Monday, November 28, 2011

What I knew then and what I know now.

When I was in high school, it seemed that everyone wanted to "have a steady boyfriend." I was fortunate in that my immediate friends shared with me the desire to grow into the woman we believed God wanted us to be. But, many of our classmates looked down on us as not sophisticated. Still, with our group, it was not accepted to have a steady until we were at least seniors. Even then, we had our doubts. The two girls who had a steady boyfriend had known them for several years before they went on the first date. Single dating just wasn't something we were ready for.

Although many people would laugh at this today, I can remember my first date's parents went with us. We went to their family reunion up in the mountains of Northwest Georgia. Another fellow I dated several times took either my grandmother or my first cousins with us. Every date we had except for two were to go to church. One of the non church dates was to a basketball team with another couple. The other was to the preacher's home.

Every Friday night, our parents took turns hosting a party for us at the community center. The parents whose turn it was to chaperone provided refreshments and we played board or card games or danced. The dances were very sedate and the slow dances looked nothing like what passes for slow dancing now. It was great training for the requirements of living at Shorter College just a couple of years after it went co-ed. What is there now does not even resemble our experience.

The rules at Shorter did not allow holding hands while walking. You could not sit closer than six inches. You could get a peck on the cheek at the Town House door under the watchful eye of the Dean of Women or Assistant Dean. Slacks and shorts were allowed outside the dorm under only two conditions : participation in a sport or under a full length raincoat with the top button fastened.

If the sports event was not participatory, the raincoat was required and NEVER could we wear slacks in public transportation. Slacks could be worn in the dining hall for Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday night dinner but only with the raincoat. Monday through Saturday evenings, Saturday noon and Sunday noon were seated meals with "Sunday best" and stockings and heels.

Gloves were worn to church and to formal receptions of which there were many. "Eats" (beverages or snacks) were never consumed while walking. One was seated to "take eats." Curfews were strict as were study hours. Cars were for upper classman unless (a) one had a part time job in town or (b) one's parents lived more than 200 miles away.

I do not recall finding these restrictions ornerous. It taught discipline and respect. I rather enjoyed them though we all laughed at some of the more extreme expressions.

Later, when I joined the financial community, I found that small towns expected the same respect and discipline of ladies who worked with other people's money. I recall one Saturday afternoon running to the local quick market to get eggs when I was baking a cake. (I had dropped two on the floor and lacked enough to finish.) I wore walking shorts to my knees and a sleeveless t-shirt and sandals. On Monday morning, I was reminded by my employer that such attire could cause clients not to take me seriously as a person managing their assets. I never did that again. To this day, I do not leave the house in bare arms.

So, what I knew then was that the Lord lends His Authority to the persons He permits to have authority over us. That meant that honoring the authority over us, regardless of whether we thought their rules had no meaning, was a way of showing our respect for the Lord. Those authorities included parents, other adults (teachers, policeman, neighbors and the like). What I learned later was how much easier life is when one does not rebel against the Lord's Authority. I learned that from discipline grows confidence and self-respect.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Difference in Families

I was reminded today of three generations of mothers in my family.

An ad on tv was urging people to contact their Congressmen to ask them not to reduce the amount of Medicare costs for hospital stays. The tone indicated that the government, not families, should care for aging parents.

When I was in third grade, my grandmother and great grandmother moved in with my mother and me. They lived with us until the very last months of Granny's life. She had had multiple strokes and, in her last months, wanted to move back onto her son's farm since, "I don't need doctors. There's nothing more they can do. I never lived in town before and I don't want to die here."

I missed her so much that I spent that last summer with them on the farm. Every Sunday night, we turned the lights off and turned the radio on. We propped Granny up in the bed, I took down her bun and brushed her long white hair and massaged her scalp. We both looked forward to listening to our favorite radio dramas together. It was a special time.

Another special time was breakfast. I have never liked breakfast so I spent breakfast "mushing up" her food and feeding it to her spoonful by spoonful, dabbing her chin when her lower lip drooped and spilled it out. I can still feel her chin under my fingertips.

During the day, I wandered the woods and the fields, bringing back leaves and small plants and berries to show her. I never found one she could not tell me about. She told me about home remedies and homekeeping (she never used the word housekeeping).

When she died, we rejoiced at her liberation even as we grieved our loss.

Her daughter moved in with us and, except for a couple of years when she wanted her "own place," she lived with Mother for the rest of her life.When Bebe became ill, my mother did the same thing for her that Bebe had done for Granny. When my other grandmother became ill, her daughter Katherine and husband Rueben took her into their home. Katherine was a nurse and no patient ever had better care.

As my mother's body failed her, her independence never did so we found ways to support that feeling of independence. She would allow no one to live with her and she would live with no one. So I traveled back and forth every four or five weeks to spend a week (sometimes more).

David and I had a system worked out that would allow me to be on the road to GA within a half hour of learning of the need. He was such a wonderful support for me and for her. It never occurred to him that she should go to a nursing home against her will. During our entire marriage, he did most of the maintenance on her home. He cojoled, scolded and teased her. He was the grown son she never had.

Mother and I talked everyday. I had two other people who either talked with her or went by everyday. If they questioned anything, they called me. I called Mother and headed down. One of them was available to check on her anytime I heard anything untoward in her voice or message. Everytime David and I took a trip anywhere south of the North Carolina line, we went by to see her. Some of our schedules got changed because she wanted us to do something before we left. We adapted.

We had errand runners who bought her groceries when she was not able. In the last year, they even took her to the hairdressers (one of Mother's lifelong treats for herself). Her church family "loved" her right into the gates of Heaven.

Mother kept every receipt and, if a check was written, she noted the number on the statement. Every month, I checked her receipt box, balanced her checkbook and wrote her checks for the next month, lacking only her signature and the amount. All the enveloped were addressed, stamped and ready to go.

On those trips, we sat up late at night in only the light from the streetlamp outside. And, we talked, flitting from one topic or another. We talked about the inconsequential, the essential and the important. Nothing was off limits.

She retained her independence and her spunk (sometimes more spunk than was necessary).

Then, one morning she called to inform me that she was going to hospice that afternoon. She was tired of taking "dozens of pills everyday just to push back the day." She was failing so quickly that she knew she would soon have to have twenty four hour care at home or elsewhere.

The home nurse had told her she should go to hospice for a few days to "get built back up." Mother informed me she did not intend to "bounce back." She proclaimed, "I'm no fool and I have no intention of coming back. As soon as the cleaner finishes here, we're on our way." She did not want me to have to clean the house. On all the prior trips, everytime she had caught me cleaning, she had sent me home.

She instructed me to get a good night's sleep and come the next day.

I left that afternoon and was at the hospice bright and early the next morning. We had some interesting talks. She asked me to pray for her and we prayed together.....all things we would have missed had she been consigned to a nursing home during those last months.

No government program can replace these multi-generational experiences. Someone needs to tell younger generations that old age is not contagious.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I am posting an article by our assistant pastor

"Life After Training Wheels

by Peter Weeks, Assistant Pastor of Zion Lutheran Church

The stewardship campaign for this year will be Life After Training Wheels. It compares the process of learning how to use God's Time, Talent and Treasures to learning how to ride without training wheels.

It is human nature to fear the unknown and few situations in life embody this as well as a child learning how to ride without training wheels. Int he first stage, the child totters along, both wheels firmly planted on the ground where the bike is a glorified tricycle. Then as their confidence grows they go into the next stage, where the wheels are slightly off the ground and they learn they can balance but they don't lean over far at all before the wheels touch the ground. Slowly the adult raises the training wheels until they get to the third stage when the wheels are as high up as they can go. The child is essentially riding without training wheels and has most of the balance skills required but still is holding onto the comfort of knowing they are there. Eventually time comes for the final stage--the big leap of removing the training wheels entirely.

That journey is much like our own journey of using God's time, talent and treasures. The first stage is when we are going along comfortably. We may use God's time, talent and treasure a little but in such a way that it doesn't "interfere" with any other area of life. As we find out about the Spiritual gifts, or devote time to an Advent devotion or take one step toward tithing it's like going to the second state where the training wheels are just barely off the ground. This is progress and should be celebrated but soon we learn that we really can use God's time for devotions and still have time for everything else, we can use the spiritual gifts God gave us and it actually makes life more fulfilling and we can give more but still make the budget work.

We want to grow in using God's gifts because of how much He loves us. God gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Greater love has no man than this that He lay down his life for His friends.

As God encourages us to grow, eventually we need to take that giant leap. We need to experience Life After Training Wheels. We regularly use our time to do devotions by ourselves or with our family. We regularly use our Spiritual gifts and we give a tenth of our income. This is when life really gets fun. Just like the big grin that spreads across the kids' face when they realize that they can balance their bike and it's even more fun than ever, when we experience Life After Training Wheels, we never go back. Let's follow God on this journey so we too can experience Life After Training Wheels."

I was so impressed with this article that I did not even think like an editor as I read it. I hope you are equally blessed. mla