Monday, February 23, 2015

Catch Up

Sometimes life just catches up with you!

That's what happened to me last night.  Life caught up and I spent one of those miserable, mid-life, sleepless nights.
  • The kind of night where you will your tired mind to stop churning.  
  • You shift to a more comfortable position.  Repeatedly.
  • You try to breathe in rhythm with your peacefully snoring husband.  
  • You pray for everyone you know.  And a few you don't.
  • You get up and wander around the house a while.
  • You read.
  • You get back into the bed and stare forlornly at the ceiling.
  • You elbow your husband because he's snoring and you're wide awake!
None of the usual Sunday afternoon treats caused my insomnia.  Believe me, I carefully reviewed every possible culprit.  There had been no caffeine;  no chocolate;  not even the delightful Sunday afternoon nap.  Nothing that would normally throw me off my routine.

Many of my friends describe having difficulty falling asleep at night.  (Thankfully, that's never been a problem for me as long as I limit the things I mentioned above.)  In fact, devotions have to occur rather quickly when Frank and I turn in for the night, or he'll be saying, "Amen!" all alone.

He says I start out with a quiet little purring sound.  That's the cue for him to go to sleep quickly; before my purring can turn into the full-on sounds made by freight trains and fog horns.

I feel sure he exaggerates!

It's not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep.  But getting there in the first place is rarely ever a problem.  Until last night.

While pondering life in the way we do between 1 AM and 3 AM, I came to a few conclusions.  We've had several weeks of walking with people experiencing tragic loss.  One of my dearest friends received a difficult medical report. There were a couple of unexpected announcements that jolted us.  Dad's wedding required some serious emotional adjustment.  And all those things take time to process.

Difficulties arise when we just keep rolling from one situation into the next; expecting our beleaguered souls to keep pace.  Eventually, we all have to sit down for a moment and breathe.

I've told this story before but it bears repeating.

A missionary to Africa felt called to reach a particular village no one had attempted to visit because of its remote and dangerous location.  He engaged the services of several top guides and native travelers; all accustomed to the terrain and climate.

This man took on the challenge of reaching the village with great fervor.  He headed out; determined to bring Good News to those waiting people.

The group trekked for three days; pushing ever deeper into the jungle.  Machetes and small hatchets were the only tools that could clear a space big enough for the single-file line of brave explorers.

Dawn arrived the fourth morning and the missionary came out of his tent ready to hit the trail again.  Surely they were close now!

But he stopped in his tracks as he looked over the campsite.   Absolutely no one appeared ready to advance.  The entire band of guides and assistants were all lounging around the campfire.   Instead of gearing up,  they were chatting and laughing quietly. 

The missionary approached the leader and asked, with much irritation, what exactly was happening.  Didn't they realize they were wasting valuable travel time?  The sun would be fully beating down on them in just a few hours.  It was time to get moving!

"Ah, dear friend," the guide patiently intoned.  "We have been traveling for three days.  We've moved rapidly through the jungle.  Today we must wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies!" 

Not sure if you've found yourself there lately or not.  But it certainly is a great story to tuck away for use at some point in the future.

I originally posted this without the proper conclusion and I regret that deeply.  While teaching English I often harped on the importance of leaving the reader with a good conclusion.  Well, here it is -

Another book that I read annually gave me a better ending for this post.  The writer's name is Mark and he tells about an experience he had as a teen-aged boy. "Immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage!  It is I. Don't be afraid.'  Then he climbed into the (storm tossed) boat with them, and the wind died down.  They were completely amazed."  The extra passenger was, of course, Jesus.

The storm may be howling all around.  But I choose to stop flailing.  I'll quiet my heart and invite Jesus into the boat.  Only HE can calm the storm.  Time with Him provides courage.  He silences fear. 

And He always leaves me standing absolutely amazed!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Weather

I hope you're staying WARM!

The weather across most of the United States is crazy!  While watching the news reports, I feel very much like I did as a little girl growing up in Pensacola, FL.  The pictures of snow drifts and skidding cars are incredible.

Only now, after having lived in NC for 25 years, I have no misconceptions about it being beautiful or exciting.  I know the dangers.  I understand the effort required just getting to work.  I've experienced the concern when snow storms hit three Saturday nights in a row and people can't get to church! 

I also know what it's like to have small children cooped up in a 1000 square foot home for days on end!  Hang in there, Mommies!

I know the exhaustion of gathering clothes; dressing said children in layer after layer; and sending them outside.  After all the layering, bundling and boot-tugging, moms invariably hear a knock on the door three minutes later, "I fwoo! I'na come back in! It cohwd!"  Tiny blue lips and chattering teeth.

Or my personal favorite - which always seemed to happen just as I zipped up the last of three snow suits, "I gotta go bafroom, Mommy!" "Oh, me too!"  Sigh!

There is no great word of encouragement today - only sincere empathy!  And hopefully a smile in the middle of this tough winter weather. 

My plan is to write a good long post tomorrow about attending my dad's wedding.  The synopsis?  "A lovely time was had by all!"

Praying safety for you, dear reader.  May you enjoy plenty of warm chicken soup, hot tea, snuggles and giggles by a crackling fire!

(So sorry about the mysterious, empty post of the 17th.  I have no idea how that happened.  Perhaps Abby and Spencer were attempting to make a guest appearance.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Brown Dress

My dad is getting married on Saturday. 

We're happy for him and grateful for the sweet lady that God has sent into his life.  Christine is someone he has known for years.  They share a common circle of friends.  Likes.  Dislikes.  Faith.  All these  should help them as they transition back in to married life.  

They've asked Frank and my brother-in-law to conduct the ceremony.  We'll all be there to mark the day and celebrate with them.  

While pondering the changes that are coming and wrapping my head around things, I remembered a story from childhood that was an important moment for me.  Thought you might enjoy it too.

I went through a serious phase of being the tall, lanky girl with knobby knees.  The only time in my life that I was skinny.  Not the cute-sie, petite kind of skinny.  Rather the clumsy, awkward, no-shape, big feet, slump-shouldered kind of skinny.  It wasn't pretty, I assure you!

Add to that ungainly time the fact that my dad insisted all my dresses should cover (or nearly cover) those protruding knees; for modesty sake.  This, in an age when no dress covered any knees.  (Mini-skirts were all the rage - even for women who had no business wearing a short skirt.)

I can not tell you the number of times I would come out of my room only to hear, "You jumped a little far through that dress, didn't you?!"  Which being interpreted meant, "You grew another two inches this week and that dress is too short now.  Go change into something longer."

It never crossed my mind to argue with Dad.  No one argued with Dad.  I just turned around and changed.

Keeping up with a kid that just kept growing was probably a hardship for Mom.  She did the best she could to make cute skirts and "fashionable" dresses.  (Slacks were also unacceptable in their thinking.)  Maybe that's why I'm a little bit fashion-challenged still to this day!

So, you get the idea.

My best friend, Ruth, was two years older than me.  She was beautiful!  And I wanted desperately to eventually grow up (Ruth was a mature 11-year old) to look just like her. 

Ruth's mom worked at the department store in Town and Country Plaza.  (Our closest version of a mall in Pensacola at the time.) Occasionally, Ruth and I would get to spend Sunday afternoons there while her mom worked.

It was a veritable Mecca waiting to be discovered; in my little-girl thinking.

Murphy's Department Store had the classic soda fountain.  That's where Ruth and I would sit in a booth and eat lunch - all by ourselves!

Wooden stairs that made a great sound as you tromped up and down.  A toy section; hardware; children's clothing; fans and a few window air conditioners.  Those were all downstairs.

Ruth's mom ran the fabric department upstairs.  That's also where you found shoes and women's/men's clothing. 

While the store seemed massive to us, it was actually rather small by today's standards.  And no one had ever heard of children being snatched.  So Ruth and I had total freedom to wander every aisle.  Test out toys.  Talk to customers.  Stand in front of the fans and hear our voices vibrate with the air waves.

You know, the entertainment of children before IPad.

We also tried on clothes.  Since both our moms made our clothes, we probably enjoyed this part of the day most.

That's where I found The Brown Dress!

On that Sunday afternoon, I stepped into the small wooden dressing booth as an awkward, klutzy kid.  But I stepped out of that tiny space - a lovely lady!  (At least that's how I felt.)

The dress was just like one I'd seen a girl wear at school.  Made of scratchy polyester, it had short sleeves; perfect for year-round wear in FL.  Four flat buttons offered multiple choices for a neckline.  White horizontal stripes, a solid brown collar; the cutest little belt that actually created the illusion of a waist on my skinny self.

And miracle of miracles - it topped my protruding knees in a way that would easily meet Dad's requirements!  I was in love!

It really must have fit well because Ruth's mom offered to put it aside until I could ask Mom and Dad about buying it.

One little problem, this fashionable dress cost a whopping.......$7.00!

Doesn't seem like much now but please remember that many workers earned $1.25 an hour back then.  That dress represented over half a day's work for my dad.  And somehow I knew that.

I remember my palms sweating as we rode home from church that night.  The dress could only be held until the next day.  If there was any hope of the dress being mine, I had to ask.  If I was going to ask Mom and Dad about it, the time was now!  (Funny how big things can become in the mind of a child.)

Those are all the details that I can vividly recall.

Somehow I did muster up enough courage to tell them about the brown dress being held at Murphy's Department Store.  Mom took me there and I tried it on for her to see.  She approved.  And somehow, Dad scraped together the $7.00 needed in order to purchase my extravagant, dream dress.

(Yes, I'm crying as I write about it almost fifty years later.) 

Why?  Because I sensed the sacrifice that purchase represented for my parents.  And I appreciated it.  Even as a nine year old kid; I genuinely appreciated their gift to me.

And..........I felt important to my daddy.

My dad doesn't "do internet" he's never read my blog.  So, I'll print a copy of this one and give it to him in a card.  I'm sure we'll both cry when he reads it.  

Every little girl should be privileged to feel that way at some point while growing up. 

But if you don't have a memory like my brown dress, please know that your Heavenly Daddy loves you even more.  He sacrificed His own son to demonstrate how important you are to Him.

It would do us all well to take a moment today and express our appreciation for His great gift of love.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Test

Blog writing is, by its very nature, an "exposing" sort of venue.

The blogs I most enjoy reading typically do an outstanding job of skating the razor-thin line between "revealing just enough to keep us interested" and "relishing in the too-hairy-details of life!"

My post today will be one of those skating routines......but write I must!

Almost four years ago, I had a routine medical screening procedure. 

Good general practitioners send a "Happy 50th" birthday card and tuck inside that card an invitation for this particular procedure; giving no consideration to whether you be male or female.  All Are Invited!

I delayed for a couple of years but finally endured the traumatizing preparations necessary for this not so routine procedure. 

Frank and I arrived at the surgical care unit before dawn, as per my lengthy instruction sheet.  I slipped into the restroom while waiting to be called back - tummy rumbling loudly, like the empty cavern it was. 

And that's when the REAL fun started.

Not one single, solitary soul mentioned to me throughout all the checking-in and instruction-izing and preparatory-ing that there would be a pregnancy test before the procedure could begin.

Please be aware, I had not eaten for twenty-four hours.  I had spent the entire afternoon and evening before taking on copious quantities of various liquids for the express purpose of making certain that nothing - I mean absolutely NOTHING - remained in any of my internal plumbing!  NOTHING!

My quick stop in the restroom while awaiting their call was the assurance that I had fully complied.

And now the attending nurses (yes, several) stood outside the door of the tiny restroom speaking in their kindest, most sympathetic, little-girl voices, urging me to create at least a trickle of liquid they could utilize to prove I wasn't pregnant.  Stage-fright set in and success alluded me!

(No, you can not make up stories like these!)

Now add insult to injury.  They sent a MALE nurse to get me back into bed.  He immediately launched into an unsolicited anatomy lecture explaining why my stage-fright was unwarranted and offering to help me back into the restroom so everyone could get back on schedule!

Can you see the fury in my fifty-two year old, Southern-belle eyes?  He Crossed the Line!!

Obviously, I finally managed to squeeze enough liquid from my reserves to satisfy their quota.  And back onto schedule we went.  That was my experience four years ago.

Here's a serious side note: the test revealed that I was one of the a-typical patients who NEEDED the procedure earlier rather than later.  Serious health problems were averted by the removal of a few problem areas during the test.  And oh, how very thankful we were!  If your own practitioner has been urging you to have a screening of some sort - don't delay!  Momentary unpleasantness beats the daylights out of life-threatening illness.

Back to the story.

Now usually, you don't have to repeat this procedure for ten years.  But because of their discoveries, my doctor urged another check in three.  I disobeyed and skipped last year because the insurance we had wouldn't cover it.  Which brings me up to yesterday - the day before........(cue scarey music) the PROCEDURE.

I started early, headed to a nearby hospital to pray with a family before one of our members went into surgery.  It was then my responsibility to swing back by my own surgeon's office for the lengthy instruction sheets applicable to my test scheduled for this morning. 

Off to the pharmacy for a shopping cart full of misery!  Finally home, where the sequestered patient (that would be - me) faced the unhappy task of "preparing."

Dawn found us on our way to the surgical care center - tired, hungry, a bit nervous.  No funny mishaps this time.  A much cleaner bill of health this time.  (Thank Heavens!)  At age fifty-six, I got to skip the pregnancy test. 

And by the time everyone else was settling into their offices for the day's work, I was heading home to sleep off the effects of the anesthesia. 

Now, hopefully my post today has served a couple of purposes.  I hope you've smiled.  And I hope you're revisiting necessary health-care screenings that many tend to put-off. 

But I actually have a third reason for this post.  It's to take one quick minute to tell of the real hero in this story.  No, not the doctor; although he was professional and efficient.  Not the nurses; although they were compassionate and pleasant.

The real hero was my wonderful husband. 

He helped me laugh when I got overwhelmed.  He put my blanket in the dryer to warm when I was chilling.  He rubbed my back before I tried to go to bed.  He set his own alarm to ensure that I would wake at 4:45 A. M.  He warmed the car and drove me to the surgical care center.  He held my shaky hand in the waiting room and on the way back home.  He got me settled in with another blanket, a bite to eat,  and the TV remote before heading off to work.

He did all this without being asked.  Without pointing out that he was doing it.  Without complaining, sighing, or getting impatient.  I didn't want him to do it without hearing a heartfelt "Thank You" from the grateful recipient of his excellent care-giving skills.

Frank has endured his own share of suffering and loss in life; these experiences have helped make him an outstanding pastor.  He knows how to love people through crisis.  He knows how to get to the heart of things.  He knows how to spot a charlatan.  He knows how to comfort.  He knows how to draw people out of their shell. 

He intuitively knows.

Have you ever heard this expression? "It's the plumber's house that leaks.  The carpenter's house that creaks.  The mechanic's car that sits broken down." 

My mom used to quote it to me when I questioned why it seemed that the pastor's family was always the last to see the pastor.

I just want to publicly debunk this myth and reveal that Frank routinely passes the test.  For him, charity really does begin at home.  And I'm oh, so very thankful!

If a man is going to pass a test in life, this is a good one to pass!