I used to hear this often. It was a way of acknowledging that another’s misfortune could be mine. It was admitting that it could be my young teen daughter that is pregnant. It was accepting that I hadn’t been caught in a legal web for my offenses. The phrase was uttered not in condemnation but in humility.
Today, it’s more often “Look! How terrible he/she is!” “How could that have been allowed that to happen?” “I would NEVER. . .” We are quick to point fingers, condemn others by what we’ve heard, and deny understanding or grace of any kind.
If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that truly good and kind people get caught up in addictions and sins. It’s not their intent to be swallowed up, but it happens. They lose their family, their home, their way of life. In short, everything is lost because of that first step on a slippery slope.
It’s not my job, my responsibility or my right to condemn others. (And I’m really good at it!) How many times have I broken the law by speeding and not paid the penalty? How many times have I slaughtered someone’s reputation with no consequences? How many times have I watched a lascivious scene on TV and not even blinked? How many times have I been “too good” to associate with one of those people?
My choices do have consequences. I don’t always “get caught”, but there’s always the next opportunity. So, maybe the next time you see that person fighting for sobriety or in recovery, don’t be so quick to turn away.
We are in the midst of planning my daughter’s wedding. She’s picked her dress and the colors. The bridesmaids and groomsmen have been asked. The venue and date have been booked. We are working on the decorations, guest lists, menus and other details for her dream day. But there is one element that will be missing and there’s nothing that can be done. Her daddy will not be there to walk her down the aisle.
The apple of her daddy’s eye, my Gracie had Terry wrapped around her little finger. He doted on her. My son loves to tell the story of his “favorite day”. Normally, if there was a difference in what Zac or Gracie wanted, Gracie was known to come out ahead. And, she had this little refrain that she would sing quietly to her brother “I always get my way. I always get my way.” On this day, she must have been a little louder and her dad heard the sing-song tune. That was the day that Zac got to pick everything they did. He got a pick of any treats. That was the day Terry realized how easily Gracie could manipulate him. She was daddy’s little girl.
Gracie was fourteen when her dad died. She’s lived longer without him than he was on this earth. Both Zac and Gracie have tattoos to honor their dad. Zac’s is a cross with Terry’s name and dates under it. Gracie’s is a brightly colored sugar skull owl. Terry embraced a phrase from the Radio Music Theatre in Houston: “Cute as a little baby owl!” A stuffed toy owl sat on the dash of his truck. This toy was known to find its way onto the stage when Terry was involved in a skit at church. You never knew where you might see it. He would howl with laughter when it was discovered. The owl has become our symbol for Terry.
So, as we plan this wedding, I keep thinking about all the things Terry would be doing. I try to find subtle ways to include his memory in the event. And, I have a charm for her bridal bouquet with a picture of Terry and Gracie sitting on my mom’s sofa. Gracie was in elementary school at the time. Terry may not physically walk her down the aisle, but he will be there as I walk her to the altar. On each table during the reception, there will be a small owl charm. Most won’t know why, but those of us that loved Terry will. Gracie loves brunch (just like her dad) and her wedding cake will not be as much cake as it will be waffles. This day will be filled with laughter and love and a few quirky moments. The daughter of Terry Benson would have to have those. And, there will be a few tears as we remember and celebrate.
This November, when my beautiful red head walks down the aisle to her new husband, I suspect I will hear Terry’s voice say “She’s just as cute as a little baby owl” and maybe a little sing-song child’s voice chanting “I always get my way. I always get my way.”
Death. We run from it. We don’t discuss it. We do everything to delay it. We hate it. But, death still comes. Sometimes quickly but always too soon.
I remember the mind numbing all encompassing hold of grief. Some describe it as swimming in mud. I felt crushed! I found it hard to breath. Any activity exhausted me. But, sleep was elusive. At first, food was tasteless, but later it became a refuge. At least I could enjoy SOMETHING! I felt broken and useless. Too many treated me as fragile and avoided any contact that might upset me. Even in a group of people, I was isolated. The friends I thought I could lean on seemed to avoid me. I was as alone as I had ever been in my life
As I’ve talked with others who grieve I began to learn that I was not alone in my feelings.
If you have a grieving friend, don’t avoid “tender” subjects. Here’s what we advise:
You are NOT going to hurt me. My pain is already deep. So please don’t put off the phone call or the visit.
Don’t be afraid of my tears. They fall often, whether you are there or not. You don’t make me cry, but you can allow me to cry.
You really don’t need to “comfort” me with standard sayings. I’ve heard them. Many times. Just being willing to be with me is comfort.
A hug means more than any words.
Please talk about my loved one. I yearn to know he/she is not forgotten.
Most of all, don’t avoid me because you are uncomfortable. I’m not comfortable either, but I don’t have a choice. Just walk with me.
It’s been 15 years since grief began to suffocate me. I’ve walked through it and survived. There are still regrets. There are precious memories both before and after Terry’s death. I learned to live in my new normal; a normal I could never imagine during those dark days. I healed from the wounds of grief, but I carry the scars. Much like weather causes rheumatism to flair up, there are days when the ache returns.
For I will always be a member of that most hated club: widowhood.
This has been a hard week in the Lone Star State. The entire state has been affected by the freezing weather. In our on home, just west of Houston, we were prepared. Or so we thought. We had no idea we would be without power for 50+ hours in freezing temps. It was definitely a new experience.
Its not the first time I’ve been without power. Having been through several hurricanes and tropical storms, we are fairly accustomed to power/water outages. After my first hurricane experience (Hurricane Alicia), I lost power for a full week. The difference is the temperature: during hurricane outages you open the windows and try to stay cool. You can fan, use cold compresses, or Strip down to the bare minimum. It’s a whole different ballgame when it’s 11 degrees outside.
We were blessed to be able to use our fireplace to keep at least one room about 50 degrees. My dogs were more than happy to share their body heat with me and my blankets. The goats were safe and warm in their newly insulated area. we could cook on the gas stovetop so we had hot meals. If only I had thought to get ground coffee. Our fancy pod machine is no good without power. The fear of losing food was lessened since we could move items to the patio to keep them cold/frozen. The neighbors were checking in on each other. We knew we were not alone.
I’ve watched on social media as people offered to help others. Offers of heat, warm food and showers were always put there. All you had to do was mention a need and it was usually met. I know men that are working to repair pipes (at least temporarily) for others when they could easily have focused on their own homes. Scarce plumbing supplies are being shared as frozen pipes begin to warm up and the breaks become apparent.
Once again, the people of Texas are stepping up to take care of each other. Some outside of the state are quick to ridicule our circumstances. Some saying we deserve this calamity and pointing out differences they don’t/won’t accept. But, Texas will come out of this freeze stronger and better than ever. We will be refocused on those things that need to be improved and repaired.
Let the “entertainment” industry cackle and point. The east coast liberals can mouth off all they want. The biggest and the best are from Texas. Never fear Texas will thaw out and continue to stand strong together: Democrats, GOP, liberals and conservatives all love our State.
As the ice is melting, I am grateful to be a Texan by birth. I am also grateful for hot showers, good company and fresh coffee. Stay tuned you naysayers: Texas is coming back on line with a vengeance.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
The excitement is over. The packages are unwrapped. The food is now put away and the last of the eggnog is served. There’s a rousing game of horseshoes in the backyard along with the dogs and the goats. And now, I’m taking a moment to sit and quietly reminisce.
Memories flow through my mind like a gentle stream. Christmas through the years: my first bicycle, the Mary Poppins doll, doll clothes and doll houses. Unable to sleep, while thinking of the stocking treasures awaiting me.
I think of the years of watching my children and their excitement. It was my turn to be the over indulging parent: Roller skates, scooters, dolls and cars. Finding the green Power Ranger and searching for the perfect Cabbage Patch doll. Late nights at Walgreens on Christmas Eve.
There were the dark years, when I never thought I would enjoy Christmas again. There were as many years as laughter during that time.
The kids are grown and the excitement has changed. Christmas is celebrated on different days. It’s still about food and fun. And, family is still the center of it all.
I still get excited about Christmas. But, it’s not the stockings or the gifts that fill my dreams. These days it about having all of my family together.
Merry Christmas and Happy Néw Year from the Benson-Douglas crew!
While scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I see that many people have already put up their Christmas trees and holiday decorations. Many have stated that since Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year due to Covid, they want to move on to celebrate the Christmas holidays. I can honestly understand the sentiment. There was a time that I wanted to skip over the holiday season completely because it was just too painful. However, are we missing the real meaning of both Thanksgiving and Christmas?
When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of turkey, cornbread dressing, pumpkin & pecan pies and family. The holiday is about being together as a family. We trace our tradition of Thanksgiving back to the Plymouth colonists. Their first year in the new world was awful. They were hungry & miserable. The native Americans taught them how to survive. The first “thanksgiving” was a festival to celebrate their first harvest. Things were still hard, but they could see a reason to celebrate.
It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln. He requested that Americans ask God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civila strife” and to “heal the wounds of our nation.” FDR signed the bill in 1941 to make Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.
The Christian Church celebrates the birth of Christ during the Christmas holidays. Originally called Feast of the Nativity, it grew to become a a carnival-like celebration much like Mardi Gras. The Puritans did away with the celebrations and it wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holidy in the USA. Americans began to embrace Christmas as the perfect family holiday. Christmas traditions were reinvented to fill cultural needs and pieced together from many other customs. St. Nicholas became Santa Claus. Rudolph became a symbol of courage and overcoming adversity. Charles Dickens, Washington Irving & Clement Clarke Moore have had more influence on the traditions that we celebrate at Christmas than Matthew, Mark , Luke or John.
I find it a bit troubling that so many are willing to skip right past the season of “giving of thanks” and jump to the season of “give me everything.” I know that in the frenzy to get everything “done” for Thanksgiving guests, I often forget to be thankful. We are already planning for Christmas. The only positive thing about Thanksgiving is time off and the Christmas sales that will commence. There are lists of what we want to receive, budgets for what we can spend. The stores have been shouting about the excesses of the Christmas holidays since October. The celebration of Christ’ birth is too often lost in the political correctness to which we now subscribe. I am SO guilty of this!
If the origins of this United States holiday is actually hardship, then wouldn’t it make sense that 2020 would be a super Thanksgiving year?
It’s been a rough year. Lives have been changed in ways we are still attempting to comprehend. The Covid virus has brought with the illness a true sense of panic and helplessness. Death hovers around every thought, every outing.
Isn’t it time to be thankful for what we do have?
Thanksgiving was meant to be a celebration of survival, to offer hope for a better future. Maybe we should be more aware of giving thanks and looking for our direction from God. Let’s take time to truly be thankful for any blessings we have. I for one will be grateful for my husband, my family, my home, my friends and my job. I will try to remember that every breathe is a gift from Him. In my moments of panic and worry, I will turn to God and remember His promises to me. While I am not guaranteed anything but suffering in this life, I will be grateful for the moments and look forward to my future.
When you pass throught the waters , I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over your. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Chirst Jesus.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13 KJV
I didn’t truly learn the essence prayer until August, 1978. I had been a praying person for much of my life. I prayed often: at church, before a big test, when I really wanted something, at night, before “some” meals. I thought I had a handle on it. You bowed your head, used the “church” words and bargained with God. My first week on the SFA campus, I was all alone. For the first time, I experienced truly talking (and listening) to God.
Later, I would learn even more about prayer. During a BSU retreat, Len Sehested spoke and challenged me about my prayer life. Using The Lord’s Prayer, she guided us through the ways of praying. I discovered that I was more interested in “asking” than “praising”. It changed my prayer life.
During my darkest times, I found that I didn’t really want to pray. I wanted to scream. And, I did! I ranted, cried, begged, accused and (if I’m honest) bargained. I discovered that my prayers, my conversations with God, can be honest and raw. I’ve yet to be struck down for expressing my true feelings and thoughts. My prayer life grew.
Today, when I cannot sleep, I pray for my kids and their families, for requests from friends and church family. God will often bring to mind a specific need. I have the privilege of leading a zoom prayer time each week as well as praying for requests from our church each Sunday. My involvement in ministry has changed. I no longer stand in front of the congregation to lead worship; I now worship and intercede for my church family through prayer.
In case you’ve missed it, my faith is an important part of my life. And prayer is a huge part of it all. I don’t like to be called religious. Religion is to faith what ketchup is to French fries. Religion alone is not very satisfying. But, Faith stands on its own. And, prayer is the salt that we all want.
If prayer is not part of your life, I would encourage you to try it. There aren’t many rules. It’s just talking to God, honestly. After years of reading about prayer, I still find my self bargaining at times. There are still times that I wonder if my prayers matter. But time and time again, I return to the scriptures and my talks with God.
Today, I am 61. I am 31 years past the dreaded 30th birthday. Hard to believe, but I’m still a living, functioning member of society. Life does exist beyond the 30’s. In this time, I have been a daughter, a student, an employee, a wife, a mother, a widow, a Mumzy, a 2nd wife and a stepmom. I’ve experienced many things, both good and bad. In my 3 score and 1 year, a lot has happened.
Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
I was born during the Eisenhower administration. In my lifetime, there have been twelve US Presidents: one was assasinated, one resigned, one survived being shot, two were been impeached. The Supreme Court has seen 26 justices. Politics are never more evident than in today’s social media world. As I type this, one more justice is awaiting confirmation and the possibility of a 13th president hangs on the November election.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:3. NIV
I followed the NASA missions and celebrated the triumphs and mourned the disasters. I remember the Apollo 1 fire as well as the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Before Tom Hanks brought it to life on the screen, I sat in my 4th grade classroom and listened as Apollo 13 made it safely back to earth. Skylab was launched and crashed to earth and the International Space Station was built.
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
Psalm 30:2 NIV
Todays young adults have never experienced measles, chicken pox or the mumps. I’ve had all three. I also have a small pox scar on my left arm. (I tried to explain the process to my kids and they just don’t get it.) I remember the sugar cube with the polio vaccine. AIDS, Ebola, Zika, Bird & Swine flu and now the coronavirus have all become part of our normal vocabulary.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3 NIV
In these 60+ years, the nuclear family has moved from the normal to the exception. In my teen years, if you were having sex it was a secret. Today, if you are NOT having sex it’s an embarassment. Marriage is a convenience that is shunned by some and fought for by others. In the process of raising strong women, we have taught them that it’s “your body and your choice” even if that means murdering a part of yourself. I believe in choice. I just differ on the point at which that choice should be made. I have to join those that opine what would happen if our government supported adoption as strongly as it supports abortion rights.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
I’ve watched (and participated) in the social media growth. I love being able to stay in contact with friends and family on a daily basis. I despise the vitriol that is evident across the pages, however. I’ve watched as a good friend attacked another dear friend over a perceived political slight. I’ve been unfriended for being too “religious”. I’ve had to hide or unfriend some newer acquaintances that are just too militant and/or negative. I miss the days when you could have an opinion without being afraid of the attack.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
My college days were spent in east Texas at SFASU. In the early 80s, coming “out of the closet” seemed to be the thing to do. I did not always understand, but I have always believed that you have a right to love and be loved. So, while I may not have embraced the lifestyle, I still chose to embrace the friendships. I had an older friend and family member ask me how I reconciled my gay friends with my personal beliefs. She had been the recipient of an unexpected and unwanted sexual overture with a roommate during her college years. As a result, she was struggling the some of her favorite student’s lifestyle decisions. I explained that I loved these friends for who they were not their orientation. I have since realized that this is true of many things. I can love my friends even if we disagree about politics, religion, sex or any other difference. If I am invested in the person, the rest is just “window dressing”. I would hope that is reciprocated.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
EECCLESIASTES 4:12 NIV
I’ve lived in the country and the city and learned that there are good and bad aspects to both. Community is where you decide it is. No matter how large or small the city, you live in your own small world. You make your home where you choose to find your contentment.
A person’s days are determine; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
Job 14:5 NIV
I have no idea how much life is left in the 61 year old body. I do plan to continue to expand my horizions. I’ve taken up watercolor painting and quilting since my 60th birthday. In the past year, we’ve added two miniture goats to our family. They have been an education. I’m still active in my church and strive to be more than a “religious” person and I will conintue to share my beliefs. I love our blended family and look forward to our family continuing to grow. I continue to treasure the friendships I have from all of my years.
This is Sixty-one. This is me. I’m more comfortable in my skin that ever. I look forward to the journey around the sun. I hope and pray you make the trip with me.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.
The only way I get up every morning is because I have hope. There would be no reason to even try to function if I did not believe there was some kind of plan, some dream to fulfill. My hope is in my faith, my God.
Before you write me off as some eccentric religious nut, take a moment to understand why I have this hope. I have lived in the black hole of depression. I know what it is to be totally broken and directionless, helpless to pull myself together. I was a prisoner of my deepest hurt, my deepest fear, my deepest loss.
I went to sleep on November 1, 2005 as a happily married mother of two. But, at five minutes past midnight, November 2, all of that changed. I was thrust into the role of single-parent, widow, head-of-household. Not only did my husband die, but so did all of our dreams. I had always considered myself to be a strong and independent woman. I now knew that I was a weak, lonely and totally directionless person. How could I provide for my two teenage children when I could hardly dress myself? How would I comfort them when all I wanted to do was sit and cry and scream at God? Why did I have to live this way and could I escape from the agony that had become my life? I saw absolutely no hope. And then I began to search. . .
I found comfort from others who had walked a similar path. They understood and they shared their own sorrows with me. I learned what the writer of Galatians meant when he said to “carry each other’s burdens”. By sharing our fears and our grief, we helped each other. I started to see the darkness lighten.
I questioned every belief that I professed to believe. I researched. I examined them. And, I found hope in them. The familiar 23rd Psalm came to mean something completely new to me:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 NIV
As I struggled to get through the absolute worst time in my life, I found hope and even joy. I found joy in my children and hope for their future. I had friends who surrounded me and showed me that there is hope where there is love and caring. My faith brought me to a closer walk with the God I had for so long taken for granted. I may not understand all of the reasons, but I do understand that God has the best in mind for me.
As we are in a time where our country and our world is plunged into the unknown, I have hope. I don’t have to like what’s going on around me. It’s not required that I understand or even agree with actions that are being taken. I have only to do my very best to follow the command “Love others as well as you love yourself.” If I give as much consideration to the comfort and well-being of others as I do for myself, my world will be a better place.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.