Three-Word Resolution

Engage

When challenged within the Trifecta community to develop a 3-word resolution for the New Year, I came up with this one as a reminder to myself. It was either this or “Eat Your Vegetables” – which might have been healthier, but wouldn’t have been nearly as profound…

So don’t just plan on dreaming, or even just chasing those crazy dreams. Go out this year & engage them! Heck, for all I care, you can marry ’em (as long as you eat your veggies)!  Dreaming great dreams, -j

Freed Christmas Tree: A Heart-Warming Christmas Story

I need to begin this story with a very important disclaimer. By the time you get to the end, I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a dry eye among you. Consider yourself fairly warned.

I was driving down the road the other day with a couple of family members in tow. I’d give you their names, but it’s not easy to recall who always does or does not decide to go along with me on excursions I can’t clearly remember. Besides, you’d probably want to corroborate the details of this story with them – if you knew who they were – and, er, they probably wouldn’t want to be bothered with such disturbing distractions. Just take my word that this is how it all went down…

Early on in this outing, I realized that swerving to miss a large object in the upcoming lane was going to be called for. It was a green, bushy, triangular-shaped something or other that we managed to just barely miss while traveling 65 miles per hour down the Interstate. I couldn’t help but frown as my mind registered what sort of bundled-branched package would meet these specifications at this time of year. Sadly, it appeared as though someone had lost a Christmas tree. (No, I do not have a picture of this particular event, as I was driving 65 miles per hour up – I mean down – the Interstate and had to quickly swerve to avoid impact with this misplaced seasonal symbol. I’m going to have to ask you to help me out here, even if you weren’t prepared to be participative this early in the story.You’ll have to use your imagination on this one. Tis the season for that, you know. Ho ho ho.)

But I personally wasn’t feeling ‘ho, ho, ho’ over this incident. I was feeling ‘no, no, no’…this can’t be. What a terrible thing for some family (couple, crazy cat lady, whoever) to have traveled up the Interstate to have so lovingly picked out the perfect holiday tree (so they could curse stepping on old, hidden, sap-stuck pine needles that would painfully sink into the base of their toes by Easter) and to be on the way to take that new puppy home and unwrap it – so they could proudly re-wrap it in hazardous lights and decorations to the point that any Fire Marshall would blatantly and openly cringe – only to find it had escaped from the top of their vehicle somewhere between stopping to engorge their bodies with a dozen snow-capped Krispy Kreme donuts and home. I tried to imagine how I could help.

Perhaps I could…

turn around at the next exit, backtrack north on the Interstate, turn around again at the exit coming back in this southward direction,

stop my car in the middle of the Interstate with no worries of trucks that looked like they could turn into Decepticons barreling down the muffler of my little car that sips gas through a coffee straw,

strap that cumbersome tree onto the hood of my cargo-challenged car without the benefit of any twine (perhaps my un-remembered family members would hold it across their laps in the back seat and out both sides of the windows?),

and get it home so I could post it on a Lost and Found site until someone filed a Missing Christmas Tree report.

The site of the reunion would be tear-jerking. (Okay, my imagination gets a little outside of its own limits sometimes.)

About the time I was ready to convince myself that I could have this story all wrong – that maybe these people were driving through with their Christmas tree from the east coast and heading back to Colorado, where they’d be too tickled and too hungry with themselves to notice they were even missing the tree, I had to swerve to miss clipping another one…then another one. The next three were dotted, back and forth, on the opposite shoulders of the road. It was beginning to appear more like the driver of a Christmas tree delivery truck who was from Colorado – happily buzzing down the Interstate without a care in the world about flying Christmas trees in his rear view mirror.

This led me to a string of other theories (not to be mistaken with THE String Theory, of course, though that, too, could have been a possibility).

Some of my more plausible theories included:

  1. Santa had gotten into the eggnog and rum cake early this year while thinking of the needs of the poverty-stricken who might otherwise be treeless. Of course, Santa doesn’t prescribe to the notion of welfare without work, as evidenced by his Northern elven sweat factory. Rather than allow these poor families to feel as if they were recipients of charity, in which they might feel looked down upon, Santa decided he’d create a challenge for them to claim these free Christmas trees. If they could dodge the oncoming traffic, heck, that was proof enough that they’d earned ’em – fair and square.
  2. This was the work of a disgruntled member of the Elf Manufacturing Union (EMU – not to be mistaken with those freakishly frighteningly large birds, who are much more freakish than gigantic 20-point reindeer who fly and stomp across roofs; or with Eastern Michigan University, which is very close to the North Pole, from my southern state perspective). I’m guessing this elf was clearly upset because he was expected to labor during the holiday season. He was making his way south to apply for a job at Walmart. He’d laid out a trail of Christmas trees, so that he might find his rebellious little way back home if things didn’t work out any better for him at Walmart.
  3. Colorado driver buzzing down the road with his package of holiday brownies – oh yeah, I forgot. We’ve already covered that one.
  4. Perhaps a boyscout, who had been working on his Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge, suddenly felt convicted over holding all those poor Christmas trees for ransom. Fed by the holiday spirit (and the 2 dozen cookies one of the moms had dropped off that he’d scarfed down in the last 5 minutes), he might have experienced a rush of compassion (okay, maybe it was just sugar) that caused him to throw open the corral gate and yell, “Run for your lives!” while barely escaping with his own before the stampede began. Some of the strays had apparently made their way out onto the freeway. It’s possible that this incident will lead to the discontinuation of the Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge.

In any case, by the time I came back onto the scene from wrapping up my errands, I noticed that the southbound lane had been freed of all the Christmas trees. Just as I was about to wonder where they’d all gone…

When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Why! An F150 truck, its bumper hanging off its rear!

I noticed one of the concerned Citizenry for the Over-Forestation of Freeways (OFF) promptly dealing with the issue. (Incidentally, I’ve heard rumor that this group actually wanted to be the Federation for the Over-Forestation of Freeways, but when their president made application, it was denied because – for some strange reason – the court clerk took it as a personal offense that he wanted her to sign approval to F-OFF. More unfortunately, there is an insect repellent company who is rumored to have filed a lawsuit for use of its registered trademark name.) Nevertheless, this particular concerned citizen was not going to let that pesky little aggravation stop him from performing his self-assigned civic duty.

Upon spotting the poor, frightened tree from over the tipped-up end of his nearly emptied quart of beer, this in-the-seasonal-spirited gentleman yanked up on his emergency brake and selflessly turned a 360 in the middle of the freeway. He had to thereafter signal with his most visible finger for the trucker – who was leaning out the window while jake-braking and laying on his horn, urging this upstanding citizen as to how he might best go about his business – to go on around him and responsibly get back to his own. As Mr. Civic Duty got around to the rear of his F-150 truck with its holiday-tinted primer/rust mix, he joyfully threw his arms around that lonely, abandoned Christmas tree and adopted it quicker than if it had been his long, lost cousin, Earl, who’d just won the Powerball. He then tossed that tree into the bed of his pick-up, trading it out for about a 12-pack of empty beer cans that bounced off the tail gate and down the freeway behind him. I couldn’t help but think what a considerate and generous person he must be to want to leave those cans for someone to pick up later and exchange for the high rate offered in aluminum trade.

As if he hadn’t already exhibited an over-abundance of holiday spirit and generosity, I truly came to understand the meaning of Christmas in my final glimpse of this remarkable citizen in his over-exuberant heroic act.

Found at: http://gallery.markheadrick.com/humorous/christmas-tree-with-beer-can-ornaments/“Yeehaw!” he belched, as he floored it out of sight.
“I got this durned Christmas tree for freed – without a bar fight!”

I ask you, where else could I have witnessed such a spectacularly heart-tugging story during this special holiday season?

So, now I must say…

Merry Christmas to y’all! And to all a good night!

Ah, crud. That was a copyright issue, wasn’t it?

(Nope, nope. It has ya’ll. I believe I’m good on this one.)

***

 

Go Make a Joyful Noise! – in Someone Else’s Yard

Last night, I braved the elements to go Christmas caroling – the cold (it’s about 43 degrees F in the South), cocktail wienies (we snacked first & that was the healthiest option we had), our youth group (sometimes teens can act like wienies), and the dog poo (that isn’t always left in people’s yards by those little wienie dogs). Yeah, I know. All you Northerners are still calling me a wienie over my definition of cold.  So anyway…

Each year, we select a different neighborhood near our church and set out on a mission to spread good cheer (and candy canes).  We had  a couple of ringers with us this year – our previous choir director and one of the youth who sings in his high school choir. Oh, and of course we brought along some really cute little kids for the “ahhh” effect. As for the rest of, we were just in it to be for the wienies…

Just before I left out to make my joyful noise, I dropped a little satire on my FB page:

Photo

All I can say is that it was a good thing I had mentally prepped myself for how tough this year’s caroling game was gonna’ be. We were obviously at the play-off stage, where even the best page in our play book – you know, the cute kid factor handing out candy canes at the front door -wasn’t gonna’ work. In all the years we’ve done this, I can’t ever recall getting a single rejection (even if they didn’t ask for an encore). Heck, one guy even chased us down last year and asked us to come up to his house and sing to his wife. (Not sure what he’d done to get himself into trouble with her, but that apparently made up for it. Always glad to help a guy out of a jam.)

This year, though – wow. This year we received more rejections to our offers for caroling than we even received acceptances. Tough crowd. People were busy, you see. Busy eating dinner, busy talking on the phone to family members, busy watching television, busy closing their curtains and turning out their lights, busy just saying no. Yes, these were actual responses we got. One particular person stood behind the storm door of his house with a coat on, watched us carol at a couple of houses around the cul-de-sac, watched us walk up his hilly driveway, allowed us to get to his front walk, and as “candy cane kid” and I got to him, slammed the door right in our faces. I mean slammed. Yep, he made his point well.

Others simply admitted that they were suspicious of us. They thought we wanted something from them in return. One guy, after rejecting us, called me back to his deck to drop a few bucks down to me for the offering plate. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to explain that’s not why we were there, he became insistent. He still refused to let us sing to him, but he did reluctantly take a trade in candy canes (probably because our “cute kid” just kept holding them out to him, something akin to Cindy Lou Who scrutinizing the Grinch).

All in all, I thought this was a really good lesson for us as Christ-followers. I thought of how Jesus came into the world to offer himself as a gift to us. And how often he was rejected by others. I realized how people are still suspect today because of the very thing that Jesus, himself, encountered – the political aspects and misguided practices of religion. Mostly, I walked away from the door that had been slammed in my face thinking of a young couple, traveling to an unfamiliar town called Bethlehem, a teen girl laboring to bring a precious gift to the world that even she didn’t fully comprehend – only to have the door slammed in their faces.

No room at the inn.

The lesson gets better than that, though. In a humble setting, the Christ-child was born. Shepherds listened to the angels as they caroled in the fields, and responded to go and see the one lying in a manger. So they went, then joined in the chorus to spread the good news. Later, wise men followed a star, so they, too, could experience this great joy. They came bearing their own set of gifts. Today, we see representations in manger scenes of the outcast couple, the working class shepherds, scholarly well-to-do travelers, along with an assortment of animals from near and far – all crowding in, not sure of what to make of this new being who had broken into this world, but looking to get just a tiny glimpse of the hope he was to bring.

And so it went for us too, in tiny glimpses of humility and gifts – and hope – along the way.

Two burly men (probably something like those shepherds) stood at the back of an apartment complex, one with his beard twisted and braided, the other holding his microwave dinner while leaning against the door frame. I waited to hear the dinner excuse. I expected to be told to get the *expletive* out of there. But as we started to sing, a grin came to one of those faces; tears rolled down the other. “I’ve never been sang to before,” came the humble words at the end. “Thank you,” the bearded man choked out. “God bless you.” He just did, I thought.

An elementary aged boy in glasses stood on a small stoop with his single mom. I asked if he had any requests, preparing myself for one of our secular, kid-friendly songs like Rudolph or Frosty. “Could you sing ‘We Three Kings’?” he quickly chimed back. Hmm, I glanced around with uncertainty. We didn’t have that one on our song sheets, but a few of us knew it – admittedly, some better than others. The boy’s grin widened as we began, and soon he was singing along with us, not seeming to mind the places where we stumbled.

An elderly lady in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank had heard us at her neighbor’s duplex door. I wondered how long it had taken her to make her way to her door and get it open, as she’d managed to do so even before we’d finished crossing to her side of the lawn. As we sang to her, she dropped her head, covered her eyes a couple of times, and wept. When we finished, she pointed to a single star hanging above us in the night sky, shaking her head in wonderment. She became so insistent on wanting to offer us some gift in return, I finally eagerly accepted. I told her we would be happy to take payments from her – in hugs. And let me tell you – she was a wonderful gift distributor!

When it was all said and done, I guess we weren’t such big wienies after all, out there singing making a joyful noise to utterly complete strangers our neighbors. But I will admit. All snuggled in that one woman’s sweet hugs, I might’ve felt like a warm little wienie-in-a-blanket.

Thankful not to have been eaten alive out there,

-jody

Ho-ho-Hold up that present for a better view!

regional partay

Holiday exchanges – all in vogue

or à la rogue?

Flashy presents for narcissists?

Naughty Santas cannot resist.

What to all wondering eyes should appear?

More calories spread tabletop than we’ve eaten all year!

***

This was our lunch-time office party from last week. Hopefully, you’ll get some laughter from identifying some of the presents – maybe more laughter from the fact that you won’t be able to identify others. That’s a homemade mirror made from recycled coke & beer cans & bottle tops I’m holding in the center for your viewing pleasure!

***

Offered up in response to this week’s Trifextra writing prompt:

Charles Dickens, in A Christmas Carol, wrote “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” We are giving you exactly 33 words to make us laugh out loud and spread some festive cheer.

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.fN0o2dUa.dpuf

 

How to Team Up to Lose an Entire Person

It’s true!

Five women teaming up for an entire semester CAN lose an entire person!

Let me refresh your memory, so you can recall how a loss like this could have come about…

Our campus issued a challenge at the beginning of the fall semester for our departments to form teams. These teams could have a maximum of 6 members, and each member could decide individually whether to accept the challenge for logging exercise minutes or weight loss or both.

Four of our members chose to log both exercise and weight loss, and a fifth member chose to log exercise only.

Within our 15 week semester, our 5-member team logged 31,753 minutes of exercise. That’s 529.22 hours, or an average of 35.28 hours per week. That means that each team member averaged 1 hour of exercise per day during our challenge period. Considering that our work days can get pretty long & hectic (with most of us often traveling), and we each have family and life responsibilities beyond our hallowed campus halls, I have to smile over the dedication shown.

Despite those great numbers, there were at least 2 teams who logged more hours. Isn’t that awesome?!

I haven’t heard all the weight loss numbers yet, but as for our four team members who participated in this segment…

Our official weigh-in revealed that we had collaboratively lost 60 pounds!!!!  Why, that means we lost an entire person among us!!!  (Okay, a very small person. Maybe one of Santa’s elves.)

In the world of work, how often do you get to team up with your colleagues in competition to celebrate a corporate loss?! And come out much closer as accountability partners?
This is surely one such loss that can be counted as great gain.

What a blessing this challenge has been. I can’t wait to hear the other teams’ numbers as the fat debit rates get reported in the red.

Mostly, I can’t wait to find out how many more people we lost across campus!

fitness

Ligo Haibun Challenge – Image Week

I’ve been out of the loop with the wonderful Ligo Haibun Challenge community, who first taught me what a haibun even was (it’s the combination of prose with a haiku, in case you were wondering) and, in that, made me realize how much I love this communicating art form. This week, we’ve been given the challenge to complete our haibun task as close to 123 words as p0ssible, using one of the visuals provided. According to Microsoft, I met the challenge exactly (but, admittedly, even computer programs miscount on occasion). This time, I hope it used all its digits. Get it?! Okay, moving along…

I chose the photo that our Pirate (Managua Gunn) describes as such: “The first picture is by Marina, my first penpal, from Kazan, in Tatarstan, who took the view from her flat.”  As beautiful as it is, my heart and mind immediately thought of the hardship this scene might create for some.

Picture

I slinked outside the window of the only shop that still appeared open, listening to its television hum, scrutinizing the perfect smile of the news anchor. She only laughed at me, her teeth as white as the snow she proclaimed to be beautiful, Botox causing her brow to be as peaceful as she declared our city amidst this unanticipated winter storm. Wasn’t it wonderful for everyone to be home, snug in their beds, she insisted.

I shuffled down the alley behind the store, unaware if my limbs ached. I could feel them no more. If city folks were boarded up in their houses, from where would I beg my next meal?

 

Snow: no warm blanket

my trembling form – unfeeling

as those warm inside

***

Please don’t forget the homeless this time of year. Even if they can find a meal and a night’s rest at a shelter, many have to leave – often before daylight – in the mornings (including children), when the temperatures are bitter cold. Many others aren’t even that fortunate. Consider a Christmas gift to your local shelter or church who ministers to the homeless. Even if you’re short on cash, perhaps you have some coats, gloves, insulated underwear or blankets that you aren’t using and that could be put to good use by others. Food banks run short during this time of year as well, as people who can sustain during warmer weather seek indoor shelter with warm meals to keep from becoming deathly ill. A small donation of cash or food can go a long way at your area food bank.

May your heart be warmed & blessed,

-jody

***

PictureJoin the Ligo Haibun Challenge by following this image URL.

Hope Melts

Christmas was coming. Lisa was missing her husband, Brian, who was still serving his country abroad. More than that, her children were missing their daddy miserably during that Christmas season of 2011. A majority of our American soldiers had been removed from Iraq by then, but not Brian. He was still one of those remaining, stationed there until May 2012. Lisa brought her little family to church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service that year. She was home for the holidays, surrounded by as many extended family members as possible. Both her children clutched their Daddy-ARMY-dolls that evening, but even a picturesque representation of Dad wasn’t going to stop the melt-down later that night. Santa may be coming to town…but Daddy wasn’t.

Despite their sad little hearts, they sat among us at the Christmas morning service. When our pastor asked if anyone had a praise to share,  7-year-old Nat was the first to respond. Without hesitation, she stood and proclaimed, “I’m thankful to be with my family on Christmas.” The wet drops sliding down many cheeks across the pews attested that all hearts there had begun to melt.

Paul talks about the small child leading us. You see, Nat was surely heartbroken. Yet, she refused to stay focused on the negativity of her situation. Instead, she caught a glimpse of the hope – and somehow instinctively knew she needed to SPEAK IT to make it more real. If she could begin to openly express that May would bring her daddy back to the United States – back home to her family – then she could envision that she and her mother and brother would be with him once again.

Oh, what spring-like joy welled up when May rolled around! Can you imagine what that reunion must have been like? For me, it was an infinitesimal glimpse of what our reunion with loved ones in heaven might one day be!

Oh, and in case you’re interested – their earthly reunion looked something like this…

welcome

_____________________________

I’ve been wanting to share this as a Christmas story for some time, so today seemed a perfect opportunity to integrate it with the Trifecta writing challenge (with a 333 word limit) and the 3rd definition of the challenge word. I stretched my options – and my luck – by metaphorically using the first definition to ultimately depict the 3rd definition. Even if I get called out on a foul, I wanted you to hear this beautiful, triumphant story that I was privileged to witness. It surely made my own heart melt. 🙂

Hope & Joy,

-jody

MELT (transitive verb)
1:  to reduce from a solid to a liquid state usually by heat

2:  to cause to disappear or disperse

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.3xwaQzF7.dpuf

The Problem with Me-N

Problem with Me-N

I haven’t been on the Trifecta grid for a little while, so I was pleased to have a few minutes to ponder today’s new Trifextra weekend prompts. This weekend we’re being asked to add our own thirty words to the following three words that were supplied for a total of thirty-three. Hope you enjoyed mine. By the way – this little exercise & the tremendously wonderful Trifecta group isn’t exclusive. Throw some of your own words out & come join us! Here’s the 3 you’ll need to include this time around:

myopic
dazzle
basin

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.gxht2vJ8.dpuf

When the world seems in shambles, that’s the time to Give Thanks

The holidays can, undoubtedly, bring out the worst in us sometimes (as evidenced by the increased sense of loss we often feel with the realization that loved ones are no longer with us; or the highly viewed Youtube Black Friday shopping debacles that get cast across the Internet). But they also remind of us of what’s still good about this world – with ‘thanks’ and ‘giving’ being abundantly displayed. 

I’m being a typical mom this week, with the important reminder:

Don’t forget to say thank-you.

It’s not just about showing appreciation for the kindness that someone has bestowed upon you. It’s just as much about reflecting who you truly are – and better yet, who you yet have the ability to be – because of filling your heart with gratitude. (Funny that, as we give thanks, we are the ones who also get filled.)

This past weekend, the man I knew as my pastor from my earliest childhood memories until my young adulthood retired. As I went to attend the reception in his honor, I revisited many early life memories, and I also saw the additional years on those who I remembered from there. It was clear that my dear, long-time pastor had earned his right to this time (probably even long before now – but pastors usually retire from the earth before they get to retire from ministry). I thought back to this time last year when I’d last been there and had witnessed him as he performed what I suppose was one of the toughest, and yet one of the most important, services of his life. As a matter of fact, I felt blessed to have made it back then, as I listened to him share how he and his wife met, how he courted her, how they began their lives together, and how they’d shared in ministry – until her time had come to depart for her heavenly home. She’d specified that he should be the one to lead the service; she simply reasoned that no one else knew her as well as he had, so it made the most sense. After being helped up the stairs that day, he gave us all the opportunity to journey with him back in time and catch a glimpse into the lives of two very young people I would have otherwise never known.

I was grateful to be a part of that sweet service. I was also relieved that I’d answered a nudge I’d received in my spirit a couple of weeks before that, when I’d decided to mail a Christmas card to my prior pastor and his wife, thanking them for the effect their ministry had ultimately had on me.

So, in celebration of their love for so many others in their ministry (who I’m sure weren’t always so lovable), I’d feel privileged to share with you the following words I sent out this time last year (I suppose on angels’ wings):

***

Dear Rev. and Mrs. G-

I pray this letter finds you in good spirits for the celebration time of our Lord’s birth. I wanted you to know that you are in my prayers for your personal lives and for your continued ministry. More than anything, I realize that I am many years overdue in sending out a thank you letter for the hugely positive impact that you both have had on my life.

Whenever I recall my fondest childhood, teenage and young adult memories, they always somehow relate back to our church and its people. I still hold many close relationships, to this day, with so many friends from there; and I know, without a doubt, whenever I’ve walked through those doors, before or since my time away, I have always felt welcomed. I can think of so many times in my life when other church bodies might have been less welcoming to my behaviors or my situations – but you all were the definition of I Corinthians 13 in your love towards me, most especially being patient and kind. The fruits of the Spirit were always as abundant as the ice cream and good cheer that flowed around our summers of Vacation Bible School or the many receptions taking place in our well-used fellowship hall.

From Christmas plays (with practices that brought our youth group so close together) to lock-ins (where Scavenger hunts took us to outreach opportunities within the neighborhood) to games on the softball field (where our church was so much a part of our larger community) to bible studies that ranged from Communicant’s class to catechisms (where I began proclaiming my own faith), and well beyond into my adulthood (when I finally got around to learning all the books of my bible), I’ve come to deeply realize how I was being prepared to become an everyday evangelist (even if I still don’t set the example I strive to follow). There are so many things I learned from Sunday School to VBS to Wednesday night classes that I never realized I was retaining until people asked me through the years, “How do you know this stuff?” Time and time again, it comes back to my early foundation, the biblical grounding I received at the church I will always call home.

My beliefs, to this day, were formed and shaped there. Whether it was you, boldly proclaiming, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” or whether it was your ‘better half’, sweetly exhorting, “Jody, how could you think you wouldn’t become a teacher? It’s in your blood,” you have each shaped so much of the person I am (whether you’d prefer to take any credit for it or not!). You allowed me to grow up in a loving church environment that, rather than scolding me for questioning things I couldn’t comprehend in the Word or for sometimes just being downright disruptive and rebellious, I was abundantly nurtured. Each time I now stand up in front of the people of the Church to speak or to teach, I think back to those Sunday mornings, before the Sunday School hour, where we assembled and where I was not only allowed, but encouraged, as a youth to lead that opening worship service. I had absolutely no idea that God had me in training for something more for His Kingdom down the road.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the relationship I was blessed to have with your family, for my friendships with your sons, for the joy and laughter that went on among our youth who were like siblings, for the extended family I had in our congregation, for the many scriptural teachings learned, and for the ability to experiment with who I was going to become within the body of Christ (with all my messy mistakes included).

This side of heaven can quite often be difficult, trying to push us to give in when circumstances feel impossible. Through many trials and tribulations, I’ve come to learn to temper my emotions compared only to one thing, and that is the measure of those other words I’ve heard you proclaim, over and over, and have learned to yearn for one day in the presence of our Lord and Savior: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” In all joy and assuredness, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you both will hear those precious words one day.

Thank you for giving to the Lord in my life and the lives of others. Please know how very much your gift is treasured.

With great  love and respect,

jody

***

Maybe they never received it.
Perhaps it didn’t get read on time.
Even if so, it might not have held the same meaning as it did for me.
Nevertheless, I needed to take time to express my love, my admiration…
my gratitude.
It made a distinctive difference to – maybe even ‘in’ – me.

So to the rest of you, I urge:
“Please don’t forget to say Thank You.”

To this very day, Vacation Bible School is still one of my favorite weeks of the year.

To this very day, Vacation Bible School is still one of my favorite weeks of the year.

How to turn your teacher into a cry-baby

I haven’t been able to visit the blogging community too often lately – mostly because I’ve been traveling across five states for the past few months, gathering the final data for 5 years of longitudinal research (otherwise lovingly, or sometimes not, referred to as my dissertation project). By the time I reached my final graduate from whom I would gather this data, I was feeling a great mix of emotions – – elation (that no more data would need to be collected), trepidation (that all this data still had to be analyzed), exhaustion (from gathering months of data across 5 states), and depression (that I may never see many of these folks again with whom I’d gotten to catch up – or at least it may be a very long time until our paths crossed again).

I wasn’t actually expecting to cry though.
But that’s exactly what I did.

After gathering my last set of data, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of this particular graduate’s patients were completed for the day, so we’d have some fun catch-up time. Now this is a delightful, beautiful young lady; but the most special characteristic of E is her enthusiastic honesty. She’s never afraid to share her thoughts or even tell on herself, and this day was no exception. Because she’s such a warm person, she enjoys connecting with people. That’s exactly what she set out to do, too – connect with me on my level, telling me about her first whitewater rafting adventure (because she knows that’s something I love to do). By the time she had finished her story, also explaining how someone could’ve videotaped her to demonstrate all the things one should NOT do on a river, she had me holding my sides and tearing up in our shared laughter.

But those aren’t the tears I meant.

Sharing a celebratory moment together on graduation day.

Sharing a celebratory stage moment together on
E’s graduation day.

As I stood to go, telling E how very proud I was of all she was accomplishing in her career and all the wonderful life experiences I knew she had ahead, she stopped me from leaving with these words (as well as I can recall them): “I don’t want you to leave without me saying this to you. You need to hear it from me because it’s important for people to know how others feel about them. People need to feel special, and I want you to know what an impact you’ve made on my life – and I don’t just mean in my career. I mean, I appreciate everything you taught me about my profession, but that’s not the most important thing I learned from you. You’ve made an impact on me way beyond that. I think you’re an incredibly strong person in your faith and the way you deal with hardships in life. I’ve watched how you’ve handled things you couldn’t control and didn’t give in, and I look up to you for that. Thank you for letting us see you for who you really are. That’s the kind of person I want to be.”

I was floored.
I never saw it coming.
I’m a hugger, but it’s hard to make me cry. (I even have a twice-broken nose to prove it.)
I cried. (Must’ve been fatigue setting in.)

E was right. Everyone needs a good dose of encouragement, and I wish I could say that I’ve always had the opportunity to tell others exactly how I felt about them (well, the good stuff, anyway). Even if I’ve gotten it right sometimes; sadly, I know I’ve missed many other opportunities. This lovely, young lady didn’t miss hers this time around, and she made me feel something I can’t even quite describe. (Sad testimony for a blogger, I know.)

E taught a good lesson of her own that I hope sticks with me for life. She’s the kind of person I want to be, and I thank her for that. Because of her, my new goal is to set out to make many others do exactly what I did.

Yep, I hope I can make you all cry – –  like babies.