Category Archives: Relationships

A Little Coffee and A Lot of Jesus

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A Little Coffee and A Lot of Jesus

 

The coffee pot was sputtering and the smell of the rich brew was beginning to fill the house. The temptation to pour a cup was only slightly overcome by the urgency of a deadline nearly met. I tapped at the keyboard, finishing the email and clicked the send button. The familiar swoosh was the horn that signaled break time.

There was a tap at the back door; I shifted the laptop and rose to greet my expected guest. As I did, I remembered that she introduced me to the joy that is drinking coffee.

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More than forty years ago, I sat at her kitchen table. “I was about to make William and I a spot of coffee”. I had never learned to drink the stuff, but I added lots of sugar and cream and it became part of our ritual.

I certainly was around coffee all of my life. I have vivid memories of holding my mother’s tupperware-pitchercoffee as she drove us to the junior high school. The plastic two cup measuring cup, made by Tupperware, was likely the largest container she could find. It was way before the days of travel mugs, and it sure didn’t have a cute monogram, but it was mostly functional. I loved the smell of her coffee, although in retrospect I know it was mixed with smoke from her Pall Mall cigarette. I suppose it would have been nearly impossible to drive with an open spouted measuring cup brimming with coffee and a cigarette. I’m forever grateful that she chose to have me hold the coffee.

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I opened the door and there she stood. Slightly bent and already apologizing for interrupting. “I have been looking forward to this! It’s my lunch break – come in and sit. The coffee is on” I responded.

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We were a young couple they knew from church. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that they were the sort of folks who always had an open door. While he taught my young husband to finish drywall, I often popped in to see her. She made the best bologna sandwiches and I was a young mom who loved being served, even just a simple sandwich.

She moved around her kitchen with the fluid motion of a dancer; it seemed that she truly enjoyed serving her family and friends.

I watched her deal with a rebellious teenager, which was a terrifying thought to my young mom heart. I learned about adding another potato to the pot to stretch a meal for unexpected guests. She was always matter of fact; it is what it is, she would day.

In hindsight, we always stayed too long but they never let on. When the evening began to wane, she would always say “You don’t have to leave – we’ll hang you on a nail!” They were kind and hospitable; they loved Jesus and we knew for sure they loved us.

As our family grew we spent less time hanging out at their house, but we always remembered (at times a bit sheepishly) their kindness and patience in dealing with our immaturity in life and matters of faith.

When our nest was empty, we began reaching out to young married couples; the value of investing in the next generation had been modeled for us. While times had changed the basics were the same; open doors, food and freedom to share were all that was needed to fill a living room with couples.

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I pour the coffee; hers black and steaming hot, mine still laden with cream and sugar. She settles in at the table and we chat for a bit about books and crafts. She never arrives empty-handed. She always has something to share, whether it is the “other half” of a loaf of bread or a treasured knick-knack that “just looked like you”.

She’s a widow now; she’s buried a son and today she lives half a mile from my house. I marvel at God’s grace; the gift he has given us to celebrate the relationship that started at a kitchen table over a cup of Folger’s coffee all those years ago.

I love to sit across from a woman who has traveled the road ahead of me. Our conversation always shifts to God’s faithfulness. We confess our frustrations and fears and there are sometimes tears. Unwavering faith in God and his sovereignty does not remove the sting of loss or the heartache of disappointment, but there is great comfort in shared burdens and joys.

He built us for relationship; it is in the communion of our hearts that we remind one another of his promises and his faithfulness. Who has invested in your life? And where, my friend, are you investing in the next generation?

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So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Psalm 71:18 ESV

Grace to you,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Things I Learned About Cell Phones

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Six Things I Learned About Cell Phones

We recently took an eleven hundred-mile road trip to the land of my birth, Indiana. We were there to attend a wedding; we hadn’t seen most of our family there in two years.

On Friday night we gathered at a pond on a nearby farm for a picnic dinner. I popped up every few minutes to snap successive shots of the sunset with my phone as it colored the darkening sky.

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Later, as we all sat visiting, I frequently checked Facebook, email, Messenger and What’s App.

We returned to our home away from home and I gathered a few of my belongings before heading upstairs to bed. As I did, I stuck my phone in the back pocket of my jeans.

Upstairs, I began to prepare for bed and backed up to the toilet. As I lowered the jeans I heard a splash. Nooooooo!!!!! I quickly turned and fished my iPhone out of its porcelain bath. I wanted to dial Apple 911 but my phone was wet! I grabbed my iPad and turned to the internet for advice.

I had already made a wet phone mistake (apparently I should not have powered it off – don’t even ask why I thought that was a good idea). Google “wet iPhone”. You will find all sorts of conflicting advice. Don’t judge.

After shaking water from its few orifices I put my beloved device in a plastic container surrounded by wild and brown rice, supplied by my gracious hostess. She’s obviously more into gourmet cooking than saving phones, but it was rice. The google people mostly agreed it was the best thing to do.

I crawled into bed with my iPad. I discovered even more advice, suggesting that you should NEVER put your phone in rice because the rice kernels are the perfect size to infiltrate the headphone jack and charging port. I jumped out of bed, fished my phone out of the rice, and carefully wrapped its vulnerable lower regions in a tissue after examining them closely for evidence of rice violation.

Finally, when I felt I had done everything possible, I slept.

In the light of the new day, my sweet cousin remembered a stash of white rice she used for weighing pie crusts while they bake. I gently lifted the phone, with its protective sheath, from the brown rice and placed it carefully into the white rice. I was confident I was taking every measure to ensure it would dry out safely. I didn’t even consider attempting to power it up. I would wait forty-eight hours, like the good people of Google mostly recommend.

Thankfully my husband had his phone, so we still had Siri to guide us as we traveled to visit a friend and later to the wedding. We returned home late that evening, and I paused as I passed by the rice filled resting place and resisted the urge to test my phone. Forty-eight hours. Show some restraint, woman.

Sunday evening, as we headed to bed, hubby suggested I might check my phone – we had reached the magical forty-eight-hour mark. Thinking about the late hour and hoping the phone gods would take note and reward my self-control, I decided a few more hours nestled in rice would be an unselfish act on my part. I left it alone.

Monday morning dawned. I was optimistic. I had done everything the Google people told me and I took my beautiful rose iPhone 6s from its rice bed. I tried to power it up; nothing. I plugged it into the charger, thinking perhaps the battery was low. Nothing.

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Not one to give up, I found a guy, a guy who had resurrection power. Well, sort of. Like maybe a 50/50 chance he could revive my precious phone for a cost of around $300. I didn’t like the odds. It was approximately noon on Monday, September 19th when we called it. My phone was dead by drowning.

We talked about arranging to replace my phone but oddly, I was not in a panicked rush. Weird, right? Once I got over the “I am so disconnected” anxiety I moved into the freedom of it. I missed my phone, but I could wait.

Saturday morning, just over a week after my phone took the plunge, I had a replacement in my hands. Thanks to faithfully backing up to the cloud, I was able to restore all of my data and lost only a few pictures from that fateful Friday.

I’m not one to make an expensive mistake in vain. I’ve learned a few things that are worthy of sharing:

    • Never, ever, again will I put my phone in my back pocket.
    • Not everything you read on Google is accurate (as if).
    • My stress dials back significantly when I have some distance from my phone.
    • I should use settings to reduce the number and volume of alerts.
    • 75% of what is on my Facebook feed is drivel
    • Never be a smarty pants about your unblemished phone. “First pride, then the crash- the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

 

In addition to all of that, I recognized the value of stepping away for bits of time.

I’m weary in spite of getting plenty of sleep. I finally understand it’s not sleep that my body longs for; rather it needs restful periods of quiet reflection; moments to listen and focus on my heart and His voice.

Rest is something to be surrendered to, to embrace. It is not a luxury but it does have great value. Spending my spare moments immersed in social media is akin to trading the harmonious notes of a symphony for the scraping of nails on a chalkboard.

I’m trying. The problem is real – I find myself reaching for my phone like a two pack a day smoker reaches for cigarettes. I’m committed to making the better choice; for my soul and for my relationships.

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Share with me in the comments how you manage addiction to devices. I’d love to hear from you!

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. ~ Psalm 116:7

 Grace upon grace,

lorraine

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Confessions of a Fitwitch

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What good is walking if my steps aren't counted_

Way back in the 1960’s when I was in elementary school the Johnson administration established the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. To test for the award, students completed a softball throw, a broad jump, a 50-yard dash and 600 yard walk/run.

Imagine a skinny little girl wearing black eyeglasses pulling back to throw her hardest, only to drop the ball behind her back. That would be me.

I developed a “stitch’ in my side before the end of the 50-yard dash and the 600-yard run/walk was excruciating.  Although I was an active kid, I was more of a sprinter than a distance runner. And by sprint, I mean to the end of the twenty foot sidewalk in our front yard where we played kickball for hours or to the ice cream wagon as it passed down our street.

As an adult, I talk about getting in better shape. In fact, if talking were an aerobic activity I would be in awesome shape. I convinced myself that I would eventually find the time and energy to devote to a more fit physical body, but it never happened.

Then I got a Fitbit. I synced it up with my iPhone and found some friends. I had no idea how much my life would change over the next few weeks.

For the first few days, I was content to get to know my new device, privately counting steps. The American Heart Association recommends ten thousand steps each day. Let’s just say I was significantly south of that.

I decided that I would strive for the recommended number and began looking for ways to “get my steps in”. I had no comprehension of the dark labyrinth of step counting compulsion.

I have a sedentary job so I added a stroll around the building midday and gained several hundred steps. I vowed to walk the five flights of stairs at least once a day.

Still straining toward my goal, I sensed my purple friend mocking me. I spoke the words aloud for effect. “This device is designed to serve me; this routine will bring me joy, not condemnation!” I had increased my activity and I was content.

Or was I?  (For full effect, read that with an evil, echoing voice)

FitbitThe bulky purple band had replaced my lovely rhinestone studded wristwatch. At first, I glanced at the beautiful watch as I dressed each morning and thought, “Later, baby. I’ll take you someplace nice later. It’s just that I need to count my steps. I’m in a different place right now…you understand, right?”

It never happened. What good is walking if my steps aren’t counted?

We began walking every evening as a part of my hubby’s recovery from spinal surgery. Little by little, we increased the distance. Before we knew it, we were walking three miles. The first time that band vibrated at the ten thousand step mark was a milestone and I was hooked.

The challenges seemed innocent at first.  I was walking miles every day and I was confident that most of the people challenging me were not hitting the trail for a (by then) four mile walk every evening. For the first time in my life I felt like a competitor.

But winning has been elusive. As I sync my band to the app throughout the day, I gain a lead from time to time. But at the end of the day, the coveted “Workweek Hustle” virtual trophy slips from my hands. The screen on my phone lights with a mocking message, “Friend A just zoomed past you for the lead”.

I’ve obsessed over steps that “weren’t counted” because I was pushing a stroller or a shopping cart. I pay closer attention to the battery indicator on my Fitbit than on my smartphone. I have secret doubts about the legitimacy of others step counts (seriously, what is wrong with me???) I might have a problem.

It’s as if I developed a stitch in my side just short of the finish line. I am disappointed and frustrated over losing challenges. Apparently, I’m not only competitive but also a sore loser.

So I venture out to walk again, this time alone and with no more agenda that to listen. A quiet whisper reminds me that the greatest steps I will ever take are those that bring me closer to eternity with Jesus.

The only trophy that will last is offered for all who make the finish line.

The feet that bring the Gospel are beautiful.

All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. ~ The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:25-26

There isn’t a category on the dashboard of my Fitbit app for transformation of my spiritual heart, but it’s as real and impacting as steps counted and calories burned are to my physical heart. He knows; he sees my struggle and my determination to never give up on the daily work of denying my flesh and choosing to walk after him.

Meanwhile, I’ll catch you later. It rained today and we couldn’t walk so I’m going to go run around my house until I get my ten thousand steps.

May all your steps be counted…

lorraine

 

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Jalapenos Take My Breath Away

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Jalapeno Banner 2I had looked forward to it all week. Family members, my women, would be together in our home for a meal. The simple menu met dietary restrictions and individual preferences while allowing time for me to visit with the girls. It had been a full, busy week and I didn’t want to be bogged down in the kitchen.

I was relieved when my sister Martha arrived early enough to prepare the jalapenos for the poppers since I am hypersensitive to them – even handling them in the store leaves me with burning skin but my daughter loves jalapeno poppers and they were perfect for our casual supper. Once the seeds and ribs are removed I can handle them without much distress and I love the flavor they add to so many of my favorites. As she was removing the ribs and seeds we both began gasping and coughing. It was good to finish that task and have the air clear by the time the girls returned from a shopping trip.

It was pure joy to see these women I love around my table, to hear them laugh and catch up. In fact, I was so caught up in the fun I didn’t notice that the pot of shrimp was foaming up and boiling over. I quickly reacted to the spewing mess and decided it was time to serve.

Surveying the choices of serving dishes and appetizer plates in the cupboard, I recognized a familiar discontent building. Nothing there was nice enough and barely adequate; a quick glance back at the table and I realized that I hadn’t really planned the table setting or meal presentation. Why hadn’t I given more thought to this? Anxiety rose up as I internally chastised myself.

I looked over my shoulder at the girls. They were seated around my bare table, sipping drinks and chatting happily.

I was on the verge of missing it. Even as joy was filling the room, the nagging notion that this simple supper wasn’t enough was on the verge of choking it right out of my heart. Thankfully, I turned again to the faces of the women around the table, women I love, and I remembered that this exact scene would never again happen. There will be other times, I’m sure; other meals around other tables, in other places. But this present moment was too precious to miss.

As I took down a few perfectly adequate plates and began setting them on the table in front of these people I love, I recalled this verse:

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Proverbs 11:25 NIV

I’m almost certain no one gave a second thought to the serving dishes as they peeled St. Augustine shrimp and ate jalapeno poppers. In the midst of the laughter and love and talk of family trees I doubt they even noticed.

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Great Expectations of the Heart

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Dear Valentine2Valentine’s Day is upon us. According to Bankrate, the typical basket of goods and services exceeds $500. Expectations are high, especially among women. That “basket” includes chocolate, diamonds, roses, dinner for two and a bottle of champagne. Individual expectations may vary from that, but for many the day won’t come anywhere close to their idealistic expectations for expressions of love and romance.

The basket referenced above didn’t include a card. I happen to love cards…any written expression of thoughts and feelings is dear to me. Hence, there is a keepsake box of cards on my closet shelf from, no kidding, the 1970’s. As I sorted through it recently, I found a folded sheet of notebook paper. It was a Valentine note from my husband.

We were new parents. Our little Kathy Jo, as we referred to her then, was not quite five months old and we were….well, economically challenged. There was no budget for chocolates or flowers, and in that era expectations didn’t yet include all of the extravagance outlined above. All of those were luxurious and honestly, not on my radar. In fact, even cards were not in our meager budget. So, this man took a sheet of notebook paper and penned words of love and devotion.

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Dear Valentine,
Though I have no fancy card today,
complete with sweet refrain,
you’ll always have the sweet assurance
of my love even when I’m old and on a cane.

When I read that again, I laughed. Out loud. I LOL’ed, something that I don’t do that often, but how sweet. I wasn’t laughing at his silliness as a young husband, rather at the irony of his prose.

How could we have known what he was prognosticating, that more than forty years later we would be walking through a season that we couldn’t have dreamed of then? He’s recovering from back surgery; and he’s relying on a walker. Face palm.

We can afford to buy cards these days, but ouch! I admit my irritation at paying $5 for a valentine. Over the years, he’s bought many beautiful cards; in fact, this man usually buys two for every occasion – one funny and one elaborate with lovely sentiments. As I pulled that box down and again sifted through its contents in preparation to write, the handwritten note is the one and only valentine remembrance there.

I married a romantic. He’s hired barbershop quartets to serenade me, one of my favorite and yet most awkward valentines. Four men surrounding your desk as coworkers gather round whilst they sing sweet songs of love and devotion is an original and fun idea. However, everyone watching your face for a reaction is a lot of pressure even if you aren’t an introvert! However, to this day, when I hear those sweet harmonies I remember his thoughtful surprise.

Roses, chocolates, dinner dates and jewelry – over the years as the budget allowed each has played a role in the annual observance of a day set aside to celebrate love. I’m a romantic as well. If you read my “We Kissed Dating Goodbye” post and think that I’m not into that, I misled you. I love making plans for a special evening out… planning an outfit that will thrill him, anticipating the foreplay of sweet talk and stolen kisses in an evening devoted to just us two. Now that’s a date that’s going somewhere.

I’ve been pondering all of this as the big day approaches. I listened to the woman who called the radio station complaining that her boyfriend refused to join the commercial madness that is Valentine’s Day (his opinion, not hers or mine). She had minimum requirements. Anything less than her expectations meant he didn’t care enough. Based on what I heard, they were significantly more than words penned on notebook paper, but somewhere south of the $500 estimate by Bankrate.

It’s ironic that in a time when lovers are sometimes cast off like last year’s fashion, the outward expressions of love are more extravagant than ever. It’s also easier than ever to make things happen with our access to virtually (no pun intended) everything on the internet. Faster than you can write a few lines of silly prose you can make dinner reservations, order flowers complete with candy and stuffed animal and check her Pinterest page for the perfect bracelet. Just a few more clicks and love is in the air.

That note I received all those years ago didn’t end with the silly poem. The sentiments that followed were filled with promises and hope for the future. The last paragraph is remarkably apropos:

“As a new phase of our life begins I look to you for encouragement and support and most of all, your love. I love you more today than ever before.”

Today more than ever, with your Facebook feed filling up with pictures of flowers and gifts and status updates from dinner dates, it’s tempting to devalue simple expressions of love. Compared to the highlight reel of others your love life may appear to be pretty normal.

For many, normal is no longer an option. Today, I read this, Rory Feek’s plans for his last Valentine’s Day with his beloved Joey: “…I’m hoping for a few soft kisses. The passion for each other that Joey and I once had has been replaced by the sweetest, gentlest kisses. I live for those kisses. They are enough.”

This year, consider this: the purest expressions of love from a sincere heart will not only be enough, they will endure.

 

 

 

 

 

Medicine, Mirth and Marriage Vows

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My husband had major surgery last week. You know how I know it was major? Because minor surgery is any surgery performed on someone other than you or your loved one. Truly, though, a spinal fusion is major surgery.

In these days of healthcare reform, a five day/four night stay in the hospital is not common. However, if they had discharged us one day sooner I might have staged a revolt. And yet, I’ve never wanted to leave a place more.

hospital sunrise.JPGThe room was spacious and contemporary; the view was beautiful. We watched the sunrise every morning. There was a flat screen television with cable and meals were delivered by room service (for the patient, anyway).

But hospitals are, after all, institutions. Things tend to happen at a snail’s pace and by day three it feels like Groundhog Day. I stayed with my hubby 24/7 because he is my life and I was not about to trust complete strangers with taking care of him after surgery.

I think he appreciated that I was there to help him with things like using the bathroom, but he may have had second thoughts the night that as I was standing behind him holding his gown up, I dropped it. Two people, weary and one under the influence of narcotic pain medication, laughing hysterically over pee. And let me tell you, that announcement on flights about placing your own oxygen mask before assisting others? Applies to assisting with bathroom needs in the middle of the night. There should have been a sign on the door; perhaps I would have avoided falling into a half giggling/half crying heap in a puddle of my own urine.

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Roomies making the best of it

The best part of “rooming in’ is middle of the night visits from nurses for medication and vitals. It was sweet when they mentioned that we are so in love and remarked about how tenderly we spoke to each other. They see things, apparently.

 

 

Little did they know, I was right on the edge several times. Last year, we chose to “divorce” cable and I’ve been missing one of my favorites, HGTV. I was very excited when I realized that the hospital cable stations included my channel. After the first day, every time Mike was taking a rest, he would say, “Watch anything you like, but not HGTV.”

Seriously? I knew he was about to fall into a drug-induced semi-coma in two minutes. I cried out from my anguished soul and dug deep in the vault of forty-three years of commitment for the strength to love him in spite of this decree. As it turns out, in a drug-induced coma you hear a lot; as he “slept” he was very involved in the renovation projects and he was totally stressed out. Only my sweet hubby could be stressed while under the influence of narcotics and muscle relaxers!

Hospitals are lonely. They are noisy and busy places, but behind the door of a patient

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This is hospital food – have mercy.

room time drags. Visitors are awesome, especially when they come bearing food and drinks from “outside”. Please, if you are going to visit – for the love – stop by Starbucks or Panera and pick up a treat! Otherwise, your presence will simply be tolerated. My daughter brought me her leftovers from the Cheesecake Factory and a huge Starbucks mocha. I kissed her. I probably would have anyway, but I was sleep deprived and literally had been scavenging from the leftovers on my hubby’s tray. I might not have recognized her, but black beans and tacos smelled like love.

 

 

The place was a labyrinth. The few times I ventured from the room in search of coffee and snacks I was tempted to drop bread crumbs. Somehow, though, I found the gift shop.

When my oldest daughter was in high school, after a weekend that will prevent me from ever being nominated for Mother of the Year (that’s a story for another day), she was hospitalized at a small local hospital. A friend visited and brought a gift that was obviously from the gift shop in the lobby. A new family joke was born…just stop in the gift shop and by a box of tissues or chap stick. No thought required. Yes, we are classy like that.

Let me just say, hospital gift shops have changed. There were cases filled with fancy chocolates and pastries that looked nothing like the sugar free Jello that I managed to add to my hubby’s tray without pushing him over the carb count for the meal. As I passed into the Brighton purses and jewelry I knew this was a place that I needed to escape in my current vulnerable state. Fortunately, my compulsion to remain at his side overpowered the temptation to linger over the Vera Bradley display marked 25% off.

We are home now. Managing pain meds and praying for poop have kept us humble  but so far, but we are still laughing and can’t believe that we’ve been doing this for almost forty-four years. If you have to stay a few nights in the hospital, take your best friend and your sense of humor.

Familiarity Breeds Compassion

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It’s been an interesting week in blogging world. My post on dating resulted in lots of comments online and some moments of uncomfortable silence face to face. Apparently, everyone now thinks that I’m opposed to married couples dating. When they rolled the announcement video for the next dating night in our church yesterday I could feel the tension. After all, I had shared my opinion that dating is not “the” key to marital bliss with the entire World Wide Web.

It may be true that I am occasionally melodramatic and perhaps only a few people among the hundred had actually read my post. Nevertheless, I felt it.

It also was my most viewed post ever. And by ever, I mean the last seven months that I’ve been at this. Today an edited version appeared on foreverymom.com (check it out here)!! If you don’t follow that one, you should. It’s a great compilation of posts related to moms. Twice. Twice now, Jenny Rapson, the editor, has chosen my stuff to share. I’m amazed and grateful and I might have thought I was doing pretty well at this blogging thing until…

I got my first rejection last week. Already this blogging journey is teaching me that I have a lot to learn. And I’ve got some things to learn about writing, too.

I might have been devastated for a while if not for my honest blogger friend who shared her history of rejections, even as one of her wildly popular posts about….wait for it…vomit, was going viral. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and head over here to read it. Over 90K readers can’t be wrong about that one.

Last week I also started a Facebook fan page. It was one of the things that I knew I needed to do to grow my blog, but I had been wrestling with indecision. I needed a push. And a graphic for the banner page. Again, a nudge and an assist by Jami and the page is up and beautiful!  Please check it out and “like” it. There’s a link at the bottom if this post.

At the end of a very eventful and exciting week, I looked back and realized that I made new friends in this journey simply by reaching out to people with shared passion and they have joined hands with me. It is through these friendships that I’ve been encouraged to take the next step or to just keep writing in spite of setbacks.

There are times that most every heart waxes pitiful or sad and feels like the world is unaware or indifferent to it. It’s tempting to look around and wonder if anyone cares to share or even knows about our current struggle or even success.

A momma in the trenches wearily faces the day after a sleepless night, knowing there isn’t enough coffee in Brazil to ward off the fatigue that threatens to overcome her best intentions to do better today. She might have been nursing a baby or waiting for a teenager who missed curfew, but she’s tired and her patience is thin.

The parents of a newborn wait anxiously outside the NICU for an opportunity to just standbebe-616418_1280 next to the bassinet where their newborn son lies half-naked, connected to wires and tubes, alarms beeping.

A widow, living alone, misses physical contact…a hug or a lingering touch on her hand. It seems that the world has gone back to normal, but normal eludes her.

A daughter is separated from her aged parents by fifteen hundred miles, her father’s health precarious and mother caring from him as best she can on an island that’s barely five miles wide. Good health care is a prop plane trip across an ocean. Helpless to lend a hand and worried, she carries on with her toddler, preparing for the birth of a daughter who may never meet her grandparents.

seniorhandsA grandmother, missing her grandchildren, longs to snuggle with a baby or play Go Fish with a toddler. She’s so desperate she would welcome a mini lecture from an eight year old on the fine points of playing Minecraft!

 

 

I work full time and when not working, I alternate between cleaning frenzies and wandering aimlessly around Hobby Lobby. And yet, I witnessed every one of the scenarios in the last few days among people in my circle of influence.

I might have missed them; I often do because I’m lost in the details of my life. Listening is way less fun than talking, and I am a woman of many words.

Experience has taught me that the fault I see in another is often noticeable because of my familiarity with it. Without fail, it’s something that is also a struggle for me. I’m also learning that when I begin to listen to others with compassion, I recognize familiar fears, anxieties and passions.

We are never alone in our thing, whatever it may be. Finding a fellow sojourner may require revealing that vulnerable spot, the place that is most tender, but I promise that you will make a friend and your burden will be lighter even as you take up the weight of another. Familiarity will breed compassion.

I’m aware of the things I can’t do, but every day, I long to do what I can to make a difference and I’m so grateful for those who are making a difference for me.

When you do the things that you can do, you will find a way.” ― A.A. Milne

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What Your Mother Really Wants for Christmas

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edit Door Prize WrapI write one post a week and the most difficult words to write are the four to six in the title. Last weekend, while enjoying a rare theme park date with my husband, the title came first.

I’ve been a mom for more than forty-two years.  Motherhood was my first job with benefits and it’s a great gig. I’m quite sure that I’m not the first woman to say that it is the most difficult, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

I love that God saw fit to give me girls.  (Without them, I would have zero fashion sense.) Now that they have children and we have mothering in common and I think they even get me sometimes. At my age, when I look into a mirror I see my mother’s face…and I am shocked! But I look into the faces of my daughters and they reflect my life.

The Osborne family of Arkansas donated a bunch of lights to Walt Disney World after their neighbors got in an uproar over the display at their home.  Disney took those lights to Hollywood Studios and in true form turned them into something magical. The magic happens when you turn the corner from the back lot onto the Streets of America and see millions of dancing lights, Christmas music filling the air and a mass of people absolutely in awe and full of Christmas cheer.  I’ve taken that walk with my children and grandchildren. We’ve danced together in the streets to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree” and I’ve kissed my sweet husband as we sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. I’ve stood in awe of the beauty of the nativity. If that display were Sodom and Gomorrah I would be a pillar of salt because I can never just walk away without glancing back and wishing I could stay a little longer.

edit Osborne Peace

 

They claim this is the last year – I doubt it. They may relocate it, but I digress. Just in case, I desperately wanted walk under those lights one more time, to relive the memories my heart cherishes; the selective memories that don’t include the tired children, the grumpy parents and the complete absence of any place to stop and rest.

How do you feel about questions like “What do you want for Christmas?”?  I detest them. Answering always makes me feel greedy, and typically I can’t think of a thing. To be honest, I’ve been in a bit of a funk this Christmas season and what I secretly want is Christmas like it used to be.  Kids opening presents, food and lots of family. Waking up to an empty house and waiting until almost new years to have everyone in one place is the new normal.  And it is way better than some people’s normal…I know that well.

Because  she works for the mouse and she makes magic happen on a daily basis, but mostly because she loves me, my sister gave us tickets to see the lights one more time.

My hubby has something called severe spinal stenosis.  For a least three years, he’s had issues with standing in one spot for more than a few minutes; for the last year, the pain is excruciating when he walks even short distances.  He wanted to go with me (insert emoji of joy mixed with angst). After agreeing on the limitations his current health conditions  impose, we decided to make a day of it – a sort of mini vaca before he has spinal surgery early next year.

The inspiration for the title came as, throughout the day, text messages  from our daughters popped up on both of our phones.  “Get a wheelchair for Dad” “You don’t have to wait in line, Dad. Get a wheelchair. Do it for Mom…you want to be able to make it to see the lights – this means a lot to her!” “I hope you are taking it easy, Dad.”

My greatest gift these days is their love and care for us. They know how we love one another.  They’ve seen how we prop one another up and push through hard things for one another. In the midst of their busy days they took time to urge us to take care of each other. We didn’t get a wheelchair, but we stopped when he needed to. He carefully managed his  pain and we had a wonderful day.

The way that our children love us is touching.  I’m especially moved by how they care for their dad.  Families are dynamic and I know that God has scattered ours a bit more than this mom would like.  But the real test of family is how we care for one another. Nothing is sweeter than watching your children, though separated by 400 miles, rally a joint campaign to ensure that their sentimental fool of a mom remembers their dad’s limitations. They were with us and they were looking out for us.

This Christmas, perhaps the greatest give you can give won’t require wrapping. Who needs to know you are with them and are looking out for them as we enter the new year?

Osborne Nativity

Merry Christmas, friends! May the peace of Christ fill your hearts and homes this Christmas.

 

 

Relationship Status Update

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girl-925284_1280I was having coffee with a friend. We were sitting outside, enjoying a beautiful fall evening and one another’s company. In the course of conversation, I mentioned a picture and grabbed my phone to share it. I was immediately distracted by notifications and actually lost my train of thought (what WAS I looking for?). I wish I could say that was an isolated incident. Not even close.

Riding in the car with my hubby, the radio is always loud. His philosophy is that if the music is too loud, you are too old. While he is always willing to turn the volume down and listen to my chatter, I have recently taken to pulling out my phone when we are riding together. Before I know it, I’ve been perusing status updates, checking email and twitter and browsing Pinterest far too long and I have no idea where we are or have been. Next to reaching our destination, my favorite part of any trip is the journey. Lately I’ve been missing too much of the journey.

Sunday mornings are the best; coffee at home from a real cup and leisurely breakfast with my hubby before church. Recently we slept in. The extra rest was much needed but we were a bit rushed. After a quick breakfast I hurried to get ready. In record time we were on our way. Settling into a chair in our small group, I reached for my phone to turn the volume off. It wasn’t in my purse. My chest tightened—I was anxious. I learned later that I was suffering from nomophobia – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact (really, it’s an actual thing now). If you think I’m exaggerating, try separating from your phone, even for a short time.

Hubby quickly offered to run home to retrieve it, but I declined. Honestly, it is rare for me to get a call or text on Sunday morning. And my children know that the parents are together, so they would reach out to dad if mom didn’t answer. But what if there was a need to research a term during class or locate lyrics from a worship song (I actually do this)? What if something in the service was awesome and I wanted to share a picture on Facebook or Instagram? I felt the anxiety of losing connection – to my people (although a lot of them were in the room with me) and to information. The truth is, absent that instant connection to the WORLD, I was actually present in MY world—100% engaged, fully focused on the people and happenings aound me that morning. It was refreshing.

AdultBinkyAll of this led me to an article in the Huffington Post referencing a study from Iowa State University. You can read it here but the key for me is the scientific test attached to the article. I took it. I am embarrassed to share my score, but I will admit that I have a problem that implies serious FOMO. I am a smartphone junkie and as a result, I am distracted in almost everything I do. Reading a book? Phone within reach. Having dinner/coffee/walk with friends or family? Phone is a third wheel. Even at work, my phone is in my sight, although I don’t take it into meetings (don’t get me started on the madness of people in a meeting checking their phones). Watching TV with the hubs? Phone right next to me.

Worse than my constant connection is the tether (implied and perhaps more me than them) that gives everyone I know instant access to me, with an expectation of immediate response.

I was a child in the 60’s. We had one phone in our little home and it hung on the wall in the living room. Most of my married life was the same. When we were away from home, we were out of touch. When we took a vacation we made sure the people who NEEDED to know had emergency contact information and we truly “checked out” for a period of time.

Today we have information at our fingertips and instant access to people. We follow “friends” on Facebook (I have almost 600 and I bet you have lots more), most of whom we would never take the time to sit with over coffee. Why? Because we don’t have that much time! And yet, I scroll through status updates and see the highlight reel of their lives, and often get the feeling that I’m missing something. All the while, I’m likely sitting with or near a real, live person with whom I desperately need to connect. I recently took one of those Facebook tests, this one to analyze how many hours I spent on Facebook in the last year. I have no idea the accuracy, but I was mortified when it returned 907 HOURS. That’s an average of two and a half hours a day. Lord help.

I am struggling with this, friends. There are so many things I love about social media. But I am feeling and hearing this more and more from others: I have hundreds of connections but few I can count on. Sobering, but for many that is reality.

I have been thinking a lot about Jesus and his friendships. He had a few close friends…three to be exact. Those were the men he poured his life into – they hung out a lot and they worked together. I imagine that on any given day, they knew one another’s whereabouts. They knew about the struggles and the triumphs of one another’s lives. They were in the trenches together and had each other’s backs. They were tight.

Then there were the twelve, and even among those he had a doubter, a denier and a double-crosser. Jesus’ life and ministry touched the masses at times, but he spent his time with a few. He poured his life into even fewer.

I’m beginning to think these last ten years of my life, as I’ve added to my friends list and spread myself thin among relationships, that I’ve been totally off course. While I hope that I can occasionally touch the masses, I’m looking at his example for friendship. I want a few friends who will show up; friends who come in my back door and know the sodas and water bottles are in the garage fridge. I want to be the friend that will change from PJ’s to clothes to meet you because you really, really need to talk. I want to be the friend who takes the time to sit with you in the ER, and cries with you when tragedy touches your life.

And the thing is, we have limited capacity: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know this because I’ve been disappointed and I’ve disappointed others. I’ve grieved lost jobs and lost kids alone. I’ve known there was a need in a friend’s life but I just didn’t have anything left in me to join them.

Perhaps this has resonated with you. Did you sense a little anxiety as you read? I wish I could tell you I’ve got this, but I am working on it. I’ve begun intentionally spending less time with my virtual connections and intend to return my focus to the people who are part of my inner circle. I’m putting some distance between myself and my smartphone, especially when there are “real” people in my vicinity. I’ve already left home without my phone again, and I’m happy to report the anxiety was much lower!

If you made it this far, here’s a treat for you!  Isn’t this just gorgeous? It was last fall, on my cousins pontoon boat. The only thing we did with cell phones that evening was take some pictures.  Precious time spent with people I love.

StJoe

I would love to hear your perspective and insight. Talk to me by leaving a comment below.