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By michele

A Tribute to Tripp’s Dad

Dear Tripp’s Dad,

On behalf of mother’s everywhere I just want to thank you for helping my daughter today.

As she was standing behind her car trying to decide how to maneuver an awkwardly large box from her trunk into the store, along you came, hand in hand with your son, Tripp.

First of all, you noticed my daughter and her dilemma.

More importantly, you went out of your way to help her.

You cheerfully announced that you would trade her positions; if she would hold Tripp’s hand, you would carry her box.

She gladly accepted and Tripp willingly transferred his hand from yours to hers. (You’ve obviously taught Tripp that strangers aren’t usually dangerous and you don’t have to be afraid of them- oh, how I wish more parents were like you!)

They walked and talked together across the parking lot and into Crate & Barrel. You came in behind them and as you set the box on the counter, the cashier asked how she could help you all.

And you replied, “Well, it looks like my part is done now.”

You smiled at Tripp, clasped his hand in yours, and off the two of you went.

I’m sure you didn’t think of all the people you impacted by your small gesture of helping my daughter.

Obviously, you had great impact on my daughter, who, in turn, called me with the good news that there are still nice people in the world who are willing to take a few minutes to put others first.

I’d be willing to bet there were others in the parking lot who watched as you came to the rescue. They would have surmised you didn’t know my daughter and how easily you could have walked down another aisle and been on your way. After all, everyone is so busy. Everyone would have understood.

And the cashier. I’m sure she was confused when you came in, plopped the big box on the counter and announced that your job was done. She likely told a co-worker or friend about what this man did at work today.

And here I am sharing your story with my friends and some folks I’ve never met, simply because they’ve come across my blog. Many of them are literally scattered across the world. You probably thought you were only impacting one young lady living in Atlanta.

Not the least of those impacted by your kindness, though, is your son, Tripp.

As he grows up, he will undoubtedly be aware of those around him who need a little extra help. He will know what it means to be a real gentleman, and how rare real gentlemen are these days. After all, that’s the example his father gave him.

So, again, thank you, Tripp’s Dad. You’ve brought a lot of smiles and warm hearts with your willingness to take a few minutes out of your busy life and simply lend a helping hand.

If She Only Knew

My daughter was not very happy. Her boyfriend called that morning to let her know the conditions were not ideal for skiing, and they needed to change their plans. Throughout breakfast with some friends, she quietly sulked while trying to hide her disappointment.

If she only knew.

During breakfast, his mother called and needed them to go by the beach house to check a leak a neighbor had noticed.

While at the beach house, he thought he’d make the best of the situation and asked her to walk down to the beach and skip rocks together.

She continued to pout. It was cold and rainy outside. She had no desire to be outside, let alone down by the water. She wanted to be on the ski slopes. Not at the beach house on a sopping cold and dreary day.

Oh, if she only knew.

He tried a few times to convince her to go down to the water. When she finally conceded, he walked her to the water’s edge, knelt down on one knee, pulled out a tiny box and asked her to marry him.

Now, she knew.

They drove across the bay to his uncle’s house where all of her sisters and I, along with his family and their friends were waiting to celebrate. We joyously celebrated all weekend long.

Her big sister was genuinely happy for her and loved every minute of the festive weekend. However, secretly, she wanted to be engaged as well.

I tried to comfort her and remind her of the circumstances her boyfriend was in as he had just accepted a new job across the country and needed to be there within a few weeks. He had yet to tell his family and had no time to think about buying a ring or asking her dad for his blessing of marrying his daughter. “Give him time,” I encouraged her. I assured her that within a month or so, I was sure he would be able to slow down, sort out the details and ask her to be his wife.

She wanted to understand. But I knew she was still a little sad.

If she only knew.

We took her to the airport. I kissed and hugged her and told her to keep her chin up.

She landed a few hours later and drove home. It was late and she was exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep.

As she opened the door to her apartment, she became startled at what she thought was someone in her home. It was him. With soft music serenading them and rose petals strewn among the dimly lit candles, he took her hand, walked her inside, knelt on one knee, pulled out a tiny box and asked her to marry him.

Now, she knew.

Throughout the weekend, I wondered if I was coming to understand a glimpse of how God feels when He knows “the rest of the story” and just wants His children to trust Him and believe something great is in store. At each turn of events, I wanted to whisper in their ears, “It’s going to be fabulous! Trust me. I know what this weekend holds. You will be much happier with these plans than the ones you originally had.”

I knew by weekend’s end, these two daughters of mine would be engaged. As I watched their reactions to unrealized plans, while privy to knowing the bigger picture, I wanted so badly to cup their sweet faces in my hands and tell them to wait until they knew the rest of the story.

Jeremiah 29.11 reminds us that God has great plans for us, plans to prosper us and give us a future and a hope.

We need to trust His plans are better than ours.

He longs to cup our sweet faces in His masterful hands and assure us He knows and has orchestrated the rest of the story. It’s going to be fabulous!

If we only knew.

“But Lord, We Have Nothing in Common!”

If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge advocate for community. IMG_5383The word commune is defined as “to share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone or something), especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.” The English translation is the word common.IMG_7765

In a message from Henri Nouwen, he shares these thoughts, “Parker Palmer, a spiritual writer of the Quaker tradition, says community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives. So community is not like a place where you love each other sort of freely and warmly and affectionately. Community is, in fact, the place where you are purified, where your love is tested, where your childhood of God is constantly put through the mill of human relationships. That is what community is.”

Moving around so often, my husband and I have been in many places of community. We’ve invested in base chapel communities, Bible studies, small groups, home groups, youth groups, and military groups. We’ve also seen our many neighborhoods as actual communities. These are all places where we have been divinely placed for a time, to “do life together” with others. A few of these have been chosen by us, however the vast majority we did not choose.

IMG_5608           I remember moving to a new neighborhood and beginning to intentionally reach out to our neighbors. I thought to myself, and was brave enough to admit to my husband, that I was hoping we’d live next door and across the street from people who we had at least something in common with other than an address. How did Jesus expect us to love these neighbors when we had absolutely nothing in common with them? Surely He must have meant people in your general vicinity when He said to love your neighbors, not specifically the ones next door. IMG_7352

And my shallow, but substantiated thoughts spilled into other communities we found ourselves a part of, like a home group from church. Now here, I thought, is where we’ll find people we have a lot in common with and community will be easy and fun. But that’s not what we found. We would often talk on the way home from a meeting about how interesting it is that other than a spiritual foundation, we really didn’t have much in common with the people in this particular group. These are not people we would necessarily have chosen for our friends. In fact, we surmised, if we weren’t in this small group, we probably would never have gotten to know most of these people at church.

Looking back at these experiences, I am eternally grateful for the people God divinely placed next door and in small community groups with us.IMG_2254

People we had nothing in common with, but we began to do life together and enter into their families’ lives. We walked through the valley of the shadow of death together, cried together and begged The Father for healing on each other’s behalf. We celebrated great miracles and milestones with these who had seemingly unnoticeably moved from strangers to deeply intimate friends, ones we broke bread with and communed with and will forever be part of their lives and they ours. We discovered the truth that yes, for sure, community is hard work and it’s messy and there are many days you want to quit because honestly, sharing life is hard. But this is where life becomes so much more meaning-full and hope-full and my goodness, the lessons these “nothing in common” people have taught us are invaluable. IMG_5114Our hearts are changed. And our hearts are full. Community is definitely where growth and healing take place.

Savoring Advent

Advent. Perhaps my favorite time of the year. The reflection, the anticipation and the preparation.

Reflection.

So many times throughout scripture we see the mandate to “remember”.

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Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deut. 5.15)

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (1 Chron. 16.12)

The gift of remembering gives us the opportunity to see God’s faithfulness in the past so that we can trust Him more fully in the future.

I remember our first Christmas together as husband and wife, as we celebrated with family and then drove all New Year’s Eve night to Southern Seminary.

The place where we would learn to trust God as Jehovah Jireh, our provider. And three Christmases later we would celebrate with our own firstborn son.

I remember Christmas seasons in merry ol’ England, ushering in our time of preparation with King’s College Choir and Handels Messiah in London. Spending Boxing Day with our local village vicar and his wife, soaking in the rich traditions of our British heritage. And the plays at the kids’ British school where they would actually talk about Baby Jesus.

So many fond memories fill my mind each December.

I remember singing and dancing at the Christmas tree in Norway, eating risgrøt, pepperkaker and walking through Gamle Stavanger with our torches lit, leading us to the town Kirke (church).

Between California and Florida assignments, we spent several years building sandcastles and replicating our time in Norway as I made our teenage children hold hands and dance around a mound of white sand, with the ocean waves roaring a few feet away, pretending to be in Norway once again.

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More recently, I treasure the memory of having all my adult children filing into the pew and lighting candles at the National Cathedral here in DC, taking a few moments together and reflecting on the goodness and favor of the Lord in our lives.

Anticipation and Preparation.

I sometimes wonder if I robbed my children of the gift of anticipation and preparation as they were growing up.

I never wanted them to be disappointed if a special event ended up not happening, so in an effort to protect them, I often withheld news of an exciting activity, just in case it didn’t happen.

Thankfully Advent, the season of anticipation and preparation, will never end in disappointment.

Every Christmas morning delivers a fresh Hope and assurance of even greater things than we could begin to imagine.

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I wonder. As Mary did. I treasure these things in my heart. Like Mary did. Every morning in December I look forward to getting up a few minutes earlier, lighting the candles that remind me of The Hope that has dawned, and sitting in quiet reflection. I remember the past fondly.  I anticipate what God has planned for the upcoming days. And I prepare my heart to be His home.

Advent. The most wonderful time of the year.

 

What NOT To Say To Your Neighbors

One of my most vivid memories of a neighbor who made a difference comes from our time living in South Carolina.

My husband was deployed and I had four children under the age of seven. Our car had broken down that day and had to be towed home from an hour away.

It was about 6.00pm when I finally crawled to my bed; I can’t remember a time I was so sick. I couldn’t even think about how or what to feed the kids. The five-year old (Emilie) would have to be in charge that night, I’d decided.

JoLynn lived across the street and attended our neighborhood Bible study. She had three young boys and her life was crazy busy. We knew each other through casual conversation and by virtue of living in close proximity on a military base.

I would not have answered the phone when it rang, except I thought it might be my husband calling from Timbuktu (or wherever in the world he was). And I thought that in between throwing up, I could tell him thanks for leaving me and all Gods children at this particular time. (That’s how we affectionately refer to our five funny kids.)IMG_1900

It was not my husband; it was JoLynn and she could tell I was not doing well.

The next thing I know, I could faintly hear her coming into my bedroom and whispering to me that she was taking my four children, (six month old included) to her house for dinner and to spend the evening.

To this day, every time I think of an example of a good neighbor, I think of JoLynn.

I think of her actions and her words, however, I also think about the words she did NOT say to me.

I recently had an unexpected surgery and was in recovery mode for a few weeks. This is a text message I received from my friend and former neighbor, Kathy. “Hey, we are going to send dinner over tomorrow night. Would you like pizza or something else?”

Here’s what Kathy, and JoLynn, did not say.

“Hey, sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Let me know if you need anything.”

Think back to the last time someone left you with those words. If you’re like me, you probably think that those are nice words, but they are void of any real meaning.

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As neighbors, and friends, let’s move from “let me know if you need anything” to looking to see what the need might be and being proactive to meet that need. Perhaps next time we see a friend in need, we might say, “I know you haven’t had much time with your husband lately. I’m going to feed and entertain your children for a few hours this weekend. What time works for you?” Or, “I’m bringing you a treat from Starbucks this afternoon. What’s your favorite drink?” Or, “I made an extra dish of spaghetti for you tonight. What time would you like me to bring it over?”

If the need isn’t obvious, then write a card or bring a cupcake or flowers; something that says you care and are thinking about them. And just maybe leave the meaningless words at home this time.

Don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to God. ~Hebrews 13.16