Category Archives: Healthy Relationships

I Miss My Grandparents

My grandmother was born in 1900, and grew up on a farm outside the very tiny town of Anita, Iowa.

Her mother had died when she was a girl. Her father needed a wife to take care of the domestic duties and to mind the six children, so he advertised and married a woman “in name only.”

This new wife, in time, became much beloved by the children, and eventually Grandmommy’s daddy, too. Soon, their marriage became a real love story.

Grandmommy watched her brothers travel to Berkeley, California to study at the University. Since she was anxious to escape the farm environment that held her a prisoner (Oh, she wanted excitement and glamour), she followed them to UC Berkeley to get her college degree…and a husband. My grandmother was a beautiful woman and many guys wanted to marry her. But she sensibly chose my grandfather, Jay Reed, a man with good moral character, a strong work ethic (he, too, had grown up on a farm), and business ambition.

(That’s my grandmother, in the center of the photo, with her siblings. Still good-looking even at the age of fifty!)

Granddaddy eventually became the CEO of a successful import/export firm in San Francisco, and a few years before World War II broke out he bought a lovely home in an exclusive district in the city.

But the farm ethic was strong in both of them.

In one corner of the garage, they had an old wash and rinse tub with a wringer overhanging the tub. On Mondays, the two of them would dunk their laundry in the steaming tub and wait while the old machine slowly churned. Granddaddy always made us stay well away of the tub and the wringer. He was super cautious about everything that could possibly endanger us. They put the laundry items through the wringer, then the rinse, then the ringer again. Even years after Granddaddy died, my grandmother kept that old washing machine.

After the wringer,everything got hung on a wire that Granddaddy had strung down the length of the garage. Grandmommy had a contraption call a mangle. Some of you older people know what that is. Her sheets and table cloths and napkins had been heavily starched, and then they would go through the mangle for pressing.

A coal man used to deliver coal and set it in a bin in their garage. On cold days, Granddaddy would tote a big lump upstairs for their fireplace.

Granddaddy worked in the financial district of San Francisco right at the bottom of all those impossible hills that cable cars climb. He rode the street cars there and back, and when he arrived home, Grandmommy would have his favorite bourbon and soda and some little appetizers ready for him. They’d sit in the lanai (a kind of sun room) and talk for about an hour while Granddaddy’s favorite chicken was baking in the oven.

Their life was predictable and organized, quiet, and unemotional. They had rules, which we followed without question. One did not question people of that generation.

No running in the house. No yelling. No “unglamorous frowns.”

Put your wraps in the closet immediately. In fact, everything in its place.

No feet on furniture.

Do not touch Grandmommy’s international dolls in the linen closet.

And especially…do not sit in Mr. Howell’s chair. Ever. Grandmommy had explained who Mr. Howell was, but that memory had become buried or lost by early childhood mental pruning We didn’t dare ask for a re-telling of the story of Mr. Howell and the reason for my grandparent’s devotion to his memory.  Still, we never touched Mr. Howell’s chair, even though the man had long since passed away.

My grandparents had lived a long time, and even though they didn’t tell too many stories from the old days, we knew their brain’s mental archives had shelved a wealth of them.

Granddaddy played the piano sometimes, usually at the end of a dinner party. He especially liked to play 1920 era pop duets with my uncle Harold. I loved the funny old lyrics. Granddaddy put his heart into his playing, which was about the only time he let emotion show.

I loved my grandparents and respected them. I loved their rules, even the ones that didn’t make sense, because I knew their wisdom far exceeded mine.

I miss the days of respect for older people. For the old memories and stories, the lovely rules of etiquette, the way men tipped their hats and held doors and carried packages for women,  the culture that makes no sense to the younger generation, the civility, the expectation of good behavior, and the censure of wrong speech and actions.

Do you feel sad, too, for the loss of that generation?

 

 

 

Above My Pay-Grade

“I gotta tell you, I’m not techy.” Imagine me screaming these words and you get the picture…or the audio.

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My publisher wants me to build my newsletter list. Simple for her. Not so simple for me.

My stomach is in knots, my head hurts, and my eyes are starting to blur.

I’m getting used to an email distribution system. The system instructions say:

“Type the recipient name here.”

Okay, but what about all the other names?”

“Drag this block over here…or wherever you want it.”

But it won’t stay where I put it.

“Upload a photo.” Ugh, it’s too big. How do I resize it?

“You have some text that needs to be removed.”

I go to remove it. “Are you sure you want to delete this text?”

“Cause once you do it, you’ll never ever, ever, ever, ever get it back. So ARE YOU SURE?”

Okay, it’s my first newsletter, so I hope my recipients are going to be understanding, even though I probably put the wrong names at the top of the letter.

Forgive me. I’ll do better next time.

This experience reminds me to show people grace. Just as I would want others to overlook my mistakes and perhaps give me an encouraging word. I’m trying to improve, and I’ll bet you are, too.

It’s good to learn new things. It teaches us humility!

 

 

 

Tiny, But Powerful

I turned off the news yesterday.

Not gonna watch it for awhile. It’s too distressing. It’s not the tragic stories themselves. It’s that every news media outlet spins the latest occurrences to reflect its own biases. Drives me crazy.

On a personal level, I do the same thing. I wish I could turn off my own tongue, too. My mind is filled with judgments, prejudices, criticisms, harsh words, or snarky comebacks. And my tongue practically pants to articulate those negative thoughts to anyone who will listen.

It’s not that I don’t also have some lovely thoughts, too. Those slip off my tongue like rain from our backyard big-leaf maple, nurturing the shrubs and flowers below.

May I alway rain this way!

Last week, Bruce and I stayed in the Seattle Marriott by the water. The scenes outside our windows thrilled me. To the west I viewed long ferries carrying cars and people to and from Bainbridge Island. To the south, towering office buildings, piers, restaurants, the Ferris Wheel, and beyond, magnificent Mount Rainier. Below, bustling car and pedestrian traffic moved along Alaskan Way.

Out in the sound, a gigantic cargo ship was being escorted south into the Harbor by a tug boat. Bruce and I watched for nearly a half hour, entranced by how such a tiny ship could pull the black behemoth, loaded with box cars. I imagined that the weight disparity between the two boats would be staggering. Yet, the cargo ship submitted to the leading of this tiny boat.

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Then, of course, the verses from James popped into my mind:
“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue.” (James 3:4-7 NIV Bible)

In the world of boat and harbors,  a tiny tug boat is a good thing.

But in the heart and mind of a woman who sincerely wants to bless people, my tiny tongue leads me where I don’t want to go.

My tongue expresses the real thoughts and intentions of my heart. It mocks my occasionally self-satisfied state, those days when I think I’ve got it all under control.

“Aha, you super-Christian. You think you’re so mature and godly. Well, if you’re so good, how come you just said what you said?”

And I recognize again, that I simply lean into wrong-doing as easily as a dog to a fire hydrant.

It’s a comfort to know I’m not a lone in my struggle to tame my errant tongue. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul said, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15)

My goal is to sideline my negative speech with words such as these:

  • “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col. 3:16)
  • “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6)
  • “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)
  • “Whoever of you lives life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 12-14)

What are your favorite verses on the subject?

Like Little Children

When I was a small child I found the world of adults—particularly my parents— gargantuan, scary, and incomprehensible.

The things they conversed about sounded like gibberish.

They could do things that seemed god-like, such as lighting a pilot light, driving a car, or going to sleep in a dark, dark room without needing a night-lite.

Who else but a god could read a newspaper and understand it, let alone enjoy its contents?

Who else but a god knew how to drive from our house to some strange place we’d never been before?

And who but a god knew the order of our days: when to get up, what to wear, and if the events of the day were going to diverge from the ordinary?

So when my god-like parents determined that it was time to take a nap, I did not question them.

When food was placed before me, it did not occur to me to ask for menu options.

If my parent-gods were pleased with me, my world felt secure.

If one of these gods was displeased, I felt shame.

I learned to socialize.wild-basin-june-2011-072

A few years passed.

I went to school, developed relationships with my peers, and learned to do god-like things like read and write.

By ten, my parents were no longer gods. Sure, they were people to be admired, even feared at times.

But they no longer dwelt on Mt. Olympus.

I let them know by my words and body language—even though, obedient— that I no longer accepted their orders and instructions without question.

I ceased to be a little child.

This is as it should be for the growing child. He or she must begin to learn how to live independently.

But in the supernatural world of the seeker of Christ, or the disciple of Christ, to be child-like is exactly what we need to be. Dependent.

To recognize that the world surrounding us is gargantuan, often scary, and almost always incomprehensible.

And to trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Unlike the little child living under his parents’ roof, I will never grow so mature and knowledgeable that I won’t need Him.

I need to keep reminding myself that…

He is the Alpha and Omega

and I am just a wee small babe in constant need of protection and guidance.

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“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matt. 18: 1-3 NIV Bible)

We All Want Connection

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I volunteered to help teach the four and five-year-olds Sunday School the other day.

There were three of us adults in the class, which was just about perfect, considering that each of these kids has a strong personality and tremendous energy.

A little later in the hour, two other kids arrived. The boy joined right in for the lesson. But the little girl—I’ll call her Joni—proceeded straight to a table and climbed underneath.

We teachers welcomed her and invited her to join the group.

But she remained there for the duration of the lesson and song-time and nothing I said could induce her to leave her spot.

Which was a bit of a problem because she distracted the other children and some of them tried to climb underneath the table to join her.

After song-time I said, “Okay, it’s time to wash our hands and get ready for snack time.”

Immediately our little Joni jumped up and rushed to the head of the line for wash-up.

I helped her suds her hands and rinse and dry them.

She ate her graham cracker with gusto and quickly downed her dixie cup of water.

I sat down next to Joni as the craft items were place on the table.

She dove for the crayons and stickers.

Hmm, this little girl sure fooled us. She had seemed shy when she entered the room.

“Can you write your name?”

She looked at me as if I were crazy.  Without a word, she deftly wrote her name at the bottom of her sheet of paper, then glanced up at me  with a cute but pugnacious thrust of her tiny chin.

She placed her stickers amongst the words, “Jesus loves me.”

Then colored with a skillful hand.

Joni insisted that I sit nearby so I could see how well she was coloring.

After she finished the craft, I said, “Can you draw other things?”

“Of course,” she said. “Wait till you see how well I can draw a horse.”

She turned the sheet over and grabbed another crayon. “Now close your eyes and don’t look until I’m finished.”

When she was done she told me I could look. Sure enough, she’d drawn a very recognizable horse and even added a saddle and stirrups.

We spent the rest of craft time talking about My Little Ponies and I told her about my granddaughter’s collection of My Little Ponies.

After the Sunday school ended, one of the teachers remarked, “Well, it looks like all Joni needed was someone to connect with.”

Arriving late, Joni saw that we were already involved in an activity and found the area underneath the table a safer place to be.

I’ve seen this with grown people too.

Not that they hide underneath tables!

I work in women’s ministries and have seen grown women arrive at a women’s social, then turn around and go home if they do not quickly find an available table to sit at with women they already know.

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But once they’re safely situated, they talk and participate like old pros.

Just like Joni.

Folks, let’s turn our eyes outward and notice others.

It’s so easy to only think about our own schedules and our own friends.

Look around. Is some person sitting all by himself at church? Go sit with him.

Who’s that couple in the lobby at church? Go over and introduce yourself.

How about that nice family three doors down from your own house? Invite them over for lunch.

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And if you are lonely, call somebody and invite them to do something together. Don’t wait for somebody to call you. Make the first move. People will love you for it!

Everybody wants to be wanted.

Sometimes the connection is as simple as trading stories about your last trip to the zoo with a grandchild.

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“Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he had received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4: 7-10 NIV Bible)

 

Skunked!

I talk to lots of people each week. Frequently, the conversation turns to the topic of family or business relationships. We all have challenges with other people, and I hear all sorts of methods of dealing with difficult family members.

The most challenging relationships are with people who continue to say or do the same irritating things, never learning to resolve conflicts in a new or better way.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I blew it again. Why do I always say (do) the same thing? When will I ever learn?”

When we lived in Paradise, California, a skunk used our backyard as his private highway. I believe he lived under a shed in the vacant lot next to our property.

Every night, he began his routine foray by scratching and digging just outside the master bedroom window. I watched him search for bugs and grubs. Continue reading Skunked!

Keep on Prayin’

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my son and in-laws praying

Next Tuesday morning I will begin leading a group of women in prayer.

I won’t be a teacher, or a lecturer, or preacher.

I won’t even be an expert on prayer. Gosh, I am only a kindergartner in the K-12 educational process of learning about prayer.

I know that, through prayer, my loving Father has done these things for me:

provided and protected,

taught and encouraged,

counseled,

answered,

comforted and assured,

confirmed and affirmed

moved

demonstrated,

healed,

saved,

empowered,

communicated.

 

I hope that, when you pray, you don’t just pray all by yourself. That’s great. But we need to join together with other Christians to pray. Not just on Sunday. Any time you can.

I am hoping that the women who come next week to our hour of prayer continue to come, week by week. Jesus told a parable about persevering in prayer. (Luke 18: 1-8)

I can’t remember who said it—I think it was Martin Luther—but the quote stuck in my mind: “Prayer is not the preparation for the work. Prayer is the work.”

Prayer is not something we throw out to the winds, hoping God will catch our drift.

Prayer is an intimate and mighty exercise of our deepest yearnings for our Father’s intervention.

I have seen God’s answers to short-term prayers.

And the Lord has graciously answered prayers I prayed for forty or more years.

Some of God’s answers have been hard to take: a death rather than a physical healing; a divorce rather than restoration; a lost job rather than a promotion.

But we know that God is good. That He does indeed have a plan for us, individually, and for the world. That his plan involved the death of His Son.

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And that His plan for us is eternal life.

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In my research of materials for our prayer meeting, I came across some wonderful quotes from great people of faith on the subject of prayer.

I hope the following words encourage you:

“We can do nothing without prayer. All things can be done by importunate prayer. It surmounts or removes all obstacles, overcomes every resisting force—and gains its end in the face of invisible hindrances.” (E.M. Bounds)

“When human reason has exhausted every possibility, the children can go to their Father and receive all they need. For only when you have become utterly dependent upon prayer and faith, only when all human possibilities have been exhausted, can you begin to reckon that God will intervene and work His miracles.” Basilea Schlink

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18 NIV Bible)

Keep on prayin’!