Still Much Work to Do!

Today, our friends sent a picture of themselves relaxing on a boat in the Mediterranean.  Their feet propped on a railing, resting in the sun while gazing at the azure blue sea.  It is a fantastic picture, and once I saw it, I texted back, “It is all lovely, but what does “relaxation” mean?”

I was born without the ability to unwind.  Today, my friends and family shake their heads in dismay, and when my mother was still here, she often exclaimed, “Sit down and be quiet!” Something within my soul searches for things to do even when they don’t need doing. 

Honestly, if it weren’t for a few shows I enjoy and the nightly news on television, I probably would never use a sofa.  However, it is not all my fault since I have discerned it is perhaps an inherited trait. 

Dad would watch a western on tv and eat ice cream to relax, but that’s all.  He couldn’t sit still during the day if you paid him to do so.  He was always trying to fix something or someone.  My grandmother, aka Grandpa, believed idle hands were the devil’s workshop.  She could accomplish more in a day than most of us can in a year.

Less idle hands

Even though I sincerely know I should learn to relax, I doubt it will ever happen because there is so much to do!  I certainly don’t want to entertain the devil with idle hands.  I get a little nutty with folks who waste hours doing nothing when one can do something to create delight.

Perhaps, rampant crime in the world could be lessened by fewer idle hands.  Work that could be done to aid others instead of harming folks.  Replacing guns with pens, paintbrushes, pots, pans, and plans could bring peace.  Of course, one must desire to work, but isn’t it better than jail or death?

Many fall through the cracks in life because they give up on hope.  Working to improve one’s life returns dreams and aspirations.  And when we are busy concentrating on something other than personal circumstances, we ease depression.   Isn’t hope for a happier life better than giving up on it?

Retired folks who wish they could fill their days with usefulness should find something useful to do other than grumble.  Ease those ailments with a determination to make a difference for struggling others.  Talk is cheap, but action is priceless.  If we become active movers of kindness instead of bemoaning the country’s condition, we might just heal our condition.  Of course, one must desire to be happier, but aren’t helpful hands better than useless, old ones?

Working for God

Whenever I see a beautiful garden, I appreciate those who toiled in the dirt to provide food for others or splendor for us to enjoy.  My grandmother’s hands were always covered with flour or dirt as she walked through her day in an old house dress protected by her apron.   I will never forget the aroma of her pies in the oven or her delicious green beans from her garden.  Grandpa toiled for us and many others because she believed God’s words, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise up and call her blessed.”  Proverbs 31: 27-28

I believe that God intends for us always to use our hands for His work.  We show love when we take the time to create something special from our hearts.  There is magic in giving from our soul that money cannot buy.  When making donations to our places of worship or favorite charity, many of us feel that is enough.  And Lord knows, generosity is sorely needed and wonderful.  However, could each of us do a bit more?

We should ask ourselves, “What can I do today to make a difference in my world?”  How can I use my hands to build peace, create happiness, or provide care for another?  Our world will be immeasurably blessed when we answer these questions with actions.

We are concerned today with casting our votes for those who will lead us.  Those who will put money back into our bank accounts, stop crime, and keep our democracy safe.  I doubt anyone can until we use our hands to deliver hope for others, allow God to lead us, and ultimately be the one who saves us.  

So, relax, enjoy a vacation, retire, and prop your feet up.  But only for a while because there is still much work to do until our days are done, and God hands us a hammock.   

Too Late to Say Goodbye

How often have I written these words of advice in my writing career, “Don’t put off life?” Yet, I did.   Sometimes we find that our hearts are filled with good intentions, but our brains are not cooperating.  Does being too busy get us off the hook of guilt?  No, when we fail to do what we should have done, we simply, fail.

Such was the case with Peggy and me.  Our friendship began over thirty years ago when she became a client who needed my help with interior design.  As my career in design grew, her career in real estate soared.  

I doubt Peggy ever met an obstacle she couldn’t tackle, tame, or triumph over.  She hailed from Boston with a thick accent that caused me to say often, “Huh!?” When God decided to create a friendship between a Tennessee-born mountain girl and a Harvard-educated Beantown gal, he must have needed a good old belly laugh.

Peggy sent many customers my way throughout my career and believed in my skills more than I did.  She applauded and celebrated the day I remarried after being a single mom for 20 years and was thrilled that she might worry less about my future.

A job well done

I never worried about Peggy.  Her intellectual brilliance was secondary to her ability to work with all types of folks and care about each one.  She nor I ever allowed money or trophy’s to be the end game; it was always about doing a job well.       

When I retired from design several years ago, I could never say no if she needed my aid with a remodeling job or an idea about where to place this or that.  Then COVID came into our world and shut us all in and out of life.

Last year, I wrote a note on her Christmas card, “Peggy, let’s not let this year go by without a catch-up lunch!” When she tried to book the event, I was too busy and couldn’t go.  Did I call her back to set up another date?  No, I would do it …. later. 

Without warning, a radiant, funny, beautiful light dimmed suddenly on October 7, 2022.  Peggy was gone.  When I was told by a mutual friend, my response was immediate, “No!  She did not!” It was as if my brain could not accept or understand the words of death.  I wanted to shout, “Wait, Wait!” But I knew the only person that waited too long was me. 

Redemption awaits

There is something about all of us that cannot accept finality.  We do not grasp the knowledge that life can end suddenly, without notice, and that there are no “do-overs.” We cherish our friends and family, but how many do we fail because we didn’t take the time when we had the time?

There is always a guilty feeling when someone we love dies before we have the opportunity to say goodbye, thank you, or express our affection.  It can and will haunt us when we wait too late or too long to do what we should have done. 

However, there is redemption.  There is no doubt that Peggy will stand at the gate with her finger raised, shaking it toward me when I, hopefully, go to heaven.  Yep, she will recount the whole lunch situation, the putting off, the lagging behind, and I will shamefully shake my head.  I already have rehearsed my response, “Peggy, they didn’t get rid of that accent up here, so I can’t understand a word you are saying!” And she will mockingly yell, “Bless your heart!”

Moments lost

I will hug that Beantown girl with all my soul, telling her how much she meant to me in my Southern drawl and how grateful I was for her life.  And then we will sit down for lunch with all the others I didn’t take the time for, ask forgiveness of, or forget to do what I should not have forgotten.

With faith, there is redemption in all things.  When we believe, there is a certainty that life is just paused, not gone.  With our understanding of a God who shows mercy, we know that through his grace, we will see those we grieve for again.  When we reach where they are, our guilt is over.

Peggy lived by her faith.  Her priorities were always in order, and I admired that.  I just failed to tell her so.  Peggy lived with value and honesty, and I never doubted anything she said.  Yet, I didn’t take a moment to share how much I respected her remarkable life, wonderful friendship, and immeasurable love.

Now those moments are gone because I was too late.

A Six-Year-Old’s Journey

“Grandma, will you look at my college application essay to see if I need to tweak or correct any sentences?  My granddaughter asked when she called from Florida a few weeks ago.

“Of course, honey, I am happy to.” 

I use the word ‘happy’ because it becomes a surprisingly joyous moment when a seventeen-year-old requests advice or help.

Once I received her emailed copy, I slowly read the draft.  Her words took my breath away and transported me back to an October when Avery began first grade.  

Her first essay sentence, “It is hard to imagine at the age of six how an event will change your entire life.”

It changed us all, but it must be horrifying for a child who does not understand why her mother is sick, why her hair falls on the floor, and what is causing tears.

The “Fog”

None of us want our children to suffer; they need to worry only about their friends, play, and learning.  At the time, the only hurt I could manage to handle for my granddaughter was a skinned knee. 

But this little girl grew beyond her years when she had to learn prematurely about breast cancer and watch the illness her mother endured with despair.  To see a piece of her childhood disappear so quickly only added to our sorrow. 

She tells the story in her essay of how she understood early the world wasn’t all about her and the importance of faith, friends, and family.  “It seems like I was in a fog for an entire year.” Avery writes.  

The ‘fog’ is a perfect way to describe those months.  One just moves through suffering and heartache, putting one foot in front of the other to make your way through the storm clouds.  If you can get to the next day, you might make it to the sun where others live and where children laugh.

We all made it to the sun.

October Memories

 My daughter basks in delight today on a beach in Florida, where she still resides.  My granddaughter is finishing her senior year, cheering for her football team, and is only concerned about what school she will attend next fall.

However, October 2011 is never far away.  When I see a woman wearing a scarf or wig, I return to that year and travel to a time when a little girl was six and afraid.  We all return to October twelve years ago with each yearly exam and pray for the doctors to again tell my daughter, “You’re still just fine!”

The friends who aided and prayed for us will always have our hearts.  My granddaughter still remembers the countless gifts her family received and mentions them in the essay, along with details I don’t recall.   

In the future, this college-bound teen will one day tell her six-year-old child about the first-grade teacher who watched over her and encouraged her throughout a painful year.  But more importantly, she will explain with pride how her mother had the courage of a lion, fought a battle, and won.

Some folks take a long time to grow up; others never do.  They may not appreciate victory, their health, or their children’s innocent joy.  How many of us really learn that the world isn’t all about us? 

Avery will go to college somewhere, but higher education doesn’t teach what she already knows.  She laughs a little louder, appreciates more, and loves deeply because she understands how quickly life can change and how prayers work.

Honor Graduate

Please pause and give when you pass by the pink ribbons this month.  There are children whose mother’s health is in danger today and will face a brutal year.  October is a reminder to help not only those who are battling breast cancer but the innocent child who cries.

Without your donations for research, Avery’s mom would not be here to watch her beautiful daughter graduate from high school this spring.

“Grandma, why do you always use pink golf balls when you play?” she questioned recently.

My answer was, “They remind me to be thankful.”  And without a word, she smiled. 

Colleges today rely on test scores and GPAs to decide whether they want an applicant to attend their school.  But test scores don’t tell anyone the story of one’s wisdom.  They don’t reveal the journey of a child who bravely walked through the fog.

Few will ever read my granddaughter’s essay, but I know she has already graduated with honors to maturity.

Her last sentence, “As I head to college, I look back and know who I am today and what I will become in the future, are partly due to the lessons I learned when I was only six years old.”

Hearing the Whispers that Save Us

Like most of us, we become distracted by all the goings-on in our lives.  Money, politics, work, and obligations pull us in different directions every moment of each day.  We are exhausted by the constant barrage of bad news and meanness floating around us, intent on dragging us further into a downward, chaotic spiral.  Where do we find shelter and relief?

First, we must believe in our higher selves that answer a calling deep within our souls.  A faint inner voice tells us to live responsibly and search for the whisperer. 

We fight tooth and nail over politics and policies.  Many judge folks by race, class, or religion and cause harm because they do.  Criminals and gangs emerge from discontent, poverty, greed, and sin, creating danger.  Conspiracies rise to a fever pitch from our inability to see the truth, causing confusion and distrust.  And all are used as an attempt to silence the whispers.

Good will flow

As I walked yesterday, I noticed a tall oak tree’s branches swaying in the breeze.  Its leaves gently rocking against a bright blue October sky created a peaceful, reflective moment.  I immediately thought about those in Florida whose lives hang in the balance, and peace seems unattainable.  Under the same blue sky, they see nothing but devastation, chaos, and despair.    

 We all viewed Florida neighbors helping neighbors and leaders of different political parties leading as they should.  Because in the end, it is not our anger that saves us from harm; it is our kindness.  In times of great need and peril, evil is defeated with goodness because somewhere deep within our souls, we hear a voice.  And immediately, we rise above our conflicts and prejudices.

Money will flow from our collective generosity to help rebuild Florida communities and restore hope.  Prayers will light up heaven from countless compassionate hearts.  For a while, during these dark days, we will concentrate on others who are less fortunate, and our complaining will subside for a moment.  Our selfishness will abate, and our ire will be subdued because we rose to our higher selves until the distractions return.

A powerful noise

Evil is a powerful pull, and it resides in us all.  Our earthly battle between the devil on one of our shoulders and the angel on the other will continue.  It is the devil that distracts and divides us.  Evil fuels anger and energizes our self-importance, influencing our bad decisions.   But the worst malicious act is the noise it creates to deafen the faint voice of The Almighty, The Whisperer, The Redeemer, and The Divine.

Do we only hear and obey God when horrific events occur?  Or do we only listen to his voice when death is at our door?   His voice isn’t loud or boastful but soft and gentle.  He doesn’t yell or demean; instead, he uses His whispers to try to save us from those who do.

God is not for emergency use only.

One of the most significant issues in our country today is our inability to hear God’s voice in our daily lives.   His instructions for living a peaceful life are written page after page, not just to read but to employ.  Through every word, he is urging us to give, not take.  He tells us to love one another and not hate.  He teaches us how to destroy evil with faith, love, and compassion and to put on His armor to shield us from the enemy.

Our relief

We are begged to rise to our higher selves and become followers of His, not a hate-filled group touting anything else.  And if we can’t hear and see God in the rhetoric we hear, in our own voices and actions, it is wrong, and we know it.   

Where do we find shelter and relief?  It has always been in the arms of our creator.  Our sanctuary is our faith when we are lost and afraid.  Comfort and healing reside in the whispers within us if we only listen.  When we instinctively rise to our awakened spirit to aid those in need, the raging tide in our souls begins to calm.  

Wars battle on, injustice will continue, Mother Nature will have her way, and evil will forever be among us.   However, if we are still for a moment and hear the whispers of God, we will discover hope, relief, and tranquility.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”  Psalms 46: 1-2