Friday, February 14, 2020

Unforeseen: Paying It Forward



Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3: 12 The Voice)

My bouquet of flowers traveled down the conveyor belt. The lady in front of me placed a plastic barrier between her groceries and my purchase. 

            As the items moved toward the cashier, my mind raced through my to do list. Without thinking, I walked forward. The young man picked up my flowers and placed them in a cart. Then I noticed groceries in the same cart. 

            When I prepared to pay, I heard the cashier say to the lady, “Oh, I thought those were yours. I rang them up on your bill.”

            With a smile, she said, “Never mind, that is ok.”

            I tried to hand her the money clutched in my hand. She shook her head. 

            I tried again. She refused but said, “Pay it forward.”

            “Thank you. I’m giving the flowers to someone.”

            With a smile, she pushed her cart from the store. 

            The thoughtfulness of a stranger warmed my heart. Even though she hadn’t planned to buy my flowers, she took the opportunity to be generous. Her unforeseen kindness continues to ripple through my life and now yours. 

Heavenly Father, you constantly give me opportunities to be kind and loving. Help my heart be open and willing to serve. Amen

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Three Strong, Loving Friends



Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus…
He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately, he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. (Luke 5: 18-19, 25 NIV)

An empty wheelchair stood by the edge of the lake. I looked around for its occupant. Wondering. 

            Red canoes lined the dock. Sunlight sparkled on the lake beneath a cloudless azure sky. Teenagers in life jackets gathered in small groups on the beach and pier before they ventured out onto the lake. 

            Then I spotted him in the bow of a canoe. Because he couldn’t walk, how did he get into the boat from his wheelchair? 

            Two young men paddled the canoe out into the middle of the lake. Other boats joined them as happy voices drifted across the water. 

            Each canoe held two or three sailors with at least one buddy, who spent the weekend with a special needs friend. My heart smiled as I watched and listened to the chatter. 

            Several minutes later, a canoe floated to the shore with a smiling young man in the front. Though nonverbal, his grin expressed words he could not speak.  

            The two paddlers and another friend carefully placed their arms around the large young man in the canoe. They lifted him from the boat and carried him across the beach to his wheelchair. He wasn’t able to raise his arms or legs to help them. They talked to him even though he couldn’t answer with words. 

            Everyone along the shore and on the pier watched the selfless act of kindness. 

            A leader said to the three young men. “What a blessing you are.”

            One of the boys answered, “We are the ones who are blessed.”

            As I watched the scene at Young Life’s Capernaum camp, a weekend for special needs young people, I thought of the friends of the paralyzed man in the Bible story. He had a need and they carried him to Jesus where he was healed.  

            Our Capernaum friend wasn’t healed physically but his heart was full of joy. The three young men gave him an experience he may have never had and may never have again. Their gift with the love and compassion of all four young men touched all who watched. Especially me. 

Love comes in many forms. 

Loving Father, thank you for those who show the love of Jesus to those who can’t repay it in the same way. Help us to be Jesus to whomever we meet. Amen. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Detour on Our Shopping Trip



Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3: 5-6 KJV)

An elderly lady by the side of the road caught our attention.
As my granddaughter, Emily, and I stopped at a light during our shopping trip. 

            Neither of us could read the entire cardboard sign, but we saw the cross at the bottom. 

            We looked at each other and knew we needed to do something. 

            “Look in the console. I think there is an energy bar in there,” I said. 

            Emily pulled out the bar and a small bag of trail mix. We knew our time was limited. 

            From two lanes away, I knew Emily wouldn’t be able to get out of the car safely. She rolled her window down. Before she could toss the snacks to the lady, the light changed. 

            With cars behind me, I had to move forward. 

            “Grandma, she looked so sad. She thought we were going to give her something. We need to go back.”

            I agreed and made a u turn. Thankfully, no cars blocked my way at the intersection. I pulled into a drive near the lady and her walker. Emily stepped out of the car and handed her the food.

            She smiled and thanked Emily. She looked carefully at the two gifts. From her seat, she looked at us and mouthed, “Thank you.” 

            The light changed, and we drove off. We will never know her story, but we both realized we needed to help. Our small contribution wouldn’t solve her problems but hopefully, her day was brighter. We acknowledged her instead of looking straight ahead. 
            It doesn’t take a lot of time to make someone feel cared for and special. Whether it is someone by the road, an overworked clerk, a garbage man, a teller at a bank, or someone who lives in your home. Everyone likes a bit of gratitude and love.  

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us opportunities to serve and follow your example. Amen

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Another Ambush of Grief



Trails of memories flowed from my eyes. For the third day, gray clouds blocked the sun. Perhaps the dreariness sparked the tears. 

            Our first Christmas without my dad was six years ago. Not only was there an empty chair at the table, but I knew unless a miracle occurred, it was the last Christmas with Alan and mother. As I looked at the dismal scene around me, memories of that year played in my mind. 

            After the Christmas Eve service that year, we joined Chris, Anne, and the girls at Anne’s mom’s house for dinner which was delicious and enjoyable. However, Alan had trouble breathing a short time later. We had to leave early so he could get home and rest.

            The following morning we left at dawn for Chris and Anne’s home to watch our granddaughters open gifts. We had fun seeing their excitement. Alan felt good and seemed his old self as we celebrated and ate a yummy brunch. 

            Later, we packed up and all went to my brother Ken’s home for dinner with his family. Mother lived with Ken and Kim and had a full time caregiver. With our extended family together, we noticed the empty seat but tried to make the day joyful. 

            Mother was able to sit in her wheelchair and join us for the meal. Alan ate his normal plates of scrumptious food which amazed us both. Side effects from medications altered his sense of taste so he hadn’t been eating much for a while.

            Not only did he eat and enjoy the food, he went for hours without the constraints of his oxygen tank. With no  tubes, Molly got close to him again. At her young age, the strange contraption frightened her. He played with all of the girls. 

            Even in our grief, we all savored the joy of the day. I kept pushing the unwelcome thoughts from my mind and tried to concentrate on what I had at the moment. Miraculously, Alan and mother both had strength for the day. Alan went for the entire day without the oxygen tank. 

            Two and a half weeks later, Alan passed away. On Good Friday, mother passed away. How thankful I was for that last Christmas with them. 

            I don’t know why grief ambushed me today. Tears continue to flow. I miss my loved ones terribly but am so thankful for those who remain. 

            Perhaps my grief is intensified by the sadness of so many that I know who are also grieving. Many face their first Christmas without a loved one. My own grief has made my heart break for others. I know the pain and what they are experiencing. 

            In the midst of grief, Jesus came for us. He comforts us and holds us tightly. 
            Hold your loved ones closely. Treasure each moment and remember those who have left us. 

Merry Christmas.        

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Peace Can Begin With Me


 Darkness enclosed my patio. A single light allowed me to read my Bible and daily devotionals. Reading and meditating helped me ignore the blackness around me. 

            Song lyrics in a couple of my devotionals, caused me to sing softly. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me…” from Let There Be Peace on Earth

            When I finished that song, I continued with “Chains shall He break. The slave is our brother…” from Oh, Holy Night. 

            Both songs gave me peace as darkness formed a cocoon around my patio. I thought of the joy and peace of Christmas. 

            However, as the sun rose, my lake returned with unwelcome thoughts of the news. Daily shootings, unrest and conflict screamed against the peace I felt in my little sanctuary. 

            Clouds blocked the bright sunshine. Gloominess shrouded the normal cheerfulness of my view. 

            The words of the song returned. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

            I can’t repair lives broken by death and divorce. I am unable to stop violence around the world. 

            But I can bring a touch of peace to my world. Hug a hurting friend. Call my ninety-six year old aunt. Send cards to shut-ins. Deliver gifts to the less fortunate. Invite friends to lunch. 

            Jesus lived in a world of turmoil and violence too. He didn’t stop it but gathered normal, often despised, people and taught them to follow His example. 

            Love God. Love others. 

Dear Lord, help us to show your love to those around us. Peace can begin with us. Amen.

“Advent is a time of preparing and waiting. A time to prepare hearts and realize we are called to begin in our corner of world.” Jill Jackson

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Fancy Tea Party



“Grandma, let’s have a tea party,” nine year old Molly said after seeing my new tea set. 

            At a recent charity auction, I won beautifully wrapped baskets. One held a white teapot with a creamer and sugar bowl. 

            “We can have a fancy tea party,” Molly said. 

            “Sure, we can do that.”

            “We can invite people,” she continued. 

            Her plans exceeded my own. I assumed we would each have a cup of tea at my counter.  But her enthusiasm spread to me too. 

            When I turned around, she wore a purple and white checked apron her sister, Ashlyn, had made for me. Molly was prepared to follow her dream. 

            While she began setting the table for our special event, I called three friends who were also widows. Two of them accepted our invitation even though it was such late notice. 

            Molly beamed when I told her we had two guests. I could have invited more but decided we needed to quickly prepare the food. We only had an hour to get ready. 

            She placed read and green placemats, cloth napkins, flowers and a candle on our table. With no advance notice, we had to search the kitchen for food we could serve. Pumpkin bread and chocolate covered pretzels with peppermint sprinkles from my Bible study lunch the day before went into glass bowls. 

            My mother’s decorative glass plates went onto the table. I pulled ornate bowls from the cabinet. Molly filled them with tea, tiny tomatoes, and gummy bears from my auction basket. I cut cheddar cheese and she arranged crackers on a plate. She also formed a circle of triangular pieces of Swiss cheese, also from my auction basket. She picked mint from my plant and arranged it on a wee plate. 

            “I have never been a hostess before,” Molly said. “This is fun.”

            As I thought of more goodies, I remembered small quiches in the freezer. Those went into the oven. Water heated for the teapot in the tea kettle on the stove. The candle’s light shone. 

            With preparations done, Molly took pictures of the beautifully set table. Then we changed into fancier clothes. Molly put on her church dress and added one of my scarves. 

            The doorbell rang. Two smiling friends entered. One brought a small bag for Molly. Inside was a lovely thank you note and large piece of jelly roll. 

            Following Molly’s previous instructions to me, I led our guests to the table through the living room and not the kitchen. We sat and talked while she placed each item of food on the table. She took her job as hostess seriously. 

            The fancy tea party made us all smile. We talked, ate and drank tea.

            “I put the gummy bears out for me,” she said with a gleam in her eyes as she took some. I placed one in my mouth. She ate hers. No one else indulged. 

            Before they left, our guests thanked us and gave us hugs. My friend, who almost didn’t come because she was feeling sad, enjoyed herself.  

                        
            After they left, Molly shared her observation about my sad friend. “I have never seen her look so happy.”

            Because Molly and her sisters had made cards for my friend and we had taken cookies to her, Molly knew the sad look. 

            Molly’s marvelous idea not only made us happy but also two lonely ladies. She taught me that last minute entertaining can be fun. Parties can be fancy on short notice but not extravagant. People don’t care if the house is completely clean but appreciate being cared for and loved. 

            Earlier that day, Molly and I talked of going out for pizza and ice cream but her thoughtful act of kindness was much better for all of us.  

            What a joy it was to watch Molly be a wonderful hostess as she prepared for the tea and served her guests.  

         

         

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Grateful in the Grayness



In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 World English Bible)

In the darkness, an eagle squealed. A turkey bellowed. A blush of pink predicted a glorious sunrise. 

            But as light crept behind the trees, haze blurred the lake. The odor of smoke filled the air. My hope for a gorgeous display disappeared into a gray mist.

            Clouds blotted the sun. Muted flowers had no luster. But even in my disappointment, I knew God was there. 

            A bird sang a special melody. Healthy trees stood tall. A lizard scrambled up an oak tree. Dew dotted flowers gathered near my patio. 

            It is often easier to be grateful on sun-drenched days. But even during subdued, downcast times, ponder and be thankful especially for the small, often overlooked gifts. 

Heavenly Father, help me be thankful for all of my blessings during easy times and also  hard ones. Amen