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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tar Baby Thoughts

Tar Baby Thoughts

When I was younger I had this little Mickey Mouse record player. My mom bought me some records that had stories on them. One of my favorites was the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. In the story Brer Rabbit gets tricked into thinking that there is a person sitting on a log but in reality his friends have dressed up some tar and made it look like a person. As Brer Rabbit greets the Tar Baby he gets no response. Brer thinks this is an unfriendly person and keeps saying howdy to the Tar Baby with no response back. Finally Brer Rabbit gets so frustrated he begins to physically engage with the Tar Baby only to be stuck in mess of tar! The harder Brer Rabbit tries to get unstuck the more he gets stuck.

This is the story that came to my mind last night. Sometimes my thoughts become like that Tar Baby. My thoughts will race and I will try to get unstuck from them only to get deeper into the Tar Baby thoughts. It can be frustrating, and sometimes scary. I am a Christian and one of the things that I have found that can sometimes help is to focus my mind on scripture, especially the verses in the Bible that have to do with thoughts. Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think on these things."

How do you battle your Tar Baby thoughts?

Thursday, December 3, 2015


This Christmas season I have seen and talked with so many people struggling with loved ones who are addicts. Addicts of sex, drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships. So tonight my mind is on it.

Addiction is a horrible, horrible thing. I don't know of anyone who would disagree with that statement.  My whole life I have been in and out of relationships with people who were addicted. I have never been addicted to anything so I can't say what it is like to be addicted but may I say being the one on the other side of that relationship is completely exhausting, exhilarating, hopeful, hopeless, and more often then not heartbreaking.

If you have been there you know. You hold your breath when they tell you, "It's over. I'm done." You hold your breath and you try to decide if this time you should have hope. Hope can feel like an enemy because you have had it before for them and then it's been crushed and with it apart of your heart.

You love them completely without complete understanding. Because you can't understand. You try. You look and you think I don't get it. Why can't they just quit. They have to see that this addiction could kill them and at the very least it is destroying their credibility. Why can't they see? Maybe if I explain it to them this way.  Maybe if I love them more. Maybe if I'm harder on them. We take it on. It's not ours to take but we do it anyway because we love them and we see the devastation and we just want them to see it.

I have seen people break the bonds of addiction and never turn back. It is so very very joyous. It seems so fateful.

I have seen addiction end in death. It is so very very sad. It seemed so avoidable.

What makes the one and breaks the other?

With so many people hoping, loosing hope, finding it again. I pray. I pray for you as the loved ones. I pray for you as the addict. While hoping in people will always deflate, Hope in Christ, believing that He loves them more than we do gives me comfort. I pray it does for you as well.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I was a substitute teacher for five years in the elementary ages. I found such joy in this little part time gig. It was like being a grandma. I was able to come in give the day in day out teacher (mom) a break for a day or two while they were sick or on vacation. And while I did try to abide by the rules/traditions of that teacher it was nice to have the freedom to do my own little thing with the kids from time to time.

May I tell you one of my very favorite sub stories?

So I got the call about a week before asking if I could come into a 1st grade class while the teacher would be attending a meeting at the school. I had never subbed for this particular teacher but was willing to give it a try. I can do anything for one day right?

I walked into the office to sign in. The secretary asked what class I would be teaching that day. I told her and she got this funny look on her face. She then sighed and said, "Denise if you need any help today don't hesitate to call the office. You have a real handful with that class, well, actually just one, but little Jimmy (not his real name) is enough for 10 teachers."

Okay I thought, hmmm this could be interesting.

I walked down the hall to the room and as I am walking in one of the teacher across the hall says,
"Hi! Are you subbing for Sally (not her real name) today?
"Yes I am" I say.
"Oh well if Jimmy gives you any trouble just feel free to come get me or call if you feel like you can't leave the room."
Okay, thanks I hesitantly answer.

I walk in the room go to the teacher's desk and on a yellow post it note on top of the lesson plans written in red ink is this message, "Don't let Jimmy get the upper hand, be firm with him from the beginning."

I really did not know what to think so I prayed. "Lord, I asked, I am not sure what is going on with Jimmy but may today be a day of joy for him and for me."

I went on to put my jacket and purse away and settle in for the morning routine of reading the lesson plans, getting out the attendance sheets, and getting ready to greet the students as they arrived.

In the lesson plans as was the usually their were names of students at the top of the page who would make good helper's for the day.  Holly and Ben (not their real names) were listed as good helper's.

With the time approaching for the kids to start bustling in with their oversized backpacks, little lunch boxes, coats, mitten's, and hats I began my approach to the door to say Good Morning!

First in the door was an adorable little blonde named you guessed it.. Holly. She was more than willing to "help" me by telling me exactly how the morning should go, and by saying in a very serious tone, "Jimmy will be late, he's always late, because he doesn't have any money and has to eat breakfast here at the school, and he is slow, so he is ALLLLWAYS late!"

So Holly was right, the infamous Jimmy was the very last one in the class that morning. And when he walked in he sized me up with a menacing stare and said, "You aren't my teacher!"
"No Jimmy I'm not your regular teacher I am just your teacher for today, and I gotta tell ya, I'm a little lost and I was wondering if you could be my special helper today?"
At this little Miss Holly stood up out of her seat and said, "OHHHHH NOOOOO! Jimmy can't be a helper he is bad, only good kids get to be helper's!!" All the other kids voiced their agreement.  Chaos ensued for about 10 seconds. I went over to the light switch turned it off and then on (the signal that all chatter is to be quieted quickly). Then very calmly I knelt down to little Jimmy's desk and looked into his big brown eyes that were as big as quarters at the thought of anyone asking him to be the helper for the day and said, "Jimmy would you like to be my special helper today?"  With some left over syrup on his dirty little face he nodded slowly yes.

We began with story time. Everyone gathers and takes a seat on a round rug with the ABC's on it and I get a big book with lots of pictures and read to them. I had Jimmy be my page turner. He could only turn the page if everyone was sitting nicely and not talking. Miss Holly did not like this one little bit. She said, "Miss Teacher, Jimmy can't be page turner he is bad, he is not a good boy, only the good kids get to be page turner. I should be page turner. I am good."  Jimmy gave Holly the stink eye and started to ball up his fists, uh ohh I better jump in quick. So I told Holly, "Today I am the teacher and today Jimmy is page turner and I don't want to hear anymore about it Holly now please sit down." Holly's little lip quivered and she plopped down and crossed her arms. Jimmy looked at me with a big smile. I almost laughed!

By the way, Jimmy was an amazing page turner. He was strictor with turning the page than I would have been. Telling everyone, "Nope I not turning the page till you's is quiet."

On and on the morning went with Jimmy right by my side.

The teacher from across the hall came in before lunch to "check" on things and left with her mouth hanging open.

By the end of the day Jimmy was my new best friend. He would not leave my side or let go of my hand. He came to me and asked, "Can you be my all the time teacher?" No I said, but Jimmy I want you to listen to me, you are not a bad boy. You are a good boy. You can show everyone who thinks you are bad that you aren't. He interrupted and said, "Like HOLLLLLLLLYYYYY."  Yes I said, just like Holly.

He started to cry and grabbed a hold of me and said, "This was the best day of my life, I don't want you to go, please don't go."

I bent down and undid his little arms from around my legs and said, "Jimmy you just needed a chance today, now you know who you really are, now you show your teacher when she is here tomorrow that all you needed was a chance."

I didn't know if what I said made any sense to him but he stopped crying and seemed to stand taller.

Everyone needs a chance to be special to not just be pegged as "the athlete, the nerd, the poor bad kid"

Jimmy taught me so much more than I taught him that day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Come and have breakfast.

“Come and have breakfast.”  (John 21:12)
One very small sentence.  But to understand everything that happened around that one sentence is so humbling to me.  Jesus had died, been buried, and been raised from the dead.  He had been stranded and betrayed by his closest earthly friends.  Friends that claimed to love him.  Friends that claimed they would never leave him, never deny him.
After Jesus died, Peter, who had betrayed Jesus by denying him three times went back to fishing.  I’m not sure what that says about Peter.  I don’t necessarily thin it was a bad idea.  He was probably full of grief and confusion and to go back to doing the one thing he knew how to do may have given him comfort.  It was also his livelihood.  And just like the day that Peter was called by Jesus to become a fisher of men, Peter was not catching any fish this day either.  Jesus, who is on the shore says the same words he spoke to Peter three long years ago.  “Cast your net on the other side.”  That does it!  Peter knows this man on the shore is Jesus.  This is the first time Peter and Jesus have encountered each other since the night Peter denied Jesus.  Jesus goes to where Peter is fishing, and he makes him and the others breakfast.  At that breakfast Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  How very, very hard that must have been for Peter!
Such a simple thing.  To make a meal for someone.  But what about making a meal for someone who betrayed you?  Still, Jesus did not chew Peter out.  He gently, calmly asked Peter, the betrayer, if he was sure about his love for Jesus.  Jesus shows remarkable character in this scene.  How can we be more like Him?
Jesus provides an example for how we might respond to betrayal.  Granted we are not Jesus, and granted Peter was sorry for his actions.  Regardless, Jesus’ response to betrayal is to share a meal and have a needed conversation, in hopes of restoration.
Lord Jesus, when someone betrays us, help us to look at your example as we respond.  You were betrayed and you made a meal and talked it through.  Give us the strength to ask the one who betrayed us the hard questions.  Give us the patience and the willingness to listen to the answers.  Lord, it is easy to be hurt and to want to hurt in kind.  Thank you instead for your example.  Thank you that we serve a King who has suffered what we have suffered and offers us another way.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Shopping Cart Guy

Purposeless, you ever felt that way? Like what am I doing that really matters? I think we all have at one point or another. I had one of those days. I was going to the grocery, such a mundane thing to do and I thought, "ugh, what am I doing that really matters?"  Then I saw him. The guy at the grocery store that I look forward to seeing every time I'm there. I've almost become a stalker with this poor fella. I don't know what his name is but he is a big guy with really thick glasses and a look of determination on his face. He is the cart guy. I have seen him out getting the carts in the pouring rain, snow, sunshine, cold, hot, doesn't matter the circumstance he is out in that parking lot heaving and pulling all those shopping carts together.

God spoke to me through the shopping cart guy. He said, "My sweet Denise, he does this "mundane" job so that you don't have to. He does it no matter the circumstance, no matter. He is my child and I am proud of him, just as proud as I am of someone who teaches, performs surgery, or runs a business. He is my child with my purpose, you are my child with my purpose."

I went and got a huge Hershey candy bar and found the shopping cart guy and said, "Hey I just want you to know I really appreciate what you do. Thanks and have a great day." He smiled, and maybe God did too.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The hard and the easy

Sometimes life is hard, not always, and for that I am thankful. But sometimes it is hard. Sometimes all you can see is the hard. I've been there. Haven't we all? But there is good. Sometimes you have to search for it, in the small delicate things like a sweet melody hummed by an aging woman in a gray shawl. Or the hush from a mother as she comforts a hurting child. Or the sparkle in the eyes of a man as he looks at his wife, the way he did when they were much younger. Or in a young man who opens the door to a not so young woman. Or in the wave of a neighbor in a place where no one waves that lets you know you've been seen today, not just passed over but seen.

In a world that is often hard it's nice to find the good in the easy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Anxiety… we all have experienced some form of it in our lives. But what about the people who have anxiety attacks, or on going issues with anxiety?

I am not sure if it is the weather or what but I have had four people in the last week talk to me about problems they are having with anxiety, me being one of the four!! Yes I do talk to myself…. that is a post for another day!

For the rest of this post I will only be referring to my own issues with anxiety, please don't read this  and think you now have the answer's for all your friends who have anxiety because like everything in life, what works or doesn't work for one person may or may not work for another.

I have had problems with anxiety my whole life. I was the kid in kindergarden who cried and wanted to go home for not one day, or one week, but the whole half of the year!

For those of you who are laid back easy going people who don't understand what all the fuss is about, can I enlighten you?

What causes an anxiety attack in me?

  • Things being unorganized or cluttered. 
  • Decisions that need to be made quickly that I don't feel like I have had time to think through.
  • People invading my personal space.
  • Not being able to exit a place easily.** This is a BIG one for me!
  • Not being heard.
  • Loud, cluttered, places with tons of people.
What helps when it is happening?
  • Go to a quiet place
  • Breathe
  • Pray
  • Organize something
  • Help someone else
  •  Call a friend 
  • Hugging my husband
  • Petting my dog
  • Go outside for a walk
  • Make a list
How do I try to avoid them?
  • Sit on an aisle seat not in the middle
  • Check out exit signs to know how to exit if I need to
  • If I need to go somewhere with lots of noise, people, and such I make sure I am well rested and have had time to unwind before I go. Going to a place like that after a really hectic day is a big no no for me.
  • If someone asks me to make a decision I tell them I am not a quick decision maker, could they give me some time?
  • Get lots of sleep
  • Write down scripture when I a calm and have them on index cards, and keep them in a handy place.
  • Be intentional about my calendar and don't plan too many (what I call ) "people days" in a row
  • If sitting somewhere where I am concerned about personal space I usually carry a large purse that allows me to sit it in an empty chair to give me some extra space.
  • If I am having a conversation and someone is not listening I simply stop speaking until I have their attention
This is not an end all be all but a few things to consider. I am interested for people to comment on things that have worked or not worked for them. Let's all be considerate, and empathatic to the people we know who struggle with what can be an absolutely debilatating life struggle.