You Okay?

My grandson toddles toward the lonely playground. He’s eighteen months old and this morning, his sights are fixed on the metal swing set. 

I watch his precarious baby steps as he navigates the gravel path. Best that I stay within arm’s reach in case Grandson falls. Sure enough, he stumbles.

“You’re okay. I got you!” 

I grasp his outstretched hand before his knees scrape the ground. Then, I lead him by the hand while we walk to the swing set.

After I settle on the swing, I lift Grandson to  my lap and wrap my arm around his waist. He leans back, fearless and content as we swing higher and faster.

This child trusts me with his safety. No whining or wiggling to suggest he’d rather be anywhere but here. Ohh, to be a carefree child!

Throughout my life, I’ve seen the Lord’s mercies. He repeatedly rescues me from danger and cushions my falls. So I know his eye is on me, and his Spirit guides me. But,

I want to trust God more. To be content with the here and now when life’s events feels like nettles in my socks.

Whenever I hear—pandemic, protests, politics—my body stiffens. I grumble about social distancing, quarantine, masks, my canceled appointments—hair today, denied tomorrow.

I raise my hands in protest rather than prayer.

This isn’t the summer vacation I bargained for. This isn’t the retired life I’d anticipated. This isn’t the lifestyle I’d envisioned for my grown children. I want to see my parents without fear of infecting them with COVID19!

Dad says, “Could be worse!”

Today is worse.

It’s nine a.m. and I’m drenched in sweat as the mercury in my outdoor thermometer inches toward a hundred. I can tolerate the heat, but rolling power outages and Red Flag Warnings (to evacuate our home) are in effect while the not-so-distant wildfires paint the sky ash grey. Yesterday, the foothills looked like they were puffing a cigarette. Today, they’re a chain-smoker.

I inhale deep, before the winds shift south and the air smells like a stale smoking lounge. I worry for the firefighters. I ponder what I’d do if my house burned down.

My body is swinging in the breeze, but my disposition is teetering on the edge of a miry pit. God intervenes like the doting Father that he is.

“Karen, you’re okay. I got you.”

I want to believe you, Lord, but…. 

From where I stand on planet earth, it feels like you’ve abandoned your creation. Not that I’d blame you. A time out, with our noses on the wall, might do everyone some good. But right now, I’m not feeling okay. 

God knows me. And yes, he is patient. He brings to mind what my mentor, Loretta, has told me repeatedly. The eternal perspective that has pulled me up by the boot straps on more than one occasion, and helped me forge ahead by God’s grace. 

She’d point to the pandemic, the wildfires and the nettles in my socks and tell me, 

“Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to teach and change us.” 

Change us? How?

To become more like Christ—more loving, compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving, willing to serve, prayerful.

I inwardly squirm. “I don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way. Can’t I sit in my recliner and read the Bible and be changed?”

My grandson points to the sky, bringing me back to this sweet spot.

I follow his wide-eyed gaze.

“That’s a Red-Tail Hawk,” I tell him. “Birds use thermals to soar without flapping their wings.”

My grandson isn’t old enough to comprehend everything I say, but he’s taking it all in—his surroundings, my words, the tone of my voice, my actions. He’s getting to know me as well as life.

Spending time with someone will do that, you know. 

Grandson scoots off my lap and heads for the tall metal slide. He’s been there before. And he’s not afraid. He knows that grandma will be right beside him. 

 That’s a God lesson . . . even in this!

Thank God, I’m Sick

“Thank God, I’m sick.”

I’m laying in bed with a tissue in one hand and a cup of peppermint tea in the other. The room smells like Eucalyptus oil. I’ve been housebound for two weeks.

Sadly, I’m not alone. Every time my cell phone beeps, someone is asking for prayer concerning their health. Toothache, flu, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, miscarriage. When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember to pray for other people’s health.

Mostly, I’ve been learning to thank God in everything—even when I woke at 2 a.m., hacking till I thought I’d spit up blood. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Oh, I know how to be a pollyanna—an optimistic character. I’ve learned to look for the silver lining. When a tree fell on our fence this spring, I thanked God the tree didn’t fall on our house. When I got sick, I thanked God for medicine, health insurance, and a husband to bring me tea. I thanked God I didn’t have pneumonia. But, if I thank God in every circumstance, shouldn’t I thank Him that I’m sick?

I know God can use all things for my good and His purposes, but thanking Him for being ill sounds ridiculous, right? However, I’m here to say thanking God this past month (even prior to my illness) has made a difference.

When we went to our son’s college commencement ceremony outdoors, it was raining. I had to wear a poncho over my new dress and walk in sandals over a squishy wet lawn. “Thank you, Lord, for the rain.”

Was I thankful? Not really. Did I sound sarcastic? Yep.

Thanking God in everything requires obedience before there are results. The day after commencement was so hot and humid that, given the choice, I was grateful we’d sat in the cool, drizzling rain rather than squinting and fanning ourselves in the sun.

However, what if we don’t see the positive in hindsight, other than, it might have been worse. Well, when the bad germs first hit me and I felt like road kill, I couldn’t see anything positive. My first instinct was to grumble, “No, spare me.” Then I remembered to thank God in everything. I forced myself to say, “Thank you, Lord, I’m in pain. Thank you for this horrific cough.”

Just saying the words, “Thank you,” put my eyes on God. He knows I’m ill. I know He cares. Thanking God for being sick has kept me from grumbling. How do you thank someone and grumble at the same time? And not grumbling keeps me from having a pity party.

Now, if I’d been ill during my son’s graduation, I’d probably be singing a less thankful tune. But, based on my God lessons and quizzes thus far, I can honestly say:

Being thankful doesn’t change the weather. I’m sick whether I thank God or not. And yet, thanking God in everything does make a difference … even in this.

 

Photos: Pixabay

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Freedom To Be Myself

An elderly man walked past me. He wore a red, white, and blue button-up shirt, resembling the American flag.

“Nice shirt!” I said. “You’re ready to celebrate the Fourth of July!”

 That’s not the first time I’ve complimented a senior citizen on his appearance. Living near a retirement community, I’ve seen the freedom that comes with age.

Men grow a white ponytail. Women stop dying their roots. Fingernail polish gets redder. Their clothes have more color, more bling.

I envy them.

These retirees aren’t eccentric. They’re finally old enough (if I may stereotype) to not worry about other people’s opinions. They own the freedom to be themselves.

We talk about individualism in America, but magazines and television shows spend millions of dollars, telling me what to wear and how to decorate my home.

Does the Marketing Industry Define Me?

Peer pressure first surfaced when I was nine years old. If I wanted to be “cool” like my female classmates, I had to own white Go-Go Boots.

Even now, the fashion industry dictates the length of my skirt. Every year styles change so I’m always at their mercy. Do I tuck in my shirt? Is my blazer supposed to be shorter or longer than my blouse? Am I wearing Stiletto or wedge high heels?

Our first “cool” home had yellow shag carpet and olive green kitchen appliances. Six years later, my kitchen had country blue wallpaper with geese. We moved often, so each time I decorated according to the trend.

However, I’ve lived in this house thirteen years. At some point, without my knowledge, someone decided the valances on my window are passé.

Excuse me, I like valances.

And I want the freedom to be me.

So here’s my secret for those, regardless of age, who fret about fashion and home décor.

When my nose is in the Bible, my eyes on Christ, I’m less self-conscious or insecure.

My focus shifts from the valances to the people in my life.

I’d rather phone a friend and listen to her heart than hear someone tell me I NEED the latest gadget.

 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Col 3:2)

So this Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving for that matter, I might wear a red, white, and blue button-up shirt, resembling the American flag.

I just have one question.

Should I tuck in my shirt?