One of the biggest blessings in this life is friendship. Time with a good friend is like free therapy – it lifts your spirits quicker than chocolate! One of my mom’s best friends, Sue Groves, went to heaven this week. Sue had suffered a terrible stroke over five years ago and had been in a nursing home, bedridden, for the last five years. Her husband Dave visited her every day – all day – for FIVE YEARS. This is the picture of love in action, of commitment in “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” Sue’s body had quit on her, but she had the most active brain, right until the end. She read the local newspaper cover to cover, and probably other newspapers as well. If you forgot something, she could remind you of it – it was amazing! My mom would spend as much time at the nursing home with her as she could, and they could just talk and visit all day. A friendship that began in 1958 and continued until 2016. What a blessing!
When I was growing up, my parents were good friends with three other couples – the men all worked at the plant, and the women spent a lot of time together with all the kids. We went on vacations together, helped each other do chores, went to the same church, lived within a mile of each other. It was an idyllic childhood, really, not fraught with the dangers children live with now. When at the funeral home this week, all of us now 50-some-year-old children got to reminisce and catch up with each other. We ALL remembered being at the beach together on the roller coaster when one of the women’s closely-guarded secret of a wig flew off and was about to fly into the ocean when one of the men jumped up out of his seat and caught it in the air. I’m sure we had many other adventures together, but the “wig catch” stood the test of time. It was so good to see these childhood friends, and I was ashamed I’d let years go by without reaching out to reconnect with them.
As I have been teaching about the ten commandments, my young adults and I had a long discussion about coveting. It was funny – the boys seemed to have more of a problem with the “I want what he has” than the girls – because one of them has a “sweet” truck that everyone would want…
When I think about coveting, it’s not things that come to my mind. I have never had a real attachment to anything physical – my first home was a trailer, and I could go back to that in an instant if I needed to. Really makes no difference to me where I live. But one thing I have had trouble with over the years is coveting other people’s relationships – you know, that best friendship that has been alive since childhood, that marriage that appears absolutely perfect, the family dynamic that seems to have nothing but joy and peace and no upsets like some families have.
Last weekend, a friend and I went to a court reporter seminar in Martinsburg. We had been business partners for years and remained friends, and she sold me her court reporting firm and now works for me. We see each other and visit when we can, but our trip to Martinsburg was SO MUCH fun! We talked nonstop for the 11 hours in the car up and back, laughed and shared stories, enjoyed each other’s company so much. I thought to myself that it is MY fault that I don’t have more time for friends, don’t make the effort to reach out to those old friends that I know I could pick up just like we’d never left off. I get so busy that I just don’t make time for that so, so important component of our lives. Shame on me!
My sister Kim who lost her husband last year is constantly telling me and others, “Go home and hug your husband! Even though it may not feel perfect, you aren’t alone.” I’d encourage you today to reach out and rekindle that friendship you’ve let lapse, hug that husband you’ve been giving the silent treatment. Put down the petty arguments over politics or faith, and realize that even though we’re not just like each other, God has given us each other to love, and it’s not that hard. And for me, I’m going to be taking out more time to spend with friends…..they won’t always be here…..
There has been an abnormal amount of physical activity going on in our bed lately…and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. Over the past year, multiple times we’ve had Laney in our bed. Not intentionally, of course (although there is nothing like snuggling up with a grandchild – precious!) Laney usually wheedles and begs to “sweep in Nina’s bed” until I give in and let her go to sleep there, with the agreement being that she’s getting put in her bed when Peepaw comes to bed. Then Peepaw will just leave her there rather than bother her.
She’ll even run into his office and say, “Peepaw, we’ve got a deal. I’m going to sweep in your bed until you come and then you put me in my bed and I won’t cry. Deal?” Last week, she was sleeping in her new sleeping bag at the foot of our bed, and I feel this feeling on my arm in the middle of the night like a spider, and I swipe it away right before this little voice at my ear says, “Nina, can you help me figure out how to get back in my sweeping bag?” I just throw her in with me, where she proceeds to woller until she gets herself laying sideways in the bed, feet pressing at my waist. Not a lot of sleep going on here….
We got a new comforter in the spring, and I love it. It’s big and fluffy and cozy. But it is so heavy that it wants to drag itself off the bed. It was also too hot in the summer, so we’d have to fold it up at the foot of the bed and just use the sheet and blanket. Then if the fan was running, sometimes you’d need it. With it being at the foot of the bed and so heavy, it was an ordeal to get it up in the right position. And then, of course, Tom didn’t want it because he was hot when I was cold, so he’d take his share and throw it over on top of me, which then made me burn up. I would start out the night with it and eventually it would start sliding down and I’d just let it go. Or Tom would take his part and try to fold it over so it wasn’t on me but wasn’t on him either. Which made it want to slide down the bed even more. Time after time, I’m trying to hold on to this comforter that feels like it’s got a sand bag in the bottom of it dragging it down.
Now that it’s cooler, I’m thinking I can stop this ordeal we’re going through with the comforter. We can just start off with it, hang on to it all night, and it will stay put. Not so. Now as it slides, I’m cold and need it, so I’m fighting with it to keep it up at my neck. I even had a dream last week that I invented this device that holds a comforter in place. It wasn’t real elaborate – basically consisted of a piece of elastic that went around your neck and had two clasp things at the front that you would attach to the comforter so it would stay where it was supposed to. I’m telling someone about this and they are looking at me like I’ve lost my mind. I mean, who dreams about a comforter? Really? And then I think about what if I have this contraption on my neck and Tom tries to get rid of his half? I’m going to have to make sure my elastic is flexible so I don’t get choked…..
One of my attorney friends tells his hilarious story about when his wife was going through menopause and burning up, had like two box fans blowing on her, with the air conditioner cranked way up, while he is freezing. He says you had to see it – she is lying on one side practically naked, sweating while these fans blow, and he is huddled under five blankets shaking and frozen to death. I can just picture it.
And where am I going with this? As I keep fooling with this comforter, my husband says we’re getting rid of it, and I say, “No, no, it’s beautiful! And it will settle down – it just needs worn in a little bit, just needs to get itself adjusted.” It reminds me of our relationship with the Lord. You know, when you go to get in bed at night, it just feels wonderful to sink into that bed, cuddle up with a blanket – it’s warm and safe. Just like when we go to Jesus – it’s comforting, it’s safe, it’s a wonderful place to rest. But sometimes we let that relationship slip away – almost as if it got distant while we slept. And then we don’t give it the proper attention, and before you know it, we’re throwing our part off to the side, or we’re kicking it off or we’re getting rid of it entirely. Do you ever wonder if the devil is that sand bag in your relationship with the Lord, just slowly, slowly tugging until you’re closer to the floor than the bed? We have to be vigilant and protect those things that are precious – don’t let them slip away! If only I could invent a collar that would hold our relationship with God tight……
It’s been a big week at our house: Five years ago, Talia and Jimmy were married. On the same exact day two years later, Laney Lu arrived! Then one year ago, on Aunt Sally’s birthday, Milley arrived, just four days after her sister. Some of you will remember the story about Tal’s wedding, and even five years later, I cannot remember her wedding day without a hurt in my stomach. You see, I did a stupid thing that resulted in a snowball from hell that began rolling over this wedding celebration. We had everything planned, lists and lists, everything down to the last detail. But see, in the details are people. And sometimes people fail. They don’t always mean to, but sometimes they just do.
We left the house with ten bridesmaids, two bridal gowns (one for the reception), and when we arrived at our destination, no one (including me) even thought about my gown, the one we had all walked by hanging right by the back door. It wasn’t until time to put it on that the wide-eyed looks began to occur, the “Did you get it?” “Did you see it?” “Where did we put it?” began. By then, we were close to an hour out from the wedding, at a venue almost an hour from our home. Thank the Lord, one of the flower girls’ fathers hadn’t left Ripley yet, so he ran by our house to get it. Easy fix – thank you, God! All else was perfect – we had a sunny, warm dry October day, just what we had prayed for!
The dress arrives right as it was time to line up. I was ready. Hop in it, zip it up, turn to get into line, and I feel it begin to split down the middle of my back. This is a floor length gown. It is now locked together at the top of the zipper and the bottom of the zipper, and the back is gaped wide open for about 15 inches. The girls begin to try to sew me up with orange thread (on a brown dress – but at that point, who really cares??). The sewing is taking too long, and I know my daughter who has dreamed of this wedding day her whole life and has been the most unBridezilla bride I had ever seen, patient and easy to deal with in the whole planning, was about to lose it. I said, “Come on, just forget it – I’ll go down the aisle like this!” One of the girls grabs a chair tie that was gold, wraps it around my gaping hole, ties a bow, and we have redesigned my gown, “repurposed” it, you might say. Down the aisle I go with the groom’s mother.
We reach the area for the candle lighting by the mothers, and the wind is blowing so hard, the tablecloth is practically standing on end and barely holding on to the table, upon which there are candlesticks AND NO CANDLES! The decorator forgot them….Thank goodness, Jimmy’s mother is a saint, so good-natured. She and I just laughed – the crowd laughs with us. And I’m thinking, “Okay, we’ve had our two bad things – we’re good to go.” That’s what you get for thinking. Talia comes around the corner in a horse-drawn carriage, the flower girls dance down the aisle whispering, “The bride is coming, the bride is coming,” the sun was shining, all was just gorgeous. She makes her way to James, and the ceremony begins.
The wind had been blowing quite fiercely, but once the ceremony began, you could really tell it had mischief under its wings. The sound system begins to screech and wail and crackle, and you cannot hear a word through the racket. Talia’s veil begins to pull and tug at its bearings and eventually is ripped from her head and flies out into the field. Talia and Jimmy had a song they were going to surprise all of us with, and they weren’t able to sing it. Eventually the preacher just yelled through the ceremony so everyone could hear. It was still beautiful, what you could hear. The DJ and sound man was highly overpaid, and he had not tested the wireless mics at all, because he flew in there last minute. He ended up totally ignoring the dance song list and all his other instructions at the reception, and Talia was incensed when she found out I paid him. We really did end up with no usable video of the ceremony because of the screeching, and I took some off of his bill, but there was no amount that was going to recover our beautifully-planned ceremony.
There were other things that went wrong, like at every wedding, but by then, we just had to laugh. I mean, it was like the devil had gotten into the mix and once that snowball of my dress began to roll, things just piled on until it was more than you could even imagine. We barely got Talia through the reception without a total meltdown of disappointment and horror that her dream day had gone so wrong. Thank God, five years later, the marriage is good and the wedding day is but a good story to tell in the vein of “You think your wedding day was bad??” We did find some crazy videos after her wedding where people had fainted or the rain had just poured or lightning struck, or all kinds of unimaginable things that made our problems seem like nothing.
I remember telling Tal later that I wondered what God was trying to teach us. Did we need to care less about what other people thought? Because isn’t a wedding really a “show” that you invite your friends and family to, a little play to participate in? Maybe we needed to learn the lesson that we should only care what God thinks and not whether other people approve of us or not. Talia has always been my “say it when she shouldn’t say it” child, like telling me she was NEVER going to be a preacher’s wife and have to wear a house dress her entire life! Or nor was she going to put her life in God’s hands because He might just call her to be a missionary, and she wasn’t doing that!
And the real kicker is that as she battled God for 23 years, doing it her way, it wasn’t until she truly laid it down before Him and said, “Take me, I’m yours – do what You will with me” that she met the love of her life and really knew what true happiness was. The morning after, as she is crying and talking about how humiliating her wedding was, she never once – NOT ONCE – blamed me for starting the disasters or for not planning better or doing more or any of those things. I then said to her that I wondered what God was wanting us to learn from this, and she says – just like Tal – “Mom, do you think JUST ONE TIME God could let me NOT learn a lesson from my life? Like perhaps on my wedding day???” I had to laugh. I guess you do get a free pass on your wedding day, or your birthday perhaps….
And why am I telling this story? Because this week being busy for our family celebrating things, it has also been busy in our country, with the last debate and all the ruckus surrounding and following it. And I think to myself: I STILL feel shame over how I messed up my daughter’s wedding day. I can’t think of her wedding without feeling bad. And yes, I didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened, and I did it, and I’m ashamed that I did it. Where, I ask you, is the SHAME in this country? We have two OLD adults running for the most important position in the entire world, and neither of them has any sense of shame – not a shred! And isn’t shame where we begin with repentance? Remember in the garden, Adam and Eve, once they sinned, realized they were naked, and the Bible says they were filled with shame. All through the Word of God, we read of how people were ashamed of their actions and they repented. THAT is what is missing in this country!
Parents, it is not being hard on your children to teach them that there are things you DO NOT DO. God has given you these children, and it is your DUTY to raise them to fear the Lord, to respect their elders and people in authority, not to run around like hellions spewing curse words and violent acts, thinking the world revolves around them. There are things in this world that are black and white, and there are things that are right and wrong. And when you do wrong, you need to be ashamed, and you need to seek forgiveness – not just from the person you wronged, but from God Almighty. THIS is how we receive peace and the joy that makes life worth living.
Thank God for forgiveness and the cleansing it brings – from people and from Him! LET’S BRING SHAME AND REPENTANCE BACK, AMERICA!
We recently had a missionary from China come and speak to us – what energy and zeal for the Lord he has! It made me ashamed that sometimes we have an apathy about our salvation – we don’t appreciate it like those who are constantly persecuted do. He is a teacher of ministers, and recently he taught in Korea to many pastors and their wives, all of them staying at a hotel. As he was showing us the slides, I’m thinking to myself, “Why in the world are they in Korea?” Well, duh. You can’t have a seminar related to how to be a better Christian pastor in China. Can you imagine having to go to another country just to be able to learn more about your faith, to have to go to that expense and trouble? These pastors get up at 4:30 a.m. and begin to pray and pray for hours before their seminar begins. We are so lazy, we barely say a little prayer as we’re lying in bed waiting to fully wake up, and we think we’ve done something that God is pleased with. Lord, help us.
This week in Jackson County has been a gutwrenching look at the face of evil. There is no other word for it. The Bible warns us of evil constantly, and we tend to think that it is something other people do, but not something we are capable of. One of the things this Chinese speaker said was that one of his teachers once said that the only thing you need to teach young pastors and Christians that if you follow the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, the rest of the Bible is just extra. I sat there listening to that and thought to myself, “What??” Then I begin to wonder, “What exactly is in the Sermon of the Mount? Isn’t that the beatitudes?” Sad to admit, I couldn’t come up with what the rest of it was. But since then, I have been teaching my young adult class about jus these things, making sure we KNOW exactly what they say.
As we’ve gone over the Ten Commandments, I have been convicted that I probably violate at least two of them on a daily basis. Not intentionally, of course. Like the rest of America and the Israelites, I have allowed my life to slip into disobedience in those gray areas. I’m betting some of you are violating them also. As a reminder, the Ten Commandments are:
And the keeping the Sabbath Day holy hit me hard as well. I never stop. I use the excuse that it’s in my DNA, but the truth is, I do not FORCE myself to just stop, relax, sit for a while. A few years ago, Tom and I both were very convicted about working on Sunday, and we made a vow to just rest on Sunday, go visit people, relax and stop doing any work-work or housework like laundry, etc. We lasted about three weeks, then Tom had a crazy Monday with 40 cases to get ready for, and I had a transcript due, and back we were, working every Sunday again. I am working on this one again – the Lord is going to have to help me!
But isn’t it ridiculous that someone who has been a Christian her entire life cannot follow the Ten Commandments? Or won’t follow, more like it. Isn’t following. However you want to phrase it. I would ask you: As we all discuss this evil that has plagued us this week, let’s examine what God has to say about evil.
There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
I note that this verse has lying in there twice. Twice! Do you think that means He really, really hates it? When is the last time you lied? My teens used to tell me that they lied multiple times a day – no one really cares – everyone lies. The Lord HATES liars! Yet is it something that everyone has accepted? There are many scriptures about evil, and we could be here all day, but as I have lain awake in the night, sickened by the things that have occurred, dreaming of castrations and horrible violent things, the Lord has reminded me that there are a lot of things He hates, and we need to examine ourselves more than point fingers. When we actually live the life God has called us to, we can be that light on the hill the Sermon on the Mount speaks of.
Romans 2:21 tells us: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let this be our goal – to live as God calls US to live, and to let God be the judge of evil men. There is a day of reckoning for all of us. And when we can’t even keep the Ten Commandments, we need work on US!
My mother is truly the most incredible woman I have ever known. Tom always says, “If you look as good as your mother when you’re 75, you’ll be doing good!” I say, “I don’t look as good as her now – what in the world makes you think I’ll look like her at 75!” This woman not only looks good, but she is the most Godly woman and hardest worker I’ve ever known. She makes the Proverbs 31 woman look like a slacker….
We were on vacation this last week at the beach – kind of a random coming and going of our family, working around schedules. Tyler and Molli and the girls flew down the prior Wednesday, so I drove down the day before to haul all their stuff and my stuff and check out what repairs and things needed done. We were using both of our places, which are about a five-minute walk from each other. My sister Kim and her daughter and children came down on Friday, then Mom and Dad and Tom drove down on Saturday.
We had a great time, just very relaxed and casual – no big rushing around. Kim brought her kayaks, and we took them out on this little inlet one evening, and that was something different and neat. After the kids leave on Wednesday, Mom announces Thursday morning that it’s she and Kim’s last day of vacation and they have decided that our guest cottage needed cleaned from head to toe, and that’s what they wanted to do on their last day at the beach. No arguing with her, she was bound and determined. She couldn’t take the sitting around any longer and needed to do something. So she, Kim and I tear into the place. Mom cleans the kitchen cabinets, takes out all the dishes and silverware, makes sure it’s clean, inventories it, etc. Kim and I begin the cleaning of the blinds, the fans, the windows, scrubbing bathroom floors on our hands and knees, the typical “spring cleaning.” The place begins to look like a bomb went off in it…..
When you are working, though, with people you love, it does seem like a vacation (well, sort of!) We took a break and went to the pool, and back at it. Everyone but I was leaving the next day, so we still had stuff to pack and get out of the way. Kim begins to hook up the powerwasher and washes her kayaks and then Tom works on finishing powerwashing the concrete that had gotten yucky. Kim and her gang load their vehicle and move over to our oceanfront condo for the night so they didn’t mess up any of the freshly-done beds or baths. The next morning, everyone gets up early and I get them packed off. The condo also looks like a bomb went off in it, with the kids there all week and all of us hanging out, but I had the project going on at the other place, so I head out the door with them at 8:00 a.m. and begin trying to finish the disaster I had started there. When you begin to clean one thing, it uncovers another filthy thing, and the job just never ends. Then I cleaned a white wicker thing that looked more grey than white, so I decided it needed painted. That involves a trip to Walmart. You get the drift…the job that just keeps multiplying.
The big ordeal of the whole week had been that I had had to fire the cleaners. Now, get this – they KNEW I was coming, had been forewarned, and when I arrived, there was mildew in both bathrooms in the condo, hair in the trap, just a skimming of cleaning had been done (if that), as well as a gift card to Outback stolen. The guest cottage was even worse: Shower curtain with mildew all over it, food on the floor with ants….I could keep going, but I won’t. It was a topic of conversation all week, and just very upsetting. We had to interview new cleaners and get that going, plus go meet with the old cleaner to get our linens. Not really what you want to be doing on vacation, but it had to be done. As did this cleaning head-to-toe business.
We didn’t have many bookings for September, so I had advertised a half-off special for next week on Thursday night. Someone messaged me that they wanted to come Thursday through Sunday, which would have worked great. Then they messaged back and they already had gotten a hotel, so didn’t need it. No problem. So Thursday, I take a break from cleaning and run to Lowes. I get a message from these women that their hotel had fallen through and they wanted our condo. Great! But the message indicates they’re on their way! They meant THIS Thursday; I meant NEXT Thursday. And the condo was a nightmare – no beds changed, no cleaning done whatsoever as I had been concentrating on the guest cottage. I didn’t want to turn it down as we needed the rentals to keep all the lights on, so to speak, and it was a friend and someone I really like.
Well, Patty Vannest didn’t raise a slacker either! I went into panic mode, rushed back to the condo, called the new cleaners with an “emergency request” and frantically tried to pack up all my clothes. Now, remember, I still have Tyler and Molli’s stuff, two car seats, all their suitcases, a stroller, bags of purchases they’d made, plus my suitcases, all the food we didn’t eat, a carpet scrubber thing I’d taken down, and purchases I’d made for Tal’s new house. It was 96 degrees also, as I’m making all these trips up and down and getting all this packed. And the kicker is: I need to now move to the guest cottage which is partially cleaned, and all the bathrooms and bedrooms are spotless, and now I’ll have to mess one up to spend the night.
I know this is going on way too long (just like that cleaning job from hell that ended up resulting in a broken vacuum that I had to dismantle and repair the next morning before I could leave) but all this scrambling and feeling “not ready” made me think of the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew 25: 1-13. Five of the virgins were ready to meet the bridegroom, but five were not and were left out. Had I known which Thursday we were talking about, I would have been ready, but because I was not, a panic ensued and a rat race began. May we make sure we are truly ready for the coming of our Lord so we can look forward with anticipation and not panic!25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
What do you wear to work? I have to admit, when I go into hospitals and see these nurses bee-bopping around in their tennis shoes, I am jealous. High heels are harder and harder the older I get. There are days that I need to do errands after work, and I will abandon them just because my feet hurt and I can’t take it anymore. That said, I believe if you are in a profession that requires a certain dress code, you should adhere to that lest you be taken less seriously or do not give due respect to the type of work you do. But you see this “dressing down” more and more.
Last week, I worked with a very nice attorney from out of town. She got to the deposition late, came in with hair still wet from a shower, had on a slouchy shirt and pants, and FLIP-FLOPS! I could not believe it. The male attorneys, for the most part, were still in a suit (all but one). This was a big case, and her client was very important. What in the world? We ended up in the restroom together, and she was very friendly. She says, “Was it one of your people who worked with us on Wednesday?” I say, “No, I’m not sure who that was – we just got hired for Thursday and Friday.” She pauses a minute and then says, “Well, she wasn’t nice.” I’m like, “Who? The court reporter?” She says, “Yeah – and I could hardly believe it. I mean, all court reporters are nice. We attorneys are paying their bill, after all!” Well, then I just had to know. I said, “Well, what happened?” She says she had forgotten to bring a pen, and she asked the reporter if she could borrow one. The reporter supposedly huffed, huffed again, snarled up her face and said, “Well, I guess.” She then makes a big ruckus looking in her briefcase and throws her a pen. The attorney was floored – and frankly, so was I! I was thrilled to be able to just instinctively know that that would never be one of my reporters – and that was a blessing.
The week prior, we had a huge focus group that involved an expert from New York City. This expert had been extremely difficult to deal with prior to her arrival, so we took great pains in cleaning the office from head to toe, going over logistics, having a staff responsibility practice (kind of like a fire drill, as it turned out!). The expert had mistakenly copied me on her e-mail to the client with her final fees, and they were almost as much as my husband makes in a year FOR THE ONE DAY! I was pretty burnt up over that, as our fees for gathering up 44 jurors, feeding 58 people two meals, providing the facility and all the recordings ended up having us lose money on the deal. But it was something we’d not done before, so we wanted to see how it went. And boy, it went.
The expert shows up the night before, seems nice enough, apologized for all her previous demands and e-mails, and I accepted her apology and was hoping for the best. I was shocked at how she dressed, though, I must admit. Very frumpy – flat shoes – casual clothes, no make-up, hair back in a ponytail. She did wear an air of bossiness, though, like a cloak. The next day did not go well. To make an incredibly long story short, we were incompetent, our jurors were possibly criminals or deaf or annoying and needed sent home without pay, our facility was unacceptable, our video feeds were atrocious – you name it, we got blasted with it. And yes, in front of everyone. She even accused one of the jurors of having a DUI in front of other people! One of the jurors asked for a one-minute break to call her employer (when they were only allowed a break to stand up and stretch after over two hours), and she was told she couldn’t – that she should just leave and go on home, without pay, after having been there for over five hours already. It was awful. It was so bad that by the end of the day, all you could do was laugh, as it was just so unending and predictable.
And I’m telling you all this why? Maybe to vent…. I’m still not over it. And oh, it even lasted after it was over when we sent her a bill for the FedEx charges she incurred – got back a long e-mail with more complaints about how unprofessional we were, blah, blah, blah, and she didn’t think she owed the bill. My billing department was included on the e-mail, who happens to be my pastor’s wife, and she sends me an e-mail as soon as she sees the list of complaints and says, “Before you send a response, PRAY!” Too late! I had already responded and didn’t pray…. I did, however, bite my tongue in two with all the things I wanted to say: “It would be worth paying YOU not to ever have to deal with you again” or “Oh, I’m sure in those thousands and thousands of dollars you got, you have no room for a $60.00 FedEx bill.” I didn’t say those things, but I did respond with “Fine, don’t pay it if it makes you feel better.” No response. I deleted the bill and hope I never ever hear of this woman again.
And to stop venting and get to the point: The girls in my office and I keep bringing up how unprofessionally she was dressed. Looked just like someone off the street, not even really business casual. And here she is running this big focus group for a multi-million dollar case. After one of them mentioned it again the other day, I said, “Listen, here’s the truth of the matter: If this woman had worn those clothes and come in here and been nice, we would have said she was so down to earth and kind, coming from NYC, how great it was to work with her. Because she was a witch instead, we are still harping on what she was wearing!”
And what does God tell us? Colossians 3:12 – “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
1 Timothy 2:9 - “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”1 Peter 3:1-6 - “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.”Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
If we dress like God says, I doubt very seriously anyone will be telling nightmare stories about us …..just saying.
Some of you may remember my story about my fountain that leaked. I loved that fountain, believed in it, and just KNEW it could perform as expected, if only I put a little more work into it. Well, last summer, she bit the dust. More work, more patching, more products, and about two weeks after the final application, she leaked. I was done…just done. So we replaced the fountain with a pool. You might say I’m asking for even more trouble, and you could be right. It did remind me, though, of what one of my youth group teens said one time that was so profound. I asked them what God did if He had called us to do something and we didn’t do it. This teen instantly responded, “He’ll replace us. He won’t wait on it or beg us anymore – He will just get it done!” That truly hit me – so true – if God has a work to do, He will get it done, whether we want to obey His call or not. The work will go on! I thought of that analogy when I replaced my fountain with a pool – that what my poor fountain got replaced with was something grander, more beautiful and more productive. And if only my fountain been faithful, think of what she could have enjoyed.
That leads me to today. As a new pool owner, I really have no clue how to take care of this thing. Tom and I are so busy, we haven’t even figured out how to backwash it (whatever that is), but we have heard that is part of the process. We barely know how to vacuum and clean out the filter. We have had great fun in the pool this summer with the grandkids, and I have actually really enjoyed coming home and swimming before bed, stretching out those legs that have cramped up by sitting all the time. It’s been so refreshing in this hot summer we’ve had.
But the rain this week has turned our pool into a green mess of algae, though, and I’ve been having to learn how to fight that. First I tried chemicals, then cleaning, then more chemicals, then was told to stir up the algae often so it can get in the filter. You name it, we’ve been trying it. And the fact that it has rained almost every day hasn’t helped. As I was lying in bed thinking about needing to get up and get on the daily “what now” with this green pool, I began to think about how as Christians, we sometimes get rained on. Or as nonChristians, we get rained on. The Bible tells us it rains on the just and the unjust. And I wonder how you behave when you get rained on? Do you begin to grow a cloak of green, full of negative attitude, “woe is me” talk, or do you dance in the rain, shaking off the potential bad effects, enjoying this challenge to see what God can do with it?
As I have stirred my pool and vacuumed my pool and treated my pool, I’ve grown weary of it. I’m tired of this algae. Oh, yes, it’s better than it was the first day when the algae was big and in clumps – now we just have smaller particles, but still a green tinge. Is that how we let God clean us up? He can scrape off the big pieces, but we’re holding tight to the dust, just so we can clump it together into a big whine if we need to? And He stirs us and stirs us, trying to get us to allow Him to clean that up, and we hold tight to that slime. Speaking of slime, I’ve thought that today I might have to get inside to clean with the vacuum so I can press harder, and do a better job - and you’ve got to wonder if God thinks the same thing: “I’ve cleaned them on the outside time and time again, but if they’d let me inside, I could zap that mess and be done with it.”
Why, oh why, do we hold on to things we know are harming us? Why do we walk around with a tinge of green over everything we say and do – and yes, other people see it – but we just need to hold that negative thing and stir it up every once in a while just so people will feel sorry for us or we can get some attention. Christians, there is a work to be done out in this world – and if you are a slimy mess, no one will want a thing to do with you, or with that God you say you serve….
Get out that chemical treatment (the Word of God) and fill your insides with His words and His presence, and I guarantee you, you will begin to feel that sweet clearness that is transparent and beautiful to behold, that refreshing pool that is like an oasis in this crazy world we live in....
I am truly fed up with the rudeness and lack of respect that has taken over this country. Last week, I spent about an hour doing errands to Sam’s Club, Walmart, a couple other stores, and everywhere I looked, there were unruly children, parents cussing at their children, children cussing back and laughing at and with their parents over their behavior. At first, it made me mad – that I had to listen to this stuff just by going to the store – and then it made me sad, sad that so many children are being raised without a clue as to what proper behavior is. Makes you wonder about the next generation, doesn’t it? My grandmother used to be a total clean freak, then my mom was a normal clean freak, then I am a fairly clean person but certainly not a freak….and we laugh about how the trickle-down is going to leave the grandchildren not knowing that you truly DO have to move the couch twice a year to sweep under and within it….
Following the errand/cussing day, I had to go to Kroger very early one morning for food for a focus group, and while there, I wanted to purchase some Amazon gift cards. You know, all part of my “scheme” to get charge card points and Kroger fuel points while spending for the business. So I needed $4,000 in gift cards to buy new cameras and high-def equipment for our building, and you can only buy the Amazon cards in increments of $500. I get my required amount and go to check out. My card is declined. I try to use another card – declined. By this point, I’m embarrassed, and I know it’s not my cards truly being declined, as I knew my limits and my balance, and I should have been good to go.
And yes, people were waiting behind me. I tell the clerk I don’t think it’s my card, but usually if you buy very much on those Amazon cards, they want your driver’s license. I offer my license; she says that’s not it. By this time, a manager has come over. They believe it’s that you can only charge so many of those cards at a time, and they think the level is $2,000. We start over, cancelling out the cards, then re-ringing up to $2,000. That doesn’t work. And yes, this is taking some time, and I am really needing to get to work. They tell me they think that I can only do one of these transactions per day, so I can’t get all the cards. I really needed to get the cameras ordered, so I call Tara, my office manager, to see if she can stop by Kroger on her way to work to use her card for the other ones. She’s already at work. Back to square one.
Another manager comes over – they believe the limit is $1500. We start over again. We charge the $1500, try my company charge card, and it’s declined. Use my regular charge card and it works. This “quick check-out” takes probably close to 30 minutes. By the time I’m done, I head out with my groceries and it’s begun to drizzle outside. I’m in a suit, high heels, the works. I have to unload five cases of water and ten cases of pop into the car, all dressed up, in the rain. And this is when the “character” test comes. There is an empty spot right beside where I parked, and the buggy spot is a short walk away. I begin to debate it – I’ve already been humiliated, now late for when I promised I’d be at the office, it’s raining, I have on high heels…you know the drill. Excuses for why I don’t want to do the right thing. And I know – I’m stretching to say this is a moral dilemma – but to me, I’ve been taught to be considerate and try to do the right thing, which includes putting your buggy up. I am proud to announce that I chose well – LOL – and I walked in the rain and put my buggy where it was supposed to be! This is making me laugh now, but it wasn’t at the time.
What I began to think of as I drove away is: Was that a character test? What is a reflection of true character? Is it the small things, like getting in the potatoe chips late at night and leaving the bag wide open (TOM EVANS!!!), or is it only the large things, the telling of truth when you’d rather tell a lie, the loving on those who don’t smell well or speak nice or look clean? Someone told me something someone had done this week, and they followed it up with “and they’re supposed to be a Christian!” Oh, and these are the times that my heart is broken! I would never want someone to say that of me, after they’ve seen me do or say something that is not Christlike.
I’d love to hear your definition of character (big or small), if you’d care to share! Lord, give us more of you and less of us!
Continuing on the “builder” series, I have been thinking of how sometimes what’s on the outside does not illustrate what’s hidden on the inside. Our first house, we bought as a sort of foreclosure – the person was about to get foreclosed on but they had us take over their payments before the bank actually foreclosed on them. It was a terrific deal for us – a great house with tons of space and potential, nice big yard for the kids to play in, truly a dream come true. We had heard stories of how it had been built by a preacher and he ran out of money when it was time to get it completely finished, but all appeared good other than cheap trim on the upstairs, nicer trim on the downstairs. We thought that was probably it until we began to hang things on the walls. We had a stud finder, and we just couldn’t seem to find studs. We pecked with a hammer and listened and used the stud finder and checked and rechecked, and we finally figured it out – the guy truly HAD run out of money, and he started putting the studs every 24 inches instead of 16! Thank the Lord, the house otherwise seemed solid, but it was a “Who would ever know?”
It reminded me of a case I worked in once where there was mold in this doctor’s house and his children just stayed sick and developed asthma and some other fairly serious conditions, so the insurance company sent in a mold remediation company. They charged an arm and a leg, took about two months while the family had to stay in a motel, and they declared the house mold-free. Then the kids still kept getting sick. The mom begins to investigate, and she tears off a piece of drywall and sees that instead of tearing out the old moldy drywall, they just stuck new in front of it and called it good!
We were telling these stories the other night at the dinner table and Talia’s husband said their contractor that’s building their new house was telling him about a little old rich lady who just wanted to build a small new house, about 1500 square feet, and before you know it, the contractor had talked her into a 3500 square foot house. After he was done and moved on, the basement had a leak, and the drain he had put in the basement appeared stopped up. She calls another contractor, and he comes in and guess what? That drain went NOWHERE. It was just a drain put down in concrete with nary a pipe run to drain it anywhere.
This then reminded me of a fiasco that happened while building my building. I had paid a lot of extra money to have the heating and cooling run on “zones,” so each conference room could have its own thermostat so the attorneys could operate them personally as the room needed heated or cooled. After the work was done, I’m in one of the conference rooms, and it’s too hot. I adjust the thermostat, and it just doesn’t seem to do anything. I adjust it some more, and it does nothing. I call the company who installed it, and they seemed to doubt that there was a problem, kind of acted like I was being ridiculous, but they came over. The actual owner of the company was there, and he pushes on the thermostat, does all the same things I did, and nothing happens. He’s stumped. He then takes the thermostat off the wall and finds that it CONNECTS TO NOTHING! He goes to the other rooms, and they all have thermostats that connect to nothing as well. I have to give it to him – he didn’t pull any punches. He told me straight up that these thermostats were nothing but wall decorations. Then they tell me it’s going to be almost impossible to give me my zones, with everything being completed. I about blew a gasket. Long story short, they reconnoitered (and wanted more money!!) and our conference rooms will now adjust individually. Every time I adjust one, I think of how they thought they could just stick this thing on the wall and no one would figure it out. Unbelievable.
And all these stories make me think about how we can look great on the outside – all made up and dressed up and in our finest garb – but we can be black as coal on the inside. Usually if we are hiding things on the inside, they will eventually get out, just like these building situations were exposed, and people will begin to see we’re not what we claim to be. We know that the Bible tells us that God formed us while we were in our mother’s womb, and He knows us inside and out. We may fool some, but we won’t fool Him. I thank God that anytime He sees something on my inside that needs correcting, He doesn’t waste any time making me miserable and convicted and repentant. Those are the times I KNOW BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that God is real – because He talks to me, and He corrects me and He shows me who I was created to be, not who I was acting like…..
Hebrews 3:4 For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.
My family and I are builders. My parents have built houses, flipped houses, done lots of remodels. Matter of fact, they were building their home when Mom was pregnant with me, and she fell through the rafters while putting up the roof, and her belly is what caught her from not falling all the way through. I’ve always been told that’s what happened to my brain…
Mom and Dad did the Dave Ramsey way of spending before Dave Ramsey was famous. They had a very small trailer, and they lived in it and built half of their house (using cash) and attached it to the trailer. When they had enough money, they built the second half on. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I remember when we got our first television – we all sat on stacks of plywood in the family room with bowls of popcorn to watch it.
My son Tyler was born a builder. We called him the Tazmanian devil as he could come into a room, whirl around a bit and it was destroyed. He also loved tearing things apart. One time when he was about four years old, he took an old baby doll stroller of Talia’s (one of the carriage type with the little hood where the baby lays down in it) and he took the wheels off of it, folded it out and screwed it to a skateboard. Then he would lay down in the stroller on the skateboard and go down the neighbor’s driveway (not seeing where he was going!) The neighborhood took bets on whether the kid was going to make it to age five….
It’s now been a few years since one of my clients convinced me to get out of my basement and come to Charleston with my court reporting firm. Once I began paying a $1200 a month rent payment, I began to devise ways to help pay for that, as you don’t charge more for a deposition you host, so it’s really just a major expense that cannot be passed on. That’s when I thought about doing focus groups. We did a couple in our “new” office space, and we realized we needed much more space. So one day, literally out of the blue, I took a wild hair to look at what was for sale around Charleston. I found this really cheap building right on Lee Street and made an appointment to see it. When we walked in, there were holes in the floor, rats running around, drunks living behind the building near a huge restaurant cooler, and it looked rode hard and put up wet. And it had been – since the early 1900s. This building had been a dry cleaners, a restaurant, a store, and then it had been abandoned and hadn’t been inhabited in ten years.
But I will tell you, when I walked into this dump, I could see its future. I could see the hallways that led to deposition rooms. I could see how the upstairs could be divided off and the downstairs could be opened up to make the PERFECT place to hold focus groups. My son Tyler was with me, and he was just looking at me like I’d lost my mind. The enormity of the project was a bit overwhelming, but I just KNEW that God had led me to this place, and it was going to be mine. I negotiated, bought it at a good price, and we began the remodel. The bids I had gotten were very expensive, and they scared me to death. But at that point, I was too far in to quit now, and I STILL saw the vision – I KNEW this was destined to be my place, and it was destined for the purpose I had envisioned it.
While doing the remodel, I was doing daily copy at a trial in Virginia, and my sister (who works across the street) texts me and says, “I know you’re in a really stressful trial, but I just needed to tell you I went by your building and the back wall just fell off.” FELL OFF! One of the demo guys had put a ladder up against the back wall, and he and the ladder fell through the wall! It just konked over. I thank God no one was hurt, but I am devastated – this HAS to mean more money and more time, and what about that structural examination I had done JUST to ascertain that the walls were good, since I knew the inside of the walls weren’t good? That’s a whole other story for another day…
Anyway, while I was still in that same trial, Kim texts me again and says, “I know I keep being the bearer of bad news, but I just had to tell you that your building just got flooded.” She sends me pics – someone’s water pipes had burst or something right next to my building, and I got about a foot of water in there. I was doing my project under the History Tax Credit program, and they had an enormous list of what you could and couldn’t do, all of which made everything more expensive. One of their rules for me at one point was that I couldn’t let my walls go clear to the ceiling but they could only go up eight feet and have no ceiling, as it had previously been an open store front and they wanted to keep it that way. I say, “I take depositions – that’s a private thing – I can’t have no ceiling where every room can hear what’s going on in the other!” This was midway in and I thought they were literally going to kill my project. We negotiated and arrived at the allowance that I could have walls as long as I topped them with glass before it hit the ceiling height. More expense.
And my wall that I lost? It had to be put back up with the original brick, so each brick had to be painstakingly cleaned back to original condition, and we had to match the mortar exactly like they made it in the early 1900s. Yep, you guessed it – MORE EXPENSE. That wall cost me tens of thousands of dollars to repair. My budget for the project almost doubled before it was complete, and I prayed and prayed that God would have to provide for this vision I believed He had given me. It was very scary. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, and that was not a place I was accustomed to. But in all those things, I still KNEW I had been led to this building and that God was going to carry me through. God never begins a work that He is not prepared to finish, no matter what disasters occur in the middle!
I would ask you today: Do you feel like you’ve had a wall collapse in your life? Feel like you are only holding up with 3/4s of a body as you’ve had such a huge loss? Feel like you’re standing in the rubble of what used to be a part of you that is now lying all over, busted up and ruined? Feel like the vision of your life is now nothing but a farce because you’ve had so much wreckage occur? Let me tell you something: God is a restorer. If you will allow him, he will take that wall you’ve lost, and he will rebuild it, brick by brick, with stronger mortar than you had before, a glue that will hold you together so that no one and nothing can break you. Only God can so perfectly recreate what was to be but has been ruined by a flood, by a drug, by a person, by one storm or another. I beg you – give Him the wreckage that’s in your life, let Him build you back, giving you a joy that is catchable and a peace that passes all understanding – HE IS THE ULTIMATE BUILDER, THE RESTORER OF ALL THINGS….
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.