Olive and Frank (part one)

Family and Heritage, Life Matters, spiritual 2 Comments »

I already know, as I begin this post, that it will be a long one. So I’m going to write it in a few parts.

When I was a teenager, I used to go with my Mom to visit her Aunt Olive and her husband, Frank. My Mom would run errands for the elderly couple, and we’d visit for a while. Then I started to mow their lawn in the summertime. Of course, as most teenagers do, I wanted to complete the task and go on to other things, such as movies with my friends, or anything else but sitting and talking to old folks.

 But each time, as I pushed that mower passed the windows, I’d see Frank or Olive watching me. Sometimes they’d tap on the window, or wave to me. And upon completion of the mowing, they’d invite me in to “sit a spell” and have a cold drink of water. Frank would brag about how he was so pleased with the care that I took in mowing their lawn. They’d hired others, but no one took the time to trim the hedges or pay attention to the flower beds, etc. But I always did. I understood that Frank could no longer push the mower or use the hand trimmer, so I had wanted to complete the work with the precision and perfection that he had done for many years before. I took extra care to get it right, for Frank’s sake.

Afterward, they would use the cold drink as an excuse, in order for me to take the time to visit with them. And so I would sit and listen to their “stories.” Of course, I grew to love both the people and their stories.

Olive had a sweet and soft voice, a little lilting at times. She was a tiny woman, with little hands and so the voice matched her well. Frank was a tall man with large hands, and he’d sit in his chair and tap those hands on his knees, or sometimes reach over and take Olive’s hand in his. It was a tender gesture, and I remember that Olive would smile at him each time he gave it. And more often than not, in those hands Frank also held a Bible.

Their story is a unique one. Olive, who had never married, finally said “yes” to Frank. She was 67 years old when they married. Frank was older than she, so I would guess that he was about 71 when they became husband and wife. I always use Olive as my example when people ask me when will I get married. I say “Olive was 67 years old the first time she got married, so I’ve got a few years!” The marriage was blessed and lasted about 30 years here on earth.

So I would sit in their home and listen, as Olive spoke in her soft voice, and told stories of the past. Frank would nod his head in agreement and seldom, if ever, interrupted her. I think that was one of the reasons Olive married him; he rarely disagreed with her!

Many of their stories were about the “olden days,” and many were about my relatives. They were never “gossip” stories, but full of family history or remembrances of family picnics, reunions, and other events. I don’t remember the exact details now, but I do remember spending hours listening to the two of them. I had thought at the time that I was doing them a favor, spending an hour every week during the summer listening to their ramblings. But I stayed each time because I was drawn to them. And all of these years later, I realize that they were the ones who had given me the favor. They provided insight into life, they taught me patience, and eventually gave me a gift for which I am eternally grateful.(more on that in Part two).

Frank, at one point in his life, worked as a mechanic. Some of the stories he told contained details of automobiles from the past. He told me of a time they had to hang an engine from a tree in order to work on it. Those were the days before electric lifts of any sort. As Frank relayed the event to me, he looked down at his hands, as if remembering the strength it took to lift that engine out. It was just a little story, but as I looked at the ninety-five year old man sitting before me, slightly bent over in his chair as he spoke, that story became a testimony of the physical strength the man once had. I understood that point, even as a teenager.

Olive and Frank always asked questions during the visits. What was I studying in school? What were my plans for the future? Could they pray for me? Would I pray with them right at that very moment?

It didn’t take long for me to realize that those weekly “visits” were becoming a time of fellowship. A time of teaching for them, and learning for me. Each week the discussions concerning God, my faith, and their faith began to take over the topics of conversation. Soon Frank began to read some scriptures aloud to me, from that Bible that he kept in his lap.

This all took place in the early 1980’s, when cassette tapes were popular. Frank and Olive were excited that the Bible on tape was available to them. As they were on in years, reading became more difficult. So they would compliment the reading with listening to the tapes as someone narrated the Bible.

Sometimes they would ask me to read aloud to them. They would use the excuse that they liked to listen, but I think that the ulterior motive was to get me to actually read the Bible. After a few verses I’d stop, or they’d interrupt with a question or two, and we’d end up discussing the scriptures. My post lawn mowing visits soon turned into Bible lessons. And although I may not have agreed at the time with what they were telling me, I always listened to what Olive and Frank had to say about those verses.

…to be continued…

Stormy Weather and the Shelter of the Almighty

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Last week was an interesting one, as we prepared for the impending hurricane Irene to hit New England. The forecasters on most t.v. and radio had been predicting a direct hit for the area. One weatherman was quoted as saying “the will be the worst weather that many of you have ever seen.”

As the day of the storm grew closer, some people in the area began to panic. The warnings kept coming from every news source and people were starting to gather supplies. The stores in this area were completely sold out of bottled water and batteries four days before the storm was to arrive. In all of my life, I’d never seen such chaos at the supermarket or Walmart before!

New Englanders are known for their steadfastness in times of trouble. But even the most solid of individuals began to lose their emotional footing as the hurricane approached. On Saturday (the day before the storm was to hit us) I went to the gas station in the neighborhood. The lines were three cars deep as people like me desired to fill our gas tanks just in case the electricity was out and the stations could be closed. The electric company actually called each customer with a message that, not only were power outages expected, but that the outages could last seven days or more! It is the first time I’d ever heard of the electric company providing such detailed warnings to every customer.

So on Saturday I was at the gas station, walking from my car to the store, when I was almost run over! A woman was driving her car and looking at the pumps. She was not paying attention to anything going on around her. As she strove to get in line, she missed hitting me by about three inches. I was livid, but grateful that I was not hurt.

After filling up my tank, I then drove back home. But the traffic on the road kept me waiting eight minutes before I could even pull out of the gas station! In these parts, on the outskirts of town, traffic like that has seldom, if ever, existed. People were traveling all over the area completing last minute tasks before the big storm.

I had stocked up on candles, batteries, water, and many boxed carbohydrates just in case the power did go out. I removed the air conditioner from the bedroom window because I didn’t trust it to remain if the winds really did get to the 100 mph they were predicting. My sister and brother-in-law came to the house and we all got ready to withstand the storm.

In the end, we were lucky. The storm was downgraded from a Category 2 hurricane, to a tropical storm. We lost cable t.v. later in the evening, and although the lights flickered several times, we never did lose power. Streets in the neighborhood were flooded, but not the one where our house is. So we lucked out there as well.

I communicated on the computer for most of the day to friends and relatives, and was able to use my cell phone to text as well. It’s good to have technology during events like bad storms. I remember the days when I was a kid, and unless you had a telephone, you didn’t hear from anyone. Even then, communication was scarce, because most of the time my parents would not use the phone, reserving it only for emergencies. There was no such thing as “call waiting” back then, so if you were using the phone, no one else could call in.

After the storm passed, some of the worst damage started occurring as the rivers and streams in this area were overflowing. The flooding began as dams burst under the pressure of all that water. Reports of mudslides and downed trees began to come. But, again, our home was saved from all of that.

Throughout the storm I had been praying for my family and the home I am living in. I prayed “Lord, protect this house and all that are in it.” I didn’t mean just the “physical” building, I meant the “house” of my family.

By Monday, all was back to normal for my family. No one had been injured, no one had lost their home or valuables. We had remained safe. I took time to thank God for His protection and safety through the storm. It’s good to be thankful.

There are other storms in life that I have witnessed this week. Someone I know is going through a terrible emotional storm right now. Reality is not clear to her. She struggles with her work, her family, her sanity. It is peculiar how life can be. For some of us last weekend was a trying time as we worried about our homes and other valuables. My friend worried if she would ever know true reality again. It is a scary place to be.

Another friend mourns the loss of her child. That’s a storm that never ends in the mind of a parent. How can one heal from such a tragedy? It takes more than just time, but I believe healing can come.

As I think about all of these storms, both physical and emotional, I am reminded of the scripture that states “For You have been a shelter from the storm.” — Isaiah 25:4.

We needed God’s shelter last weekend, and we received it. I know that there are many other Christians who prayed like I did last weekend,  but who lost their homes, their land, their valuables. So I am not saying that my family was protected just because I prayed. Sometimes things just happen. We can’t rationalize everything in life with a simple answer. But for me, my faith in God gives me the shelter, even if it is just a mental reassurance that there is a Higher Power and He is watching out for us.

My friend who is struggling over the loss of her child, and the other person I know who is holding on to her mental capabilities as much as she can, both need the shelter from those storms that only God can give. I am in prayer daily for them both, knowing that God can supply the healing for each on of them.

I am reminded of a song, titled “In the Shelter of His Arms,” and sung by Richard Smallwood. It’s one of my many favorites, as the lyrics described all of the things to be found in God. Things such as hope for the hopeless, peace for the worried, love for those who feel unworthy.

Yes, last week was an interesting one indeed. And from literal storms to figurative ones, my God is still there, providing shelter and peace and life. For these things I am most thankful.

Choosing to Breathe

Life Matters, spiritual 2 Comments »

After my last two posts that included a bit of ranting, one of my cousins commented “It’s Sunday….breathe.” I laughed, because although I’d written the blogs on other days of the week, she apparently read it on a Sunday. Still, I appreciated her message very much. And so today’s post is all about that: breath and breathing.

As a Christian I have the peace of God available to me at any time of any day. All I have to do is choose it. For instance, in the midst of those chaotic days at work when I am asking “why, why, why” all day long and not getting appropriate answers, I can choose to take the time to let that peace of God’s spirit filter through me, or I can not. I would love to say that I do indeed enjoy the peacefulness of God at all times. But that doesn’t happen for me that way. I usually get to the point where I am about to explode before I catch myself and “just breathe.” And sometimes, yes, it is after the explosion.

Nevertheless I don’t get too hard on myself over this matter, because I know that everyone else struggles with it also. I am not perfect, I am still a work in progress. The good news is that I realize it and therefore when I do take the time to “breathe,” it is usually rewarding.

I think about the verse in the book of Genesis that states when God formed Adam, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7, NKJ). If we believe in the validity of the scriptures then we have to believe that God’s breath is what gave Adam life. And that same breath gives us life today. We have in us the very breath of God, and with it comes that peace that passes all understanding, and the grace to somehow accept that all things will not go the way we want them to go.

What do you do when you take time to breathe? Do you look at God’s creations, majestic mountains, flowing rivers, cloud filled skies? Do you take yourself to that place in your mind where all is well? Do you sit in silence or practice your yoga mantra or just relax on the couch?

Maybe you need a little reminder that God is in control, that His breath flows through us, despite the sometimes chaotic challenges that life throws at us. Here is a video I found on YouTube of an Amy Grant song. The movie clip is from The Nativity Story. As Mary and Joseph almost frantically deal with their situation, we see how life can be chaotic while bringing forth the promises of God.

A gentle reminder, and perhaps also a prayer, that the God of Heaven should be our breath. The One who brings us peace and the promise that despite what we are going through right now, our lives can be made new by His breath.

P.s. Thanks cousin Lori, for reminding me to “breathe.”

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