Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gumption. Not a word you hear much anymore, but one I've heard all my life--forever being told I needed more of it. My grandmother Cummins probably informed me of my lack of gumption the most, but I heard it a lot from my mom and dad, too. 

I intended to write about a few instances where having a little gumption would have served me well, but then I started to think about my grandmother’s abundant amount of gumption (synonyms include backbone and pluck), and took a trip down memory lane instead.

My grandmother was fiercely loyal to her family. I had to think twice about telling her someone had been even slightly unkind to me because I knew that person would be getting “a piece of her mind.” She didn't hesitate to give pieces of her mind.

When her church in Florida asked her if she'd take over their card ministry, she told them no, that writing cards wasn't her “bag.” Goodness! Her own grandchildren had never received a single card from her.

My mom was with her at the time and asked her what she'd have told them if they'd asked her, “Well then, what exactly is your ‘bag’?” 

Without hesitation she answered, "I would have told them ‘my bag’ is eating and sleeping." Her answer makes me laugh to this day.

When they still lived in Michigan, she and Papa would often sing in front of the church. One of their favorites was The Old Rugged Cross. The last words say, “then He'll call me some day, to my home far away, where His glory forever I'll share.”
I don't think our country has ever been filled with so much hate, so much evil. It’s made me long all the more for the day He will take us to our Home far away. 

Billy Graham said of Christians, “The moment we take our last breath on earth, we take our first breath in heaven.”

I love picturing my mom taking her first deep breath in Heaven. I'm missing her desperately, but that image comforts me.

I pray God will provide another Billy Graham soon, convincing millions more to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and be assured their last breath here will be their first breath in Heaven.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My friend Kelly calls words and phrases unique to her family the “NutHatch Dictionary.” 

It got me thinking of my own family's unique vocabulary.  My great-grandmother (Nanny) was forever saying she was getting fatter than a “butcher's dog." I picked up the phrase when I was about four years old and used it for all manner of things—I got as "tired as a butcher's dog," as "hungry as a butcher's dog" and so on. Apparently only a butcher's dog could relate to whatever state of hunger, thirst or exhaustion I was feeling at the time. It wasn't until years later that I understood why my use of it cracked my family up so much.

Nanny wouldn't hesitate to label anyone exhibiting less than desirable behavior as “horse's rosettes.” I adopted this quaint little moniker as well.

How about "there's more than one way to skin a cat"? Eeew. I used that gruesome phrase recently when I told a passenger I’d bring him extra cookies after the service. The other passengers in his row didn't want a snack so he slyly interjected they'd changed their minds and that they both wanted cookies. I smiled and said, “I guess there's more than one way to skin a cat.” What?? Where did that come from? Who knew that was even in my repertoire of phrases?

My dad used to call people always on the cusp of inappropriate behavior “loose cannons” who go off “half-cocked.”

I'm not even sure what a "whip stitch” is—but I've heard it all my life and I use it every whip stitch.

My mom would threaten to knock us into the “middle of next week”— which I thought might be a nice place to be (under the circumstances).

My brother Craig used to come up with some outlandish facts. When my parents would ask him how he came upon his knowledge his answer would always be the same, "A kid at school told me." It became our family's response to anyone who came up with questionable facts—”Did a kid at school tell you that?"

If we asked Dad if he had time to help us with something, he'd often answer, "What's time to a pig?" It always made him chuckle but I never understood why. I just recently learned it's a line from a joke: An old farmer walked his pigs a long way to drink from the river. When a neighbor offered to run a pipe from the river to the farmer's house, the farmer wasn't interested. When the neighbor explained how much time it would save, the farmer responded, "What's time to a pig?"

Another phrase, "You guessed it Nester!" It's the equivalent of "Well...duh!" If I put my uniform on and I’m asked if I'm going to work, I answer, "You guessed it Nester!" 

I could fill pages with phrases like "Did a kid at school tell you that?" that would only be funny to my family.

I’m so thankful God designed us to be placed in families. Sadly, many of my family's funniest storytellers have gone to be with the Lord. I miss them more than ever, but I take great comfort knowing their stories will continue to be told generation after generation and therefore never be forgotten.

Monday, February 5, 2018

I bought the "One Year Bible" several years ago with the intention of, you know, reading it in one year. Unfortunately, I didn't achieve my goal. But from the first verse I started counting how many times the Bible tells us not to be afraid. The number reached well into the hundreds before I was even a third of the way through.

Every time an angel appeared with a message for someone, the angel's first words were inevitably "fear not." Understandably! If an angelic being suddenly appeared in front of me, I doubt a "fear not" would be enough to stop the screaming.

God knew what scaredy-cats we were going to be and how fear would be used to immobilize us and make us buy all sorts of things we don't need.

About 30 some years ago I was walking through the "aisles of beauty" at Hudson's. The Estee Lauder counter had some kind of machine you could look into to that supposedly revealed what you'd look like in 25 years. I couldn't resist looking into it and was justifiably horrified at the image looking back at me. Though it was frightening, it didn't scare me enough to stay out of the sun (or buy the age defying product they were hawking). Consequently, the multi-spotted, severely sleep deprived image I saw that day is pretty much what I see in the mirror today.

There are literally hundreds of phobias. I used to question the very faith of those who are afraid of flying. To be fair, most would say it's not the flying they are afraid of but rather the crashing. Don't these people realize they're not in control? That when their time comes it doesn't really matter where they are, or how they chose to get there?

But when I think of my own irrational fears (I honestly feel I might die if saw a mouse in my hotel room), I humbly realize all of our fears involve some degree of faithlessness.

In spite of all God's assurances, I still experience anxiety attacks and needlessly worry and fret about things I have zero control over. Another oft repeated command tells us what to set our hearts and minds on, and it isn't on this present, flawed world--it's on Him.

The crux of my anxiety stems from looking at my future without Him in it, which is obviously impossible. Jesus' last words before he descended back into Heaven were that He would never leave us or forsake us...even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) 

One of my mom's most oft repeated phrases was, "The Lord knows all about it." It's only now that I recognize how truly profound and comforting these words are. When anxious thoughts start to overwhelm me, I whisper my mom's words back to myself and it’s almost like she’s still her here with me, comforting me like only she could. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

I’ve experienced many unanswered prayers throughout my life, or rather prayers that weren’t answered the way I wanted them to be answered. Today I needed to remind myself of God’s faithfulness. I can recall so many times He’s shown me His mercy and grace. 

A few answers to prayers were particularly stunning. For the sake of space, I’ll only recount a few here.

When Dane was just an infant, Bob took a job running the Karaoke at the bar across the street from his work. Sometimes he wouldn’t get home until three in the morning. It was taking a toll on our marriage. When I went up to watch him I was shocked to learn he’d even acquired groupies! No wonder he wasn’t inclined to give it up. Rather than rant and rave about it (my usual modus operandi), I decided to pray about it. I kid you not, the very next day the place burned to the ground and was never rebuilt. Talk about being gobsmacked!

Another time, I was taking my cousin Cassie on a buddy pass to attend my grandmother’s funeral in Florida. Even though Cassie had been married for years, I’d used her maiden name on her reservation. I didn’t realize what I’d done until the TSA agent asked her why the name on her boarding pass didn’t match the name on her driver’s license. She sweetly replied that she’d gotten married. This was post 9/11, my ditzy mistake could have nixed our plans right there and then, but we were allowed to proceed to the gate without even any additional screening.

There were several empty seats on the flight when I checked, but I hadn’t counted on over thirty standby passengers. I was at the top of the list, so I knew I was going to get a seat, but Cassie was at the bottom, there was no way she was getting a seat. I walked over to give her the bad news. 

Before I could speak, she said she’d been sitting there praying and had complete peace about it, everything was going to work out and…

“Is there someone who can come get you?” I rudely interrupted, blithely waving away any possibility of Divine intervention.

Before she could answer, the gate agent called her name and gave her a boarding pass. I was stunned! Ashamed of myself for doubting the power of prayer and in awe of God’s goodness.

How do the words, “all I can do is pray about it” ever come out of my mouth??? The Creator of the universe asks us to call Him Father and encourages us to pour out our requests to Him. It’s not all I can do, it is the most I can do.

When a child asks for a piece of bread, does a good father give him a rock instead? How much more will our Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (Matthew 7:9-11)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Sunday, January 14, 2018

When Brett was born, in an attempt to encourage us, several people relayed the same basic story. It went something like this: A family planned to move to Italy but landed in Sweden instead. It wasn’t where they wanted to be! It wasn’t where they'd prepared to go! But once they accepted Sweden as their new home, their eyes were opened to all the beauty (albeit a very different kind of beauty) of Sweden, and they lived happily ever after. It didn’t resonate with me. I remember thinking Siberia might have been a better analogy.

I have an actual, first hand experience of landing in a country I didn’t plan on landing in, one I wasn't t prepared to land in, but nonetheless found myself in. 

In 1999, Tammy and I decided it was a must that we visit Hong Kong before the British cede the city to China. We make all the arrangements and off we go, even managing to sit in the upper deck on a 747 on our first leg to Tokyo.

Unfortunately we run into a slight glitch. We’ve landed on the wrong day. You’d think, being flight attendants, we’d have some grasp of how the international date line works. But we didn’t. We thought we were arriving on a Thursday, but we landed on a Friday.

Turns out there isn’t even the remotest chance we’ll get on a flight to Hong Kong on a Friday night. Tammy is furious. It was the hotel told who told her what day we were arriving. It was their fault, now ours.

Bottom line, we are now in Tokyo with nowhere to go. The agent suggested Seoul. Nah, been there, done that. How about Bangkok? There is good shopping. Sure. What the heck?

Turns out, not only should we have educated ourselves on time lines but on geography as well. As soon as we reach cruising altitude, we are told the flight time. Over eight hours!!! We want off! We don’t have time for this! Good heavens! It took us less than 12 hours to get all the way from Detroit to Tokyo. Is Thailand on another continent or what? Well, it’s too late now, we’ll just have to make the best of our 18 hours in Bangkok.

The cab ride to the hotel is harrowing, the little Buddha glued to the top of the dashboard is in perpetual motion as we bounce our way through broken roads and enormous potholes. There is no rhyme or reason for the traffic flow and we narrowly miss other vehicles, bikes, and dogs. Yes, dogs! Lots of them, apparently all without owners.

Perhaps most alarming of all, we appear to be one of the very few not wearing face masks.  

After a quick night’s rest, we get up in the morning ready to shop at the famed shopping center. We ask for directions from the man at the front desk. Communicating isn’t easy, but when he finally understands we’re asking about the shopping center he answers, “Ahhhh. Burn down.”

Our little trip is going from bad to worse. We’re so tired, we’re slap happy and turn to each other and repeat “burn down” and laugh so much we can hardly stand up. I can’t imagine what the poor little man thought of us (sadly, mimicking his accent) and laughing so uproariously over such a tragic event.

We have about six hours before catching our flight back to Tokyo, so we bravely set out to explore the city. We pick our way through the broken up concrete sidewalks, stray dogs and masked Thai people. I have to admit I'm finding the masks a wee bit disconcerting…might we be breathing in the actual “plague of death?”

We’re in an open air shopping area when I realize I need to find a restroom. Immediately. When I find one, I realize (in the nick of time) that there’s no toilet paper. I hustle back out and, sure enough I missed the lady at the door selling squares of toilet paper. Please, can I just take the roll and we can sort it out when I'm done? No. Must buy first. 

I tear off a swath I pray is adequate and she counts each square to determine how many bahts it will cost me. We had jokingly started pronouncing their currency “bites.” I think it cost me about thirty bites to use the restroom. Calling it a “rest” room is a sad misnomer as they don’t have toilets…it’s like squatting over a concrete shower base. If nothing else, I got in a good quad workout.

Another nerve wracking cab ride back to the airport. Another spastically bouncing Budha on the dashboard.

When we get to the gate we’re informed we’re not likely to get seats…possibly not for days. Days? Are you kidding me?? We’re not laughing now. We’re praying our hearts out, pleading with God to allow us to get out of there. And by His grace, we did. 

Back to the story that was meant to comfort us when we found about Brett’s condition—I was wrong to think Siberia was a better analogy. God has been faithful in not only allowing us to accept Brett as a gift, but also the peace that comes from knowing he is His perfect plan for our life, we "landed" right where God intended us to land.

Friday, December 29, 2017

My first memory of Bob was from fifth grade. I was going to Sunday school class with my cousin and she confided in me that she "liked" a boy, but if I ever told anyone she would never share a secret with me ever again. I promised I wouldn't, of course. When we got to the class, she discretely pointed Bob out and I told her I thought he looked like the Blue Eagle from Sesame Street (he had a really low hairline and thick black eye brows, just like my little Brett's).

Several years later I decided he was the best looking guy on the planet. He became friends with my brother. If I had any inkling he might be stopping by, I’d race up to my room and make myself look as pretty as possible.

I’d sit in the same room with them until my brother would turn and ask, “Don’t you have anything better to do than sit there and stare at us?”

I was mortified, but he was right...I was just sitting there and staring. I’ve always had a staring problem. But a lot of girls had a hard time not staring at Bob.

For some reason I'll never understand, several months later, he professed his love to me. Me! A staring, immature, insecure little monster.
I think we jumped into marriage before either of us was ready. I wasn't involved in any of the planning for the big day (other than my dress). I wasn't even aware of which songs were being sung. Looking back, it's hard to fathom, but it's true.

It wasn't until the night of the rehearsal that I recognized a song from Fiddler on the Roof. Eeek! I hated that movie, but the lyrics were oh-so appropriate. 

                                        Is this the little girl I carried?
                                        Is this the little boy at play?

                                       When did she get to be a beauty?
                                       When did he grow to be so tall?

                                      Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?
                                      I don't remember getting older, when did they?

The fact is, if I would have gotten a peek into some of the extremely difficult days ahead of us, I probably would have bailed (and saved my parents a lot of shekels).

How fortunate God doesn't let us see into the future. Because if I had bailed I would have missed out on experiencing the miraculous ways God would heal our marriage, making us stronger and more dependent on Him than ever.

From the very beginning of my pregnancy, we knew Brett wasn’t “right.” Bob pleaded with me to follow the doctor's advice and terminate the pregnancy, but God intervened in a miraculous way and convinced Bob we were meant to have him. 

Now Bob views Brett as a gift from God, with a special purpose. He considers him the "glue" that bound us together. He has never complained or resented the fact we will be tending to Brett's every need for the rest of our lives.

Today, I marvel at the selfless, loving man I married. I don’t doubt his devotion to me. Though life isn’t always easy, he does everything he can to make my life as easy as possible

And, truth be told, since the day he told me he loved me, I’ve never been able to envision my life without him.

Monday, December 25, 2017

If only I’d been born just one decade later I could have experienced the incredible technology of having (at my finger tips!!) not only a camera but also a way to take a video of each and every entertaining moment in Caitlin and Dane’s lives. I’d give almost anything to be able to sit and watch those unscripted, random scenes of hilarity and sweetness.

When Caitlin and Dane were little, the only way we had of recording anything was with a contraption not much smaller than those that television news crews lug around today. There was a lot in involved in putting it together—certainly not conducive to catching any spontaneous fun times.

I was totally incompetent with the thing. I never held it steady enough and I constantly forgot to push the "stop recording" button and thus we have literally hours of film of the pavement at Disney World. 

But one particular Christmas I was thankful for my ineptness, for forgetting to push the "stop recording" button…because it’s given me a lifetime of laughter...

All the presents had been opened and the clean-up had begun. No one had any idea the camcorder (that I’d carelessly placed on a chair) was still recording.

Only seven year old Caitlin is in “the shoot.” She’s kicking through the carnage of wrapping paper, tissue and boxes. She finally stops her search and, with a big, dramatic sigh, announces (to no one in particular), “Nope. No 'Free Willy.'”

We howled with laughter when we watched the inadvertent recording of Caitlin kicking her way through dozens of presents in search for the one thing she’d asked for but didn’t get.

The phrase became a standard joke between me and my mom. Heaven forbid I replied, “Nope,” to any question, because neither of us could help but follow it up with, “No 'Free Willy.'” 

I can relate to my seven year old Caitlin this year. In the face of all God has given me and in the wake of one of the most exciting years of my life (my first grandchild is due to arrive any moment), I’ve been kicking through the gifts, only focusing on the one gift that’s missing…the wondrous gift of my mother’s constant love and laughter. 

I’ve been convicted of the need to sit and savor the greatest gift of all…Jesus. Prince of peace, Lord of Lords! Love has come, hope is born! What an indescribable gift it is to know that nothing in all creation can surpass the glorious gift of His Son.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!