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April 27, 2012
Thanks for the Memories
I stood in front of my closet deciding what to wear for a day at the fair. I chose a white shirt with patches of antique cars—Fords, Model Ts, and old Chevy coups. Paired it with a pair of jeans and I was on my way to a fun day.
That evening as friends and I entered a restaurant, an older, elegant, well-dressed man on a walker stared at me, a huge smile on his face. Puzzled I returned his gaze. Just as I was ready to ask if perhaps he was someone I had met before, he said, “Your shirt, it reminds me of the first Chevy coup I owned. The window rolled down in back. Oh, how I loved that car!” Then he proceeded to tell me about his first boyhood car. He said he hadn’t thought about it in years, but my shirt reminded him of his beloved Chevy coup. We chatted a little while.
As we parted, he thanked me for wearing the shirt that day and concluded with, “Thanks for the memories. You made my day.”
He made my day, too. We never know when we begin our day, in what ways we will be a blessing to others.
March 24, 2012
Give a Hug Today
As I read an article about hugs, the author said a hug made her feel “tethered.” I like that word. It’s cozy. I envisioned a field of heather with a pony tethered among the flowers, secure and grounded.
One woman interviewed in the article that she had noticed a soldier getting off the same plane as she. His dejected look and slumped shoulders indicated that no loved one waited. She walked over to him, thanked him for his service to his country, and asked, “May I give you a hug?” His big smile was a yes. He had come home a day early. His family hadn’t been notified. He told her that she made his day. He made her day to
I married my husband partly because he gave great hugs, all his six-foot and three-inch frame. Your children love an occasional hug, your dog does, too. You have none of these? I have a friend who loves hugs, but she lives miles away. We give each other a hug by phone.
“How’s your day going?” I ask.
“I really need a hug,” she will reply.
“Ok,” I say, “I sending you a great big hug.” It’s like saying, “I love you.” And the other person replies, “I love you more,” like Michael Jackson used to say.
Hugs are good for your immune system and a tension leveler, research reveals. When I’m having an especially busy day, I stop for a hug—from my husband, to my big shepherd dog, or to my friend by phone.
Give someone a hug today—it’s less expensive than a store bought card.
The Christmas Stranger
Snuggled in my big chair, a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies and a steaming mug of hot chocolate beside me, I reveled in the music wafting around the room and the soft tree lights inviting me to a sleepy evening. The parties were over. It was Christmas Eve.
The telephone rang. I ignored it. It kept ringing. I found myself saying, "Hello, Merry Christmas." My friends explained that all their spare rooms were full and there was no room for an older woman, could she stay in my spare bedroom? At that moment I wished I hadn't had a spare bedroom.
"Of course, she'd be welcome," I returned, trying to sound as if meant it.
Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang. As I opened the door, my eyes took in a small woman with a black shawl over her head and shoulders to keep out the cold wind. Her oversized coat was too long and made her look even smaller. Black hair streaked with grey peeked out from under the shawl revealing large, sad, dark brown eyes that were trying to smile. Behind her on the curb sat an old car, looking like a shabby loaner.
"Come in," I welcomed opening the door to my cozy living room and guiding her to my comfortable chair, the one I had been sitting in.
"Wait a minute," she said, "I have a gift for you." She returned from the car and handed me a butter rum cake.
"I bought it from a bakery in Los Angeles," she said, and the sad brown eyes smiled.
"That's my favorite cake," I exclaimed, graciously taking it. "Every time I go to Los Angeles I stop by this bakery." How did she know? I thought.
I went back to the kitchen for more hot chocolate and another plate of chocolate chip cookies—and this time butter rum cake.
I settled on the sofa across from her and as we munched, I said, "Tell me about you, what is your story?"
She had come from Austria. She was there during the World War II years. She story was one of deprivation, loss of loved ones, and narrow escapes, but also of God's care and protection. It was well past midnight before we slept.
The Christmas Stranger stayed with me two more days. We shopped and went sightseeing in my town, and she taught me how to make German Christmas stolen.
As I walked her to her car, we exchanged big hugs.
"I'm so glad you came to spend Christmas with me," I said. And I meant it.
I didn't see her again as she went back to her country. But in my memory I often see again my Christmas Stranger.
Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it unto me.
The Thanksgiving season, heading into the home stretch to Christmas. Family time. Friend time. Shopping time. Giving time. But lonely time for some. Those who have lost a loved one or those who don't have a family find this hurtful time.
I remember when I was single and my family was out of town on Thanksgiving. I was going to be home by myself. I mentioned this to my neighbor, a dear older lady whom I had known as a child. She said she was going to be by herself on Thanksgiving, too. So I invited her over and begin planning Thanksgiving dinner.
She mentioned her invitation to her neighbors and they asked if they could join us. We said, "Of course, you are welcome." They mentioned it to their neighbors, who asked if they could come to our Thanksgiving dinner. Again, I said, "Yes, you are welcome."
That Thanksgiving ten people overflowed my little oak dining room table. They brought food and more food. We all cleaned the kitchen together—at least the women did. We got acquainted, laughed together and visited all afternoon.
That Christmas our neighbors invited us all over to their home for Christmas dinner.
That was one of my most memorable Thanksgivings. And it all started with a smile and an invitation.
If you find yourself alone or sad this holiday season, won't you reach out to someone and include him or her in a simple lunch or dinner. It will make all the difference--and it could be one of your most memorable holidays.
"Autumn is the second spring where every leaf is a flower." (Albert Camus) I discovered this quote in a magazine just this morning, and it reminded me that summer is over. I wanted summer to last a few months longer, didn't you? There is so much more I wanted of warm, moonlit evenings, walking with sand in my toes, hiking trails with Anneke, my Belgium shepherd, or just lounging on my patio reading.
But I didn't get to do enough of any of these--not nearly enough--and some of them not this summer at all. I'm still struggling getting organized and putting everything together with my book promotion, engagements, and I must fit me there somewhere, along with my husband and friends. I can't leave anyone out you know.
I find that most of us even now desire to be on the cutting edge of time. There's never enough. Isn't it that way with you? And now school's beginning. Thanksgiving will be here soon, and then Christmas. I love this season of the year, even though I'm pining a little for summer.
Lord teach us to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom.
My summer mockingbird, how I enjoyed his early morning songs, sometimes even before dawn. Now all that is left is a heap of gray, white, and black feathers under the huge ash tree in the front yard.
He graced our garden all summer hopping among the tree branches and mimicking my husband's different whistles as he worked in the garden. He was my husband's garden buddy.
Fearlessly this little bird guarded his nest in the big tree and even battled young crows until they landed in the street, much to our amusement. Now his lonely mate calls from another tree.
We don't like to part with what we love and enjoy. A favorite car is wrecked. Our favorite dress gets an un-removable stain. A pet dies. A romance dissolves. How do we handle inevitable loss? I still struggle with it. I've learned to hold life lightly and carefully and allow it to slip as sand through my fingers, like an unusual rock or tiny shell, knowing that more sand and more little surprises will slip through my fingers. And perhaps next summer another mocking bird will come to grace our garden.
P.S. This was last years blog, but I like it and put it in again. The mockingbird did come back and he and his new bride built another nest to grace our garden again. He was the guardian of the trees and took his job quite seriously.
Gift of the Rainbow
Rainbows thrill us, enamor us, and bring our hearts joy. Songs, stories, and folk lore reflect the beauty and treasure of the rainbow. Then, there's the proverbial pot of gold nestled smugly, but elusively, at the end of the rainbow.
Have you ever found the end of the rainbow? I have. My most colorful rainbow stretched across the Mohave Desert as I drove the wide spaces from Mammoth, California, to Barstow—a perfect arch of red, yellow, green, and blue. Did I find the end of the rainbow? Not that time, but I enjoyed its radiance for many miles.
The end of the rainbow I discovered was almost in my own back yard. Huge and close, I raced my husband out of the house and jumped into the car, only to discover the end of the rainbow wasn't as close as first we thought. We curved up one street and down another. Just when we could glimpse it through the trees, the elusion moved. Finally we could see the shimmer arch to the ground in someone's backyard. We stopped the car and soaked in the curving, sparkling, surreal experience. A genuine rainbow touched the ground, and not far from my own backyard.
The Bible speaks of a rainbow in our own backyard—but it doesn't call it a rainbow—it's the Pearl of Great Price, where the man sold all he owned and bought the yard that housed the treasure.
Each one of us can have that treasure—it no longer has to be a legend, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—it's the Pearl of Great Price—a Savior who has won us at great price--and we can have Him forever.
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny selected a huge basket and placed many goodies in it for you, a book of poems, Godiva chocolate eggs, a box of chi tea, a bouquet of flowers, and even a chocolate bunny. It was heavy, but the little bunny didn't mind. She picked it up and hopped along toward your house.
On her way she saw an older lady sitting on her porch, very sad.
"What's wrong?" the Easter Bunny asked.
"My family is gone and I have no one to visit me," she replied.
"Here is a book of poems for you," said the Easter Bunny as she handed the book to the lady and hopped away enjoying the woman's smile. The Easter Bunny thought you wouldn't mind.
As she hopped along, the Easter Bunny came upon a little girl sitting in the grass crying.
"What happened?" asked the Easter Bunny.
"I fell down and broke all my Easter eggs," sobbed the little girl.
"Don't worry," said Bunny. "I have chocolate eggs for your basket." The little girl's tears stopped flowing, and Bunny was on her way again. She thought you wouldn't mind.
On the next block Bunny discovered a dejected little boy sitting on the curb.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I wanted to give my mother a bouquet of flowers for Easter, but I lost my money," he replied.
"That's OK," said Bunny. "I have flowers for you."
"Thank you," said the boy, as his face lit up. And Bunny hopped away happy. She thought you wouldn't mind.
It was getting late and Easter Bunny was behind schedule. She hopped faster and faster. So fast that she stumbled and took a tumble and dropped her basket. All the goodies left flu out and rolled away. Now the Easter Bunny was limping, holding an empty basket, and with a tear in her eye she kept hopping to your house. She wishes you an Easter blessing, which is far more valuable than all the goodies she had in store for you--and she thought you wouldn't mind an empty basket.
Smart Phone, Dummy Me
When we renewed our mobile phone contract, we were awarded with smart phones, one for my husband, which he purchased at a reduced cost, and one for me. It came with no instructions—just a day on our own trying to figure it out.
"It will take a couple of months to get used to it," said the sales person of this minicomputer I held in my hand. The first day it managed to call several friends in other states. Fortunately, I disconnected it before they answered. They called back to ask if I had called.
"No," I replied, "I didn't, but my smart phone did."
I did manage to set my home address on the GPS. When I was in another town, it told me to turn left and go home. I didn't want to go home and turned right. It told me with increasing urgency to make a U-turn at the next street and the next, and the next. I finally when turned on the 91-Freeway toward home, the Smart Phone was happily giving me directions for home. That night when I put it on the charger by my bed, it played me a lullaby every few hours. Does it still play a lullaby? I don't know. I recharge it in another room.
The Smart Phone did redeem itself, however, unbeknown to me, by researching my name on the internet and coming up with a late 1800s and early 1900s actress of my name. I then remembered my mother saying that I had an actress as a namesake. Then I found her picture—wish I looked like her—on my phone's wall. I'm sure I pushed something to cause this, but I have no idea what. My Smart Phone has now made up for all the grief it caused me.
Smart phones, computers, the 400 TV stations, play stations, Facebook, Twitter, etc, our careers, our families, and I could go on. We get lost in the shuffle. May each of us pause for a moment of peace and enjoy the upcoming holiday seasons for their true meaning of appreciation and family, or if we are alone, reaching out to someone else.
Lauren Briggs, Author
Lauren Briggs is my friend from CLASSeminars who has written a book that I find most helpful, The Art of Helping—What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting. I have an extra copy of The Art of Helping that I would like to send to a lucy winner. To qualify in the drawing, just e-mail me through my contact page of this web site--and I invite you to enjoy Lauren's guest blog below and visit her web site.
All of us want to offer comfort and support to someone who is hurting, but we often don't know what to say or do. The Art of Helping—What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting addresses 30 of the most common heartaches people face and takes away your fear of involvement by helping you understand what people are feeling and going through. From over 100 interviews and her own life experiences, author Lauren Briggs shares proven advice and offers practical help with a list of what to say— and do.
Why should I read The Art of Helping?
Do you know someone who is facing a crisis and wondered what you could do to help? Have you ever faced a difficult time and wished your family and friends knew what you were going through and knew how to help you?
I found that during my darkest hours, no one knew how much I was hurting, what I was going through or how they might help.
This is a book you'll want to read before you need it—so that you will have ideas of what you can do and how you can respond—when you first hear the news. We want to help our family and friends through the hard times, but the right words or actions just don't come to mind. The Art of Helping will give you the tools and enable you to turn thoughts into action.
How will The Art of Helping change me?
The Art of Helping is your go to book when life gets tough. It is a social Bible filled with concrete, tangible action items to empower you to make a difference at times when we would otherwise feel helpless. When people get this book in their hands, they always say, "How I wish I had this book when my friend needed help."
What are some basic Do's and Don'ts I need to know?
DON'T wait before you make contact.
DO Respond as soon as you hear the news.
DON'T SAY "If there's anything you need, give me a call."
DO Offer a specific thing you can do.
DON'T put pressure on yourself to do something you don't like to do.
DO use your gifts and talents to help.
DON'T minimize what they are going through.
DO offer caring statements of acknowledgement.
DON'T ASK "When will you be your old self again? or Aren't you over it yet?"
DO understand that once their life is touched by tragedy, they will never be their "old self" again. They will eventually reach a "new normal" but life will never be the same.
What are some of your favorite creative suggestions in The Art of Helping?
- A mother of two young children picked up a hurting family's laundry on Mondays, took it home and returned it all laundered and folded on Thursdays.
- A man volunteered to come mow the lawn once a week and do some simple "honey do" chores.
- My sons brought their game boy to the hospital for a friend going through chemo therapy. Every few days they would bring a different game to swap.
How can I learn more about The Art of Helping?
The Art of Helping is reshaping the way people reach out to others. To view more information, visit my website: www.laurenbriggs.com
. You can follow me on Facebook as Lauren Littauer Briggs
and on Twitter as @Laurenbrgs. The Art of Helping
is available in e-book and paperback formats through Amazon.com
. If you would like an autographed copy of The Art of Helping, email me at Laurenbriggs@aol.com