THE ELUSIVE BUCKET FULL OF DOLLAR BILLS

April 21, 2014

On the way to AWANA with our grandsons, I emptied out the coin bin in the car and handed both of them what seemed to be an equal amount of coins for the offering. “Wow! That’s really a lot!” Seven-year-old Jehiel exclaimed as he put his newly acquired coin counting skills into practice. “One dollar and 35 cents!” Then Jehiel spontaneously offered a child’s interpretation of the word “rich”: “Rich is when you have a whole bucket full of dollar bills!”

Unexpressed thoughts swirled through my head: It depends on how tightly the bills are packed, how big the bucket is, how much debt you have, current monthly expenses, where you are in life, or in the world…sure, a bucket full of dollar bills might mean you’re “rich”…

Then I remembered one of my Dad’s favorite Bible passages, especially in his later years: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1st Timothy 6:6-8)

Maybe as a 7 year-old, Dad had the same concept of “rich” as Jehiel has. By the time he was that age, World War I had ended and he lost his mom to the 1918 flu pandemic. With his 3 siblings, Dad had to dig the best potatoes from their crop to pay the undertaker for his mom’s burial because Grandpa didn’t have that bucket of dollar bills. Throughout his life the bucket was elusive: World War II, the Great Depression, being laid off at 43 with six children at home, starting a new business at that age…but no bucket full of dollar bills.

When Dad went to be with the Lord at age 94, he still didn’t have that bucket. What he did have – and it was obvious to those who knew him – was “godliness with contentment”, learned at an early age, and cultivated over many decades.

As the years creep up on me, the truth that the Apostle Paul expressed in 1st Timothy 6:6-8 becomes more real. I haven’t secured that elusive bucket full of dollar bills, either, and I’ll probably never have it. With contentment, I have something far more valuable: the assurance of God’s presence. In Hebrews 13:5 we are encouraged to “Be content with such things as you have. For He himself (GOD!) has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’

And that assurance makes me much richer than the elusive bucket full of dollar bills!

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THE BEST GIFT

February 27, 2014

“My son, give me your heart.” Proverbs 23:26

Our oldest grandson will be seven in a few days. Last week was his mommy’s birthday, so they came to our house to celebrate the occasion. When his mommy was well out of earshot, Jehiel called me over to the sofa, where he was sitting, noticeably distressed. I sat down beside him.

“What’s up, buddy?”

“Lola, do you have a surprise for my mommy? I don’t have any money, so I couldn’t buy her a birthday present. I don’t have anything to give her.” His voice was tinged with sadness.

At that point, I was nearly in tears beside him, wondering how to address his concern.  “Well, tell me something. Did you make a birthday card for mommy?” (What kid that age doesn’t ?!?!?) He assured me that he did. “You know what?” I continued, “I’ll tell you a secret. That is by far the very best thing you could ever give mommy. All mommies love the cards their kids make. When your daddy was a boy, he always made me birthday cards. And so did Aunt Denise and Uncle Dino. It didn’t matter that they didn’t give me any gifts. Those cards were the best gifts I ever got. In fact, I still have some of them.”

With that explanation, Jehiel perked up and seemed to be convinced that his card was, really, a valuable gift for mommy.

That incident reminded me of what God wants of us. If he doesn’t have our hearts, God doesn’t care about our gifts. He would rather we love Him – and express that love to Him – than any other gift we could give Him. After all, He owns everything anyway. So what can we give Him, besides our heart?

As I mused these things, I prayed that one day little Jehiel – and all of our grandkids – would understand what we adults often need to be reminded of: all God wants, really, is our heart!


COUNT YOUR “G” BLESSINGS

November 9, 2013

Among the list of my “G” blessings are some that are very dear to my heart. Let’s start with grandparents. I often thank God for my grandparents and the godly legacy they handed down to future generations. I’m thankful that our children were blessed to have known all four of their grandparents, who also loved Jesus and that by His grace (another “G” blessing) we can pass that legacy on to our grandchildren (another important “G” blessing)

Along with grandparents, grace and grandchildren, I’m thankful for grapes, gyms, grapefruit, guests, gardens, gardenias, grins, girls, gingersnaps, garages, Gatlinburg and gentleness.

What’s on your “G” blessing list?


WELL, YOU LOOK LIKE YOU COULD BE A GRANDMA!

August 13, 2013

A conversation with a four-year old a few years ago reminded me that people aren’t always what they seem to be. Little Vanesa’s enormous, questioning brown eyes looked me over and she inquired, “Whose Grandma are you?” I was in my mid-40’s then, and taken aback by her spontaneous, innocent question. I replied “I’m not a Grandma.” And the conversation continued. “Why aren’t you a Grandma?” I was sure that  “Because I’m not old enough” would satisfy her curiosity, but it didn’t. Vanesa had the last word, frankly expressing her observation, “Well, you look like you could be a Grandma.”

People aren’t always what they seem to be. The ruddy, bright-eyed, youngest son of Jesse didn’t look like he would be the one to sit on Israel’s throne one day; at least his dad didn’t think so. A keeper of Jesse’s sheep, David was chosen by God not only to lead His people, but to be the direct ancestral line through whom the Savior of the world would be born! (Matthew 1:6) God saw in David what neither his own dad nor the prophet Samuel could see. God knew David’s heart, and told Samuel that “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Like Jesse and Samuel, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that people really are as we see them. It’s easy to hold someone in low esteem, or to be judgmental and even feel a little “holier than thou” when others don’t line up with our personal set of standards. It just takes a wacky neighbor, an obnoxious co-worker, a grumpy cashier at the store, or someone who outwardly expresses their inner creativity…and the trap is set. We tend to immediately assess them. Instead of thinking that’s who the person is, let’s ask God to see what HE wants us to see in them. A cry for help? A longing to be accepted? A compassionate bent? A future friend? Loneliness?

People aren’t always what they seem to be. Let’s look beyond “Well, you look like you could be a ….” (you can fill in the blank) and discover the “real” person. Let’s allow them to enrich us in their unique way, and see how we can bless them with the love of God that has been poured out in our hearts!


INSPIRATION FROM A TEN-MONTH OLD

August 10, 2013

When I took our grandsons home after their weekly dinner and evening with us, four-year old Milos raced into the house and immediately ran up the stairs. He stood there looking down at us. His ten-month old sister Kayra did not take her eyes off of him as she leaned on the bottom step, clutching to the second one and repeatedly lifting her little right leg, trying to propel herself up to the second step. She was unsuccessful, but that didn’t deter her! Laughingly, I warned my daughter-in-law, “You’d better watch out! One day when you turn your back, Kayra’s going to be at the top of the staircase!” A day or two later, before they had a chance to install a “childproof” gate, Mommy gave me the news: “Guess where I found Kayra? On the fourth step!” It’s hard to tell how far she would have gotten, had Mommy not found her.

Not understanding the though process of a ten-month old, I can only fabricate what was going on in her little mind. Maybe she thought, “I see my brothers run up there all the time. Mommy and Daddy go up and down the steps, too. Why can’t I? It looks like it’s one step at a time. I’m observing them. One leg up, the other leg up…I think I can do that. I’ll give it a try some time as soon as no one’s looking. Maybe it’s not so hard. It is big, but what have I got to lose?” (Unaware of the fact that she could possibly take an unpleasant tumble back down…) Kayra set a personal goal, and she is pursuing it.

I never imagined that our ten-month granddaughter would inspire me to set a goal and pursue it, but she did. My current short-term goal is to publish a book. My thought process follows the pattern Kayra may have had: “Others have successfully done that, why can’t I? It has to be one step at a time, learning from others. I think I can do that. I’ll give it a try. Maybe it’s not so hard. It’s daunting, but what have I got to lose?”

Do you have a goal? Maybe you’re wistfully thinking, “If only I could…” find better employment, lose weight, learn a new skill, save for something special, or pay off debt. Maybe it’s not so hard. Be inspired by Kayra…go for it!

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)


“JUST MY HEAD IS THIRSTY”

May 13, 2013
Milos with his bike

Milos with his bike

Exhausted from our bike ride around the neighborhood, our grandsons and I were pushing our bikes up the last few yards of our driveway. The dialogue with four-year old Milos, who has a unique perspective on things, went like this:

Grandma: “Wow! I’m really tired! How about you?”

Milos: “No, just my head is thirsty.” (Actually he said “firsty”)

With that declaration, Milos disappeared into the kitchen and guzzled a glass of cold water.

That episode reminded me of a promise that God made to His people thousands of years ago, recorded by the prophet Isaiah. Even though God promised it for a special people-group at a special time, I claim it for myself and our family, also.

God said: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3) With that, God promises to generously quench our thirst; not just our thirsty heads, but much more importantly, our thirsty souls. Then He goes one step further to assure us of His provision for the spiritual needs of our families.

Like all God-fearing parents and grandparents, we often pray for our families. Just as Milos was in a hurry to get a drink when his “head” was thirsty, we pray that we and all of our children and grandchildren would be quick to run to Christ when our hearts are thirsty. When we do that, God will do exactly what He promised to do: He WILL pour His Spirit on our descendants, and His blessing on our offspring, with satisfying rivers of living water!

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said,
out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
John 7:37,38


LOVE JESUS FIRST, THEN SERVE HIM

February 19, 2013

Children need to learn to prioritize, and the parents’ job is to guide them in that learning process. When we were growing up, Mom had a rule that she strictly enforced. W e had to clean the house every Friday after school before we could read “the funnies” that she hid somewhere. Because this was the pre-computer era and we didn’t have a TV, the most exciting entertainment we six siblings had (besides going next door to play with our cousins) was the comic section of the Akron Beacon Journal. So we scurried to get the house clean!

Our own children knew that homework had to be done before hitting the soccer field or reading a book; and our grandsons hurry to pick up their Legos before being allowed to play a computer game at our house. Here and in their own home, they are learning what comes first.

As God’s children, we need to learn what to do first, too. Thankfully, He teaches us. Thousands of years ago God reminded His people that loving Him must precede serving Him. In Deuteronomy 10:12,13 we read: “…what does the Lord your God require of you, but to …love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…?” That same requirement is reinforced in Deuteronomy 11:13: “…love the Lord your God, and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…”

Fast forwarding to Christ’s ministry on earth, we join a dinner party at Martha and Mary’s. Isn’t that account in Luke 10:38-42 all about priorities? Isn’t the underlying message “Love Jesus first, then serve Him”? Isn’t that the same message God gave His people a few millenniums earlier? In fact, isn’t that what He’s still trying to teach us today?

Loving Jesus first, in His own words, is “that good part, which will not be taken away…” (Luke 10:42). Loving Him first shapes our behavior, freeing us to love and serve Him and others the way He loved and served. Let’s follow God’s plan that He laid out thousands of years ago, and love Him first. Service will follow…love Jesus, then serve Him!


100 YEARS LATER SOME THINGS CHANGED, SOME THINGS DIDN’T

May 11, 2012

Why 100 years? Because 100 years ago today, baby Helen was born to Mathias and Susan Pamer. Helen grew up to marry my Dad, and become known as “Mom” to my five siblings and myself (in that order).

Last evening I was talking with one of our daughter-in-laws, who is expecting her first baby – a girl – in August. Of course, as women do, we talked about pregnancies. I mentioned to her that I marvel that we never had all the tests, sonograms, vitamins, restrictions etc. twenty+ years ago, yet our kids had “normal” births. (Mind you that a “normal” birth for two of our three children took place in small rural towns in Argentina….making it all the more of a marvel, given the conditions.)

Since our conversation last evening, I’ve been thinking how prenatal care and childbearing have evolved in the past 100 years. My grandma probably never even heard of prenatal care. Like most farm women of her era, she probably kept on working from sun-up to sundown, washing clothes by hand, hauling water from the pumphouse, hoeing the garden, gathering eggs, baking bread and feeding the animals. She already had 2 little girls, tagging along and hanging onto her long skirt. Nothing about her life was easy or comfortable, and much less when it was time for the baby to be born; no running water, no electricity, no phone, no central heating or AC. No medical professionals; just the neighborhood midwife. Complications were common and often fatal 100 years ago. What a stark contrast to today’s conditions!

While childbearing circumstances changed so dramatically in 100 years, I realized that some things have not changed, and never will: a mother’s love for her child; the sacrifice a mother is willing to suffer for her child; the protection, provision and care she gives her offspring. Those things haven’t changed. Grandma was a godly woman, and I’m sure that she prayed often for each of her eight children, experiencing God’s peace in the realization that He loves them far more than she ever could. I’m positive that her prayers for baby Helen – and all her children – were the very same prayers that godly moms today offer on behalf of their own children – no matter how old they are!

One hundred years later…some things changed, but some things didn’t.


LITTLE BLUE FINGERPRINTS

April 28, 2012

Yesterday I learned a very important lesson; one that I wish I had learned many years ago. I came to the realization that little blue fingerprints are OK. It was OK that I found them on our bathroom sink the morning after our 2 grandsons, ages 3 and 5, were here. It’s just fine if they stained my kitchen table – in spite of the newspaper we had covering their work area. Little blue fingerprints are good. They are a reminder that young boys had fun painting a craft with Lola (that’s what they call me). They are also a reminder that one day, when they are grown up and I’ll have passed on, they’ll look back and say “Remember how much fun we used to have doing crafts with Lola?”

When I discovered the little blue fingerprints yesterday morning on the bathroom sink, my first reaction was a huge smile, recalling their delight as they painted their little wooden crocodile and lobster. As they painted, they asked, “Did you get one for you, Lola? Why don’t you have one to paint?” I really didn’t know what to answer them!

Looking again at the residue of their fun smeared on my bathroom sink, my though process took a turn. I saw their dad, Adriel, around their age, leaving little fingerprints, muddy shoe prints and other traces of a fun-loving preschooler, and unfortunately I saw their mom (me)…agitated, grumbling, and begrudgingly wiping up after him. Fingerprints weren’t so cute back then.

Thankfully, Adriel grew up to be a normal, Godly, responsible dad; I also matured. Now I realize how quickly time flies; read Psalm 90 if you need to be convinced of that. I learned to value happy kids over a spotless home. The little blue fingerprints are still on my bathroom sink and on the kitchen table, a reminder of fun times. And maybe I’ll just leave them there.


Draw Near to God

March 10, 2012

It is good for me to draw NEAR to God” (Psalm 73:28)

Our grandsons LOVE their grandpa, and they affectionately call him “Lolo George”. They love to spend time with him in his garage, checking out all the tools and learning to use them, roasting marshmallows with him in the wood burner and just being with their Lolo George. They follow him wherever he goes. Over dinner, they listen, wide-eyed, to stories grandpa tells of when he was a little boy, (usually with a moral application tucked in…) and enjoy every minute they spend together. So it was no surprise when we were watching TV with the boys after dinner a few weeks ago, to see 3-year old Milos suddenly jump off the sofa without a word and run straight over to the recliner where Lolo George was sitting. There he hopped up onto the recliner, squeezed right in beside Lolo George and had a look of total satisfaction on his little face as he experienced Lolo George’s embrace. And there he stayed, with  Lolo George enjoying it just as much as little Milos!

That act immediately brought to mind the fact that as God’s children, we bring joy and satisfaction to our Father God’s heart when we “draw near to Him”; when we chose to be close to the One who loves us and we make that move to be in His presence…just because we want to be with Him!

Please take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful song titled “I Just Want to Be Where You Are”


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