Archive for category love

A Matter of Perspective

Recently, while visiting a friend in the local hospital, I came upon a young couple with a tiny newborn baby in the hallway, having just seen their pediatrician.  The baby was unhappy.  I knew because I could hear him wailing from  the far end of the hallway.  As I approached, I could see the tears, the red cheeks, the scrunched face of the baby, and flashed back to when my own kids were newborns.  Then I saw the tears, the red cheeks, the scrunched face of the newborn’s mother.  She appeared to be frustrated out of her mind, and I could hear her say between sobs, “Just please stop crying!  I just wish he would stop crying!”

A woman, whom I supposed to be the mother of the new mother, was rubbing her back, comforting her by saying, “honey, he’s fine- crying is what babies do.  He’s hungry, or wet, but he’s fine.  He’s just doing the only thing he knows to do, and that’s to cry.”

As I continued past the young family on my way to the 11th floor elevator, I could only think about those days when my own children were newborns, crying, wailing, making me feel like the worst parent on the planet.  But at this point in my life, when several my friends my age are grandparents, those memories bring mixed emotions.  We are too old to have more children of our own.  And, in the not too distant future, my own kids will begin to have kids of their own, and I will become the understanding grandparent who reminds my kids that “crying is what babies do.”  And I am reminded of those close to me who do not have children of their own.

While the repetitive cries of a newborn baby can be an irritating and exhausting sound, those cries can also bring a beautiful reassurance.  The reassurance that the cycle of life continues; the hope of a son or daughter to continue the legacy you have established; or maybe, just the joy that comes when the scrunchy-faced cries at long last fade into smiles in silent, blissful sleep.

So, let ’em cry.  When they grow up and don’t need you anymore, you’ll cherish the times they did.

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The Pitfalls of Milk and Cookies

I didn’t sleep well last night.  I started out on the couch in our partially renovated living room.  I had just poured myself a small nightcap and grabbed a couple of leftover Pecan Sandies.  The name fits, by the way, when they’ve been in the cabinet since the first Bush was president.  Anyway, I had just settled with my milk and cookies and turned on OETA when I dozed off.  I woke later, around 3:30 ish, when I heard the dog barking his head off because he could smell the milk that now spilled down my shirt and my leg to the freshly cleaned carpet below.  I kindly and gently shouted at him to shut up and started after a wet towel, but thought better of it, and let Bud the dog out of his kennel so he could clean it up himself.  He wouldn’t touch the Sandie.

When Bud had his fill of the milk-flavored carpet, he crawled contentedly back in his kennel for the rest of the night.  I assume the constant licking of his teeth and dragging his tongue on the floor meant he was contented.  Anyway, I crawled down the hall to the bed, and was just about to plop in when I remembered my wet clothes.  So, in the dark of night, I silently opened the drawer and grabbed another set of clothes, which consisted of a pair of “shorts”, another pair of shorts, and a clean white T.  I had my back to the door as I changed clothes, and turned to find that my door was open into the hallway.  The same hallway where my daughter’s door was also open.  I was glad that I could hear the sweet sound of her sleeping deeply rather than the shrieks of a terrified 12-year-old.

I climbed into my bed, and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.  Now when I sleep, I am a light sleeper.  I notice every little sound, every creak, every change in my surroundings; I awaken easily and am deeply disturbed it happens.  So I was surprised to find that I had walked outside to a barn in Tennessee where I deer hunted when I was a kid.  I was there with a group of strangers, and we were building a fire in which to dry our wet clothes.  Suddenly, from the sky above us, airplanes  began falling from the sky.  Planes of all sizes- from tiny, mosquito-sized planes to huge airships that carry thousands of passengers.  They all used some kind of super landing gear, because none crashed.  They just kind of bounced up and down until they were able to open their doors and let their shaken passengers slide down the emergency chutes.  Reminded me of an Oldsmobile that my cousin in California used to drive and bounce around downtown until the Po-Pos ran him off.

I began to run at a rapid pace, fleeing the barn and the descending planes.  Off in the distance, I could hear Bud barking, as if he were saying, “Come on, Daddy, run!  I gotta go!  I gotta go!  I gotta go!”  I jumped over a fallen log and landed mid-stride right square on the edge of my bed, balanced between safety and falling a terrifying two feet to the floor.  As gracefully as a turtle in molasses, I turned to keep from falling, hoping that if anyone saw me, they would think I meant to do that.

Breathing hard and wiping the sleep from my eyes, I turned to see my sweet wife putting on her makeup.  She was using a dry, #2 brush, like those used to cut in trim work around crown molding in fancy houses.  Her paint came from a very expensive and very tiny tube. When she saw that I was up, she smiled and asked, “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes,” I lied.  “Did you?”

“I did until about 3:30, when I dreamed about bald, pasty white polar bear wearing shorts. Then I heard Bud barking so I got up and let him go outside. When he had finished, and after I put him up, I couldn’t go back to sleep.  Now, evidently, Bud has had an accident while I wasn’t looking because the carpet in front of the couch is wet.  It took me 20 minutes to clean that up.”

Grinning sheepishly, I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and reminded her that eating before she goes to sleep can lead to some unwanted results…

 

*This story is only partially true; some of this really happened, and the rest is, well, partially not true. I’m not telling which…..

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Happy 25th Anniversary!

They say that “time flies when you’re having fun”.

I’m not really sure who ‘they’ are, but from where I sit, they are right.  Today, August 9, 2011, Jane and I celebrate 25 years of marriage!  In so many ways, it seems just just a short time ago when we stood at the altar at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, KY, to exchange our vows, for two lives to become one.  At the same time, our lives have been so active, so full of joy, so difficult, so fun, so challenging, that it seems hard to believe that we have crammed so much living into 25 short years.

Yet, when I look at this picture made on our wedding day, time seems to stand still.  Jane Benson, you still take my breath away.  I am so blessed, as a matter of fact, that I believe some thank-you’s are in order:

To God– Thank You!  Thank You!  THANK YOU!

To George and Frances Benson, thank you for teaching Jane about Jesus and helping her grow in the love and admonition of the Lord. You two made a beautiful little girl!

To Jane– while I would make some decisions differently (Hare Jordan, the Thunderbird, and the Perazzi shotgun come to mind), the decision to spend my life with you is a decision I’d make 1000 times over.

Finally, to all the other guys who wanted to go out with Jane and try and win her heart, just let me say…

you lose…I Win!

I love you, Jane.  Happy Anniversary!

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And One to Grow On…

I will confess right off the start that I grew up in a different time and place.  Some of you may find the following experiences somewhat offensive, even violent.  For those who cringe when they read this, let me say-

Get over it.

While growing up in rural West Tennessee, we had traditions and celebrations that may seem odd.  One of our favorite annual celebrations was the traditional birthday spanking, or ‘whippin’ as it was affectionately known.  These birthday spankings were part of our family ritual. While we pretended to hate them, the truth is, we enjoyed the wrestling match and the tickles and the laughter that went with it.  Never painful, never mean-spirited, the licks always included one smack for each year of our lives, plus “one to grow on”.  I don’t know from where that saying came, but I think I should research it, find the origin and context of the phrase.  Or maybe not.

My dad always delivered my birthday “whippin'” when he got home from work.  He’d grab me, and to the floor we’d go; rolling around on the carpet, me squirming like a toesack full of snakes, Daddy’s big hands laying licks on my posterior amid our laughter and my flailing limbs.  He would reach way above his head, swing those huge hands in a fury, and just before making contact, would slow down so that the actual contact was  nothing more than a loud love pat.  He would count aloud, often purposefully forgetting what comes after 8, or like a broken record, repeating the same age over and over again.

Things changed when I turned 15.

As usual, Dad caught me and took me down to the floor.  We were having so much fun!  My mom was across the room, pulling first for me, then Daddy, then me.  Short of piling in herself, she did everything she could to keep us both worked up.  I squirmed as much as I could, trying to wrench myself free from Daddy’s hands, but not really wanting to get out of his grasp.  I rolled over; I curled in the fetal position; for several minutes I kicked and flailed, laughing my head off. But I did not notice that Daddy was no longer laughing.

I had succeeded in rolling over onto my back for the third or fourth time, when Daddy suddenly gave up and said, “Well, you whip me then!”.  With that said, he stood up, dropped my legs to the floor, and walked out of the room.

The room was suddenly quiet.  I didn’t really understand what Daddy meant, and didn’t understand why he would give in like that and leave the room.  I looked at mom, who seemed to understand what was happening.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked my mom.

“No, you didn’t.”, she replied.

“Then why did Daddy give up?  Why did he leave?”  I was still not convinced that I was not in trouble.

Wisdom flowed from my mom.  “Your dad quit because he couldn’t whip you.  You have grown up to the point that he can no longer handle you by wrestling on the floor, no longer muscle you around. So, you whipped him”

My heart sank.  Because I enjoyed the closeness and the frenzy of goofing around with my dad, I hadn’t considered that there would come a day when he couldn’t whip my hind end.  I had never ever considered what would happen if I won the wrestling match.

When I turned 15, I didn’t get my birthday licks, but I did get my “one to grow on”.  I learned that when it comes to their children, even tall, skinny, tough dads can have a hard time when suddenly struck by the reality that their kids are, in fact, kids no longer.

I try to remember that lesson as I watch my own kids grow up.  It is our job to teach and train them so that when that horrible day comes- the day I can no longer give them their birthday licks- they are ready to take life by the shoulders, wrestle it to the floor, and whip it at will.  The book of Proverbs calls it “training up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

I think that’s a good one to grow on….

What are some hard lessons you’ve learned either from your parents or from your kids?

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Seek First the Church?

I am a recovering church-lover.

Let me be clear on this.  I still really, really enjoy going to church, serving the church, working for the church, even working overtime for the church.  I like the church culture (the culture of our church, anyway), the people who attend our church, and the folks who visit periodically.  I like how our church uses the Bible as its primary directional document.  I feel safe with other church people.  I like how they make me feel, when in a church context and setting.  I like our denomination (most of the time), and our efforts in missions and evangelism.

Lately, I have been bothered by the whispers of my soul about my love for the church.  Those whispers reveal the truth that I am a church lover.

The truth is, I can be more concerned, place more thought and work in the culture of the church, and enjoy serving the church while almost completely losing connection with Christ, Who gave His life for us and will return one day and claim the Church, His Bride.

As a child, I was saved because of what I understood about Jesus and His loving sacrifices for me.  I loved Him, read His word, and learned about Him as I attended church.  It wasn’t long, however, that I began to receive more recognition, more pats on the back for good church involvement and attendance than I did for loving and following Christ.  I even rode my bike to church in the snow and ice when we couldn’t get the car out.  Somehow, without realizing it, I had become a church lover. Somehow, without my knowing, the thin line between loving church and loving God had become muddied. So- I dare say for many of us- it has become easy to allow the vision and administration of church to determine what is right and best for us, rather than staying true to the simple followship of Christ.  The followship of Christ guarantees rejection, danger, suffering.  I don’t know of many churches who market their ministries using those words.

So, I am re-focusing.  Revelation 2:5 (in the Bible) says, “Look how far you have fallen from your first love!  Turn back to me again and work as you did at first.”

I am not giving up loving the church… just the order in which I dispense my love and allegiance.  Seeking first the kingdom of God… Falling in love with Jesus on a daily basis… Keeping my conversation with Jesus open and active… Serving Jesus through the ministries of the church…

There. That’s better.

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Be Careful, Little Mouth

A conversation between me and my sister. We were driving in N Alabama, along with my other sister and my beautiful stepmom. We had stopped for a potty break.

Me: do we have any trash to throw away?

My sister, riding shotgun: don’t throw away my diet coke can.

Me: is it empty?

My sister: no, I’ve been nursing it for a while.

Me: oh, really? I think I would have noticed that….

Be careful….

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Hope

We waited patiently for more than 20 minutes for the bus to return from a day trip around Scottsboro.  The day room was fairly quiet, except the television that was playing re-runs of Judge Mathis.  Some of the other patients in the nursing home were dozing, or watching, or talking to us as if we were regular residents.  The room was stuffy; I suppose all nursing homes use the same cleaning (or non-cleaning) supplies.  The smell was both familiar and unsettling.

When the bus returned, the patients unloaded, and we waited expectantly to see our relative, whose recent stroke has made residence in this home a necessity.  Aunt Lucy had always been a strong and vibrant lady.  An energetic golfer with blonde hair, Aunt Lucy was elegant and in charge.

Today, her blonde hair was slightly dishevelled from the trip.  She was beautiful, even in a bulky wheelchair.  The stroke left her with some memory loss, as well as emotionally delicate.  As she was wheeled over to our table, she began to recognize us.  Beverly, a cousin, wheeled her to our table.  Aunt Lucy recognized her, and immediately began to cry.  Aunt Lucy does not understand why God would do this to her- she has always been a good Christian woman, has always loved God, and she just can’t understand why God hates her so much that He would take her life away and leave her like this.    My experience following God confirms to me that God does not hate her.

Aunt Winnie told her that she had some visitors, and she seemed to become more agitated, until she recognized us.  Even through the fog of lost memory and emotional strain, somewhere in her mind, she remembered- my stepmom, me, and my son Andrew, who accompanied us on the trip.  She stood up- to hug my neck first, then Andrew, then my sweet step-mother Mrs. Jean (she was “Mrs. Jean” before she married my dad, so, to us, she will always be “Mrs. Jean”).

Standing in front of the chair, she again cried out to God to take her home and not leave her in the shape she is in.  We sat her down, and began to talk with her.  She was so glad to see us, but couldn’t understand what she did to deserve this.  However, the longer she talked, the more difficult it became for her to string words together in a meaningful sentence.  She also had trouble with gender, referring to me as both “he” and “she” within seconds of one another.  But through the confusion, I did hear her say that it was good of us to come all this way to visit her.

Following a few more minutes of conversation, we wheeled her from the day room towards her semi-private room.  Down the hall and past the nurses’ stations, she would introduce me as “her boy who played piano” and Andrew as “the beautiful child that belonged to her” (meaning me).

It was a bittersweet walk through the lobby and through the double doors going outside.  I hadn’t seen Aunt Lucy for 5 or 6 years, and now that I live 700 miles away, I am not sure when I will see her again.  Aunt Lucy and Aunt Winnie are special people; my own mother’s favorite sisters.  But I know that as long as there is a breath in her lungs, and until the return of Jesus on that final day, there is hope that Aunt Lucy will recuperate.  And there is hope that she will master her emotions, and eventually become somewhat self-sufficient, and be able to move back into the house she had just built around the corner from one of Aunt Winnie’s girls.

And that she and Aunt Lucy will continue to drag up and down the mountains of northeast Alabama, leaving more good examples for the rest of us to see-

Growing old gracefully.

Fighting and winning against adversity.

Fried potatoes, cornbread, and white beans.

Family.

Hope.

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