Friday, May 24, 2019

Ode to May 2019

Ode to May 2019
There may be rain,
There may be snow,
There may be ice,
We just don't know.

Turn on the air?
Turn on the heat?
Flip flops or snowshoes for our feet? 

May bees lighting in the flowers
May be rebuffed by sneak snow showers.

Twisters, tempests, floods all plague us.
Lord, we pray for you to save us.
Will a reprieve be coming soon?
Maybe we'll find out in June.



Sunday, March 31, 2019

What Goes Up

What's sillier than a grandmother stuck in a tree? Her sharing the story in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul release




“Grandma, watch this!”

Our ten-year-old grandson scrambled up our backyard maple tree like King Kong scaling the Empire State building. He stood on a limb, grabbed the one above him, and bounced. Hapless young leaves dropped under his onslaught as the branch bobbed up and down.

My breath caught in my throat, a regular occurrence for a grandparent of an active boy. “Asher, be careful. You haven’t broken any bones yet. Let’s keep it that way.”

He stopped bouncing and plopped onto the limb. My lungs resumed their normal rhythm. “Grandma,” he called in a cajoling tone, “Climb up with me. Please.”

I eyed the old tree. Asher and I considered it our private fortress, but the branch I normally used to boost myself up had broken off in a recent storm. Getting into that tree would take more upper arm strength than I possessed. “Honey, I don’t think I can climb up there anymore.”

Asher’s eyes widened as if I’d uttered a blasphemy. “But Grandma, it’s our special place. You have to try.” His stricken look prompted me to grab a branch. An oversized gorilla hoisting me up would have been more helpful than Asher’s verbal assistance. “Pull harder, Grandma. Boy, you should really start working out. You’re getting pretty weak.”

After multiple tries I hefted myself onto the lowest limb and lay panting against the rough bark. Slow maneuvering brought me to a sitting position.
“See Grandma, I knew you could get up here.” Asher grinned and scooted next to me. We sat together on the branch, our feet dangling. A cool May breeze held the insects at bay as Asher told me about his school day.

I silently thanked God for the opportunity to spend time with this beloved grandson. My husband Jake and I relished our time with him. We’d forged a special bond over the years with this child, so dear to our hearts.
As sunset streaked the sky the breeze died down and mosquitoes began foraging for victims. “OK Sweetie, let’s go in. Your grandpa will be home soon.”

Asher shimmied down the trunk like a competitor in a lumberjack competition. I swung my leg lower, feeling for the limb I always used to descend. “Be careful Grandma. Your climb-down branch is gone, remember?”
I surveyed the hard surface below. The new river rock and brick landscape edging mocked me. Several dismount attempts brought one conclusion. I couldn’t get myself down safely.

“Hurry up, Grandma.” Asher bounced on the patio.

“Sweetie, I’m having trouble getting down.”

Asher stopped jumping and peered up at me. “Grandma, are you stuck in the tree?”

The knobby bark bit into my protesting backside. I cautiously shifted my weight on the branch. “I don’t want you to worry, but . . .”

“Are you REALLY stuck?”

“Yes Asher, I’m really stuck.”
His eyes gleamed with excitement. “Can I call 911?” he asked hopefully.

“No, not 911. Call your grandpa.”

Asher ran inside for the phone. A tiny gnat, the size of a pin head, landed on my arm. I jerked at its needle-jab sting, then fought to keep my balance. A red, dime-sized welt appeared where the gnat stung me. I swatted away another Mutant Robo-Gnat that was dive-bombing my face.

Asher ran back, waving the phone like a prize. “Are you sure I can’t call 911?” he asked again, anticipation written in his countenance. I could see his mental wheels turning. A firetruck or two, perhaps a rescue squad on stand-by would perk up a weekday. And make a great story at school.

“Dial your grandpa and put him on speaker,” I commanded.

Jake answered on the second ring. “Grandma’s stuck in a tree,” Asher announced cheerfully.

“What?”
I rolled my eyes and swatted another gnat.

“Grandma told me to call because she’s stuck in a tree.”

I heard a long pause before my husband asked, “Is Grandma really stuck in a tree?”

“Yeah, and she wants you to come home and help her down,” Asher enthused.

Jake’s hysterical laughter flowed through the phone line. “You’re on speaker. I can hear you,” I shouted from my perch. ”Now stop cackling, come home, and get me down.”

Between bouts of laughter Jake said, “Tell Grandma to hang on. I’ll be there soon.”

“Ok, bye Gramps. I’ll take care of things until you get home.” Asher laid the house phone on the patio table and ran back inside. I smashed a Robo-Gnat attacking my leg as Asher burst through the patio door, his new cell phone in hand. “My grandmother is stuck in a tree,” he said in his best news announcer voice.

“Who are you talking to?” I asked.

“Nobody, Grandma.”

Asher resumed his spiel, “My grandmother is stuck in the tree. She can’t get down. Grandma, would like to say a few words?”

The splintery wood dug into my palms. I tamped down exasperation. “Say a few words to who? Who are you talking to?”

“I’m not talking to anyone. I’m recording you. See?”

He flipped the phone around and held it up for me to view. Sure enough, a video played on-screen. A middle-aged woman wearing silver loafers, dark washed jeans, and an exasperated glare hunched in a maple.

“Give me that!” I make a feeble swipe at the upheld phone. Asher pulled it back and tapped buttons furiously. I wobbled on the branch before regaining my balance. Asher peered up at me through the deepening twilight. “Be careful! You almost fell. Grandma, are you really, truly stuck?”

My heart softened at his evident concern. “Yes Sweetie, but I’ll be all right. Don’t worry.”

“Oh, I’m not worried,” he said, “I just posted this online. The video already has two ‘likes.’ You’ve gone worldwide.”











Friday, February 1, 2019

Reckless Love

I'm a sucker for romantic scenes where the hero sweeps in and rescues the heroine. The song, Reckless Love, describes the most awesome rescuer ever.

The hero refuses to allow anything to come between him and his beloved. He leaves everything and everyone behind, and embarks on a search and rescue mission.




And he does it without any guarantee his devotion will ever be returned.

The song says, "When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me.
You have been so, so good to me.
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me.
You have been so, so kind to me."
"And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
And I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God."

"There's no wall You won't kick down,
Lie You won't tear down,
Coming after me.


There's no shadow You won't light up,
Mountain You won't climb up,
Coming after me."



Romantic books and movies take a backseat to the reality of true love. God's love. 


"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

Because of that incredible love, Jesus left heaven and embarked on a search and rescue mission for us. He did it for the young, the old, the rich, the poor. For every person in the world.


God is reaching out to you right now. Do you desire His unconditional, never-ending love?

Pray this simple prayer:

"Jesus, I welcome you into my life. Please forgive my sins. Be my Lord, savior, and friend."

And get ready to experience the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!



Photos courtesy Wicci Commons 




Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holiday Perfection



One year I struggled to create a Hallmark-perfect holiday season. Instead, chaos ensued.

Chicken Soup for the Soul shared the story of my goofy failure in their new release, "The Wonder of Christmas."

Holiday Perfection
 
The kitchen’s mustard-yellow oven mocked me from its 1970’s built-in perch. I glared at the offensive appliance, roughly the size of a child’s easy-bake oven. Next week our entire family would arrive for Thanksgiving dinner in our new home. I wanted everything to be perfect, but there was no way to fit a turkey in that tiny oven.  
Who lived here before us? Elves? 

My husband Jake shuffled into the room. “It’s midnight. What’s wrong?”
“Why did the builders put a miniature stove in a large home?” I fumed. “I can’t make a perfect Thanksgiving turkey in this stupid thing.”

Jake rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Let’s replace it.”
My heart did a momentary happy dance before reality crashed in. “We just moved. We don’t have funds for a new one.”
Jake wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “We’ll buy a used one.” He gestured to my nemesis. “We can rip this out now if you want.” 

At midnight, the idea made perfect sense. We grabbed tools, removed the old built-in appliance, and cleaned the decades of greasy dirt left behind.

The next morning we found an online ad proclaiming, “New stove for sale. $60.”
Hopping into our pickup, we drove over for a look. A friendly young couple met us at the door and led us around back to large shed. The husband said, “We bought this stove back home in Iowa, but there was already one here when we moved in last year. This one’s just been sittin’ in the shed, so we figured to sell it.”
I swiped a layer of dust off the appliance with my finger. Underneath it the white stove gleamed. It looked perfect. Since sixty dollars comprised our entire remodel budget, we bought it. The two men loaded it into the truck, and Jake and I drove home congratulating ourselves on finding a bargain. 

Once we maneuvered the stove into the kitchen, we notice an odd smell. 

“It probably just needs a good cleaning,” I said. We scrubbed every inch we could reach, inside and out, but the odor increased.
As the stench permeated the entire house, Jake shared his horrible realization. “I think a dead mouse is stuck in the insulation, but I can’t get to it without ripping the stove apart.” 

“Holiday guest expect aromas like pine boughs or gingerbread. Our house reeks of rodent carcass. We need to do something,” I whined.
So we ran the self-cleaning feature repeatedly every day. 
By Thanksgiving the stink had dissipated. Mostly. I felt confident that by the time our guests arrived, the delectable scent of perfectly roasted turkey would cover any lingering odor.
Humming, I stuffed the turkey, slid it into the new range and inspected the side dishes. Ruby colored cranberry sauce, potatoes waiting to be mashed, pumpkin pies from the bakery all passed the perfection inspection. 

The freshly cleaned house looked perfect, so I dressed, put on makeup, and did my hair. I wanted to look perfect too. Or as perfect as possible despite wrinkles and acne.
As family members arrived we greeted them, gave the house tour, then sat together, chatting and laughing. After a time Jake pulled me aside. “Honey, the turkey isn’t cooking.”

I hurried to the kitchen and opened the stove door. The huge raw turkey perched sadly in the cold oven.
 Agh! Had I burned out the stove with repeated mouse cremations? I stood paralyzed, dismay tap dancing across my brain.
My eagle-eyed mom glided into the kitchen and within seconds pointed out the problem. “Sweetheart, it will cook faster if you turn on the oven.” She tapped the knob, firmly fixed in the “off” position. 

Panic set in. “What are we going to do? There’s a house full of people and nothing to feed them except raw turkey!”
Jake sauntered downstairs and brought up large ham from the basement fridge. At my questioning look he winked. “I wanted it on hand just in case.”
And he was perfectly right, as usual.
That Thanksgiving our family ate ham sandwiches. And ribbed me unmercifully about not turning on the stove.
Although far from what I’d envisioned, that Thanksgiving was perfect in its own way. While munching my sandwich, I realized I didn’t need to strive for magazine-perfect food presentations or a picture perfect house. 

My focus didn’t need to be on perfection, but rather gratefulness. I looked around the table and thanked God for the people in my life.

My husband who showed me love in unexpected ways, like ripping out a stove because it bothered me. And having the foresight to tuck away an emergency ham.
My mother who still taught me cooking basics--like flipping the knob to the “on” setting.
And our precious daughter and grandson, siblings, cousins. I silently thanked God for the perfect blessing of having family together.

We invited everyone back for Christmas. This time, rather than trying to make everything perfect, we decided to skip the fancy turkey dinner and offer crockpots of soup instead.
I even made sure to turn the dials onto the “high” setting so the soup would cook in time for Christmas dinner.

Only one thing would have made those crockpots of soup more perfect.
If I’d remembered to plug them in.






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 http://www.flickr.com

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