The Business of Autumn

The Business of Autumn

During autumn, once life-filled leaves begin to fall to nourish the earth, making way for new growth in the spring that follows winter’s stillness.

Letting Go

Autumn Brings Opportunity for Growth

In the midst of purging through a forest of file folders it became evident that lives have passed, lessons have been given and opportunities for growth sit on new paths waiting to be discovered.

Address changes, special greetings, thank you notes, do I toss or keep? A wastebasket sits by my feet ready to swallow what I discard. It isn’t easy to put some things into a wastebasket, but it is time to let go, turn towards the next season while holding in my heart names and faces I see when reading a hand-written address or note from someone who is no longer on this earth but may be looking down from one of heaven’s windows.

I hold a card with a photo of a black and white cow wearing a colorful sombrero. Inside the card, the words “Moo-chas Gracias” appear. The writer couldn’t find an appropriate card picturing a chihuahua, her favorite dog. Her card also contained a two page hand-written note on yellow legal paper written a decade ago. I can’t let go of it. The writer passed in April. I will treasure it. In part she wrote:

Note

Being There Can Be Enough

If you run across a cow wearing a colorful sombrero, remember, “Being there can be enough to get us through.”

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Celebrate Summer

Going through the school’s playground late Thursday, he pushed a cart loaded with red bins covered with green lids, like bins you use to store Christmas decorations. The bins on his cart didn’t contain decorations. They were filled with food for children living in poverty.

Some students were on the playground as he pushed the cart to the bus boarding area. A young boy ran up to him, “Did I miss you Monday,” he asks? “I wanted a pastry.” The man pushing the cart tells him, “We’ll be there at 5 o’clock Monday. Don’t forget.”

On Monday, the young boy was the third child to arrive while we were unloading the car. Joseph arrived first, offering to help us set up. Then Andrew wearing Mardi Gras beads arrived carrying a smile as big as the beads around his neck. The young boy who missed the previous Monday arrived, selecting bread for his family. He took a French loaf, some sliced bread, and a cheese loaf. I suggested he take his overflowing grocery bag full of bread to his family, assuring him I would save a place in the pastry line for him. When he came back, he stood in his reserved place. When his turn came he selected a large cookie shaped like a flip flop covered with green icing that matched his shirt. He asked, “Can I take something for my mom?” I explained, “We have to make sure that everyone in line gets something. Stay in line so that you can get something else.”

At the pastry table for the second time, he selected another treat for himself and a treat for his mom. He stayed around, coming back to the pastry table a third time with crumbs on his face. He took another sweet for himself.

A young girl whose family moved from the motel to an apartment a few months earlier surprised us today. She lives closer to her school but misses her friends at the motel. She likes to ride the bus to be with her friends. Her mom picks her up at the motel a few days a week.

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

These young children remind me of the simple joys of life.

  • Offer to help others.
  • Give genuine smiles.
  • Wear Mardi Gras beads to celebrate anything.
  • Share bread and pastries.
  • Ride with friends.

The last day of school is a week from Thursday. This summer, let’s try to help others. Smile a lot, celebrate something every day, share food and stay in touch with friends.

We can learn a lot at any table filled with bread and love especially when children are around us.

You Don’t Want That Dog

Every evening I look up, watching lights go on in a third floor corner condominium diagonally across the street from my home. Nola used to live there, her terrace filled with tomato plants, basil, other vegetables and herbs. Ten years ago this month, Nola began a 6-week seminar in my home teaching Dr. Joel Furhman’s “Eat to Live” program. Fourteen women gathered every week to listen to Nola’s wisdom.

Nola

Nola

We watched videos, discussing material, enjoying fellowship. Nola passed away August 25, 2012.

A photo of a rescue Chihuahua named Nola living in Virginia is mounted on my refrigerator door.

April of 2013, a beloved friend’s dog named Francois passed away. She notified me of the passing by email. Condolences were sent. I didn’t hear back from her which was unusual.

A lengthly letter arrived August 25, 2013 a year to the day of my friend Nola’s passing. The letter described my friend’s recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, her chemotherapy, surgery and radiation she had gone through the past months. Her letter included a photo of Nola, a newly acquired rescue Chihuahua to help her heart repair from the loss of Francois.

One day she and her husband went to the pound around closing time. She saw a Chihuahua. She was advised not to take the dog, being told, “No one can handle this one.” She asked to take the dog outside. The dog immediately warmed to her, jumping into her lap, sitting peacefully. It was closing time. She decided to take the dog home, naming her Nola, for her love of New Orleans (NOLA) and family ties going back several generations. Two weeks after adopting the Chihuahua, she received the earth-shattering pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

When I read her letter, I shuttered in unbelief. On the anniversary of my friend’s death, I learned of my friend’s diagnosis and learned about a dog named Nola comforting her during a severe medical crisis.

We met later. I shared this with her. It gave her comfort. She is in remission. Her dog Nola does have her challenges with the rest of the family pets, but she is a comfort to her master.

When the lights go on in the third floor condominium, I think of Nola. Angels are among us. Some may be covered with fur.

Furry Angel

Furry Angel

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11

Bread for Hurting Souls

It has been a gloomy day. Rain started falling around 3pm. Our weekly Panera bread donation needed to be packaged for motel delivery. Baguettes, bagels, bread bowls and loaves were broken down, packaged in bags donated from a local Winn Dixie grocery store. The steady rain meant we would distribute donations from a motel’s front office portico. When we arrived, a few children were already waiting. “Do you have any groceries,” some asked. We did not have groceries to distribute today. One of the children we see every week shared that a young girl was celebrating her 10th birthday. We gave her four perfectly packaged chocolate cookies, wishing her a happy birthday.

“We have to go to room 128,” my husband said.

A young child asked, “What church are you from?” We respond, “God’s church. Several churches support our work.” Another usually shy child said, “Not all churches believe in God.” We talked further. He and his family leave Monday to visit his grandmother in Puerto Rico. We talked about holidays. Most always, I carry copies of The Upper Room Daily Devotional. I was led to give him the latest issue. He was pleased.

Rain became heavier. I walked to room 128. A week ago Saturday, a beloved motel maintenance man was found dead in his room. A woman shared the sad news with us the following Monday. She said that everyone was crying. People were taking it real hard, especially the children because everyone loved him. His memorial service was in Orlando this morning. Most of the people at the motel where he lived, friends and neighbors didn’t have a way to get there. The motel gave them a room to honor their friend today. They wanted us to stop by to honor his memory. Pizza was served. Soda and water were available in a blue cooler sitting outside the door. Grief was palpable.

Inside the room, a beautiful memorial of photographs of this precious soul and his pets were illuminated by several candles. His son and daughter-in-law sat on one of two beds. An open journal was placed in front of the candles and photographs honoring him.

In the rain, we carried remaining pastries, scones and cookies to room 128. People hugged us. A man shared how much he loved his friend. Another Upper Room filled one of my coat pockets. I was led to give it to a  woman who arranged the memorial to honor one who lived a big life, loved by many. Her neighbor and friend living in a tiny room impacted many people. He was honored today and this evening. May he rest in peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.(John 14:27, NLT)

Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans

Road Trip Gifts

IMG_2439

A luncheon guest gave me a copy of her recently published book. At a Maryland rest stop, Black Eyed Susans were in full bloom. 

Hosting gatherings of family and friends were priceless gifts.

The house at Ocean Grove turned out to be a near-perfect place to host family and friends at God’s Square Mile on the Jersey Shore.IMG_2457

 

 

 

Shopping for groceries at Wegmans was a gift. We looked forward to our daily trip to Wegmans.

We adjusted our original road trip schedule to attend Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit at Ocean Grove. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear Louie Giglio, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, Tyler Perry and many more leadership experts.

Road Trips can be a quiet time away from over-scheduled calendars, telephones, emails and to-do lists. One never knows what kinds of gifts wait to be opened.

Are you familiar with the movie Soul Surfer, the true story of Bethany Hamilton who was attacked by a shark while surfing in Hawaii? A speaker at a recent writers workshop is an editor for a Christian teen magazine, Sisterhood. Her presentation was great but I had no idea how it would impact me in the days to come. About a month after the workshop, I learned my granddaughter liked surfing, then I recalled the presentation. The speaker talked about Bethany Hamilton. During coffee with the mom of a 12 year old, I asked her if she knew about Bethany Hamilton. “We just finished a study of the movie. I have it. Would you like to borrow it?” she replied. I purchased the movie bundled with the downloadable study guide and gave it to my granddaughter, along with the magazine article and a subscription.  What happens next is in God’s hands.

On Sunday, Andy Stanley said, “You have no idea and I have no idea what God is up to in the world.” Stanley said, “I can’t, He can, He can through me.”

When you are on the road, look for what God is up to in the world. The 12 year old’s mom calls moments such as these “God winks.”

Do You Know Patsy Ann?

Do You Know Patsy Ann?

When you live in a tourist town, expect company. How sweet it is when family members visit. The theme of a recent issue of Alive Now magazine was Hospitality, our hospitality to God. How are we extending His hospitality to others?

We get to pick up family from the airport or pick them up at their hotels, and have lunch or dinner with them at theme parks or local restaurants. We get to put hospitality into practice with our family, guests and strangers we may meet. The story of Patsy Ann has been on my mind, maybe because a friend is traveling on her second trip to Alaska in a few weeks. Patsy Ann left a deep impression on me when I first saw her statue in 2002.

Official Greeter of Juneau

Official Greeter of Juneau

*”I think about the story of an English Bull Terrier born in 1929 whose name was Patsy Ann.  She lived in Juneau, Alaska.  Patsy Ann was known for enthusiastically greeting every ship that docked in Juneau.  In 1934, she was named “official greeter of Juneau” by the town’s mayor.  Born deaf, and intended to be a gift from a father for his two daughters, Patsy Ann chose to make her home along the Juneau wharves and at the longshoreman’s hall.  Though unable to hear, it was reported that she could sense a ship’s whistle a half-mile away and would run to the wharf to greet passengers.  On the 50th anniversary of her death, a statue of her was dedicated by The Friends of Patsy Ann organization.  The statue sits with Patsy Ann facing the waters of the channel where she greeted Juneau’s visitors.  The organization bearing her name raises scholarship funds to promote ‘understanding, respect, kindness and compassion.’  Those words sound like love to me.  Patsy Ann knew her passion and lived it despite being deaf.  I imagine what she looked like, her wagging tail and big eyes smiling, greeting the passengers disembarking from a ship… One could say that Patsy Ann flourished in her job as official greeter.  Today, all that remains of the stray dog named Patsy Ann is a bronze statue and a plaque summarizing her story…”

I like to think of myself as an official greeter in the name of Christ, at an airport, in a grocery store, or at a turnstile to enter a theme park. I strive to exude the enthusiasm of Patsy Ann, to promote understanding, respect,  kindness and compassion. I am grateful for family and friends who have extended amazing love and warm hospitality during their visits.

“…And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)

To see more of the story of Patsy Ann, click here.

*Excerpt first published November 25, 2011 by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

 

I Was a Graduation Party “Stage Hand”

I Was a Graduation Party “Stage Hand”

On touchdown, 3 days before graduation, I felt like a roadie touring with a sophisticated rock band sitting in the last seat of a tour bus. “What do you want me to do next?” was my mantra. I rounded corners on photos for photo boards, swept floors and observed divas preparing delicious dishes for a graduation celebration. I had become a graduation party stage hand. I loved every minute of it.

Two divas rode in on clouds of expertise, taking over the kitchen to prepare mac and cheese and cheesy potatoes from family recipes. One of the diva’s sons was graduating the same day. Giggles and fairy dust filled the kitchen as macaroni cooked and potatoes were prepared filling the kitchen with aromas of comfort food. Within an hour, several casseroles complete with baking instructions were relayed to us “roadies.” The kitchen was left cleaner than before the divas arrived. Excited chaos reigned as we watched clouds carry the divas of delicious dishes to the next destination.

On the day of the party, a family friend drove up carrying more fruit than Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda could fit on one of her signature fruit hats. If you want fruit kabobs that could grace the cover of any food magazine, you will need to call Melissa.

I don’t know what would we have done without the graduate’s friend David. He schlepped piping hot casseroles and kabobs to a neighbor’s waiting garage. It is encouraging to know that David goes to the same university that our high school graduate will be attending in the fall.

Rocco and Ginger Watch as soon to be Graduate Leaves.

Rocco and Ginger Watch as soon to be Graduate Leaves.

But wait, it is graduation day! Rocco and Ginger watch as the graduate leaves the house for the formal graduation ceremony. A pot of geraniums sit on the porch. (Geraniums have all sorts of meanings but according to the International Geranium Society, the flowers Americans most commonly refer to as “geraniums” are not true geraniums at all, but are actually pelargoniums. Both belong to the Geraniaceae family and both are native to South Africa, imported to America in the 1700s. Though similar in appearance they have notable differences.) Doesn’t this description of geraniums sound like the human race? Aren’t we all similar in appearance but have notable differences? Don’t we all belong to God’s family whether we were “imported or were born here?”

Dad Hugs Son Leaving for Graduation Ceremony

Dad Hugs Son Leaving for Graduation Ceremony

I’m a good “roadie” who takes instructions well, especially for celebration preparations. Congratulations to all Graduates. To some of you, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your celebrations.

Twenty-two Graduates in One Community

Twenty-two Graduates in One Area of the Community

Every day is a cause for celebration. How are you celebrating God’s amazing gifts He has given you?

Graduate with Parents

Graduate with Parents