Archive for the ‘trail markers’ Category

A Well-Watered Garden

Like so many people these days, we are no strangers to corporate restructuring in our family.  My husband has survived several rounds of lay-offs at his current place of employment, but we never know what might happen next.  Last week, his department moved to a different floor of their building, following some new lay-offs.  Rumors were flying of even more to come.

When I went to pick him up on Friday after work, he was later than usual coming out.  I waited in the car, flipping through a magazine, struggling to keep from thinking the worst.  Finally he came out the door carrying a box, wearing a sheepish grin.  My heart sank for a moment.  I studied his eyes for a clue to his mood.

He opened the trunk lid and set the box inside.  Then it occurred to me.  “Please tell me that’s stuff that doesn’t fit in your new office.”   He laughed.  “Yeah, that’s stuff that doesn’t fit in my new office.”

We joke about it.  They refer to the company’s Human Resources person as the ‘angel of death.’  I won’t even tell you what he did to me on April Fools’ Day this year. (well, I will if you ask…)  But we know it could happen.  And we’ve seen it happen to far too many people these days.  And it’s not really funny.  We just laugh to keep from worrying too much.

We experienced it several years ago, only a few years after we’d moved to Florida.  Restructuring had eliminated his job. It was a difficult time in our lives.  We weren’t sure what the future was going to hold for us.  But a dear friend, who was facing a similar situation in her own life, gave me a mug with this Scripture on it:

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land, ….  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but when I read a promise in the Scripture, I take it personally.  Especially when it seemingly jumps out at me when I’m needing guidance and reassurance.  The words in this promise spoke to me, especially since we lived in ‘sun-scorched’ Florida.  I took them as a promise from God, a promise I held Him to (I’m kinda bold like that). They became words that helped me and my friend through the difficult days while waited for His will to be  revealed.

Like those days a few years ago, we don’t know what lies ahead.  None of us do, really. I just know that we have a God that will satisfy our needs.  It’s a promise.  I’m holding Him to it.

The House of Stuff

We’ve been cleaning out our spare room this week, trying to create a ‘grandbaby-friendly’ space.  It’s been twelve years since we moved here, and we’ve collected too much stuff in that time.  Since our daughter moved out of the room, it’s been too easy to use the closet and the rest of the room as a storage place.  So I’ve pulled everything out of the closet and made the rule that something has to justify its existence before it’s allowed back in.  When my son came home from work, he looked around and sheepishly asked what was going on.  I told him we were moving.  I think he almost believed me.

My husband, who requires a little more warning, knew what I was planning to do.  In fact, much of the stuff-sorting required his attention.  But the thought of making room for a grandbaby gave him the motivation he needed to actually throw away those boxes of 3 ½ inch floppy disks.  As a result of these efforts, we had a larger-than-normal-sized garbage pile for trash pick-up this morning.  And before the trash men came to retrieve it, several of the items were gone! Other stuff-collectors had made the neighborhood rounds.  I noticed this as I was leaving to spend the day shopping with my daughter.

Wait, shopping?  Does this make sense?  I already have a house with too much stuff in it.  Yet, as we drifted through thrift shops all day, looking over stuff that other people had gotten rid of from their homes, I managed to find more stuff that I felt compelled to bring home and put in my house of stuff.

Right now, it looks like my house threw up.  Between my usual decorations, pictures and knickknacks, and the stuff that’s been pulled out to be voted up or down, and the stuff I brought home, I don’t think there’s a surface in my house that doesn’t have stuff on it.  I’ve always considered myself a person to whom worldly possessions were not important, yet, I still seem to collect lots of stuff.  It’s embarrassing, really.

Several years ago, when we moved our stuff across the country for my husband to go to seminary, my father-in-law found a very unusual mover for us.  He showed up in an old parcel delivery truck, painted checkerboard orange and white.  The unusual part was that this truck was not only his business, but also his home.  This young man and his wife strapped their bicycles to the back of the truck, threw their backpacks behind the seats, and moved people across the country.  They camped out in a national park for part of the year, and then put an ad in a newspaper, offering their moving services.  They worked their way around the country this way, staying in campgrounds or with family members.  He told me his philosophy was that people had a tendency to fill up whatever space they had, so he preferred to keep his space small.  Small space equals less stuff.

Does anyone know where I can find a checkerboard truck?  I’m sure we can still create a space inside for the grandbaby to visit.

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio.  Permission is granted to share this work with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (You can share this, but tell folks who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t sell it)

Checking on the Gulf

Redding Beach June 2010I had to go see the Gulf this weekend.  I felt compelled.

We went to Reddington Beach to watch the sunset.  I dipped my toes in the water, it was clean and clear and warm.

The sun was a beautiful orange ball, peeking through the clouds.  A sailboat on the horizon drifted silently through the golden beams.  Two pelicans skimmed inches above the water in perfect tandem.  A diving bird hovered in the sky, then dropped straight into the water after its prey.  A man fished from the shore, while a hungry pelican watched from a distance, hoping for an offering.  Families splashed happily in the water, children built sand castles, teens played volleyball in the sand.  Other couples gathered, like us, not dressed for the beach, but coming to see the sunset.  The softening beams cast a warm glow on our faces.

We had gone to a wedding earlier that day.  The minister encouraged the couple to ‘understand what feeds your mate’s soul.’   My husband understands that this is what feeds mine.  And I had to see it, to take it in, in case it changes forever, as it already has for so many.

As we left the beach and crossed the drawbridge over the intercoastal, the sun was a bright red ball in the rear view mirror, a final display of color as it dipped into the water.  It was a beautiful evening.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

God of the Stick Horse

…as told to me by my friend, Cheryl (formerly published in Standard)

My husband hung up the phone, disappointment written on his face.

“Well, that’s it,” he said. “The buyer just backed out.”

We were at my 89-year old mother’s house, helping her sign the papers to finalize the sale of my parent’s summer house in the mountains of Georgia. I saw the same disappointment reflected in her eyes, but she simply sighed, saying nothing.

My own heart felt crushed. Since my father’s death, I had dreamed of selling the old run-down house and property and building a ‘real’ vacation home in the mountains – a place our families and friends could go to escape. My sister and I and our husbands had found property in a better location with a spectacular view, and had pooled our funds to purchase it. The sale of the old house and property would give us the money to build the new one.

Somehow I felt I owed the house to my mother, for her years of sacrifice and hard work. Despite growing up in a large, poor family in the hills of Kentucky, Mother had always been an amazing, creative woman. She quilted and sewed until arthritis stole her hands. She loved to paint flowers and birds on anything she could find. Her mind was sharp and she still had a quick wit. The last few years of my father’s life had been difficult for her, as she watched Altzheimer’s Disease gradually paralyze his mind. Since he had died her life had settled down into a comfortable routine, but I knew her health was beginning to fade, and our time to share this gift was limited. I could picture her face as she rocked on the expansive porch in the cool of a summer evening, watching her great-grandchildren chase fireflies in the yard. Now that dream seemed just as elusive.

“God,” I cried out in my bed later that evening. “Everything to this point was going so smoothly. I thought you were blessing these plans – and now the buyer backs out. What’s happening?” The questions chased around in my brain until sleep came.

I began my devotions the next morning, and the Scripture reading for the day came from Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The devotional reading went on to say,”God’s answer to your problems today will be creative and it will be couched in His eternal purposes.” As I closed the booklet, I spoke honestly to God. “Father, this is your word – the ‘logos’. In my head I know all of this is true. But it hasn’t reached my heart yet. Help me to understand this truth in my heart.”

A few days later mother and I were running errands and stopped in a local department store. She was content to find the groceries she needed by herself, so I had time to look around. I remembered that my grandson had recently become fond of a friend’s ‘stick horse’ toy – a broom handle with a stuffed animal head attached. Matthew would use my broom or anything else he could find to pretend to ride around the house like a cowboy. So I headed to the toy aisle to look for a stick horse.

On my way, I met up with my friends from church, Larry and Terri. When I told them what I was looking for, Terri laughed. “My mom sent a stick horse to our grandkids. When you squeeze one ear it whinnies and when you squeeze the other one it makes a ‘clip-clop’ galloping noise.” I’d never heard of such a thing –it sounded like something Matthew would love. We said goodbye and I kept shopping, but I quickly learned this store didn’t carry stick horses of any kind. Oh well, I thought, Mattie will have to wait. Soon I found my mother and took her back home.

That night my husband called the real estate agent in Georgia, hoping the buyer had reconsidered, but the deal was off. Although I was reminded of the Scripture I had read early that week, I still had no sense of peace in my heart.

A few days later, Mom and I were returning from a doctor’s appointment and stopped by a local fruit stand. Beside it, a neighbor was holding a yard sale, and Mom suggested we stop and look. As we walked up the driveway, I spotted a blanket on the ground, strewn with toys. Among them was a black stick horse. I picked it up and furtively squeezed the left ear, giggling as I heard it whinny! Sure enough, a squeeze of the right ear produced a ‘clip-clop’ sound. The black plush head looked brand new – and the horse’s gentle eyes begged to be taken home. Matthew would love it. But how much was she asking for it? I knew I only had limited cash in my purse.

I took it to the woman in charge. “How much for this stick horse?” I asked.

“Oh, just two dollars for that. My kids never played with it.”

As Mom and I walked away with our small treasures in hand, I felt God’s voice gently tug at my heart.

“Now see,” He seemed to say. “If I care enough about you to provide for a simple thing like a stick horse for a child, can you not trust me about the big things?”

I sighed, and smiled at my mother as we got into my car. What I had known up to this point only in my head had finally reached my heart. “Yes, Lord,” I replied. “I can trust you — with a mountain home, with my mom’s future, and even with a stick horse.”

Copyright 2009 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is given to distribute this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (you can share this with your friends, but tell them who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)

Just Breathe

When I was in junior high, an epidemic of whooping cough came around my school. Lest you think I’m ancient, it did make a recurrence in the early 70’s, despite vaccinations. But at the time, not many people in our small town really realized what it was. And I caught it.

Now without getting too technical, whooping cough starts off like a flu — high fever, cough, aches — and then it settles into what they call the ’90 day cough’. I could go days with no symptoms, but suddenly this uncontrollable cough would come upon me. It would begin with a tickle in my throat. Then I would cough until everything came up from my stomach, my lungs felt like they turned inside out, and a thick phlegm would settle in my throat. I would desperately and loudly gasp for breath until the phlegm subsided, hence the ‘whoop’ in whooping cough.

The problem was, my parents didn’t realize how sick I was; they were out of town due to another illness in the family. I was home with my older brother, who eventually took me to a doctor at my parents’ instruction. Of course, when the doctor asked me to cough, all I could muster was a weak ‘u-huh’, and he diagnosed it as bronchitis and sent me home with antibiotics. I had a ‘real’ attack on the way home from his office.

Finally, my parents got home and were somewhat puzzled and troubled by my coughing episodes, but not really sure what to do for me. Until one day, when my older sister was visiting. She was 13 years older, and had experienced whooping cough herself as a child. The first time I had a coughing attack while she was there, she knew just what do to.

As I stood by the trash can, having brought up the aforementioned nasties, I started to panic — gasping for breath. When my sister heard the first ‘whoop’, she came to me, wrapped her arms around me, stroked my head and started whispering in my ear. “It’s okay. You’re gonna get through it. It’s okay. Just relax. I’ve got you. Just breathe.” She held me until the phlegm cleared, my whooping stopped, and I was able to breathe normally. (I can’t tell this story to this day without tears coming to my eyes.) She knew what I was experiencing and understood the comfort I needed, because she had been there once herself.

A few years ago, we went through some difficult times with our daughter, who was then a teenager. She was making some choices and life-decisions that were the exact opposite of the values that her father and I lived by and had taught her — or at least we thought we had. Tensions came to a head when she turned 18, graduated, and decided to move out of the house, into a situation that we did not approve. The night she announced her plans, I felt as if the world was literally melting around me, almost like a psychedelic experience (not that I ever had one). I could barely breathe.

And once again, my sisters, this time from my church family, knew what I was experiencing. The grief, the shame (my husband is a minister), the guilt, the sadness, the fear — all threatened to choke the very life out of me. But my sisters came, wrapped their arms around me, shared their stories, and whispered in my ear. “It’s okay. You’re gonna make it. She’ll be okay. She’ll find her way back. I’m here. God is with you. Just breathe.”

They understood the comfort I needed, because they had been there themselves. Their encouragement and prayer support gave me the strength to show my daughter grace and love in those days of transition, but at the same time, to stand by some tough decisions and boundaries. I was able to keep the lines of communication and love open without giving support or approval to her new living arrangements.

In God’s perfect timing, the night she was moving out, my husband and I had been scheduled, weeks before, to spend the evening at the home of good friends who were also in the ministry. Our purpose was to rehearse music together, but as it happened, these dear folks had also experienced difficult days with adult children. So we left the house before our daughter finished packing up that night, with parting words of love. And instead of having to watch her drive away and go back to her empty room, we found ourselves once more in a place of comfort and understanding.

It was a place where God could wrap His arms around me once again and whisper in my ear. “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re gonna make it. She’s in My hands. I’ve got you. Just breathe.”

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is given to distribute this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (you can share this with your friends, but tell them who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)

A Perfect Game

If you don’t follow baseball, you may not know that on June 2, 2010, a young pitcher by the name of Armando Galarraga, who pitches for Detroit, was very close to having pitched a ‘perfect game.’ For a baseball pitcher, this means that he either struck out every batter, or, if the batter hit the ball, the outfielders caught it. There were no runs by the other team. For a baseball pitcher, this is a HUGE thing. This would have been like only the 20th perfect game in baseball history. So this was a big deal, and tensions were high (any parent who has had a child pitch for little league knows what I mean).

One ball got hit and made it clear back to the outfield fence, but the outfielder made a spectacular catch and it was an out. So the game came down to the last inning, the last out, and the batter hit the ball… he ran toward first base as the ball was thrown to the pitcher, who was covering first base… and the umpire standing nearby called the runner safe! Everyone looked shocked, because they clearly saw the runner was out. The pitcher, Galarraga, stood there in shock, but just had a smile on his face. He didn’t get upset. Other players were questioning the ump, but the call was the call. (there’s no instant replay and reviewing the call like in football) They eventually got the final out, the game ended. Of course, the manager got in the ump’s face after the game, but he stood by his call. Galarraga missed his perfect game… or did he?

How many times in major league sports do we see athletes acting like prima donas when things don’t go their way? How easy would it have been for this young man to slam his glove down, storm off the mound, create a big scene… instead, he smiled, shrugged, and kept on pitching until the game was won. What an example to our young people! What a role model! Guess what kids? Sometimes life doesn’t go your way. Sometimes you get a bad call! But you just smile and keep on going.

Then there’s the umpire, Jim Joyce. As soon as he saw the replay and realized what he had done, he privately and publically apologized to Galarraga. And Galarraga graciously forgave him and accepted the apology. They faced each other publically the very next day in another game — the Detroit coach had Galarraga deliver the starting lineup list to the umpires at the beginning of the game– and Joyce and Galarraga shook hands in front of a stadium full of people. Joyce was visibly emotional.

What a great example these two gracious gentlemen have shown to all of us in an age when people seem to have forgotten even basic manners and civility. With all that we’ve seen in recent times of people behaving badly, this story is a breath of fresh air.

If you think about it, that really was a perfect game after all.

Copyright 20 10 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is given to distribute this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (you can share this with your friends, but tell them who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)