Sunday, October 30, 2016

Divine Appointment

There are those who believe God is like a clock maker; He made the universe and sits back and lets it and its people spin.  Others believe He orchestrates every detail of their lives.  I fall in between.  God gave humans free will, but I know He intervenes at times when it suits Him.  This is how I know it was a divine appointment when I met Priscilla.

In February it will be four years since I started working with a homeless ministry at Washington Street Park.  I met Priscilla through that. (It ended three years ago when the others moved to California.)   Some friends and I were out on a Sunday afternoon with bag lunches, looking for people who needed food.  I will always remember I was driving, and my friend in the front seat spotted P's daughter on a bicycle.  We ended up following her home---to Priscilla.  That's how it all began.

In the nearly four years, there have been four birthday cakes.  The first two were Dwanye Wade cakes because she dearly loved him.  I say "loved" because she has wanted me to make the last two cakes.  

Priscilla has had two strokes.  The last one will have been in January of 2015.  At that time, I visited her in the hospital before she went to rehab in another town.  Seven or eight weeks later she was home.  I know God has her here for a reason, and I believe it is to pray for her children.  There is nothing wrong with her mind, and each time I go to see her, she wants me to pray for her children, so I pray for all of our children.  I could understand her before the second stroke, but now it's harder, so I don't ask many questions.  Some people just don't need words.

I spoke with her grand-daughter last month, and she said at times she will see Priscilla's lips moving and she knows she is praying.  His spirit meets with her spirit, and God knows what her heart is.  It matters not that she can't enunciate her prayers.  She raised this grand-daughter.  According to Trina, Priscilla's husband wanted to get rid of her (the baby).  Priscilla put her foot down and said no.  They would raise the baby.  Trina is now a nurse who lives down the street and checks on her daily.  

I will be 54 in December, but my life has been so enriched by knowing Priscilla.  I realized this morning I was not really living until I was involved with the Washington Park ministry and met her.  Once I am retired, I hope to be able to take more time with her.  Now, I am so tired after working all week and doing for my parents on Sundays.  Some weekends I just leave her meal on her porch because I'm too tired or just want to avoid people.  

Priscilla was my divine appointment.  I'm glad I followed God's calling. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Entertaining Angels and the Nastiness of Society

Yesterday on my way home from work, I stopped by the house I pet-nanny for and fed all the fur babies.  It required I take an alternate route home along a road that connects the two main roads on my island.  Since the hurricane, FEMA has been picking up yard debris, and yesterday was this road's turn.  A man with an orange reflecting vest stopped me for the front end loader to pick up debris.   As we talked for a few minutes, he asked me to be patient.  When I replied with "Of course," he said I would not believe the profanity he had heard that day.  He was not from here, but from east Tennessee and is a retired fire department batallion chief.  In talking, I told him I could not believe people were harassing him for HELPING US.  Just because they were "inconvenienced" for a few minutes.  We got into a discussion about how that is such with our society.  When he was a fireman, he had people thank him for saving their homes, but then they asked what took them so long.  We have an element---a large element---of society that wants-what-they-want-when-they-want-it.

As our conversation came to a close, I told him most people were very happy to have the help from other states; we wouldn't be where we are now, nearly three weeks later, without it.  When the community was feeding the linemen at Beaufort High, I told him I made several batches of cookies.  I felt it was the least I could do.  He told me, "Sister, you'll be rewarded for that one day."  Then, "Have a blessed day, Sister."

That has stuck in my mind.  Hebrews 13:2 began resonating with me:  "2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."
Was he merely an angel from east Tennessee who came to help put our county back together?  Or, was he a heavenly angel?  Either way, I hope I took the sting off the nastiness he experienced yesterday. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

When You're Never Good Enough

Sometimes there are people in our lives who, for reasons known only to them, set out to hurt us with their words.  Words DO matter.  I say they knowingly do it because even when told their words have hurt us, they deny it.  "THEY" deny it.  As though they even KNOW how we feel!

All my life there is a person who has never been happy with the way I look.  I know because this person over-compliments me about my weight loss and when "she" thinks I am wearing something that looks good on me.  But....let me eat something "SHE" judges I shouldn't, and I get either the silent treatment or an admonition about eating it.

This person has largely shaped the kind of person I am today....the good and the bad.

This same person is extremely self-centered, wanting what she wants, when she wants it.  When I try to accommodate her, guess what?  It's still not good enough.  She wants something else.

How do we put those negative voices out of our heads when we can not avoid the person?  The pain is neverending.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

It's Not All About YOU

This may offend some people.  That's ok; so be it.  I ventured into the post office yesterday for stamps.  I rarely go there, but it was on my way to my friend Priscilla's house.  There was one person assisting at the counter, and about a 5 minute wait.  There was another gentleman  attendant on the phone with someone in Minnesota.  The lady attendant explained that they were having computer issues.  I replied "That's understandable," and a gentleman in line said something similar.  When I got up to the counter, the lady again apologized and thanked me for my patience.  She and the gentleman who had been on the phone both said not everyone had been so patient.

As I got in my car, I started thinking about what they said:  Not everyone had been so patient.  We are surrounded by selfish, "IT"S ALL ABOUT ME" people.  A couple of years ago I saw that on a t-shirt when a parent was picking up a student at my school.  I shook my head and thought to myself, "No wonder kids are the way they are with parents like that!"  

But, I digress.  My retired friend in Sun City told me an evacuation story the other day that illustrates this "It's ALL about me" mentality.  She has a friend who thought she was entitled to come back to Beaufort County before everyone was allowed.  Bottom line:  She and her "significant other" had to sleep in their car near Savannah because they violated the warning not to return to Beaufort County until authorities gave the all-clear.  When the neighbors all reconnected one night this week, my friend, who is known for telling it like it is, said, "Well, what did Nikki (Haley, our governor) say?"  Another neighbor pointed out, "Leave it to C (my friend) to tell it like it is!"

But, it's true.  It's not just kids these days who think "It's ALL about me"; it's septagenarians and people  in between, too.  I have read people's nasty online comments about Governor Haley's handling of the return, and actually it was left up to local authorities to decide that.  In any case, these people are only thinking of themselves and what they want.  The authorities have to take the entire community into consideration when making these decisions in light of what is best for all.

Yes, there have been wonderful stories of people helping others in the clean-up and feeding the linemen who came from as far away as Oklahoma and Texas.  I am not discounting that; the focus of this post was on the selfish people who think, "It's ALL about me."

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hearing God's Voice

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew and Gov. Nikki Haley, I have been out of school for 8 days.  Wednesday I had the idea to go get firewood for the winter.  I have some left from past winters, but it won't be enough.  I toyed with driving out to my usual vendor yesterday; then, something told me to wait until Sunday on the way home from my parents' house since I literally pass it.  

I firmly believe it was God telling me to wait.  He talks to me sometime through impressing things upon my mind.  This was one of those times; I could just feel it.

Wednesday night I had to petsit.  As I entered the neighborhood, I spied a stack of wood by the road along with the limb debris.  Then I passed another, and another.

Thursday when I went over to feed all the fur babies, I had the idea to do this:

I filled the back of my SUV and part of the backseat floorboard.  When the man came out to see what I was doing, he said I could take it all.  I found out this is river birch.  I have no idea if it will burn well, but I have enough wood from past years to get it started.  Anyway, with God, when He sends it, it will work out.  I decided to go home and get the truck.  So,, yesterday this was the truck load:

And, this morning early I went back to my friend's house to medicate her lab and feed her cats.  I finished getting what I could physically carry from each of the three sites:

So, if I had not listened to that *strong* voice in my head, I would have missed out on this free wood.

Listen for God's voice.  You might be surprised by it sometimes.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Witnessing of God's Faithfulness

This is Priscilla, my friend for whom I have been cooking for nearly four years (In February, I think).  I was concerned about her during Matthew, but then again, not really.  I knew God would take care of her.  She has had two strokes, the latest will be two years in January.  My mother has asked if her mind is ok; there is *nothing* wrong with her mind.  It is harder for me to understand her since the latest stroke, but we don't always need to have a conversation.  She always wants me to pray when I visit.  Because of her continuous prayer requests, I recently told her that God has her here for a reason:  praying for her family.  When I met her grand-daughter recently, we talked about this, and she said Priscilla is often sitting with her lips moving, and she knows Priscilla is inwardly praying.  God doesn't have to hear our audible prayers for He knows what is on our hearts. 

My friend evacuated to Macon, Georgia during Matthew, but she is now back.  Yesterday as we rejoiced in God's goodness to spare both of us, our families, and homes, tears streamed down my face and I was humbled.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What's Important

The older I get, the more I reminisce.  First, about my childhood as I scoured my mother's antique trunk a few weeks ago for long-forgotten pictures.  Then, my mind camped on my grandmother each time I took a seemingly insurmountable task and punched it in the face.  Now, I am thinking of Janis Blocker's 11th grade American English class and Henry David Thoreau.  It's funny how reminiscing can lead to dreams of the future---a simple life that is unhurried, free of nasty neighbors, free of rednecks with their deliberately obnoxious, broken tail pipes, free of the nauseous sound of revving motorcycles---just plain free

I have a friend who is somewhat wealthy, considering "wealthy" is a relative term based upon one's individual perspective.  Let's just say that her financial advisor told her and her husband last year that they have enough assets to last them into their 80s, and they're younger than I.

Yet, she is always worried about money.  Yesterday, on one of her husband's days off, he didn't get home until after midnight.  He was salvaging sailboats that had been sunk/stuck by Hurricane Matthew.  This morning in a text with me she said, in part, "He made $6000 yesterday, so I can't be too mad with him."

I have thought a lot about that text.  To most people, it wouldn't mean the same as it does to me.  I look at that and shake my head.  Would $6,000 mean a lot to me, a third-class citizen teacher?  Sure, it would.  That is one bill I could pay off--and he made it in one 14 hour or so day.  Yet, at what cost?  The cost of worrying about money all the time?  Being fixated on making sure they had "enough"---whatever that means.

No, that's not for me.  Let me drift back to Walden's Pond and Henry:  

                 "“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” 
― Henry David ThoreauWalden
So, I'd rather stick with Henry, who has best encapsulated my feelings about life:

"I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.  To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  I love to be alone.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."  ---Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This Little Saw, the 5 Loaves and 2 Fish, and the Oil

Faith can move a mountain.  I used that faith and this little saw to remove Ginger's Jungle, as I called my backyard after Matthew blew through this past weekend.  I looked at that saw and the mountain of debris and shook my head.  It seemed an impossible feat.  I took it one saw cut at a time, though.  As I have worked the last three days, I was reminded of the stories in the Bible of the 5 loaves and 2 fish that Jesus and his disciples used to feed the thousands--and of the Hanukhah miracle of the oil lasting 8 days in the Temple.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, is impossible with God.  I have a feeling I will hold on to that little saw for the rest of my life as a reminder of His faithfulness.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just God, the fur babies, and me

I don't think I will ever forget October 7/8, 2016.  I had made the decision to stay in my home when Hurricane Matthew (named after my son, ironically) decided to pay my coastal town a call.  It was predicted to be a Cat 1 or 2, so how bad could it be?  I had friends and colleagues staying just a few miles from me.  I figured we'd all be ok.

I got peeved when I lost cable during the Clemson-Boston College game.  My son in Colorado was facebook messaging me with updates, along with my dad an hour away.  Matthew, the hurricane, was scheduled to stop by around 1 or 2 in the morning on Saturday.  I went to bed with my phone charging and proceeded to "chat" with my son and dad about the game.  I was too nervous to sleep. The wind started picking up, and after midnight until about 4am I was on facebook with various people:  a colleague here, one on Hilton Head, a friend upstate prayed for me, and another friend upstate let me know she was praying for me.  I was nervous; I thought my house was going to be damaged by a tree.  The wind was knocking stuff around up there.  I kept praying God would make it stop; that he would halt the wind.

And He did.  He manipulated the wind in such a way that all those oak limbs fell into my yard off the roof.  There is no damage to my roof that I can see.  He took care of me, my property, and my fur babies.  I didn't lose power until 1:40am on Saturday morning.  I had it back by noon on Sunday.  Can't get much more blessed than that because there are still thousands in my county without power, and my parents an hour away have no power, but they have a generator.

There is a verse in the Bible where God says He will be the husband to the widows.  I'm not a widow, but He took care of me as a husband.  In the scheme of things, Matthew the hurricane was nothing more than a blip in my life.

My Parents Named Me Wrong

About 1:30 today I called my dad to check in on them.  I told him they had named me wrong.  I think he knew where I was headed with this because of the tone of his voice.  I told him they should have named me Pearl after his mother.  In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Hurricane Matthew came through my town as a Category 2 storm.  I didn't sleep; there was wave after wave of torrential rain and fierce wind.  I was not worried for myself but for my house and vehicles.  I was praying all night that God would make it stop.  See, if I had damage to my property, when could I get it fixed?  I am one person, and I work.  To put it simply, I had no time for Matthew's shenanigans.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I was afraid to go outside, but this is only a piece of what I saw:

I wish I could upload the video because this does not do it justice, but it's too large, I suppose.  Anyway, I decided yesterday that it was time to pull this out:

Dad's little saw.  I didn't think it would work, but it has done wonders.  Here is what it was able to accomplish:

I got rid of just about all the trash today.  I digress a bit, but I can't stand weak women.  It's a flaw of mine, I guess.  But, whiny women get on my last nerve.  I could have waited around for Prince Charming to help me, but I'm way past the age of believing in him.  So, if I need something done, I DO IT!

I won't lie; if this were June, July, August, or September with the oppressive heat, I would not have done it.  I thought a lot about my grandmother today.  We were not close because she was not that kind of grandmother; none of my grandparents were.  But, I believe Pearl Harrison Williams would be proud of me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Made of Tough Stock

I got a call awhile ago from an acquaintance who lives in the foothills of the NC mountains.  She was offering me a place to evacuate to before Matthew bears down on the South Carolina coast later this week.  Her call meant so much to me because I've actually only met her one time.

I am not evacuating, though.  I rode out Hurricane Hugo in Sept. of 1989 in a tiny 1920s closet with my birdcage in the house I was renting in Walterboro, an hour from Charleston.  The eye of Hugo hit Charleston, and it was then that I learned that to be on the west side of the storm was the best place to be.

I am not evacuating for several reasons.  For one, I am not going to be at the mercy of the authorities to get back in.  Secondly, I have too many animals.  I could pack up everyone to go to my parents' house, but it's not something I want to do, coupled with the insanity of an evacuation gridlock.

I am prepared; my flood insurance policy arrived Monday.  I stopped at the vet on the way home today to get another bag of cat food, so my babies don't run out.  I have begun to stockpile ice in my garage freezer, and I've started collecting water in bottles and pitchers.  I have plenty of food.  Tomorrow I will get porch and patio things into the garage and hunker down.  I  have no intention of leaving my property until it is safe to do so Sunday or Monday.

An overriding reason I am staying put is attributable to that lady at the top of this page.  I have written about Grandmother Pearl before.  She was my paternal grandmother who lived to age 92, I think.  She was a widow for nearly the last 40 years of her life.  I get my strength from her.  Not physical strength, but grit, or toughness, if you will.  I believe it's in my genes from her.  It's that grit that enabled me to teach high school and middle school for 27 of my 29 years without losing my mind.  It's her grit that enabled me to face cancer in an extremely harsh working environment, while taking just two weeks off from work after 10 days in the hospital after colon cancer surgery.  It's her grit that enabled me to work through six months of chemo.  It's her grit that enabled me to endure a YEAR with a colostomy bag.  Think about that one!  

It's her grit that enabled me to confront a would-be robber in our backyard, too busy yelling at him to notice the knife in his back pocket; it's her grit that prompted me to chase his truck down the street to get his license number.

I told my acquaintance tonight that I often think I was born in the wrong time period.  I would have done well as a pioneer woman.  I know I would have.  I'm made from tough stock.  Cancer and a would-be robber didn't scare me; neither will a hurricane named Matthew. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Less Reliant on Church: Full Quote

As I was going through some random papers, I found the full quote from my star pupil:

"As you grow in your faith, you become less reliant on church.  You can worship with people without a building.  How many have been church pew-sitters and done nothing?"

Camp there a minute:  "How many have been church pew-sitters and done nothing?"  While I didn't write it down, I believe he went on to remind me that the Bible says,  "Faith without works is dead."

Don't be a church pew-sitter; get out there and mimic Jesus in whatever way you can.  A building is brick and mortar, which does not impress God at all.