Stealing Her Shoes Won’t Make You Her

Jealousy and envy are powerful emotions. Emotions that can consume you piece by piece until the person you used to be is buried so deep inside you, you can’t find her any more.

Because you desperately want to be someone else. A particular someone. Someone you admire so much that you’re not merely content to model your life after her…you want to be her. Or him, as the case may be.

You want so badly to be that other person, you’ll do almost anything to become them. Not to become like them…but to become them.

Jealousy is not admiration. It’s being resentful of someone because of something they have, or you think they have, and you want it! And it makes you angry that you don’t have it.

So you decide to steal her shoes. If you have them, you can wear them, and you’ll be able to be her. Yes, I said stealing. Borrowing them won’t work, because you’d eventually have to give them back, and then you’d turn into the same person you are now, and that’s not who you want to be at all.

Are you sure?

Do you really, really want to wear her shoes? Because you have no idea what she’s gone through, what she’s endured, what she’s done while wearing those shoes. You may think they’re beautiful, and perfect. They look so good on her, you know they’ll look good on you, in fact, they’ll probably look a lot better on you than they do on her.

They’ll look better on you because you deserve them more. You’ll appreciate them more. You’ll take better care of them. You’ll be much happier once they’re yours.

Do you really want those shoes? Do you know they didn’t always look like they do now? They didn’t always fit her like they do now. Those shoes were once filled with dark moments, emotional turmoil, violence, unhappy relationships, financial disaster. Those shoes were ugly. Ill fitting. They hurt a lot. She hated them, but had no choice but to wear them, because they were all she had.

But hard work, lifestyle changes, a determined spirit, and the discovery of her faith transformed those shoes from ones you’d never even consider looking at twice, let alone putting on your feet and wearing, to those ones you want so badly right now you’re willing to steal them.

Do you think stealing those shoes will make you her? It doesn’t work that way. Because they’re one of a kind. Because for those shoes to make you like her, you have to wear them just like they were when she first wore them.

You have to wear them through all the bad things in order for them to look like they do now. Because these shoes are special. Wearing them while walking through great difficulties and surviving the storms of life makes them the beautiful, one of a kind pair of shoes you see today.

Are you really jealous enough to want to steal those shoes? Because if you do, and you put them on, they won’t start out looking like they do now. They’ll turn into the shoes they were when she started wearing them. And you’ll have to wear them through your own storms in order to get them looking beautiful again.

And it won’t be that easy. At all. You won’t like going through what she went through to get where she is now. All you see is the “after” and not the “before”. They won’t make you her, no matter how hard you try.

Instead of trying to steal someone else’s shoes, why not concentrate on the ones you’re wearing? You can make those look beautiful, just like she did, but they will never look exactly like hers. And do you really want to be wearing the same exact shoes as someone else? Because you’ll have to lose your own self, your own dreams, everything that makes you uniquely you, and you’ll still not be happy.

Do you want to start completely over, walking through someone else’s hard times, which you’ll discover were far worse than yours? Or do you want to continue persevering with your own dreams and goals, realizing that being someone else, stealing someone else’s shoes so you can walk in them, isn’t the answer.

Jealousy and envy are difficult emotions to control. If unchecked, they turn into hate. Which destroys. It destroys your dreams and your relationships; your very life.

All because you wanted someone else’s shoes instead of your own.

Think about it before you try to steal them.

The result won’t be what you thought it would be.

Not All Mothers Are…

When I was finishing up my book, my editor, as well as a few other friends, told me something I hadn’t really thought about before. To paraphrase what they said: “You had a great relationship with your mom. I envy you, because I didn’t.”

Some of my friends told me their mothers acted as if they were a burden, something they were forced to care for for 18 years until they could have their life back.

Some friends told me stories of how their mother would get upset with them for something and refuse to speak to them, or acknowledge them at all, for several weeks, or months, just to prove a point.

Some mothers continually criticized their children, never offering encouragement, always making them feel they could never be good enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. And not hesitating to tell others that as well, and in front of their children.

Some told me how their mothers never attended any sports events or other special events in their childhood. They were “too busy”.

Some friends told me their mothers hardly ever hugged or kissed them, and could hardly remember them ever saying “I love you.”

Some were reminded constantly, “I don’t know why I even had you! You’re nothing but a problem! I should’ve just given you away!”

Some friends told me about mothers who, as soon as they were old enough to be left by themselves, would go out at night and not return until several hours later. Or, as soon as they were old enough to do work around the house, they were expected to do it all for their mother, including cooking dinner, because she didn’t want to.

Some friends told me stories of finally being raised by their grandparents instead of their mothers; and hardly ever seeing their mothers. That happens a lot today, unfortunately, but in all honesty, it’s better than being raised by someone who doesn’t want to enjoy the role of being a mother. Someone who views having children a burden rather than a gift to be treasured and cherished.

These now adult children of mothers who did not truly love them and care for them now face their own difficulties. Many of them still harbor resentment and distrust of the women who gave them life. Who are still disappointed every time they think she’s finally changed and ready to be a part of their life. And find out sadly she’s still not.

Children learn from their parents. Many of these now adult children have told me they know how to raise their own children because of the way they were raised. Many who aren’t parents yet say they look forward to having their own children, because they are going to show them the love they never knew as a child.

My heart grieves for them. For the little children they used to be; for the sad days and unhappy nights they endured because of feeling unloved and unwanted. My heart grieves for the adults they are now, with no happy childhood memories of a loving mother, and it grieves when they are still disappointed as they try to make a relationship work that never will.

And my heart grieves for the mothers who missed out on so much, for whatever reasons, because they will never have the opportunity again to make it right for the children they gave life to, but neglected to make a priority in their life.

I am a huge proponent of adoption. How much happier would these children have been if they’d had that opportunity!?

To all the mothers out there who may be feeling they don’t want to be a mom to young children any more, I have some advice. Before it’s too late, change your attitude, and realize these little ones need you. They need love. Compassion. And someone to care for them more than anything else in the world. Isn’t that what you wanted, and needed, as a child? If you had that, why are you denying your children that same love? If you didn’t, why are you making them endure the same heartbreak and unhappiness you suffered?

Mothers, before it’s too late…think about it. One day those children won’t need you any more. And they may not want you around. You may never see your grandchildren. You may have no one left to care for you in your elderly years. All because you wanted to live your life the way you wanted to live it. Without responsibilities.

I’m not talking about mothers who give their babies up for adoption when they’re born. They loved them enough to make a huge sacrifice in order to give their child the life they knew they weren’t able to, and to bless a family that otherwise wouldn’t have children. Many of those mothers still think about that child on a daily basis, wondering what they look like, what they’re doing, and if they’ll ever have a chance to meet them and explain the decision they made.

I’m not talking about mothers who lose custody of their children in a divorce because of fathers who have more money than they do, and/or fight to take the children because it will hurt their ex-wife. Or the mothers who sadly give up custody in a divorce because they cannot afford to take care of their children, and have no choice but to let their father do it, only getting to see their babies on weekends and holidays, but making sure those visits are special, and the children are shown how much their mommy loves them every opportunity she gets.

Let me end by paraphrasing the saying I used in my previous post about absentee fathers.

“[Almost] any woman can bear a child and be a mother…but it takes a special person to be a Mommy.”

Are you a mother or a mommy?

Note: If you missed Monday’s blog about absentee fathers, read it here.

Any Man Can Be a Father

Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.

We’ve all heard this so many times. But did you ever stop to think about it? This has been a difficult piece to write but one I feel needs to be written. Because this is happening far too often.

I was blessed with a wonderful dad. I just didn’t have enough time with him to get to know him the way I should have. You see, my father died before I was even nine years old. Yes, he left me, and I struggled for years with those feelings of loss and abandonment.

But my father wouldn’t have left me, if it had been up to him. He wasn’t given a choice. He died from a disease that perhaps today’s technology could have prevented, or at least diagnosed earlier.

Unfortunately not all of today’s modern fathers are like that. Many fathers decide that they aren’t ready for the 24/7 responsibilities of fatherhood. It’s easier to let the mothers do the parenting. Far too many take off and leave not only their wives but their kids behind, and stay almost totally out of their children’s lives, unless it suits their schedule to actually see them or talk to them.

They ignore child support orders, because after all, why should they give their ex-wife money? Never mind that she needs the money to help support his children. He has new responsibilities now, and those children aren’t a priority any more. Someone else can handle them. Children are a gift from God. How in the world can someone throw them away, ignore them?

There are more of these fathers today than we want to think about. Single moms are raising their children as best they can, with little or no help from the father who helped create them. They have to be both mother AND father to them. And speaking as a child who was raised in that environment, even though my circumstances were far different, I can honestly say it is a far more difficult task than anyone should ever have to do.

And it’s not fair to the children. They are missing out on so much. So are their fathers. But their fathers make that choice; the children don’t.

I’m not speaking about the fathers who are kept from their children by ex-wives and ex-girlfriends because of various reasons that may or may not have any merit; that’s a totally different topic for a different day. I’m referring to the fathers who decide not to be involved in their children’s lives for their own personal, and yes, selfish, reasons. Who have disappointed their children in so many ways, and yes, those children will have to deal with those feelings of abandonment for years, well into adulthood.

Those fathers most likely don’t think about how that little girl dreams of her elusive father coming by to pick her up, take her somewhere; or just sit with her, talk with her, hug her, and show her that, yes, he actually does love her. They don’t think about the times they promise to come get their children, and then forget about them. They don’t think about that little boy sitting by the door patiently waiting for a knock that doesn’t come, who then goes to bed and cries himself to sleep, as his mother tries to make excuses for someone she knows doesn’t deserve him.

Then there are the children who, instead of admitting to themselves that their fathers don’t want, them any more, fantasize that their fathers are somewhere far away, maybe in the CIA as a spy, off fighting bad guys and can’t get back to them. Maybe they’re somewhere seriously wounded, or very ill, or have amnesia and don’t remember anything. Surely they wouldn’t purposely abandon them.

What a sad, sad state of affairs.

And I’m not referring to the fathers who stay in their children’s lives after a divorce or breakup; who maintain a relationship with them, attending school functions, dance recitals, and soccer games. Who call their kids regularly, and take them out for dinner and ice cream. They’re still dads to their kids. They know their children are more important than their own lives, or the fact that he and their mother couldn’t make it together.

Are you seeing the difference here?

It’s a sad commentary on today’s life to think about how many children there are whose fathers don’t care enough about them to try and stay in their lives. Who refuse to pay child support, or pay it grudgingly and think that’s the only obligation they have. Who show up once in a while and then wonder why their child doesn’t want to have very much to do with them.

Where did the sense of honor, the sense of responsibility, and yes, the sense of loving someone (someone you helped create) more than your very own life disappear to?

As you’re reading this, if you’re in a situation in which you don’t have custody of your children, ask yourself…are you a father or a DAD? There’s a huge difference. And chances are, if you’ve read this to the end, you’re definitely a DAD!

And yes, I know there are circumstances in which mothers act the same way. Be prepared for our next article…coming this Thursday.

Celebrating the Milestones

A few days ago our son-in-law turned thirty. With all the jokes and comments about being old, and “almost over the hill”; “now you’re an old guy”….you know how it goes. Even the comment about, “at least he has a young wife!” Our daughter is turning twenty-eight, so she is younger than he is….

As the saying goes, you’re only as old as you feel. But hitting these milestone birthdays when you’re in that younger age group makes you view the aging process a bit differently.

I remember turning thirty. I had those same feelings. Suddenly I wasn’t a young twenty-something year old, trying to take on the world. Twenty felt really young. Thirty….well, that age sort of changed my thought processes a bit. For some reason I thought being in my thirties meant I had to act more dignified, more “mature”. I suddenly felt life was passing me by. And far too quickly. I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish, and I suddenly felt rushed to do them all before it was too late.

How crazy is it that you can wake up one morning at the age of twenty-nine, feeling young and carefree, then wake up the next morning having turned thirty, and suddenly change your whole outlook on life? The day before you felt energetic and full of youth. Now, just one day later, that’s all changed.

But has it really?

Aren’t you still the same person you were the day before? With the same friends, the same hopes and dreams, the same ideas for your life? You look the same. Your hair didn’t turn gray overnight (and it won’t either – at least not at 30!). When you look in the mirror you look the same, don’t you?

So what’s changed?

Only your mind. You’re still who you were yesterday. You can’t let your age define you. In today’s society that’s sometimes easier said than done. Everything seems to be youth oriented, and we neglect to celebrate our own age milestones in the way we should.

Fortunately that’s slowly changing as those of us in the baby boomer generation move into our later years.

Suddenly those earlier milestones don’t seem so bad at all. Nor do the older ones. Fifty is the new thirty. Sixty is the new forty. Seventy is the new fifty. And on it goes….

Age is just a number.

For me, turning forty was the hardest milestone. I have no idea why. At the time I had a beautiful two year old daughter, and a loving husband who took me out of town for the weekend to celebrate, and surprised me with a bouquet of forty balloons when we walked into the hotel room. Have you ever seen a bouquet of forty balloons??? It’s a lot! I do have a picture somewhere of me holding them, and I wasn’t smiling very big! Even though he’d already turned forty the previous month, and it didn’t bother him a bit, I suddenly felt older! Never mind that all our friends were in the same age group. I was focusing on me, like I was the only person who ever turned forty!

If I’d only known how to appreciate it like I do now. How silly that was!

My husband had a thing about turning fifty. He kept referring to it as being half a century old! By that time, I’d realized age in itself really didn’t matter so much. So it was time to help him embrace the aging process rather than dread it.

img016I woke him up at one minute after midnight to tell him “happy birthday” and remind him he was half a century old! Don’t think he appreciated the humor then, but as the day unfolded and he was greeted with fifty plastic cows in the yard, “over the hill” decorations all throughout his office, black and silver balloons everywhere, and plenty of “over the hill” gag gifts, he had no choice but to embrace his new status! And the book I’d written and surprised him with called “This Is Your Life, Ben” finally put it all in perspective, since I ended it with “the best is yet to come!”

He wasn’t looking forward to turning sixty either, but I made it another memorable occasion, with a pile of sixty gifts of “60’s”. You know, sixty 60-watt light bulbs for when he has a bright idea, sixty safety pins in case of emergency, sixty shirt buttons for when he loses one, etc. You get the idea. It’s actually hard to think of sixty different items, believe it or not, but I did! It took him two hours to open them, especially since I’d numbered them all and mixed them up, and he had to open them in order!

Turning fifty and then sixty didn’t bother me. Neither did sixty-five. Sixty-six sure does sound a bit older, but I’m still enjoying the process, not dreading it. Unlike my mother, I don’t mind people knowing my age.

How I’ll feel at seventy is hard to say, but I’m not thinking about it now. That’s four years from now. I have a lot to do between now and then.

The bottom line is this: age is a number, and aging is a process. As we age, we grow in maturity, and hopefully in wisdom. Milestones are just that; important times in our life that mark another stage in our development and should be recognized. But they shouldn’t be feared. Aging happens to all of us. It beats the alternative.

Enjoy your milestones, whether you’re at thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, or more. You’ve earned them. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to act the stereotypical model of that age. I’m not, nor do I plan on doing it in the future.

You shouldn’t either! Go out and do something you’ve always dreamed about doing, just like I am! You’ll be amazed how good you’ll feel!

Learning to Say No

Sometimes we have to use the “N” word.

And it’s OK to say it.

Because it’s easy to say yes, but sometimes you have to learn to say “no”.

We cannot always be all things to all people and still have a life of our own. Almost every day we’re asked by family and friends to do something for them. It may be something simple, innocuous, like picking up something for them when we’re already at the store. Watering a neighbor’s plants when they’re out of town. Filling in for someone who has a family emergency or taking nursery duty at church when someone fails to show up. Making dinner for a sick friend and their family.

That’s not what I’m referring to. Those things are part of being a good friend; a good neighbor. They don’t disrupt our plans, or if they do, it’s usually a one time event. Or, as I said, an emergency situation.

I’m referring to the times you’re coerced into doing things out of guilt, or a sense of misplaced obligation. You’re worried that if you say no, that person or organization will get upset with you and never ask again, regardless of the fact that you’ve never said no before. They count on you always being available, which isn’t fair to you.

Loving your family doesn’t mean you give up your life and plans every time someone asks you to do something. If it’s a family member who does this repeatedly, why are you always the one having to change plans; plans sometimes made weeks in advance, because suddenly there’s no one else to step in? Sure you love your family, but if this is happening constantly, you have to learn to say no. And let that no mean “NO”. Not “I’ll do it if no one else can,” because that’s still a big “yes” in their eyes.

If it’s an organization you’re a member of, and you’re constantly asked to do things you really don’t want to do any more, or don’t really have time to do, why do you keep saying “yes”? It doesn’t allow for anyone else involved to step up and show they’re just as capable as you are to do the task. AND, they sometimes have more time, and a lot more desire, to do it. On the other hand, if you’re continually told no one else will do it, that’s a problem in the organization itself, and it needs to be addressed. And not by you, unless you’re in leadership!

Maybe you’re single and have someone who’s interested in you, but you’re not interested in them. Not at all. And instead of telling that person how you feel, you continue talking to him/her and giving the impression that you might go out with them, because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. What about your own? You have to say NO. Or do you secretly like the attention because it makes you feel needed, not thinking about how much more hurt that person will become when he/she finally realizes no relationship will ever develop. And without meaning to, you’ve done the thing you most tried to avoid: hurt feelings.

Sometimes we get so caught up in doing other things for other people we neglect ourselves. We think every request someone makes of us has to be answered positively, even when it means giving up or putting off something we’d already planned well in advance. We feel resentful, but we justify it to ourselves by saying, “if I don’t do this, they’ll think I’m awful and not include me in anything again.” Or, “if I don’t do it, who will?”

If you weren’t available, if you didn’t rearrange everything to accommodate them, what would they do? Guess what…they’d find another solution.

Our family members many times make demands after demands (not requests…DEMANDS) on us, demands that we do from a sense of misplaced guilt; if we don’t do what they ask we think they’ll retaliate against us, or tell everyone we don’t care about them. Maybe they’ll actually truly believe we don’t care about them, and that’s even worse! Then after we give in, we’re too tired or have no time to do things for ourselves that we really need to do. We become exhausted and stressed, and even more resentful. And then we wonder why we never seem to have any free time; why we can never get ahead.

We have to have down time in our lives. We cannot go for weeks and weeks continually hopping here and there, doing what everyone asks us to do, without taking time for our own needs and wants. That’s not being selfish. It’s being realistic.

It’s fine to help others, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes at the expense of your own life, your own needs, then boundaries have to be set. And adhered to. And not moved around every time someone says, “Oh, but you have to do this! I don’t know who else to get! Just this once…!” Which turns into multiple times.

Moving those boundaries around simply means they weren’t really boundaries to begin with, but lines drawn in the sand; lines which can easily be erased and replaced with numerous other lines to accommodate what other people demand of you. So why waste time drawing boundaries you don’t intend to enforce?

The “N” word may be difficult to say at first, but once you practice it enough times, and really mean it, saying it becomes easier. And you’ll find yourself only doing the things you really want to do, and have time to do, rather than what everyone else thinks you have to do!

You won’t lose friends, not ones who were true friends. You won’t have family members hating you; they’ll respect you more for being honest. And you’ll have time to do the things you need to do, as well as free time to actually do fun things you’ve always had to put off because you never had the time.

So don’t be afraid to try it. It’s a lot easier than you think.

What Are You Afraid Of?

How many times have we heard the expression “paralyzed by fear?” Did you ever stop to think about what that means?

Being paralyzed means you cannot move. If your legs are paralyzed you can’t move them; you can’t walk. Depending on the cause, paralysis can be permanent, or it can be temporary.

Being paralyzed by fear means we can’t make ourselves do what we want to do. Because we’re too scared to try; too scared to take that step which could possibly result in our getting something we really want, or really need. Because it could also result in our falling flat on our face, and not getting what we want. Possibly even making us look foolish. And none of us want that.

But if we don’t step out and take a chance we’ll never know whether we could have done it or not. We are literally so afraid of failure we can make ourselves fail. Because we don’t try.

Each of us has a dream, something we’ve always wanted to do. But we’ve never tried it, because we don’t think we can do it. Or we think others will laugh at us, make fun of us. Or we’re afraid to try, not because we might fail, but because we might succeed. And we don’t think we’re prepared for that either.

So we hold back. We don’t try. We think of every excuse possible for why we’re not trying. Why we’re not picking up the phone and making that call which could result in a new job, or a new relationship, or a new opportunity. Why we’re not speaking up about an idea at work that we know is good, and no one else has thought of; we’re afraid. Why we’re not starting our blog, exhibiting/selling our artwork, finishing that book we say we’re writing, but which still only exists in our mind.

We are afraid to fail. So we fail to try. And then wonder why we aren’t getting ahead; why we aren’t happy with ourselves. Why we’re stuck in the same rut, day after day, waiting for a better tomorrow that never comes.

2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind.” Did you read that part about POWER? So what’s holding you back?

The spirit of fear is strong. But we have the spirit of power, which is much stronger than fear. We just have to use it.

Now a confession….for several years I’ve been working on finishing my first book. I kept holding back; I didn’t know how I’d do it, and I was afraid of rejection. Afraid to hear “no” about a project that has been so close to my heart for several years. I even put off letting others read it, because I was afraid they’d think it was awful. They didn’t. Instead, I received suggestions which, when acted upon, made the manuscript better. I received compliments I never expected. My readers liked my manuscript, and even wrote little notes about parts that really touched them! And that touched my heart more than you can ever imagine.

I discovered I really can write! And if what I write isn’t liked by everyone, that’s ok, because there are so many of you who do like it. I don’t expect to please everyone, nor should I want to.

And I’m finally close to having this first book published, most likely by the end of the summer. Yes, it’s scary, but it’s exciting as well to see my dream finally realized. And I know in order to market it, I’m going to have to go out and speak to groups and organizations, something else I’ve never felt really comfortable doing. But I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again, because I refuse to listen when that spirit of fear comes crawling into my head. Because I have the spirit of power, and I’m using it!

Fear held me back at one time. But no longer. I refuse to be held back by fear.

And that freedom feels wonderful!

What about you? Are you ready to step out and lose the paralysis of fear? Put your spirit of power to use, and you’ll soon be amazed as the results start coming in.

And guess what….I’ve already started writing my second book!

Crickets, Frogs, and Lightning Bugs

There’s just something calming and relaxing about sitting out in a screened-in porch on a warm summer night. If you’re from anywhere in the south, or like me and from the Eastern Shore of Maryland or Virginia where it’s quite rural, you know there’s something almost magical and totally peaceful about the stillness of a country summer night.

That’s one of the very special memories I cherish from my mom’s house. She had the most wonderful screened-in front porch that stretched across the front of the house and ended in an “L” that stopped at our dining room. That porch was the best place to be in the summer, especially since we didn’t have air conditioning (hardly anyone did in the 50’s and 60’s, at least where we lived). It was always cooler out there, with a slight breeze coming through the screens
while the mosquitos stayed outside.

I can still see the white-flowered bushes surrounding that porch, with the huge carpenter bees and hummingbirds dipping their tongues in the tiny trumpet shaped blooms to get a taste of sweet nectar. The rows of sweet corn in Mom’s field, their stalks slightly swaying in the gentle evening breeze. And those beautiful clear night skies, sprinkled with stars surrounding a sometimes huge full summer moon which lit up everything around us.

But one of the best parts of relaxing out on that porch in the summer was the symphony of sound and light we experienced on the warmest of those nights; a symphony you just don’t get when living in the city.

Even on the stillest of evenings, we’d be treated to the simple pleasures of chirping crickets and croaking frogs. They’d start off “singing” with just a few soloists at a time, and within a few minutes, the soloists would be joined by a larger chorus which would have made any musician proud. My mother used to say the frogs were croaking for rain, and she was usually right.

The funny thing is, though, I never really saw the entire chorus, just a few scattered participants here and there, and usually only after the performance was over. I still wonder where they all met to present their performance, and if they ever got together to practice before those performances!

And the light shows, although not the spectacular displays of colorful neon and video walls we see at concert venues today, were simple but elegant, choreographed by an unseen Master, just for our delight. It would start out with an occasional lightning bug or two, and as twilight deepened into night, the few would become hundreds, their little lights glowing and moving through the night sky as they silently flew around from place to place. It was almost as if they were dancing to an unheard melody, delighting us children, and silently calling us to join them, as we wondered why their lights never stopped blinking, and where they went after the show was over. That is, the ones we didn’t catch in jars and take inside with us.

And the sunsets were often amazing, with pink, red, and sometimes purple skies which didn’t last nearly long enough to fully appreciate. On the hottest of summer nights we could also be treated to a show of heat lightning, with the southern sky filled with occasional bolts of thin silent white lightning, or bursts of bright light which perfectly outlined the trees in the distance and lit up the occasional clouds. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate the beauty of it all then, like I do now. And now those lights can only be seen in my memories.

As children, and even young adults, we most often do not appreciate the simple beauty of nature around us. God has blessed us with spectacular and wonderful bits of creation, if we only take a good look around us.

I didn’t appreciate the beauty nearly enough when I was experiencing it. I didn’t realize what a marvelous show He was giving us for free; the Master artist and choreographer most certainly delights in displaying His handiwork, and presents it to us absolutely free of charge. All we need to do is watch.

Now another family is living in that house that was once my mother’s, and having the experience of enjoying that wonderful symphony and spectacular light show that I only see in my memories. Most likely the great grandchildren of those crickets and frogs are singing a similar melody from the past, while other descendants of those long ago lightning bugs still dart around the yard in similar patterns from their ancestors.

Sometimes when it’s quiet at night and I’m sitting out on our own back porch I can close my eyes and imagine I’m once again back on that wonderful porch at my mother’s. This year I’m even being treated to solos and sometimes duets or even small choruses of croaking frogs, led by a bullfrog we’ve affectionately named Jeremiah. It isn’t quite the same, but the Master conductor is still leading His chorus for all of us to enjoy, just in a different theatre with different scenery.

Go outside this evening and enjoy a special performance of nature orchestrated by the Master conductor. Most likely it’ll be different from the one we’re enjoying, but it’ll be one created just for your own personal enjoyment!

And then let us know what your special performance was like!

With a Heavy Heart

This was written this morning by a very dear friend, Pastor Linda Salzman, Senior Pastor of Lions Heart Ministies in Virginia Beach, VA. Her comments reflect the way many of us are feeling today.

“My heart is so heavy this morning. So full of sadness. Like many others, I couldn’t turn the TV off last night. Over and over I watched and heard the shots ring out, heard the screaming and saw those that had nothing to do with a situation beyond their control, lose their lives.

Earlier in the day, as I was reading about and hearing again about the senseless killing of yet another black man, the second in as many days, I could not control the flow of tears and the anguish in my heart.

As I heard the stories of how they lost their lives, and the families and friends they left behind, as I read about what great men they were, the feeling of helplessness in me was overwhelming.

Yet another tragedy of innocent lives lost. 

What made that policeman pull the trigger? Not just in the shootings the last few days, but in all those that have been without cause? 

Fear. Fear of another human being because ‘their skin is black and mine is white so that must make them my enemy.’ Senseless fear. Fear of ‘what if it happens to me?’ The sad truth is no matter what color a person’s skin is, people are killed without reason everyday.

I can’t imagine what it must be like in today’s society to be on the police force or  to have a family member who is. And not because of skin color, but because of the state the world is in. Does that make the decisions of some police officers ok? Absolutely not. It’s horrific. 

What made those gunmen take innocent lives away from those police officers who were only trying to protect other lives?

Hatred and retaliation. An eye for an eye.The feeling of ‘I must take this in my own hands.’

More innocent families have lost loved ones. Yet more children have lost fathers. 

Fear and Hatred are vicious cycles.

The real enemy must be identified.

It’s not that one person’s skin is black and the other is white. 

As long as we keep seeing it that way, how can it change?

The enemy of our souls has a strategy. Let them turn on each other in fear and hatred and kill one another, then let the retaliation start and more killings will happen. 

Let the justice system not do its job.

It’s a horrible cycle that will continue over and over until we battle it the only way it will ever be won; In our faces before God crying out to him to heal our land!

The word of God tells us, ‘If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and heal their land.’

We must fight with the right weapons if we are ever to win this war.

My heart breaks for the senseless killings that continue to happen.

I’m praying for the families, and I keep seeing the images that keep replaying over and over.

To ALL my brothers and sisters, my love and prayers are with you and my deepest sympathy in all the carnage and the loss of lives.

I continue to press in and pray for God to heal our land. The land inside of us…Our hearts.

Unity brings power. Disunity brings powerlessness. 

My prayer is that we will begin to take the battle to the only battlefield on which it can ever be won.”

Pastor Linda Salzman, July 8, 2016

May the hearts of so many be softened and the violence ended once and for all.

I Changed My Shoes!

My shoes are brand new. They’re beautiful. I’ve never worn any like them before. They’re a totally different style. They make me taller. They have a lot of bold colors in them. No one’s ever seen me in anything like them before.

They’re taking some getting used to, though. They don’t hurt. They don’t pinch. They just feel, well, different. Everyone’s looking at me differently in them, too, because they’ve never seen me wearing anything like then before. Not ever. Not even when I was a little girl.

I never thought I deserved shoes like this. I thought if I had them everyone would make fun of me, or tell me they didn’t look right on me; that they’re not my style. And then they’d try to take them away from me because they didn’t want me to have something they didn’t have.

I didn’t even have to buy them. Someone gave them to me. That someone had been trying to give those shoes to me for a long time. “Just try them on. You’ll love them! I promise you will!” But they didn’t look like I’d like them, so I said, “No, I don’t think I could wear those. They just aren’t me.”

That someone tried again. And again. Each time I kept looking at those shoes and found myself wishing I could have them. But I was too scared to even try them on. Because I might like them a bit too much, and I just knew I couldn’t wear them.

I was afraid of what people would say if I suddenly started wearing them. But then I thought, maybe I could try them for just a little while. See how they feel. Maybe just wear them around the house, and if I did like them, I’d wear them out in public. Around other people.

And if I didn’t like them, I could always take them back, right? I mean, after all, when you buy something in a store and it doesn’t work out for you, you can return it.

Except these shoes we’re going to be a gift, and I couldn’t return them. That would hurt the giver’s feelings. No, once I agreed to take the shoes they were mine. Forever. And I would have to wear them. So I kept putting off accepting my friend’s gift.

Until one day I look down at my old shoes. And I saw how battered and worn-out they really were. They were scuffed and they needed polishing. But even shoe polish wouldn’t help those old shoes. They were worn out. And tired. They were out of style, out of date. And I really didn’t have anything to wear them with anymore.

Suddenly, I wanted those new shoes. Not only did I want them, I NEEDED them. Desperately. I couldn’t wear these one more day. I just couldn’t. I also realized they’d been hurting my feet, but they’d been hurting so long I’d gotten used to the pain and didn’t even realize how bad they hurt my feet anymore.

Yes, it was time for a change. But was I ready? I thought so, but I was nervous.
What if….?

I called my friend. And I said, “I’m ready for those shoes. I need a new pair. And I’m ready to start wearing them. Can you bring them to me now? ”

hand-05I could almost hear my friend smiling over the phone. And suddenly my friend appeared. With those new shoes in hand. “Here they are. Made just for you. See, your name is even written inside. But once you put them on, you can’t return them. Remember?” My friend smiled at me, and I looked longingly at the shoes my friend was holding. Shoes handmade just for me, even with my name written in them.

They were beautiful. Bright, bold colors, yet not overbearing. Soft leather, like rich warm butter. Yet with a firmness I knew would stand up over time, no matter what the weather was. No matter how much or how long I wore them. And the colors would go with any outfit.

“Are you ready for them?” My friend asked.

“Yes, I said softly. I think I am.” And I reached out my hands to take them.

“One thing first, though,” my friend said. “There’s a small price attached.”

“I knew it,” I said sadly. “You said they were free, but I knew it was too good to be true…” So I turned and started to walk away, more dejected than ever.

“Wait,” said my friend. “You don’t have your shoes yet. I made them just for you, remember, and if you don’t take them, my feelings are going to be hurt. ”

“But you said they were free. You said they wouldn’t cost me anything. Now you’re telling me there’s a price. And I have no money to buy them”

“You didn’t ask me what the price was.”

“Whatever they cost, I can’t afford it.”

“Oh, but you can, “said my friend. “It won’t be a problem at all for you. You see, the only cost for these new shoes is that you give me your old ones. Because you won’t be wearing them again. I have to throw them away so no one else will try to wear them.”

Give up my old shoes? I could never wear them again? Did I want to really take that chance? What if I wanted to go back to the old ones because the new ones didn’t work?

But those new ones were so beautiful, so tempting. And I needed them desperately….that I knew.

So I sat down. And I slowly removed those old shoes. I looked at them and realized that giving them to my friend in exchange for the new ones was the best thing I could do. Slowly I put them in those outstretched hands, as the new ones were gently slipped on my feet.

And what a difference! I suddenly felt better than I ever had in my life! I felt like a new person. Someone who could go out and conquer the world. Well, not maybe the world, not quite yet, but I could certainly make changes in my life.

And I am making those changes. It’s amazing what these new pair of shoes has done.

Are you ready for a new pair of shoes in your life? I know it’s scary sometimes, but taking such a gift from someone who only wants your sorrow and sadness in return for giving you a new outlook on life is an amazing feeling.

Try it. And tell me what those new shoes have done for you!

Note: If you haven’t read the other two posts in this series, please go to What Kind of Shoes Are You Walking In? and You Need to Borrow My Shoes.

4th of July Goodies

In celebration of the 4th of July, we always had family cookouts when we were growing up. Along with fireworks my uncle set off in the field beside our house. When fireworks were legal, of course, way back long ago!

I can still remember the Roman candles he’d set off, making sure we kids were well out of their range, and carefully aiming them away from anything that could catch on fire. (In case you’re wondering, my mother’s house was just outside the town limits, so we didn’t have to worry about any restrictions.) We also had strings of regular firecrackers, cherry bombs, and colorful sparklers that we loved to swirl and make designs with in the air, long before it became fashionable to use them for weddings! And of course, there were those round snappers we threw on the sidewalk so they’d make a sharp “bang”, leaving a tiny trail of smoke.

Oh, the fun we had…..!! And none of us got hurt, thank goodness! Would we do this for our kids now?! Heck, no!

But first of all we’d eat our dinner of charcoaled burgers and hot dogs, with my mom and my aunts contributing homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and of course potato chips and baked beans, with an occasional plate of freshly deviled eggs! What a treat it was, especially combined with Mom’s homemade iced tea punch that I’ve forgotten (sadly) how to make. Although I think it included grape juice…maybe I’ll attempt it if none of my fellow Eastern Shore friends have a similar recipe they can share.

Anyway, nothing could compare with those burgers cooked on that old charcoal grill. It was a great taste treat, with just the tiniest hint of a bit too much lighter fluid thrown on the charcoal briquettes, which somehow always added to the taste to the meat.

Dessert was usually fresh homemade ice cream, the kind you could get a massive brain freeze from if you ate it too quickly. And we usually did! With plenty of strawberries thrown over that pile of frozen vanilla goodness!

119601For years my mom used an old wooden ice cream freezer to make her homemade ice cream. I’m not sure, but it must have belonged to her mother at one time, because even back then, its once bright green paint was almost gone. The inside can had a wooden paddle inside, and we used to argue over who would get the chance to lick that paddle once the ice cream was finally frozen! We’d fill the bucket with rock salt and ice, and turn the handle, only stopping when it would barely turn any more, which meant it was finally ready! There have been many times I’ve wished for that old ice cream maker, because even using her recipe, the ice cream just doesn’t taste the same in the newer, modern appliances.

There’s just something to be said about some of those old vintage products!

Yes, those were the days, as the saying goes! And sometimes I long for those days, to just be able to re-live a few of the good times, to see if they really were as good as we remember them!

So in celebration of this year’s 4th of July, I’m sharing our family recipe for homemade ice cream. Just remember, it may not taste the same if it’s not made in that old wooden ice cream maker, but since most of us don’t have one any more, let’s just see if we can bring back a little of the old time memories, and calories, just for old times’ sake!

Mom’s Homemade Ice Cream
15 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. thin cream
1 c. cold water
1 tbl vanilla
Dash of salt

Mix ingredients together. Fill inner metal container about 2/3 full of ice cream mixture and place paddle in the middle; cover tightly so rock salt (ice cream salt) won’t leak inside.

Pack alternate layers of ice and rock salt around the metal container until the bucket is almost full. As ice melts, replace if necessary, adding any necessary salt to the mixture. Turn the handle and crank away. (It’s a good idea to have a helper or two lined up in case you get tired!)

When handle will barely turn any more, it’s ready! Remove the handle, carefully remove the cover on the inside can, and place paddle in a bowl to be enjoyed by the kids! Place ice cream in freezer until ready to serve.

Note: This makes a wonderful vanilla, however, if you wish, you can add crushed fruit of your choice, but we usually ate it with the fruit generously spooned over it.

Enjoy!

Happy July 4th!