Archive for the ‘Just Thoughts’ Category

The Lady in Apartment 218

Mom in apron As was her custom each day following work, the lady drove home, checked her mail box, took the elevator to her second floor apartment, and put on her apron to begin her supper meal. While the vegetables were steaming she changed from her work shoes to her walking shoes, poured herself a glass of ice water and sat down to read another chapter from her favorite book. She always seemed to feel more relaxed and refreshed when she followed this accustomed routine after a day of work.

Nightly Routine…
Gaining energy from the steamed vegetable dinner, she placed the pan over to the side of the stove, took off the well-worn apron and laid it across the back of the chair in the living room. She ran a brush through her silver-white hair, and left the apartment for her evening walk. Hers was a simple life, and generally followed this familiar routine. This night however, would not be quite like any night before, and would certainly not be like any ordinary night ever again.

She greeted many friends as she left the building to begin her walk. She seemed to be happy, and to be feeling a great deal of satisfaction with her life just as it was. This had not always been the case with the lady, but because of recent events, she had somehow made peace with those events that could not be changed, and seemed full of confidence about the future. The list on her bulletin board above her sewing machine reflected that confidence in the many projects she had outlined for herself. She had drawn a line through the projects which she had already completed: cut out brown suit, sketch faces on canvas for portrait, sew purse, – and there in the apartment were the cut out pattern pieces waiting to be stitched, the sketch awaiting paint, and the completed designer purse. The other projects were listed, but not yet begun.

Perhaps…perhaps as she began her walk that evening these many projects were on her mind. Glendora last pixShe was always such an industrious lady. She could have been thinking of the cake she took to the sick family down the hall, or of the bread she routinely made for the elderly lady who lived next door. She could have been thinking of the patients she had visited in the hospital the day before or maybe of the events in the chapter from the book she had just been reading. Maybe she was thinking about the home she had always dreamed about. Maybe she thought about her children or her grandchildren, or her husband of nearly forty-eight years.

There is no way to know for sure the thoughts the lady may have entertained as she strolled through the neighborhood. The neighbors of the lady in apartment 218 never again saw her. She never returned to her apartment. She never again spoke with any family member. In fact, she only spoke to about four people the entire evening, and they were strangers. They had never met her before, they knew nothing about her before their brief encounter, and then she was gone, leaving them to ponder only those few moments they had shared.

The invisible door into eternity…
Within just a few hours of the lady leaving the apartment for her walk, she stepped through an invisible door in the universe. No one could see exactly how she did it, they were merely spectators, but they were certain she did indeed step through. She mentioned something to one of the strangers who was standing close by. She said, “I’m in terrible pain . . . but it’s okay, I’m going home tonight”, and then she stepped through the door. One moment she was with them, and then with a sigh, she was gone. The strangers stood by the lady, not completely sure about what they had witnessed. They had seen this happen on numerous occasions, but it was somehow different with this lady. They talked of it at length that night, and again on many occasions since.

Ah, but the lady . . . let us continue her story…

As the lady stepped through the invisible door something wonderful happened. She immediately noticed that the terrible pain in her head had ceased. The pulverized pelvis and leg bones were once again strong, and bearing her weight as she walked. The cuts to her cheek and lips were somehow totally healed. Her arm and hand were pain free, the bruises all Zilpha Pearl for tributegone. Gone was the arthritis that had been her companion for many years. The confusion in her heart at leaving her children and family was changed into understanding. For one moment she had a distant memory of a car crashing into her body as she walked, and then she looked up and saw her mother coming to greet her. The tears that had streamed down her face just moments before were now being wiped away.

She felt comfort, love, compassion, tenderness, and joy unspeakable and full of glory. She realized that she had come to the City to which she had never been before. This beauty surrounding her was that which just a short time ago she had been reading about from her favorite Book. As far as her eyes could see the lady saw only beauty. She saw streets of gold. She saw gates with gems, sparkling in the brightness . . . a brightness comparable to nothing she had ever known. As the lady looked around her new surroundings a wonderful excitement began to fill her with anticipation.

One by one friends she had longed to see, missed terribly, and grieved because of their absence from her life began to come and welcome her Home. Perhaps just for a fleeting moment the lady felt sadness about leaving her family so abruptly, but then she remembered that they too knew the Way and would someday meet her just inside the Middle Eastern gate.

New Sights and Sounds…

Suddenly the lady noticed something else new, which was no great surprise, for all things in the City were new. She was hearing the sound of running water. Ah, yes, the river, the streams of which will make glad the City . . . of course she could hear. Why was she so surprised at this simple event? Her hearing had been restored and for the first time in many years she was able to hear all the everyday sounds. She listened intently for a moment. She heard the leaves fluttering as the breeze blew gently through the tree of life. She heard singing, and laughter, and praising, and then she heard the Voice she had waited sixty-eight years to hear. The Voice that had spoken to her when she was a young girl and had called her to a life of service was a familiar one. This Voice had directed her paths through the many mazes of life, and had often called her back from her willfulness of going her own way. This was not the voice of a stranger. This was the Voice that had said to her in recent years and especially in recent days, “come unto me all ye who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Yes, she recognized this Voice. She turned and as she did she looked into the most blessed face she had ever seen. She saw there in those eyes what she had desired more than anything in her life.

The lady in apartment 218 had finally come Home.The hills

In honor and memory of my Mother  on Mothers Day, 2014
Glendora Faye Singleton Oldham
September 14, 1927 – September 22, 1995

…she taught me to trust God and lift my eyes unto
the hills, from whence comes my help…” 

Thanks, Mom….you did a great job. I miss you.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Beginning

IN THE BEGINNING

In memory of my precious Dad
(February 21, 1926 – March 4, 2002)

In the beginning
Dad fed me
Bathed me
Wiped my face
Changed my clothes

Sat with me until I slept
Chased away my bad dreams
Played music to soothe me
Listened to my heart needs
Held my hand

Breathed his strength into my frightened spirit
Protected me from the big bad bullies
Taught me to trust God in all things
All this – in the beginning.

But today, in the ending
I’m feeding him
Bathing his body
Wiping his face
Changing his clothes

Sitting beside him until he sleeps
Chasing away his bad dreams
Singing his music back into his heart
Listening to his heart needs
Holding his hand

Breathing my strength into his frail and frightened spirit
Reminding him to trust God in all things
All this – in the ending.

The nurse says
“He’s gone.”

I watch his body for any sign of life
I know she’s right,

For today in Dad’s life,
It’s the beginning.

Written by Ritchie D. Hale ©2002

Dreaming From My Back Door

Backyard June

                                                                        

COLOR MAKES ME HAPPY

Give me a box of brand new crayons, let me open and tilt the box just enough to allow them to slide partially out, exposing all the
variety of shades.  I will be happily entertained in my mind for quite some time.   For me, the visual experience of color is such a
pleasant sensation that I’m sure is part of the reason I became a preschool/early elementary teacher.  It didn’t seem to matter what subject I was teaching, I always found a way to interject vibrant color into the lesson plans and the ancillary materials.  Color makes
me happy.

Back  yard in DecemberSimilarly, the absence of color makes me sad.  When the environment is monochromatic, I feel my energy draining away, and I become listless, lacking in motivation, and have difficulty with just ordinary daily tasks.  In small doses, monochromatic environments are relaxing….but then there is that point when
relaxing become depressing.

I remember a cross-country road trip I took with my sister and aunt.  We drove from Kentucky to California and back in about 18 days.  There were so many first-time visuals for me that I was in awe…almost visual overload at the astounding beauty.
Even the deserts we crossed, at first were amazing….and then they went on and on and on and on with lack of color.  It was that time of the year when there was no green to be seen.  I remember my sister lamenting, “I just need to see green”.

EVERYTHING IS JUST SO WHITE

That’s where I am with this winter season.  It’s been unusual for us here in Kentucky this year.  It’s been so white, andBack yard in February for such a very long time.  So far the news is reporting  we’ve had 36 inches this season.  We aren’t used to this, and I am feeling the need to see color – soon!

Initially the snow fell like confectioner sugar ; gentle and soft like a draped blanket.  After a few days, the sun melted a little of the fresh snow and small tufts of grass poked through just enough to create small brown areas.  From a distance I imagined a box of powdered cocoa being lightly sprinkled across the powdered sugar.  Soon this visual gave way to greyish, dingy laundry, needing a little bleach to bring back the white.  As the weeks have gone by with additional snow, then ice, then salt, then melting and refreezing, my world has taken on the appearance of monochromatic mounds and boulders of sooty frozen chunks of lava.

I’m trying hard to keep my spirits up, but I along with others who are of the persuasion of a box of crayons being a pleasant thing, am ready for the bursting forth of rich vibrant colors on God’s green earth.  Won’t it be a lovely thing when we spot that first green daffodil shoot pushing up through the sod? And then a tiny purple Crocus?  And then…well, color!

COMPARING FLORIDA WINTERS TO KENTUCKY

I remember feeling this way last January.  We had just returned to Kentucky after having lived in Florida for several years.  I stood at
my back door looking out on what seemed a wasteland, devoid of anything remotely inviting.  I felt sad.  I missed color. I began to
dream and plan what I wanted the yard to look like in the spring.

Back yard under summer rennovationToday I have already visited the back door several times and am again envisioning a new dream.  I just can’t wait for the warmer weather to get her to implement my plans.  But first, I need to decide what plants I will put back there, and perhaps order some seeds from a catalog and get them started indoors.  I need to get ready.  There’s a lot
of planning to do if I want to be ready when the snow melts away. Let’s see, I could probably visit some thrift stores and find some quirky little items to tuck into my
flower garden, and maybe an old window, or door to do something a little different in that back corner.  I remember once painting an old bicycle solid white and decorating
it with flowers….maybe I’ll do that again.  Wonder where I can find a cheap, or even a free discarded bike?  Hmmm, I’m feeling better already.  Maybe I should visit
Pinterest for a few new ideas.  I wonder if my daughter has any old flower catalogs I could browse.

I see the beauty of the snow.  God speaks to me as I walk along snow-covered paths in the quietness of the woods. I thrill when a Cardinal perches on a stark branch against the backdrop of a snow-draped evergreen tree…and still, I yearn for the vibrancy of spring.
I long for the “time of the singing of birds.” I’m so thankful that God promises the continual flow of one season, to the next, and the
next, and that we can rest in His promise that spring will return, “In its time.”

Has this long winter got you down? Are you making plans for Spring?  I’d love to hear what you are doing to get past the blahs.

Spring Will Come Again

The view from my window

The view from my window

I’ve been pretty busy grumbling about the snow and ice recently…there has certainly been plenty of it.  Having spent the last several years in Florida, I’ve misplaced most of my excitement, and for sure the wonder of it all has been lost  in the chill of it all.  However, I do remember a time when as a child I loved to take walks late at night in the freshly fallen snow. I remember our family meeting the Miller family, or the Nettie and Bob Parker family, or Joyce and Charlie Evans for a day of sledding at Park Hill in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Park Hill, Owensboro, KY 1960

Park Hill, Owensboro, KY 1960

Making snow angels, building snow forts, having snow-ball fights, skating across Carpenter Lake out of Owensboro when it froze over, and tunneling through 6 foot drifts to create mazes and places to play… collectively these memories are all pleasant.  I loved walking to school on mornings when everything had frozen.  It was a challenge between my friends and me to see who could walk on the frozen puddles and cause the ice to break.  Usually this activity resulted in wet, cold feet for the challenge winner for the remainder of the day.

Today as we were out for an afternoon drive, my eyes were riveted on the beauty of the crystals encasing every tree and bush.  The sun, though rarely seen these past many weeks, touched every branch, creating unique art forms of such brilliance, one could not settle into the doldrums.  It was beautiful, and exhilarating to see.  The shadows up into the woods falling on the pristine snow, touched here and there by a ray of sunshine were intricate in design and mystery. I know that underneath all those many inches of snow and ice, God is at work on a masterpiece of equal beauty, and we are just about to see it happen.  We call it spring.  I am truly ready for the cold, dark days of winter to fade into memory, but I am thankful for the beauty of today.

I’m planning on beginning a “watch” for the very first sign of new life.  I wonder, will it be a Robin, a Crocus, or a bud on a tree?  What are you watching for?  Remember, beside what you see, Spring WILL come again…it’s a promise God made, and I will trust Him with the details of when it is going to happen.

Purposefully Made

x-rays
For several years I had difficulty with my hands.  When finally I went to the doctor and had x-rays taken, he and I knew what course of action we should take.  It amazed my first- grade students to see this image and realize they were seeing the bones on the inside of my hand, and understanding more clearly how they all worked together to make the hand function.  I explained to them that God designed our bodies before we were ever born, and had a specific plan for our lives.  Seeing this x-ray helped them visualize that marvel.

It’s been almost a year now since having the surgery to correct the damage I had experienced, and I am thankful for the use that has been restored.  Until this surgery was performed, I was becoming increasingly limited in what my hands could accomplish.  Each day I have gained strength and agility, and I’m using them once again at almost maximum potential.  As I thought over the journey of this past year, I looked for this picture to post today.  When I see this image, I am always reminded of the verse, “…fearfully and wonderfully made…”.  With that thought as a backdrop, I wanted to share on this specific day a portion of my journal from January, 1999.

Jan, 1999
My dear friend of a lifetime of memories has shared with me that the brain tumor of three years ago has returned and is growing.  The doctors are unsure what to do, and I scarcely know what to say to her.  If she were here, I think the language of hugs and touches would say what I feel – but somehow words seem to get in the way.  I in Tennessee, she across the globe – the pain of empty words, faltering hopes, and meaningless platitudes seem to fill the thousands of miles with yet another pain – silence.  I know what she knows, she knows I know, yet the distance has bridled our tongues so only controlled words are exchanged.  Today I do not know what to say – maybe tomorrow the words will come – maybe not.

Perhaps my words are as insignificant to God as they are to her.  The language of love and hope really needs few words in the end.  Love between friends has a language that resonates from deep within the soul – as does communion with God.  Maybe “words” to say to my friend, and to God, are really unimportant. My heart aches. I pray.

April 11, 1999
My friend has been in and out of the doctor’s offices for the past several weeks.  The tumor that wasn’t supposed to grow back – did.  The doctor’s were glum.  They had scheduled a series of follow-up MRI’s at the end of March, and as each of the doctor’s talked with her about the results, they shook their heads.  They were puzzled…they couldn’t find the tumor.  It was gone!  They didn’t understand.  My friend explained to them, ” Many, many people have been praying for me.”

Since that time in her life so long ago, my friend has been able to continue, by God’s grace and in His  strength, to do the work He has called her to do.  Her heart has been abundantly filled with the love of many grandchildren, and the love of friends all around the world.

When I look at this simple x-ray of my hand, these are the memories that are conjured up of the intricacies of our bodies.  Each part, created by Him, and under His control. Our bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and “it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”

None of us have an unlimited time on the calendar of life, but by embracing the special design that God had when He created us  we can use whatever time we do have in praise and adoration for His gift of life.  My friend is celebrating her birthday today, and because I know her so well, I know she is rejoicing in an awesome Creator God who has made her, healed her, strengthened her, and given her yet another year of ministry.  Happy birthday, friend!

How are you celebrating the gift of God’s design in your life?  Why not make today a day of celebration for the awesome wonderful creation which is YOU?

A Bucket Full of Adventures

VW Camper on side of RoadA Heap of Livin’ and a Bucket Full of Adventures

 Mom always used the expression, “a heap of livin” to explain all the wonderful adventures my dad dragged us to and through.  As age begins to creep up on me and I am closer to the finish line than when I started out, I recall many of those adventures with a bit more nostalgia and joy than I did when we were actually in the midst of them.  Like the times when Dad would come bursting into the house full of zip and energy – announcing we were going on a trip to the New York World’s Fair!” (We lived in Kentucky) and we were leaving in the morning at day break!  And so the adventure would begin.  We stayed almost all day so we wouldn’t miss a thing!!!!

No Fancy Hotels for us…
Our travels took us to little out of the way places that were not often frequented by other travelers.  That often meant our sleeping arrangements were tiny “hole-in-the-wall” hotel rooms, (or a tent without a floor, – a sheet of canvas over poles, in the middle of a
grassy field).   Mom always carried her electric skillet, so we enjoyed a huge country breakfast right there in the room.  I can only imagine what the other guests might have been dreaming about when Mom heated up her “stove” and the aroma of the sizzling bacon drifted into the other occupant’s rooms. Meals not eaten in the hotel rooms were generally eaten in the car as we traveled, or served on concrete tables in roadside parks along the way. (I still enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches).

Adventures & Misadventures…
When we became teenagers we groaned about “roughing it” on the long trips . . . but as adults we recall those experiences as precious memories. Well . . . mostly precious memories.  There was that time when we literally pushed our Volkswagen Camper Van across the Painted Desert, and the time Dad was hauled off to jail because he illegally made a U-turn on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  But even those memories have the mixture of love and family growth that bonded us into best friends for life.

One family outing was spent traveling in a borrowed car to the North Carolina coastline.  Along with our family of six were my uncle, aunt, two cousins, and all our beach toys, swim gear, and picnic supplies. Oh yeah, the borrowed car was actually a hearse loaned to us by a mortician friend.  At the time we were of course, mortified . . . but today, it’s sheer joy as we recall the “day we went to the beach in
a hearse”.

When Dad would make these announcements, I know it was a bit of a hardship for Mom, but his spontaneity was infectious, and the ever practical side of Mom most often gave way to the thirst for excitement that Dad brought to each of his many “adventures”.

Dad’s Influence on My Adventurous Spirit…
Dad had a unique take on life that lasted him up until he took his last breath on March 4, 2002.  He filled our lives with adventures from our earliest days, giving us the freedom and tools to do special things – different than most children our ages.  Many hours of my play time were spent climbing into the hayloft behind our house, with Dad’s blessings, and Mom’s admonitions.  Even as I write these words, I recall that dusty, dry, grassy smell, and feel the prickle to my skin as I climbed in and over and through my “hay fort” and down  into my seven-story high tobacco-stick house.  (I shudder to think what might have happened if it had toppled over). Hiking alone in the woods,  playing hide and seek in the corn fields, wading in mountain creeks, and using Dad’s tools to fashion forts, tree houses, and secret hide-a-ways…ah, what pleasant memories.

As I approach this February 21, 2014, (the date my dad would have celebrated his 88th year), I look back with joy and forward with anticipation.  Mom said it right about her life, and I can truly say it about my own.  I’ve done a “heap of livin”, and life is certainly full of adventures to remember and many yet to come.

Have you done a heap of livin’ and stored up buckets full of treasured memories of your many adventures?  I can only imagine that your adult children would love to hear about them.

Making the Ordinary; Extraordinary

October in Seaside, Oregon

October in Seaside, Oregon

February is my birth month, and in the words of my Mom, “I’ve done a ‘heap of livin’. From her I learned to be highly motivated; always working on a new project, and to never quit.  From my dad I learned to approach each day as if it were an adventure. Most days, living an adventure is the way I would characterize these past sixty-three years.

The word adventure is a main-stay of my vocabulary.  To my ninety-four-old mother-in-law, I propose, “Let’s have an Adventure.”  To my grandchildren, “You wanna’ go on an Adventure?” To my husband, “I need an Adventure!”  The Bible says, “this is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  I tend to think of this verse as an invitation to have an adventure.

Some adventures are exciting, some not so much.  Just as “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, so is adventure to those who choose to approach the ordinary in an extraordinary manner.  An extraordinary adventure I launched just before my fiftieth birthday, was the return to  full-time college student status after a thirty-year absence.  This adventure, though exciting, held ingredients of fear, insecurity, and a great amount of anxiety.  Of that experience I wrote in my journal the following observations.

 January 1999
Panic attack.   I can’t do this!  I don’t know what all these other people know!
As I take my place in the classroom full of strangers, I tenaciously look around, noticing telltale signs that they too are uncomfortable. Seeing fixed smiles, nervous twitches, tapping feet, I wonder – facade of security?   Anxious about this experience?  Are they feeling the same first day anxiety I feel?  Perhaps all of us are insecure in some particular area of life.

The Students –
One student, though smiling, continually picks at an almost invisible blemish on his face.  Another student seems to be anxious that his embarrassing tremors might begin at an inopportune time.  Is the boy seated in front of me thinking about his poor writing skills, wondering if he will feel foolish in front of his peers?  The girl across the room appears to be thinking only of the rejection I observed only moments ago when in the hall  her boyfriend broke-up their relationship. A quiet young man seated in the corner seems to be feeling inadequate about his physique as his gaze darts back and forth to the body builder seated beside him. One student appears ill-at-ease because she alone represents her race. The foreign exchange student sits tall, pensive, and quiet.  Is she worrying about her faulty English skills?

The Teacher –
The teacher approaches the classroom with first day jitters – experienced though he may be, he knows each new class evolves a little differently than the one before. There’s that unknown element as he faces the new class.  Is he concerned at all whether we, his students, will like him?  Is he as prepared as he hopes to be as he prepares to present his lecture? And the students . . . we all sit here wondering about the teacher.  Will he be clear in his method?  Will he be fair? Will he be interesting?

The Class –
I begin to realize we all have insecurities of one sort or another.  We each possess some wonderful strengths and feel high levels of confidence . . . each in different areas. I begin to feel less vulnerable, more energized, and am discovering a growing confidence with this thought.  This is the day the Lord has given me to return to college…to rejoice, and to have an adventure, and to be glad in it.  From my individual strengths and weaknesses, I will boldly approach this new learning experience with an adventuresome spirit.  We as individual students will tackle the assignments with an enormous amount of energy and we will all grow into a group.  We will succeed and we will learn.  All our unique insecurities will pale against the brilliance of the accomplishment of learning and new academic achievements. We will gain strength as we each recognize our individual frailties and move beyond our own insecurities.  We will recognize that we are all unified in purpose, we are learners in life; we are pilgrims.  We are masters simply because we have dared to take the risks of simply being students. We have embraced learning as an adventure.

Have you ever experienced a time when you almost missed an adventure simply because you lacked confidence or felt insecure?  Whether your calendar for today is booked with routine, mundane, or stressful activity, how about making it an adventure?   Who knows, the ordinary just might become extraordinary.

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