The sun’s shining all over the place…

 

I am too young to really remember this musical – it happened 13 years before I was born. I first watched it as a music teacher in the music room with a class full of high school students, and I was mesmerized.

I am not really a “musical” person. That’s kind of strange, since I was a music teacher for 21 years. I music-ed all the day long, so the last thing I wanted to hear was more music when I just wanted to watch a movie.

But some of my favorite memories from teacher days involve musicals performed by my students. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music. We did some big ones, we did. Rehearsals were grueling at times, and I became one of those actors on a Snickers commercial…

 

I know, I’m no Marilyn Monroe. I was Willem Dafoe.

As I sat in that classroom with those students who were more interested in talking to their friends rather than watching Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, I was transported. I was entertained. I wished I could dance. Me, the Quaker who never dances, wanted to have feet like theirs. I wished I was as sweet as Kathy Selden.

These three changed my tune. Because of Singin’ in the Rain, I learned to love musicals.

 

Today, I am grateful for the talent of others that makes life so much more entertaining and enjoyable.

I am grateful for Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor.

I am grateful for memories of high school choir after performances were over, when there wasn’t anything to plan and we could waste an hour of class to watch a musical and eat snacks.

I am grateful for memories of our musical performances – all of them. I am grateful that I had so many talented students who could pull off “the big ones” and made it so fun for their Willem Dafoe teacher.

I am grateful for the blue blanket and the Linus dance. And Brad’s Snoopy doing “Suppertime!”

I am grateful for the horse walking down the center aisle in the gym with Roman singing “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…”

I am grateful for singing nuns and Lacey’s “Climb Every Mountain” that made me cry.

I am grateful for an outdoor stage – how in the world did we ever make that happen – and chickens and Byron as Tevye and crying under the stars as the cast slowly walked off the stage pulling a cart to begin a new life.

I am grateful for Melissa’s accent as Ado Annie and for permission to use a starter pistol in the middle of the musical that scared me every time.

I am grateful for a cast of all girls at Elyria when we performed Charlie Brown my first year there.

I am grateful that the Farmer and the Cowman should be friends, which makes me grateful for years of having to teach folk dancing at St. George so that I could teach a bunch of high school students some basic circle dancing covered up by lots of “yee-haws!”, just hoping we didn’t get in trouble for dancing at a Christian school.

I am grateful that people don’t throw away old clothes so that we could borrow costumes from university theater departments.

I am grateful that after experiencing my wrath and craziness, all of my students didn’t walk out on me.

I am grateful that my parents came to see each one of the musicals even if it meant weekend visits.

Ah, I am grateful that I have some good memories…

Related image

 

Sometimes it’s better to put love into hugs than to put it into words.

Image result for i'd like to teach the world

 

Today, I am grateful for Sam’s hands. He holds mine. He squeezes shoulders. He offers hugs freely. He puts his arm around me in church. He rubs my back without me asking. He opens car doors and regular doors for me and for other women. He uses his hands to show affection and respect. I am grateful for those hands.

I am grateful for the way God seemed to line things up this morning. A simple scripture in my Bob Goff calendar:

Philippians 2:1-5 (The Message)

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.

And then I got to work, and this scripture was today’s thought from my calendar on my desk:

Hebrews 13:1-2 (CEB)

13 Keep loving each other like family. Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.

And then I read this in my inbox from Jennifer Dukes Lee:

Research reveals a startling truth: People need up to TEN meaningful touches every day to maintain well-being. But in our digital age, we are a touch-starved generation. That means we have to be super-intentional about making touch a regular part of our day.

A hug. A pat on the back. A handshake. A caress of the arm. These touches are fundamental to human connection … and happiness.

Today, I dare you to reach out and touch someone. Happiness is often hidden in plain sight, with a simple touch. So … make an effort to shake a hand, pat a back, hug a friend. Your touch will make someone happy — and it will have the same effect on you.

Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and text

Great advice.

I am grateful for great advice, great BIBLICAL advice.

I am also grateful that I have a husband who follows this advice and knows how to show genuine love. He doesn’t have to be super-intentional, however. It’s his nature. He says he learned this from his Mom.

I am grateful for Sam’s Mom.

Image result for hug quote

 

 

 

An unfortunate and smelly deposit.

Image result for life is like a deposit what you put in is what you get out

During our drive on Christmas day to spend the day with family, Sam and I were talking about life and our tendency to become complacent and forget to notice the blessings.

Over the last several months, I have allowed a critical spirit to seep back into my attitude in general, and if I am not alert and aware, that critical spirit is shared with others through the re-telling of life in general conversation about my day, something that happened at work, a family member’s reaction to something, or most recently, a conversation about the state of our country and the new leadership set to take over on January 20.

I don’t like the way I feel inside when I am surrounded with negativity and biting comments and a lack of gratitude. I don’t like how I feel inside when I am in the presence of others who look at the glass half-empty and complain about the smallest of things or even the life-changing things. I cannot change their attitude. I can only change mine. I cannot light their candle in the darkness; I can only let my own light shine and let God do His work in their hearts.

I don’t like the way I feel inside when my own thoughts are directed towards others in a critical and judgmental stream that grows more bitter as I give in to how easy it is to notice their faults. When I allow even the tiniest of silent complaint into my thoughts and attitude, it begins to affect every step of my day.

Image result for what you put in is what you get out

Case in point:

We are taking care of my niece’s dog while the family is out of state. It didn’t start out so well with several escape attempts and an unfortunate and smelly deposit under the piano on Christmas Eve. Sam and I kept telling each other, however, that it was okay, since we are doing this for our favorite niece…

Yesterday morning, I woke up to another unfortunate and smelly deposit. I handled it okay, though, and put the dog outside on her leash to prevent any other accidents while I began the bacon for my family who was still visiting. Within a few short minutes, I saw that the dog had tangled herself around some bushes and I ran outside while the bacon was cooking to untangle her and bring her back inside. The silent complaint was silent and small but was still a complaint in my thoughts.

We both came inside and I got back to the bacon, and when I happened to look down at the floor, I noticed some wet leaves stuck to the bottom of my shoe. I reached to pluck them into the trash, and they were glued to the bottom…by another unfortunate and smelly deposit.

Complaint was still silent but grew louder in my spirit.

Fast forward an hour or so later as the morning progressed and a spirited discussion ensued between my nephew and his parents about things he had read on the internet concerning immigration and plans in the new year to protect our country.

I allowed my critical spirit to escape through words, bitterness that had begun with an unfortunate and smelly deposit and a dog who really couldn’t help herself and my lack of noticing where I stepped… I interjected even though my words will not change opinions in a heated conversation. Especially when opinions run very deep.

Fast forward a few hours later, when a completely separate minor issue arose with another family member and defensive attitudes were in play.

Because I began my day with an unfortunate and smelly deposit and allowed my mindset to cater to complaint and bitterness inside, a bad attitude grew as I elevated myself, not thinking of others, not hearing or listening to their thoughts and concerns, and I ended up secretly criticizing, affecting everyone around me.

I left several unfortunate and smelly deposits in the form of negative interaction, elevating myself and my opinions above others, and a critical spirit filled my day.

How quickly I forget.

Image result for what you put in is what you get out

So today, I begin again, this time leaving fortunate deposits of blessings re-counted:

I am grateful for blankets on my bed to keep me warm in the cold of the morning.
I am grateful for carpet beneath my feet, carpet that had no unfortunate and smelly deposits to begin the day.
I am grateful for a new container of shampoo in the shower.
I am grateful for the wonderful smell of the coffee when I made a cup for Sam.
I am grateful for a crisp December morning that includes sunshine and the promise of a quiet day at work.
I am grateful for three soft little llamas to remind me of three beautiful granddaughters in Oregon.
I am grateful for two wagging tails instead of just one.
I am grateful that I am not dependent on social media and am grateful for a new resolve to limit time spent on Facebook to one hour a week.
I am grateful to have talked to Delores last night.
I am grateful for a beautiful new pitcher from Karissa and family to remind me that the joy of the Lord will fill me to overflowing.

Image result for mary and martha overflowing pitcher
I am grateful for toothpaste.
I am grateful for “readers,” so needed these days.
I am grateful for an hour of Dominoes last night with Sam and Dad.
I am grateful for Marlene’s help with decorating.
I am grateful to have met Len, a fellow door greeter, at Christmas Eve services.
I am grateful for an abundance of thank you cards to use.
I am grateful for green olives and ham on the table on Christmas Eve.
I am grateful for happy memories to hang onto and re-live with those who understand.
I am grateful for fresh and crunchy celery for snacking on this quiet Tuesday at work.
I am grateful for a new lantern on the mantle from Stan and Geri to remind me to “let it shine.”
And I am grateful that I can still hear Andrae singing in his best gospel vibrato, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!” as he performed his paper sack puppet show last Thanksgiving.

We’ll know we’re growing when our love for people dwarfs our opinions about them.
– Bob Goff

Related image

A home that love built.

Image result for house cartoon

I am sitting here this afternoon, taking a break from work. The sun is shining through a dirty window, and now that the TV is off, my soothing sounds background is filled with drilling and hammering and such.

Sam took the afternoon off to assist the construction duo downstairs as they work on the addition to the house. It will be a beautiful room, I just know. I know, because it is Sam’s dream, and he has beautiful dreams.

As the beautiful hearth room is constructed, the kitchen houses a washer and dryer right in the middle of the room. Muddy shoe prints all over the first floor are evidence of work being done inside and outside. In the afternoon sun, I can see all of the dust I did not see last night as I Orecked the floors. The entry and hallway is home to all the tools and supplies.

Image result for oreck

Soothing sounds are really not that soothing, at least not in the daylight working hours.

*****

I spent last week attempting to help my over-achiever daughter as she adjusts to child #6. It was a week of sheer chaos and utter joy. I’ve laughed so much. I was exhausted nightly. I was in awe of my baby girl raising her family. Don’t misread though. There were moments of drilling and hammering in the making of beautiful. “Go get the spoon” is not an invitation to partake in a bowl of ice cream, mind you. It’s an invitation to what her husband calls, “motivation.”

“Do you need some motivation? Go get the spoon.”

There was a time not too long ago when I just dreamed that I might someday be a part of this home once again. You could say there was the part of the home-building that needed to be Orecked. But, if you think about it, every family has some dirt that hides in the evenings only to reveal itself fully in the reality of the light.

I was privileged to organize cabinets and drawers, play and create at the table, make snowman pancakes like my Mom used to do for her grandchildren, practice spelling with the two olders thanks to the help of Bananagrams, sit in the middle seat of the van with five littles oohing and ahhing at the Christmas light display, read stories before bedtime, pray with and for each little before kissing them goodnight with an “I love you” hug.

Image result for bananagrams

I was honored to sit in church and listen to my baby girl sing once again, hear her laugh in the comfort of her home, watch her focus all of her attention through a camera lens as she captured first moments of a newborn’s existence, entertain a small group with grace and open arms, command a birthday party for three of the littles by filling her home with families and life-giving love, laughter, and fun. I was fortunate to hear her speak passionately about raising a family with God as the head of their home.

No automatic alt text available.

I watched and shook my head knowingly as little #5, barely a year under her own belt, acted out against a younger baby who now commands Mama’s attention, as siblings argued and tattled on each other, as little #4 bit little #2 in the backseat of the van and many tears were shed. I observed difficult afternoons when little #2 and #3 were disobedient and refused to stay in their rooms for nap time. I smiled inside, more like a silent guffaw that caused me to turn my head and hide my delightful shock, when that hilarious little #4 stood in the kitchen playing by herself and said, “What the crap,” followed by a stern response from Mama. I ached for little #1 who seeks attention and love in the busy home but who mostly obeys when her help is needed with the younger littles even though it is an invitation for her “bossy” to come out and take over. I recognized the beginnings of competitiveness that will likely prevail among the children as they all seek to be better than the others in some way or another – a natural response of human nature.

I allowed tears to form when little #2 prayed for ME on our last tucking-in-to-bed, asking God to keep me safe on my journey back home, when sadness was on the face of little #1 as she told me goodbye, when I listened to my daughter sing one last time, when newest little #6 was dedicated to God on Sunday morning.

There was a time not too long ago when I just dreamed that I might someday be a part of this family once again.

Image may contain: 1 person

But love has a way of working in the building of a home. Because love is from God…and God has been at work.

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. – 1 John 4:7-10 CEB

*****

My other baby girl called me last night. She doesn’t often call and rarely if ever needs any advice or help. She’s my Miss Independent, my got-it-all-together-doing-just-fine child.

There was a time not too long ago when I just dreamed that I might someday be a part of her family once again.

She and her husband have two beautiful littles that I so adore and love. Their first little shares her middle name with my Mama, and their second little shares her middle name with me. I look at these two little girls every day in pictures and my heart aches with love and a missing of their sweet voices. My heart aches every day as I try to make my brain remember my daughter’s hearty laugh that warmed me all the way to the bottom of my toes.

Along with their two beautiful girls, my daughter and her husband have been foster parents to two older girls, and today, they officially become parents to the 13-year-old.

Today, in just a few more minutes actually, this family gains a daughter, and I gain a granddaughter. What a gift this family has been given. Tatum was meant to be.

My baby girl called me last night. She doesn’t often call and rarely if ever needs any advice or help. She’s my Miss Independent, my got-it-all-together-doing-just-fine child.

She wanted to ask me a question.

“How do you thin-slice your apples?”

This Mama heart could not be happier in that moment.

Related image

*****

I am enjoying a piece of German chocolate cake as the sun finishes the afternoon shift. I cannot help but reflect on three hours in Oklahoma City on Sunday as I made my way back home from the long week of Ama duty.

Geri, Connie, and Chris, my January group from days past, met me at a restaurant to celebrate our January birthdays with a long overdue reunion and a cake made with love. (Thank you, Geri and Norma.)

Image result for like it was yesterday friendship

So much has happened in our lives in the years we haven’t been together at a table in the school cafeteria. Life-threatening illness, children in crisis, divorce, marriages, grandchildren, major life changes on the farm, heartbreak and heartache. You know. The drilling and hammering of life, the dirt in the corners and behind the doors. And muddy shoe prints. Lots of muddy shoe prints.

None of the dirt matters. It’s like we were all sitting in the cafeteria talking about the latest drama in the hallway again. All that happened, all that needed to be aired and confessed, all that needed to be shared and unloaded, was. And my three friends said it best:

Forgiveness. You are forgiven. You were forgiven a long time ago.

Nothing like a German chocolate cake and a little vacuuming.

This heart home is still in the building process. There’s likely to be more dirt, more remodeling, more tearing down of walls, more adding on new rooms, more drama. But this heart home has room to grow, because it is a home that love is building. And for that, I am very very grateful.

Image result for heart home

Chortle, giggle, snicker,tee hee, and guffaw. It’s what Ama do.

When I visit my daughter, I have learned that the bathroom on the second floor does not come equipped with towels of any sort, or soap.

With four children under the age of 7 occupying the entire second floor by themselves, towels and soap are dangerous as is toilet paper, but three of the four don’t normally use the toilet paper anyway,  much to my ewwwwwness, so there’s been no problem with being stranded.

Soap, however, is a different ballgame. There is a slight obsession with soap from a bottle, and it is not uncommon for an hour of hand washing and bubble making and sink filling to go by with no supervision on second floor free time.

So, this trip, I came prepared with a bar of hand soap.

Monday morning. The kids wake up, I am in the bathroom finishing makeup, and the oldest comes in to join me. After she had gone to the bathroom, I reminded her to wash her hands. She did what she normally does and stuck her hand under the water for a total of 1.5 seconds and turned off the water.

“Huh uh. Use soap, sweet girl.”

Oldest looked at me, looked all around, and said, “There isn’t any soap.” I pointed out the bar of soap next to the sink, and she picked it up.

“What is THIS?!” she asked.

Oh dear. It’s a different world these kids live in…

*****

I have been privileged to take over bedtime duties for the four olders and after brushing teeth, we read a book or few before tucking and prayers. The two oldest were taking turns helping me read a book on Monday night, sounding out the simpler words on the page.

Andrae, emphasizing those consonants: “The RUH-at, rat, and the CUH-at, cat, went PI-it-ter PUH-at.”

Anissa, in a very serious tone with a very serious face: “ANDRAE. Your P is in my FACE.”

*****

Shopping. It’s an experience. It’s an adventure. Three girls under 7, purses in tow, boots, frills, looking for the perfect little girl wow.

One boy, all grown up with five years under his belt, determined to find that sword that lights up, fist full of money coins that aren’t enough to buy more than a candy bar but in his mind, it’s enough to buy that $50 remote control four wheeler toy.

Two babies, one 18-month-old in shopping cart and wide-eyed wonderness, one in newborn recliner known as a car seat, Momma giving full attention to her newness and determined to continue life as normal.

Aisles of Christmas must haves, when around a corner, they are spotted. An entire rack of glittery, sparkly, puppy dog purses.

Three-year-old and four-year-old, in unison, and loud enough for all in the department to hear:

“OH.  MY.  GOSH!!”

img_2128

*****

This Ama is so very grateful for tired bones, aching feet, sore back, and heart full.

This Ama is so very grateful for “Ama!” “Ama!” “Ama!” “Ama!!” “Ama!!!”

This Ama is so very grateful for lots of giggles, chortles, tee hees, chuckles, guffaws, and laughter.

Hers…but especially, theirs.

 

 

Where the apples taste sweeter and the birds are singing my song.

Image result for angel baby

Grandchild #8 arrives today. Her mama and daddy are at the hospital anticipating her entrance very soon. I will hold her tomorrow. I am grateful.

There are so many things to be done before then. Last minute things. I can get myself all worked up into a bundle of stress, but in the end, all that will matter?

That she is here and in my daughter’s arms.

It’s that kind of day.

The sky is bluer, the pillows are softer, the workload is light.

I am grateful. That’s all. I’m just grateful and my heart is smiling.

Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say…

Image result for it is well with my soul

I am grateful for bitter cold air to breathe as I walk into work.

I am grateful for a cardinal ornament and a piano ornament to remind me of my Aunt Patsy.

I am grateful for blankets on my bed.

I am grateful for a phone call, a LONG phone call, with Geri.

I am grateful for the best TV show in the year 2016.

Image result for this is us

 

I am grateful that I will not be attending the Chiefs game tonight.

I am grateful for homemade peanut clusters.

I am grateful for the privilege of spending time with Helen and Avis and Louene and Betty and Barb and Ken. My Bingo family is shrinking but we do not ever forget Anne or Katherine or Lucy or Ruth or Cindy or Betty 2 or Norma or Stan or Jim…well, Barb forgets, but she can’t help it. She forgets everything. But she remembers other things that are important to her.

I am grateful the pretty birds and songbirds have returned.

Image result for it is well with my soul bird

I am grateful that there are neighbors on our street who take outdoor Christmas lighting seriously for the rest of us who are just too tired or too busy or not motivated this year, but at least we get to enjoy the pretty-ness as we drive down the street each day. That is Christmas kindness and Christmas-loving-your-neighbor-as-yourself.

He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27 CEB

An elderly lady in a small town in the Midwest always went to a specific branch post office in her town because the postal employees were friendly. On a busy afternoon, just a few days before Christmas, she stopped to purchase a few stamps. While waiting in the long line, a man pointed out that there was no need to wait; a stamp machine was in the lobby. “I know,” she replied, “but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.”

The art of kindness has not been lost, but sometimes it gets tucked away, especially during the holidays. There are so many errands to run, goodies to bake, and gifts to wrap that we forget the spirit of Christmas, sharing the good news of Jesus’ birth with others by showing our love and generosity.

When you take the time to encourage someone, it might be the small act that changes his or her entire life! Go the extra mile for someone in need – become involved in your community. The art of kindness is in you.

*****

Someone was kind to me yesterday. Actually more than someone. Someones.

My bosses, they are married to each other, gave us three very nice sets of dishes for our new home.

My co-worker, knowing I am going to help my daughter and family next week, printed off recipes for casseroles she thought they might like for me to make while there.

Elaine and Linda and LaDonna wrote kindness to me on Facebook, and Julie sent me a sweet email.

My Dad worked on our Blessings Breakfast gifts while I was at work.

And last night, he went with me to buy a tree, an attempt to appease my Christmas blues, and then he carried it by himself to the car, loaded it, unloaded it, helped me set it up, strung lights, and then he unboxed Mom’s nativity and set it up in the entry. And after all of that, he vacuumed the trail of Frasier fir needles.

And to top it off, when we got home, we discovered a package left at the front door with my name on it. Inside was a book, a coloring book. I have no idea who sent it to me, but it warmed my heart and I am so anxious to spend the holidays coloring – it is a coloring book made just for me, I am sure. And just for Sam. One of our favorite hymns graces each page…

2016-12-08_07-46-08_15-1

So, I am grateful today for the people in my life who exemplify Luke 10:27.