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Boldly Go

The woman looked awful. A sudden migraine drop kicked her into that terrible place where she thought she might die and wished she’d hurry up. She wobbled to my office window and requested a sub. First grade teachers cannot leave all willy-nilly just because they’re dying. Everyone knows death for a teacher requires at least a two week notice.

“Yes!” I assured her. “I’ll find someone to fill in for you until a substitute can get here.” About that time, my sweet husband happened by to see me. He had walked over from the middle school during his planning period. “Hey Huuuuunnnney… could you please watch her class for a few minutes?”

When the longest forty-five minutes of his life were finally over, again he stopped by my office. “How’d it go?” I asked sympathetically. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop he responded, “They were HORRIBLE. They pat you with their sticky little hands. Why do they do that?”

It seems my sweetheart was not designed to meet the needs of tiny people. Gladly he’d endure the purgatory called middle school. But never again would he willingly subject himself to the abyss known as elementary.

With another school year starting, I’d like to extend my great appreciation and a backpack full of “Bless your hearts” to the educators. I must say, you remind me of Jesus… except that He didn’t have to do bulletin boards.

People pulled and tugged and confronted and accused and begged of Him continuously. So. Many. Needs. I bet the children even patted him with their fishy little hands. Yet He kept opening His weary arms to accept the least of these.

I find it interesting that while “vast crowds came to hear Him preach and be healed of their diseases,” Luke 5:16 gives us a little insight into Jesus’ strategy for coping. He “often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

Don’t worry. This is not where you’re guilted into adding one more thing to your very long list. Take this as an observation from an old chick who served amongst the good, the bad and the ugly for five years in one school and twenty in another.

Prayer changes everything.

No, you probably won’t have time to withdraw to some hidey hole where thou shalt kneel for a quiet “sweet hour of prayer.” But a mindset of bringing a child or family before the Lord as you’re dealing with them really helps. If your prayer sounds like, “Lord help little Pookie Bear lest I shake him til his teeth rattle.” God knows his need… and yours. I promise. I’ve seen it firsthand. Prayer changes everything. Mostly it changed me. Besides I figure since Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God prayed often, we might benefit from a cry for help too.

So thank you dear Teachers.

Lord help you dear Assistants.

Bless you dear Office Personnel.

bikes

There’s always one that has to be different.

God love you dear Principal.

What a wonderful calling you have! To bring out the best in so many lives! Like Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise, may you boldly take others where they have never been before!

And like Jesus, may God give you strength to open weary arms to the very least of these.

It Was Only Pie

I finally shared with my husband a terrible thing that happened nearly thirty years ago. I was traveling home with three little girls in tow when I had a flat tire. I limped it into a service station where a nice young mechanic came out of the garage area wiping the grease from his hands. “What can I do for you ma’am?” he kindly asked.

“I’ve got a flat.” I showed him the back left tire as I got out of the car. “Could you fix it for me?”

“Sure thing ma’am!” he was all over it lickety split. Three little girls watched from inside as he made quick work of something that would’ve taken me all morning to figure out… if I could’ve done it at all. I asked sheepishly if he’d take a check as I had zero cash in my purse.

“No problem! That’ll be five bucks for the use of the wrench,” he kindly replied.

“Are you kidding? Let me pay you more than that…” I protested. When he shook his head no and repeated, “Five bucks.” I asked “Would you like an apple pie?”

I had a yard full of apple trees at the time and had learned to make homemade pies. That would be the least I could do. He suddenly got his back up and replied in a tone I will never forget.

“My WIFE would not be happy! I try to stay away from things like that!”

“Things like what?” I wondered though I never asked. I have no idea what the man thought I was offering, but believe me, it was PIE.

I was so embarrassed.

Look at me man! Of course I’m terribly attractive here in my pleated mom jeans, blinding white tennis shoes and big eighties hair. It’s surely hard to resist a woman with three kids in a hatchback who has to write a check for five dollars. But c’mon man! Pie is not CODE for anything.

I only told one person what happened in case she knew something about offering pie that I did not. She was hip like that. I knew I could trust my friend Ann not to tell anyone. She didn’t. But every once in a while something would come up and she’d ask, “So did you pay with ‘pie’?” …wink wink

Even now as I confess this indiscretion to you, my neck turns red with embarrassment. It took me thirty years to tell my husband who loves me with all his heart. Why?

It’s hard being misunderstood… maybe because we feel the shame of what others assume about us.

But I’m telling you… it was PIE for crying out loud.

Big 80's air with my Man rockin' the stache

Big 80’s air with my Man rockin’ the stache

It might be a Southern thing, parking buggies nose to nose in front of the Prilosec at Walmart sharing deep personal issues.

Guilty as charged.

I try to stay out of Walmart because I don’t function well there. Something about crowds and long walks between the raisins and the hair gel ticks me off. How spoiled am I? Nothing against Sam Walton or the fine folks who work there. Thankfully the company has provided much needed jobs for lots of folks who might otherwise be unemployed.

But could someone please shut off the video ads in the aisles so us old people can think?

Annyyywayyy…

I bumped into a dear friend whom I’ve not seen in approximately seven to ten. I know what you’re thinking. Either she just got out of prison or she’s not really that dear if I’ve not seen her in that space of time. You would be incorrect on both accounts. We just got busy living life and forgot how much we like each other. Or I could be incorrect and she’s been avoiding me all these years. Hmmm…

So right there in Walmart with buggies nose to nose we talked about wayward children. Not mine of course, as they are all perfect. Through tears we shared the angst of parenting and how it seems that we raise our children to be strong and independent and above all to think for themselves… until they do. That’s when the defecation hits the oscillation.

How dare they question the belief system we’ve poured into their hearts and souls? What is that about?

I loved the wisdom she shared through her pain.

“I’m asking the Lord to take me out of the way of His plan.” She spoke with tears. “For if I can just stay out of His way, He will work this out.”

Wow.ad in wmt

That has become my own desire as well. If I can own the fact that He has a plan which includes me, but doesn’t depend on me, all manner of crapstorms shall be avoided.

So Lord, take me out of the way. Let Your will be done. Work through me as Your tool of grace. You love drawing all men to Yourself. Help me to never get in the way of that.

And please cure the lady of heartburn who tried her best to get something over the counter without interrupting our visit.

Thankfully that is also a Southern thing.

It was the first day of Spring. We had just received the terrible cancer diagnosis for my beloved mom-in-law Nina. The first surgeon she visited spoke words we were not prepared to hear. “I can’t do surgery because if I were to take all of the cancer out I would not even be able to close you back up.”

I began gathering photos of Nina in preparation for… I cannot even speak the word.

Anyone who knows her also knows that she hates having her picture taken. Therefore the task would not be easy. Oh we had plenty of pictures, but nearly all of them have her wagging a finger in the direction of the photographer with a death threat hanging in mid-air. This woman is not to be trifled with. I joked with her one happy day that if she didn’t stop putting the stink-eye on those trying to capture her pretty image we’d have to resort to using all those ugly photos at her memorial. That would teach her!

Beautiful silver hair frames her lovely face. Her skin is smooth and nearly wrinkle-free. She and her son joke that all the butter they consume keeps the wrinkles pushed out from the inside. She was able to attend the graduation of her granddaughter Desani where someone snapped a gorgeous picture of the two of them. She showed it to me and said, “When I die just Photoshop my head onto all those other bad pictures.” Note to self: Never try to teach Nina a lesson.Nina & Desi

For those of us who live in Salisbury, Dr. Black is a household name. He and Nina go way back. He’s treated many members of her family for cancer starting with her husband. Even now while Dr. Black is in the midst of trying to retire he’s committed to treating Nina’s sister until the end. The only criticism I’ve ever heard her speak of him is that she cannot understand why he doesn’t wear socks. Something about his naked ankles has always been a little disconcerting to her. Nina has baked him and his staff many a pan of brownies. She was saddened to hear of Dr. Black’s retirement, but took right up with his associate Dr. Brinkley. Perhaps the fact that he wears socks gives him cred. She loved him immediately because he joked with her and understood her sense of humor. The three of them have a running disagreement on whether brownies should contain nuts or not. Dr. Black poked his head into her exam room one day and said, “Don’t you let him talk you out of putting nuts in the brownies!”

What will Salisbury do without Dr. Black?

What will we do without our beloved Nina? My heart grieves at the thought.

Last Spring I wrote a story called Daffodils of Hope which ended with a request that you pray for her. Here’s the rest of the story. Dr. Brinkley immediately started breast cancer treatment which has shrunk the tumors so much that everyone is amazed. Nina has had no terrible side effects, has not had to endure chemo or radiation. We had no idea such a hormone therapy existed. At this point it’s looking like she may not even require surgery. God willing, Nina will be celebrating her ninetieth birthday on Christmas day.

Never once did Dr. Brinkley treat her as though she were too old to hope. With each visit he listened intently as she and her children asked questions and relayed symptoms. In fact he listened so well that at times there was actual silence in the room as he processed our concerns. How rare is that? If you know the Clark clan you’ll certainly appreciate that abnormality.

Thank you doctors Black and Brinkley for treating her and many others so well. Thank you to all who prayed for our beloved Nina.

And thank You Lord that I won’t have to be learning how to use Photoshop anytime soon.

Daffodils of Hope

Lynna Clark:

This post is from last spring. I thought you might like to read it again since tomorrow you’ll hear the rest of the story!

Originally posted on Lynna's Wonderful Life:

It’s a good year for daffodils. My mother-in-law’s yard is bursting with hope as pretty yellow blossoms signal the coming warm weather. “Every day is just one day closer to spring!” Nina says often. I think it’s her way of giving herself and anyone who will listen a little pep talk.

It’s been an especially harsh winter. We thought the weather was bad. Then she got the cancer diagnosis. Though March 20th marks the first day of spring, I’m pretty sure we still have some rough days ahead.

“If we can just get outside and breathe some fresh air we’re bound to feel better. I’m tired of this same old stale air I’ve been breathing all winter.”

Of course she’s right.

As we stepped into her little side yard where new blades of grass poked through the soggy winter soil she noticed a whole bank of daffodils behind the…

View original 140 more words

Who’s In Charge?

Do you have someone in your family who’s always got your back? You know that if you’re in trouble they will be there to kick butt and take names. I have someone like that in my family. It’s my sister-in-law Gail. She is one of those rare souls who will take care of you when you need it most.

Once when I was hospitalized I was on so much medication that I was very sick and overheated. [Sounds like most of the vehicles we’ve owned.] Anyway, there was not a fan to be found according to the nurses. My sister-in-law Gail came to the rescue. After a quick disappearance down the hall she returned with a fan. She set it up, turned it toward me, and immediately I felt better. I asked where she found the fan. “Some old man down the hall was asleep so I took his. He won’t miss it.” Holy cow! And she did that for me.

Another time we were in the middle of painting the inside of our house when I went into labor. She came over and finished painting and cleaning so everything would be nice when I came home with the new baby.

I love that she calls her mother every morning and every evening. I know that if she cannot reach her she’ll call me and I can walk over to Nina’s and make sure she’s ok. Poor ol’ Nina can’t make a move without us knowing about it. She even calls us to let us know if she’s going out with friends so we won’t worry. Gail has finally got her trained to keep us posted. That’s a very good thing.

Gail has raised the most well-mannered and hard-working children I’ve ever known. Her three oldest sons are now raising children of their own to do the same. Her three younger children will no doubt be just as great, because some things are just not an option in her household.

Has her life been a bed of roses? Not so much. In fact like most of us, her strength is in direct proportion to all the trials she’s been through. That’s why she is so strong. Well, that and the fact that she is the middle child, which she will gladly point out if the occasion arises.

She’s currently raising her second set of children. I think of the verse in Job 42:12 which says, “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.”

Today is her birthday. I wish her many, many more, because somebody needs to be in charge! I’m so glad it’s Gail.

Gail and granddaughter Savanah

Gail and granddaughter Savanah

A roach scurried out from under the microwave. Yes a roach. How many years has it been since I’ve even seen one of these detestable creatures? Between shrieks I grabbed the nearest weapon. He waited, taunting me with his beady eyes and twitchy antennae. Back under the microwave he slipped just ahead of the flip flop. With no time to extract the microwave from its tight fitting home, visions of a roach mutiny filled my head. I might have had a mental breakdown at that point but again, there was just no time.

“Grammy come get on the boat! We don’t want to leave you! GRAMMY GRAMMMY GRAMMMMY! The boat is leaving! The boat is LEAVING!”

“Honey I can’t play boat on the bed now. We need to eat and get ready to go. C’mon, hurry hurry.”

Plunking the two toddlers into their chairs as they looked curiously at their Grammy was not to be done quickly. Questions about the shrieks came tumbling from sweet Marie who wondered what should be feared and if her attractive young grandmother was even grown up enough to be in charge. Jesse being the strong silent type peered at me with sky blue eyes of wonder as I shoved cereal bowls toward them and spoke in words he knew not.

“Woof it down kids, woof it! No time to dilly dally.”

“Pray?”

“Oh yeah. Go for it.”

Marie being the spiritual one of the bunch flew into blessing everyone she knew and thanking God for all things that may or may not happen while they stayed with their grandparents. She reviewed the fact that Mommy and Pop were flying on a big plane higher than the sky across the water to work with Mario the missionary. Jesse got bored with all the details and peeked to see if the cereal was worth all the fuss. A few Aldi O’s during the prayer surely wouldn’t hurt as his sister seemed to be taking her sweet time invoking the Almighty.

A loud triumphant “AMEN!” signaled the end of the blessing. “Spoon?” asked sweetie Marie. Tossing utensils in their direction I too shoved a spoon into the Pumpkin Seed Flax Granola which promised health and yumminess. As soon as the spoon hit my tongue I knew something was amiss. Apparently yesterday’s peanut butter was on the back side of the spoon even though it had been through the pot scrubber cycle in the dishwasher.

“Yuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkk!!!” and other exclamations of displeasure rolled off my milky peanut butter tongue.

“We not say yukky at table!” reminded sweetie Marie. “Pop say we no say yuk at Mommy food. Not nice.”

“Poopoo. Poopoo! POOOPOOOO!!!” exclaimed my strong silent one. Apparently the urgency of the situation was more important than breakfast conversation etiquette.

“Hurry Jesse hurry! Good job going poopoo potty. Hang on! Poppy’s getting out! Hurry hurry hurry!”

“Go away Grammy.”

“Okay. Call me when you’re done.”

Back at the table wielding a clean spoon, one bite of healthful yumminess and a sip of lukewarm coffee later I was summoned from yon potty.”

“Gammmmmmmy… I fwoooooo!” Holy cow little man! That is some giant poopoo in the tiny potty. I guess there IS something grosser than roaches and yesterday’s peanut butter. Wait wait wait. Let me clean you up before you go back to breakfast. Wash hands baby. Soap soap soap!

Okay kiddos. Get a move on! Let’s wear your pretty clothes we picked out last night. No Jesse not that shirt. You slept in that one. Here’s the one you liked last night. No honey please don’t cry. Your Superman shirt has milk on the front. Please Jesse please… okay. No problem. Superman will be dry before we get there. It’s okay. Yes. Mommy will be home soon.

Marie please be still while I put your pretty tutu on. How do these shoes fasten? Do they still fit? No honey your Superman shirt doesn’t match this tutu. Let’s dress up pretty okay? Please?

Okay. Superman will be fine. Do you know where it is? No Jesse don’t tear all the clothes out of the suitcase honey. Stop jumping on the bed. You might fall. We’ll find it. Maybe it’s on the dryer… Nope. Marie honey I don’t know where it is. Will you please wear this pretty outfit? Please don’t make your pouty lip. Thank you sweetie, that’s a good girl. Yes Mommy will be home soon. You and Jesse go play with Poppy while I get ready.

Poppy helping

Poppy helping

Three minutes later I emerged from the bathroom looking lovely in yesterday’s clothes. I tried to remember the last time I had showered and washed my hair.  When I sat down I realized my pants were unzipped. “Thank You Lord for that timely revelation.” An unusually loud thwack signaled my phone had fallen out of my pocket. Several cracks spread across the face of our other grandson who serves as my screen saver. I looked at sweet Able who is three and thought of how much I miss him since his parents had the audacity to move to Texas. My heart smiled at the thought of our teen granddaughters in Illinois as I knew they were making their own breakfast and dressing themselves. Three daughters spread across the globe, all with children getting ready for church this morning gave me joy as we wrangled our two little passengers into car seats.

The sweet happy chaos of raising children is so rewarding and actually quite… easy.

Easy like Sunday morning.

Fun after church

Fun after church

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