Tag Archives: lessons

Love Thy Neighbor?

The mystery has deepened…in more ways than one.

My next door neighbors, who I have written about on a few occasions, have been mysteriously absent recently. We are not especially close, though not intentionally distant. We just don’t talk, or see each other outside the house very often or have very much in common, really. We are busy. We aren’t Facebook friends. We are, what I call, “Hey” neighbors. We wave and say hey on the rare occasion that we actually do happen to see each other.

It is easy to notice when they are gone, because their gaggle of adorable boys is conspicuously missing from our yards—ours and theirs.

I had noticed their absence a couple of weeks ago and did not think a whole lot of it. I figured maybe they were on a vacation; it is summer after all, y’all. But it did make me go, “hmm” because they rarely take vacations.

And then I promptly moved on with my day.

After a few days, they were back—with a trailer that had some little-boy-looking furniture on it, though it was hard to tell whether said furniture was coming or going. And I did not ask. The same day, their third youngest boy stopped his bike in front of our mailbox and said to us as we were headed out to see Madagascar 3 (cute movie, by the way), “We are moving tomorrow.”

What? Um, okay. See ya later.

We took it with a grain of salt, of course, as the news was brought forth by a 5 year old who has been known to say in the past “we are moving”, which really meant “we are going to Virginia to visit our aunt for a week.”

The next day, Emma said she saw one of the older boys loading a suitcase into the back of the car where there were also some boxes. Hmm. Maybe they really are moving, after all?

Fast forward a few days, and the neighbors are, in fact, gone from the house, though it doesn’t appear that they are totally gone, as there are still potted plants out front and playthings scattered in the backyard.

I headed out to a ladies’ book club a couple of nights later, to which I had been invited by a fellow homeschooling mom slash new friend. It was a small group of ladies, the majority of whom I had never met and so the typical questions ensued. Where do you live? Where do you go to church? How old are your kids?

It came up in the convo that a couple of the gals at this gathering attend a particular local church—where my neighbor happens to be the associate pastor. I shared that their associate pastor is my next door neighbor. They proceeded to make the “isn’t it just too bad about…” face. When they saw my obvious confusion, I was told that my neighbor’s mother had passed away very recently.

Heavy sigh.

Their absence was starting to make sense now. And then I felt terrible for them—and for not knowing.

But that still left the “we’re moving tomorrow” mystery.

In response to that, the ladies told me that my neighbors were had moved in with the now widowed father who lived in a nearby town.  Which explained why there weren’t totally moved out.

Oooooh.

And ouch.

I had a sudden guilt-and-shame attack for saying a few days previously, “Well, if they are, in fact, moving, I sure do hope they make sure to take their cats with them so they will stop scratching up my car and using my flower bed as their litter box!”

Yikes! The woman who professes to making friends with the lamp post can’t reach out to her neighbor and grow a relationship there? I can chat it up in line at the Piggly Wiggly or when I am at jury duty, but I don’t know that my very next door neighbor’s mother has just died? Why didn’t I know this? Jesus would have known if He had been living next door.

Am I really not so friendly after all? Am I afraid to go deeper in relationships? If so, what is up with that? And what is my behavior teaching my kids? What do I know about love, anyway?

Clearly, I have a lot to learn.

I know the world does not revolve around me and my family, but sometimes it would seem I don’t always live my life that way.

I have a lot to learn about love and selflessness and relationships.

I hope and pray that I can catch the neighbors if and when they come back to collect some more of their belongings, so that I can have the opportunity to share my condolences and offer to help them in some way. And to show them the love they deserve.

Perhaps a little life application of that Love Thy Neighbor thing is fitting. And that, my friends, is not so much of a mystery.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:34-40

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Filed under Faith, Lessons, The 'Hood

Thank You, Mrs. T

It is so strange when I awaken suddenly from a dream and there are tears coming down my face. It does not happen often. I rarely remember my dreams, and I don’t remember the one from last night fully, but what I do remember is so vivid.

As a teenager, in the early 1980s, I lived in a very small North Carolina town. How small was it? One stop light small. At the time there was probably a population of about a thousand people in that town, most of whom were related to one another in some way. Having moved there when I was 11, we were kind of the outsiders who had come late to the party—related to no one.

We attended the Methodist church in town and my brothers and I were very active in the UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) there. Our leaders were a couple by the name of Jim and Holly T., who had a young family of 4 children, and then they added one more during my youth group tenure. These two graciously volunteered their time to work with us kids. I have always had a close relationship with my parents, but there was also something incredibly special about Miss Holly. We all called her Miss Holly, as is the Southern tradition some places, or Mrs. T. Some kids even called her Mama T, as she was a mother to all the youth. All the youth group kids loved her and Mr. T and we all knew we were welcome at their home any time. It was a safe place. My time in UMYF and with Mr. and Mrs. T is filled with wonderful memories.

Mrs T, her kids, and Me October 1986

After my junior year of high school, my family moved out of state. I didn’t see Mrs. T for a few years until I was about to get married in 1989. She attended my bridal shower and she brought me a cast iron frying pan and an apron. Not just any old apron she had gone out and bought, but an apron that was hers, from her kitchen, from her heart. It was nothing fancy, but you could tell it had been handmade and used by her and worn in her kitchen as she went about lovingly preparing things for her family and her “other kids”, like me and so many others. I still have that apron and I use it occasionally and every time I put it on, I think of that sweet woman. It is like having a piece of her.

I was married and moved away and her family also moved from that town and we lost touch after that. But she has always held a special place for me.

Then, in early 2007 , when we were living in Iowa, I received word that Mrs. T had passed away from pancreatic cancer. It had taken her quickly, as pancreatic cancer often does, and I learned of it after the fact. Sadly, I never got the chance to tell her how much she meant to me and that I loved her.

I had not thought of her in a long time but recently, I reconnected with Mr. T on Facebook. And maybe that is why Mrs. T appeared in my dream last night.

In this dream, I was standing in a convenience store parking lot. It was no specific convenience store from my past, just a random one, and standing with me were a couple of other kids from the youth group days. And then suddenly, there was Mrs. T standing in front of me with that wonderful smile of hers and that throaty laugh. I grabbed hold of her and hugged her so tight. As I hugged her, I said, “I miss you” and tears began to stream down my face.

And then I sat straight up in my bed, awake, and crying.

What I remember most about her is her infectious smile,  her joy for life and her always open arms. And her always loving on all those kids. And I miss her.

Thank you, Mrs. T. I know your reward was great when you met Jesus face to face.

Thank You by Ray Boltz

I dreamed I went to heaven
And you were there with me;
We walked upon the streets of gold
Beside the crystal sea.
We heard the angels singing
Then someone called your name.
We turned and saw a young man running
And he was smiling as he came.

And he said, “Friend you may not know me now.”
And then he said, “But wait,
You used to teach my Sunday School
When I was only eight.
And every week you would say a prayer
Before the class would start.
And one day when you said that prayer,
I asked Jesus in my heart.”

Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.

Then another man stood before you
And said, “Remember the time
A missionary came to your church
And his pictures made you cry.
You didn’t have much money,
But you gave it anyway.
Jesus took the gift you gave
And that’s why I’m here today.”

Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.

One by one they came
Far as the eye could see.
Each life somehow touched
By your generosity.
Little things that you had done,
Sacrifices made,
Unnoticed on the earth
In heaven, now proclaimed.

And I know up in heaven
You’re not supposed to cry
But I am almost sure
There were tears in your eyes.
As Jesus took your hand
And you stood before the Lord.
He said, “My child, look around you.
Great is your reward.”

Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.

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Filed under Day to Day, Friends, Lessons

Here Comes the Judge

I remember in elementary school a game we used to play called Here Comes the Judge. (Thank you, Public School System of North Carolina, for my fine education!) All the kids closed their eyes, while someone disguised their voice and chanted “here comes the judge, here comes the judge” and you had to guess the identity of the mystery person. Silly game, I know, but every once in a while something will trigger in my head a chant of “here comes the judge”.  Anybody else remember this game?

My Trusty Gavel

Photo by steakpinball via Flickr

Over the years, I have been summoned for jury duty MANY times. By many, I mean 8, over the course of my adult, married life. Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot? May I add here that the Hubs has NEVER been called. What is up with that?

For 7 of those 8 times, to my great relief, I have managed to get myself excused from serving. Thanks to breast feeding, being the mother of children under 7, living states away from family who could assist in their care, homeschooling and other various reasons.  The last time I was summoned was in January of this year. I was about to pull out my folder headed “letters to get out of jury duty” when I called the County Clerk of Court’s office and had a “how can we work this out” convo.  Turns out you can transfer your service to a later date. With a sigh of resignation, and thoughts of “if I just go do it, maybe they will leave me alone”, I asked to be transferred to this summer and thus, my term of service began this past Monday.

In the room where my jury buddies and I were held on Monday morning, I sat in the company of  about 65 other people, who by all appearances, were as thrilled to be there as I was. I think “miserable looking” is an adequate description. My greatest fear about serving on a jury stemmed from the fact that I was afraid I would have to see and hear things that would haunt me for the rest of forever. I was worried that I would have to hear details of murder and rape and see scary criminals and ultimately decide their fate. And frankly, I resented the way that the court system was taking over my life and I felt like I was a hostage required to do their bidding. So, with “here comes the judge” chanting in my brain, I was prepared to hate the whole experience.

But my perspective  quickly changed as the process unfolded—and not just because I was not selected.

Before yesterday, I had never had the occasion to step into a courtroom (shwew!) and my only understanding of courtroom proceedings and judges and justice came from reruns of Law and Order. Ha!

I never really knew why people stood for the judge when he (or she) entered the courtroom. I always thought it was a matter of respect for the office and authority of the judge. Not according to the judge who was presiding over our courtroom yesterday. Hmm, so it is not just because the judge thinks he is “all that’”?

According to Judge Brown, the reason you stand for the judge has nothing to do with the judge. You stand for the robe and what it represents. And what it represents is the greatest country in the world with the greatest justice system in the world. It is the reason so many leave their own countries and come to the United States. Though it is not perfect, it is still the best in the world. The robe represents freedom and those who fight sacrificially for our freedom. You stand out of respect for our nation. Okay. Interesting.

I was digging this Judge Brown. He went on to express his gratitude for our service, noting that he knows that there is never a convenient time to serve on jury duty. <WORD! I’ll second that!> He said that jury duty is the only service that we are called on as citizens to perform for our country. Think about it. Many of our fathers and grandfathers were drafted into the armed services. But they don’t require that anymore (thankfully). What other service does our government call on us, require us, to perform…besides paying taxes <raised eyebrow>? Voting is optional. Abiding by the laws, yes. But when it comes to performing a service for our country and fellow citizens, I cannot think of anything else. Again, interesting.

About then, I started feeling all patriotic. And then, I was honestly disappointed when I wasn’t selected to serve on the jury. I was glad, in the end, that I had the experience of seeing our judicial system at work and I could go home and share this new found perspective with my kids.

(Is anyone else hearing Lee Greenwood singing, “and I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m freeee….”)

Thanks, Judge Brown. Our fine state can be proud to have a judge like you. I hope the next time I get called to serve, and with my luck, that will be soon, you are the one on the bench wearing that black robe. I will gladly stand for you.

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Filed under Day to Day, Lessons