My Shepherd. . . .

My life is blessed with one of those “forever friends,” the kind of friendship that perseveres through a lifetime of griefs and joys and celebrations and tragedies. The kind that persists even through seasons of drought when there is little or no contact, just a remembrance at birthdays or Christmas. She offers me unconditional love and a ready ear to hear my complaints, hurts and praises. Her name is Arlene. My daughter bears her name as her middle name–that’s how special she is.

My friends Arlene & Carla left and center the day we graduated from Harding University.

A little back story: Arlene, Carla and I were the only “married women” in our nursing class in 1978. (There was also male married student.) I was the only married who had children. Now “nontraditional” students are common, but in those times, not so much. The beautiful lady on the left is the woman I speak of above. However, the lady in the middle is still in our lives. Her latest contribution is offering “grooming tips” as we all age. That’s a bit of an inside joke, folks.

Now to the gist of the story. Arlene and I are not particularly gifted when it comes to physical sports and activity. But you have to have “phys ed” credits to graduate. We were comrades in a “Physical Conditioning” class. Our sweet instructor recognized immediately that we were no longer 18 and definitely not athletically inclined! (I had birthed 2 children by then!) She then coached us through a personalized physical conditioning program, grading us not on our achievement of some preset criteria but on our percentage of improvement from baseline. We both got an A! (I recently had an encounter with that professor who, in 2021, recognized me and described to me her memories of the 2 “older” students that she had helped through the class.)

Ok, long story, I know. But during my visit with said professor, I observed her to be reading a book with pages well marked with underlining and notes. She described how the book had been gifted to her in the 1970s and recommended it highly. Arlene’s birthday was approaching, and I immediately knew what her gift should be.

Keller’s classic work, original copyrights 1970 and 2007.

Phillip Keller, born in East Africa, was an experienced shepherd, and, line by line, he expounds on the true meaning of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. So for the past 5 months, Arlene and I have had our own book club with telephone calls on Sunday afternoons (she’s in Alabama, I, in Arkansas) that invariably last an hour. We have reconnected in a precious way as we grew ever stronger in our realization of the sacrificial, caring, alert watchfulness and concern that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, expends on our behalf.

We humans are so like sheep, whether we want to admit it or not. We don’t know what’s best for us. The shepherd does. We will eat the food of the world when the Bread of Life is waiting for us. We will drink from a muddy puddle when the clear clean Living Water is waiting for us to drink of it. We fail to recognize the dangers around us. He recognizes and intervenes with that “still, small voice” that holds us back from bad decisions. His rod and staff guide us and pull us back from danger, from floods that can sweep us away, from brambles that entangle us. He stands guard over us when Satan prowls to take us down.

I cannot begin to adequately describe the beauty and power of Keller’s exposition on Psalm 23. It has touched my life at the heart of my faith. Through this conversation with my friend, we have grown even closer, growing in our love for our Saviour and love for each other.

Arlene asked me to write a blog similar to this. She didn’t anticipate so much focus on her and our friendship. As we discussed what thoughtless, stubborn creatures we sheep can be (and are), we were reminded of God’s unconditional love, drawing us ever closer, for He is full of mercy and has blessed us with His unmerited favor, grace.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

Father God,

Thank you for sending me a friend like Arlene. Thank you for your unconditional love and the sacrificial death of Jesus. Thank you for salvation, for your protection, for your provision, and for your Holy Spirit that ever draws me closer to you. I ask your blessing on all who read this, that they will know the blessed assurance of being a sheep under the care of the Good Shepherd. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen

Thank you, Reader, for sharing this moment with me.

The 3-D Reasons. . .

why I’ve not been writing.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m not writing any more. Today I had a bit of a breakthrough when I was studying the Bible lesson I’m going to teach tomorrow morning. The lesson is on praying “big” prayers for ourselves and each other, the kind of prayers Paul prayed for believers in the various churches he had helped establish on his missionary journeys. He prayed that believers would know how “wide and long and deep and high” the love of Christ, “which passes all understanding,” is. He also prayed that they would be filled with “the fullness of God”–the Holy Spirit. (see Ephesians 3:14-21)

The author of the lesson went on to list the 3-Ds of why we Christians often don’t comprehend how perfectly God loves us and recognize the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Do you ever feel like you are in a fog as you try to pray? I do. And I know I have felt the “fog” of having no words to write. Here are the dreaded 3-Ds:

Distraction, Depression, & Doubt

The lesson is wonderful and I look forward to the discussion this wonderful group of godly women and I will share tomorrow morning. But the lesson opened my eyes to reasons that might explain my “dry” spell when it comes to writing, my prolonged bout of “writer’s block.”

I have been distracted by so many things. Grief. Worry. Family illness. My own health. This tragic, sin-ridden world we live in and all the suffering that is reported on a daily basis. Life change with “semi-retirement.”

Depression is a fact of my life that is always present to some degree, even with medication and therapy. Yes, losing a son to suicide is a constant reminder and frequently triggers a temporary worsening. Yet, seeing my daughter live her life happily, successfully, victoriously while dealing with depression lifts me up.

I never doubt my faith or the reality of God’s love for me. His hand has been visibly at work in my life in so many ways. But I have doubted that I have talent. I have doubted that the stories I tell are really worth telling. I have doubted so strongly that I have failed to discipline myself to write.

I hope (and pray) that the fog of distraction, depression and doubt is lifting for me. At least I’ve been able to write this piece. I have a story started–a woman named Wren and a man named Logan, both scarred by life. Will they find healing with each other? I haven’t a clue.

You are now somewhat responsible for the end of the story, you know, because you’ve read this far. You know my dilemma. You know my weaknesses. Encourage me, please. I need to know the end of the story.

Thanks for visiting. I’ll be interested to see where my story goes. Maybe you will be, too.

Thanksgiving. . .

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Thanksgiving opens the door to the time that we fondly title “The Holidays.” First Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then the beginning of a New Year. Traditionally the birth of another year is a time of self-assessment and the setting of goals, “resolutions,” to make some needed change in our lives.

A dear friend and Christian mentor shared a Thanksgiving poem with our Bible study class yesterday morning. And a particular thought in that poem stuck with me. That excerpt is….

. . .time to take inventory, keep the good, toss out the bad.

Liz Tate, “Thanksgiving,” 11/27/2002

I have been suffering with clinical depression for a long time. Treated initially with medication, I am now working with a therapist to resolve some longstanding grief issues, making this is a natural time for me to latch onto the notion of “inventorying” life.

The definition of inventory is “a complete list of” (noun) or “to make a complete list of” (verb). This post will not allow either. But perhaps it will inspire others to take a more thoughtful approach to this holiday season, as it has inspired me.

My “good” to be kept foremost in my heart and mind this Thanksgiving:

  1. God’s love, compassion, forgiveness, provision and providential plan for my life. The gift of His Son to provide redemption.
  2. My family, loving husband, daughter(s), son, grandchildren and great-grands.
  3. This house that is a home, warm and welcoming.
  4. Food to nourish our bodies and, sometimes, just provide comfort to our spirits (e.g. chocolate, ice cream, mac and cheese, etc.)
  5. Work that is rewarding spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, professionally.
  6. The opportunity to finish unfinished grief work. Because it is work! (And don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.)

My “bad” to be tossed out ASAP (with God’s help):

  1. Procrastination. For instance, failing to take (not make) the time to write. The time is there if I use it wisely.
  2. Rumination over past mistakes and “what-ifs.”
  3. Unforgiveness. Which can make me “bitter” not “better.” (Thank you, Judy, for this thought.)
  4. Lack of self-care. Which makes me exhausted and irritable and just generally leads to a bad attitude and all three of the above. (And can be especially absent during the busy-ness of the Holiday Season.)

My “plan” for how I will grow, starting now and not waiting until January 1, 2022:

  1. More time in God’s word.
  2. More time in prayer.
  3. More time with family.
  4. More time at the keyboard.

Yeah, sure, goals are supposed to be more specific than that, but you get the general idea. So, I’m giving thanks for those good things. And working to remedy those “bad” things. And (hopefully) constantly (not just at a new calendar year) re-assessing where I am spiritually, emotionally, physically and where I need to be and trying to figure out how I can get there.

I am most of all thankful that God is on my side in all of this. For I am confident that, “. . .He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV (than means me and you, y’all!) and “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NKJV (Even when bad things happen in our lives, because, to use Tony Evans’ analogy, those “detours” can be used by God to mature us and prepare us for His plan down the road of life.)

Who will join me in taking inventory “early” this season? Let’s not wait until New Year’s Eve to throw together a list of resolutions to be discarded by February 1st at the latest. Can we resolve each day to work to make it better than the day before? To be kinder? More patient? To walk a little closer to God?

Heavenly Father, Grant that I may always seek your path, your plan, your purpose in all that I think, say and do. Soften my heart, sharpen my mind, strengthen my body. And I give you praise and thanksgiving. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen

And here is Liz’s poem in its entirety, with thanksgiving that she gave me permission to use!

I never knew. . .

I never knew how much I’d miss you. I do now. Six years gone by, past that Wednesday noontime, August 26, 2015. The missing has evolved. All the normal grief stuff has morphed into an acceptance of the reality that you won’t have me laughing uncontrollably again, the reality that my worry is over because I know you are safely in God’s hands now.

I love you so much. My middle child. Your quick mind. Your charm. Your creativity–you excelled at so much. Writing, humor, carving, woodwork, painting. I treasure the etched glasses and the precious framed prints. I treasure the story of how you took a car engine apart and rebuilt it by You-Tube! Oh, the things you could have done. That grieves me.

You loved me and your grandparents and your wife and your daughter and siblings. And the grandchildren that you must be so proud of if heaven allows you a glimpse of them. If only you were here to see them grow into little people with bright minds and beautiful smiles and loving hearts. Your daughter got your intellect and way with words, but (fortunately) those gifts are combined with a strength and discipline that you never had.

My heart ached for you then, when you were so self-destructive and angry. My heart longs for you now. I remember kneeling by my bed and turning you over to God, for I knew your choices were out of my control. I am comforted to know that you know Jesus, knew Him then and are by His side now.

Your death changed me irreversibly. When asked how many children I have, I answer, “Two living–I lost a son.” Sometimes I volunteer that I lost you to a tragic death by suicide. Your death turned me into a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and mental illness acceptance and treatment and suicide prevention. Your death made me someone that others who have lost a loved one to suicide confide in. I even facilitate a support group for those in my “club,” the club I never wanted to belong to. The club of mothers who have lost children. The club of those who have experienced the death by suicide of loved ones.

You are loved and remembered, Son. Someday we will be together.

Romance as old as time. . .

Once again, unexpected treasures, copyrights 1938 to 1944……

More treasures from our journey through Mom’s belongings. Notice that two of the above are romance novels. The paper is yellowed and the print is small, and I didn’t try to read each of them. A brief flipping through of pages revealed that fiction does indeed follow life. The struggles of women are not new. The battle to hold marriages together is not new. And hopefully the patriotism expressed in the middle book is not new, nor is it dead.

We learned a lot about Mom’s life as a teen and young adult as we struggled to sort what to keep, what to send to the historical museum, and what to discard. We learned that writing materials were scarce and treasured. She had a bit of a diary recorded in a tiny little notebook advertising Federal Fertilizer.

She and my aunt were beauties and had a multitude of suitors, evidenced by the letters from servicemen, the dates at the “Cotton Club,” and the difficulties of making and keeping dates with no telephones and no automobiles. We read of her first encounter with my dad. She sounded young and under impressed. He “stood her up several times” and she was pretty irritated. She then mentioned that his dad was in the hospital. I suspect that was when my grandpa had the stroke that left him paralyzed and aphasic (unable to speak).

You wonder where I am going with this. I guess we all have memories of those early romances, misunderstandings, and broken hearts. We have the excuse of youth and the resistance to all advice offered by the older generation. But I want to redirect to a different romance–God’s wooing of us. Because isn’t that the greatest, most perfect romance of all?

I wouldn’t sacrifice one of my children for anyone or any cause. Would you? But He gave his only and perfect Son so that I might have a relationship with him. He loved me (and you) so much that He devised this perfect plan to woo us into a personal relationship with our Creator, Savior, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

And here’s what I came to say–I watched a Charles Stanley re-run this morning. He was my mother’s “pastor” when she became physically unable to attend live church (years before her death). And he was teaching about seeking God. And seeking God diligently. And it hit me–I don’t think I’m seeking anything diligently right now. Not a closer relationship with God. Not a true understanding of what he wants me to do with the remainder of my life. Not the writing which had been such a part of me.

I’ve been so distracted. Some physical ailments (hopefully, prayerfully partially “fixed” by recent surgery). But also work to be done and bills to be paid and worry and depression and anxiety and, of course, COVID. But now I see, Lord, that it’s You missing in my life. And it’s my fault. You haven’t deserted me, I have retreated into too much of this world and failed to seek your face–in a diligent, devoted and disciplined fashion.

Forgive me. And help me. I have this little prayer I often pray:

Soften my heart. Sharpen my mind. Strengthen my body.

But I want to add, “Speak to me Lord.” Tell me, show me, that marvelous plan you have in mind, for everything good comes from You and I know You love me and I love You. And give me the diligence, devotion, and discipline to persevere.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NKJV)

Unexpected treasures. . .

When sorting through a departed loved one’s things, what bits of wisdom can be found!

My dear mother went to be with Jesus October 27, 2020. She was a child of the depression and was fascinated by history. To put it bluntly, she hoarded things, but in a very neat and controlled way. That means that, in addition to the Mason jars and empty CoolWhip bowls, we have discovered evidence of most of her life from 1926 onward.

One treasure we have discovered is an old metal suitcase, circa 1940s, that belonged to my Uncle Jake, who served in Africa, Italy and was part of the Normandy invasion. Some of his belongings are therein. There are also bundles of letters that he wrote my grandparents and that they wrote to him. Unfortunately, they are written in pencil in a slanting script that I find hard to decipher.

My mother loved music and I think may have dreamed of being a musician. The book with the lady in the peach-colored dress on the cover is about a mail-order music school based in New York. We have discovered several paperback hymn books with shape notes, the old gospel style.

The vintage camera I’m not sure about, but I know my uncle took pictures as he traveled across France with his tank battalion. I wonder if this is the camera he used?

However, buried in all this “stuff” I found a tiny piece of newsprint, brown and wrinkled with age:

A Falsehood

“First somebody told it. Then the room wouldn’t hold it. So the busy tongues rolled it, ‘Till they got it outside; When the crowd came across it, They never once lost it, But tossed it, and tossed it,’Till it grew long and wide.”

Anonymous

I don’t know why someone in my family went to the trouble to clip this out and save it 80 years ago. Perhaps they had been the victim of a falsehood that got told and rolled and tossed until it grew long and wide. I will never know. But this odd little verse spoke to me, because it describes the world today, don’t you think?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat–a ready environment to tell and roll and toss words until they take a life of their own and become someone’s truth. Whether it’s gossip about relationships or wealth or lost jobs or lost love, perceived or real injustice, or just acting out, the falsehood grows until it seems to so many to be absolute reality and truth. Or what about the “Big Lie” that our democratic process no longer works, is no longer honest, that Joe Biden could not have been elected President of these United States unless somebody cheated.

This odd little verse reminds me to be careful what I say, careful what I accept and believe as irrefutable truth, careful what I share on social media. I don’t believe much in coincidence. I think I needed to find this verse. Perhaps you needed to read it. I know I needed to share it.

Your thoughts?

Pilgrimage. . .

We are all on a pilgrimage of some sort. Where is yours taking you?

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This morning I came across a verse in Psalms that made me think. Isn’t that what Scripture is supposed to do? Make us think? And it seemed very appropriate for my current season of life, because the future is a bit cloudy and uncertain at present, as far as my career goes. This is the verse:

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84:5 NKJV

In this instance the psalmist was referring to the Jewish pilgrimage to Zion. But the verse made me think of my life journey, my season in life, in a different way.

Because isn’t this earthly life just that–a pilgrimage–from one place, one season, one job, one event (happy or tragic) to another place, season, job, event? And, ultimately, the pilgrimage from this life on earth as a physical being with a spiritual soul to the afterlife as a fully spiritual being? I’ve lost some beloved family members and friends and have been able to soothe my grief with the acknowledgement that they had just completed that final pilgrimage.

But right now, for me, the verse speaks to my personal pilgrimage, that of passing from one season of this earthly life into another, from one phase of my career to another. And it reminds me not to be frightened of or resistant to the changes that must come as long as my strength is in God.

Lord, help me to remember that I do not face these changes, these challenges, alone. Remind me minute by minute that this life is not mine to control. I see your hand in so many opportunities you have granted. I see your hand in so many decisions that I thought I made, but that you directed. You have blessed, and I trust that you will continue to guide, direct, and strengthen me. I pray in your blessed Son’s name, Jesus. Amen

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Queen Esther. . .

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One of my favorite Bible stories is found in the Old Testament, book of Esther. Esther was a young Jewish girl whose Hebrew name was Hadassah. Her Persian name was Ester, the Persian word for “star.” (Esther is the Greek spelling.) She was in captivity in Persia during one of the times of Jewish punishment for rebellion. Her uncle, Mordecai, was her protector and adviser.

The Persian king had ordered Queen Vashti to appear before him and his guests after a seven-day feast during which wine had been flowing freely. His reasoning was to exhibit her beauty and brag about his conquest. Queen Vashti, who was entertaining the women of the palace, did not feel like getting dressed up and donning her crown to parade in front of a possibly drunken group of men just upon the king’s command, and refused to comply.

The king was furious, but his advisers were appalled. What if all the wives in the kingdom followed the queen’s example and began to disobey their husbands? Horrors! Therefore, the king, upon his advisers strong insistence, essentially divorced Vashti and stripped her of her royal title. Ah, but he soon began missing the benefit of having a beautiful wife at his beck and call. His advisers had the answer. Beautiful young virgins would be sought and brought before the king so that he could choose a new, and, hopefully more compliant, queen.

In a classic “Me, Too” episode, Esther, because of her beauty, was taken into the haram of King Ahasuerus to become a candidate for what would be either a forced one night stand or ultimate wife/queenship. Needless to say, upon the advice of her uncle, she had not revealed that she was one of the Jewish captives. This would have automatically disqualified her from consideration. After months of grooming and training and purification rituals, it was her turn to be taken to the king. Instead of requesting extra jewels and more enticing robes to entrap the king, she wisely accepted only what the king’s eunuch in charge of the haram advised.

Well, Esther won the love and grace and favor of the king, and he made her the queen instead of Vashti. But trouble was brewing. Insurrectionists sought to overthrow the king, and Mordecai, hearing their plot, shared it with Esther who then shared it with the king. The king’s life was spared and the plotters were executed. But more trouble was coming. An evil character named Haman came into power as one of their replacements. He became angry with Mordecai, who failed to offer appropriate respect and fear when Haman passed by.

Haman could not be satisfied with just destroying Mordecai. It was because of Mordecai’s Jewish faith that he was disrespectful, the evil man theorized. Therefore, all the Jews in the kingdome must be killed without the opportunity to defend themselves. Alas, what could be done? Not only must Esther appear at the king’s request, she must not appear uninvited, upon penalty of death, unless the king extended his sceptre toward her. Well, he loved her “more than any other,” and he did accept her visit(s) and intervention on behalf of Mordecai and her people as she reminded him of her uncle’s role in previously saving the king from assasination.

To make a long story short, because of Esther’s intervention, Haman’s plot was thwarted, he was hanged, and God provided protection for his people in captivity. The most telling verse in the whole book is this (Mordecai speaking to Esther):

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4: 14 (NKJV)

Some of you think you know where I’m going with this. I bet I surprise you. Joe Biden made two bids for the nomination for the presidency in the past. This time he won the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the popular and electoral vote, not by fraud or theft, but because a lot of us (81,283,098 Americans) voted for him. That was 51.3 % of the popular vote, translating into 306 electoral votes. He won.

And I believe, at this point in the history of our nation, that it was God’s will. He has groomed Joe Biden for 78 years to act in wisdom and maturity and love for democracy. He is not senile. He has a mild stutter that causes some of you to claim this. He does not love China–look at his history in the Obama presidency when he was definitely not friendly with the Chinese leadership when sent on diplomatic missions. He is not a socialist. He loves this country and its people. He is devoutly Catholic and hates the loss of infant life as much as all of us conservatives do. Please give him a chance.

I’m sorry many of you are disappointed in the election results. Many of us were disappointed four years ago. Winners and losers. That’s the way democratic elections work.

And to you, President-elect Biden, and to you, Vice-President-elect Harris, it was for “such a time as this” that you were born. Take the opportunity to heal America seriously, for we are wounded. Follow God and love people and make the most of your time. I will be praying for you.

A Less-than-Great Generation? . .

I’ve always been fascinated by World War II history. My parents were part of that era, born in 1916 and 1926, respectively. They were married shortly after my father returned from his Army experience in the Pacific Theater. He was stationed on the island of Guam. Both lived through the Great Depression and World War II. My maternal uncle was part of the Normandy landing.  I relished Tom Brokaw’s book  The Greatest Generation. Those who experienced the Great Depression, like my mother, saved everything, as evidenced by the remnants of rationing books I found in her boxes of “keepsakes.” They saved because they “might need it” and to remember the past. img_0002 I grew up with a healthy respect for patriotism and the ability to make it through “hard times.” I am the first in my family to complete a baccalaureate degree. My parents were doubly proud when I completed a master’s degree in nursing. They both had dreams that were left behind because of the need to survive. They sacrificed for their children without complaint. I grew up knowing that I was loved unconditionally. My heart is heavy today because I see the patriotism that I was taught morphing into something that is not the pure love of God, country and fellow man my parents demonstrated. As Americans we are to love democracy itself and the processes and foundation that make it democratic in nature. Political parties may be necessary evils but they are not the source of who we are as Americans. We are not to love individual men who are in leadership roles as we blindly overlook their actions. We are to remember that the will of the people is the ultimate decisive force in who holds office in the executive and legislative branches of government. Citizens are to accept the results of elections gracefully. I grieve for the reality that racism is still alive and well in our country. When Jesus spoke John 3:16, he did not speak it only to folks with light-colored skin. He said:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   John 3:16 NIV
In fact, Jesus’ bodily form was of Middle Eastern heritage, so he did not have a fair complexion. Would we have pre-judged him or Paul or the other apostles simply on the color of their skin? Would we have considered them somehow “less than” us because of their heritage? Slavery, brought early on to the North American settlement that became the United States, haunts us. After 400 years we are still struggling to expunge the memory of that sin from our Christian consciences. We just can’t face up to the reality of the skeleton in the closet. Although we may not actively persecute people of color, we harbor in our hearts feelings of distrust and unease when we view their accomplishments. I celebrate vice-president elect Kamala Harris as both a woman and a woman of color to break that glass ceiling. Do you? I was also brought up believing in a “Golden Rule.” It is strong in Judeo-Christian teaching. Jesus said:
 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.     Matthew 7:12 NIV
I am obligated to present the idea that (1) wearing a mask, (2) social distancing, (3) cleaning hands regularly, are all ways to fulfil this command. We are mandated to wear seat belts. We are mandated to pay taxes. We are mandated to follow traffic laws. And we do. Why is a mandate to wear a face mask and avoid large gatherings so onerous? Sure, I’m tired of these restrictions. But I’m still going to do anything and everything to protect myself, my loved ones, and my fellowman. I can do without a huge family Thanksgiving this year in order to be able to give thanks for a healthy family two weeks later. Thank you for sharing in the ramblings of my heart and mind and soul today. Life is hard. But I long to be surrounded by more people like those of the Greatest Generation. I am afraid we Americans have become soft and spoiled and self-centered. I’m trying to focus outward not inward. Perhaps the key to becoming another Great Generation is found in the “Greatest Commandment.”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39 NIV
Will anyone join me?

Dignity and joy. . .

Dignity and joy. Remember those words. I always will.

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I have one of those lifetime friends. You know, the kind that may be distant but yet always in your heart. The kind that, no matter how long it’s been since you were face to face, the conversation picks up just where it left off. I am especially blessed, because my forever friend is very, very wise. She is caring for her elderly father-in-law (who is in his 90’s) in her home, and we are caring for my failing 94-year-old mother in ours. One day she described to me how she was trying everyday to give her dear one moments of DIGNITY and JOY.

I’ve thought of those two words a lot since she shared the thought with me. One day she described using an egg carton to start some seeds with “Granddad.” She was anticipating his joy at watching the seedlings sprout and then enjoying the blossoms as they matured and bloomed. She often spoke of having him accompany her on short walks and short errands, just to get out and break up the day.

Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

We enjoyed much of the same when Mom first moved in with us. Thanksgiving and Christmas were productions, with her first “adult” Christmas stocking hanging on the mantel. She pondered the gifts she would give. The girls all got pearls–not the real kind, but pretty nonetheless. She gave treasured coin collections to the grandsons. She made sure to have some winter gloves and a ski mask for my hunter husband. There was joy.

In the spring we drove to Wye Mountain here in Arkansas to enjoy the fields of daffodils. She loves blooming plants and the variety of daffodils amazed her. Even as we took a wrong turn down a dirt road and traveled through a somewhat questionable area on the wrong side of the mountain, there was joy.

Then things changed. Her mind began to slip ever more quickly. And her frail, stooped, crooked back caused ever more pain. We still try for some joy. She has a tiny flower garden with potted plants just outside the bedroom window that she looks out for much of her day. There’s a Gerbera daisy with bright yellow blooms and a fancy begonia with frilly pink blossoms. And her bird feeder–through which an inordinate amount of birdseed flows, for both the birds and the squirrels. She loves the “red birds” and says she never knew there were so many little wrens.

Now it seems it is time to focus on dignity. She only allows me to help her with her shower, and I guess that’s an example of “turn about-fair play.” After all, she bathed me all those years. She eats her breakfast and lunch in her bed. She says her back is so much more comfortable propped there. But she comes to the table for family dinner. And very slowly and carefully helps clear the table and carefully wipes the table and wants to help dry anything that has to be handwashed. We used to gently protest but I’ve decided that helping clear the meal is a way to allow her dignity. It’s how she cared for her family all those years.

And dignity, of course involves physical comfort, freedom from pain and anxiety and the night terrors she used to have. Hospice is helping with that and doing a fine job. Today after I showered her and trimmed toenails and fingernails she lay on her bed and said, “Oh, that feels so good.” I straightened the room and left her to nap. And I felt good, too.

Dignity and joy. Remember those words. I always will.