Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to Help Moms in the Grocery Store

Have you ever been to a grocery store?
During any of your visits, have you ever observed a mom shopping with her young children?
Ever seen her scrambling to keep them in line?
Or frustrated, because she's failing?
Maybe you've been that mom?
Taking for granted that you answered "yes" to the first four questions, have you ever reached out and tried to give that mom a hand?

Monday when I was shopping for our weekly groceries I came across one such mom and her son in the meat department. I'm guessing Little Man had brought along a new toy. It looked kinda like this:
And he was using it to touch just about every.thing.
I could tell the mother was tiring of Little Man's propensity to pick items up with his grabbing toy. In fact, even if I hadn't seen her with my eyes, I would have been able to assess her emotional state by the weariness I heard in her voice.
From an outsider's view, I didn't think Little Man was causing any harm. But I could so relate to that mother. I knew she was feeling like the entire store was watching her, judging how well she could, or couldn't, control her son's behavior. Been there. Done that. Don't wanna go back!
And so, in an effort to let her know that Little Man's behavior wasn't bothering her fellow shoppers I leaned toward her and said, "Excuse me. I could use some help reaching something. Do you think your son could assist me?" When she got Little Man's attention and he came toward me I feigned being unable to reach a roll of sausage, and asked if he would please help me.
Oh, if you could have seen the pride in his face as he maneuvered that grabbing tool over the sausage, picked it up, and successfully delivered it right into my hand. It was a precious sight.
I then thanked Little Man profusely, gave mom a wink, and carried on with my shopping.

Annnnnnd, my point?

I have been grocery shopping without my children for about 12 or 13 years now. And I still haven't forgotten how difficult some of those trips were! As a mom who's been there I am prone to notice other moms who are there right now, and my heart goes out to them. But I don't think it's enough for just my heart to go out. Moms need tangible support. So my habit has become to watch for moments like the one I saw Monday, and to reach out in word or deed to give that mom encouragement.
Maybe it's a knowing smile and a whispered, "Hang in there!" Sometimes I talk to the kids and compliment them for being a good helper in the store. Occasionally, I get to do something fun like I did with Little Man.
The point is, all moms need encouragement - and maybe especially so when they're grocery shopping with the kiddos.
So, for the love of humanity and the well-being of future generations - when you're in the store please pay attention to the moms with children. If it looks and sounds like all is well, carry on. (Smiling at her and commenting about how adorable her children are would be acceptable, too.) But if she's getting frazzled and it seems as though angst is rising please extend a gentle gesture to let her know she isn't alone, and you aren't thinking poorly of her.
Your kindness will go a long way.
For her and the kids!

Karen

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

But GOD

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

~Psalm 30:11-12
Last week, God used someone else's tragedy to open my eyes.
This week - as the tragedy became greater - HE is using it to give me hope and remind me of HIS glory.

What began as a story about a family of four in an auto accident - with one family member killed and another in the hospital - has become an 11-year-old little girl left in a world without her big sister, her father, AND her mother. So many of us have been praying and asking God for a miracle while watching the heart-wrenching scenario unfold. And now we are left with what would appear to be a tale which cannot possibly have a "happily-ever-after".

But GOD.

That is, perhaps there would be no possibility of a "happily-ever-after" if God were not in the picture.
But, HE IS.
As I sat with the news of the mother's death and the knowledge that a sweet little girl had lost her entire family over the course of nine days, I was reminded that our prayers are not wasted. A faithful saint confided that she believes God has a plan for this little girl - that He is going to do a miracle as He writes the story of the rest of her life. And as I bowed my head in prayer for this precious child - asking God to save her, and redeem this situation, and use it for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom - I received a text from a friend who is also praying, which reminded me that God can use this story to inspire many people in years to come.
Suddenly I was transported from a place of feeling distressed and forlorn to a position of worship before a God who turns wailing into dancing. Who replaces sackcloth with garments of joy.
Ah, this story has not ended with a lonely little girl. She has extended family who all know the Lord, and I believe He will use them as He continues to write her story. As I prayed for her, I envisioned a grown woman with an amazing testimony. In my mind's eye I could see her on a platform sharing the tragedy she endured at the age of 11, and telling of the redemption she experienced at the hand of God. My heart delighted at the thought of how many, many people God will reach through her testimony of suffering and enduring faith.
Because that's what God does.
It's how He works.
The God who gives beauty for ashes, who turns imprisonment into evangelism opportunities, who delivers His faithful servants from giants and lions and fires, who conquers the sin and death of all mankind through the life and death of One - that God will not allow our suffering to be wasted.
Maybe today you find yourself in shock because of hardships which have come upon you. Perhaps calamity has struck without warning or mercy, and you're on the edge of despair. Or maybe you are a witness to another person's tragedy, and feelings of hopelessness are surrounding you - even though the struggle belongs to someone else.
If we were alone in the adversity, if there were no purpose in our pain, if redemption was not an option, despondency would have to be our response.
But GOD.
Hold onto HIM!!!

Karen

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How To Play With Your Teenager

I think most mothers of teenagers will agree with me when I say that "play time" with teens is quite limited.
That is, I am no longer the go-to for entertainment. Mommy, will you read me a story? Watch this movie with me! Mommy, I just want you to hold me. Can we play Candyland? (I specifically remember wanting to run away in some of those moments...)
And now I find myself ecstatic when my kids "invite" me to play along with them.
Anyway - back to my point. I don't have a lot of play time with my nearly-grown-up kiddos.
Which is why I secretly don't really mind that Matthew never gets up with his alarm in the morning.
The kid is a heavy sleeper!
Because that means I always get to go in and play with wake him up.

The regular morning routine is this:
6:30 - Matthew's alarm and my alarm go off. I hit snooze; Matthew doesn't budge.
6:39 - My alarm sounds again. If Matthew hasn't gotten up (which is the typical behavior) I groan, get up, and go across the hall to play.
6:40-6:45 - I open the door, turn on the light, and announce to Matthew that it's his lucky day, because he gets to go to school. (Or, if the timing was right, and I just heard the "Clean Joke of the Day" on the radio - I tell Matthew the joke. So he gets a chance to groan. *wink*) I then proceed to ask Matthew if he's getting up on his own that day, or if he needs my assistance. Note: He NEVER gets up on his own! So I walk over to his bed and either grab the blankets and pull them off, or skip the blanket step and go right to poking and tickling. Matthew swats his arms at me, calling out, "Stop it! Stop it!" and I dodge. Then I go in for more poking and tickling, and he keeps flailing his arms. Sometimes he gets me good, but most of the time I'm quick enough to get out of the way. And occasionally, if I am not convinced he's awake enough, I pull him right out of bed so he drops on the floor.
By this time, I am confident that he's awake so I go back to lay down for a few more minutes. Always listening of course, to make sure he gets up. Now and then I have to go back for a repeat performance.

One morning as Brian was observing this routine he commented something about Matthew depending on me for his wake-up call. And hinted at the fact that I could just not go in - thereby making Matthew take responsibility for himself. While I could see his point I conceded the fact that I like going in to get Matthew up each morning, because it is a rare time when the two of us laugh and play together. Besides, I said, the reason I hit snooze every day is to give Matthew a nine-minute opportunity to get up on his own.
Brian got my point.

The thing which absolutely touched my heart was the day Matthew was calling out for me to "Stop it! Stop it!" and I said, "You know, if you just got up on your own I wouldn't come in here and torture you every morning." And he responded by smiling and saying, "Yeah. But this is when we have fun!"
And at that moment I knew, my teenager still likes playing with me.

Karen

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Don't Have an Appointment Today

When I left my place of employment on January 14, 2015, I did so with the promise that I would continue to help a very precious lady as often as I was able. Because of company policy changes, she could no longer be driven to her quarterly eye-doctor appointments and she was very concerned about how she would get to them. I told her, "You call me. I'll drive you to your appointments."
She did.
And, so did I.
I loved the days I took D to her doctor appointments. Her smile, her charm, and the fact that she never failed to tell me how much she loved my grandma always lifted my heart.
Besides, I enjoyed getting caught up on how my old friends were doing at Edgewood.
D kept me up to date on everyone.

The first of January found me visiting Edgewood, again, because I was privileged to bring the message for their afternoon church service. And, of course, I also stopped in to say Hi to my dear friend, D. She was surrounded by her family and smiled as we hugged. I didn't stay long, because I had to get out for church. Besides, we had an appointment coming up and I would catch up with her then.
Today was the day for that appointment.
But the appointment was cancelled. Because D passed away the day after I popped in to say, Hi.

Oh, how precious and fragile our lives really are.
Had I known that Sunday was her last...I surely would have lingered.
If only I'd been aware...
If I'd realized...
If...
Have you uttered those statements, too?
Indeed, tomorrow is not a guarantee. For any of us! And so I resolve to stop taking it for granted. I will ask the LORD to slow me down, to help me savor the present moment, and to lead me leisurely through my days. Because I don't know when my next appointment might get cancelled.

Karen

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cold Water Isn't Such a Big Deal

So, Saturday morning I stood outside my shower for longer than usual.
It always takes a while for the hot water to make it to my bathroom, so waiting is not out of the ordinary. But as time passed I got tired of the delay and just hopped in - knowing it would warm up, eventually.
Except, it didn't.
Rather, it got colder.
As in, I only had the water on to get wet and rinse. No way was I going to STAND under that cold water. BRRRRR!
Later that morning as I was complaining to telling Brian about my shower, I learned that his had only been lukewarm. And Matthew piped up that his was also cold.
Hmmmmmm. Problem with the water heater?
Brian checked it out and re-lit the pilot light, figuring he would get to replacing the thermocouple Sunday. And for a little while we had warm water again.

As this was all going down, and the boys were none too happy about the prospect of a less-than-hot shower Sunday morning, I tried to help them with their perspective. I said, "Imagine how thankful Muthiani would be to have a house with a shower in it - even if the water wasn't hot!" (Muthiani is a little boy in Kenya whom we sponsor through Compassion International.) I continued unsuccessfully offering bits of wisdom to improve their mindsets - but, honestly? I was also not looking forward to my shower the next morning.
In fact, when Sunday morning came around and I turned on the shower (and waited) with no sign of even lukewarm water - I changed my plans. Washing up and shampooing my hair in the sink would have to suffice. It was entirely too cold of a day to stand in a cold shower. Besides, Brian would get to replacing the thermocouple in the afternoon - and all would be well again.
Except, when the thought-it-was-broken part was replaced, the problem wasn't fixed. And we were back at square-one. Brian, feeling defeated. And both of us disappointed that we were going to have to hire a professional to come in and fix the trouble. Because we're super cheap and we prefer to do our own work when possible.
Annnnnd, the boys. They were not happy, either.

Monday morning found me with a plastic tub and a kettle of boiling water heading into my bathroom. I made a mixture of boiling and cold water to suit myself and stood in the shower doing my best to quickly shave my legs and wash up. All the while aware - while the water was warm, my wet skin left me feeling rather chilled. After drying my body I knelt on the floor, leaned into the shower stall, and washed my hair with what was left of the warm water. Y'all, my posture was neither becoming nor comfortable. Somehow, I didn't think even Muthiani would be happy with this set-up.
But I got the job done, and finished getting ready.

Upon sitting down to eat my breakfast - while silently congratulating myself for making it through my troublesome morning without complaint - I opened my computer to check in with Facebook. It was on my church's prayer page that I read about a family who'd been in an auto accident Saturday. One daughter was killed, the mother is in a coma, the other daughter has been traumatized by the event, and the family is not trusting in God.
I bowed my head to pray for them, and let it hang a little longer as I thought, So the water's cold. At least the house is warm. And I have warm clothes to wear. So, we have to call a plumber. Thank God we have the money to pay for it. My kids are well, I am healthy, and I know the God of the universe loves me. How can I possibly be grumble about my circumstance? I don't even know what it's like to experience trouble!

Perspective checked?
Check!

Karen

Monday, January 09, 2017