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Buttons, Sears Roebuck, and Apron Pockets

buttons

 

When I was a little girl, I would spend a couple of weeks each summer with my Grandma Keen in Richmond, Virginia.  I always looked forward to these visits with great anticipation!

Momma would pack my suitcase and we would start for our journey to Grandma’s house.  The ride there always seemed so long, as I peered out the window and watched pastures meld into concrete and sidewalks.  My exhilaration was almost more than I could contain and I would pepper Momma with thousands of questions.  If she ever grew tired of my incessant talking, she never let on.

Grandma would be waiting at the front door with her hair pulled into a bun and her apron donned.  I can smell her now, as I remember, Oil of Olay –she was all of 4’11, pudgy, and had skin as soft as Rose petals.  Her apron pockets stuffed with Kleenex and her rocking chair full of love.

GLADYS KEEN AND CHARLOTTE MITCHELL

There were two very special things that I enjoyed when I would go to visit Grandma…pulling out the coffee tin of buttons and retrieving last year’s Sears Roebuck & Co. catalogue she saved for me to cut out paper dolls.  I would spend hours on the floor with those buttons of all shapes, colors, and sizes — placing them into “families,” giving them voices and personalities — pretending they were old friends that I had not seen in a very long time.  Grandma would also give me an old shoe box that would serve as a home for my cut-out paper dolls — oh the wonderful outfits they would wear!

Sears Roebuck

When these memories came flooding over me a day or two ago, I realized that we no longer live in a place of such simplicity and innocence.  Gone are the days of coffee tins full of buttons, Sears Roebuck catalogues, and apron pockets stuffed with Kleenex.  We live in a throw-away society that has neither time nor inclination to save and replace buttons — if we lose a button, we just go out and buy a new blouse!  We no longer need a Sears Roebuck catalogue to shop with or cut out paper dolls because we have Amazon!

The simpler times — the coffee tins and buttons — taught us lessons of redemption!  They taught us to mend — not just blouse buttons, but relationships.  We harbor unforgiveness in our hearts — you know the old saying, “Burn me once shame on you; burn me twice shame on me.”  That is not what Jesus taught:

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

Does that mean we are to forgive them 490 times and then after that we’re done?  No!  Jesus was not telling us to forgive them a certain number of times, but over and over.  I know what you’re thinking, “But, you don’t know what they did to me…you don’t know how many chances I’ve given them…you’ve never been hurt or betrayed or used like I have!  Certainly, Jesus didn’t mean for me to keep being a ‘doormat’ or be used in such a way!  No, way!  I’m done with being treated like this or that and I won’t be a fool!”

Well, beloved, He most certainly did mean it and not only did He mean it, He demonstrated it by dying on the cross of Calvary to redeem us.  He, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might be forgiven.  We are redeemable — and for me, sometimes, that is hard to swallow because I know the wretchedness of my heart.  I praise His name for redeeming me — for not casting me aside as invaluable or useless to His Kingdom.

I will always remember the love of our Redeeming Savior when I see a mess of buttons or an old Sears Roebuck catalogue, or even a picture of my Grandma in an apron with pockets stuffed with Kleenex and the lessons God taught me on her parlor floor!

 

 

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Resolute Obedience

Happy New Year and a Joyous One!

Each year about this time, we all start making our “New Year’s Resolutions” to only find out by February 1st that we kept maybe a handful of them and those aren’t holding up to well either!  I know that I can be the first to raise my hand and keep it raised.

As I pondred this perpetual dilemma that I face each year, I asked the Lord, “What can I do differently this year?”   Honestly, the answer didn’t come as an epiphany to me, but a gradual answer that He has been giving me for months.

…and, so, out of resolute obedience to Christ — here are my intentional goals for 2018:

  • Obey Christ…even to the point of death;
  • Be delibierate in all that I do in Kingdom Work;
  • Live authentically before God and others;
  • Be and make Disciples;
  • Give more than I take in all things;
  • Daily die to self — Christ FIRST…me last;
  • Be Jesus’ hands and feet;
  • Be more tender-hearted;
  • Put on Christ Jesus!

Resolutions are so easy to break — mostly because they are only made to ourselves.  However, to commit to Christ my all — well, I don’t want to EVER fall short in my commitment to HIM.  One day we will have to make an accounting for our works and that we were faithful in all that He asked of us, and I want to be found faithful in all things.

My prayer for you this coming year is that you will be obedient, intentional, and authentic in your relationship with Christ and with others!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:12-21)

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The Aroma of Christmas the Essence of Love

Jim & Ginger Shook Family

Christmas Eve always began with the hustle and excitement I anticipated all year long growing up in Powhatan, Virginia.  Our tree had been up and decorated right after Thanksgiving and the anticipation would build each day as Momma and Daddy would make the preparations for the best time all of the year.

When Christmas Eve came around, Momma had a mountain of presents ready to be loaded into our car for our journey to Richmond and time with family at my Aunt (pronounced Ain’t) Scarlett’s house.  We would make the 45 minute ride — each of us four kids chatting on about what Santy Claus was going to bring us — while Daddy would chime in reminding us that we had to get home and in bed in time or he fly right over our house and miss us!  We would cry and promise that we wouldn’t delay the ride home!  Not us!

Arriving at Ain’t Scarlett’s house was filled with fanfare and kisses and love — we would walk into her little house filled with family and friends we had not seen in awhile!  It would take a good 30 minutes or more to get in the house, get our coats and boots off, find Grandma to hug and kiss, while being stopped by Uncles and Aunts demanding their kisses.  Oh, but when Ain’t Scarlett kissed you and hugged you — the love oozed out of her and straight into your heart — you knew you were loved!

The house was filled with amazing smells — Ain’t Scarlett’s meatballs, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, Ain’t Lorraine’s potato salad, Pinto Beans, Cornbread — and on and on!  The table was filled, every inch, and overflowing with all the Appalachian goodies I can remember!  And then, you turn the corner into the laundry room and the washer and dryer are covered in table cloths with pies and cakes of every variety…we never left hungry…and if you did…well, it was your own fault!

We never did get out of Ain’t Scarlett’s house any earlier than 1 a.m. and that was after Momma helped clean up — even then Ain’t Scarlett would take the left over mashed potatoes and make all of us remaining kids a potato cake!  Then, finally, Momma would helps us get our boots, mittens, and coats on for the long journey home.  We were tired and Daddy would always start encouraging us to look up in the sky, as we rode along the Richmond roads, to see if we saw him — that fat, red-suited elf — flying reindeer through the sky.

Sometimes by the time we arrived home, it had begun to flurry — we carried the many packages in to the house given by Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Grandparents — Momma and Daddy would shew us off to bed and then they began their part.

I shared a bed with my sister, Angela, and I remember crawling in between those cold sheets and snuggling up under neath of the quilt that Mammaw Shook had made me — falling asleep and dreaming of the morning to come — so giddy with excitement.  We would strain our ears listening for that jolly ole’ elf to land on our roof, but usually sleep won over the thrill of hearing him and the hooves scraping the roof.

The fondest memory of all and one that brings such warmth to my heart is that of Christmas morning — waking beneath that warm quilt — and I could smell the aroma of Christmas.  It was that of Momma’s Turkey which had been cooking on low all night — it was the deliciousness of smelling Daddy cooking eggs and bacon and gravy and biscuits for breakfast — it was the essence of love permeating the house and sweetly reminding me that I was ever so blessed!

As Earl Hamner once said, “the family got not tokens of love, but love itself.”

We were abundantly loved and cared for and cherished.  We were not told this, but rather it was demonstrated to us through the aromas that filled our home.  God had blessed us — richly — with each other!

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Calloused Knees — The Sojourner’s Last Mile – Part 3

It is raining hard as we make our way down I-95 South — the windshield wiper blades racing back and forth — crimson lights aglow in the stop and go traffic.  We have been on the road about two hours when Ivy awakens.  Our tummies are growing hungry and we decide it might be a good time to stop and satiate them and our emptying gas tank.

I see a sign for WaWa and decide that it is a safe and good place to stop for gas and as we do, we also see a Culvers — well, thank you, Lord, because Karen and I love Culvers and it will be a new experience for Ivy.  We order our food and take a quiet table so that we can get to know Ivy a bit a better and the conversation takes off.

As Ivy explains to us how she found herself stranded in Sanford — she tells us of all the people she has encountered — many not so willing to help her or even speak to her.  She looks at me and says, “Tam — why are you different?  Why were you willing to help me when so many others didn’t want to give me a place to even sit down and rest?”  I know Ivy isn’t asking a rhetorical question — she is asking from the deep places of her heart — a hurting question that begs an authentic answer — not an empty, callous one.

I look at Ivy — I really look at her and see what others are afraid to see and at that very moment I decide to make myself vulnerable — and not pull any punches — because Ivy needs to see Jesus and not Tam…and, I start:

Ivy — most people are walking around life with a great deal of hurt.  Most have gaping wounds that I cannot even begin to understand.  When life has served you up every raw deal that exists — when you’ve been abandoned at every turn — when it took every ounce of energy just to show up that day — most don’t feel that have anything left to give — they bearly have enough to get through it themselves.  I am talking about that young lady who has nowhere to go — maybe her Daddy threw her out on her backside because she announced that she’s pregnant and the young man has left her to handle it all alone — or the single parent who is not even sure how to fill their babies bellies that night and tomorrow is not looking much brighter — how about the gentleman that walked out of the doctor’s office with the stark realization that he has about six months to live and now he needs to go home and tell his wife the life-time they had planned together has been cut short by about 40 years.  I am thinking about the woman sitting on the couch in the  pastors office — weeping — life has been a struggle — never easy — since the age of 5, when for the first time a man touched her in a way he never should have — she doesn’t know how to put the pieces of life together and really doesn’t want to put them together —she only wants to end her life — it is just too difficult to breathe.

You see, Ivy, everyone has a story — everyone is approaching each day from a place of hurt — and many start developing callouses on their hearts.  They allow the callouses to become an armor or shields to protect them from being hurt further.  Often, then, they cannot see people’s hurts because of their own.

Ivy, I am not immune to such hurt either — but I’ve allowed Christ Jesus to soften the callouses of my heart…to take suffering and use it to help others when He can.  Romans 5:3-5 says,

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

It’s a choice, for me, Ivy — I want God to use me and so I choose to have callouses on my knees rather than my heart!

We reach our destination with Ivy and leave her in the hands of her son.  As Karen and I start back, we are reminded of a verse in Hebrews regarding angels unaware — we are encouraged to help them, who are sojourner’s in a weary land — we might be entertaining angels.  I don’t know if Ivy was an angel, but I do know that God is good to entrust Karen and I with her for a short time!

Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Hebrews 13:2

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Calloused Knees – The Sojourner’s Last Mile – Part 2

As it is almost 4:00 p.m. and Miami is over a 3 and a half hour drive from Sanford, Karen, Ivy, and I get into the car to begin our journey.  Ivy is exhausted after being up for the past 48 hours and we encourage her to just sleep, while I drive.

Ivy stretches out in the back seat of the car and settles in for a long nap and Karen and I begin to softly talk about how God works out His purposes for us all…having a willing and ready heart to do as He bids…letting fear go and trusting.  Ah, trust — that’s a big one!

How do we trust God that the woman, all 100 pounds of her, does not have evil intent toward us?  I watched her in the rearview mirror, as she leaned over the back seat into the way back of Karen’s car, and fumbled with her suitcases.  Unzipping this and zipping that and all the while my mind unzipping fears — “Lord, what is she doing?”

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

We snake our way along 46 trying to make our way to I-95 and are overcome with the flood waters.  Hurricane Irma’s remnants have turned the pasture land into a virtual swamp — we are stunned that it is still so high.  The cows have been displaced — horse stables are washed out — lives still floating in a sea of uncertainty.  That seems to be the theme for the day — Ivy’s life sure was floating in a sea of uncertainty too.

I can hear her heavy breathing, as she trusts — trusting that we do not have evil intent toward her either.  Resting in chaos — exhaustion pulling you beyond your boundaries — having nowhere else to go — surrender — how when life has thrown you a curve ball and you have nothing left and you’ve been left?  You are broken and at the mercy of strangers — spent.

As we continue to make our way, we see more of Hurricane Irma’s destruction — death!  There is an alligator on the side of the road that has been hit by a car.  The rising waters had carried him beyond his safe boundaries — then a turtle who has met the same fate as the alligator — and an armadillo — all crushed and left for the vultures to clean up!

I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.  Psalm 31:12

I am certain that Ivy felt crushed and left too.  Finally, the sign for I-95 and the onslaught of rush-hour traffic.  We make our way onto the on-ramp, accelerate, and I think of the line from Peter Pan…” Second star to the right and straight on to morning.”  We still have more than 3 hours to go and Ivy continues to breathe heavily…we continue to talk softly…and God continues to weave a story, while we trust Him and all that He is doing.

Tomorrow I will continue Ivy’s story, please come back!

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Calloused Knees –The Sojourner’s Last Mile — Part 1

She called and left a message that would tear the most hardened of hearts right out of their chest.

My name is Ivy and I am 62 years old and 100 pounds.  I am stranded in Sanford and have been awake for the last 48 hours.  I am at the Dennys and the manager said I can stay here until 5:00 p.m. and then I must move along.  I am trying to get to Miami, but son doesn’t get off until 6:00 p.m.  Please can someone help me <uncontrolled crying> I am desperate!

My heart breaks as I listen to her sobbing and pleas of help…of hope.  I am at a loss…how can I help this woman.  “Lord, show me what to do…please!”  She’s in a strange town…far from home and far from family.  I do the only thing I know to do — I jump into gear!

The first thing I do is call my best friend, Karen, and ask her if she can run to Dennys and pick up Ivy.  “Who in the world is Ivy, Tam?”  “She is a lady stranded here in Sanford…she needs our help, Karen!”  “Well, I just walked out of the grocery store and I have cold stuff and what in the world do I do once I get her?”  “Bring her to my house,” I say.  “Okay  — I’m on my way!”

Karen arrives at Dennys, walks in, sees a battle-worn, frail, and tired woman and says, “Are you Ivy?”  Ivy says, “Yes, but who are you?”  “Well, I am Tam’s friend!”  Ivy retorts, “Who is Tam?”  Karen explains that I am her friend and I received Ivy’s frantic message and that she has come to collect her to take her to my house!  The manager helps put Ivy’s luggage in Karen’s car and they drive to my house.

Ivy and Karen enter through my front door and I see a woman that the world has all but abandoned.  She appears every bit as battle-worn as anyone I’ve ever seen — there are chinks in her armor — she needs love…the love of God and a kindred spirit.

I invite her in and offer her a place on the couch next to me —“Welcome, Ivy!”  “Please make yourself at home.”  I tell her that she can rest here until her son can drive up from Miami — she can take a nap — we’ll fill her belly — all is well!  She sits down — in shock — overcome with gratefulness and begins to weep.  I reach over and clasp her hand and say, “All is well!”

Ivy

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  Matthew 25:35

As she pulls out her phone and calls her son, there is relief now in her heart — she is safe — she is loved — she is sheltered.

Then Karen, Dave (my husband), and I begin talking and we hatch a God-breathed plan to take Ivy to Miami ourselves.  Ivy begins to weep again, calls her boy, and we load up into the car and begin our journey.

Join me tomorrow, as we continue our journey with Ivy on calloused knees.

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Why I Have Chosen to Jump on the NFL Boycott Wagon

In the on-going debate over certain athletes in the National Football League (“NFL”) protesting, by taking a knee, during the singing of the National Anthem, there are lots of opinions, anger, and disgust.  Facebook has been pillaged with memes, opinions, hate, and a range of other emotions.  To further kindle and fuel the fire, there are several different boycotts against the NFL — some with no defining purpose other than to boycott and others more specific and defined.

My friend, Lauri Rogers, shared on her Facebook Wall the following [taken in part]:

Entertainers are very highly paid because people will pay more to be entertained than, say, have their kids safely watched. I am always amazed at how a person will negotiate such a small amount of money to daycare workers. We don’t even pay or value stay-at-home moms who are even more valuable to our society’s future.

Lauri is spot on! Those who perform the most valuable jobs in our society, i.e., daycare workers, policemen/women, firefighters, teachers, and stay-at-home moms are the least valued.

We don’t prioritize many things well and I feel that we are far too enamored with celebrities and public figures than we need/should be. We, as a society, have given them “god-status” and then after placing them on a pedestal, we want to demand that they acquiesce to our values and standards when we find out that the bill of goods they sold us doesn’t measure up! It is wrong!

My problem(s) with this whole NFL/National Anthem fiasco is that:

  1. Little eyes are watching. If someone does not want to sing or salute or give pause or whatever to the National Anthem that is their own private business and the First Amendment affords them that right. However, do it without making a scene — because in the 30+ seconds you are dropping to your knees in front of a potential million people does not give you the opportunity or platform to explain your protest — it just makes it all about you! Then those little eyes mimic you with no idea why!
  2. While the players who are kneeling are not intentionally trying to disrespect our Veterans, they really are because it is perceived as disrespect. Perception is reality!
  3. The players who went to the UK and chose to not honor our country not only disrespected our country but they bordered on treason BECAUSE they did stand in honor to “God Save the Queen.”
  4. What is their true protest:
  • The National Anthem being played before the game;
  • The continued racism that does exist on MANY levels in our country;
  • Is the National Anthem racists; and/or,
  • Slavery and if slavery, which kind? Black slavery from before the Civil War Era (that none of us was a party to), human-trafficking for sex-slavery, or the continued effort of certain leaders in our society to keep the black man/woman dependent on BIG MASTER GOVERNMENT by giving them just enough to scrape by and “plantationing” them into ghettos or hoods?

There are a lot of issues here — some being mentioned and others being ignored. However, when a football player or baseball player or any other high-profile individual decides to “take a knee” or turn their back or spew their own hate and fake oppression (I call it fake because they, as individuals, are not oppressed when they are making millions of dollars) are only fueling racism and hatred. Wouldn’t these athletes effect more change if they went into the poverty-stricken, low-income, crime infested, pit of oppression that exists in every State, City, and Town in our country, and drop some of their money and much of their time by showing them that they do honor our National Anthem because America is a place where there IS HOPE!?!

So — I am boycotting the NFL and any other over-paid individual who is willing to waste our time instead of getting up off of their knees or laurels and putting their time and money where their mouth is!

Further — I saw on the news last night that there is an individual in Orange County, FL who has started an organization called, Young Fathers of Central Florida to teach young Dads how to be Fathers. I will share the link. But, before I do, I just want to say that this individual, Haki Nkrumah, understands that in order to change what is, that you have to get up off of your laurels and jump in and start making a difference — not just talk about it. Mine is just another opinion in a sea of them —let’s all put our money where our mouth is!

Here is the link: