We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Friday, November 29, 2013

On the Heels of Thanksgiving: Black Friday Reflections

Okay, I admit it. I joined all the other brave shoppers on Black Friday. My youngest daughter and I left the house at 9:30 a.m. and headed out to seek our fortune. Best bargain of the day? Boots regularly $84.99 for $19.99. The busiest store? Kohl's. Swarms of people made it almost impossible to even try on the boots! The longest wait in line to check out? Thirty minutes. The hardest place to find a parking place? The underground lot at the Steamtown Mall. We had a good time, joking about the craziness we found ourselves a part of, trying not to lose each other in the crowds.

But we had more on our minds than finding bargains. We also purchased gifts for a brother and sister whose mom's prison sentence won't allow her to give her children gifts. Parents in prison can participate by signing a card for each child in their family. This card, in turn, is given to individuals who desire to help these forgotten children in a tangible way. When the pastor announced this opportunity at church, our daughter jumped at the chance to help. She used the money she earned herself without a second thought.

Maybe this is what Christmas is all about.

Yet, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shopping, and all the sales competition seem to cause Thanksgiving to fade from our attention so quickly. Before the day's end, we're on to the next thing, wading through holiday trappings to get there. As we anticipate the Babe in the Manger, I hope to carry a thankful heart with me, to "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100:4, 5).

Let's bring the spirit of Thanksgiving into the Christmas season. "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

What are your Black Friday reflections?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mall Stories, Grace Stories

Almost every day, I find myself at the mall. Compulsive shopper? Hardly. I'm there because my dad has to walk. After triple bypass surgery in October, his recovery depends on it. I'm his chauffeur until eight weeks post-op.

Every day, it's the same. We begin our laps outside JCPenney, turn right toward Sears, then pass Old Navy as we head toward Macy's at the opposite end. After about three laps, we find a bench before going around another two or three times. On our "forced marches," as my dad says with a twinkle in his eye, we see the same people. The old guy fast asleep in a chair over his crossword puzzle, the out-of-a-movie cleaning lady with her hair pulled to the top of an expressionless face, the Hickory Farms salesgirl offering free samples, the Bath Fitter salesman pacing in circles around his display. We see walkers, grandfathers wheeling strollers, security guards walking their beats, and sometimes, older couples strolling arm in arm. We wonder about the stories behind the people we see.

On Veteran's Day, after our laps, we went to Applebee's, also at the mall. Veterans received a free meal that day. Dad served in the Navy on the USS Tarawa in the late 1950s. As we entered the restaurant, the Stars and Stripes graced the window. Five flags hung on the wall representing the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched an elderly veteran hobble in with a cane. Others, filled with pride and memories, crowded the lobby. The manager went from table to table to thank them for their service. I felt proud to be there with my dad.

We both tend to be on the quiet side, but in between the comfortable silences on our route, he tells me my sister called or a friend stopped by with meatballs and pasta. I describe my latest writing project and update him on my kids. Today, as we sat on a bench, he talked about missing my mom and the upcoming holidays without her. I squeezed his hand as emotion choked us both.

Dad begins his cardiac rehab on Monday, so our days at the mall are numbered, but they hold a special place in my heart - and I think in Dad's, too. Last week, he said, "Maybe after I'm driving again, we can meet at the mall to walk." Maybe we can.

It seems to me that real life is a little like our time at the mall. We go by the same places and see the same people every day. Sometimes we find a special event to enjoy or we meet a new friend. As our life stories intersect with the stories of those around us, I hope we will make a difference . . . "faithfully administering God's grace" (1 Peter 4:10).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just Say No?

At any given moment, our usually happy, two-year-old grandson, Ty, can be heard yelling, “Nooo.”  Funny thing is, sometimes at the same he’s saying “no,” he’s using sign language to say “yes.” Two little words, all mixed up.
I have a hunch that toddlers aren’t the only ones who are conflicted about “yes” and “no.”

“Just say no” sounds so simple. It’s like saying, “Just sign here,” or, “Just click there.”  Easy, enough. But what does that signature stand for? What are the implications of one easy click? Can one “just say no” alter a life?

I have the privilege of joining Catapult Magazine's current discussion on the topic, "Just Say No." Read the rest of the story at https://www.catapultmagazine.com/just-say-no/feature/the-tug-of-yes-and-no

What's your "yes" and "no" story?

Monday, November 11, 2013


Sweet Sixteen. How did sixteen years slip by so quickly? I'm not sure, but this birthday needed a celebration. So, with a little brainstorming, our daughter and I came up with a plan to celebrate with a few of her girlfriends.

What teenager doesn't want to take great photos to post on facebook or share with family and friends? So . . . on the appointed day, we asked each guest to bring a camera. Kim, our photographer friend (PS Impressions Photography), gave some tips on how to take a good photo. She talked about lighting and how to work with shadows. She discussed balance and the law of thirds. She also gave some insight into viewpoint or perspective. "Choose one subject," she challenged the girls, "and take four photos from different perspectives. Rather than just shooting from eye-level, consider photographing from the side, from the back, from high above, from ground level, from far away or close up. Be creative. See what you can do."

And they did!

After a trip to the local drug store to develop each one's photos, the girls gathered around our dining room table. Each used an 11 x 14 inch canvas, paints, ribbon, buttons, etc. to create a background for their four prints. What a diversity of finished products! Each one captured her subject from various perspectives with wonderful creativity.

I think the way we view life is a little like those four photos. The same "subject" or circumstance can be seen in various ways, depending on our perspective. Will we look through the lens of gratefulness or drudgery?  Will we work to see the positive or settle for the negative? Can we intentionally view our life stories from another angle? A higher perspective, even on the days when everything looks grim?

The next time I take a picture, I want to remember what I learned about photos--and perspective. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, "The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances" (Keep a Quiet Heart, page 20).

What's your perspective?