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Lights of Grace

Where does Joy come from?

I laughed right out loud today.

No.  Really.

I did.

The days were becoming stressful.

My daughter said, “Come stay with me.”  So, I did.

Then she asked, “Hungry?”

She prepared for our dinner the best pot pie E.V.E.R.

Then she asked if I wanted to watch a new show on Netflix called Nailed It.  It’s a baking show that I’ve never watched so I said sure.

At first, I thought this show is just silly.  My tense mind wouldn’t or couldn’t suspend this time of fear and grief.  Until.

Until, at one unexpected scene, I laughed.  I felt the laugh deep inside me, not bubbling out, but bursting forth.  This continued as we binged watched it late into the night.  I had the best night’s sleep in a long time; I even fell asleep in the middle of my prayers.

Where did that joy from?  It was like you know how when you wake up in the morning and you stretch.  You know, the whole body stretch arms overhead and toes pointed to the foot of the bed.  It was kind of like that – a burst of stretching where you get that feel-good feeling that comes from the stretch – science or no one else can explain where that feeling comes from; only that it does.

Then I knew.  All the sadness; the stress; the loneliness that I’ve carried for a very long time demanded attention as I saw, felt and grieved a doubling of these same emotions.  You know, the ones that we all are feeling – all of us from around the world – from the Coronavirus 19 Pandemic.

But it is so important to allow a burst of laughter, hope and faith to burst forth if it wants to.

Mine came from my faith, being safer at home, having food to eat, having my daughter and dogs close by and the realization that it feels good to feel good if for but a moment, even if we don’t know why.

Most of our county is under a Stay at Home (shelter-in-place edict).  Let’s use this time to remember to stretch those muscles of joy.  We can do this by focusing our attention on family, friends, pets – through thankfulness or helping virtually through our gifts of making face masks, donations, music, you know, – sharing what ya got!

Today, I share a show that makes me laugh.  It made me feel like I was watching an old I Love Lucy show – where you are both embarrassed for her while loving her humility.   I so want to be on this show!

 

God gave us laughter to cope with these times in our broken world with this promise:

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”  Luke:21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Elections are the dance of democracy.” –Dan Rather

“Elections are the dance of democracy.” –Dan Rather

“Elections are the dance of democracy.” –Dan Rather

Every election is not simply a choice between candidates – it is also a test of American democracy.

2020 has been a tough year for sure.  The good news is that we don’t have to close it out with chaos, distrust or disappointment.  We are not just Republicans or Democrats, for both parties must support all of the people for they are elected by the people in secret ballot. 

We are Americans and Americans are resilient.  Let’s take these last few weeks of 2020 and show our resilience by putting our fear in one hand, our faith in the other, and clasp them together in prayer for the courage to be the honorable, caring people that built the United States into a county that is loved and respected.

As we cast our votes, we do well to remember that there is no one perfect candidate.  Everyone is flawed; me and you included.  Here is my own platform that drove my vote for this election and is neither red nor blue, but perhaps shades of each.

Please consider your own platform, uncritically, with courage that comes from faith, not from enemies or media.  Our current political issues today are nothing new.  It would do us well to study history.  The election of 1968 is worth the study about the danger of not understanding basic human wants and needs.  The difference in today’s election is that 2020 is so more than a passage of 52 years.  I won’t point out the differences.  That is for you, the reader, to determine—check it out. 

Instead, I will share precious times of the day, walks with my dog, Teddie, where we experience the glorious mixture of babies in strollers being pushed along by their parents.  There are people jogging, talking on their cell phones, and those enjoying the outdoors. 

It is a mixture of races, ages, cultures, and beliefs.  There is Jan who proudly displays her shaven head.  She just finished chemo treatment.  There are the two mothers who take turns home schooling their children with hilarious results that they will tell years from now.  There is the young media journalist who only wants to escape from the written page and smell the air and watch as the fall leaves swirl around him, inhaling the freedom of this moment.  We all smile, say hello, and if we are very lucky, we get to pet their dog.  This is the America I believe in. 

There are infants that have just opened their eyes to a world that will be of their making, a shining light on the future.  There are those who have just closed their eyes, free from earthly worries. But with faith gained from their first awakening, they will preserve the life that they lived in such a way that they left the world a better place for those to come, than they found it.

Let us be in thoughts and prayer today for the courage to humbly accept the will of the vote, and that doesn’t mean ruminating that our vote didn’t count or that it only counts for me.  All votes send a message to every political party.  It is this: regardless of win or lose, the power lies with the will of all the people they serve.  A vote is a powerful reminder of that.

This morning I clasped my hands tightly together and prayed for our county that we all have the courage to do what Americans do best; that we all see each other with an empathetic mind and a loving heart.

I pray there will be no destructive disappointment or destructive celebration.  Instead, let’s join hands, virtually or in person, and be the salt of our nation and preserve what we stand for; let us be the light of unity.

Peace be with the United States of America, one nation under God.

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:13-16  KJV                                                          \

First Day of School: Legacy of 2020

The History Teacher

Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call the matador’s hat?”

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
on Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,

while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.

–Billy Collins
Two-term Poet Laureate (2001-2003)

What will the history teachers teach the children in the future about the now? Who will make the difference about this 2020 First Day of School? How will this first day of school be remembered by our children? Who will be the heroes?
Will it be the parents?

Facebook , Instagram, and even Twitter have many postings about the hope and the fear of this dreaded day of sending our children where we can’t protect them. Will they gather their children and pray as a family for safety?

Will they say there was great excitement about new clothes and that perfect book bag smelling of pens, pencils and paper? Will fear be packed inside? Or will courage, caution, and hope be the tools that the children use to get them through this day?

Will the children of the future point to the old fashioned, one-dimension pictures of smiling children, frozen and posted on Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter; unlike the holograms of their own first day of school?  Will their reference point be the 2020 legacy that is combined with the object of God’s grace?

Will they know the frozen photos were taken by parents who are smiling and happy, glowing with pride while praying for the safety of their children.  Will they know the parents are disguising their own fear as they remind the children to wear their masks correctly and to please use the hand sanitizer in the bag.  “Please God, let them remember.”

Will the teachers change their teaching methods into games that make social distancing a fun thing and handwashing a part of music class?

Will the teachers hide their own fear as they look into the eyes of the children under their care on this first day of school and do what teachers do—inspire the future?

Will the children of the future believe this rambling mystery of a virus long defeated was designed to make them nod off?

Let that be our hope.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

KJV Philippians 4:6-7

 

Thanksgiving is all about the serving.

In the early 1990s,  I  served as the Director of Human Resources for the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), located in downtown Atlanta. What a great career move huh? Indeed it was! I was soon to learn a great deal about so many things during my tenure there, and it was to be a lot more than upward mobility.

First lesson: the state of Georgia was the largest employer in the state, with many, many levels of bureaucracy and complexities dependent on the mission of the respective agency.

Second lesson: the cornerstone for all the agencies operated under the basic tenet of serving the people. But the lifeblood of those agencies were the people.

Sound like a civics lesson? Please bear with me.

I worked side by side, long hours, low pay, but good benefits with some of the best people I have ever had the honor to know. Day by day, my respect  for these dedicated and caring government employees deepened. They are the “hidden heroes” behind that bureaucracy, held up by that cornerstone tenet, that makes our country work.

One such person, Debbie Landers, is dear to me, as well as to so many others whose lives she continues to touch.  Her health is not as good as it once was, but her heart and spirit are stronger than ever as she continues to serve at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta for over thirty years.  During this time,  her daughter and granddaughter have joined her.

She often shares her gratitude for the large and the small things in her life. I have her permission to share the following which she posted a few  years ago on Facebook.

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Debbie LandersDebbie’s Way of Serving

“Today I am so thankful that folks will go the extra mile to brighten the lives of strangers. Last night, at the shelter I personally observed so many acts of kindness between the volunteers and the guys. A group of volunteers came to share a meal with our guests and their companionship with them was heart-felt.

These volunteers came from a little church in Carrollton, Ga and they brought with them a feast. There was an abundance of food and the guys definitely got their stomach full. Over and over I kept hearing, “thank you for coming”, “thank you for dinner” and “thank you for all that you did to make this night special.”

Later, I was talking with one of the guys who told me that one year ago, he had lost his wife to cancer and at that point he just gave up on life in general. He totally lost everything he owned and became homeless.

As we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he told me that a young man on a motorcycle had stopped him and his friend, and asked what they were doing on Thanksgiving Day. He then invited them both to his home for dinner. I wonder how many of us would have taken this step and invited a stranger into our home.

It turned out that the guy on the motorcycle works at one of the major trauma centers in Atlanta and a group from there were beginning a ministry to not only provide food, but an opportunity to move upward from their current situation.

Believe me when I tell you that there was love in the shelter last night.

So, my friends, as I think about the things I am most thankful for on this day, it is being able to see first-hand as folks offering a hand up, not a hand out, to some folks down on their luck and the rewards it brings.”

**********

Her words and her service touched my heart then and it still serves to remind me that in this confusing and chaotic world we live in today, it doesn’t take much to make it better…just a little help to our friends.

Debbie is a living legacy that I am blessed to call friend.  I am grateful to have her in my life in this season of giving Thanks.

Let’s all get busy serving!

 

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to act.”

Proverbs: 3:27

 

A Do-Over Anyone?

 

Would of

Could of

Should of

…are mistakes. Have you ever found yourself writing any of these?”
Elizabeth O’Brian
http://www.english-grammer-revolution.com

Have you ever found yourself uttering those words of regret?

Would of you wanted a do-over, knowing what you know now? What could of been the difference it made?   Should of you regretted now what you didn’t know then?

I would of been a stay at home mom.

Would of my children been the better for it?

Would of I been the better for it?

I could of cherished the times spent on the front porch with my husband as we sat in our rocking chairs each evening,  sharing our day and watching the children play.

I could of left the dishes unwashed.

I could of not taken those times for granted.

I should of realized seconds, moments, days, weeks and years make up a lifetime.

I should of paid more attention to those times.

I should of thanked God for those blessings more than I did – I should of wanted Him to know.

As I ponder on the could ofs, would ofs, and should ofs I know this:   It is not too late to do it now.

would of could of should of

A Kernel of Radical Anger

via A Kernel of Radical Anger

What kids do when parents aren’t around…

The unexpected sparkle from this year’s Halloween. His parents must be so proud!

Every parent wonders what their kids will do when they are not around.  They will also ponder on what their children will grow up and be. I did.

I wanted them to grow up – not to be rich and famous (although that’s nice too) – but to just be decent people.

As parents we do the best we can, and pray for guidance. I did. Still do. I suspect my own parents did as well.

I remember, at the age of six, doubling over in laughter, as I ran from my brother Paul. He could never run as fast as I could, which I always found hil-la-rious; after all – he was older. Although the reason he was chasing me was no laughing matter. We had been doing what children of our generation would sometimes do, making mud pies down by the pond when he thought I should take a bite.

I didn’t want to and ran away. Fortunately Granny caught us and put a stop to those shenanigans!

Today, Paul’s health takes him in and out of hospitals and when things look the worst, he is that same generous kid, wanting to give me a bite of the pie that life offers and making me laugh.

My kids are all grown up now and they have become more than I knew to pray for.  How did that happen? God’s grace for sure as I look back and remember a few defining moments.

When my son was in second grade, he would come home from school complaining about Mathew, one of the kids in his class. Matthew suffered from ADHD and sometimes would forget to take his medicine. On those days he lost control and my son would come home, upset and confused about Matthew’s behavior. I told my son that sometimes people have problems that we don’t know about and it was best to just be kind.

Several months later we were on a class trip and I was one of the chaperones. I had just gone to work for the Georgia Department of Labor and one of the other mothers asked me if I was the new HR Director there.

The lady introduced herself as an employee there and I assumed that’s why she wanted to meet me. Nope, instead she said,  “When all the other kids won’t play with Matthew because he’s having a bad day, your son always does. I just wanted you to know and to say thank you.”

Mother to mother.

Her words were a humbling moment for this mom. After all the complaining that my son did about Matthew, he had indeed been kind to him.

My daughter developed a love for the DCFS foster program. Each Christmas, after my coworkers had selected tags for the foster kids from the giving tree, I would take all of the remaining tags. Then, as was our tradition, she and I would go shopping and she would select the gifts. Her happy smile and twinkling eyes shined with her love for kids that she didn’t even know.

Years later, it was her first Christmas away at college. She called me, weeping, to tell me about a little boy’s tag she had selected from the giving tree in her dorm. “Oh Mom – he wants a ball!”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“He only asked for a ball!” she said, the emphasis on the word a ball. “Not a football, not a baseball and not a soccer ball – just a ball…” She said, stopping as she gasped for breath.

“Which one did you get him?” I asked, hoping to calm her down.

She blew her nose in that disgusting way that you do after an ugly cry and said, “One of every kind.”

Another humbling moment for this mother.

It is those moments, when you are not looking, when you are not there, when your kids make their own decisions – those are the moments that highlight the people they will become, and proof of the people they already are.

Today, their love continues to be demonstrated when I’m not around, growing stronger in protecting and serving others.  Be sure to pay attention.

I would be honored if you would share humbling moments from your childhood or your kid’s childhood. These are the sparkles that give hope to our world.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”              –Proverbs 22:6

 

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