CHOICES

CHOICES

*** DISCLAIMER: This post is not about pointing fingers at anyone for past  mistakes. It is about life lessons. And integrity. If anyone happens to recognize any of the people involved, please refrain from commenting. This happened a very long time ago and it is just an example. All of the people concerned are people who, I’m sure, mean well. ***

Many years ago, I was in charge of all of the Wednesday night classes for the children at what was then my church. The Sunday School department was a separate department. My elementary school aged daughter came home from Sunday school one day and was excited to report that her teacher, who I will call Miss Lisa (not her real name) was going to host a class party in a few weeks, I am out on an upcoming Saturday. After granting her permission to go, she RSVPed to this teacher, who is new to that congregation, and I wrote the event down in my daily planner.

A week or so later, my daughter came home with the news that her Wednesday night teacher, who I will call Miss Sandra, (not her real name), had planned a class party on the exact same day and time. Sandra’s home was much more beautiful and bigger than the other woman’s modest house was, and my daughter reported to me that all of the girls at church in her age group we’re going to go to that party instead. Sandra was a long time member of the church, her husband was a deacon, so she was very well-known and respected in the community. She was also of the reputation of having an extraordinarily kind heart.

As the Director of the Wednesday night programs, which Sandra’s class fell under, I Felt compelled to approach her and ask her nicely if she would move her party to the following week or later in the summer. I did not hesitate, because I knew she had a spirit of cooperation. I was sure that she would understand my concern, that the other woman, a relatively new church member, might get her feelings hurt if all of the class members went to the other party.

Unfortunately, Sandra did not see it that way. She informed me that she had plans the next few weeks that would conflict with her throwing a party and she insisted on giving it the exact same day as Lisa’s party. So my daughter told me that she wanted to go to Sandra’s party with her friends instead of honoring her original commitment. I was in a quandary. My heart felt for my daughter.  

I wanted her to be able to go to the bigger party and enjoy pool time with her friends. But I also decided to use this as a teaching moment to try to instill into her a life lesson. So we sat down and I asked her if she thought that was the right thing to do? Unhesitatingly she said yes, because that is what all of her friends were doing. Then I asked her how she thought she wouldfeel if no one showed up at her party? I then talked to her about the importance of honoring her word. I asked her how she would feel, if someone canceled plans with her, just because something better came up?

We did not debate this for long. My daughter has the ability to empathize with others, and though I had presented the case in such a manner that I hopedthat she would do the right thing, I left the decision as to which party to attend entirely up to her, though she was only about nine years old at the time. She said to me this, “Momma, I am going to go to Miss Lisa’s party. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

When the day of the do parties arrived, I dropped my daughter off at the very modest home of Lisa, and said a prayer as I was leaving that someone else would show up, because my daughter was the only one there at that time, other than a handful of Lisa’s family members. On the ride home after the party, my daughter told me that she was so glad that she had gone to Lisa’s party, because only one other person from church had attended. It was just my daughter, another student, and the teacher’s family. The other party had been jampacked with almost every other class member. I was very proud of my daughter and hoped that this would be a life lesson that would stick with her throughout her lifetime. As an unexpected bonus, because my daughter and the other young lady were the only two students there, they got a lot of attention and one on one personal time with the teacher that they would not have gotten that the other party.

Fast forward many years, to when I was going through my divorce. My ex-husband and I had long since left that particular church and had started attending a different one. Lisa no longer went to church anywhere. But I ran into her at some functions with friends, and she said that she was also going through a bad divorce. We then met together for dinner a few times to compare notes and commiserate. I had known Lisa for many years, but had  never been good friends with her. Nonetheless, I was hurt, disappointed, and shocked when she betrayed my confidencesto some of our mutual friends and literally stabbed me in the back to boot. Instantly, my mind flashed back to that incident so long ago when I have persuaded my daughter to go to her party instead of the other one. I wanted to scream at her and fling that in her face. That is the human side of me.

But I did not do so. Instead I held my tongue. I simply cut ties with her and started avoiding her altogether. For she had also confided in me, and I knew that she was also suffering. It would’ve been so easy for me to turn around and breach her  confidences, as she had done to me. But I do not have a vengeful nature. So I did no such thing. And while we all sit around and laugh about the possibilities of revenge at some point or another in our lives,that is something I leave to God. I don’t know if He will ever enlighten Lisa as to the fact that breaching confidentiality is not a good thing to do. But that is between her and God.

Instead, I simply walked away with my head held high. If I had it to do over again, knowing that she would betray me on down the road, would I still have gently persuaded my daughter to go to her party, rather than the other woman’s party? Absolutely! I do not hesitate in saying that. For my grandmother instilled into me the importance of honoring one’s word. Even if it is it is inconvenient. Even if it is uncomfortable. Even if something better comes along. She taught me the value of looking at things from the other person’s perspective. From being considerate to making sacrifices, to donating her time and resources, the way she lived was a witness to me that reminds me every day of my life to this day, though she has been long gone from this earth for many years.

To me, honor is of utmost importance. There is no substitute for integrity. But having a tender heart, I know what it’s like to have my own feelings hurt, and I try never to intentionally do that to someone else. Please don’t misunderstand: I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I can sit around and plot revenge with the best of them, then sit around and laugh about those things with friends over dinner. Like when my friends used to tell me I should put Ex-Lax in my soon to be ex-husband’s food supply. We had many laughs over that – though I never did any such thing – it was great comedic relief from the pain of divorce to consider it. I recognize that this is sinful behavior, and I’ve had many long talks with God about it. For though I didn’t act upon it, it is probably not the best witness. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that I would never do such a thing. And I’m sure hoping that if my ex-husband had any gastrointestinal distress during our divorce process, that he knows I would never do that. 

The point is, that we don’t have to act upon every thought or impulse. Life is about choices! We get to choose whether or not to honor our word. We get to choose whether or not to be spiteful or execute revenge. We get to choose whether or not to consider someone else’s feelings. We get to choose to be considerate or inconsiderate. 

I hope and pray that, with God’s help, I will continue to make good choices. I am an imperfect human being, and I have made my fair share of mistakes. But I do always try to honor my word.

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher gave us an assignment of making a slogan out of our last names.  I remember a young man whom I did not think was particularly attractive in terms of the boy girl crush thing, whose last name was bond. He came up with, or borrowed, the slogan, “My word is my bond!” I just love that! After I heard him say that, he suddenly became much more attractive to me, because he said it was such sincerity.And though it is not my last name, I have tried to adopt that slogan, as well.

I am quite sure that I will mess up again soon. I will make a mistake. I will inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. I will miss the time on an appointment. I will think up a way of getting back at someone who has been unkind to me. I will do something that is not right. It is guaranteed, because I am, like the other women in this story, a human being. I may even do one of those things later today, though I pray I will have the presence of mind not to do so. But I am sharing this story as a reminder that every choice we make does count, somehow, someway, to someone. Let’s try to make them good ones!

“But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him.”

 – I John 2:5

– Lou Lehman Sams

TUNNELS

TUNNELS

I’ve never been a fan of tunnels, but I especially used to dislike bridges. I guess that time when I was a little girl, & my Pa-pa Lehman somehow stopped on the wrong side of the arm that used to come down when they raised the old drawbridge heading into Decatur may have had something to do with that. I doubt that we were in any real danger, but my childish mind somehow thought that little caution arm would save us from plummeting into the icy cold river, which is also probably untrue. 

In later years, I’ve overcome my fear of bridges over water, & was so proud of myself for calmly driving across Mobile Bay a couple of days ago, enjoying the scenery & singing along to the radio instead of coasting across it in fear. Instead of fearing the worst, I sailed along & admired the view. No need to agonize over something that may never happen. 

But last night was a different story!! An intense thunderstorm hit as I was approaching the bridge. Extremely heavy rain & blinding lightning strikes caused me, along with the other hapless travellers, to slow to a turtle’s pace as I placed a white-knuckked death grip upon the steering wheel & prayed for safe passage.

When a lightning strike hit much too close for comfort, I saw the sign indicating the tunnel was just ahead. Now, I’m no claustrophobic, & don’t have a fear of caves or tunnels – I just prefer to see the sunsets, clouds, birds & seashore by being above ground. Yet, oh, how very thankful I was in that dark & terrifying storm, to enter that tunnel, whose end was not visible from its beginning, because it offered me a break & a temporary reprieve. Inside that tunnel, it was all that I could see – the tunnel itself. Yet it insulated me from worse things outside that I could not see. I wasn’t happy in the tunnel, because I wanted to see the moon, the stars, & the city lights reflecting off of the brackish bay waters. But I was safe. I could breathe, & temporarily release my death grip. 

All that I had to do was focus on the road which spread out directly in front of me. And I thought about the figurative tunnels I’ve found myself in over the years. Times when I couldn’t see the light at the other end. When I desperately wanted to break free, so I could do & see & be with the rest of the world. When I desperately wanted to escape isolation. Perhaps, just maybe, in those dark nights of my soul God provided me those tunnels to escape the raging storms. 

Do you feel confined & constricted in your life? As if you’re in a tunnel, which seems endless? Hold fast to your faith, for you will make it out. Just keep your eyes focused on the stretch of road immediately ahead of you. Give thanks for the tunnel, for it may be an unknown refuge, protecting you from a bigger storm. 

– Lou Lehman Sams

FAMILY LESSONS 

FAMILY LESSONS

This may be a bit sappy, but it is straight from my heart. 

I come from a family of kind hearted, industrious, hardworking, pioneering, generous, loving, civic minded, patriotic Christians, & this evening several of them are on my mind, as they are ever in my heart: 

Pa-pa Lehman was the salt of the earth, & many who knew him have said the same thing about him, which is that he was one of the nicest men that they ever met. He sang me silly songs like “The Animal Fair” when he picked me up from school, he made me wooden, carved toys, cracked pecans from his yard for me with his hammer, & peeled & sliced small, sour green apples off of his tree in the back yard with his pocket knife, which happened to be the same one he used for innumerable things, such as cleaning his fingernails & tightening screws. He was a wizard with metallic gray duct tape, which is all that they made back then. He let me help him sow seeds, weed, & harvest in the garden out behind his house. We sat together, just the two of us, in the dark summer evenings & he pointed out the constellations to me, engaged my mind with the latest article he had read in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, & assured me that the bats flying overhead were not going to swoop down & harm me. He let me sit on the hood of his car, & as I leaned back against the windshield, he showed me the glory of the heavens. He allowed the scuppernong vines to sweep low to the ground in the grape arbor, for he knew that the grandkids loved to play house or hide & seek beneath its shaded arms, & he did not care if we left dozens of grape skins littering the ground after we had feasted on their sweetness. But I suppose the best lesson which he ever taught me was tolerance, for one hot summer day the neighbor kids were leaning through the wire fence & picking our hard earned baby tomatoes & running off with them, presumably taking them home to their parent’s dinner table. Pa-pa & I had worked all summer long together, just the two of us that year, in that garden, & I was very proud of its produce. Beside, I loved those “Tom-EE-Toes”, as we called them. So I shouted out to the kids, berating them, & warning them of possible consequences if they stole any more of our vegetables. I was so shocked when my Pa-pa fussed on ME for scolding them. It is the one & ONLY time that I ever remember him getting on to me about anything. But he actually raised his voice to me as he demanded that I “leave them alone, because they don’t know any better. Their Momma ran off with the postman, & their Daddy is trying to raise them all alone. They probably need those tomatoes more than we do.” With that, he abruptly took the hoe from my hands, & irritably went into his garage to sharpen it, leaving me to sob into my hands, standing alone amidst the okra, squash & cucumbers. It was not until after he had passed away a few years later that I fully grasped the lesson which he taught me that day. But he was, indeed, one of the nicest men that I have ever, even to this day, met.

My Daddy was a very smart, but very insecure man. He allowed his insecurities to cause him to drink more than he should, but he was a functioning alcoholic who always held down a job which took him away from home at times. When he was not drinking, he was a gentle man. We would, like I did with his father before him, sit out on the covered back porch, listening to the breezes blow through the leaves overhead, late into the summer nights, & have the most delightfully intriguing conversations on a wide & diverse range of topics. He had an Associates degree in Business, yet he turned down an opportunity to move up to Pennsylvania with a chemical company for which he worked in order to stay close to family. His mother’s family had settled North Alabama when it was still the Mississippi Territory, & he wanted to remain close to his then widowed mother. So his job as a fireman belied his intellect. But he was a very smart man. We talked for hours on end, & sometimes the only lights flickering in the darkness were the occasional lightning bugs & the glow of his Winston cigarette. He would get me to fetch him a beer, & I would drink my Dr. Pepper while we talked about God, the Universe, human nature, psychology, science, etc. We were estranged at the end of his life, but he taught me many things, & we loved each other. He had MANY friends of all walks of life, & he was extremely loyal to them. He loved children & could easily make them laugh. Though he no longer attended Church, he talked to me about the importance of loving God, obeying the law, about patriotism (he was a veteran of the United States Air Force), & about how I could make a difference in the world if I would just apply myself. He was a good encourager, & was always proud of my good grades. He always told me that I should grow up to be a writer. Alas, I have not done that, but maybe he would be proud of my sophomoric blog posts. The most important lesson my Daddy taught me, though, was not sitting out on that back porch beneath the big old pecan tree, but in his actions, for he was one of the most generous souls I have ever known. He would literally give anyone – family member, friend, or stranger – his very last dime, if they needed it. 

Aunt Helen was, by all accounts, “A Mess”, which was a Southern expression meaning she was “something else”, not that she was literally a mess. She was vivacious, a bit kooky, & had sparkling green eyes & a ready laugh. She, too, loved children, & to this day I have not understood why God in His wisdom did not allow someone who wanted a baby of their own as much as she did to have one. But Aunt Helen made up for the lack of biological children by loving on her stepson & nieces. When I was very small I would go & play at the country home of her & her first husband. She let me just be me. I could, without pressure, chase Monarch butterflies through the yard for no reason other than it delighted me to do so. She knew how much I loved to read, & so she arranged for her mother-in-law, who was the librarian at the local school, to bring her a big stack of books whenever I was going to spend the night with her. She was a Dental Hygienist by vocation, & whenever she cleaned my teeth, she would reward me for being a good patient by taking me for a piece of lemon ice box pie at Krystal. She is actually the one who taught me to drive. Unbelievably, my first few times behind the wheel of her sage green car were in the most narrow of roads at Maple Hill Cemetery – the ones that are so narrow that today they are blocked off from modern day, larger vehicles. It is a wonder I did not veer off & run over my great-grandparent’s graves, or worse yet, one of the “famous” Huntsvillians in the historic part of the graveyard. Aunt Helen had a zest for life that few possess. She showed me to always keep your spirits up, despite adverse circumstances, which in her case included two divorces from the same man. The most important lesson I learned from her, though, was not to be afraid to approach others & be the first to extend the hand of friendship. For wherever we went, whether it was the supermarket or the movie theater, she greeted everyone with kind eyes & a smile. 

Ma-ma Lehman had the most profound & lasting influence on my life of anyone who ever walked the earth during my lifetime. It would take an entire book to list all of the many things which we did together. She kept me during the summers & after school when my mother worked. She had a knack for making every single one of her ten grandkids feel as if they were the most special one of them all. She had countless friends, whom she was always ministering to in one way or another. She had that gift of gab, & I well recall many days when I, reclining on the wicker settee in the broad foyer with a Nancy Drew mystery book in hand, halfway listening to her as she sat across the room from me on the black telephone table with the vinyl seat, chatting on that black rotary dial phone, assuring one of her innumerable friends that everything would be all right. She took up money for flowers whenever someone in the neighborhood had a death in the family, & she took food to those who were ill. She made me grilled cheese with Campbell’s Tomato Soup & Pepsi whenever I had an upset stomach. She was my mentor, my champion, & my rescuer from an unhappy mother. She let me play dress up in her lace gloves & coat with the mink collar. She spent hours culling through old family photos with me, which she had stored in two huge blanket boxes from Montgomery Wards. She regaled me with tales of growing up on that farm in Big Cove, & how she eventually moved to town to work in T.T.Terry’s Department store. Though she was not a politician, she was heavily involved in politics. Her ancestors had been constables, County Commissioners, Justices of the Peace, & Postmasters who were well known & respected in the area. Her great uncle had even been a six term United States Congressman from Jackson County. How many times she must have said, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know  that counts!” She was the Queen of Networking before that word was ever coined. She could make beautiful dresses on her pedal driven sewing machine. She was a fabulous cook & I loved to stir the buttermilk cornbread or divinity candy – everything she made was from scratch, without a recipe or mix, & it was always perfect. She took me to Church every single Sunday, & let me carry her prized possession: her Bible. She was a country girl who “could out pick every man in Big Cove in a cotton picking contest.” She was a Christian woman who taught several local boys about God in Sunday School, boys who grew up to be preachers in well known Church of Christ congregations in the area. She was a mischievous prankster who delighted in entertaining people with the corniest jokes. A fastidious dresser who preferred the conveniences of city life to the rigors of the farm, she would nonetheless  lapse into her country vernacular & say that, “Funny things keeps you going!” She was a well respected community leader whose calls were taken & opinions valued by Governors, Senators, Mayors, County Commissioners, & City Councilmen alike. She was a force to be reckoned with, if you dared cross someone she loved. I owe my very life to her in more ways than one. But the most important thing that she taught me was this, “The good Lord gives, & He takes away.” That is a lesson I am still trying to fully grasp. But the faith which she instilled in me has resounded throughout the years, & I know that God only takes away something which we percieve to be good if He has something better in mind for us.

These & more of my God fearing family members have long ago passed on. But their legacy remains. They all loved God, country & family. They all valued good morals & hard work. They all believed in the sense of community, in giving back, that, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” They all loved the innocence of children, valued friendships, lent helping hands to neighbors, enjoyed making others laugh, & had a song, joke, or Bible verse at the ready, if anyone needed their spirits to be lifted. 

My own children have grown up & moved away. But I am not alone, for like Aunt Helen, I meet no strangers, & have been blessed with an outgoing personality; like my Pa-pa, I survey the wonders of the Universe & my mind is occupied with thoughts higher than my own which make times of solitude enjoyable; like my Daddy, I understand that a generosity of spirit is returned a thousandfold by the respect of friends; & like my Ma-ma, I know the value of networking, & the power of God. So whenever I feel a wee but lonesome, I remind myself that I come from good stock. And I thank God above that He has blessed me with an abundance of friends. Though my biological sister died a very long time ago at a young age, I have women that I am proud to call my sisters, & a couple of those I claim kin, though we are not related by blood. I have friends who allow me to join in their family celebrations, & those who allow me to love on their kids, for my heart, like my family members I have written about, has always had a soft spot for kids & young people of all ages. Some of them even let me love on their parents & grandkids, too!

The most important lessons I have learned from all of this is that there really is not any substitute for loving kindness, & if being a nice, hardworking person who loved God, country, family & friends can one day be my own legacy, too, then I shall feel that I have lived my life well. 

I still miss you, Pa-pa, Ma-ma, Aunt Helen & Daddy. If y’all have any say so up there in Heaven, please put in a good word for me. One day when we are reunited, I want to hear all of your stories again, & hopefully I will add a few of my own into the mix. Meanwhile, I look for the good in people & situations, like y’all taught me, & “Funny things keeps me going!”

– Lou Lehman Sams

BEYOND OUR CONTROL

BEYOND OUR CONTROL

The rising sun was blinding me on that Spring-like February morning last Friday, & I was thankful for my RayBans as well as for the beauty of nature as I navigated the road heading up Red Mountain towards a commercial real estate conference when suddenly, as I rounded a curve, I noticed what appeared to be several large, black trash bags haphazardly strewn across my lane. I felt a tad bit annoyed that someone had not secured them to their vehicle better as I double checked the lane beside me to make certain that it was safe for me to move over to avoid them.


I was horrified as I began drifting over, because as I drew closer, I noticed the bags were MOVING!! What in the world could possibly be in them?!? I was even more horrified as I hit my brakes & slowed to a crawl to match the traffic in front of me when I discovered that it was not a pile of trash bags, but a man – a motorcyclist – wearing all black leather, laying there on the road beside his black bike, writhing in pain! 


Traffic halted for an instant, & I assessed the situation. Several people jumped out of vehicles, including the drivers of the ones he had been sandwiched in between that had caused him to fall. I think someone had not been paying attention coming down that mountain curve, & rear ended him into the car in front of them in the slowly moving rush hour traffic. What the heck? The sun was in MY EYES, not the eyes of the people in the opposite lane! Was the driver texting? Changing radio stations? Taking a business call? I was filled with assumptions about how the accident happened, but my mind quickly shifted to the welfare of the victim.


As is my personality, I wanted to pull over, jump out of my vehicle, & somehow help him! But though I have had basic first aid training, I am no doctor, nurse, or paramedic. Had no one else been present, I would no doubt have tried to see if I could have helped in some Good Samaritan way anyhow, but a crowd was already gathering around him, & the sound of the emergency vehicle’s siren was rapidly getting louder, meaning they would arrive momentarily. No, it was best for me to keep on going up that road, as soon as traffic would allow.


Like a train wreck you did not want to witness, but could not seem to tear your eyes away from, mine stayed glued to the figure on the asphalt, who was still writhing in pain. He is someone’s son, I thought, & as my mind drifted to my own son who had just moved almost 600 miles away, I wanted to run over to him, cradle him in my arms, & tell him everything was going to be all right, that he was not alone. Why aren’t they taking off that black helmet, so he can get some air?? Oh, yeah, possible spinal cord injuries – best to let the emergency personnel do that always, I silently reminded myself. 


My mind flitted to the heartbreak I had during the past week: besides my son moving away & a relationship of sorts ending with a gentleman I had been seeing off & on for over a year, I had news that not one but two of my friends’ sons had passed away. My heart was broken over the voids that the deaths of these young people had left in my friends’ lives. Hopefully this biker would make it, I prayed, so that some other Momma’s heart would not be broken that day. Perhaps he was also a husband, fiancé, or boy friend? A brother? Or a father? As he twisted & turned on the black asphalt in the growing morning light, I did the only thing I could do – I prayed.

With trepidation I lifted my foot from the brake pedal as traffic slowly inched forward. I did not want to leave him. But it was not my place. I was not the best qualified to help him. I was powerless. So I moved on, praying as I left. 

The sun blasted my vision again! How could that driver have been so careless?!? I reminded myself that I had not witnessed the accident happen, arriving apparently mere moments after it did, instead. Maybe the biker was the one at fault, as he darted in & out of traffic, running late for an early morning appointment? Or perhaps no one was really at fault, because the sun, though it was in the other direction, was bouncing off some shiny object, blinding the driver in front, causing him to slam on his brakes? There were several potential scenarios, & I had unjustly been blaming the driver in the back in my mind. (Knowing that rear ending someone is the person in the rear’s fault, but acknowledging that there may also have been extenuating circumstances.)

Sometimes accidents just happen. Blame shifting would not save this man’s life, & it will not make our every day lives any easier, either. More important to assess situations, decide how we can help, & then spring into action. Or, conversely, to determine that our assistance is neither wanted nor needed, & that the best thing we can do is stay out of the way. There will arise circumstances out of our control – if not today or this week, then sooner or later we will each be faced with predicaments about how to act, what to do, & when to do it. 

When you have a heart for people, walking away from someone that is hurting can be very difficult, as it was for me,last Friday morning. And as it also was for me earlier in the week, when I had to walk away from someone whose destructive behaviors is slowly destroying themselves. There are some things which you just cannot fix, no matter how much you wish otherwise. 

I do believe that my God can heal, if He chooses to do so. I believe that he can redeem any man or woman, if they choose to accept it. But there is only so much that we, as limited human beings can do, & acceptance of that is a sign of emotional maturity. 

Typically outgoing, I have been described as vivacious, but I was feeling anything but that as I pulled into the parking garage at The Club. There is a cardinal couple – red birds – that have taken to visiting me every single morning in my backyard, & they are chirping even now, as I write these every words over my second cup of coffee. I feel it is an assignment I must complete before I can go sell some real estate. Though they are very cheerful & beautiful, I’ve almost started taking the daily visits from these birds for granted. But that morning I had awakened at a hotel in downtown Birmingham, & after the scene I had just seen, birds were the farthest thing from my mind. Yet as I pulled into the space in the concrete parking garage overlooking the treed mountainside, there he was, bright, red, & beautiful, a male cardinal, fluttering about in the trees a few feet before my very eyes! Once a person who literally despised birds because of  nightmares induced by watching a rerun of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds” when I was a little girl, they have come to mean so much to me, as I have found not just God’s handiwork, but His timing, to be an amazing thing in the ways they have soothed my soul during my loneliest of seasons. 

You see, I once thought the cardinals, who are monogamous, & who mate for life, were a symbol to me of a mate that would never leave me. Yet here I was, breaking up with the second prospect for a serious relationship I had since my divorce, & those darned birds just kept coming to my yard anyway. Obviously the wrong interpretation I had! 

One day it finally hit me, though, that perhaps they were meant as a sign that God is the faithful one, the one who will never leave me. So when I saw that cardinal, I was reminded that, in each of the circumstances I have described – my son’s relocation, my being all alone now that my kids have each moved far away, the loss of a romantic interest, the deaths of my friends’ sons, & this dreadful motorcycle wreck – even in all of those things, God will be faithful!

I waited until the bird disappeared, & was thankful for the cold, crisp, morning air which hit my face as I got out of my car, because it made me feel alive. I went inside, checked in, & grabbed a cup of coffee, before scoping out a seat towards the back of the room. Normally one to be more towards the front, I was feeling a bit unnerved & out of sorts, & that seat not only afforded me a tremendous view of downtown Birmingham to lift my spirits, but it also was beside an outlet to charge my phone on. At breaks, many people would file right past me to gain access to the patio for fresh air, & as it turns out, I got many sorely needed hugs that day because of this seat, which I had chosen to, presumably, be alone, & go unnoticed. 

I only told two people at the conference, attendees from my own hometown, about the accident I had just witnessed, & by the time of the first break, I was feeling much more sociable. I have lived long enough to know that life goes on, whether we want it to do so, or not, so we might as well make the most of it. Grieve when we must. Lament loss as it happens. But we must never stop living. 

It was a good conference. I ended it with dinner with my son’s girl friend & friends, so it almost felt like I was with him. Though it had started out in a bad way, it ended up being a good day.

Though life may start out in a bad way, God will be faithful to see you through. Little things like unexpected red birds, hugs from acquaintances, & beautiful views can brighten your day, if you will but focus on them. You cannot prevent bad things from happening. You cannot fix every situation that goes awry. You cannot heal nor save those that refuse healing & redemption. 

But you can make the most out of the moments you have been given, & enjoy the sting of the cold, crisp, morning air on a Spring-like February day. Maybe you will be lucky enough to have a red bird serenade you when you are all alone, like me. Or maybe God will send you some other comforts to cheer your day. Watch for them! “If you seek His face, you will find Him!”

– Lou Lehman Sams 

WHY I AM STILL SINGLE 

WHY I AM STILL SINGLE

If you are a student in high school, they ask, 

“Where are you going to college?”

If you are a college student, they ask,

“What is your major?”

If you are a single graduate, they ask,

“When are you going to get married?”

If you are a young married, they ask,

“When are you going to have a baby?”

When you have your first baby, they ask, 

“When are you going to have another one?”

When you have had all of your kids, they ask,

“What are your kids doing?”

When your nest becomes empty, they ask,

“When are you going to retire?”

And my LEAST favorite question of all is …

When you become “Single Again”, they ask,

“WHY are you ‘still’ SINGLE?!?”


The inflection is as if being single at my age is a disease of some sort. I assure you, it is not! I am single by choice. I am single because I still believe in love. I am single because I refuse to settle. I am single because I would rather be alone than use a man whom I do not love for a big house, vacations, clothes, cars, & a Meal Ticket. 


Here’s the thing:

I’ve had the custom built, 3,700 some odd square foot house in the neighborhood that had a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a fishing pond. But I can do without all of that. I’d sincerely be content in a little log cabin by a quiet stream, so long as it was warmed by love. 


Like most readers, I like nice things. I always wanted both a beach house getaway & a cabin in the mountains. I could do without the regular house, if I had those, because I find so much peace in the beauty in nature. 


As I was going through my divorce, during which period I refused to date, I spent a lot of time with female friends, playing BUNCO, going out to eat, & indulging in Girl Talk. Sometimes I would cry, & tell them that I knew I was not as young as I once was, & I wondered if I would ever get a date, once the divorce was final. They always asked me what I was looking for in a man.


So I comprised a list, which I delivered tongue-in-cheek, akin to a mini Comedy Act. It went something like this:

“The first thing I need is TEETH. I DO live in Alabama, you know, & if you take a look at the guys at the gas station, many are missing teeth. I want at least a dozen! As a former Dental Hygienist, this is important to me!

Next, no beer bellies. I don’t do beer bellies, & if they look like they are about to deliver a baby at any moment, they are not the one for me. 

A sense of humor is mandatory! If they cannot handle my sense of humor, they won’t be able to handle me.

They need a brain, too. It is even better if they know how to use it!

And I understand that hair is optional at this age, but I do like hair! Preferably not a toupe that is about to fall off.”


That was it. By injecting humor into the whole topic of what I was looking for, I was able to entertain the inquisitor & change the subject at the same time, because inevitably we would get off on a side topic, like why people do not floss.


Finally, the divorce was final, & I had to describe, on a dating site, what I was interested in from a man. Totally different answers!! They went something like this:

“Loyalty is non-negotiable. A sense of humor is mandatory. Communication is key. Chemistry is essential. Everything else in a relationship can be navigated.”


Though I have always had a thing for blue eyes & biceps, I was mature enough to realize that those things are superficial. My first boy friend post divorce, did in fact, have a small belly, but he had other attributes that counterbalanced that. After two failed relationships in 3 years, though, I had to add that I would prefer it if they do not have any crazy exes lurking about. Those make for very stressful relationships, to say the least. 


After getting hit on by men I’d never even met from ages 25 to 75 who were proposing for me to jump in my car & meet them at the beach, the mountains, or wherever, I started adding that I am not interested in a one night stand or a hookup. Really. Had to specify that to keep them at bay. Then, had to add that I do not want to communicate privately with married men, or those whose divorces are not final yet. Such  is the world in which we live …


Eventually I have added that the potential suitor himself must not be crazy, either. But that is a mental note. Can’t exactly put on your dating profile that narcissists, sociopaths & psychopaths need not apply. As an Empath, I am a natural magnet for these guys, it seems, but it does not take long to figure it out.


I have now been “Single Again” for 4 years. I have learned so much about myself, such as the fact that I was pretty naive when I got divorced, & had no idea how to date in the modern world, but that is a story for another day. I know that everyone in these shoes has baggage & some of it I am willing to help carry, but some of it needs to be checked at the door. I am learning the difference between these men being physically &  emotionally available – two very different things! I have learned that there are some bizarre fetishes out there that were beyond the realm of my wildest imagination. To be clear, I do not even kiss on the first couple of dates, but some of these guys will just throw these things out there over appetizers on the first date! Yikes!! I guess that is really important to them, sort of like not dating a crazy person is important to me. Truly, I did not come this far in life to end up chopped into little pieces in the deep freezer of someone’s garage!!! (Maybe I should be nicer to those crazy exes in the future …?)

Finally, it has occurred to me, the most important criteria I seek, the one reason I am single: The key to my own heart lies hidden within His heart. 

What I mean by that is that my heart’s desire is a man who desires to have a heart like God’s. I am not talking about a “Jesus freak”, per se. And while some of my very happiest memories were Sunday mornings spent holding hands or sitting with a man’s strong arm about me in Church, I realize that organized religion is not for everyone. My beloved grandmother, as long as she was physically able, never missed a Sunday morning at Church, while her husband, my beloved  grandfather, stayed at home, drinking strong, black, coffee from the percolator & reading the Sunday paper. But he read his Bible, along with excerpts from the encyclopedia, every day. He had a quest for knowledge, a love for learning, and he definitely knew God. 

I want a man who knows God. Who relishes the laughter of children. Who appreciates sunsets and storms and the wind howling through the trees. Who can find contentment walking along the beach or working with his hands. Who gives of his time freely to help others. Someone who is kind. Who understands that no one is perfect, not even himself. Someone who is not angry at the world every day, but who makes allowances for others. Someone who loves unconditionally, is fiercely protective, and who can laugh at themselves and life’s curve balls. A man who means it when he says he will, “always love, always protect and always take care of me.” One who honors his word, rather than just giving lip service. One who spends his free time golfing or hunting or volunteering or doing something productive, rather than surfing Tinder.

Please understand that I have met some fantastic, kind, caring, and wonderful men since my divorce. I am blessed and proud to call many of them my friends! I am thankful for what they have brought to my life. Although I frequently make jokes about my search for the “perfect man, I am all too cognizant that no perfect man – or woman – exists on earth. And if one did exist, I would not want him, for I am far from perfect! 

But I am a one man woman, and I will settle for nothing less than a one woman man. And as much as I do still love blue eyes & biceps, I now know what I REALLY want: I want a man who, though it is impossible to achieve here on earth, strives to have a heart like His.

Until he finds me, I will be content with the One who ALWAYS keeps His word: He ALWAYS loves, ALWAYS protects, & ALWAYS takes care of me!! ALWAYS!!! Therefore, I do not have to settle for less than the best, for I already have it! That, my friends, is why I am still single. My guy is out there, somewhere, getting excited about hearing the laughter of little children at the upcoming holiday dinner, or helping a neighbor repair storm damage, because he is working on having a heart like His. The rest of the things – the hair, the eye color, the car, the house, the clothes – do not matter. My heart’s desire is to have His heart. 

(P.S. Not sure if I can give up on those teeth, though. Lord, let him have at least a dozen, please???)

– Lou Lehman Sams  

LETTER TO MY CHILD

LETTER TO MY CHILD
Dear Child:

If you were not afraid of the BoogeyMan, you would not cry out in the night allow me to come in & comfort you.

If you were never afraid of the throngs of people pressing in on you, then you would never grasp my hand so tightly.

If you had not fallen down & hurt yourself, you would have had no need of my ministrations.

If you did not ever get your heart broken, you would not crawl up in my lap & let me hold you close.

If you were not ever sick, then you would not have needed me to give you medicine, or rock you to sleep.

It hurts my heart to see you go through each of these things, but if they had never happened, we would not have drawn so close to one another. Like any parent, my heart hurts worse when you hurt than does your own. But like every parent, I wait in the background with a watchful eye, ever ready to step in on a moment’s notice whenever things go awry, or I hear your cry. I remind you to please make wise decisions, but then I sit back & watch to see what you will do, for you are your own person. Though I gave you life, I gave it to you to live it your way. Hopefully, that will be in accordance with what I have tried to teach you, because I have seen things that you have not yet seen.

You will become frightened of the darkness that surrounds you, but I will be there to turn on the light, & chase away the shadows.

You will get lost in the crowd, but I will be there to search for you until you are found, & I will hold your hand until you reach safety.

You will fall down, but I will be there to administer first aid, to send you back on your way, & to cheer you on to the next victory.

You will have your heart broken, but I will be there to embrace you, dry your tears, listen to your grief, & distract you until your heart heals.

You will become ill, but I will be there to feed your soul, bathe away your grime, & nurse you back to health again.

For I am your devoted & loving parent. I am fearless & fierce when it comes to protecting my offspring. I am always just a call away. I think of you often, every single day. You never have to question my unfailing love.

Signed:

Your Father

===================================================================

Footnote:

My daughter just moved to Oklahoma, & though she is a strong, independent young married lady with two degrees attached to her name, the transition to her husband’s new post has not exactly gone smoothly. From bad weather enroute to her husband being very ill to being notified that their belongings will not be delivered on schedule, her latest adventure has been fraught with misadventures. And this accomplished, organized, faith filled young lady has been reaching out, as most all of us do at times such as that, to me much more frequently than usual. Typically she is too busy for as many communications as we have been exchanging. But alone in a foreign land without a place yet to call home & the heavy mantle of responsibility to care for her sick spouse, she has naturally gravitated towards her childhood source of comfort.

No matter the circumstance, I am always delighted to hear from her, even under less than stellar circumstances, though I wish that every one of her days would be filled with simple successes, rather than terrible trials. So I started writing this letter to her. But a few sentences in, I began to see myself there in my own words.

You see, for the past few years, I have been alone in a foreign land, with a heavy mantle of responsibility, & in my discouragement & fear, I, too have reached out to my source of comfort. In the writing of these words, I found that, though God is portrayed as a masculine figure, I am best able to understand His heart by looking into a Mother’s heart.

There is not anything I would not do for my kids, including giving them the leeway to make & learn from their own mistakes, even though that is sometimes a painful process which is none to easy for me to watch. Sometimes I just want to step in, intervene, & stop them from making those mistakes. But then they would learn nothing from the process, & it is the waste products that come from indulging in the wrong things that sometimes make the best fertilizer to precipitate the most bountiful growth in our lives. And is that not what any parent wants? To see their children, the by products of themselves, to grow, flourish, & produce beautiful blossoms?

I am thankful for the times that I have been there to pick my kids up. I am thankful for the times that God has been there to pick me up. Somehow, though I never thought I would say it, I am thankful for the heartaches I have had, for it is there in those most broken of times that God held me closest in His arms. He will do the same for you.

Lou Lehman Sams

June 2016

A FRIEND ABOVE ALL OTHERS

A Friend Above All Others

When friends are nearby, yet nowhere to be found,

Your heart cries out, yet no one seems to hear the sound …

Your soul feels restless on its constant quest for peace, 

And all you really want is some form of sweet release …

Rest assured that someone hears your every single word

And you can hear His voice in the singing of the bird,

Or feel His touch as the breeze kisses your face …

Just close your eyes, & imagine His embrace

For He is the One you will always be able to find

And if you call upon Him often, He will not mind …

For you are a special treasure, & you deserve love

When you are all alone, just take a look up above.


– Lou Lehman Sams