Tag Archives: Love

My People

elderlyThe University of Nebraska says that elderly people that drink beer or wine at least four times a week have the highest bone density. They need it – they’re the ones falling down the most. Jay Leno

Two years ago our church family went Christmas caroling at the area rest home. Something happened that night. Maybe it was the warmth of the home, or the spirit of the season, maybe it was the memory of my beloved grandparents; I don’t know what it was, but I was hooked.

I called the activities director the next week and asked if I could come to the home once a week and read. I filled out a volunteer sheet, picked out a book, and showed up. It was awkward. Some slept. Some got up and left. Some obviously couldn’t hear me. But some took hold of me and wouldn’t let go.

That was two years ago. Now I’m not sure who is holding on to whom.

Every week I read two chapters of scripture and two chapters of a fiction book. Every week they ask about my kids, my life, my travels, my church. Every week I ask what plans they have for the day, the week, the upcoming holiday. Sometimes I take them candy. They invited me to the Family Day Celebration. They sang to me on my birthday and gave me a card.

Somehow my volunteering to read to them, for them, to do something good for someone else. . . turned into something VERY good for ME.

I have prayed over a dying mother while her daughter stood nearby. I have signed for and danced with deaf sisters. I have listened to stories about spouses returning from Vietnam and yet not returning. I have heard stories about shark attacks, baking pies, and Loretta Lynn’s sister.

I have listened to Lillie learn to talk again. I have finally brought a smile to Pat’s face – one of my greatest accomplishments for 2016! I have learned that quiet Penny likes to listen to me read, that Nance likes to paint, and that Dianne loves dogs.

I used to call them “The old people.” But something has changed.

In the midst of trying to like them, I discovered that I love them. Now I call them “My people.”


“Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:32 NLT

Grandmothers

grannyGrandmother-grandchild relationships are simple. Grandmas are short on criticism and long on love. Author Unknown

The disdainful roll of the eyes sent me over the edge. “Kaila, you don’t talk to your grandmother like that!” I corrected.

I was a Kindergarten teacher and this little girl’s grandmother had come to pick her up after school. I don’t remember what the directives were, but it had something to do with getting ready for a tennis lesson. The grandmother asked the child to get her things and the girl refused with a smart aleck comment and a look that would have gotten me walloped upside the head when I was a child.

Grandmothers are a special breed of people. They love those grandchildren more than anything else. They keep all the handmade crafts, put up all of the snapshots, and tell anyone who will listen how great their grandkids are.

My own grandmother experiences are pretty wonderful. I think the first time I knew that grandmothers are little a nuts over their grandchildren was when I was about 5 years old. My cousin Jimmy and I were swinging on the fence gate down by the pond. Papaw told us to get down. Jimmy obeyed, me not so much. In fact, I might have said something similar to little Kaila, something like, “You can’t make me.”

Papaw reassured me of his capabilities using the backside of my hide. I took off running for the house, tears flowing, sobs and screams pouring forth. Grandma asked what happened, and I told her. When Papaw got back to the house HE got a scolding. I knew what I had done was wrong, but I had never seen Grandma go after Papaw. It gave me a whole new insight into grandmothers.

Grandma braided my hair before school, turned off the television and talked to me after school, provided snacks and treats, and offered encouragement. Once I made homemade egg noodles from her directions, and when I told her I had actually managed to make them, her response was immediate: “I knew you could.”

Two other grandmothers came into my life as an adult. My husband’s grandmothers took me as their own. I sent them cards and letters. They gave me food and presents. One in particular would take the poor newlyweds to her pantry and we would leave with bags full of food. They delighted in giving to us.

Even later I had the privilege of creating grandmothers. I have watched my mother and mother-in-law learn about Pokemon because it was what the boys wanted to play. I have pictures of my mother-in-law doing somersaults in the family room because the boys were showing her how. They have taken the boys shopping, out to eat, my mom is even learning to text so she can talk to them the way young people talk these days.

Yes, grandmothers are very special people. They have a lasting influence, precious and dear. I love you, Grandma.


Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6 NIV

 

My Dad

father-daughter-934865__180A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be. Frank A. Clark

Girls love their daddies. Even if the guy is a mean drunk, girls love their daddies. Even if he is a murdering, lying, cheat, she loves her daddy.

My dad is none of those things, well, ok he cheats at cards sometimes. But I love my dad to the moon and back.

Once in an adult Sunday school class, daddies were being discussed. The premise was what if your dad was this horrible man, then how would you react to God as a father? I was unable to answer the question. “My father wouldn’t do those things.” was the only explanation I could come up with.

I know my dad isn’t perfect, not even close. I know many of his sins, most of his weaknesses, and all of his fallibility. But he doesn’t have to be perfect to be a great father.

My dad loves his family. He helped care for both his mother and father when they were older and disabled. He has eleven living siblings. He calls them weekly. He helps them as much as he can, either financially, physically, or emotionally. He even keeps in contact with his cousins, nieces, and nephews.

My dad takes good care of my mother. They will be married 50 years in May. He takes her to dinner, sits at the mall while she shops, and even built her a house in town because she doesn’t like the country. They’ve had their ups and downs, but he has kept his word, ’til death do us part.

As far as children, there is just me and my brother. Dad has been very generous to help us when we needed it over the years. He has helped my brother get business loans, and he is helping us to pay for the boys’ college so they can enter adulthood debt-free. And every year we get a freezer full of fresh beef for a Christmas present!

But it isn’t Dad’s generosity or helpful personality that make him special to me. I think what I appreciate most is that he always has time for me. He calls on the phone to chat. When he comes here to visit we sit on the porch and talk. Visits back home include lots of porch time talking. He shares about his childhood, how things are going on the farm, how his friends are faring, and of course, lots of “God talks.”

Dad and I don’t always agree in our God talks. Sometimes I wonder if we can even continue having the talks. But I also know that as long as he is reading the Bible, praying, and listening to others, he is still finding reasons to love those with whom he disagrees. And love covers a multitude of differences.

Dad has been my father and my friend. Dad has helped me to value nature, treasure family, and respect God. I love you, Dad.


 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV

Valentine Saints

cloud-600224__180St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14. www.Catholic.org

Today we celebrate love because of Saint Valentine. Mostly his life is surrounded by legend. The Catholic Church even removed him from the list of general saints because they don’t know enough truth about him. There are a lot of rules to becoming a saint if you are Catholic. Per the Bible (Ephesians, Corinthians, Colossians. . .), all you have to do is be a follower of Christ.

I have known a lot of saints, still do, even. But when I read through the chapters of my life there are a few who stand out. Today, in honor of Saint Valentine, I want to tell these saints that I love them.

When I left home and moved out on my own, one of the things I did was find a church. And in that church I found the first person I realized was a saint. Doris was an older woman, attractive not only for her smooth skin and sparkling eyes, but for the way she spoke to me. She looked deep inside me while we talked. She had a kindness that scented the air around her.

In West Texas there was Dale. She had such a gentle goodness about her. She would seek me out, ask how I was doing, and would really want to know. She made a baby blanket for us when we were expecting our first child. She didn’t do any great miracles and no one called her Venerable, but being in her presence was like walking beside Compassion and Greatness.

Virginia came into my life after I was a mother. She was another older woman who could look right through the smile on my face and see the tears in my soul. Virginia became a widow while I knew her. Watching her grieve the love of her life, the boldness of her pain and anger, was a revelation in my relationship with God.

Saints are all around us. People who love God, serve God, and do so by loving and serving everyone around them. Some saints go above and beyond, showing us God face-to-face. You must know one. Tell your saint you love them.


I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life (saints). I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours! 1 Corinthians 1:2 MSG

Stephanie

cousinCousins are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.   Ed Cunningham

I have somewhere around 60 first cousins. I have lost track of the possible second cousins, third cousins, and cousins removed. These cousins live all over the country, from East Coast to West Coast, from the Rocky Mountains to the River Valley; yes, these cousins were made for me.

Our family is close, and so there were lots of summer vacations spent travelling to each other’s homes. We rode each other’s bikes, swam and picnicked in state parks, ate together, slept on the floor together, and loved each other. It was what I imagine being one of the original Israelites must have been like with mothers and fathers around every corner and kids trying to just have a little fun.

One cousin in particular stands out, though. She came from my cousin-sparse side of the family. You see, out of those 60-some cousins, there were only three on my mother’s side of the family. My father’s family was very competent when it came to procreating, Mom’s not so much.

But there was a cousin on Mom’s side born just six weeks before I was. She only lived one state away, so visits were more frequent than just summer vacations. Basically, we were good friends, but we also loved to hate each other.

Christmas presents were always the same, pink for me and blue for her. It didn’t matter that we didn’t like the same things. I wore patent leather shoes; her mother held it over her head. “Traci wears shoes like this!” It only made her love me more.

She hated patent leather. I didn’t know you could choose your own shoes. She was a city girl. I was a country girl. She liked Barbies; I liked babies. We played together as much as we fought, but somehow, I always knew she was an important friend, an ally, a confidant, my cousin.

We grew older together, rebelled together, and came back to our senses together.

This cousin and I have made a pact to take care of our family together. As the aunts and uncles age, it will fall to us to make sure everyone is safe and sound, watched over and loved. There will be no more fighting, no more jealousy, no more irritation. Because the truth is she has always been and always will be my friend, ally, confidant, and cousin.

I love you Stephanie.


Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NIV

The Children of My Life

children“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
  Stacia Tauscher

When I was little I wanted six daughters and one son. I had them named. I remember one girl’s name was Cindy and the boy was Kawasaki. Yep, for the motorcycle. I didn’t know it was a motorcycle. There was a dealer in nearby Bridgeport and the sign caught my eye. I thought it was a great name, deserving of a fine fellow that I would have someday.

Then I started teaching, and I knew I did NOT want girls. Lucky for me, my husband’s family is just about “X” chromosome empty. Boys were my lot in life, and I have loved it. But seven kids seemed to be beyond me. The “Thank God” you heard in the background is my husband in full praise mode.

But God has given me children, in fact, many more than seven. It started with the students. There were the lonely, bullied ones. The ones whose parents were divorcing and needed a little extra attention. Sadly, there were also the ones whose parents were not divorcing but still needed extra attention. There were ones who needed help finding themselves, and some who needed to find out they weren’t who they thought they were. (That’s a reference to two girls I once informed that they were not princesses. Perhaps not my finest moment as a teacher.)

Later in Texas, our back door neighbors were in a terrible fix when the father was sent to prison. The mother suddenly had to work the family business and I found myself the surrogate mother to four boys and a girl. Don’t miss the irony that that made seven kids- 6 boys and 1 girl. They were always at the house, eating, playing, going to church with us, going to the park, and even being disciplined by me. I loved them, and I loved that time being a mom of many.

When we moved to Greenville, I missed those little people as much as my boys did. But it didn’t take long until I filled the house again. I became a caregiver for three little boys just under my boys’ ages. The days were drenched again with running, yelling, imaginations, and snack times. I loved getting them up from their naps with sleepy yawns and cuddling with their warm snuggles and mussed up curls.

Today my little children are the church kids. I adore them. I love sitting with them, going out to eat together, teaching them about Jesus, and listening to them. I don’t have the energy to raise any more children, but once a week, or maybe twice, I can give them everything I’ve got.

Just before we left Texas, Matt and I started the adoption process for a family of six. Most likely the oldest girl would have ended up with her grandmother, but the other five were headed our way. We would have had three girls and four boys. I still think about those kids and pray for them. The youngest would be 13 now.

Two children rank highest in my blessings from God, but when I look back at my life, I recognize that God gave me lots of opportunities to give love. And to receive it.

Here’s to all the little ones I had the privilege to love.


Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 NIV

A True Sister

roses-194117__180For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands. Christina Rossetti

Nineteen years ago a special woman came into my life, and seventeen years ago she became family. I love my sister-in-law, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

She loves football. Tonight at the Super Bowl party I will be in another room talking or watching Downton Abbey.

She loves to shop, even going out in the wee hours of Black Friday. Shudder. I shop from the comfort of my computer.

She likes to poke people with sharp objects. I told Matt it was a good thing he was able to give himself the insulin shots a couple years ago, because there was no way I could ever poke him with that needle. (I said this under the guise of true love, but really I would just have let him go into a coma.)

She’s up on the latest clothing and hair styles but still is cute and attractive in sweats or yoga pants. I prefer the classics. It’s just easier. Back to the shopping thing . . .

So why do I love her? Because out of all of the things we DON’T have in common, we DO have the best thing in common: a love of the Lord.

When my church sisters here can’t or shouldn’t be approached, she is my go-to-gal. When my soul sags lower than a hound dogs belly, she’s the one I call. When I feel forgotten, unheard, or ignored by God, she’s the one who turns me back to Scripture. When my faith grows weak, she’s my training coach.

So even though we don’t have a whole lot in common, she’s the best sister God could ever have given me. I love you, Polly.


” I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” Philippians 1:3 KJV

Loving a Church Family

church people“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” Barbara Bush

Surrounded by a large group of old, white men, I felt deflated. We had spent the last year living with my in-laws while Matt finished his dissertation and looked for a job. Now we were interviewing, and I wasn’t feeling the love. The interview was lackluster in my opinion.

The questioning was nearly over and we were asked if we had any concerns. “Yes,” I said. “I am moving my family halfway across the country, away from all of the family they have ever known. What will you do for us?”

Their blank stares told me all I needed to know. This was not the place for us. One rotund man began singing the praises of the school system. My kids were toddlers.

Finally a quiet man in the rear of the room spoke up, “If you are wanting someone to step in and be surrogate grandparents, my wife and I would be happy to do that. Our grandchildren live halfway across the world.”

“Thank you. That is what I was asking.”

I told Matt later that I was voting “NO” for the position until that gentleman answered. We took the job and moved. My initial instinct was right. We should have stayed home.

Our current church has not been without its own lackluster moments, but our rubber has never had to meet the road because when it comes to “family” they have it right.

They have attended our son’s plays. They have visited school programs. They talk to the boys about school, work, plans, ideas, books, whatever.

But it isn’t just the kids. They have embraced me, and I am not the quiet, submissive, stereotypical preacher’s wife. Embracing me has been prickly for some of them, I know.

But they love me. They pray for me and my plans, dreams, and aspirations. They ask about my parents’ health. They let me cry and dance. They celebrate with me. They listen to me, offer help, rescue me when the dog sitter doesn’t show, and most importantly . . . They love my husband.

My church family is just that: a family. We have squabbles, disagreements, controversy, and discord. Of course, so does my biological family.

But just like the blood family, my church family has fun together, works together, defends each other, encourages each other, loves each other.

One of our family members says that our biological families share the blood of our veins, but our church family shares the blood of our souls.

I quite agree. I love you, Church Family.


“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13 ESV

Five Times the Love

hare-774904__180An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. Martin Buber

When I was about four years old, as my father tells the story, I ran outside just in time to catch him start the rabbit butchering process. “Wait, Daddy!” I called and ran over to the black and white fluff ball.

I snuggled my face deep into the neck of the soft, gentle creature. This is the end of butchering, he thought. “OK, now you can kill it,” I said and skipped on back to the house. Rabbits were food, not pets, Dory.

I grew up with dogs and cats for pets. Skeeter was the first and only indoor dog. He was hit by a truck during a snow storm when I was about five years old. Soon we moved to my grandparents and adopted their dog, Duke. An ancient basset hound, Duke was cantankerous and bit. I probably would have given permission to butcher him, too.

When I was ten or so, Lucy came into my life. She was a black and white short-haired Australian Shepherd, and one of my best friends. She lived a long, long time for a farm dog, maybe twelve years.

Soon after I got Lucy, another dog entered my life, Allen. I don’t remember how he came to be in our family. I rarely spent time with him or gave him any attention. A beagle on a farm is easy to forget about.

But when I was around 13 or 14 years old, Allen died. I sat out near the silage pit, drowning in the sour smell of fermenting corn and sorrow over a dead dog. My cries evidently reached inside the milk barn.

“What are you going on about?” Uncle Bobby called out as he trudged over to the tractor.

“Allen died!” I wailed.

“What do you care? You never paid that dog any mind. Stop your belly aching and get on with yourself.” (Sensitivity is evidently genetic.)

But I did care. I was heart broken. Uncle Bobby was right. I never paid any attention to the dog, but somehow his death seemed so permanently tragic.

A recent study shows that dogs love their owners five times more than cats love their humans. No big surprise there. But did you know that some dogs show a higher level of love than some humans do? Yep, Captain loves me more than the kids. I’m pretty sure it is true.

But just like I ignored Allen until it was too late, I often brush aside Captain until it is a convenient time for me to enjoy him. And my lack of affection for Kelly is out there for everyone to see in Devotions of a Gerbil. Pets are good for “convenient love.”

Yet, Captain greets me at the door with joyful abandon, cries when I leave, searches the house for me whenever he comes back inside, and plops himself on top of my feet while we watch tv in the evening. So today, during this month of devotions to those I love, I want to say I do love Captain.

Tonight he will get an extra bone just to prove it.


“The angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” Numbers 22:32-33

February is for Lovers

love-castle-1042979__180A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities. William Arthur Ward

He was quiet with intense eyes and a winning smile. The boys across from me were talkative and interested, but his gaze drew me in. An introduction was made but no other conversation. The smell of french fries and burger grease clung to me as I stood to leave. My white skirt swished and twirled as I turned to say goodbye. I caught his eye one more time and waved.

The next time our group went out he sat closer. I explained where I was living and how I was getting to church and other places. “You’re going way out of the way,” he said, and a date was made to show me around town. Great confusion ensued as he also gave rides to another girl, who sat in the front seat and I falsely assumed was the lady du jour.

A little over a year later we were married.

He is an introvert; I am an extrovert. He enjoys watching football; I don’t care to know a thing about it. He is quick-tempered; I am patient. He is an artist; I can draw stick figures. He is categorically organized; I hate making notes. He is extremely time-conscious; I prefer to play with the edges of etiquette.

But I love him. And I know he loves me.

Once in a cleaning frenzy I threw out years and years of investment statements. He came home and I proudly showed him all of the room I had cleared out. He was apoplectic; his eyes bulged, the vein in his neck throbbed, his hands shook, and his voice was barely controllable.

It is true that I laughed. It is also true that I went through the trash and pulled out all of the old statements, even the food and beverage stained ones, and reassembled them in the thick three-ring binders.

Even with all of our differences and personal quirks and tics, he is my best friend. I enjoy his sense of humor, our spiritual discussions, travelling together, and sharing books. After twenty-six years of marriage what I am beginning to realize is that we complete each other.

Not that we can’t be without the other. We do a lot of things apart- did I mention I don’t care a flip about football- but our completion comes in our weaknesses. In areas where his light dimly shines, I join him and add a little oxygen to the flame. In areas where my light flickers from too much distraction, he wisely closes the window and sets me back on the lamp stand.

Together we lead each other on the path marked out for us. Helping each other to come closer to the Lord, to Love.


He answered, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh—no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.” Matthew 19:6 MSG