Sunday, January 3, 2021

Write that I...

It's that time of year. Time to clear out "stuff" that you've kept too long. Time to simplify. That's what I spent this afternoon doing. I found a couple of old notebooks that I'd written in - for now I'll focus on one. 

I had the privilege of attending the TOLI program for Holocaust Studies a few years ago and I found my notebook from that study. Inside were two poems - one personal and one written in response to a video of Irving Roth. It was an assignment that could be used in the classroom - but I'll share mine here. Why? Because I don't want them to stay inside that notebook and never be shared, especially the one written in response to Irving Roth's story.

Write that I...(personal poem - I think I was thinking of my kids when I wrote this)

When you write my story,

        write that I brought hope.

Write that I saw beauty in the dark places

        and that I helped you see it too.

Write that I wanted to see you walk with God

        in ways that I could only imagine.

That I believed in you and His purpose in you.

        Write that I trusted Him to guide you 

            because I knew I would fail - and yet still I tried.

Write that I loved you more than life.

Now for the one written in response to Irving Roth's story. He is a Holocaust survivor. (Here's a link to one version on Youtube - Irving Roth)

Write that I...

Write that I was a child - just a child.

I loved to run and play and life was good

        oh so good.

The whole world was my oyster - what could possibly go wrong?

        The Nazi's - that's what could go wrong.

Write that it started slowly - I don't think anyone saw -

        Didn't anyone see?

They took away our humanity.

At the park - Jews and dogs not allowed?

Don't go out at night - it's for my own safety?

Wear this star - so that all might know me.

        Don't you mean so that they might forget my name?

Write that they took my friends and left us to wonder where they had gone.

They forced us to run to safety - only no place was really safe.

Only a few would stand up for us - the rest just turned away.

        Turned us over.

            Turned and pretended it was not their concern.

After all - we were no more than animals with stars by now. 

        We didn't even have a name.

Write that I was found and taken away - like a dog to the pound.

My grandparents were "cared for" and taken to the showers, 

        but that meant I never saw them again.

The final blow - I am a number now. Do they expect me to forget my own name?

There is not hope - until...

One man - a prisoner like me - 

        brought thought back into our reach. 

The wires faded away and for a moment we were free.

Only a moment, for as far as I could see, the world has forgotten -

        gone blind to what anyone can see - lost its morality.

Write that I didn't believe in miracles anymore - 

        but thank God the miracles still hadn't given up on me.

Write that a few looked up to see

        and because of them, I lived to tell you

                look up and see.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

One word for 2021

Every year I choose "one word" to focus on for the coming year. Resolutions are tricky. Once you've blown it with a resolution, it's over! But one word that serves as a focus for the year - well that's much more doable! It acts as a beacon in the storms of the year and helps guide you. It amazes me how accurate each word has been when I look back at the previous year. 

I find that I do best when I let the word "choose me." Somehow it's just a word that rolls around in my mind for days or weeks prior to the new year. I don't have to think much about it - it just keeps popping into my view as the new year approaches.

One year my word was "hope" - and that year hope was exactly what we needed when my husband's company abruptly closed its doors and he went 6 months looking for another job. Hope definitely carried us that year. 

One year my word was "move" and while I thought it meant I'd get back to running, that was the year I changed schools and started teaching at a small country school in the district that I really knew nothing about! So thankful for the blessings that came with that word.

This year my word was "good" - that's right. 2020's word was "good" and while it's easy to find all the ways it was NOT good, I believe that God is somehow still working it all out for our good. All of it. 

I will admit I'm ready for 2020 to be over. Most of the year has simply been a blur. I did learn some good things - like how to eat "keto" which has had a huge impact on helping me with diabetes management. I learned how to grow plants - not a lot of them, but for someone with a brown thumb, I was pretty happy about it. I learned a LOT about how to teach online and have even been able to tutor students after school thanks to zoom. 

Mostly I've learned to roll with whatever comes. We all have. I started to write about a lot of crazy things that have happened this year, but everyone could probably use their own lists...and how somehow it has all turned out for good. Really. Through it all, it's all been good.

This brings me to this year's word. At first, I thought I knew what it would be - "trust". Of course, with my history of what words mean, that word worried me a bit. Visions of trust freefalls came to mind! But as we get closer to saying goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021, another word keeps rolling in my mind - "truth".

Trust - "Firm belief in the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing; confidence or reliance. Okay, that sounds about right. I know that my trust is in God and I rely on Him.

Truth - Now that's a tricky one. It has become popular to say that everyone has their own "truth" but that is absolute poppycock! Everyone has their own experience, but that does not make it truth. How many times have we watched those shows that show what happened from each person's point of view and none of them is actually accurate? They experienced something, but perhaps it was not true to all that was going on. There is so much more.

Jesus describes himself as the way, the truth, and the life, and as such he is the only means to the Father. For Paul, truth is the message of God that all of humanity has repressed ( Rom 1:18 ) and exchanged ( 1:25 ) for a lie, in that they have directed their worship not to the Creator, but to the creation. Ultimately, "truth" is God and His Word. 

So perhaps this year, my one word is actually two. "Trust Truth." That's not that different from what I originally thought it would be since I knew that my trust must lie in God and what He says. But I have to wonder, how much richer and more defined will these words be by this time next year.

Goodbye, 2020. You have been tough, but somehow through it all God has brought good from you. Hello, 2021 - I trust that Truth will prevail!

What will your word for the coming year be?

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

Saturday, December 19, 2020

We're different now...

2020 has affected us all in many ways - most that don't show on the outside. I know this now.

It has made us harder - or maybe more resilient - or maybe just more able to roll with the punches.

For example - this morning I slept late (6:30) and was awakened by the dog to be let out. Okay - no problem. I need to get up, have coffee, and do some cleaning before going to get groceries.

I'm halfway through my cup of coffee when I start to smell something - something not at all pleasant.

Long story short(ish), some time last night after we'd gone to bed, one of the dogs needed to go out but being the sweet pups that they are, they didn't wake us up. Instead, he/she found a corner and relieved themself...and also underneath the Christmas tree next to the chair they always sleep in.

Whatever they had eaten did NOT agree with them and left a runny, quickly hardening mess. THEN - one of them (the boy dog) evidently stepped in said "late-night gift" while getting down from the chair and proceeded to run around the house this morning. That was what I "smelled".

Thanks to 2020, all this did not even phase me.

I just started cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning - did I mention he ran all over the house?

Now, I have a nice clean floor for the weekend and I'm fairly certain, thanks to my keen sense of smell, that I do not have covid.

On a side note: if my family HAPPENS to get me a new broom and mop for Christmas, I won't be offended.

2020 does that to a person.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

Saturday, December 12, 2020

2020 can still be "good"


I've written before that my one word for 2020 was the word, "Good". While it seems that 2020 has been anything but good, I still believe that there is time to turn this year around.

At my school, a small little middle school in Mississippi, we have a service day planned for this coming week. In years past, we have sent students all around the city and surrounding community to give middle school students a taste of what it means to volunteer and help others. We've gone to nursing homes, places that serve the homeless, places that serve those in need - lots of places to help them see that they can make a difference in their world.

Of course, this year is different. Am I the only one tired of that word, 'different'?  This year we can't put students on cheese-wagons and take them around the surrounding areas to paint, sort, clean, etc. to help others. So our innovative administration is thinking outside the box and finding ways our kids can help others. Because it's in helping others that we find our own purpose, our own joy.

So, I'd like to invite you to join us in helping others. Maybe for you, it will be doing something like what I recently read about and you'll "pay it forward" by paying for the person in line behind you in McDonald's. Recently in a small town, customers at a McDonald's started sharing the love to the tune of over 900 people paying it forward! Can you begin to imagine the difference that made? Over 900 people changed the day of the person traveling behind them with a small act of kindness! 

As I shared that story with my students, I reminded them that THEY are in control of how 2020 ends. I'll admit that so far, 2020 has not been what I'd imagined and certainly not what I'd have called "good".  But there is still time to change all that. There is still time to make 2020 "good".

Our students have the opportunity to help out a place called Worthy Stables - a wonderful place that helps people with disabilities or people suffering from PTSD or those locked inside the trauma that would try to take their lives.

They have the chance to donate to Petal Children's Task Force and help kids, just like them who need food or help with school or a hundred other things.

They have the chance to help with Fieldhouse for the Homeless and help those who never imagined that one day they would live in a tent without a home or a job or the things so many of us take for granted.

They have the chance to brighten the day of those in nursing homes with cards and video concerts and small acts that let people there know they are not forgotten. 

They have a chance to make a difference in 2020.

And so do you. Maybe you'll dig into your purse and find some loose change to donate to the red kettle as you leave the store. Maybe you'll check out some of the charities I'll list below and make a donation. (One of my favorites is Worthy Stables!) Maybe you'll pay for the person behind you in the line at McDonald's. Maybe you'll find a way to make 2020 a lot less yuck and end it with a lot more hope. 

You make a difference. You really do. Don't' give up hope. 2020 can still be a year of "good".

Don't forget to check out some of the places that you can give this year and make a difference!

Worthy Stables

Petal Children's Task Force

Fieldhouse for the Homeless

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Temporary home


Do you ever wake up from one of those weird dreams and immediately start wondering what that was all about? No, I'm not talking about the dinosaurs dancing in tutus kind of weird, I'm talking about...well, let me just recount the dream.

Yesterday I woke up from one of those dreams that make you wonder. The dream featured some old friends that we haven't seen in literally decades other than occasionally on Facebook. It seems we were hosting a dinner party and for some reason, we were having it at their house. There were lots of people and of course my friends and dogs - lots of family dogs. Oh, and of course tons of kids running around. Everyone was having a great time, dogs would put their paws on the counter to sniff the food but even they were being polite - looking but not swiping off the counter. 

At some point, I went to put something on the stove and noticed that the wall behind the stove was scarred - that's the only way I can figure to explain it. It had been through years of something - maybe bad or sloppy cooking or something - anyway, the wallpaper (yes, wallpaper) behind the stove was sort of messed up and scarred. I thought as I put my pot on the stove to warm that it was odd that my friends hadn't tried to fix it, or at least cover it up with some sort of decorative something. I know I would have.

Then I heard my friends talking and they were saying how they were actually just renting this house. It was temporary and soon they would be moving into their new house and how excited they were about it. This home had some great features - lots of storage space, etc. and they were very comfortable in it but, well, the conversation faded out after that, or maybe I just don't remember it. 

There were other bits and pieces but that stove and what they had said were what really stuck with me after I woke up. 

How weird. Wonder what that was all about?

Then, on the way to work, it hit me. My friends were very comfortable in their temporary home and made no real effort to hide the flaws because it wasn't theirs. Oh, they kept it very clean and welcoming, but things like the scarred wall behind the stove weren't theirs to fix. They were concentrating on putting their resources into the new home that was being built. 

Me, myself, this body I live in is my temporary home. It's got some scars from use and misuse, and while I would probably try to hide those scars with something, it's really not worth spending too much time even thinking about. I'm sort of just "renting" this place out till my new home is move-in ready. The things that I think will embarrass me if they are seen aren't really worth spending time on. I do my best to keep things up, but this is an old place filled with lots of years of wear and tear. Instead of spending time worrying about it, I should spend my time enjoying the people around me and really living in this temporary home right now...wrinkles and scars and all.

So, there you have it. One weird dream and what I got from it. Oh, one more thing. When I got to school, one of my students was wearing a sweatshirt that read, "Embrace the awesome that you are!" I thought that was a pretty appropriate conclusion. I'm going to embrace the "storage space" I have and every part of this temporary home while I'm here. 

Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) "For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven."

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A change is in order...

I have lived in this house for...Dale, how long have we lived here? Since 1999? That long? Okay, we've lived here for over 20 years and in that time we have pretty much always been backdoor kind of people. Everyone always entered through the, friends, UPS deliveries. But recently, I had cause to question what we've done for over 20 years.

It all started with a sweet family moving in across the street. We'll call them the "J's" for their privacy and because we all know I'm lousy with names. They came across the street and to our front door - well, that makes sense. We have a walkway to the door, a wreath on the door, and it is the front door. Of course, I went around and invited them in through the carport door. A few days later, they came again to the front door. I reminded them we usually use the carport door and we laughed. Then a few days later, "Mom" came and this time she came to the carport door. Success!

I looked around my kitchen - of course, there were dishes in the sink and a couple of pans on the stove. Not a big problem, but it all got me thinking. Why don't we use the front door?

So, I went and had a look at our front door. My goodness, the front porch and walkway needed a good sweeping and there were some cobwebs in the corner that needed to come down. I took care of that in short order only to notice that the bushes next to the front door had certainly gotten out of hand; those had to be cut back! So I started cutting and it quickly became evident that at least one of those bushes needed to be removed. In case you wonder, azaleas are NOT easy to remove!

This idea was swiftly becoming more difficult than I had anticipated. I dug out that azalea and planted a pot of pretty little flowers to place near the door. It's still a long way from where I want it, but it is starting to look more welcoming. Still, it needed one more thing. Something that said people were welcome at my FRONT door. So, I made one of those "Welcome" boards from an old scrap we had leftover from a project.

But why all this work? Why not just do things like I've always done them?

Because something has changed. I started looking at things in a new way. And I had a reason to change. Two precious little girls now live across the street from "Ms Donna" and I want them to always feel free to visit. I don't want them to have to leave sight of their own front porch in order to come to my door. I want them to feel "safe" to approach.

All this got me thinking; the world is changing and maybe we need to make some changes to deal with it all. Maybe it's time to look at what we've always done and see if it allows others to freely approach us. It's time to clear away old ideas or habits that shut us off from those who don't really know us so that they can get to know us!

There has never been a time when we were more in need of "opening our doors" to conversation and getting to know each other. My prayer is that I can let go of old habits and approach the need with open hands and a welcome. I want my countenance to be filled with peace and calm, free of debris and cobwebs of misconceptions. What people will find "inside" hasn't changed, but at least now it's a lot more welcoming and there's a chance that friendships will develop along the way.

And it all started with a visit from a new neighbor...make that a new friend.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Why are you always so happy?

Why are you always so happy? That's a question I get quite a lot. Honestly, I'm not sure but I've got some ideas...

I usually respond that it's the joy of the Lord and get back something along the lines of "Well, I've got that but not like you." I know they do, but it just shows in a different way than it does in me so I continue to explore - just why am I so happy?

It's certainly not because life is easy and everyone around me is happy. My own children prove on a regular basis that my happiness is not shared by them, (although they both have a great sense of humor!) And life - well, it's 2020...enough said about that.

Today I was struck by a random thought. Maybe I'm so happy because it makes me happy to be happy. It is what makes me tick. I LOOK for things to make me happy! It might be a flower I pass on my walk or a dog that greets me with a barking "Go, Donna Go!" as I pass their yard or a beautiful blue sky or a turtle that comes up to inspect my gardening - that one happened yesterday. I smiled about that for the rest of the time I spent out there sweating! There are a million little things that make me smile each day and being happy makes me happy!

I know that there's a lot out there right now to make people unhappy - angry even. I recognize that there is pain and awful things in the world that try to steal our joy - things that just aren't right. But even in this, I know that somehow, someway, God is going to use this to bring about a good outcome and bring us closer to Him. I don't believe God causes the evil, but I do have the promise that which was meant for evil, God uses for good. (Genesis 50:20)

My students sometimes ask me if I watch ______ (usually a scary show) and I tell them no. I really do try to live by the verse that says whatsoever things are good, noble, pure - think on these things. 

I realize all this sounds sort of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms" and some would tend to believe that my "happiness" is an indicator of my lack of intelligence or that I just don't understand what is going on in the world. Maybe they are right, but I will tell you that it is hard work to be this happy. And I have my moments of sadness - and anger - but usually when they are the worst I realize I have spent way too much time looking at and listening to all that is wrong in the world instead of spending time listening to praise to the One who can make a difference.  

Last night, I turned off the tv, put away the computer and Facebook, and picked up a book I haven't read in years. It was Joshua and the Children by Joseph Grizone. I love the Joshua series because it helps me refocus and think "What would Jesus do?" Not the slogan type WWJD, but really asking myself how can I react and act more like Him. It helped me refocus on "whatsoever."

So why am I so happy? I guess the answer is because it makes me happy and I like it that way. If you need a happiness boost, here's a song by Zach Williams to get you started: don't let nothing steal your joy!

Philippians 4:8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash