Monday, November 28, 2016

While You're Out There

Oh, boy, here it comes. Shopping season. That time of year when businesses hope to boom, thereby carrying them through the winter. And the time for each of us to wonder what gift or gesture will delight a loved one as a token of joy reflecting His gift to us. I’ll be in the fray soon.

In the meantime, might I suggest a way to see this happy season and other people in a different way? Here’s what I mean.

I was hopping back into my car after loading the trunk, when I saw a familiar face. Young, know her mom and dad, and if she’d turned my way I would have called hello. As she headed for the big glass doors at the grocery I noted her clothing. Saturday attire, like mine, knit pants, a light jacket, sneakers. Hair pulled back and no makeup.  Then I wondered if anyone she would encounter, maybe in hot dogs, would know about her gift. Her voice. That when she opened her mouth to sing on Christmas Eve out of it would come a most beautiful rendition of “Pia Jesu” or maybe “Oh, Holy Night”. Would anyone know that as they indulged in light banter with her over chicken or all beef? Probably not. But the person next to you in line could have just such a gift. So cool. 

Or how about the little girl and her mother I saw at the craft fair the weekend before? Karen and I were strolling down an aisle full of handmade earrings, embroidered sweatshirts, and doll clothes when we heard the screaming. Every mother’s been there. The girl was on the floor. Mom had attempted to pull her up and that kid had withdrawn her arm into her coat leaving Mom with an empty sleeve and a growing wrath. “Oh, I am so glad those days are over,” I said averting my eyes so that poor mother wouldn’t be too embarrassed. She had my heart. 

And then there was the humorless Kohl’s cashier. Whew, Frosty the Snowman must have been her dad. You know, before he got the magic hat that made him all jolly with Jimmy Durante singing about it in the background? Here, let me say that I pride myself on being an out-of-the-ordinary customer to every employee in any store I visit. Remembering the good, the bad and the ugly customers from when we had a retail establishment, I go out of my way to be hearty and – dare I say it – charming. But not with this chick. Despite my best quips and witty comments, I did not win her over. Huh.

These three examples are all of women. They bear the brunt (with a few men) of whatever needs to be done to ensure a good time is had by all during any given holiday. Christmas is the big one. You will encounter them this year as you’re out there being a friend of many merchants. Any one of them could have a beautiful gift, the patience of a saint, or a really, really cold upbringing. So here’s your mission. Be on the lookout. You can be a bit of light for at least a few of them. Offer your smile, your good cheer or a silent prayer, and may the spirit of the season be upon you.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 21, 2016

We Need Pollyanna Right Now

Busy week ahead - we're hosting Thanksgiving. But, like many of you, I've watched and listened to the  post-election hubbub among the citizenry. My stars. In light of that I'm re-posting this short missive. I hope you will find it of some worth as you ponder all the blessings of  your life - the ones you give and the ones you get. Maybe even be a Pollyanna for someone yourself. 

I remember the day exactly. Four years ago on December 26th all I could do was sit in my recliner, exhausted. It had been our turn to do Christmas dinner (for 19) and I’d gone the extra two miles to make it perfect, but it took a toll. The next day was the most tired I can ever remember being. And that’s why we watched the movie – Pollyanna – starring a very young Haley Mills.

I didn’t really want to watch it, but nothing else seemed any better so there I sat. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a little orphaned girl who goes to live with her rich, tyrannical Aunt Polly in the small town of Harrington in the days of long dresses, horse drawn carriages, and idyllic small American towns.  

Pollyanna is full of good cheer, sass, and a very clear sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. She also plays the Glad Game that she learned from her missionary father explained in the following quote.

 “Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about--no matter what 'twas," rejoined Pollyanna, earnestly. "And we began right then--on the crutches."

"Well, goodness me! I can't see anythin' ter be glad about--gettin' a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!"

Pollyanna clapped her hands.

"There is--there is," she crowed. "But I couldn't see it, either, Nancy, at first," she added, with quick honesty. "Father had to tell it to me."

"Well, then, suppose YOU tell ME," almost snapped Nancy.

"Goosey! Why, just be glad because you don't--NEED--'EM!" exulted Pollyanna, triumphantly. "You see it's just as easy--when you know how!"

 Pollyanna alternately charms and shocks the townspeople and even makes inroads with the sourpuss, Mrs. Snow (played so well by Agnes Morehead), who is bedridden.

About halfway through the movie I was a little sick of Pollyanna’s solution to everything. Sort of like listening to yet another little girl screeching out, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom . . .”  Sorry, but that song brings on the gag reflex in me. Because, you know, sometimes the sun Doesn’t come out tomorrow or for days even.

But my state of tiredness kept me in the chair weakly sipping coffee and watching. I was being pulled in. Finally the whole crux of the matter was presented in the form of a fund raising bazaar that Aunt Polly was against. Pollyanna in her eternal optimism sides against her aunt. When things are finally at their worst, we find Pollyanna sneaking back into her attic bedroom via an old tree on that side of the house. Just as she’s reaching for the window sill, she loses her balance and plunges to the ground. And lays still.

My heart almost stopped. I began to tear up. Because it could have been one of my granddaughters laying there. A little girl who’s buoyant innocence only wanted to see the glad in things. Someone who could look at you and see through whatever mask you’re wearing and get to the heart of the matter. The wide open soul who listens to your story of woe and hugs your arm saying, “Don’t be afraid, Grandma. I will be with you.” So said our little Melodi after I told her how frightened I was one day as a child when I got lost coming home from school.

I also realized that the world would be that much more miserable if we let Pollyanna die. We can’t leave her there on the ground to perish. We can’t let the crushing forces that so often intrude keep her down. For if Pollyanna dies, Despair wins, corruption triumphs and evil will slowly become the norm. We can’t have that, can we?

Those few tears I shed in my exhaustion were cleansing. And Pollyanna did get up and was healed along with her Aunt Polly and the little town of Harrington. A little town that just might be like our whole nation is right now.

Look for the Pollyanna in your life. She is a gift from God and you need her. So do I.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 14, 2016

An Awesome Woman

I’ve always been fascinated by stories about people who seem to have been dealt a nasty blow in life, but rather than shake their fist at God, somehow they find in Him nothing but love, solace and purpose.

One such person was a woman named Fanny Crosby. Ever heard of her? Me neither. I first read about her in a book my friend, Marie, gave me a few years ago at Christmas. Let me tell you about her.  

Fanny was born in Putnam County, NY in 1820. When she was 6 weeks old she developed a bad cold causing inflammation in her eyes to which a doctor applied mustard plasters. Fanny believed this was what damaged them but It may also have been congenital. However it happened, Fanny lost her sight.

At 15 she was sent to The NY Institution for the Blind where she eventually became a teacher. That's where she began to write song lyrics for Dr. Geo. F. Root and also some cantatas for which she received not even a nod of recognition.

While there she also met many famous people including President Martin Van Buren. Sound familiar? I wonder what she thought of the Red Fox of Kinderhook. She also had the honor of becoming the first female voice heard publicly in the US Senate Chamber in Washington. She even read one of her poems there. Pretty cool, huh? 

She became a prolific hymn writer racking up an astounding eight thousand of them in her lifetime. She was most famous for her Sunday School songs and gospel hymns. In 1858 she married a fellow scholar, Alex Van Alstyne, and they had one child. But when her child died in infancy Fanny grieved so badly she only rarely spoke of her little one. Her hymn, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” is believed to be the result of that grief. How many other grieving mothers were comforted by that hymn? I'm sure there were tears all over the paper as she wrote. 

She was an astounding woman for whom things could have turned out so differently. Instead of choosing the path of self pity or despair, she chose God. The next time you hear “Blessed Assurance” or “Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior” remember the woman who wrote them, Fanny Crosby, and whisper a prayer of thanks.   

Image: Public Domain,

Monday, November 7, 2016

Background Noises

It’s that time of year. Grand schemes are being drawn up. I’m not talking politics here. I’m talking holidays. In a few weeks hubby and I will be hosting Thanksgiving in our home. The invites have gone out and I’ll put pen to paper soon to make my food list while pondering all I have to be thankful for. My preparations will have in the background beloved noises like . . .

Clanking dishes – The built in corner cupboards in our dining room are chock full of all the good dishes. The big platters, ceramic Easter bunnies, Christmas mugs, and Noritake China my sailor bought for me in Vietnam. I pull open the doors, stand back and decide which pieces will best serve for this particular holiday. As I remove my choices the bowls and plates clink clank against each other in the familiar tune that accompanies my thoughts of our grateful joy in God’s bounty.

Grocery bag tango – This is a whole other kind of music. When I haul in the grocery bags loaded with stuffing mix, apples, heavy cream, brown sugar, fresh parsley and a big honking turkey those bags make a distinctive “thunk” as I set them down. I buy so much special food I sometimes forget I needed hamburger for that night’s dinner (head smack). But the rustle of filmy produce plastic, the crinkle of the chocolate chip bags as I pull them from the tote, and that “finally done unpacking” sound as I fold up my shopping bags, is a happy tune to hear.

Sizzle and Pop – The morning of, the first thing I  make is stuffing. Into my big frying pan goes a lump of butter, a splash of olive oil, diced onions and chopped celery. What a nice sound and aroma comes from that combo. When these are all translucent I throw in the sausage – always use Jimmy Dean – and then doesn’t that pan sizzle and pop. If the man comes in from the barn those bits of sausage, well browned and fragrant, are in great danger of being fingered out of the pan. And I’m such a good wife I let it happen – maybe twice. The “Mmmm” I hear is worth it. Finally I add spices and breadcrumbs and the deed is done.

Parades and Football – Gotta have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on while that sausage is ‘a sizzlin’. Gotta hear the refs whistle, the buzz of the crowd, halftime band, and a silken voiced commentator making sure we know that this fullback’s wife is due to give birth any minute. These sounds all add a big human roar to the day. I have one or the other on in the living room, turned up a little, as I bustle about in the kitchen.

Movie – Oh, how I love Miracle on 34th Street. The one from 1947 featuring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, with Edwin Gwenn as Santa. The best version in my view. The opening scene is at the Macy’s parade and fits right in with turkey and stuffing. It also sets the tone for the upcoming wonderful season. I could cook all day with this in the background.

Clanking dishes – And we come full circle. But now the dishes are loaded with good food, forks are scraping the plates, and big spoons are dipping into bowls of mashed potatoes, cranberries, and stuffing. The kids want Grandma’s homemade applesauce and their moms tap, tap a bit onto their plates. Someone always says, "Save room for dessert!" A part of me pulls away to simply watch and listen and my heart nearly bursts.

So here I sit, weeks away from all of this, but glad for the days moving toward it. What happy background noises lend richness to your thankful hearts and busy days?

Image: My “dish closet” as some would call it.