I think I’m about finished with paperwork for a while. Today I saw an attorney and finalized my estate-trust deed, will, and final wishes. My goal was to keep my kids out of probate court when the time comes.
For the past 27 ½ months I have had a real education in legal matters, taxes, medical jargon, customer service, dishonesty and kindness. Not that I was never touched by these things before, but they took on a whole new meaning when I dealt with them alone.
I grew stronger, a bit wiser, and more empathetic. There has not been a typical “turning the corner” moment; rather a lot of switchbacks up and down hill. I learned about switchbacks when I began hiking in Alabama in preparation for a trip to Montana in 2015. A switchback is any trail that follows a zig-zag pattern up a steep hill or mountainside. There’s a gradual incline up the mountain instead of climbing straight up to the summit. Hiking a switchback is a much safer and less strenuous way to climb up a hill or mountain.
I thank God for the switchbacks. The rests in between the hard parts. I thank Him for His rest in the hard parts.
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.”
Today, Chuck would have turned 65. If I live until next summer I will have been on the earth longer than he was. We lived together for 41 1/2 years. Before and after that I’ve lived 21 1/2 other years. I thank God for every year He has given me, the hard and the easy. I learn more everyday that all these years are but a wisp of time compared to eternity.
I found the following words from Chuck on a usb while trying to purge files on a computer. They were written in 2008 as we were preparing to join Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine.
I was born (1956) and raised here in Jacksonville, Fl. My parents were hard working, moral, but not spiritual people. Needless to say I was not raised in church, I can actually recall the only four times that I attended church services up until I was 21 years old. I was lost but I did not yet realize it. I believe it was true of me when the scripture says; “I was once alive apart from the law.”
My only real interest in life from age 8 to 20 was playing baseball. Everything I did centered on baseball. Life was planned around it to the extent that I chose my college based on which Jr. College had the best baseball coach and where would I have the best chance of being drafted. Baseball was my first and only love. Everything was subservient to it in my life. Little did I realize how God was working in my life, especially, since I had no interest in Him or need for Him (at least by my perception).
I met Angie in the summer of 1977, at the age of 20, when we were both students at Georgia Southern. We began dating and soon I fell in love with her. At this point God began to move in my life.
I never was a good student in college; I was always making good enough grades to maintain my status on the baseball team. However in 1977-78, it all caught up with me when I was suspended for one quarter (winter) due to my grades. This meant I was no longer eligible for baseball. So, too ashamed to go home, I stayed in Statesboro and worked at a lumber yard full time, saving my money so that I could return to school in the spring as a ‘new man’. I decided I would focus on serious things, making good grades, etc. I was still without God, lost, and head over heels caught up in the world. I did return to school that spring and I pulled three B’s which, was a marked improvement for me, but now it was time to go home for the summer.
In the summer of 1978 two significant things occurred; 1) I decided to propose marriage to Angie and 2) She started back to church. She accepted my proposal and soon I followed her example and started attending services myself. Over the next several months I heard the Bible taught for the first time in my life. I learned about God and His Son and I learned about my sin, “but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” It was the first time that I ever realized I was a sinner and lost. In the fall of 1978 I surrendered to the Lord, I repented of my sin and believed Jesus Christ and He saved me. I was baptized within a few weeks of conversion and by the kindness of God in December of ’78; Angie and I were united in marriage.
If I may fast forward to the present to say, it has now been 30 years since the Lord saved me. My walk with Him, like all believers, has been full of hills and valleys, though sometimes the valleys have seemed like long deep ditches. But I can honestly say with the psalmist; “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the business of being grateful. I read a lot of blogs and I’ve been impressed recently with the idea of looking at all of life with a grateful eye. Which isn’t always easy when your roof is leaking, the termites are back and you get rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver. But, all these things and more drive me to my God, Who knows it all, Who determined it all for my good.
Today was a day of ups and downs, but I felt the peace of God surround me in it all. My grandson spent the night with me last night, so my morning didn’t start with me being alone. I had his company at breakfast and conversation on the drive to school. After I dropped him off, my tire pressure light came on. I found an air machine and paid my $2, only to run out of air time before I got to the one that was actually low. I drove home and then I remembered I had an air compressor that hooks up to my car. So I was able to put air in and the light finally went off. Hopefully that’s it.
Ruby and I got out for a walk around the block before noon. When I returned the mail had come. I got a nice card from a widow I met recently via Hope For Widows. Turns out we have the same birthday! She is only about an hour away so we plan to meet in person soon.
Late in the afternoon I went out to pick up a few things from the Dollar Tree and grocery store. Didn’t realize Friday night at the Dollar Tree was a hopping place. I didn’t feel impatient waiting in line, which is not how I used to be. God has done this work in me. In front of me was a grandma with her baby grandson. I could tell her mental capacity was a little diminished. As I approached the door to leave she was struggling with her bags, trying to get them all out of the cart, with the baby still in the seat. She asked me to get him out and I offered to carry him to her vehicle. She was appreciative, but all I could think was I’m glad it was me and not someone who might take off with the baby! When I lifted him up I could tell his diaper was soaked. When we got to her truck I told her he was pretty wet. So I lifted him back out of his car seat so she could change his diaper. I pray for her. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for her.
I proceeded to the grocery store, wandering around getting only a portion of what was on my list. By the time I left it was dark. I saw a man across the parking lot who, from the back, reminded me of Chuck. He was tall and broad shouldered, but when he turned I saw he looked nothing like Chuck. It still brought tears to my eyes. I thought of how when the time changed in Alabama Chuck hated getting home after dark.
Now, as I sit typing this, my windows are open and there is a pleasant little breeze. I’ve got a favorite playlist going in the background, my dog at my feet (when she isn’t up barking at every little noise).
Last night one of the elders from church called me. He was so compassionate and gave me this verse before he prayed with me over the phone:
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. – Psalm 145:17
Go Bury Thy Sorrow was written by Mary A. Bachelor about 1870 and set to music around 1906.
I have mixed feelings about this hymn. I understand the sentiment to an extent, but I think’s it’s just too simplistic
The world tells us to bury our sorrow. It’s okay to grieve, just not too much or for too long. This isn’t scriptural. There are so many examples in the Bible to look to of godly men who grieved. Lamentations, Job, and Psalms are full of cries of sorrow. Jesus was a “man of sorrows” (John 11:35, Isaiah 53:3-4).
The second verse follows scripture more closely. I totally agree that we are to go to Jesus, Who is our brother, friend, and husband, when we are grieving. Being acquainted with grief, Jesus certainly knows and enters into our grief. The Psalms are full of David taking his sorrow to the Lord. He honestly poured out his heart, sometimes wondering if God was even listening to him. Yet, I think David knew God was there all the time.
Now, verse three – well. I agree we are to go and comfort others in their grief. We are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). That doesn’t mean we have to bury our own sorrow. To love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31) I must first love myself. Because I have empathy, I’m not just going to “give them the sunshine’. We can grieve together, but with hope (I Thessalonians 4:13).
So, there you have it. Aunt Marie’s hymnal is full of wonderful songs. But, as with everything else, we need to be ever discerning (Acts 17:11).
Girl Sick in Bed (1937) — from Norman Rockwell’s American Children by Marian Hoffman
Kids are home, or at grandma’s. Teachers (including substitutes like me) are home. It’s not a vacation but I am seeing some of the upside. Yesterday as I walked Ruby in the neighborhood I saw two young teen girls walking a dog. I’m pretty sure I recognized the dog, which means these girls were probably staying with their grandma. I saw two tiny boys walking with their grandma. On two roads where, in six years, I’ve never seen a kid, I saw boys on bicycles. Seeing all these kids makes me happy. I know they are home for a very uncomfortable reason, but it is heartening to see them getting the sunshine and fresh air that is so good for us.
In chapter two, Sick Days, of Norman Rockwell’s American Children by Marian Hoffman, the picture above is accompanied by a story. Here is an excerpt:
“During the time Julia was sick, Joanna stopped by after school to drop off the day’s homework. Julia wondered why she still had to do homework when she wasn’t allowed to do anything else. “
I’ve seen a gazillion different takes on what kids should be doing during this time. I understand that not all homes will be concerned about the kids’ education while they are home. Some are just wondering how to survive the financial crisis. My opinion, as a teacher and mom and grandma, is that I’d much rather see a kid on a bicycle, or reading a book of their own choosing, or just hanging out with grandma, than plowing through a bunch of meaningless worksheets. For highschoolers, maybe they do need to keep up with some of the academics.
As a sub, a sort of “fly on the wall”, I can tell you that there is so much wasted time at school that if you added it up it would probably be about as much as the time these kids will be home. But the time at home will be better spent.
My husband recently used one of my favorite songs- Tell the Truth to Yourself– against me. We were discussing our diets and he claimed I put a LOT of cream in my coffee, to which I argued that I did NOT. He grinned at me and said, “Tell the truth to yourself.”
I must confess I kinda did the same thing months ago with the line “I lied to the doctor”, teasing him because he tries to be so good with his eating the week before he goes in for lab work.
All joking aside, it’s not easy to tell the truth to yourself. To face the music. Lately I’ve had to admit to myself that I am no spring chicken, whatever that is. I can still hike, but some days I go pretty slow. I have to be careful when I’m playing chase with Ruby. And when I dance in the kitchen.
There is a Bible verse that says “And you shall know thetruth, andthe truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). I don’t mean to just take this out of context, but I think the words can be applied here somewhat. Knowing the truth and telling the truth to ourselves seems quite similar. I think that when we are honest with ourselves and with each other, there is a peace and freedom that comes with that truth.
I discovered Sean of the South this year and when I see see his name in my inbox every morning I know I’m in for a good read on his blog. He writes about everything, but a recurring theme is the loss of his dad when he was 12. He even mentioned that someone has said he talks about that too much. I don’t think so. It’s a part of him.
Grief touches us all in different ways. When my Dad died I grieved, but so much was going on in my immediate family that I didn’t really have time to stop and grieve. It hit me about eight or nine months later. Like a knock down punch. Mom had been grieving in her own way. I remember she wasn’t eating enough at one point, then later it was the opposite – she was eating a lot of sweets which was unusual for her.
She also could not listen to music for a long time, because it always made her think of Dad. It was quite a while before she began playing the radio again.
This year for NaNoWriMo I’m attempting the family story once again. Last year I wrote about 23,000 words. This year I’m trying to redo it in the forms of verse and letters. So I’m reading/rereading the tons of letters I have here, from 1925-2015. Today I read a letter Mom wrote her sister, Billie, a month after their mother, my Mamaw, died in 1983.
“Seems like for the last couple of weeks I’ve had a delayed reaction to Mama’s dying. Can’t explain it, but I guess it’s a natural thing, I don’t know.”
It really struck me all over how much I miss Mom. Lately I’ve found myself tearing up with an overwhelming feeling of loss. It just comes over me and I can’t control it. In three months it will be two years that she’s been gone. I know I’ve talked about it a good bit here; forgive me.
I’ve read stories of people who pay for a person in line with them at a drive-thru, or pay for another customer’s meal in a restaurant, but I’ve never had it happen, or made it happen. Today I was able to observe a random act of kindness.
I was at the Dollar Store to get two items, which turned into five, but that was better than most trips that turn into ten items. As I get into the only line open there are six people ahead of me. Each one had a story, a life, a reason to be at the Dollar Store. The two older ladies who were checking out together shuffled slowly just like Mom used to. The next lady told the cashier to add a pink helium balloon to her order as she went over to get it. Then she turned and gave it to the toddler sitting in the shopping cart of the customer behind her. It was such a sweet, spur of the moment gesture. After they left I noticed the woman in front of me only had one item – some googles. Like the kind you might use in a chemistry lab at school. She began digging around in her big purse and could not find her wallet. She told the cashier she’d have to come back. That was my chance to follow the example of the balloon lady. I paid for the goggles. Such a simple act, a whole dollar plus tax, but I wondered, would I have even thought to do it had it been another day without the balloon lady in front of me? I want to think I would have.