Beyond the Big job, Fat check and Fancy House -what really matters most in life.

kirbyhillhouse1

My first job.

Bill’s Dollar store in Kountze, Texas.

Most boring task – refolding the “old lady” bras after chest-challenged customers finished pawing through them.

It gets worse.

The most dreaded task–cleaning the outhouse behind the store. Yes, outdoor plumbing in 1976. It was an original dollar store after all.

One afternoon, I got a surprise. The aftermath of a customer’s personal “plumbing problem” splattered across the interior of said out-house.

But, I scrubbed, disinfected and cleaned it all. For 1. 75 per hour.

Why? I was desperate for financial independence in a town full of haves and have-nots. Not many folks existed in- between.

You can guess where I belonged.

Where did I want to be?

With people like the owner of the local Western Auto. He had a white Cadillac and a two story house that looked like a movie set from Gone With the Wind –before the Civil War.

The American dream, yah know.

Beautiful home. Two point two kids. Retirement fund.

Didn’t happened quite that way. I got sidetracked. Went on mission trips. Got involved in causes causes bigger than the row of zeros on a pay check. Fell in love. Had kids. Got a vision of what God can do with one ordinary person not afraid to follow Him.

Sound irresponsible? A bit foolish? Too much idealism for an occupant of a fallen world?

Maybe, but that’s where I’m at. My husband and I don’t own a home. We don’t have an extravagant pension. But, we have purpose. We take risks to see lives changed.

Life is not an inclusive resort. It’s a  journey of faith and trust.

The ultimate adventure.

 

How about you?

What makes you want to get up in the morning?

Gives you peace just before you fall asleep at night?

The Remains of the Day–the secret delights of those who work to survive.

tired woman

I am exhausted. My head aches. My feet hurt.

All I want to do is get home.

Shut the door and enjoy the remains of the day.

You know, little bits and pieces of time left over after you’ve

  • taught lesson after lesson
  • waited table after table
  • scrubbed toilet after toilet
  • answered call after call
  • dealt with crisis after crisis

Pristine moments of uninterrupted silence. Time to soak your feet. Check your email. Watch your favorite show. Make a cup of tea. Just sit and do nothing at all.

I used to agonize over the intensity of surviving.

What I really longed for was

  1. 24 hour room service.
  2. a full time maid.
  3. an unlimited bank account.

“That is the way,” I told God, “You should bless me.”

But, what do I know?

When it comes to wisdom I think I have the brain the size of a pea. The insight of a potato peel. The tenacity of melted butter.

“Get a grip,” is the reply, “Open your eyes.”

That’s when I finally notice the opulence of extravagant blessings billowing up like bubbles in the bathtub of my life.

The hard times, the long hours, the added pressure in testifies the beauty of coming home.

  • Pockets of time I would have foolishly overlooked.
  • Delectable slivers of  peace I would have shoved aside.
  • Sweet moments with loved ones I would have ignored.

The remains of the day.

Every Kind of Beautiful–looking good in your own skin

jelly jars 2

I know they’re up there.

On the top floor of some media conglomerate. Sitting around a long glass table.

  • Crotchety old men with horrid toupees.
  • Powerful women thin as low-fat pretzels.

They drink martinis. Stare at glossy pictures as they ascertain -what next season’s concept of beautiful will be.

Oh, don’t forget the cool girls who travel in tight clusters or the yummy mommies giggling and gossiping while their designer children play.

As the rest of us go through our ordinary day, they decide who is hot and who is not.

A certain

  • weight,
  • body build,
  • skin tone,
  • symmetry of feature

determines if you are in or out.

Of what?

  1. Some self absorbed geezer’s ogling radar?
  2. Some aging facelift queen’s hallowed hall of approval?
  3. Some self-absorbed popular girl’s circle of friends?

Don’t play the game.

It’s a lie.

Beauty is not endless repetition –

Like an rows and rows of jelly jars, stack of bricks or  perfectly matching  paper flowers cut by some automated machine.

It’s all about diversity and individuality.

  1. The nose.
  2. The eyes.
  3. The chin.
  4. A Boisterous laugh.
  5. A quiet smile.

Intricate as snowflakes in the winter. Varied as the leaves in the fall.

fall leaves

Step up. Be real.

Embrace the beauty that is you.

I’ve Got The Power–Stopping abuse of the innocent, the overwhelmed and the broken

basketball molly

My dog Molly.

She weighs 14 pounds. Has the dimensions of a basketball when she curls up on the couch.

I’m bigger than Molly. Stronger than Molly. Hopefully, smarter than Molly.

But, she’s not afraid of me.

How do I know? When I sit on the couch, she curls up next to me and falls asleep.

curled up Molly

Molly trusts me.

  • to protect her.
  • not to hurt her.

That trust has never been violated. Not by me. Not by the other members of our family. Not even by strangers.

In Psalms 83:3-4, the writer Asaph laid out some definite guidelines for the powerful to follow.

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Unfortunately, in our fallen world, the exact opposite happens.

Consider

  1. what Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky did to children who put their trust in him.
  2. what atrocities the Canadian and U.S. government and church inflicted on an entire generation of aboriginal children in their care.
  3. What happens every day in homes, offices and schools when people use positions of power to gratify themselves.

The people who survived the mental, physical and sexual abuse still bear the scars. The parties responsible still need to be held accountable if the atrocities are to be stopped.

Why?

Because abuse begins and ends with the person who power over another human being.

  • A mom over a child.
  • A mentor over a student.
  • A spiritual advisor over a wounded soul.
  • A government over it’s citizens.

We all have the power – the choice is whether  to hurt or to heal.

Costco Discounts, The Homeless and What It Means To Be Acknowledged As A Human Being

meadow in the middle of the forest

The sky was overcast.

Rain had splattered the pavement like a million paintballers on an unlimited budget. Now, drops fell a  few at a time.

“We’re early,” I told mom as we pulled into a parking spot. Early was the operative word when it came to the Bellingham Costco. Shoppers jostled like Guns n Roses fans around the closed warehouse door.

I decided not to fight the crowds. Neither was I going to enlighten them on what exactly they were jostling in line for  –

  • Cardboard boxes filled with cereal.
  • Rows of garlic dill pickles.
  • Bundles of white socks.

But, hey, maybe that’s how they rocked out. Buying bulk items at low prices.

Mom and I walked past the crazed masses and sat down on the edge of a cement planter by the side of the store.

We weren’t the only ones.

A woman sat under the branches of the maple tree on the edge of the planter. In front of her, a shopping cart awaited her next move. Its silver tarp covered contents piled high and wide.

“What are all the people here for,” she asked. I stared at the red sores scattered across her face like chicken pox. Then, I caught myself.

“Costco,” I said, my face turning red at my rude behavior, “The place opens in ten minutes.”

She smiled slightly and gazed at the cloud-darkened mountains in the distance.

“Wonder if it’s going to keep raining.”

There was stillness in her wide, pale features. A stillness that made me think of a meadow in the middle of the forest. No one else around.

It the short time we waited for Costco to open, I learned

  1. this woman was from the Midwest.
  2. She didn’t like the heat in that area of the country.
  3. It seemed, she didn’t mind the Washington rain .

Beneath multiple layers of clothing and behind the wieldy cart with its plastic outdoor chair strapped to the side, this woman emanated a strong sense of self.

I asked if I could interview her.

She declined.

And, rightly so.

She was more than a story.

She was creature with feelings, with hopes and dreams.

Underneath the jumbled layers of unfortunate events, she was an exquisite creation of God.

A human being.

When Canadian’s Head South and Senior Citizen’s Raise Hell–Don’t let it steal your joy

 

seaside cafe

Today I crossed the line.

Not

  • morally
  • politically
  • or even relationally.

Let’s just say territorially.

I left Canada to shop in the States.

After plundering the Bellingham, Washington Costco like some cheese-starved Viking, I headed back north.

Just before donning on my fur lined parka and crossing over into the dog sled lanes of Canada, I stopped at the Seaside Bakery Café’,

and ordered a cup of Spring Onion soup.

spring onion soup

 

Tender vegetables. Herbs and Asiago cheese. Yum.

The scene was set.

  1. My mom and I sipped soup and nibbled on our Panini sandwiches.
  2. A party of three sat across the room and bantered back and forth.
  3. Two occupied tables.
  4. The only customers in the house.

Or, so I thought.

In the midst of the lively conversation at the other table, a woman stood up.

How long she had been sitting at a small table behind them, I do not know.

“Excuse me,” she as she stepped between two of the patrons, “You have been talking the entire time I’ve been here,”

as the now-quiet patrons stared at her,

“I can’t stand it. I’m leaving.”

No one said a word as she marched out of the café.

“She should eat at the library,” one of the offending parties finally said.

“Get a study room,” smirked the other.

Just to put this scene in perspective.

  1. None of the trouble makers wore leather or chains.
  2. No one had lip rings or spiked hair.

More like dentures or Depends. A group well qualified for senior discounts.

As for making a public disturbance, I’ve had thoughts louder than most of their bantering.

Mom and I finished our meal and left.

The group stayed on. Laughing and talking. The irritation and anger left with the woman who had just marched out.

I was not surprised.

  • Some teenagers would have yelled back at her.
  • Young moms or dads may have argued with her.

Not these guys.

They were too old to let someone else’s unhappiness ruin their day.

They would never consider letting anyone steal their joy.

Weird Moments of Profound Blessings–How God answered my prayer on His terms.

 

Elderly-Polish-Couple-Walking-Hand-in-Hand-Photographic-Print

When Freddie Mercury penned the lyrics “Can anybody find me somebody to love?” he stole the words right out of my heart.

I was 27, and I longed for a Hollywood style romance –

  • Candlelight dinners
  • Walks on the beach
  • Fairytale wedding.

Instead, I faced a reality that terrified me.

  1. endless days of clocking into work,
  2. driving home,
  3. eating supper,
  4. reading a book late into the night.

I was terrified that I nothing would change. I would never find a soul mate. Never fall in love.

“I give up ,” I confessed to God one afternoon, “If something is going to happen, you will have to make it happen.”

I had my share of “have-I-got-somebody-for-you” situations. Had a few professions of undying love that just made me feel, well, awkward.

Then, there were the reconnaissance missions into other social circles. No prospects surfaced. No romance bloomed.

I became exhausted. Emotionally drained from the hunt.

That’s why I gave up. Gave in and walked away from the entire game.

Traveled to England on a mission/study program.

It fell apart after a few days and I had to come home.

Then, my Dad died.

In the midst of the sorrow and uncertainly, the blessing came.

Kind of strange. A little misshapen. Not recognizable as anything close to wonderful.

At my Dad’s viewing, I got a phone call.

“I think I met your husband,” my boss said. He was calling from a conference he was attending.

“Never had this happened to me,” he continued, his voice trembling.

After the funeral, the young man mentioned flew out for a job interview.

That’s when the blessing turned awkward.

  • The guy was charismatic. I was Baptist.
  • He was scientific. I was abstract.
  • He was precise and I never noticed details.
  • He was serious and I was always pushing the line with pranks.

I vacillated between fear of making a huge mistake and the almost unspeakable possibility that I might be falling in love.

  • It took courage to step out of my comfort zone. To risk being hurt by opening my heart.
  • It took faith to stay open in the ups and downs of getting to know each other.
  • It took God to teach me to be flexible and generous. To realize that true unity begins when each person focuses on what they can give and not what they can get.

This happened over a quarter a century ago. That’s how long I’ve been married to this same man.

But, I never forgot what I learned about blessings.

1. They are not magic tricks that just go “poof”  and my troubles disappear.

2. They are amazing interventions that interrupt life’s journey in unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable ways.

Ultimately that is their beauty.

Our job is to embrace them and hold on for the ride.

So Much Destruction, So Little Time–the power and temptation of gossip

 

lord of the rings

I regret

  1. Not having the stamina to watch all three Lord of the Rings in a row.
  2. Jumping off a dock at low tide and getting stuck in mud up to my waist. (happened when I was thirteen. I think my boots are still there.)
  3. Every time I talked behind someone’s back.

I think I’m almost over the trauma of the first two.

  • I can laugh now about how my sister and I rocked back and forth for hours hoping we would somehow shake loose before the tide came back in.
  • Even though my days may not be as intriguing without Frodo and his companions struggling up the mountain beside me, I get by. Life goes on.

Not so with number 3.

I still deeply regret every time I said something unkind about

  1. A friend.
  2. A co-worker.
  3. A family member.

Usually I did it for attention. I wanted to appear to be better than other people because I felt so bad about myself.

That plan sure backfired.

Dragging other people down into the mud didn’t make me feel special at all. It just made me feel all dirty inside.

If only the dirt had showed on the outside. It would have been a great reminder not to do it again.

Because, I still get tempted to

  • look hip and cool with information no one else is talking about.
  • secretly get even with someone who hurt me first.

With one comment

  1. A reputation’s shattered.
  2. A friendship’s bludgeoned.
  3. Someone’s opportunity is wiped away as if it had never been an option in the first place.

All because of me.

Begging forgiveness is necessary. But, it is not enough. I have to stop. We all have to stop.

And, put down our weapons of mass destruction.

Let the healing begin.

How to Take a Meaningful Nap–especially on a Sunday Afternoon

I am and will forever be a preacher’s daughter.

Mind you, the preacher’s dead. But, the legacy lives on in my psychic and in my habits.

Busy. Busy. Busy. That’s how we rolled.

  • teaching Sunday School.
  • making a casserole for the next potluck.
  • praying. Going out on visitation.
  • reading the Bible.
  • attending service after service after service.

Still makes my head spin a bit.

There was one ritual we all held sacred. I still do.

The Sunday Afternoon Nap.

man napping

It was not hard to do. Stomach full of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and a heaping helping of green beans needed a place to spread out and relax. The rest was history.

These days most people don’t even consider stopping to nap.

“What will people think of me,” they wonder, “if I sprawl around in the middle of the day?”

I don’t know.

And, I don’t care.

I still take my naps when and whereever I can.

classroom napping

Like I said, it’s in my psychological DNA.

The 2009 Harvard Health Letter reports that “sleep improves learning, memory, and creative thinking. In many cases, the edifying sleep has been a nap.”

My advice as an experienced snoozer?

Make it long enough to rejuvenate but not so long as to make you feel as if you had overdosed on someone’s leftover bottle of cold medicine.

A 15 to 30 minute snooze makes you feel like a different person.

  • More alert.
  • Less cranky.
  • More optimistic.

baby 2 napping

Close those heavy lids in a quiet place. The 15 to 30 minute span is only effective as it is uninterrupted.

Periodic napping can help repair the damage that doing too much for too many people leaves behind.

How else do you think preachers survive the stress of the ministry?

One Sunday afternoon nap at a time.

Bass Guitars, The Generation Gap and Living on the Wild Side–an interview with musician Josh Hughes.

 

josh hughes 1

I’ve always had misgivings about senior complexes.

  • Too quiet.
  • Too clean.

Too, well, senior.

Where are the

  1. bikes tossed on the grass on a hot summer’s afternoon?
  2. rock music blaring out of a basement window?
  3. plastic wading pools making round dead spots in the grass?

Give me an ordinary neighborhood.

Why?

Each generation should take the opportunity to learn from the other.

Not just how to

  • tie shoes
  • or pop one’s dentures in and out.

But, how to see life from a different perspective.

So, I decided to get to know Josh Hughes, a young man who is helping me this summer with the College dorm conferences.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Twenty one,” he replied as if he had invented the number combination all by himself. Of course, it’s not like he’s never been twelve before. But, I didn’t point that out. I was getting to know him, after all.

For the next few minutes we talked about his family.

  • No biological siblings.
  • A step-dad who adopted him when Josh was ten. 

Josh had always been close to his mom. As a teenager, he grew close to the only dad he had ever known.

And, then, he fell in love with the bass guitar. All because of his older step- brother.

“I looked up to him,” Josh said and flicked his shoulder length hair out of his face, “When I saw him play, I had a desire to do that, too.”

Eventually, he learned enough bass to play with his church worship band.

“Music was therapy in some ways for me,” Josh told me, “I was always able to come back to music no matter what state my life was in.”

This summer Josh is working on composing songs with his roommate Kevin. The genre is hard rock. They plan to have five compositions done by the fall.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” I had to ask.

“I would dearly love to have a band going with friends,” he said, “touring making a living playing music, writing music.”

He then talked about how music teachers in Pacific Life Bible College (where he attends) have great connections in the music community. The Bible college courses are also a great help.

“In the music scene there is not a lot of Jesus around, “he said, “I want a firm foundation.”

I replied to each answer with “good, great, right one and that’s interesting” but inside my head one question just kept screaming louder and louder.

Finally, I blurted it out.

“What about financial stability?”

Something strange happened. One generation began to teach another. Guess who was the student.

Me.

“One thing Rick Colhoun (a teacher and musician) told us,” Josh replied quickly, “is that if you have any other passion or interest in the world do that. Cause music is hard work…its hard to make money at it.”

Josh explained that some teachers in the college pursued their music while working other jobs. Others pursued music in their jobs.

“It’s really about …the passion in your heart to make music. It’s worth putting everything on the line for,” he added.

And, then he grinned and reminded me that he was only twenty one.

He still had room to make mistakes.

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’ “I’ve seen a lot of people stay in whatever they felt was safe,” he said.

I finally saw his wild side. Funny, it reminded me of my own determination to live outside the confines of  Seniorville,

“I don’t really want to live a life like that,” he continued, “sticking with whatever’s safe.”