Sunday, July 20, 2014

Christmas Any Time of Year

Magnet Quotes

"i am still learning." - Michelangelo
"It's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Trying to simplify surroundings and live uncluttered with less stuff, we have slowly been cleaning out, throwing away, donating, discovering forgotten items and reorganizing the remains. The refrigerator still displays mementos from trips and sporting events, grandchildren pictures that bring a smile every day, held in places by many mismatched magnets. Two magnet quotes listed above came home with me from the classroom and still serve to remind me of important quests. What am I learning, still? What kind of life is filling my years?

A cousin's daughter entertains and encourages with her Facebook posts. One of her encouragements was to commit random acts of kindness at Christmastime and send her stories to go in Madison's memory stocking to be read and shared. Some years ago she gave birth to a baby girl named Madison, a baby who did not survive. Out of this sad event, she has been motivated to follow a life of service in a career as a social worker. She recently graduated from college and was accepted to graduate school to keep moving toward this professional path. Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. That verse does not diminish the pain of tragic events. We can all acknowledge that bad stuff happens in this world. But, in time, we can see how God works in connected events to bring us out of problems to a place of goodness.

Christmas deadline was not met, but here is my story for Madison's stocking.

There is an older lady I met at church. One of my first duties as a Stephens Minister was to wait up front at the altar at the end of a Sunday service for those coming forward with questions and prayer requests. This lady came to me one Sunday and we prayed for her friend's son who was being deployed to Afghanistan. Her look was a little disheveled and unkempt but she seemed to have a kind heart. At many events that required volunteers, I saw her there: packing lunches to feed kids during the summer, packing boxes of treats for soldiers and college kids, teaching crafts in Vacation Bible School, prayer services, Bible Studies. During these encounters I found out that she was a former teacher of Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD where I grew up going to school. I learned that she lives alone in a small apartment near the church and walks everywhere instead of driving. I learned that she works the night shift stocking shelves at Walmart. I wondered what happened in her life to bring her to her current state of looking like a homeless person? How were our lives so different?

Vision of her as a changed person kept creeping into my mind. For Madison's memory stocking, I wanted to take her to a beauty shop and get her hair styled. On the other hand, I didn't want to offend her by suggesting that she might need to improve her appearance. Nearing Christmas I had prayed that if God really wanted me to do the make over offer that I would cross paths with her at church that day. Not seeing her before, during or after the main service where she usually attends, I thought, "OK, God, cross that off the list." Just as I was about to walk out the door to the parking lot a door to a storage room opened and there she was standing right in front of me. "OK, God, we're back on this!" I stammered my offer and her eyes were shining as she grasped my hands and said yes, she would love to go get a new hairdo. She doesn't have a phone but she gave me her address and we agreed to meet the next Tuesday for an outing to a nearby salon.

No answer to my many knocks on her door at our planned time. As I was writing a note to leave on her door, a neighbor came out to tell me he had not seen her in a few days and he seemed to know her regular schedule. This news worried me but the neighbor turned out to be the father of a good friend so I asked him to call his son and let him know if she showed up safely. We got a call that night to tell that her daughter who lives in a different town had come unexpectedly to take her for a visit. The hair stylist who had given me the appointment is also a friend. She understood the situation and agreed to be on call the same time for the next few weeks whenever I could meet her and bring her in to the shop. It takes a village!

It was January before we made our Christmas outing to the beauty salon. My friend, the stylist, took such tender care in shampooing and talking to her about her preferred style. She made her thin silvery strands look soft and pretty; she dipped the weathered hands in the paraffin bath and gently folded them in the plastic cover, pealing them back to reveal skin that was thin and soft. We learned that it had been necessary for her to leave the teaching profession earlier than anticipated as she had suffered a brain aneurysm in her early 40's. We learned she had grown up in the Valley and had moved to Fort Worth after high school to attend Texas Wesleyan College. We learned her husband lives in a care facility in a different town. We learned that her daughter also had a rare brain trauma as a girl and participated in studies by top doctors in Houston. We listened to many stories while the scissors and blow dryers provided background noise. The soundtrack to a life.

I still see this lady at various church gatherings. I have stopped by her apartment to visit and driven her home in bad weather. I have taken her food in covered containers, extras from our home plenty and leftovers from church event meals. Her hair has gone back to its previous limp style. She must share my same challenge of being unable to recreate the salon look with my own brush at home. When she opens the door of her apartment, used plastic bottles and shreds of old newspapers drift out the door, but a smile that reveals a sweet spirit spreads across an aging face and there is light.

God sent me to get a woman a haircut. He intended for me to be her friend.

Lesson learned. Life in the years.

Psalm 117:2 For his lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of The Lord is everlasting. Praise be to God.


  1. Susan, I love you with all of my heart. Your kind, humble, selflessness makes the world a better place. Having you for a friend has enriched my life more than you will ever know. You inspire me to try to be a better person. On a different note, I was glad to learn that you make deals with God just as I do."Nearing Christmas I had prayed that if God really wanted me to do the make over offer that I would cross paths with her at church that day.God, I will see her today at church if I am supposed to." However, I request that my signs from God be more blatant--like a forest of neon burning bushes:)