Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hiding Place

The conversation in our car went something like this:

Me: Foster, are you excited about getting a pet fish?

Foster: Yes.

Me: What are you going to name your pet fish?

Foster: Jimmy.

Me: Oh, that’s nice. Isn’t that what you named your special duck at the city park?

Foster: Oh, yeah. I guess the fish can’t be named Jimmy. Instead, I think I’ll name him . . . Sportsy.

Me: Sportsy?

Foster: No, Sporty.

We had to go to three different places to find a Betta fish. The first store only sold reptiles. Lots of slithery ones. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.

Foster: Can I have a pet snake instead of a fish?

Me: Get in the car. You’re getting a fish.

The second store had everything we needed. Fish tanks, supplies, food, even a nice little bridge for the fish to play on. But no Betta fish. Apparently, we could come back in two weeks. Or, we could try one more place.

I bought the supplies, and we headed for the third place on our list. Bingo! Right when we walked in the door, we saw a row of Betta fish, all lined up in their little cups. There were red ones and blue ones and black ones and rainbow-colored ones.

Foster: I want a boy. It has to be a boy fish. No girl fish.

The lady at the fish store: They’re all boys, so you’re in good shape.

Foster: Can I have two?

The lady at the fish store: You can’t put two of them together in the same tank. They’ll kill each other.

Foster: Cool! Can I have three?

I paid for one fish. Yellow and white, with blue fins. Foster held the cup carefully as we got into the car.

Me: Be careful with Sporty. We don’t want him to slosh too much on the way home.

Foster: Mom, his name isn’t Sporty. It’s Goldie.

Me: I thought it was Sporty.

Foster: That was before I saw him.

Made sense to me. We arrived home and placed Goldie on the kitchen counter, where he could watch us prepare his new home. Foster lovingly poured the blue and green rocks in the bottom of the bowl, then gently positioned the bridge so it wouldn’t tip over. I went into the back yard and snipped some ivy to place in the bowl.

Foster: What are you doing?

Me: I’ve heard Betta fish tend to jump out of their bowls. If you put an ivy in there, it blocks their path so they can’t jump out.

Foster: You’re crowding him.

Me: Nonsense. He’s got a lot more room in here than he has in that little cup.

Foster: (Heavy sigh.)

Finally, without much fanfare, we placed the cup in the bowl and set Goldie free. Sort of.

For the better part of the day, Foster kept his face pressed against the glass, watching Goldie’s every move. Poor little guy. Must be pretty scary to have a six-year-old giant watching your every move. Before long, Goldie discovered that the ivy leaves made great hiding places.

Foster was both thrilled and frustrated with the hide-and-seek game. Finally, he gave up and gave Goldie a break.

I can relate. Some days, I need a place to hide. Sometimes, it feels like the giants are after me. But during those times, I remember that I do have a Hiding Place. I have someone I can run to, who has promised to hide me in the shadow of His wings. There, I feel safe.

Before bed, I asked Foster, “Did you feed Goldie?”

Foster: Mom, his name is Jimmy.

Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place. You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shameless Begging

Hi Friends! As many of you know, most of the posts here are actually copies of my weekly inspirational humor newspaper column, "Coffee Talk". I'm trying to peddle my little column to some more newspapers. I am creating a brochure and a website specifically for editors, and I'd like to include a "What Readers are Saying" section.

Do you have something nice to say about Coffee Talk? Leave a comment here, or contact me at: . I will be eternally grateful, friends!

Love to all -

Friday, September 19, 2008


“Mimi! Come quick! There’s a baby bird on the ground, and it needs our help!” Charis called out as she ran into her grandparents’ house.

“What? Well, don’t touch it. Let’s look and see if we can find its nest,” my mom told her. But alas, the bird was in the middle of a field, with only one small tree. Charis looked for a nest, even climbed the tree. There were no birds or nests in sight.

Finally, as gently as possible, Charis used a stick to scoop the tiny, helpless creature into a Dixie cup, and brought it to the house. And that, my friends, is how Carrie came into our lives.

It was more than two years ago. Mark and I were on an overnight trip, and the kids were staying with my parents. Charis was playing in the forty-acre yard, singing and skipping and chasing butterflies in the way that only a nine-year-old girl can do, when she spotted movement out of the corner of her eye. She took a closer look, and found the baby hummingbird, far from its nest. Barely alive.

Ever-so-tenderly, Charis and Mimi made a nest for the little bird, inside that cup. Holding her finger over the end of a straw, Mimi showed Charis how to feed it. Orange Fanta. The drink of champions.

Mark and I were greeted with this scene, when we arrived to pick up our children. “Meet Carrie,” Charis told us, and we watched with fascination as the tiny bit of fuzz gulped down the orange drink as if it were manna from heaven.

“Why did you name her ‘Carrie’?” I asked.

“Because I just studied about the carrier pigeons,” Charis said.

“You mean the passenger pigeons?” I clarified.

“Oh . . . yeah. I guess I should call her Passi. But that’s not nearly as nice a name as Carrie.”

So, Carrie officially became a part of our family that day. She made her home on Mimi and Poppy’s porch – first in that Dixie cup, and later in a cardboard box. We made sure she was free to leave anytime she wanted. But she never did.

She never even flew, except for a few feet at a time, and only once or twice.

We did our homework, and learned that hummingbirds need the protein that comes from eating small bugs. We couldn’t get her to eat bugs. So we mixed a bit of dog food in with her orange soda.

Hey, you make do.

Then, Poppy did some research, and found some special, protein-infused hummingbird food. Fifty-something dollars a box!

Yep. He ordered the food. My dad may seem like a tough guy, but he’s really an old softie.

For the next several weeks, Carrie was treated like royalty. Her meals were prepared for her. She was hand-fed. Foster and Charis decorated the inside of her box with pictures of trees, and placed leaves and branches there, so she’d feel at home. They entertained her with puppet shows, which she watched without blinking. Charis even jumped up and down, in an attempt to teach her to fly.

Believe it or not, the bird jumped when Charis did!

Once, two other hummingbirds came and perched on the side of her box. If we had known she was planning to host a party, we would have prepared the orange dog food.

The lifespan of a hummingbird is believed to be around three years. But Carrie only lived for a few weeks. It was a sad day for our family, the day our Carrie died.

Charis took it the hardest. “It’s not fair. Why did she have to die? She never even got to fly.”

I didn’t have an answer for her. Why do things like that happen to anybody? She was right. It wasn’t fair.

But then, I thought about that tiny little bird, abandoned, alone in a field. She was doomed for starvation, or perhaps destined to be the dinner of some predator. Either of those would have been a horrible way to die.

Instead, Carrie was rescued. She was fed. She was loved. She got to experience what few birds do – a puppet show put on for her enjoyment. All things considered, I’d say she had a pretty good life.

It makes me wonder about my own life. Sometimes, things aren’t fair. Sometimes, it seems like things should be better. But perhaps I need to take a closer look at all the blessings God sends my way. Only God knows what my life might have been like, without His intervention.

He has fed me, and given me a place to live. He has sent me people to love, and to laugh with, people with whom I can celebrate life. He has loved me.

All things considered, I’d say I’ve had it pretty good.

Luke 12:6 – 7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

Smear Campaign

My children are often involved in smear campaigns. As a matter of fact, at least one of them is, at least once a day. Sometimes, both of them. They smear grape jelly on the counter. They smear peanut butter on their clothing. They smear dirt from the garden all over my carpets.

As you can imagine, this frustrates me. Many days, I feel more like the maid than the mom. At times, I have even considered going on strike. But then I remember – they are just children. Of course they are going to make mistakes, and leave behind messes. That is what children do.

And I also must remind myself of the clothes I have had to get rid of because I have spilled things or smeared things on them, leaving permanent stains. Yes, I am clumsy. I spill things. Please forgive me.

It is the knowledge that I, too, make mistakes and leave messes that keeps me from quitting my job as a stay-at-home mom. When I mess up, I don’t want or need anyone to judge me, or remind me of my failures. I just need someone to help me clean up my mess, or support me while I clean it up myself.

As we gear up for our next presidential election, it seems there is a lot of smearing going on. But this kind of thing isn’t unique to politics. At water coolers across the country and around the world, there is gossip and slander, judgment and criticism. We criticize our bosses for the way they lead. We criticize the stylish woman for spending too much money on clothes, and the frumpy woman for not spending enough on clothes. We criticize the mayor and the city council members and the school board and the teachers and . . . well, you get the picture. We are all quick to point fingers. We are all quick to find fault. It is our nature.

But can you imagine with me a better, more perfect world? Can you imagine what a great place this would be, if we all felt safe? I am so grateful for our military men and women who work to keep us safe from terrorists. But honestly, I don’t always feel safe, right here in our homeland. And it’s not the terrorists I fear. It’s the gossip, the slander, the judgment that we sling at one another.

I am far from perfect. You don’t even need a magnifying glass to find my faults – they are right out in the open for everyone to see. I make mistakes, just as we all do. But I really think it’s my flaws, my weaknesses that make me a stronger, more compassionate person. The mistakes I’ve made in the past have made me more tolerant, more loving toward others who make those same mistakes.

I want to be the kind of person who makes others feel safe. I don’t want anyone to ever fear me, or worry that I will judge them or hurt them with my words. I don’t want others to wonder if I will criticize them and slander them behind their backs. I want them to know that, no matter what their weaknesses, I will support them and love them and try to help them in any way I can. I want to be always gentle, never harsh, always uplifting, never degrading, always loving, never hateful.

Those are lofty goals. But why shouldn’t we aim for the very best? Why should we settle for being mean, judgmental, haughty, hateful people, when we can aspire to being good and loving and kind and . . . safe?

All it will take is a little self control. After all, we all have those unkind thoughts. But we don’t have to act on them. Just because something shows up in our brains doesn’t mean we have to let it tumble out of our mouths. It is our actions, not our thoughts, which show the depth of our character. And amazingly, once we train ourselves to act in the right way, our thoughts will often follow.

So next time my little ones smear chocolate on their brand new church clothes, I’m going to take a deep breath, smile, and say, “Oops! It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”

And I’ll remember that my response to others’ mistakes will last a lot longer than a stain.

John 8:7 "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."