Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Perspective-Shaken, not Stirred

Yesterday my 15-year-old son, Matt, and I went grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. Somewhere in between my ranting about Meijer not having any real butter and my raving about them running out of Heinz turkey gravy of all things (and this was way before I lost my mind when I realized there was no fresh sage two days before Thanksgiving!) Matt got a phone call from my daughter, Amanda.

Amanda apparently gave Matt some good news and then they were both baiting me to hurry up and get home so she could tell me face to face.

I, being somewhere in between "in the zone" trying to make butter and turkey gravy appear out of nowhere, and puzzled as to what would cause my kids, who know me well, to mess with me when I'm in said zone, kept guessing at said good news. To no avail. And I can only hope I got the right green beans, not the nasty unsalted ones, for the green bean casserole, because I really don't do zone defense in the zone, but am more of a one on oner.

"Did you get a package from UPS?"

"Did you get an acceptance letter from UC?"
"Not yet."

"Do you have a new boyfriend?"
"No, much better than a boyfriend. But you might say a new family member."

"Did you get a new fish?"
"No. I have to go now. Bye." Click.

This is about the time I figured out they didn't have any sage (strike 3) and toyed with the idea of throwing in the towel, leaving my cart, and just going home.

But it was still a pretty full cart, despite the lack of butter, turkey gravy and sage, so we persevered. EVEN AFTER there were also no Macintosh apples to stuff my turkey with. I really wanted my cashier to ask me if I found everything I was looking forward to, but I forgot and went to the self checkout and there was nobody to complain to but myself, and I was already having a frustrating shopping experience, so I didn't add to my own load.

All the while Matt is keeping his cool as usual, but trying to move me along so we can get home so they can spill the beans.

He is ready to burst the whole car ride home. Calls Amanda one more time to see if, pretty please, can he tell me? No way, she says. Wait until we're all together, face to face, and they can do it together.

Then Matt is texting, and then I ask him something and his voice sounds all sniffly and clueless, I ask him why he is sniffly. He says because he was crying and I have NO IDEA what is going on. First I think he is joking around. Then I realize he is not, and ask if something is wrong? No, he says he is crying because he so happy. The news is so happy.

My eyes immediately begin to drip; I grab his hand, step on the gas, and just sit there in wonder at my son, his tender heart, and the things that move him to happy tears. At this point, I FINALLY clue in that we are dealing with some BIG DEAL and now I am in that zone.

So we arrive home, the whole family gathers around the island in the kitchen, and my kids tell my hub, David, and me, that a friend of theirs, A, who used to be an atheist, and went to the Newsboys concert with them changed her mind that night, and then changed her profile to Christian. And now she wants the whole lot of their group of friends to baptize her at the Vineyard!

The thing about the Newsboys concert, was they weren't even supposed to be here in Cincy. But they had a cancellation and called the Underground to see if they wanted them to do a show on their way through. When we dropped off our kids for the concert, the staff was telling us what a miracle it was that they were there.

They have no idea.

We told our kids that God must have done that just for A. How cool is that?

Anyway, here I was chasing sage all afternoon, and there they were all the time: "and a little child will lead them" (Isaiah 11:3); and "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kinddom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

Friday, November 16, 2007

When Kindness Hits The Fan

Once upon a time there were two neighbors. Only one didn't spell it like the horse's whinny, but more like the nay form of no, like when the nays have it. In other words: Naber.

Naber was not literally a neighbor, as in, next door, but just a passerby, more akin to the good Samaritan. In fact, this is exactly what she was.

A month ago, my kids were on their way to school when they were rear-ended by another student, who was then rear-ended by another student. My daughter's car was rammed into the car in front of her as well, so there were four cars involved in the collision.

First of all, thank God, nobody was hurt. (Although my daughter's 2-month-old car she had just bought with her summer jobs was totaled.)

My hub and I rushed to our kids as soon as we got the call. I had just jumped out of bed when I heard the phone ring, knowing that phone calls you get when it's still dark out are not generally a good thing, and didn't even brush my teeth. Kind of nasty when you think about it, and I really don't know why I just did. But anyway, nobody said anything about it, so maybe my secret is safe.

We had our kids on the cell the whole time we drove to them, and all I could think about was that my poor kids were sitting on the side of the road, in the dark, alone with a bunch of strangers who just crashed into them. When we got there I ran straight to my Amanda and took her into my arms to make sure she was all right, and then I did the same to my Matt. They were shocked and shaken up, but okay. And Amanda was already realizing that this was going to make a good story to tell all her friends. That's my drama queen.

Anyway, enter Naber. I don't even know her first name, but she was on her way to work when she saw the accident. She pulled over to make sure everyone was okay, and when she found they were all students, she stayed on the scene until all the parents showed up.

We only live five minutes away, but this meant so much to me, that she would care for my kids like this. Go out of her way, on her way to work, which probably made her late, to stop and involve herself in somebody else's misfortune, and see them securely in their parents' hands.

When I found out her last name was Naber, I was beside myself with the thrill of dramatic irony that I was grasping. I don't even know her first name, so I have to call her Good Naber.

And once upon another time, not too very far away, there was another good neighbor, literally, as in right next door, and spelled the non-phonetical normal way.

His name is Ron.

The other day, we had, very likely, our last nice day of the year to play tennis outside. So I played for a few hours with my tennis buds and we thoroughly enjoyed each other, the tennis, the sunshine and fresh air, knowing that hibernation was just around the corner. I wasn't sure how the day could be more perfect.

And then I drove home, and as I drove up to my house, I noticed my neighbor was mowing my lawn.

He turned off his riding mower as I pulled into my driveway, and we chatted for awhile. He wanted to make sure I didn't mind that he was cutting my grass, but that it was such a beautiful of a day that he didn't want to stop and go inside once he finished his own lawn so he just cut our lawn and keep going.

I told him I didn't mind.

The thing about Ron, is that we had been talking about how to be a good neighbor to him.

This summer he lost his wife, his daughter, and his mother. When we moved into our home a year ago, they were deluged with dealing with his wife's cancer, and I had only been able to catch him outside once, while he was mowing his lawn, to meet him. It was a very brief but friendly meeting and I did not learn that he had a sick wife inside. I will probably always feel very badly about that, but that was all I had to go on, since every other view of him was as the garage door was either opening or closing and he was coming or going. His wife passed away in May. Two weeks later, his daughter passed away from cancer as well. A month later, his mother passed away. We didn't even know. We saw a flurry of activity in and around his house all of the sudden late this summer, and had no idea what he had just gone through, or that he was doing all the things to their house that she had wanted to do, for her. Dave just happened to catch him one day and ask him about his new windows. That is how we found out, and when we wished we were bit more nosey, like our other Good Naber. This is the guy who was mowing my lawn, and teaching me to be a good neighbor.

Currently watching :
Veggie Tales: Are You My Neighbor?
Release date: 14 March, 2006

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Small Things Done With Great Love Can Change The World

The above title is etched in stone above the doorway of our church, www.cincyvineyard.com.

But it is more than rocks that cry out from this place.

We have only been going there for a few months now, but I have never seen such traction behind vision in a church.

Last week someone from the church emailed out that she knew a single mum who needed help moving. Yesterday, my hub and boys went to help her move, but ended up maybe being more moved themselves. Less than an hour into the move my hub called me and said they had just finished loading up a three bedroom, two story house and were heading to go unload. He said it brought him to tears. A few minutes later, my 15-year-old son called me so very excited to tell me the same lovely news and to tell me they were in a caravan of about a dozen cars, and that most of the people didn't even know each other, or the mum they were helping, and that it was such a cool thing. I think they were done with the move and home in another hour or so. What a beautiful small thing done with great love, and how many worlds were changed, including my own family's.

I just kept thinking that this is what the Bible speaks of as pure religion, "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction" (James 1:27).

I have been places where "religion" meant other things, like being "religious", whatever that is. I have been places where people did "religious acts" for people all the while grumbling against them. A casserole can be a lovely thing, but is no substitute for love itself; and casseroles that are pinch-hitting for love taste awful anyway.

Sadly, I know that I have been there, done that, too. Father, forgive me!

But now I am here, and I am learning from these rocks crying out, and from these Christ followers doing small things with great love that change the world, and me. It is a lovely refining fire.