The Value of a Smile

I really love retired life.  My days are full and I love the freedom it affords.  Even so, in a moment of  madness,  I accepted a short-term position which landed me back in the workforce for a period of six weeks. Three weeks into it,  I’m musing on the value of a smile.

IMG_1439

A happy face means a glad heart…  -Proverbs 15:13 The Living Bible

Each day of my assignment, I have been given the opportunity to interact with anywhere from  25 to 75 individuals for  a portion of my day and theirs.  What has repeatedly  pierced my heart in these interactions has been  the power of a smile and those who seem unable to give and receive them.

I have long been challenged by a desire to present a smile to all I come in contact with. The humble, quiet, smile can break down walls, lighten loads, ease anxiety, cheer the down hearted and comfort the hurting.  It can encourage the worried, create a safe space for the scared and elicit a mirrored response.  In that moment, all is good and right when someone smiles at you.

sP06jCg1QWmoeiDfiUihfw

A joyful heart is good medicine…  -Proverbs 17:22

I find it disturbing when humans, both young and old, walk around with blank, angry or hardened faces. These faces appear unwilling to make eye contact and unable to give or even respond to a smile.  They walk around with fences around their hearts that dare anyone to tear them down.  I weep, especially, for the young students I have seen these last few weeks, who enter a room face down, stone faced and unable to receive the warmth of a smile, let alone return it. A smile invites others into your life, if only for a moment.  It says, “you are welcome here in my world for this time we are together”.  It makes you accessible and allows someone to experience a moment of joy.

IMG_5629

If you’re happy, notify your face.  If you’re not, try to smile anyway.  It’s good for your soul.

If you refuse to receive and respond to a smile with one of your own, you are shutting those out who are purveyors of peace and joy. Perhaps fear, isolation or abandonment has caused you to shut others out for fear of being wounded by someone you once opened your heart to. Consider that a smile may well begin to heal what is broken and warm what has grown cold.

Let’s admit right now that it’s not always easy to smile.  Sometimes it is a sacrifice to set aside how we’re feeling inside and to go beyond those feelings to give someone else what they might need.  But let’s also be real.  It’s not that hard to turn up the corners of our mouths even when we may be hurting inside.  What does that old song say?

SMILE

This is some good advice friends. Take heed, because when we smile we not only brighten the person we’re giving it, too, but we are also notifying our own soul that there is still much to be joyful about and to be grateful for.  We cheer ourselves when we cheer others.

Take the smile challenge.  Make it your business to give  more smiles today.  Bless someone with a gift that costs you nothing but may be an encouragement to one desperately in need of it.

Just SMILE.

ūüėć

The Comforts of Community

Feeling more than a wee bit smug, I ¬†put the finishing touches on my presentation about persevering through the storms of life. (I should’ve seen those yellow warning lights flashing, right?) I was scheduled to speak ¬†to a gathering of women at my church ¬†in 7 days ¬†and was elated to have completed the preparation. (‘So unlike me to be ahead of the curve) ¬†Except for that ¬†nagging little voice in my head ¬†telling me ¬†there was still ¬†something I needed to add. Never the less, ¬†I ¬†had a week to polish and prune and a wide open schedule if adjustments were needed. ¬†No problem.

light road red yellow

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Right…

I arrived home that ¬†Thursday evening ¬†to find my husband in significant pain, but chalked it up to the fact that he had consumed an entire container of salsa with chips, so ¬†we went to ¬†bed praying he’d be better by morning. ¬†When the sun came up, it was clear that was not the case. ¬†His pain had intensified. ¬†I called his physician and although he was overbooked for the day, they fit us in. ¬† His pain was off the charts by the time we arrived at his office and his doc. urged us to go immediately to the ER for further evaluation.

We arrived to a bustling ER and were seen immediately, despite a lobby teeming ¬†with sick and injured patients. He was quickly evaluated and though there ¬†was “no room at the inn” he was moved into the patient area ¬†where he was put on a gurney, in a hallway just across from the desks where nurses and physicians took calls and input information onto their computers. Eventually he was whisked off for an ultrasound and later a CT scan. ¬†Blood was drawn and pain medication was administered. ¬†And we waited. ¬†For hours and hours.

The thing about an emergency room is that you are reminded that many others are far worse off than you are and that gives valuable perspective.  As results came in, it became clear that his gall bladder was the offending organ, an uncommon form of infection as most are caused by gall stones. He had none.  The CT scan showed a lot of inflammation around the gall bladder-  known as acalculous. Initially we expected surgery that night or early the next day.    It needed to come out immediately, but, because of a daily  medication he took, we would need to wait 5 days until that medication was out of his system in order to avoid excessive bleeding.   His white count was 29 which is 3 times the ideal,  indicating a serious infection was raging.  Although the surgery was impossible in that moment, the inflammation needed to be addressed.  As we approached midnight, he was moved to the med-surg  floor and prepared to be  taken into radiology, where a catheter was inserted to draw out infected fluid in order to bridge the situation until surgery was prudent.  The procedure had similar risks, but because it was less invasive there was less risk involved.  It was a short term fix.  In the days that followed, there were heavy doses of antibiotics, painkillers and  intravenous hydration.  Three days later, his  white count finally began to descend.

Over the next several days, I spent long days that morphed into nights at his bedside. ¬†In the midst of this I learned a little more about the meaning of persevering through storms. ¬†I learned that there are gifts to be found. ¬†I learned that the gifts of community are in full bloom when we are confronted by such storms. ¬†Via text messaging, I started three prayer/update chains, one for immediate family, one with Bible Study friends and one with some cousins. ¬†The responses and reassurances of prayers going up on Mike’s behalf were an enormous comfort for me in the long hours I waited alone. Although I wasn’t able to respond in detail, I was able to show my appreciation quickly in most cases.

IMG_3081

By Sunday, the word was out.  Our senior Pastor came and spent an hour with us, encouraging and praying for healing.  Over the next days multiple church staff members came to pray, deliver chocolate and bring encouragement. My girl brought hot tea.    My sister-in-law and niece came briefly, and later delivered a sumptuous meal for me to take home. And one  night when I left the hospital after nearly 12 hours, I asked a security guard to escort me to the 3rd floor of the parking structure. His name was Jesus.  The significance of that was not lost on me.

So. Much. Kindness.

So. Many. Blessings.

The hospital experience was spectacular. The nurses, the nursing assistants, the physicians, the respiratory therapists…without exception we were bathed in kindness and grace. Each new morning I was made ¬†aware of everyday heroes, quietly doing their jobs and blessing those ¬†in their path with ¬†their faithfulness to the tasks given them: worker bees, all – ¬†nursing staff, housekeepers, facility staff, volunteers, cafeteria workers, security guards, parking attendants, lab technicians and pharmacists- the list is long. ¬† Even as I rode the elevators up and down, every employee made eye contact and spoke intentionally. Every single one. ¬†It was like it was a job requirement. ¬†Volunteers played piano in the lobby as I entered each morning and one such morning I found myself singing along…

fullsizeoutput_9e87

God bless the volunteers…

“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, everything’s coming up roses, everything’s going my way.” ¬†Bringing joy and uplifting hearts, one song at a time.

Over the next week, my  days were spent spoon feeding my patient  bland, pureed food, assisting  with grooming , adding blankets and taking them away, adjusting heat and bed up and down,  calling for more medications or to stop beeping machinery,  meeting with physicians and sending out updates to our prayer partners.  Friends and family came bearing  chocolate, hot beverages, books, cards , plants, dinner and prayers. One such angel walked and fed our pooches twice a day as I manned my post at the hospital.   Encouraging texts flowed in throughout each day, surrounding us with friendship and love even though I was hard pressed to respond with specific updates.  Prayers from Montana, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California and more and phone calls from concerned friends and family.  We were so covered and felt so loved.

Although he was assigned a shared room, we were blessed with privacy for the first five days. ¬†It was a blessing to have time ¬†and space to spread out with my books and laptop and a chair to rest in. ¬†Then, by divine intervention, an 85 year old Syrian man came in to claim the other bed. ¬†His daughter visited her Father that night and overheard a conversation about my niece who had visited earlier. When the woman got up to leave later, she apologized for overhearing but she had heard the names I mentioned and wondered… long story short, we realized she had actually cared for my nieces two decades earlier when they were very young. ¬†Though she no longer ¬†lives ¬†in the area, ¬†she ¬†had come to see her Father in the hospital and our Heavenly Father ordained that he should be placed in the bed next to my husband. Another reminder that our ¬†God ¬†is in the details of our lives. ¬†She ¬†shared with me that my ¬†nieces had recently been on her mind and heart and after I updated her on their lives she vowed to keep them in her prayers, knowing the Lord is faithful to provide for all their needs. Isn’t our ¬†God so personal ¬†and so kind? I am astounded at His intervention in our lives.

Six days after we first arrived at the hospital, a successful surgery was performed and on day seven, the patient came home, very grateful to be sprung from the annoyances of hospital life while appreciating every individual there who made his return home possible.

fullsizeoutput_9cf6

Sometimes community springs up where we are, as it did in the hospital that week. But, deep community is built in the monotony of everyday life when things are going well. ¬†It happens in our neighborhoods, in our churches and in our interactions with others. ¬†But, it doesn’t happen without our making the effort . ¬†The time to build community is now, not when you’re en route to the hospital in an ambulance. ¬†Because when you’re sitting in a hospital and day becomes night and then day again, that’s when your community will prop you up. ¬†When you are fatigued beyond your breaking point, they will deliver a much needed cup of coffee when you don’t even realize your body is craving caffeine or, ¬†a meal when you didn’t realize how hungry you were. ¬†They will close the windows you left open in your mad dash to get help and they will walk your dogs when you can’t get home to do it yourself. ¬†More importantly, they will send up prayers on your behalf when you are at a loss for words to pray yourself. ¬†They will bring comfort by waiting with you in the surgery waiting room and be a balm to your weary soul. ¬† These are the priceless gifts of community.

Get one.

Build one.

 

Enter one.

Tomorrow you may well reap the benefits from the one you built today.

Ten Things I Love About Growing Older

_Y9A6377edited

The world around us celebrates all things young, shiny and new. ¬†I am blessed to comprehend ¬†that there are distinct benefits and blessings associated with growing older– ¬†a blessing many aren’t afforded. Some of us long for days gone by. ¬† I, ¬†for one, ¬†would not ¬†trade today for ¬†the sweetest yesterday. ¬†Each day that has passed has brought me to this day, and I am grateful to have travelled ¬†where the road of life has taken me. ¬† ¬†As I contemplate the day ahead, I am especially grateful for these gifts:

  1. I get to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.¬† My time is my own to use as I wish. ¬†What joy to sleep late or go to bed ¬†late–to spend hours working at something I love or spending time with ¬†someone I love without worrying about an ever present ticking clock. ¬†That said, don’t waste a moment!
  2. Grandchildren.I’m with ¬†the guy who remarked that, if he knew grands were ¬†this wonderful he’d have had them earlier! If you don’t have your own, borrow some. ¬†Little ones help us re-discover the joy of the new while allowing us to share with them perspective and wisdom that come with aging. ¬†The world needs more of this. ¬†_Y9A8246edited
  3. Senior discounts.Free coffee at McDonalds and so much more. There are loads of lists on-line that will point you to deals reserved for the more mature crowd.   I love a bargain and you should, too! Never pay top dollar if you can avoid it. Using our resources wisely is  still smart.  
  4. Retirement. Don’t even get me started.¬†THE BEST. If you¬†aren’t¬†there yet, prepare well. ¬†Relationships are deeper, marriage is better and faith is stronger. ¬†Years of commitment and ¬†sacrifice will pay off. ¬†Trust me on ¬†this. Press on! ¬†
  5. Hours in my garden. My little section of this rainbow has never been prettier. ¬†Time stops there, whether I’m pulling weeds, watering or planting. ¬†I put on my headset, listen to an audio book or just enjoy the sounds of bees buzzing and birds chirping. ¬†So many hidden treasures.
  6. GBD4hYdfSNqjY0wn2ZSAHQ
  7. Knowing enough is enough. Not needing more, but realizing you have more than you need. Looking forward to weeding out what is unnecessary and being content with what’s left. Abundance.
  8. No hurry, no worry. ¬†Whether on the road, waiting in line or completing a task, I am now willing and ¬†able to say, “you go ahead, I’m in no hurry.” ¬†To fall back in traffic and let others zoom past me in their quest to get somewhere quickly is a gift I gladly embrace. The rat race may go on, but, ¬†I’m no longer in the running.
  9. Meals that take more than 20 minutes to prepare.  This is a sweet luxury to one who worked very long days for many years.  To be able to find a new recipe, leisurely prepare it and present it as a gift to my family is pure joy.
  10. The company of good women. ¬†I’ve always had more friends than I deserve, but to be able to actually spend significant chunks of time in their presence is like a tall glass of cold lemonade in the desert.
  11. The end of coloring my hair. Before I turned 60 and at the urging of my husband, I cut my hair within an inch of my scalp and went completely gray. ¬†I’ve never looked back. ¬†With the help of a gifted beautician and a great cut, I’ve never been happier with my hair. (Thank you Julie@TanglesManhattanBeach!)

    IMG_3003

    The shoe just didn’t fit! Yay for Grey!

So, that’s what’s on my mind this morning.

No doubt, this list will expand in the days to come, but, for today, allow me to encourage you to resist reminiscing too much about “the good old days.” ¬†Instead, fully ¬†enjoy this moment in time. ¬†It’s a gift. ¬†¬† Don’t miss this beautiful day because you’re straining ¬†to look back. ¬† ¬†Instead, open your eyes wide to the present. ¬†It will be past, tomorrow.

Look up and BLOOM.

fullsizeoutput_7954

Look up and BLOOM!

Blessings of Friendship Through the Seasons of Life

IMG_8824.JPG

My earliest friends, aside from my maternal cousins,  were Pam Peluski and Donna Todd in Three Forks, Montana,  followed by Susie Haggerty and Johnny Mike Wilcox when we moved to Butte.  They were the first  friends who have marked my life of  64 years.  I am no longer in touch with those early friends,  but they comprise my earliest memories of friendships  and are forever engraved in my heart.

IMG_9290.JPG

I have been blessed with a long line of friends-most certainly more than I deserve.  Some have come for a season and others for a lifetime.   Some have moved far away geographically and others, emotionally, but all of them are together  in my collection of treasured memories.  Each have blessed me in their own unique way.  A few have ended badly- not many, but there is still some regret for less than happy endings along with gratitude for the gifts they brought.

There were many friends in my elementary school years, mostly from our So Cal neighborhood. We spent hours playing Barbies, tether ball on the playground,  roller skating, bike riding and going to the beach when our parents gave in to our craving for the sand and surf.  Through the blessing of Facebook, many of us have been able to re-connect despite most having left the neighborhood we grew up in.  Our childhood was sweet for the most part and we share many  fond memories of growing up in a simpler, more carefree time.

In my  high school years, I made  new friends, some  from far away places-Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee.  Billy, Deb, Stephen and Evie all opened up new worlds to me.  With Evie I visited New York City for the first time, went to Carnegie Hall and fell in love with the Big Apple.  While Billy and Stephen travelled throughout the country, I travelled vicariously with them and engaged in copious letter writing through the years.  Because of them, I visited Nashville for the first time and also fell in love with Music City.  Although I see them rarely, I still consider both to be dear friends.  Stephen and his wife Prilla will visit us next month, some  26 years since  I last saw them in Nashville and I am beyond excited to see them.   Deb and I have never lived in the same state, but through the years we have managed to meet once or twice a year in places wherever we found a good airfare.   We have shared the joys and sorrows of life together for nearly half a century.  (We are OLD!) She has been a shelter to me through many storms.

At home, my local ¬†bestie was Cindy. ¬†Her family lived in another town, ¬†a few miles from my home. We were the closest ¬†of friends through high school. ¬†I spent many a weekend in her home, with ¬†the two of us sleeping in her small bedroom at the top of the stairs in a single bed. ¬†I travelled with she and her sisters in their own bus, as they travelled from church to church singing their sweet harmonies as The Hammond Sisters. ¬† ¬†We had the best of times. ¬†I remember gathering around their kitchen counter for breakfast and her Dad reading from ‚ÄúOur Daily Bread‚ÄĚ. ¬†Her mom was an anchor and always welcomed me with open arms. ¬†She was strong and unyielding in her faith, but warm and loving at the same time. ¬†I felt at home in theirs. ¬† Through a long series of life‚Äôs challenges, Cindy and I ¬†lost touch. ¬†She went through some very hard times and ultimately moved away and settled far North of us. ¬†Though there were occasional letters and brief visits through the years we have not been in touch in over three decades. ¬†Though time and geography have come between us, my affection for ¬†her remains strong and I know one day we‚Äôll be reunited, if not on earth, in Heaven. ¬†That will be a day ¬†of ¬†great joy for me.

As an adult, my closest friends have blossomed under the umbrella of my faith. ¬†So many women have grown to be so dear to me. ¬†Karen and Patricia, my Maryland besties who blessed me extravagantly with their hospitality, like mindedness, listening ears, prayers and humor. ¬† Jules, who is a bestie to everyone who knows her and who taught me how to set a beautiful table among other things. ¬† Tracey, who has modeled a life of prayer and who makes me laugh hilariously in the dark hours of the night with ¬†her texts as we both battle insomnia. ¬† Nancy, who ¬†has rescued me from my impulsive actions more than once and whose wry humor makes me laugh out loud. ¬† Paula, who is an example of self-less service, devotion to knowing the Word of God and a sense of ¬†humor that I adore. ¬†Cindy, who believes me to be far better than I really am and encourages me to walk in faith believing God CAN. ¬†Jean, who has taken on the mantle of great-grandma to my littles in the absence of my own mother, and who has been a constant source of encouragement from the day I met her. ¬†My walking group and my Bible study partners who urge me to press on to the good…the list goes on…

They say you can’t choose your family, but you can, your friends. ¬†Some of us are blessed with family we also call friends. ¬† My husband, who has grown to be the dearest of the dear through many trials and heartaches and who is now my ¬†exemplary husband and friend. ¬†My closest cousins, ¬†Shelly, Linda and Dona, ¬†are literally lifelong friends, woven into the fabric of my heart. ¬†Not a week goes by that I‚Äôm ¬†not in contact with one and sometimes all of them. My sisters and sisters-in-love, Debi, Dona, Christine, Nancy and Stacie are not “just” my family, but friends in whose presence I am always at home because of the history we share.

Each friendship is unique. ¬†Some are full of laughter and others are full of heartfelt conversation, exhortation and encouragement as we share our lives. ¬† I have always struggled with the question, ‚Äúwho is your best friend?‚ÄĚ My friend Betsy once asked me that question and I responded, ” I cannot narrow it down.” ¬†The truth is, I have been blessed with an abundance of good, good friends. ¬†At any given time, they have each been my ‚Äúbest‚ÄĚ friend. ¬†When I am in their presence, the ¬†designation of “best” belongs to them. ¬† Each, ‚Äúfor such a time as this.‚ÄĚ ¬†I marvel at the goodness of our loving God, to gift my life with the right one at the right time. ¬†Through joy and suffering, through laughter and tears, through successes and failures, this cadre of friends have walked with me through the sunshine and storms of life. ¬†They have inspired me to press on through the heartaches and trials and have rejoiced in the delights of this life.

I cannot choose one.

I choose them all.

If you have one true friend, you are fortunate.  If you have a handful, you are blessed.  If you have more than a handful, you are rich indeed.

Rich, indeed.

#agr8fulheart

 

 

To All the Mamas

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mamas….

IMG_0751

Marjorie Ann.

To my own Mom, now in Heaven, who gave me life and the opportunity to treasure the blessing. For all ¬†she did and for all she was and for all she taught me. ¬†She loved me and for that and I am grateful. ¬† ¬†To all those who shared their mothering chops with me, teaching ¬†me to to mother my own child well– I am ever grateful for your loving instruction and wisdom. ¬†To the ones ¬†who sacrificially relinquished infants they were unable to provide for, allowing others to become moms. ¬†To the moms who fell short and to the moms who picked up the slack. ¬†To those ¬†who became moms the minute they held ¬†a child from another’s body. ¬†To those who welcomed daughters by marriage and made them ¬†their own. ¬†To those who, while they have not birthed children themselves, mothered those placed in their care with wisdom, guidance and ¬†immeasurable love.

198

My sweet Mom and her first great- grand

October 08 045

My beloved Mother-In-Law and her great grand

To my own daughter who continually blows me away with her own mothering and who made me an Ommie to two precious grands. ¬†To my two “bonus” daughters who have brought added joy to my life and to their own mother who has generously shared them with me. ¬†To the eldest of the two who has become a second mother to two young boys we have claimed as the grandsons we prayed for. ¬†To all who have willingly ¬†taken on the mantle of motherhood with such grace and dignity. ¬†To the mothers with empty arms and broken hearts. To the mothers of prodigals who dare to keep praying. Finally, ¬†to all the spiritual mothers who have loved and guided daughters not their own to the foot of the cross. ¬†There are many opportunities to mother well. ¬†I am grateful for them all and for the women who have mothered me and mine. ¬†Let us all pause today and drink in the gift of motherhood. May all our children rise up and call us blessed.