DON’T LET JOY EVAPORATE

When I was graduating from high school, my parents gave me a very special gift.

It was an expensive perfume called, “Joy” that was made with real roses.

It smelled absolutely divine and I wanted to savor the fragrance for as long as I could.

I would only use it very sparingly for special occasions, as I hoarded it in my bedroom, not noticing that little by little, it was evaporating.

I still have the bottle and there is still a scent in it but since it has been around since 1978, you can imagine, sadly, there isn’t much left.

Bummer that I didn’t wear it more often, enjoying that beautiful aroma and sharing a whiff with others as we enjoyed a conversation or took in a special event.

What a metaphor for life.

Joy, kept to oneself is such a terrible waste, isn’t it?

I have learned from that incident and many others that joy is a gift from God and it should never be conserved nor saved for a special occasion.

When joy is present, it should be immediately put to use since it will benefit everyone it touches and if ignored, will evaporate.

It should be shared extravagantly and shamelessly, in the same way the woman in the gospels poured an expensive oil on Jesus with total abandon, despite the disciples admonition that she was being wasteful.

Scripture tells us that a joyful heart is good medicine, that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy, that it is one of the fruits of the spirit.

It should never be squandered because there is always a fresh supply if we know where to get it from or rather ‘who’ to get it from.

So, I strive to put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Dance when the music plays even if I have two left feet.

Walk home in the rain without the umbrella.

Laugh at my mistakes and make every person feel that just seeing them has brightened my day.

And most of all to sit at the feet of the one of whom it is said:

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” Psalm 16:11

 

 

 

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HAVE WE LOST OUR WAY?

If you watch the news for very long, you see that some of our problems might possibly stem from us demanding rights that we want for ourselves and sadly, much at the expense of others.

I wrote recently about simpler times and as I have been perusing family stories and articles of late, I observe that there were also many hardships, heartaches and tons of self sacrifice.

One family member was born in the late 1800’s and raised in the Appalachian mountains. His memories of his mother cooking everything over an open fire, his father dying slowly of a malignant tumor, pushed him into being a responsible young man at a very early age.

When he watched his mother raise her family with the barest of necessities, he was determined that he would try to earn enough money to help her life be a bit more comfortable.

He took jobs as a ranch hand, railroad crew and telegrapher and for a season, lived in a dugout. He always looked after his mother and sent money back to her whenever he could so that she could eat and eventually, even travel to see relatives.

He commented in one of his memoirs that he didn’t have time to sow wild oats, he was too busy trying to stay alive.

I have often wondered if all of our modern conveniences, welfare programs and abundant wealth haven’t contributed to our suicide rates and many addictions. There is something to be said for having to work so hard to earn a living that there is no time, thought or money to do anything that might cause bodily harm. People were too busy just trying to stay alive and care for their loved ones.

A man knew if he killed himself, his family may die as well.

When an accident or death did occur, neighbors pulled together to help each other out because there was no government aid.

This same relative lived for a season in west Texas. He stated that everyone in that wild country got along just fine as long as one was willing to work hard and stay honest.

He spoke of wanting to buy some mules from a neighbor 30 miles away.

When he arrived at the neighbor’s house, meeting him for the first time, he was immediately brought in to eat a fabulous meal. After he took his pick of the mules he needed and offered to sign a note in agreement that he would pay for them once he had earned money from picking cotton, he was told that he didn’t need a note, the man would plan on the pay coming in the fall.

Later, when asking his Uncle what would happen if he took the mules and never showed up to pay for them, he was told, “well, that is what the big mesquite trees are out  here for, along with a rope.”

A man was expected to keep his word and there were watchful eyes to make sure that happened!

It was not uncommon for a family to have eight to ten children and lose at least half of them or more to disease and accidents.

Every child was wanted and the greatest fear was when one of them came down with a fever. Diphtheria, Cholera, Measles, you name it, could be a death sentence in a matter of weeks, days or sometimes hours.

Don’t think these people didn’t grieve as hard as we would just because death was so common. Due to such hard lives and lack of ‘stuff’, relationships with people were their greatest joy.

Imagine the knowledge that childbirth often resulted in the loss of the child, mother or both and that living to a ripe old age would be possibly 60 years at the most.  Your average person back then would not be thinking of ‘assisted suicide’ or abortion even if it was an option, but rather, how can we help keep each other alive given that a long life is hard to come by.

They valued life on moral grounds and as a matter of faith.

Most of the people didn’t pursue careers for self satisfaction, but they worked jobs to survive.

Self focus and pursuing empty pleasures as a hobby was a commodity  few of them had time for.

Their biggest pleasures came from simple tasks, such as planting cotton and throwing in some watermelon seeds along the way.

On a hot summer’s day, when they were harvesting the cotton fields, there was a reward when they would come upon the ripe watermelon, bust it open and have enough refreshment to revive them in continuing their task.

The good old days weren’t always good in circumstances, and obviously had their share of evil doers the same as any generation.

However, when I read their stories, I see a people full of faith, honesty and a strong work ethic.

They selflessly poured themselves out for their family and neighbors, realizing that they were much better together.

If we look back we may see the very things that we need to look forward to in order to make a difference in this generation and in all the ones to come.

It seems to have worked so well back in the day but for now, it appears that we have somehow lost our way.

 

 

 

 

SIMPLE MEMORIES OF SIMPLER TIMES

You know you are aging when you reminisce about “the good old days”!

But seriously, am I the only one who marvels at the contrasts of these days compared to the previous ones?

One of my craziest thoughts that I try to process is the fact that my Grandpa Frazier used to talk about the time his family traveled by covered wagon from Girard, KS to move to the flatlands near Cimarron and Ingalls.

They were farmers and Girard soil was rocky. If you are a wheat farmer, western Kansas is the place to plant, not eastern.

Grandpa remembers being around six years old and rambling along the outskirts of Wichita observing the lights in the distance.

Imagine that! Someone I personally knew who lived during the period of covered wagons!

By the time my Grandpa Frazier died, he had seen technology move from wagons to cars, to putting men on the moon (and that one he observed on television!)

He was enlisted in World War 1, survived the depression and the dust bowls of western Kansas. He and Grandma buried their miscarried baby in a box in their back yard.

What a different age it was.

What a different age it is.

I don’t think I am that old until I found myself just this morning reflecting on my own childhood

My kids have no idea what it is like to be attached to the wall while you talk on the phone! Good night, I remember phones before we even had answering machines!

They have not a clue as to what it is like to only get pop and chips when a babysitter is over or you are on vacation.

I can remember my parents buying a car for my mom from the neighbors down the street for $20! Today that car would be a classic worth far more than that!

Because we walked home from school every day for an hour lunch, once in a blue moon, mom would pull up to the school at noon and take us out for a burger in that old car. We were so excited to have the rare treat of a hamburger and French fries!

One reason that we had an hour for lunch was that most moms did not work outside of the home. I loved walking home and having that time to download with my mom, touch base and get some love and encouragement before walking back to school.

I felt sorry for a couple of my friends who walked home to an empty house because their moms worked. Mine was always home when I was sick to hold the vomit bowl, rub my back or fix me a bowl of soup.

Toys were pretty rare unless we earned some money or could hold on until birthdays or Christmas. We didn’t have a McDonald’s in Liberal, KS when I was in grade school, so no Happy Meals for me!

Once a year on television, the Christmas shows would appear on a certain day and hour. We made sure to be ready to watch “Rudolph”, “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman” when they were to be shown because they would only air once during the season and there were no VHS or DVD’s.

On summer mornings, we would get up early and catch old reruns of the black and white, “Little Rascals” shows. Nothing needed censored except, “Love American Style” and “Laugh In” (mainly because of shady jokes and Goldie Hawn rocking in her bikini!)

On summer days, we spent hours at the neighborhood park, playing on the equipment and making up games. There was no fear of child molesters or sex traffickers. We knew everyone in the neighborhood and had there been an issue, we had anyone’s doorstep to run to.

The girls played Barbies, the boys with G.I. Joe’s and everyone had a hula hoop or a game of Twister.

On summer nights, the mosquito sprayer would often come through town and we would run behind the truck in the fog, laughing! Bad, I know, but we did try to hold our breath!

Every once in awhile an ice cream truck would grace our neighborhood and all the kids would flock to it to get their favorite popsicle or cone.

There is so much more now for kids to entertain them and keep them busy but I can’t imagine that the options are better or they are any less bored than we were.

Technology and busy schedules can’t make up for some of the simple treats in life that made the memories of the past so special.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you had, til it’s gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PUPPIES TURN INTO DOGS AND CHILDREN INTO ADULTS

When I was around 12 or so, I was a volunteer at the Humane Society.

It was not uncommon for people to bring in a dog that had been found wandering around in the country because someone had dumped him there.

In fact, I have come across many myself and it always makes me annoyed.

These dogs are domestic and do not typically hunt and kill their own food. They have to be fed by their owners. They are not coyotes or wolves who are born in the wild and trained by their parent and hotwired by their creator to provide for themselves.

Yet somewhere, someone got a cute puppy one day and decided after he grew up and wasn’t so adorable that they were weary of caring for him, so they would dump him in the country in the hopes someone else would take him or he would care for himself.

If a caring soul found and brought him to the Humane Society, we would try to adopt him out but after a period of time, he would be euthanized because that is a far less traumatic death than getting eaten by coyotes or starving in the countryside.

Sometimes I think that people have this same idea with children.

It is easy to love a sweet, cute little baby who needs us and is helpless and dependent.

We are bigger than they are so we can manage their world and ours fairly simply. We feed, change and carry them wherever we go.

Simple right?

However, like a puppy, they grow up and aren’t so cute anymore.

Puppies are cute when they jump up and lick your face. A big slobbering dog who is untrained and knocking us down, licking our face, isn’t so much.

The same with children. I often hear parents laughing at their child sassing them or kicking them in the shins because they think it is so cute that this little person is bossing them around.

Or they do everything for them and never give them chores or responsibilities.

The problem is that if they don’t learn respect and responsibility early on, it is not so cute when they are a teen or an adult and they still behave this way.

They are handicapped in getting or keeping jobs, in carrying on relationships, etc.

Much like a dog dumped in the country, they are thrown into life as adults very ill prepared.

When we take on a puppy, we must be prepared to provide for its care into adulthood and not neglect it when it is no longer cute.

How much more is needed when we take on a human life if we are going to equip him/her to manage and survive in a complex world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUR LIFE IS A PREFACE TO A STORY THAT NEVER ENDS

Your life matters, live it well.

It is full of choices, choose well.

It is a gift, be grateful for it.

It is filled with sorrows and joys, find Christ in both.

It will know defeat, failure and loss. Find humility there.

It will be marked with success, fulfillment and proud moments. Find humility there as well.

It will struggle with discouragement, fear and despair. Fight those with perseverance, courage and hope.

Life will go by too fast and there is not enough time to live for all that is fleeting and shallow.

Those little ones who demand so much attention? They don’t stay little forever.

That spouse you want to leave? He may be the one who holds your hand when the doctor gives you bad news.

Think before you walk away. Think very hard.

Those parents you never visit? Someday you may long to hear their voice one more time.

Make relationships a priority. We don’t know the number of our days. Or theirs.

Give your life to Jesus.

Today.

Because this life is nothing but the preface of an eternal one to come.

 

WHEN YOU MISS THE MEMO

For the past couple of months I have been filling in at our middle/high School library.

It has been quite an experience but nothing has yet to top the event that took place during this past week!

I was at my desk and there were about six students in various places in the library when the school counselor came on the intercom and announced, “secure rooms now. No one may leave to go anywhere until further notice.”

Since the library has many windows, I stepped over to one and observed two police officers with a dog checking the hallways.

I began thinking to myself that I have no idea what I am supposed to do in the event we might have an active shooter!

Somewhere in the process of learning several new things, I missed that memo!

So, I sneak over to both doors leading to the hallway, open them and lock them so no one can get in.

Of course, the students observe the police and the dogs and they find this quite exciting and wonder what we will do.

We have two exits that lead directly outside, so I tell them that if anyone starts shooting, they are to run immediately out of those two doors to safety far from the school.

I told them to continue working on their assignments, etc. and we would probably be fine because the police would have it all under control

Meanwhile, I shoot up a prayer and text my husband who would soon be coming to the school to coach track, not to come because they wouldn’t let him in anyway.

The bell rang and no one was allowed to proceed on to their next class.

We stayed “secured” until finally, the counselor came on the intercom and told us that we could continue on as normal.

Can anybody say, “phew”?!

I found out later that there is a difference between an announcement to “secure in class” and “there is an active shooter, go into lockdown.”

My “bad” as my kids would say.

We never were in danger it was just a safety precaution that is practiced periodically!

However, the principal validated that my idea to run out of the library exit doors was exactly what I should do, if the situation ever did happen.

Hopefully it never will.

But at least for now, I’ve got the memo!

 

 

 

 

 

THE HAND THAT ROCK’S THE CRADLE (SIX LIFE LESSONS FROM MOM)

It has been said that the “hand who rocks the cradle, rules the world”.

Given that a mother is the most influential person in a child’s formative years, that statement is probably very true!

Although my mother taught me many things, these are six lessons that I remember learning very well!

1. SACRIFICIAL LOVE

When I was five or six years old, I was playing with neighbor kids who lived next door to my grandparents in Copeland, Kansas.

There was a large dog who was running and playing with us and for whatever reason, this dog became agitated and attacked me as I was running.

I was terrified as he knocked me to the ground and stood over me snarling and baring his teeth.

My mother, who had just gotten out of the hospital and weighed less than 100 lbs. came flying out of the house with no thought for herself and tried to get the dog off of me.

She succeeded in removing him, only to have him begin lunging at her throat and mauling her as she attempted to protect herself.

Fortunately, my father came to her aid after seeing what was happening and he was able to put the dog in a headlock and subdue him.

I will never forget my mother’s bravery and her display of sacrificial love.

SCRIPTURE:

That was one of many times that I saw her model the scripture: “Greater love has no man than this that He lay down His life for his friends.” John 15:13.

I never fully understood that sort of love that my mother had until my own daughter became extremely ill and had to be put on a ventilator and flown to KU med center. I remember the social worker having me fill out papers and asking me if there was anything I wanted.

My response? “Can I please just take her place?”

LESSON 2: OBEDIENCE

Mom may have been small on the outside but she was big on the inside and I knew better than to cross her.

I wouldn’t have dreamed of sassing my mom or rolling my eyes at her in disgust.

I can remember being around five years old and riding my tricycle down our back alley to explore some things.

After a while, my mom hollered for me to find out where I was. I heard her but I wasn’t in any hurry to get back home.

Slowly, in my own time, I came cruising back up the alley towards home only to find her halfway to me with a switch in her hand!

I got switched on my little legs all the way home for not answering her when she called.

She wasn’t angry near as much as she was scared because when I hadn’t answered her, she thought something had happened to me.

I learned after that to respond to her when she called and that meant immediately!

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 6:1 “Children obey your parents in the lord for this is right”

LESSON 3: RESPECT!

Respect was huge in my home!

Both of my parents were sure to teach us to respect God, others and self.

In my house, you were not allowed to curse and especially not to say any “G” words unless you were praying!  That meant, no “Jeez”, “gosh darn it’s” or even “ga’ll”. We were expected to respect God and his name.

I also learned at a young age to respect others.

I can remember being around five or six and daily watching a man in an electric wheelchair motoring down the street past our house.

I thought this was a great novelty and would run a long side him laughing as he went.

That is until my mother observed my actions and pulled me aside to ‘school’ me on a few things.

She told me that this man was handicapped and that my running alongside him laughing at him was disrespectful and would be seen as making fun of him.

From that day on, I made it a point to just smile and wave as he went by.

Respecting others property was a life lesson that I learned at a young age as well.

My mother was shocked to learn from our neighbors that someone was getting in his garage and taking his Avon bottle collection.

It wasn’t too long after that, that my mother noticed a strong scent coming from the bush fort that my friend and I had been mixing a ‘witches’ brew in.

My friend and I were immediately marched to the neighbor’s house to confess that we had taken the Avon bottles.

So much for our witches brew!

Mom taught self -respect as well.

On my very first date, a boy asked me to go with him and some friends to a drive-in. When I asked my mom for permission, she replied that she expected me to know how to conduct myself and given her trust and expectation, that is exactly what I did!

SCRIPTURE:

Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

1 Peter 2:17 “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the King.”

LESSON 4: GUARD YOUR TONGUE

My mom was very wise when it came to the tongue.

She was leery of gossips and busy-bodies and didn’t want her daughter to be one!

She used to tell me not to say anything behind someone’s back that I wasn’t willing to say to their face.

I found out the hard way the wisdom of her words!

I had a friend who had been especially annoying one particular day and so I decided to share that information with another little girl, who promptly went and told her what I had said!

The friend I was annoyed with confronted me by asking if I had told such and so that she was a ‘spoiled brat’. Knowing I had been caught in my own trap, I had to admit, that yes indeed I had!

I learned a quick lesson that day that if you talk about somebody, good or bad, it just might come back to you!

She also taught me how to ignore gossips and slanderers who would try to spread rumors about me. I can remember a girl saying something very hurtful and untrue about me one day at school. When I told my mother, she replied that the people who are truly my friends and know my character wouldn’t believe it anyway, and the ones who would believe false rumors about me probably weren’t the sort of friends I would want.

SCRIPTURE:

James 3:6 “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life and is set on fire by hell.”

This ties right in with lesson 5 from my mom:

LESSON 5: HUMILITY

My mother was not impressed with self-righteous attitudes at all.

I remember back in the 70’s when Christian entertainer, Anita Bryant was in the news because she was getting divorced.

I made some statement to my mother about how wrong this was and I was rebuked quickly for judging a situation that I knew nothing about.

My mother did not think that I could make any judgments about Anita Bryant and her marriage based on hearsay from newspapers. Who was I to know what all had gone on in her personal life.

To this day, I am reminded that I will hear and read a lot of things about people but if it doesn’t directly involve me, it is none of my business and better left to them and God to sort out.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned”

LESSON 6: DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY!

When adolescence brought the moody blues to my doorstep, my mother had a way of making me laugh right out of my grumpy attitude!

She would begin by over-exaggerating all the woes of the world and pretty soon, I would be laughing. She had a way of putting life in perspective.

I remember being a teenager and going with mom to try on a pair of boots that I liked. I put them on and walked around in them asking them what she thought. She mentioned that she would like them better if they were on the right feet!

I looked down only to discover that she was right! We got the giggles so bad that we almost didn’t recover and to this day, still laugh about that incident.

I have seen her weather many of life’s storms and choose to find some laughter along the way despite the circumstances

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”

CLOSING:

These are only six of the many lessons I learned from Mom. There isn’t enough time to share all of the many lessons and to this day, I still continue to learn from her wisdom!

The hand that rocked my cradle helped to form how I affect my world, and hopefully, the lessons I have learned will contribute to making it a better place!

Happy Mother’s Day!