Category Archives: Meditation

Lessons from an Aging Geranium

I bought only one geranium this spring. It has sat on the picnic table on our patio for a few months now.

When I brought the plant home and placed it on the table, it was full of rich, healthy, bright pink blossoms. I treated this plant the way I treat most of the potted plants under my care. I neglected it. I watered it when I thought to do so. I picked off dead blossoms when I noticed them.

I am not the best of caregivers.

Despite my neglect, the plant flourished, which is one reason I love geraniums. Unlike more delicate plants, they require little care.

I appreciated the plant’s beauty, its determination when it came to surviving, and its uncomplaining nature.

But now the geranium is fading. Fewer and fewer new blossoms appear. Several of its leaves have died and others are turning brown. Its life is almost spent.

As the plant’s caregiver, I will one day decide the time has come to remove it from my patio table.

I studied the aging geranium for a few minutes this afternoon to see if I could learn some lessons from it. Some, of course, are obvious: Bloom where you are planted. Be what (or who) you were designed to be. Strive for independence and do not expect special treatment.

 Good lessons for any plant or any person.

As I have grown older, I too have faded a bit. Much of my beauty, strength, and independence are gone. I now move more slowly and think more slowly. I forget things and repeat myself. I also repeat myself.

I am losing my sharpness and my ability to think on my feet and respond quickly. I relied heavily upon those assets when I was young, and I refuse to let go of them easily.

I know age brings additional knowledge and hopefully even some wisdom, but much of the knowledge I once had I have now lost. My husband asked me today if I remembered how to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle. I lied and said I did but at the moment I was eating an ice cream bar and didn’t want to spoil the experience with a conversation about math.

As for wisdom, I am no wiser than most. I know enough to come in out of the rain, to take good care of my teeth, and to sacrifice style in order to be comfortable in my shoes and clothes. I know my grandkids would rather have my time and attention than any toy at Wal-Mart.

Admittedly, I didn’t make all these discoveries by staring at my geriatric geranium. But I did learn this. No matter how old that geranium gets, it is still a geranium. Though it is now weaker, it draws upon strength from within to keep blooming.

I will not say of it, “That plant is not the geranium it used to be,” because that is blatantly wrong. It is exactly the same geranium.

The same is true of me. Though I may not appear as sparkly and zestful as I once was, I am still the same woman. The way I look on the outside does not reveal who I truly am. That determination is made deep on the inside. It is my core, the compilation of all I have learned, experienced, and chosen to be.

It may take more effort, and the results may not be as awe-inspiring, but I will continue to bloom until my caregiver, the One Perfect Caregiver, removes me from the spot where He placed me.

 

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What’s the Difference?

Older people like me enjoy talking about when we were kids. We reminisce about playing outside until after dark and paying a nickel for a candy bar. Then often the conversation segues into a lamentation about how those days were better than these days.

Were those days better and if so, why were they better?

I have tried to compare my life as a child of America in the 1950s and ‘60s to the lives of children today. The comparison is not based on any documented research but rather on what I remember to be the facts of then and what I observe to be the facts of now.

I grew up in a rural setting, the oldest of four children, with a mostly stay-at-home mom, and a dad who went to work five or six days a week. We kids went to school just as kids today do, and we went to church three times a week. We rode bikes and played hopscotch, but rarely alone. We played with whatever kids showed up to play.

We had everything we needed and many of the things we wanted.

We had grandparents and aunts and uncles nearby, and any one of them was free to discipline us. We knew personally practically every person who crossed our paths on any given day. We also knew our boundaries and when we were expected home for meals and bedtime.

We watched television on Saturday mornings and on some evenings when it was too dark or too cold to play outside. We also read books, played card games, put together puzzles, and did some household chores.

We got new shoes and coats when we needed them. Clothes were passed around between siblings and cousins, and we thought nothing of it.

When it came to buying or giving us things, our parents’ motto was “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

With the exception of breakfast, which was staggered based on differing schedules, we ate 99% of our meals at home together at the table. We almost never ate at a restaurant.

We were unfamiliar with the term “fast food” and the drive-through window idea had not yet been conceived. The only “drive through” experience we were familiar with was when our Aunt Linda, when learning to drive, drove through our front yard fence.

We had one or at most two vehicles. When we went to church or anywhere else, all six of us rode in the same vehicle. I never had my own car.

In summer, the first thing our mother said after we were dressed and fed in the morning was, “Go outside and play.”

She did not say:

  1. “No electronic devices until after supper.” We had no electronic devices.
  2. “No lying around the house channel surfing.” We had two television channels.
  3. “No hanging out at the mall.” We didn’t know what a mall was.
  4. “No conversations with strangers.” Who was a stranger?
  5. “No spending your money on junk.” We had no money, and the general store sold nothing much except hog feed, groceries, and gas.

Without making any judgments, here are some differences between my world as a child and the world of the typical school-age child today as I perceive it.

  1. Most children do not have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins living nearby.
  2. Most children cannot safely play outside unsupervised.
  3. Most children have moms and dads who both work or parents who are separated or divorced.
  4. Most children are surrounded by strangers much of the time.
  5. Most children have many electronic toys designed to be played with alone.
  6. Most children have spending money.
  7. Most children don’t go to church. Those who do probably go once a week or less.

Are any of these differences important?

You tell me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph

Saturday night Dan and I were on the road, returning from a visit with my siblings in Cherokee Village, Arkansas. Around 8:00 p.m. we pulled off the road to find a place to spend the night. Because a Toby Keith concert and several big weddings were taking place in town, vacant motel rooms were hard to find.

We finally located one, lugged in our overnight necessities, ate dinner, and settled down to watch some TV.

The TV didn’t work.

Dan fiddled with the set and the remote for about half an hour. Finally, he called the front desk. The night manager came to our room and repeated the same procedures that had failed when Dan tried them. She called for help.

A man came through the door saying, “I’m Security. I’m not Maintenance. I don’t know how to fix the TV.”

This man worked for a while. Unsuccessful, he and the night manager left our room, with sincere apologies.

Resolved to being unable to watch TV, Dan took his book and settled into the chair in the corner of the room. He switched on the reading lamp.

The lamp didn’t work.

We looked at each other, shrugged, turned off the lights that did work, and went to bed.

I was ticked. We paid good money for the room. We were tired. We didn’t ask for much. Just a clean room, a TV that worked, and some good lighting that would allow us to read. I went to sleep.

The next morning, after we were dressed and were preparing to leave, someone knocked on the door. It was Maintenance. “Joseph,” his name tag read.

A thin, older, slightly grizzled man came in. “I hear your television don’t work,” he said, smiling.

“Neither does the light in the corner,” I informed him.

He went to work. “You know I can’t fix things unless someone tells me they’re broke,” he said, still smiling.

“That was a big storm we had last night,” Joseph said. “Struck right at 3:00 a.m. I know that because I had my alarm set to go off at 3:00.”

“Oh, yeah?” I said, uninterested.

I finished working with my hair, Dan zipped the suitcases, and we went to breakfast.

When we returned to the room, the TV was playing and the light in the corner of the room shone brightly.

We dropped off our door keys at the front desk. There we ran into Joseph again.

“You folks have a good day,” he said to us, a pleasant expression on his face.

We went on our way. I thought about Joseph and the broken TV and lamp.

It was easy to be mad at the unseen, obscure people who stuck us with a room that had faulty equipment. But it was hard to be mad at Joseph, an old man who got up at 3:00 a.m. to fix things, then made polite small talk, and wished us a good day.

I hope I remember Joseph the next time service is slow at a restaurant or the library fails to have the book it promised me. These places are run by people who get up and go to work to serve people like me who are often short-fused and unappreciative.

I wish I had been nicer to Joseph.

Judge Knott

Judge Knott is a people-watcher, and rarely does she watch people doing anything good. Everywhere she looks, she sees them failing to train their children, buying things they don’t need, visiting places they should avoid, giving too little money to good causes, and worshiping in ways she cannot endorse.

Just today at Wal-Mart she observed a young mother, two babies in her cart and another one hanging onto the frayed end of her short shorts, screeching at her children to BE QUIET BEFORE I BEAT YOUR BUTT. Boy, this woman needed some lessons in effective parenting. Probably isn’t even married, Judge Knott scoffed.

Another girl, modeling skin-tight leotards and an off-the-shoulder midriff top, scrutinized the Dolly Madison snack aisle. As if she needed to eat more junk food. The seams of her leotards already strained to hold in her bulk. She looked like an overinflated football. As the girl bent over to pick up a package of Ho-Hos, her tramp stamp was displayed for all to see. Judge Knott barely missed careening her cart into a display of Heinz pickles.

Judge Knott’s own family members weren’t much better. Buying boats, motorcycles, monster trucks, and the latest electronic gadget to hit the market. Don’t these morons realize that people are starving on the other side of the world? But are they ever seen mailing care packages or supporting missionaries? No, they are not. Selfish is what they are.

Judge Knott often observes her next-door neighbor, the one with the spiked blue hair, bringing women home every night of the week. Not classy women either. The kind of women who hang around bars half naked and make it plain to everyone what they are after. Sodom and Gomorrah.

The neighbor on the other side of her wears a cross around her neck but goes to church at that place downtown called Come One, Come All or some other equally ridiculous name. Doesn’t this woman have a Bible? Probably has one but never reads it. If she did, she would know God’s rules about worshiping the right way.

The whole world is going to hell in a hand basket, Judge Knott laments that evening, as she settles into her La-Z-Boy and reaches for her TV remote control. She leaves her curtains open so she can monitor the behaviors of the people outside.

She wishes she had friends to go places with her or to sit and watch TV with her. She looks down at her empty hands and wishes she had something to do and someone to do it with. She feels lonely and purposeless.

If only she had something to do.

It never occurs to Judge Knott that she may need to address some faults in her own life. By her calculations, she stands head and shoulders above the people around her.

If you too stare at idle hands while condemning the people in your world, consider making a few changes in yourself. Find ways to help people who are addicted to food, sex, drugs, or materialism; young mothers who are raising their children without husbands; and those who are searching for a Truth they know exists out there somewhere.

Self-appointed judges are sad, lonely people. If you doubt this, remember Judge Knott.

 

Reflection

Do you ever feel as if you’ve morphed into a person you never intended to be?

Sometimes I feel as if life, without my permission, has shaped me into a rock-hard object that I find ugly. Though I try to chip away in order to make positive changes, the chipping is such hard work that I am tempted to give up and live with what I’ve got.

I don’t eat healthful food. I don’t drink water. I don’t exercise. I don’t follow through with good intentions. I don’t keep up with my housework. I don’t spend enough time reading the Word and praying. I don’t practice the Christian graces of kindness, forgiveness, and serving.

And I don’t love anyone as I should. I either don’t love them at all or I love them with a flawed kind of love that spoils them (grandkids), or enables them, or demands that I sacrifice my own needs in order to give them things they ought to earn for themselves.

Will life ever get easier? Will I finally one day overcome, conquer, and soar instead of flapping my wings wildly and barely lifting myself off the ground? I doubt it.

This working at and striving for are the very essence of life on this earth.

Why am I always striving to make life good for myself and the people I love? Don’t I understand that I will never make life good?

Life here is already ruined, sick with an incurable disease called sin, and wasted to the point of being irredeemable. I run wildly against a fierce wind, push hard against immovable obstacles, and wish, hope, work, and pray that people and situations will align themselves with what is right and stop making life so difficult to live.

But none of these things will be accomplished. I will experience small successes and enjoy periods of relative calm, but I won’t find peace through my own efforts. Like in the Whack-a-Mole game, when one enemy is eliminated, two more emerge from the periphery to keep me ever swinging but never eliminating the foe.

But, I must not give up. I must keep trying to make positive differences in myself and my situations and in other people and their situations, remembering always that I am never in control in this business of life. I can’t cover all the bases, keep all the corks submerged, spin all the plates in the air, and hit the bull’s-eye every time.

I will never at the same time be eating and drinking right, exercising faithfully, keeping up with my housework, feasting regularly on spiritual food, loving as I should, and performing perfectly. I will never score 100% across the board. I must not make that my goal, because it is unachievable.

My goal is to strive at all times to move forward, overcoming and rectifying when I can, and with God’s help, living peacefully when I can’t.

A Little Work

I am married to a man who could use a little work. Don’t misunderstand me. My husband is a wonderful Christian, a Bible class teacher and a man of high morals. He is successful in a highly respected profession. He’s also a terrific husband and father, a great provider, and generally an all-round good guy. But he could use a little work.

He watches too much television. He stays up too late, spends too much time in the bathroom, and fails to exercise regularly or to maintain a healthy diet. He habitually runs behind on every schedule he tries to keep, starts new projects before finishing old ones, takes on too many tasks at work instead of delegating to subordinates, procrastinates, bites his cuticles, and drives too fast.

My kids could also use a little work. My daughter spends money impulsively, eats too much junk, wastes time, kills her houseplants, mooches meals, puts off tasks until the last minute, whines, and drives too fast.

Her brother, my son, stays up too late, leaves lights on all over the house, misplaces his dad’s tools, trashes the inside of his car, spends too much money on-line, loses things, makes excuses, and drives too fast.

Several of my friends could use a little work too. Some spend too much money on clothes. Others are too lenient with their kids, fail to follow through with promises they make, talk on their cell phones while driving their cars, gossip, borrow things they forget to return, interrupt others who are talking, and run late for church.

As the wife/mother/friend of the above-mentioned folks, I can’t help recalling Matthew 7:3, in which Jesus cautions me against looking at the speck of sawdust in my brother’s (or husband’s or kid’s or friend’s) eye when I have a plank sticking out of one of my own.

As followers of Jesus, let’s commit ourselves to improving the person who probably needs as much work as anyone else and the only person we have any hope of changing. For me, that is the person writing this article. For you, it is the person reading it.

 

Home Is Where You Fix Things

After living for 31 years in the home where we raised our children, my husband Dan and I moved into another house.

Dan had spent many hours working on our old house. Over the years he had remodeled, redecorated, reconstructed, rejuvenated, repaired, or replaced just about everything on the property.

We both worried that because he had invested so much time and work there, he would miss the place. I asked him if that was the case. (He was in the process of unloading cement blocks for a landscaping project in our “new” yard.)

He said, “No. I don’t really miss it. This is home now because home is . . . well, where you fix things.”

That phrase will probably not catch on as other “Home is where” statements have in the past: Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where your heart is. Home is where you go and they have to take you in. Nonetheless, in more ways than one, home is where you fix things.

Every homeowner knows that maintaining a house is a never-ending job. There is always something to do. Shingles blow off, shrubs take over house fronts, driveways crack, fences sag, and electrical wiring gets old and dangerous.

At any point in time, the responsible homeowner is finishing one project, working on two others, and planning at least one more. He or she knows that a neglected home deteriorates quickly.

Home is also where family relationships are mended. Hurt feelings are soothed and healed. Bad attitudes are adjusted. Broken hearts are patched up.

In a well-maintained home, principles such as respectability and integrity are kept in working order. Common courtesies are established. Good habits are not allowed to get rusty, and trash is quickly identified and removed, not only from the floor but also from the television or computer screen.

On a shelf in my kitchen sits a plaque that reads Home is where our story begins. The quality of that first home sets the course of a person’s life. It is where we learn who we are, what our purpose is, and upon what foundation we want to build.

Our society as a whole is in desperate need of repair. In fact, our world is so sick and out-of-kilter that we may feel powerless to make a difference. The damage, we believe, is too widespread.

But much of what is broken in our world must be repaired and then maintained, not on the large scale, but in individual homes. Every young person who burns buildings and hurls bricks at police officers; every bully on every school bus; every drug peddler; and every terrorist grew up somewhere, probably in a home that was poorly maintained.

Homes in which love does not prevail, where adequate teaching and training are neglected, where feelings are routinely stepped on, and where minor tiffs are allowed to become ugly feuds are homes inhabited by broken people.

The most needed repairs in any home probably require not the use of tools, but the use of words.

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