Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Miss America, Cheese, and True Love

Have you seen the Miss America parodies in the movies or on TV?
A cheesy host asks the contestant, "If you could have one wish, what would it be?" The young woman simpers and answers in a sugary voice, "World peace."         
I'm not bashing the Miss America contestants. They're intelligent, talented, and beautiful.
I cheer for those young women...even with my cellulite thighs and bat-wing triceps flapping.
And even though I've experienced many times when I didn't feel intelligent, or talented, or beautiful.

Or worthwhile.

Or loved.
Have you ever felt like that?

Hold onto your Kraft American singles because this may sound as cheesy as the mock Miss America host.
If I could have one wish, I'd want everyone, young and old, to know this:

You are special. 
You are loved. 
You matter. 

Since the Miss America Fairy won't be swooping by to grant my wish, consider this.

You matter so much that God says to you, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!" Jeremiah 31:3 The Message.

May that truth bring peace to your world.

Photo of Mitzi Strother, Miss Florida 1941 from

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Thor at the Door

After a volatile marriage and an ugly divorce, I'd sworn off love. But the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Miracle of Love, reveals the true story.

The judge banged his gavel, and I followed my lawyer out of the courtroom, past my glaring now ex-husband.
My steps echoed down the polished marble corridor. Each footfall took me further from the pain of betrayal, infidelity, and alcohol abuse. I almost danced with elation. The attorney eyed me strangely. “Most people are distraught when they get divorced.” 

Distraught? I felt like I’d escaped from a horrible prison. Caring for my fifteen-month-old daughter Patty was my top priority. Now she wouldn’t suffer growing up in a dysfunctional, abusive home. We’d been set free.

A few weeks after the divorce my best friend Debbi asked, “When will you start dating again?”
“Never,” I replied. “My new mantra is, ‘Every man on the planet is a conniving sneak, existing only to wreak havoc on unsuspecting women’s hearts.’”
Debbi laughed at my irrational words. “You don’t mean that. Someday you’ll find true love.”
Love? No thank you. I didn’t want a new relationship. I didn’t even want to look at a man. 

Until a Norse god walked out of my neighbor’s home. 

Tall. Tan. Fit. Gorgeous.
A modern-day Thor was visiting Frank, my middle-aged neighbor? I looked away from the enticing vision and repeated my “all males are evil” mantra.

A few days later Frank stopped by while I weeded the lawn. “Hey Jeanie, I’m letting the neighbors know my buddy is staying with me for a while. He works night shift. He’s a super guy.” OK, Thor was a super guy staying with Frank. Fine. It had nothing to do with me. 

The next day I glanced out my bedroom window and spotted Thor standing next to a black pick-up. He looked up and down the empty street, then hopped into the truck bed. What was this guy up to? Thor removed his shirt and stretched out to nap in the summer sun. His muscles seemed to reflect the light. I stared open-mouthed. Whoa, did this guy pose for romance book covers? Yeesh.

I dragged my hormones away from the window and practiced my man-hating mantra. Perhaps a bit overboard since this guy was way out of my league.
Still, there was no harm in looking. Spying on Thor’s afternoon tanning sessions became a daily ritual. I’d climb onto my mattress and peer out the small rectangular transom window above my bed. 

After a week, guilt forced me to stop. I established Commandment Number Eleven: 

Thou shalt not ogle thy neighbor’s guest. 

A round of deep house cleaning would take my mind . . . and hormones . . . off my neighbor’s virile friend. While Patty napped I threw on a ragged sundress and pushed my hair into a messy ponytail. No sense putting in contacts or using make-up.
An hour of scrubbing later, I grabbed the window cleaner and headed toward the bedroom. “Just to tidy up,” I told myself, “not to peek at Thor.” Sure. Even I didn’t believe myself. But Thor wasn’t in his usual spot. A knock on the door interrupted my spying attempt. 

Thor stood at the door. Had he spotted me ogling him? Fresh sweat beaded my upper lip. I wiped it with a sudsy glove and stammered, “Oh. Yes. Hi, um . . .”

When I fell silent, Thor gave me a shy, easy smile. Wow, this guy put toothpaste commercial actors to shame. “Hi, I’m Jake.” He pointed over his shoulder at my neighbor’s house. “I’m staying with Frank.”
“Uh, that’s nice.” I inwardly cringed at my inane response.
“Frank talks about what a nice lady you are.”
“Um . . . thanks,” I said.

He looked down for a moment, lifted his head, and blurted, “Would you maybe go out with me sometime?”
I stared into his electric blue eyes. It felt like I’d touched a high voltage line. I glanced at his wide shoulders. Too tempting. I lowered my eyes. Bad move. His shorts revealed his long muscular legs. I blinked hard and admitted, “Look, I just ended a bad marriage. I’m not interested in dating.”

Thor—Jake—blew out a relieved sigh. “Same here. My girlfriend and I broke up last month. I’m not ready for a relationship. I hoped we could go to the movies or something. Just friends.”
“I’ll go out with you if my babysitter is available. But remember, just friendship. Nothing more.”

Jake lit up like a Christmas tree in Times Square. “Great! Here’s my number. Call whenever it’s convenient for you.” He waved goodbye. I closed the door and wondered why such an attractive man would invite me out. A glance in the mirror revealed my full bedraggled glory.

 I looked like a sweat-doused monkey in rubber gloves. Yep, his line about “just friends” explained the invitation. 

That weekend Jake treated me to a movie and dinner even though it wasn’t a date. “Hey, I appreciate you going out with me. I’m glad to pay,” he said.

Despite his handsome appearance, Jake was endearingly humble. We talked non-stop. During dinner Jake said, “You’ve only eaten a few bites. Is the food OK?”
“It’s great. I’ll take it home in a doggie-bag.” Paying the sitter would bite into my limited budget. My leftovers would provide three delectable meals for Patty. Since I wasn’t eating much, Jake politely stopped eating too.

He drove me home and I invited him in. “Patty’s been asleep for an hour,” the sitter said. She grabbed her pay and left. Patty awoke just as Jake and I sat down on the couch. I walked her out and warned Jake, “Don’t be offended. Patty shies away from men.”

Patty pulled her tiny hand from mine and toddled straight to Jake. He patted the sofa and asked, “Want to sit with us?” She held up her arms. I froze, shocked.
Jake scooped up Patty and sat her on the couch. She snuggled against him. Jake grinned at me and patted the cushion again. “Are you joining us?” 

We spent the evening chatting and laughing. When Patty grew sleepy I tucked her in bed and returned to Jake. “I had a great time tonight.”
“Me too,” he said.
I scooted closer. “Just to remind you. I’m not looking for a relationship.”
“Me neither.” He laid his arm across the back of the sofa.
I leaned toward him, “Just friends.”
He brushed my cheek softly with his thumb. “Friends.”
We gazed into each other others eyes. He cupped my face like precious porcelain as I lifted it toward his. Our lips met for a heartbeat of eternity.

The next day Jake knocked at the door, his arms laden with bags. “You seemed to like the restaurant’s food last night. I wondered why you didn’t eat much. When you tucked Patty in I checked your fridge.” His gentle kiss eased my embarrassment over the empty refrigerator.

Jake spent the next months proving his trustworthiness. His honesty, generosity, and love silenced my man-hating mantra. When Jake proposed the following year, I don’t know who was more ecstatic, me or Patty.

After thirty-three years of friendship, love--and unabashed ogling--I still thank God that “Thor” came to my door.

Jake, Jeanie, and Patty's son

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Look Back and Move Forward

Have you ever felt like, no matter hard you try, you're not getting anywhere?
That's where I've been lately.
It seems that no matter how much I do, I fall farther behind.

And I'm missing the here and now because I'm fretting about what needs to get done.

Last month our thirteen-year-old grandson was out of school for two weeks with a fractured knee. After a week and a half on heavy painkillers, he finally felt well enough to do some schoolwork.

My husband brought home the books, worksheets, and report packets from each of our grandson's classes. We piled them in a towering stack next to his chair. His eyes bugged out. "That's Homework Mountain. How am I supposed to do it all?" he asked.

I told him, "Don't worry about doing everything. Just pick one subject and work on it when you feel up to it."
He heaved a sigh and grabbed his science book.
An hour later he put the book and completed worksheet packet on the opposite side of Homework Mountain. "One down, ten to go," he muttered.

But after resting he picked up another book. This time it only took twenty minutes to finish. He plopped his work on the finished pile and crowed, "Oh, yeah!"

For the next two days he chipped away at Homework Mountain. He'd glance at it, then look over at the work he'd done. 
He called me over each time he completed a subject so we could celebrate. Soon the pile of finished reports and worksheets reigned in middle-school splendor.

He said, "Hey Grandma, I kept looking at what I needed to do, then looked at what I'd already done. And I finished two weeks of work in two days!"

Sometimes we need to look back to see how far we've progressed. decided to take a cue from my grandson.

I've been beating myself up for not writing more. But when I looked back over the past few months, I see progress.

My stories are in three of the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Another story is coming out in LIVE magazine, as well as an article at Inspiration Ministries.

Instead of focusing on "I'm so Far Behind Mountain," I'm determined to look at accomplishments, no matter how small they seem, and give God the glory for it all.

How about you? Where do you see forward momentum in your life? What will you celebrate?

Even if we don't feel we've accomplished much, the bible offers this encouragement from Zechariah chapter four:

"Do not despise these small beginnings..."

After all, even a baby step forward moves us in the right direction.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

TV, My Sweet Nemesis

Oh, my sweet, sweet nemesis--television.

In March 2014 I publicly admitted my weakness. I'd created a late-night TV and junk food comfort zone. "Comfort zone" sound much better than "addiction," right? 

I thought I'd conquered television's dreamy pull, but recent late-night reruns lured me back in.
Shows from the past half century unfold before my delighted (and slightly glazed) eyes.

The Twilight Zone. Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Perry Mason. The Rifleman . . .

Midnight finds me ransacking the fridge like a rabid wolverine. After stuffing my face I fall asleep to the TV's lulling drone.
The next day I wake bloated, groggy, and kicking myself for making such a foolish choice. 
Last night I prayed for help. Instead of a sudden disdain for chocolate or a potato chip aversion, the Lord reminded me of Galatians 5:22-23
One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control.
God had already given it to me, but I needed to exercise it.

Late night TV offers a slew of workout DVD's promising to strengthen my abs and glutes. Unfortunately, none for exercising self-control.
So I prayed, "OK, Lord, I need strength to exercise my self-control." Soon after I came across this passage,

"As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength."
Psalm 138:3 NLT
And He did. Last night I snuggled in bed instead of the recliner, and held a book in place of a remote.

You might be saying, "TV addiction? Seriously? That's nothing compared to what I'm facing."
Fair enough. So what are you struggling with today?
  • Drinking?
  • Smoking?
  • Drugs?
  • Pornography?
  • Stealing?
  • Eating disorder?

The list is almost endless, but no matter what we battle, the bible offers good news.

"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."
 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

photo courtesy khunaspix

No matter what you're struggling with, it's not bigger than God. He's an ever-present help in time of trouble.

Bring your situation to Him.
Dig into the bible to find answers to your issue.
Be accountable to trustworthy people.
Be honest with yourself.

And I'll do the same with the TV/late-night food obsession. The trail of Nacho Cheese Doritos would give me away anyhow.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Alleviate Christmas Pressure

Does preparing for Christmas resemble a Hallmark movie or a horror flick?

Years ago a TV commercial showed a frantic woman scrambling to simultaneously deal with a ringing phone, screaming children, barking dog, and a delivery person at her door.    

Finally in desperation she throws her hands up and cries, "Calgon, take me away!" Immediately she's luxuriating in her bathroom tub, discreetly covered in Calgon bubbles from the neck down.

Evidently, behind the scenes in Happy Commercial Land, the dog stops barking to answer the phone, the delivery person baby-sits the children, and Betty Crocker and the Keebler Elves get dinner under control.

How about you? Do you feel overwhelmed? Could you use a Calgon moment? I'm pretty sure the Fed-Ex man and Marie Callender won't show up to help any time soon, but there's some good news.

There's a God who loves you. He wants to help you.
Here's what He says:

           "And call for help when you’re in trouble—
               I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.” Psalm 50:15 The Message

We can go nuts with Christmas tasks: shopping, baking, cleaning ... Or we can focus on Jesus, who truly is the reason for celebrating Christmas.  

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NLT

So when Christmas preparations start to bury us under a multi-tasking avalanche, we don't have to crumble under it. Let's call to God for help. He's available 24/7.
Betty Crocker and the Keebler Elves are already busy in my kitchen.

Photos courtesy of stockimages @