Category: keeping it real

The remarkable life of Charles Reynolds: pastor, missionary, troublemaker, stubborn Irishman, thorn in the side, devoted friend

I pulled into the driveway of a little house that looked as if it had been lifted out of Northern Ireland and dropped, unscathed, into the hills of Pennsylvania. The ceilings were low, the windows were small and cute and the stone fireplace had been built by hand.

On one side of the house was a cow pasture and on the other a tiny, century-old cemetery with a sign on the metal gate that read “Enter At Your Own Risk.”

I blew my nose as I parked and began to rehearse what I would say to the elderly Irishman inside, determined to not let him talk me into staying for tea. I did not want tea. I wanted to go home, lay down and fall asleep after a long day of work at the local weekly newspaper and catching a cold that had only gotten worse as the day went on.

I would simply tell Rev. Charles Reynolds, the aforementioned Irishman, that I was too ill to come in, but would stop again another day when I was feeling better.

The door swung open and a man with blond-white hair, glasses slipping down his nose, stood there in a button up dress shirt and a pair of dress pants, his traditional garb for as long as I had known him; as if he had just returned from church.

“Hello, Rev. Reynolds, I’m sorry I can’t stay long, but I seem to have a cold and I don’t want to get you and Maud sick,” I steeled my resolve to not be swayed by his Celtic charm.

“Come, come. Have a cup of tea,” his Irish brogue was thick. “Maude, put the kettle on. We’ll have some tea and Lisa will feel better.”

“But I -”

“Come. Come.”

He was already walking away from me, gesturing for me to close the door.

Maude, his gray-haired wife, had dutifully shuffled into the kitchen, off to the left of the front door, and placed the kettle on the stove.

“Yes, Paddy.” She nodded curtly at her husband, like a soldier to a superior.

Her tone hovered somewhere between affection and sarcasm.

I sat at the kitchen table and waited for the whistle of the kettle as cookies, crackers, plates, tea cups, a bowl of sugar cubes and cream was placed on the table before me. water was poured into a teapot filled with loose tea and steam rose as it was poured into my cup and bits of the leaves settled at the bottom.

Rev. Reynolds leaned over the table and added a cube of sugar to my cup. Two, round white horse pills pills showed up next.

“There now. That will be just what you need. Tea and vitamin c.”

Rev. Reynolds’ had a doctorate but sometimes he seemed to forget it was in theology.

The dainty tea cup covered in blue patterns was warm in my hand and clinked against the plate when I set it down. Being served tea this way was a far cry from tea at my house, served in a mug with a tea bag after pulling it from the microwave.

“So, have you talked to Ian lately?”

I marveled at how Rev. Reynolds had the worst timing and the least tact of almost anyone I knew, other than my former editor.

I had no interest in talking about my former editor. My departure from the daily newspaper I had once worked at hadn’t been pleasant.

But if it hadn’t been for that job, my first in newspapers, I wouldn’t have met Rev. Reynolds.

********

“Hey, Lisa – this is Rev. Reynolds.”

Ian was the editor of the local daily I had started working at while still in college. He had a slight nasal tone when he spoke, like he had a permanent stuffed nose.

“He’s from Northern Ireland and would be a great source for a story about all the drama going on over there. We can localize an AP story. Interview him and give me 15 inches for the front page tomorrow.”

Localizing, or “adding local color” to a national or international story, was a favorite pass time of Ian, or as Rev. Reynolds would often call him “eeeeeahn”. The concept of localizing involved using an interview or information from a local resident and adding it to a story we had pulled off the Associated Press wire. Ian wanted me to add Rev. Reynolds’ comments to a story about the possible peace deal being negotiated between the Irish Republican Army and the United Kingdom.

“Oh, you’re Irish! Do you speak Gaelic?”

The elderly man with a slightly bulbous nose and holding a stack of papers, looked indignant.

“Noooo!” he cried in a drawn-out Irish accent. “That is the language of the rebels!”

I had no idea who “the rebels” were. Had we just switched to talking Star Wars? I didn’t know, but for the basis of needing to write a story for the next day’s paper, I needed to know.

Even after we talked I was a bewildered by it all. to this day I remain bewildered. It wasn’t until later I started to connect that rebels appeared to be synonymous with “Catholics.” In the world of Rev. Reynolds. As a Protestant, Rev. Reynolds had been raised in a family who supported Northern Ireland remaining within the United Kingdom. Most of those who supported the province remaining within Great Britain were protestant and those who wanted to break off and be part of the Republic of Ireland were Catholics. That’s about all I can explain because even after he explained it to me, wrote a book about it and told me to read it, and I looked it up online, I still can’t wrap my head around why there is an Ireland and a Northern Ireland.

In some sort of ironic twist straight out of a Hollywood script, Rev. Reynolds ended up in the hospital at one point after our friendship grew and his roommate was a local priest, who was well known to my husband and I. Not only did a friendship develop between the two but through him Rev. Reynolds developed a friendship with an Indian priest who was serving as an assistant priest at our local Catholic Church. I remember Rev. Reynolds inviting my family, including my parents, and the local priests to dinner at a local restaurant where he spoke about his life coming full circle – from a distrust of Catholics at a young age to an affection for members of the church he had come to call friends.

From that day at the paper, I became the contact for Rev. Reynolds for his various projects. And he always had a project underway. A fundraiser for an Indian village damaged by a tsunami; a new book he was writing and wanted publicity on; a need to bring awareness to the need for more women in the medical field in India. They were all worthy causes but sometimes it was hard to keep up with his ever-growing list of charitable pursuits.

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IMG_2022“Tea has healing properties,” Rev. Reynolds slipped another cube of sugar into my tea.

The tea came from a 50-year old stash in the shed across the dirt road that they’d brought back from India during their time as missionaries. Rev. Reynolds pulled back a tarp one time to show me the small, square white and green boxes stacked high, each full of traditional, loose leaf Indian tea. They’d had it shipped to them from India and knowing Rev. Reynolds he’d found a way to get it there at little to no cost to him. Rev. Reynolds had a way of convincing people they wanted to help him.

I began to realize my headache and body chills were fading. Maybe Rev. Reynolds was right about the healing properties of tea after all.

It was often hard for me to imagine this man, sitting across from me at the table, now in his mid-70s, as a young man living in Northern Ireland. During World War II he joined the Royal Air Force and was stationed in India, where he fell in love with the Indian people, but also with a young woman from a little farming village in Pennsylvania who was in the country as a missionary. After the war he and Maud became missionaries to the country for 20 years. Maud had been an only child who had grown up on a farm and had been taught how to do anything a man could do – including fixing cars and hiking through some of the most remote areas of the world.

Over the years they met many famous people, including Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama and several American and British political leaders. Rev. Reynolds also once lead the leader of Northern Ireland around the United States in a public relations campaign in support for Great Britain continuing it’s rule over Northern Ireland. In 1995 he was also appointed as an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II.

But to me he was simply the man who called me to help him send an email, figure out why his computer wasn’t working, write a news story, or eat a traditional Irish meal of boiled ham, potatoes, carrots, turnips and cabbage with him and his wife, or sometimes some new person he had taken under his wing. In truth, we were almost family, since Maud was related to my grandfather’s family, but we were also family because we somehow adopted each other.

*****

The day before our wedding my strong-willed great aunt and the maybe slightly more strong-willed Rev. Reynolds battled over where the main flower arrangement would be placed for the ceremony.

“The arrangement will go on the altar because it deserves to be the center of the ceremony,” Aunt Peggy said in her thick Southern accent.

She had designed all the flower arrangements, full of gorgeous purple lilies. She transported them to Pennsylvania from Cary, North Carolina, stopping several times along the way to spritz them with water and make sure they stayed cool. Once she arrived at the century old house I had grown up in, she rushed them into the cool stone basement.

On rehearsal day she  placed a large, expansive arrangement on the altar between the unity candles and stepped back to inspect her handiwork.

We all stepped back.

We all admired its beauty.

All except Rev. Reynolds.

Rev. Reynolds picked it up and moved it to a stand that was sitting off to one side of the altar.

“It can not be on the altar. The altar is for the candles and the holy book.”

“It will be fine in the center of the table.”

“Noooo….you can no’ place it there.”

The more agitated they became, the thicker their respective accents became.

The exchange went on for several moments longer with the flowers being moved back and forth as each person explained their position.

It was like a scene from a sitcom.

The rest of us wished we had a bowl of popcorn for the show.

I thought my aunt’s eyebrow, which arched when she was indignant, was going to fly right off her fac. Her lips, pursed tight to keep herself from saying something “unpleasant”, were now a thin red line.

Rev. Reynold’s ears and nose were glowing red.

Eventually, a compromise was reached and the arrangement was placed to one side of the altar, still in an appropriately visible location, but not in a place that would detract from “the holiness of the altar.”

Rev. Reynolds could be bull-headed, sometimes even rude, but those moments were overshadowed by a deep desire to serve, to be the hands and feet of God. No matter where he was, from the green hills of Northern Ireland to the remote forests of India, to the tiny Pennsylvania farming community, he never shied away from sharing the gospel. In the last book he wrote, “He Leadeth Me,” he wrote about meeting with the Dalai Lama with a contingent of missionaries and leaders from the United Methodist Church. They hoped to help the exiled Tibetan leader and his people, who had been pushed from their country.

The Dalai Lama turned abruptly to Rev. Reynolds during one conversation and asked, in English, “Why do you help my people? We are not of your faith or your culture, yet you help us.”

Rev. Reynolds said he wasn’t sure how to respond at first, surprised by the question, but believes the Holy Spirit directed his words when eventually relayed Luke 10:33.

“I repeated the simple story of the Good Samaritan and the teaching of our Lord Jesus that we are to love our neighbor, even though that person was not of our faith, our race or our culture. Anyone in need of help and who could not help himself was to be touched by the grace and love of our Lord. This discussion continued on into our knowledge and kinship with God.”

I have many regrets in my life and one of them is driving by the hospital that day, ignoring Mom’s warning that it might be my last chance to say my goodbyes. I was in denial that death could ever come for someone so full of life. A few days later I stood in the back of the church the day of the funeral and held my crying baby, mourning loss and celebrating new life simultaneously.

There are many times since I have felt the void of the insistent Irishman who often drove me to my wits end, blessed me with his kindness, and demonstrated to me what it means to truly live in the footsteps of Christ.

*******

“I believe God made us all as individuals, each with their own life’s work, calling and talents. We should therefore find a place of service in this gigantic jigsaw puzzle that we see as the world, and as having found it, we should serve to the best of our ability. Shakespeare understood this when he had Polonius say ‘This above all to thine own self be true.; However, we know that Polonius was not true to that affirmation, so Shakespeare added a contra when he wrote, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’ True, many people wear masks and act a role, but nobility of spirit requires identifiable personal characteristics.”

~ Rev. Charles Reynolds

 

 

 

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Why I briefly broke my 30-day Facebook detox (and no, it wasn’t to vent about a fast food restaurant.)

I’ll confess!

Turn off the interrogation lights!

This week I logged on to Facebook, briefly breaking my 30-day detox.

I know.

I’m a total fraud.

But, wait!

Let me explain.

Here is how it all started: without logging onto Facebook, I looked at the Today Show Parenting Team’s Facebook page this week, out of curiosity, and discovered one of my posts I had submitted on the community, had been shared. It had 38 comments and 240 shares.

The post, entitled “A Pregnancy Loss is A Loss No Matter How Small” was about my early pregnancy loss, which was caused by a blighted ovum. The post focused on the feeling by some women that they don’t feel they have a right to mourn an early pregnancy loss. In  reality they do, because that pregnancy, no matter how brief, represented their idea of what was to be. And because that pregnancy was the start of a life that ended too soon.

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Some of the comments on the post were so heartbreaking that I wanted to show the grieving mothers support so I hesitantly broke my Facebook detox simply to try to offer them some words of comfort. A couple days later I checked on the post to see if any other women had commented and discovered my post had also been shared on the Today Show’s main Facebook page and there were now 408 comments, 2,652 shares and over 11,000 reactions. I was flabbergasted and knew I couldn’t comment to all those women so I just read most of the comments and cried at how many of them had been told they had no right to mourn such early losses.

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I just couldn’t imagine not offering some words of comments to these hurting moms, especially one who had lost a baby only a couple of days before she commented. She had been 32-weeks along. My daughter, my rainbow baby, was born at 37 weeks. I can’t imagine being so close to full term and losing a child. I have at least two friends who have lost children later in the pregnancy and it breaks my heart to think of the pain they suffered during that time. It breaks my heart even further to imagine they may be afraid to talk about those losses because we live in a society where miscarriages can be so easily dismissed, especially if the loss is early in the pregnancy.

I want those women to be able to share their feelings. I know I blogged about my feelings here and under the Today Show’s Parenting Team challenge to share about a pregnancy loss, but the whole situation is still difficult to talk about.

There was a lot going on in our family during that time in addition to the loss. It was a whirlwind of emotions and confusion and rejection and part of me shut down after the miscarriage. There was some shame mixed in because the pregnancy came during a marriage trial.I worried some might think the pregnancy came to try to save the marriage when that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Even now I feel myself cringing inside as my fingers hit the keyboard. Despite having a personal blog, I’m not a person who thrives on sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, even if I think the sharing might help bring comfort to someone else.

What I hope the post the Today Show shared will do is help grieving moms have the courage to speak about how their pregnancy loss made them feel and ultimately understand they are not alone.

The love that didn’t last

Looking at her young face staring back at me from the vintage, monochrome photograph it suddenly struck me how young she had been when her world fell apart. Her story was family folklore, passed down as one of those subjects discussed in hushed tones and only around certain family members.

Here she was, though, appearing to me younger than I had ever imagined her when I had heard the stories as a child, a teen and even as an adult. I saw in her eyes a bit of fear, maybe trepidation, but also a lot of grit mixed with the slightest hint of humor.

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When she’d met the man she would one day married she was head over heels in love. He was handsome and charming, and loud and boisterous. Some, though, especially her family, called him trouble.

She wrote love letters to him and told him she couldn’t wait until they could be alone again, married and on their own.

The details are hazy, the story one fractured by memories not as strong as they once were, possible family biases, maybe a bit of resentment and a whole lot of “he said, she said.” What is known is they married, he did something that hurt her deeply, her family chased him off with a shotgun and she came home with a 2-month old baby and soon to be divorced, something not often heard of at that time.

The baby was born with the last name of Hakes, but a line was struck through that name and it was eliminated, one might say. When the divorce was final the baby’s last name became Robinson, his mother’s maiden name, and stayed that way, even when she became an Allen through a new marriage, years later. Family lore, accurate or not, says her family wouldn’t allow the little boy to have his father’s last name. So, the baby, my grandfather, was Hakes by blood but not by name.

Raising a son alone, so young, with a broken heart and maybe added shame, must have been close to impossible, even with the help of her family. I often wonder how those events shaped her inner being, how it maybe led her to throw up walls that it took years to let down, if she ever did.

It seems when we get older we are told new stories about family members, or more of the story or maybe we just listen better and find out what we had always thought was the full story really wasn’t.

More pieces to the puzzle of the story of my great aunt, taken away from her family to live in a mental hospital and then a nursing home were recently given to me, correcting my belief that she was placed in the home at a young age. Instead, she was apparently closer to 30 when her parents had her committed and one reason was the fear she would harm my dad, who was about three or four at the time.

And she wasn’t really abandoned there, as I had previously thought. Instead, she withdrew into herself after years of odd behavior and her parents felt she was safer in the hospital. They also had limited income and only one vehicle to visit her with or bring her home.

So while I heard new information about my great aunt’s story recently, the story that remains a mystery for most of our family is what really led to my great-grandmother Blanche leaving Howard Hakes. It’s not really a topic you bring up when meeting distant relations only at family funerals every few years.

“Hey, so whatever happened with that whole divorce thing with Blanch and Howard anyhow?” you can’t simply ask. Or, “Was that Howard a real jerk or what’s the real story?”

It wouldn’t exactly be polite dinner (or funeral) conversation.

There are the family “rumors”, of course. He liked his parties, women, and alcohol, was the one rumor. Blanche, had finally had enough, some say, and she left Waverly, NY, considered the “big city” back then in the early 1900s and returned to her family’s farm with her young son, Walter, who happens to be my grandfather.

It’s always a bit awkward to write about family drama when some of those family members who might know more are still alive so I will admit that I know very little about what led to the end of the marriage. Not too mention, because it was so long ago and I never met Blanche and was only about 2 when my grandfather died, I don’t have a “dog in this fight” so to speak. I don’t see either party as an enemy or at fault, simply because I wasn’t there, therefore I truly have no idea.

What I do have is a wonder about how Blanche felt about it all, and even how Howard felt. And when you get right down to it, what did Walter feel about it?I wish he was around for me to ask.

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Whatever led to the failed marriage, it came and my grandfather was raised without knowing his father. It wasn’t until Blanche died, well after my grandfather was an adult with two adult daughters and one young son, that Howard showed back up. My dad remembers he was about 13, returning from a Boy Scout camp out,  when a man approached him in town and told him, “I’m your grandfather.”

Later that day, sitting with my grandfather on the porch of my dad’s house, now remarried and a father of other children, Howard tried to make peace with his firstborn, asking him, “Well, your first born is always your favorite, aren’t they?”

“I don’t play favorites,” my dad remembers my grandfather saying in a deep, stern voice.

My dad was the baby of the family, his sister Eleanor was the oldest and sister Doris the middle. And no, Walter wasn’t going to play favorites.

Maybe Grandpa was telling Howard he wasn’t about to accept an attempt to suggest one child should be loved over another as any type of apology for being an absent father.

Even if my grandfather couldn’t accept the failed attempt of an apology that day, some sort of peace was made. Visits were had, half-sisters were met and Howard’s funeral was even attended many years later.

Two, faded and short, letters are tucked away in a jewelry box in my parent’s room and my parents aren’t even sure where they came from. It’s clear they were written by Blanche to Howard and start with “My Love.”

“They are heartbreaking,” my mom told me one day. “She really loved him.”

And she did. Telling Howard she hoped his new job was going well and that she couldn’t wait “until you are here in my bedroom with me again.”

Gasp! In her bedroom?

Scandalous stuff for 1900.

Maybe so scandalous some in my family might not think I should air the family’s “dirty laundry.”

But, if we are honest, every family has their own dirty laundry and some of that dirty laundry isn’t really dirty, but just heartbreak caused by broken people.

The teachable moments of parenting fails

DSC_1871“I’m hungry.”

It’s not WHAT she said that drove me crazy, it’s WHEN she said it.

It was midnight.

Bedtime had been stretched out insanely long for months now, something I hoped to remedy soon, and my last straw was being asked to get a snack at midnight.

By a 3-year old.

By my 3-year old.

Right then I acted like a very mature, 40-year old woman and flounced out of the room and told her if she wanted a snack she could go get one BY HERSELF!!!

I was done with dealing with hungry toddlers whining at me in the middle of the night. I was done with 11-year olds staying awake way past when they were supposed to be and being grumpy the next morning. And for that moment I was done with never seeming to have a break and dare I say it? With being Mom.

I shut the bathroom door and pouted in the dark for maybe two minutes before she opened the door and I remembered we still hadn’t got a lock for that blasted door.

She was whimpering at me in the dark and looking pitiful and of course I felt even more guilty about it all so I led her to my room where I knew there was one of those applesauce squeezable packs, tucked away in my purse for those days we are out somewhere and she says she’s hungry (this child is always hungry). I gave it to her, reminding myself she’s just a little girl and she can’t help it if she gets hungry at midnight. Even I get hungry at midnight sometimes.

It also wasn’t her fault that her mom hadn’t stopped her and her brother’s playing and told them it was time for bed much earlier in the evening than I had.

I took her to bed, telling her I loved her, and then I laid in the dark after she was asleep and felt guilty for yelling at her and her brother right at bedtime. I kissed her head so many times I’m surprised I didn’t wake her.

5a4c8-dsc_5772Then I tiptoed into my son’s room, where he had already fallen asleep, and kissed his head. Suddenly, in that darkened room, a sliver of light from the street leaking in, he wasn’t 11 anymore in my eyes. He was still five and innocent and little and all I wanted to do was scoop him up and hold him against me.

But he’s too long now and I knew if I attempted to scoop him up I’d fall over backwards and drop him and I on the floor, cut open his head and we would have to call an ambulance. That’s how the brain of a mom works – we take a simple idea and blow it into the most scary outcome we can imagine.

Being a parent is hard. Harder than I ever imagined. We all have tough days and boy do we blow it sometimes. Even when we blow it we love them and they love us. We all make mistakes and fall right on our faces in this parenting journey.

Maybe you feel you have failed as a parent too. We know we are not alone, yet we often feel we are alone because parents fear sharing their fails. We fill our social media feeds, and even our personal interactions, with images and tales of our children’s accomplishments and our successes. We rarely share about our blunders.

No one wants to admit when they have made a mistake and certainly not to other parents who we think have it all together. The truth is, no parent has it all together – no matter what their highlights may show. Maybe as parents we need to be a little more public with those moments we fail in, be brave and show other parents they aren’t alone in their struggle.

What makes us good parents is that we recognize we are not perfect, we apologize when we need to, and are not afraid to admit our mistakes. In fact, maybe not being afraid to make those mistakes makes us even better parents.

When our children know we can admit mistakes then they know that, yes, mistakes are always going to be made, but we can always learn how to improve from them.

And when we admit our mistakes to other parents we can learn from each other.

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The Farm

The little boy was leaning nonchalantly  against the door, with one hand on the door knob and when we jumped out of the van he said into the cold wind that whipped at our faces, sounding more like an adult than a child,“Welcome to our farm. Come on in.”

I smiled to myself at the sound of such serious, grown up words coming from someone so young and thanked him for the greeting. We stepped into a small, dark room filled almost completely by a large metal container, pipes running along the ceiling and walls, and a deep, metal sink at the back of the room. A small fluorescent light barely lit the room but a small window provided a little daylight.

I had started a personal photography project and series about small, family farms in Bradford County, Pa. and this was the first farm I had visited. The boy, wearing a winter coat and a knitted winter hat down over his ears, launched immediately into a tour of the barn, starting by showing my 11-year old son the nozzle where the milk truck driver would put the hose to siphon the farm’s milk collection from the refrigerated container into the milk truck. He motioned his hand up in the air along the path of the pipe system, showing us where the milk comes into the room and travels down into a clear sphere and then down another pipe and into the main collection vat.

Next he motioned us toward a door to our left and into the barn where he said his dad was feeding the cows. Cows were lined up in two rows, each in their own stall, ready to be fed and milked. They turned to watch us walk in and almost seemed to be listening to our young tour guide.

Before I could ask the boy his name or how old he was, he had a handful of the cow’s feed in his hand and began telling us it was made up of ground corn and hay and other nutrients. A man with salt and pepper hair and mustache, wearing a pair of faded blue overalls, pushed a wheelbarrow full of feed toward us and smiled at the boy and us. “He’s giving you the tour, huh?” He asked.

I said he was and doing a good job.

I finally was able to slip in between his explaining how the farm works to ask him how old he was and his name. His name was Parker, he said, and was six. When I asked how he knew all about the feed and the barn and the cows and milk, he said “I just do.”

Of course I know why he knows all he does. He is the son and grandson of farmers. Each day he watches the men who have shaped who he is and who he will become work hard for the life they want and they life they need. They work not only to survive, but to thrive.

His grandfather and dad milk the cows, care for the cows, feed the cows and they run the tractors, cut the hay, grind the corn and clean the barn. He is a boy being taught that to get what you want in life, whether that be a peaceful life on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania, or a life full of adventure and thrill, there must be some blood, sweat and tears shed. To reach a goal you work and you work hard.

It’s something his dad Mark knows a lot about. He thought he’d find his dream at college, but it was there he realized he had been living his dream all along on his family’s farm, right where he grew up. After he earned a degree he returned to the farm, the quiet, the tough life but the rewarding one that maybe he thought he never needed or wanted. Isn’t that how it is for a lot of us? We think we want something different from where we are and what we have when really, all we ever needed could be found right where we’d always been and among what we’d always had.

And sometimes we realize that what we want to do in life isn’t what will bring us monetary riches, but will bring us riches of the soul.

“Honestly, it is a labor of love,” Mark Bradley said. “I love working with the cows, and I love working the land.  It is not a job. It’s a lifestyle. There are always bad days, but I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

It’s not a job.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s a labor love.

So much of what we do that really matters is just that – a labor of love – work that might not light up our pocketbook but will light a spark in our spirit. And from that spark will come a fire that will burn through all the distractions of life and leave for us a clear picture of what is good and right and perfect about this thing we call living.

Time with Grandpa | Athens, PA Photographer

The weekends are often reserved for time with my parents and sometimes my dad takes the kids out to help him with chores. 

This weekend he wanted to dig up gladiolus bulbs from this summer so he can use them again to plant in his garden next year. My youngest was determined to use the clippers to cut the bulbs off, which was making me nervous. Before long, though, she was completely distracted by the worms being dug up in the dirt. Like she often does she felt she needed to take care of the worms so she began collecting them in her gloved hands, then just in her hands.  She followed me around asking me to hold them and keep them warm.

At one point Grandpa found what we call a nightcrawler around here – a huge worm that almost looks like a baby snake. She wanted to take him home too, but her big brother put the worm under the leaves instead so he could find a new home. We didn’t make it out without a bucket full of worms sitting on the front seat of the car and now in our house. She’s been told the worms need to go out in our now defunct garden, but she says we can’t put them outside because she needs to take care of them.

Honestly, none of this surprises me since her brother once made us bring a slug home to keep as a pet. What a sad day it was when daddy tried to clean out the slug’s home and instead lost him somewhere on the floor in the process.

Little Miss didn’t find it funny at all when her brother pretended he was going to eat the nightcrawler. In the end he didn’t, of course, but she was quite offended and told him “You’re rude! Don’t eat my worms!”

The ironic thing about all this is how we previously told her she couldn’t bring her worms inside, yet somehow she ended up convincing us to bring worms inside.

Thank you Doc Mcstuffins for making my toddler a paranoid germaphobe

We were picking my son up from an overnight camping trip with his school when my 3-year old tripped and fell. My son’s friend helped her up and told me she was saying there were worms on her hands and she couldn’t get them off.

“Worms! Worms!” she told me holding her hands out to me, palms up.

All I could see were a couple specks of dirt. I brushed her palms off, kissed her hand, put her on my hip and walked to get my son’s sleeping bag for the ride home. Before we got to our car, though, she was crying again with her palms up toward me.

“Worms! I can’t get them off!” she said. “They everywhere!!”

Now I was starting to worry my daughter was sick, having a fever induced hallucination. I assured her there were no worms, but asked if she wanted me to wash her hands just to be sure. For all I knew she had fallen on squished worms earlier and now imagined she had worm guts on her hands.

As I poured water over her hands from my water bottle I asked if that was better.

“It still on my thumb” she told me, inspecting her hands and trying to shove her one thumb in the water bottle.

That’s when my son said “are you saying germs?”

It was a light bulb moment.

My daughter has developed a somewhat annoying obsession lately with Doc McStuffins; to the point she asks to watch it every day and pretends to “treat” her stuffed animals. We even bought her a little toy Doc Mcstuffins bag and medical kit for her birthday last week. Now she asks for me to play the check up song on my phone while she gives check ups to her stuffed pets.

Incidentally she requires me to pretend I’m the toy patient and usually tells me I have to pretend I’m scared so she can comfort them like Doc Mcstuffins does her toy patients. Of course, as someone who is moving away from the constant care of doctors because they often seem more interested in pushing than pills than helping patients, it does bother me that this show has given my daughter the impression that doctors are infallible and God-like but that’s another post for another day.

Apparently I should have been watching the episodes a little closer when she watched them (I’m usually sitting next to her editing photos and vaguely paying attention, I won’t lie) because I’m guessing the good ole’ Doc told her viewers on a recent episode thatthey needed to clean their hands because of germs.

Unfortunately my toddler has the same vivid imagination her brother has always had so she apparently imagined the germs everywhere on her hands.

“Did you say germs?” I asked her.

“Yes!” She sniffed her little cheeks streaked with dirt and tears.

“Honey, it’s ok. Even if the germs are there, not all germs are bad. Some germs help build up our immunity so it’s not a bad thing to have some germs on your skin.”

She accepted this explanation quickly but then sniffed a little and said she didn’t want to sit in her car seat to go home. She whimpered against my shoulder until I told her I could pick her up some fries on the way home.

Her head snapped up off my shoulder and she looked at me.

There was no hint of the sadness from before when she said “fries? Did you say fries?”

Faithfully Thinking: A little more of a little less: why the fear of missing out is killing us

Our brain was not wired to process the amount of information we throw at it on a daily basis.

The shows we watch.

The news we tune into.

The podcasts we listen to.

The social media we scroll through.

The trends and news and health warnings and even the good stuff that is aimed at growing us spiritually.

It is information over load.

Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church said it well in his sermon “why are we anxious?”

“There is no way that we can’t take it all in and still have room for the peace of God,” he said. “You’re praying for the peace of God – God doesn’t have anywhere to put it. Your mind is too full. You were not designed to have the entirety of the conversation of the whole human race buzzing on your back pocket on your butt bone. Just walking around like snipers. ‘What did they say?’ ‘Where did they go on vacation?’ ‘What about that press conference?’ It was not supposed to be this way. Of course we’re freaking out. Of course we’re zombies. Of course we’re numbing ourselves and drinking and smoking and popping. Of course we can’t stop it. The devil’s got a shock collar on our back pocket and we don’t even know it.”

We are constantly shackled to the world through our devices.  Our minds are constantly filled with digital noise.

We are listening to a new song or reading a new post or receiving notifications about who is presenting something “live” on one of our social media outlets. And while they are live we are dead inside because we can’t even hear ourselves think.

We have a constant buzz of knowledge and information in our heads. So much we can’t hear our voice, our spouse’s voice, children’s voices or more importantly God’s. 

How can God speak to us if we never shut the voices off?

Notice I say “we”  and “us.”

How can God speak to ME if I never put the phone down and stop searching for help and validation in social media instead of His Word?

Ouch. That one hurt. 

Because it’s true. 

Because it’s what I heard in my spirit today when I tried to quiet the voices and just listen. I tried to listen to what God was saying and it was hard. 

It was hard to hear His voice beyond the anxiety and the doubts and the worry and the efforts to fix it all in the twenty minutes between when I woke up and my toddler woke up.  Not too mention I tried to force myself to listen and we all know what happens when you do that: you start making grocery lists in your head and wondering how cellophane works.

But then I did have a thought, that felt a lot like a reminder to my soul; a reminder that we can’t place ourself in chaos and expect to feel peace.

There are times chaos whirls around us, out of our control. Often, though, we are in control of what sweeps us up into its current. We can step back, close computers, uninstall apps, shut off devices and quiet all the voices except His.

We can decide that less is what we need.

Less people telling us how to be a better us.

Less “motivational” posts that make us feel we’re getting this Christianity thing all wrong.

Less busyness.

Less voices whispering we need to do more.

Less of us telling ourselves we need to be everything to everyone

Less expectations.

Less running toward what we think will make us happy.

Less determination that if we just have more of what we don’t have we’ll have all we need to be happy.

Is social media all evil and no good?

Of course not.

There is good mixed in the bad but less of it can mean more of what matters to us.

More of him.

More of her.

More of them.

More laughter with them. 

More of your voice, not “theirs”.

More of hearing your soul.

More peace.

More Him.