We know you were there. We know you are here.

But you’re destined for Hell. God’s Word makes that clear.

 

We’ll continue to fight ‘til our battle is done.

Then we’ll go home to glory and live with the Son.

 

You torment and tempt us, our lives you’ve encumbered.

But know this, you Evil One, your days are numbered.

 

 

What I Wanted, but Didn’t Get, for Christmas

I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season.

The best part of the holiday was spending time with my family. Have I mentioned I have grandkids?

But, as is always the case, (except in Christmas movies) I didn’t get everything I wanted.

You, good readers, are not responsible for my failure to receive these gifts. You’re the best. The fact that you’re reading this proves it.

Nonetheless, I will discuss some gifts I hoped, but failed, to receive for Christmas.

  1. I wanted all loud, hiked-up, smoke-spewing pick-up trucks to be banned from our streets and highways. This didn’t happen. I am confused. How is it that in a country where the American flag is removed from an academic building because one student claimed its presence offended her, these offensive gas-guzzling, fume-exuding behemoths continue to exist, though they pollute the air and assault the ears of 100% of the population?
  1. I wanted people to stop punctuating every other statement with the phrase, “O my God!” It is the response uttered whether someone has just spied a luscious new color of nail polish or been offered a two-carat diamond ring from a lover on bended knee. If I move into a cave where no one can find me, it will be because I can no longer tolerate hearing this phrase.

  1. I had hoped a magical fairy, something like a useful version of the Elf on the Shelf, would visit my home and organize all my paperwork and computer files. Alas, that gift also failed to arrive.

  1. I wanted to regain my slim figure and my ability to remember names; wished all spam calls and junk emails would stop; and hoped someone would develop a delicious, fat-free, carb-free, calorie-free, vitamin-enriched chocolate brownie that tastes like one made from a Duncan Hines mix, but those were pipe dreams.

  1. I wanted people to start using turn signals EVERY TIME they plan to make a turn, but, again, no.

  1. I had hoped people would learn and practice the rules of good grammar. Let me simply say that the word seen is almost NEVER the second word in a sentence. Speakers should not say, “I seen,” or “He seen,” or even “The Elf on the Shelf seen.” Furthermore, they should not mix subjective case and objective case personal pronouns when . . . oh, well. Never mind.

Thank you, dear readers, for indulging this little rant. What is the use of having a website if you can’t write about what’s on your mind?

I hope you got everything you wanted for Christmas.

KINDNESS, IN RED

I am, for the most part, a kind person.

My friends and acquaintances are kind, as are many of the people I meet day by day.

When I meet a person who is decidedly unkind, that person is usually driving a car.

Maybe driving and sharing the road with other drivers is the ultimate test of one’s ability to be kind.

But I am guessing that, perhaps apart from when you are driving, you are a kind person, and I applaud you for that.

Kindness is an admirable quality.

It appears within the list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In our American English vocabulary, we sometimes substitute the words nice and good for the word kind.

We describe someone by saying, “He or she is a nice/good/kind person.”

By this, we mean that person gives freely, performs unselfish acts for others, and can usually be counted upon to do the right (rather than the wrong) thing.

Of these people, I say, “Let their tribe increase!”

But some people believe niceness/goodness/kindness is the criterion upon which our eternal destiny is based.

“Nice/good/kind people go to Heaven. Not nice/not good/unkind people go to Hell.”

While God’s Word certainly endorses kindness, nowhere does it assure us that everyone who demonstrates kindness will go to Heaven.

Christians know, but may need to be reminded, that the people bound for Heaven are those who have been saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)

The combination of all the kind acts ever performed is not powerful enough to save even one of us.

The only cleansing agent that can remove the barrier of sin, the great separator between God and man, is Christ’s blood.

I love contemporary Christian songs.

I also love the old hymns we sang in the little church where I grew up. Those songs referenced blood more often than do the songs we sing in the wonderful church I am a part of today.

We sang There’s Power in the Blood, There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood, and Are You Washed in the Blood?

One old hymn included this line: When I see the blood, I will pass over you.

This song referenced the blood of lambs painted on doorposts on the night the death angel passed through Egypt.

That “saving” blood was a representation of the pure blood of Christ that would be shed centuries later to save you and me.

The ultimate kindness shown to mankind was shown in red: the blood of Jesus.

I found a graphic that represents this truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep being kind. You will be a happier person, and the world will be a nicer place.

But don’t count on your kindness to save you.

NICKEL AND DIMED

For years, I have had a checking account into which I deposit the money I earn from selling articles I write.

The account seldom has more than a few hundred dollars in it. (Writing, for me, is not a lucrative venture.)

But I enjoy having this account. I use the money to buy gifts for people, to donate to good causes, and occasionally to treat myself.

Dan never looks at this account.

He manages our major bank account, out of which he pays bills, makes charitable contributions, and runs our household. This account is with a different bank.

A few months ago I noticed a “fee” of $6 on my little bank account.

I printed the statement, took it to the bank, and asked why the fee was there.

“You didn’t use your debit card enough last month,” said the bank person.

“What?” I asked.

“You are required to use your debit card a minimum of 30 times a month in order to avoid paying a fee,” she said.

“The fee for having your debit card is $9 a month, but every time you use your card, the fee decreases. You used your card enough times last month to decrease the fee to $6. Use your card more times this month, and you can decrease the fee to zero.”

I am not a banker or a businessperson of any kind, but this sounded crazy to me.

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said, avoiding the use of the word crazy.

“Well, the next time you use your debit card to shop, at Walmart, for example, pay for items individually. Use your card several times on the same visit to the store.”

“Do you mean I should use my debit card to pay for my crackers, get my receipt, and then use my debit card to pay for my waxed paper, get my receipt, and then use my debit card again to pay for my ink cartridge, and so on?” I asked.

“You could do that,” she said. “You need to use your debit card at least 30 times a month.”

I must have looked as dumbfounded as I felt.

“You can change to a different kind of checking account that doesn’t require you to use your debit card 30 times a month, if you want to do that,” she said.

“I want to do that,” I said.

I went into an office, signed some papers, and went on my way.

The next month I had a fee of $5 on my bank statement.

I printed the statement and again went to the bank.

“Why do I have a fee of $5 on my bank statement?” I asked the bank person.

She looked at my account information on her computer screen and said, “Oh, I see you used this account to buy something online.”

“Yes,” I said.

“With the type of checking account you have, you are charged $5 a month to make online purchases.”

“I’ve made online purchases many times without being charged a fee,” I said.

“Did you recently change the type of account you have?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“The account you have carries a $5 monthly fee for making online purchases. You can change to a different kind of checking account that doesn’t charge you for making online purchases, if you want to do that,” she said.

“Not today,” I said.

With the next account I chose, the bank would probably have charged me for using their ATM, or for writing checks for less than $50, or for some other incidental reason I cannot anticipate.

Nickel and dimed is how I feel.

Before Christmas, I wanted to buy a Menard’s gift card. I drove to several nearby stores that have gift card kiosks, but I didn’t find a Menard’s card.

At one kiosk, I had a short conversation with another shopper.

“You probably won’t find a Menard’s card,” she said. “Just get a Visa or MasterCard. Those cards can be used at Menard’s.”

Great idea, I thought.

 I chose a Visa card for $50 and headed toward the cash register.

Then I noticed small print on the card packet informing me I would be charged money in order to activate the card. I believe it was $4.50.

I returned to the kiosk and put the card back in its place.

Nickel and dimed.

 

Yesterday, Dan and I took two of our granddaughters to see a movie. Before we left the house, I got online to buy tickets.

Two tickets for the girls cost a total of $14. Two tickets for senior citizens cost a total of $14.

My total cost, instead of being $28, was $32. A convenience fee of $1 per ticket would be charged for purchasing the tickets online.

Nickel and dimed.

The bank, the credit card company, and the movie theater have the right to charge fees.

They are in business to make money.

I can choose either to pay the fees or not use the services.

Businesses can wring me dry, if they choose to do so, and if I let them.

I, myself, am not a business. Neither are you.

We are individuals, but if we aren’t careful, we can adopt the nickel-and-dime attitude.

The aim of individuals with nickel-and-dime attitudes is to gain benefits for themselves at the expense of other people.

They don’t give over parking spots or hold doors open for people. They don’t let drivers pull into traffic ahead of them.

They don’t tip appropriately or volunteer to help.

Nickel and dimers buy fancy outfits, wear them to special events, and then return the outfits for full refunds.

They occupy four parking spaces with one vehicle.

They leave their empty shopping carts in the middle of the lot instead of returning them to the cart-return area.

They demand to watch TV shows no one else in the room wants to watch.

They use passive-aggressive behaviors to get their way, causing family members and coworkers to tiptoe around them in fear.

They feel and act as if they are entitled.

Such people wring other people dry.

Don’t nickel and dime people.

Instead, value them as equals. Look for ways to serve them. Treat them the way you want to be treated.