Jammies If I Choose

As you have been quarantined with family or perhaps “sheltering in place” alone, was this a time of productivity? Perhaps you caught up on stacks of “must do’s” or even many of those “wanna do’s.”

I’m sure there was much “jammie and lazy bones” time. I recently told someone I needed to resume a routine because even though I was constructive throughout the day, I found my hours and days blending together. It was delightful not awakening to an alarm, but I also realized how mundane my life would be if I didn’t have a regimen. Now as our lives resume to normalcy what did we learn?

Did we lay aside those times with friends and family of trivial disagreements? For persons totally alone, as am I, I don’t have incongruities.  Nonetheless, I came to appreciate each and every time I’m able to walk to my garage, sit in the seat of my car and pull from my drive to go wherever I choose. Since I spent my life in health care, I was always cognizant of my freedoms, opportunities and abilities, as I cared for many persons whom were much younger than I, living their lives in total immobility, illness or severe handicaps.

I know each has been blessed by stories we’ve read or heard of strangers reaching out to others. As we listened to the interviews of healthcare workers on the front line, working long and fatiguing hours in order to serve those in need, we may have felt incredible appreciation toward them. However, we also realized we could not overlook those not being interviewed; isolated while caring for terminally or critically ill loved ones, caregivers of handicapped children or loved ones with Alzheimer’s. They could not call for someone to come by and relieve them, for all were in quarantine.

As we resume our lives, will we recall those days we traipsed from store to store seeking toilet paper, yearned for a time to sit in our favorite coffee shop chatting with friends, or longed to have a family celebration in our favorite restaurant? During this time, I also prayed for those families losing loved ones, unable to provide an avenue to honor them. Memorial and funeral services were postponed to enable “greater than ten” to gather and remember.

I trust that as I return to my “normal” that I don’t fail to speak to another when passing by, or that I fail to offer assistance to anyone I’m aware of  that has a need or that I fail to offer gratitude daily for those things I take for granted.

I will enjoy jammies and “being lazy days”, if I choose. Yet how grateful I will be that it is a choice rather than because I’m prevented from leaving my house. I trust each of us have memories which imprint us for the remainder of our lives. Psalm 9:1 NKJ, “ I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart…”

 

 

 

 

 

Next Year or Now?

Are we going to be the “next year” people of the dust bowl or the “here now” people? We are in a situation now; one which will imprint each of us. There are many loses, but through a time of tragedy and sorrow there are also rays of “sonshine.”

As I watched Ken Burns’ documentary on the dust bowl, I was astounded that so many could be optimistic in the throes of such devastation; loss of income, homes and lives. Their food was gone. Their children and family were dying from dust pneumonia; dust filled their nostrils and lungs causing mud and suffocation; some dying within minutes or hours.  If their homes were not destroyed or foreclosed, the home values depreciated by 90%. They had no financial means to move. They remained with the determination and confidence of better days ahead.

As the calamity progressed, Black Sunday in April 1935 affected persons throughout the continental US. 12 million pounds of dust from the great plains blew across the country, even some descending upon the President’s desk in the white house. Opinions and ideas were sent from across the country on methods of stopping this catastrophe.  Suggestions of covering the 100 million acres of the great plains with concrete or asphalt were only a couple of dozens of such irrational suggestions.

How did the survivors of the dust bowl maintain their positive outlook when their livestock was buried alive or when only the roofs of their homes were visible under colossal mounds of dirt?  If the cattle didn’t die from asphyxiation of the dust, the starving cattle were herded into massive trenches and killed as a mandate by federal and state governments. Interviewed survivors from this trauma touted of pleading to retain the younger and healthier cattle, but it was refused. All were killed. Even if farmers had a single cow for milk for their families, they would kill newborn calves to conserve the mother’s milk for their own families.

Yet, in the midst of calamity, rabbits survived. I found that to be somewhat humorous, but it wasn’t. For the thousands of rabbits were obliterating everything in their path, including fence posts. I pondered the reality of such adversities. The tenacious farmers and their families endured destruction of their livestock, homes and family members, only to be further assailed by rabbits.

Do we ever have times in our lives when we feel we have been defeated by rabbits? We feel we have lost everything and as we are trying to recover, the rabbits arrive.  For the “next year” generation, hope kept them going. Hope was also their disappointment. Year after year they hoped and year upon year nothing changed.

“But then”….it did change. For those that survived and hoped, the winds blew, but without the dust. The skies were blue and not black from dust. The land beneath their feet once again produced food for their families and livestock. Homes were rebuilt and families restored.

Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV, “the Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

He Is Not Here

Dear Readers, I had planned on concluding the chronicle of the Dust Bowl. However, because this is Easter Sunday, reflections of this special day are more appropriate. Each of us has special memories of the day; purchasing or making those special Easter outfits, planning and preparing Easter dinner and of course the piece de resistance; the colorful, surprise filled eggs and chocolate goodies cascading from the exquisite baskets.

My warmest memories are when my then husband and I had the least amount of income. For it was during those early Easter celebrations hours of time, preparation and love were spent in decorating, sewing and baking.  How I loved making dresses with ruffles, bows and lace for our little Easter Princess. Hats and Easter coats were also a “must” for the ensemble. As with Prince George, our little prince was attired in the latest trend; tailored short pants and handsome shirts.

Some of those Easter fashions were complimented with fragrant corsages from “Daddy Easter Bunny.”  Before dashing out the door, I donned my “Easter Bonnet” to complete my outfit.  The attire of the 1970’s is satire today, but we were the “picture perfect” family for those early Easters.

Not only did homemade cakes adorn our table, but friends and neighbors engaged me to make their floral and bunny embellished cakes. The children’s baskets were never complete without handmade chocolates and assorted goodies. Love was sewn into each stitch of fabric and added to every ingredient of the cakes and basket goodies.

Nonetheless, with all the groundwork to make the day perfect, it was not about the frocks, meal, colored eggs or baskets, but the celebration of the day; the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  As we currently view our church services in the comfort of our homes, the Easters of today and yesteryear have the same message.  Max Lucado noted, “Easter cannot be canceled. The church doors might be closed, but the promise is alive and well. It was Sunday morning after the Friday execution. Jesus’ final breath had sucked the air out of the universe.”

Today our Lord has risen. Pastors throughout the world are proclaiming the Easter message with their own personal reflections. Our pastor shared that our lives are now free; free to enjoy happiness and joy which comes only from the “empty tomb.” He also shared we should never “forget in the dark what Jesus showed you in the light.”

This includes the freedom from the brokenness of our lives. Many of us have endured broken promises, broken vows, broken marriages and broken families. Yet with the “empty tomb” we have a hope and promise that the sorrows of this brokenness will give us the freedom for a restoration of our lives.

Matthew 28:6 NKJ “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plentiful Soil or Dust?

For those that have resided in Oklahoma, you understand the lyrics of the song are accurate, “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet, When the wind comes right behind the rain. OOOOk-lahoma, Ev’ry night my honey lamb and I, Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin’ lazy circles in the sky.”

During my years of early marriage, we spent approximately five years in Enid, OK, surrounded by ranches and wheat farms. How greatly I enjoyed watching the wheat flourish as the beautiful, golden, stalks waved and glistened before the harvest. The wheat harvest was not beneficial for our asthmatic son whom endured the symptoms during his infancy and pre-school years. Nonetheless, I recall it as a vivid and picturesque memory.

Oklahoma doesn’t possess the same beauty as the states with mountains, rivers, streams and tall majestic trees, but how I cherish the splendor and magnificence of the wide-open spaces as the brilliant sun sets upon those plains. Recently, I viewed Ken Burns, documentary on the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. As Ken noted, “this was one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of our country.”

Have you heard of the “next year” people? They are the optimistic people from the dark and incomprehensible days of the Dust Bowl which developed in the lower portion of the great plains.  When the “next year people” realized their current year was a “miss” with their crops and finances they said “there is always next year.”

The dirt below each of us is land, soil, dirt or dust depending upon its’ form. For them, their land; the soil which had provided their food and financial security became something to be despised; the soil became dirt and dust which decimated everything in its’ path.

As I viewed this poignant documentary, I thought of our current situation causing life altering changes. While many of us are now wearing masks as we go outside our homes, the people of the dust bowl wore masks or wet towels over their heads and faces day and night inside their homes, as well as outdoors.

It is beyond comprehension, that in addition to the hardship of the dust bowl, the country was experiencing the great depression. Tearfully, these survivors shared of the nightmares they all experienced during one of the gloomiest eras of our US history. People were contracting dust pneumonia as rapidly as the virus which is now spreading throughout our country and the world.

As the dust filled the nostrils and lungs of animals and mankind, it became mud, suffocating those it affected, causing countless fatalities.  Crops and livestock were annihilated as cattle died where they stood, unable to breathe. Crops were suffocated, buried under tons of dirt mounds.

Can we realize that even during these times of tremendous adversities, God is with us?  NIV, Job 1:21, “…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

What Is Your Impression?

I will occasionally deviate from the journey of my life and the gifts of God’s love to share topics which may be an encouragement and/or inspiration to you; my readers.  Don McMinn shared a subject, which I also have strong opinions about; the last and enduring impression. As Don mentions and we all know, making a good first impression is important, but isn’t it often the last impression which remains with you?

I think of my own personal experiences and sometimes there is great joy, while at other times the last image or impression was one which leaves me with great sadness. Have you taken a trip where the last memory of the trip was a departure dinner or gala? As Don mentioned in his blog, it isn’t always about the weather or the “oops” moments on the trip, but the last event before people shared their hugs and good-byes.

What about the service person that enters your home? Do you offer a “thank you” as they depart?  How about offering them a bottle of water to continue on their journey? I’ve always desired to be the customer they recall that was kind to them.

My daughter and I went on a trip last year; our first together and one which has lingered in my heart and mind for these past nine months. Our last evening together was in Canada and I both cry and smile when I think of some of her departing words to me, “Mom, the smile has never left your face.” She is right. If I had died that night, I trust my smile and the love I have for her is what she would have remembered.

When I last saw my mother, the sadness still fills me with tears.  As I held her tiny, frail face in my hands, I told her I loved her and I would see her again. I told my mother often in her life that I loved her; always hoping to hear her words of love for me. It never happened.

I don’t know if my mother did love me, for she refused to articulate those words.  Yet, as I bid her farewell with a promise to see her the following month, that moment would be our last.  Days before her 89th birthday, God called her home. My last image was that of my mother with stage 4 colon cancer, telling her I loved her and yearning to hear the same.

There are many sentiments I tried to instill in my children, but one which I spoke over and over is that we can “never travel this way again” and “what if”, that moment with someone was your last? The impression you leave may be a gift or an offense.  Don McMinn states, “think carefully about how you end all relational encounters…A well-orchestrated ending can make a significant difference.”

Do you want your last encounter with someone to be one they cherish or a memory which causes them to be sorrowful?

Luke 6:31 NIV, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

Returning Home

Have you ever had those times in your life when you think, “God, how did I miss this one?” Such is the case with this long and challenging journey which began last week. As I shared, I arrived at my original volunteer destination only to realize this was false advertising.  While heading back home, my daughter encouraged me to investigate if another resort or inn could utilize my time and talents. As I knocked on an innkeeper’s door in another village, I was informed “yes, indeed they could use me.” With much kindness and hospitality, they accepted me as a volunteer, but quickly realized this was not beneficial for them.

I’m returning home, but this time not stopping to smell roses along life’s path. I realize that with every event in life, there is a purpose and often a lesson. God is always in the details, even when it appears things went awry.  I know if God lays something on my heart again and I pray for Him to direct me, I will not back down from a challenge.  However, I will be more cautious and perhaps expend more exploration.  Even though I did my research this time, I “missed the mark.”

As in all situations there are positive elements if we choose to seek the optimistic and not the pessimistic. I spent some loving and memorable time with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and her family.  I also learned things are not always as they appear. Although, laughingly I acquired that lesson many years ago. Additionally, I was blessed to be a part of the Sunday morning worship service at the church where my brother is interim pastor, interacting with many caring individuals. This was a time to be reminded of I Thess. 5:18 KJV “In everything give thanks…”

Is This Really A Room?

As I had shared, I was heading north to WI for a month-long volunteer stint. After two days of driving over 1,150 miles, I arrived at my destination. Shock and disbelief were the first words which came to mind upon  arrival.  After telephone calls and e-mails to the owners for over two months, I was astounded to see the accommodations were unfit for even my little dog. The room smaller than my closets contained not a bed, but a cot without a full set of linens or even a pillow. There was not a closet nor a rod for hanging my clothes. They knew I was coming with my bicycle and sewing machine as this had been discussed “at length.” The filth and stench of the room allowed me to realize most probably non-human residents would have been bunking with me.

I wondered how anyone would be willing to allow someone to volunteer for them 40 hours per wk. for a full month and then provide accommodations inferior to shelters? As I drove away, the numbness was so enormous I could not even cry. I telephoned my daughter informing her I had no option, but to return back to OK. Not dealing with the situation as I was, she was wise in her counsel. “Mom, there has to be someone else in the area that can use your time and talent.” I said, “you are right.” I will see if I can locate someone. If not, I’m heading back home.”

As I pulled over to the side of the road, I continued the prayer I had begun when viewing the appalling living arrangements at the resort, “God I prayed about this before I began this adventure, so please show me now what you would have for me to do.” I researched resorts and inns in the area. God is always in the details, so He led me to an inn where the owner/innkeeper was present. I inquired about anyone whom could use a retired volunteer for a month. God led and God intervened. Yes, the new inn could use me. So now on day 2 of this adventurous, journey, I’m awaiting what will be in store for me. Psalm 37:23 NKJ “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way.”