Mom-mom, That’s Me!

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life:  Little Sister, Cici, cousin, Aunt, Mrs. Radcliff, Mom, Sisterchick, M’am, and some things that I won’t print. But my favorite title, hand’s down, is Mom-mom. When I hear that from one of my little cherubs, my heart melts, especially when it’s accompanied by a hug and “I love you.”

I have spent the last two weeks in California, meeting our newest grandchild and celebrating her sister’s second birthday. The two-year-old usually adds an additional “mom” to my title, making me Mom-mom-mom. But sometimes, she just shortens it to “MA!” That’s usually when she wants me to play. Playing with grandchildren is what Mom-moms do best. Playing and baking, which can be considered playing, depending on how messy it gets.

No one told me that grandparenting is way better than parenting. It’s basically parenting without the stress. Grandparents can swoop in, play, laugh, give them candy, read some books, and wave goodbye, blowing kisses as we drive off. We can do that because our time with the grandkids is just that–time with the grandkids. We don’t have to figure out work, laundry, dishes, dusting, library story time, and getting the child to eat their veggies. We’ve been there, but now we’re in a new season.

This is an awesome season of life. I highly recommend it. If you’re headed toward Grandparent Season, don’t worry about it. Embrace it. Grandparenting is the best thing ever. I think that’s why people don’t tell you–they don’t want you to know that they are having the time of their lives. I mean, grandparents are old and frail, right? Wrong. Grandchildren do wear us out sometimes, but it’s a good kind of worn out, like the feeling of finishing my first 5K, exhausted but thrilled and looking forward to the next one.

“To everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) It would be great if we could relax and enjoy every season of life. But most seasons don’t give us the chance. By the time we realize how great that season was, it’s over. So, I am enjoying every minute, every trip to the park, every pony ride, every chance to jump waves and build sand castles, every walk collecting treasures, every Dr. Suess book on my shelf, and even every chorus of “Let It Go” with these precious little ones. Like the Autumn leaves, this season will fade all too quickly, so I will thank God every day that I get to be Mom-mom.

 

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Desperately Dumpster Diving

This is the first in a series of blog posts called “What Not To Do On A Youth Weekend.” With 35 years of youth ministry under my belt, I’ve learned a lot and have lots of stories. Some I can’t share, but others, I can, so I will, because we all need a laugh now and then.

It was a perfect weekend for a trip to the Delaware shore with a couple dozen of our favorite teenagers. The weather was perfect and the kids had a great time together. Now it was time to pack up. Just one more trip to the beach. They piled into the mini-bus and two vans with towels on their shoulders and smiles on their faces. Co-leader, Terri, and I stayed behind to clean up.

We cleaned the house, gathered up lost items, and packed the car. At the time, I drove an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, the biggest station wagon on the market. It could hold a bunch of kids and their belongings, but it was a foot too long to fit into the automatic car wash. We loaded whatever was left behind and, finally, two big black trash bags of garbage were squished into the way back.

Before meeting the gang at the beach, we had to drop off the trash at the transfer station. We pulled down the long lane and up to three dumpsters, each one with a number on the side. We asked a fellow dumpee if it mattered which dumpster we used. His response was, “Which one did the girl at the booth tell you to use?” I said, “Oh, there was someone in that booth I whizzed past?” I turned around to find booth-girl annoyingly pointing to dumpster #1. Oops.

I opened the tailgate, grabbed a bag of trash, and heaved it into dumpster #1. Terri grabbed another black trash bag and added it to the designated dumpster. We headed back the car, and she pulled out another black trash bag. I said, “What’s that?”

“Trash”

“But there were only two bags of trash.”

Sniff. “This is definitely trash.”

“Then what did we throw away?”

Terri started walking back to the dumpster to retrieve whatever it was we had thrown in. Just then, booth-girl hit the trash compactor button. My heart sank at the sound of the compactor motor, followed by the crunching of the dumpster’s contents. Terri stopped in her tracks, turned toward the booth, then back toward the dumpster. Booth, dumpster, booth, dumpster. She was swiveling back and forth but going nowhere. I spun toward booth-girl, waving my arms and pleading with her to stop the compactor.

The compactor sounds stopped. Booth-girl bewilderedly exited her booth and asked, “What’s the problem?” I responded, “We threw something in the dumpster that isn’t trash.” Looking past me, she said, “What is she doing?” I turned to see Terri climbing up the side of the dumpster. Uh-oh. Booth-girl and I ran to the dumpster just as Terri hoisted herself over the edge. Booth-girl yelled, “You don’t want to do that!” “I have to!” came the asthma-choked response.

Terri started sorting through the trash, checking each large black bag. Nothing. Finally, she reached the compactor area. Ripping open the bag wedged into the machine, she pulled out clothing that we knew belonged to one of our fellow leaders. Oh, no. Bracing her foot on the compactor, she pulled with all her might, and the compactor released its grip on a sleeping bag. Though she pulled and wriggled, the pillow was too far in to come free. Booth-girl and I begged her to give up. We reasoned that we had saved everything but the pillow. We could buy him a new one. It shouldn’t take this much convincing to get someone out of a dumpster.

Accepting that it was a loss and realizing just how disgusting the smell was all around her, Terri scrambled out of the dumpster. “Do you have somewhere I could clean up?”

“No.”

“Seriously?”

“I have some cleaner in the booth.”

“Alright, that’ll have to do.” We followed her to her booth and used some all-purpose cleaner and paper towels, doing the best we could. At least it would kill any germs. We thanked booth-girl and turned to leave. To our surprise, we were greeted by a long line of cars waiting to exit. We looked at them curiously and asked the man in the first car, “Can we help you?” He said, “We were just wondering what you ladies are doing?” I wanted to say that we were training for the Olympic dumpster diving team, but instead, I just responded, “We’re from out of state.” And we nonchalantly walked back to our car.

Happy we could provide entertainment for the locals and smelling like a combo of rotten apples and lemon-scented ammonia, we laughed ourselves silly down the lane and to the beach.

Lesson learned: Do not pack your things in trash bags and take a good look at who you are leaving in charge. Oh, and do not ever laugh hysterically when telling the story to the person who lost their favorite pillow. Not ever.

So Much Evil

Once again, I had a humorous, light-hearted blog post ready to go, but then another national tragedy occurred, and it doesn’t seem like the time for humor. Maybe next week we’ll be ready to laugh again. For now, my heart is heavy for the people affected by the Las Vegas shooting and our nation as a whole. As I write this, there is no clear reason for the attack, no statement being made, no cause to call attention to, no particular group of people targeted. It was just evil unleashed on innocent people who happened to be where he was.

I’ve seen Facebook posts ranging from heartbroken to furious to absurd. It seems those reactions represent the feelings of many Americans regarding current events: politics, natural disasters, sports, climate change, and even Hugh Heffner. I have a feeling that most Americans are more balanced and less vocal than the ones making all the noise. Maybe I just hate to think that our nation is really as divided as it appears in the media.

I was so encouraged in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, seeing Americans of all races, religions, and political persuasions helping and bringing relief to the those affected. But then football season started, and here we go again. Is it right to stand, kneel, sit, or remain in the locker room for the national anthem?

We are a funny bunch of people who can go so quickly from loving each other, putting aside our differences to help one another, to raging against one another over some pretty trivial issues. That may raise the ire of some of you – disrespecting the flag is not trivial. Compared to loving or hating your fellow Americans, it is. One of the most frustrating things about this country is our right to free speech. I’ll just leave that here for you to interpret however you want.

I have strong opinions on all of the things I mentioned as current events. But I’m not going to share them here. Of course, I think my opinions are right. Why would I have them if they weren’t? But getting my opinions out among the throng of voices will only start or fuel arguments. I’m not interested in arguing. Sure, I think I could win the arguments, but that’s not what I am called to do.

As a Christian, I am called to love you. That right, you. Because if you’re a brother or sister in Christ, I am to love you. If you are a neighbor, I am to love you. If you are a family member, I am to love you. If you are my enemy, I am to love you. If you stand, kneel, sit, or are a no show, I am to love you.

Loving you means not arguing but listening to you, even if you won’t listen to me. It means putting your needs before mine. It means praying for you – not that you would change your mind, but that God would bless you (which may include changing, but that’s up to Him).

I wish I could say that things will get better. But, unfortunately, I think evil will not just continue but will grow. The worst is yet to come. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

But as for me, I commit to go on loving others because God’s Word tells me that “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) And I will continue to pray for peace in our nation, and specifically today, for those so horribly affected by evil.