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 

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FEAR OF LOSING CONTROL

Fear of Losing Control

People are AFRAID to surrender because they will lose CONTROL. But LETTING GO is the only way to really CONQUER FEAR, & getting rid of fear is when you actually GAIN CONTROL of your life, because it is then that you FIND FREEDOM to truly LIVE. Funny, what a PARADOX this is, because it is backwards from what we believe. 

We THINK that if we stay in that miserable relationship, we can control the outcome by controlling the person; however it is when we let go of the toxic people in our lives that we find the freedom to be with those who make us happy, & the ones who make us happy are the ones who love us enough to let us be ourselves. We convince ourselves that if we change careers or jobs that we will lose control, because we will have to learn something new & leave the familiar behind, but it is when we step out of our comfort zone & the things to which we have clung, but which we have outgrown, that we allow ourselves to be open to new, exciting, & daring adventures, & it is those adventures that provide us a chance to figure out who we really are, thus giving us control. We assume that if we do not tell our children what to think, feel, see, do or be, that they will mess up their lives, but in reality, when we do not allow them to become who God inspired them to become, that is when we mess up their lives for them. We imagine that if we do not fold the towels, take out the trash, or cook the roast beef the same way that we always have done, that the outcome will be undesirable, forgetting that perhaps there might be more space in the closet, less litter on the street, or a much more savory dinner if we will but surrender our old ways to new ones. 

Letting go, surrendering, & losing control, are difficult things to do, because we conjure up illusions to support the need for us to be in charge, & our fears prevent us from true freedom, wherein lies peace. We can frantically fight the waves until we are totally exhausted, yet find ourselves in exactly the same place in which we started, or we can calmly ride them & not only enjoy the ride, but end up in a tranquil spot, safely back at the shore. I have done all of these things. I have no regrets, but if I had it to do over again, I would have had more trust in God to protect my babies & left a most miserable existence far sooner. 

Sometimes clarity only comes after the storm has died down. If only I could have seen then, what I see now. But I did the best that I could do at the time, given my understanding of life & the situation. Since then I am proud to say that I have conquered many fears: I was afraid first & foremost of not doing my best for my children, but also I was afraid of potential illness, of being alone, of falling, of crashing, of lack of financial resources, & yes, of rodents. And since that time, I have been each & every one of those things at some point or another in my life, but I have survived every single day of my life. Once I finally had enough sense to let go & conquer my fears, I have found that is where I gained control of my own life, & that, my friends, is all we are really called to do. 

God created us each with our own unique gifts, callings, & desires, & whenever we allow the issues of others, the demands of controlling people, or the fears of failure to rule us, we are chained to those things. It is time to break free, to lose the chains that bind us to addictions to the past, to toxic people, to substances, & yes, to the addiction of the need to be in control. Freedom lies in letting go. Peace lies in freedom. Gravitate towards those that love you, not the ones that control you. Turn towards the challenges that excite you, not the ones that weigh you down. Choose to be in the relationships, jobs, or places that make you happy, not the ones that make you miserable.

 When you live in misery, fear, or under someone else’s control, you are not in any shape to live out your life according to God’s plan for you. Just as a fish cannot thrive if it is constantly pretending to be a dog, neither can you thrive if you are constantly pretending to be happy. Conquer your fear of losing control by letting go – I’m looking forward to finally seeing the “real” you – the person you were destined to be!

– Lou Lehman Sams 

JAR OF BLESSINGS

Last night I was asked to write an article on Thanksgiving for a veteran’s newsletter. “Piece of cake!” How many times over the course of my life have I written about Thanksgiving?!? Beginning in first grade with feeble attempts to express what I was thankful  for with my oversized number 2 pencil & lined elementary paper, to speeches where I have raised money to feed the hungry, to private missives in prayer journals. I am very familiar with the theme & its variations. I was ruminating about this right before I fell asleep last night. Perhaps that is what caused me to dream about my Jar of Blessings. But I had it on my mind when I awakened this morning, as well. I went back and read the piece that I wrote many long months ago, to see if it would be easily edited for that article. Unfortunately, I do not think that is the appropriate venue for that. But after praying about it, I have decided to share it with you. Perhaps someone needs to read my words.

Be warned: They are raw & real emotions that took place over the course of a year or so.We cannot change it, the past is the past, & no eraser is strong enough to entirely blot it out. But we can choose which pages to re-read from time to time. This one, the one where I discovered how full my jar of blessings was despite my perceived loss, is one that I need to carry forward into the future, as a memorial. ALWAYS, EVERY SINGLE DAY, THERE CAN BE FOUND BLESSINGS!!!  May you be blessed today!

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JAR OF BLESSINGS

At the beginning of the year last year, I saw someone post online an idea about filling up a jar with all of your blessings for the year. It works like this: You get a jar, & each day you write something that you are thankful for on that day, a blessing, if you will, then place it inside of that jar. Since I had given up the habit of writing my prayer requests & praises in a journal after I destroyed all of mine after my divorce, I thought that this was a fine idea. I re-posted the link to whomever originally put it out there (wish I could recall, so I could give credit), & declared that I was going to do just this very thing for all of 2014.

I went out & purchased a large honeycomb shaped glass beverage dispenser, for I was optimistic that God was going to send me many blessings throughout the year. My intention was to purchase some decorative paper, so my jar would look festive & attractive sitting in my kitchen, but I got busy, & practicality won out. So I started filling my jar with slips of paper cut from a legal pad. Not festive looking at all, so I moved the jar into my bedroom. It was a little incongruous looking, with its spigot for dispensing lemonade hanging over the edge of my bookshelf, & the plain white strips of paper with blue lines on them do not exactly make the presentation for which I was striving. But the inside of that jar? Well, it is a very beautiful & wondrous thing, for it is full to the brim of a year filled with reminders of God’s gifts to me.

I had set my alarm to go to Church this morning, but when I tried to place my feet on the floor to walk to the bathroom to get ready, I was in excruciating pain from where I pulled or strained a muscle yesterday at the gym. I took an anti-inflammatory, & listened to a couple of Bible study lessons by a well-known evangelist online instead. They contained good messages; however, they left me feeling unsatisfied. That is just not the same thing as going to Church & lifting your voice in praise. I needed to clean my house, but my leg was just hurting too much, so I limped into the kitchen, made myself a cup of coffee, & sat down in bed to read. Then my eyes feel upon my Blessings Jar. Noting that it is full to the brim, I decided it is time to empty those pieces of paper in order to make way for the blessings of 2015. And thus it is so with life – you have to let go of the things of the past, even if they were huge blessings to you, in order to make room for the new blessings God wants to give you.

I dumped out those ugly, non-uniform slips onto the comforter beside me – all 365 of them, for I had one for every single day of the year. I began to unfold & read them. Obviously, they were in random order. There was one in September, where I was thankful that I got to attend a lovely concert with a friend. (I always started the slip with these words: “I am thankful for …” Then, I would write 1, 2, 3, or 4 things that I felt God had blessed me with that day.) One day I simply wrote that I was blessed by my 2 awesome kids. Sometimes the simplest things made me feel so thankful: “Thankful I spent the day with X. We went to Church, visited the daVinci exhibit, cooked dinner at his house & watched the Super Bowl. Talked to my son, & I am thankful he is making good grades.” Ah, what a fond memory! I would have forgotten that series of events that day, had I not had my jar. Over & over again, I found slips where my greatest blessing for the day was an ordinary, every day thing, like watching a ball game with my son, giving a donation to the Salvation Army, giving out food to the homeless, lunch with a girl friend, successful closing of a sale, spending time with my kids (which becomes all the more precious once they leave home, like mine have done), finding a home for a dog, thankful for a referral, thankful for a new client, safety from storms, a successful negotiation, etc. Sometimes the slips contained things that we routinely take for granted, like the one where I penned: “Thankful I have heat!!!” This was after I had been without it for a couple of days! Conversely, one day I was thankful for A.C. (Yes, I had several days in different seasons without heat or A.C.)

Many of the slips had the same person’s name on them, over & over. He was an integral part of my life for the first 5 months of the year. I was thankful for the fact that he helped me move; thankful that he cooked me dinner; thankful that we watched a football game cuddled on his sofa together; thankful for an AWESOME weekend in Nashville with X; thankful for a card he gave me; thankful that I held hands with X while worshipping at Church; thankful for dinner with him & his kids; thankful I got to feel X’s arms around me; thankful I went to X’s son’s ball game; thankful X loves me; thankful for a FUN April Fool’s joke on X by me & his kids, & thankful for X’s good sense of humor; thankful for a WONDERFUL Easter with X, my daughter, & my son-in-law; thankful for sitting on his back patio, watching stars, & talking about life with X; thankful I took BBQ to X, & had a pleasant evening with him & his kids; thankful I could take X on a date night to Outback & to see Saving Mr. Banks; thankful our puppies love to play together; thankful that X came & prayed with me at the altar; thankful for a boy friend that calls me every night when he is on night shift; thankful I have X to love; thankful that God gave me X; thankful that X cut my grass for me; thankful for an INCREDIBLE, romantic dinner with X at the little Italian restaurant at the Opryland hotel & that we got to see Rascal Flatts at the Grand Ol Opry; thankful for volunteering at Panoply with X; thankful for an AWESOME, FUN day preparing for Easter with X; & some days I just wrote “Thankful that I got to spend the evening with X.” I even wrote once that I was thankful for a hot dog dinner with him & his kids, & I do not even particularly like hot dogs! But I WAS thankful for that time with them.

As I read more & more of these slips, tears began to fall in streams down my face. I have, for the most part, healed from that relationship which we ended months ago, but oh, those sweet memories brought me tears of joy. But I realized something, & that is that most of my slips of paper at that time revolved around that one person. And God wants us to recognize ALL of the things that He blesses us with, not just have tunnel vision about one of them.

I started finding the slips from those less than stellar 2 months of 2014. Those were the months when I was grieving the loss of that relationship, & I broke my promise to God: I was heartbroken, & as I nursed my broken heart, I did not have it within me to write out any blessings to place into my jar. I went for about 2 months without writing a single slip. One day, through much prayer & contemplation, I arrived at a place of healing where I realized the error of my ways. God HAD been blessing me, even in the midst of my sorrow, & I was negligent in not keeping my promise to Him. Please do not misunderstand: All during that time I was going to Church almost every single Sunday, reading my Bible daily, & praying without ceasing. I was thanking God in the sanctuary, in my back yard, & out in nature. But whenever I looked at that Jar of Blessings, it reminded me of broken promises, & I just could not bring myself to add to it. Until finally, one day, it hit me that God had not broken HIS promises to me, & neither should I break mine to Him. I determined to make right on my word – without it, what is a person, anyway? If one cannot be counted on to keep their word, even over something as seemingly silly as this, then what does that say about one? Over the course of several days’ time, I went back & re-constructed those 2 months, & I found something, using my calendar & social media posts, that I was blessed with on each of those days.

“Thankful my son had travel safety.” “Thankful for chat on phone with my daughter.” “Thankful for a good sermon at Church.” “Thankful for beautiful weather.” “Thankful for discount on premium television channels for my son this summer.” These are the things I was able to remember about some fairly dismal days. Looking back, I was able to find some good in every single one of them.

I vowed to begin my daily slips again. Not going to lie – sometimes I get busy, & will fill out 3-5 slips at a time, for the preceding days. But still, I write something every single day. It was interesting to me that, as I recovered from my hurt, some of the things I was thankful for changed. On the days when I did not feel particularly blessed, I would sometimes just write things like these: “Thankful for the breath of life.” “Thankful that SIRI made me laugh so hard.” “Thankful for the feel of the sunshine on my face.” “Thankful for a God I can pray to.” “Thankful that God forgives me.” “Thankful for inspirational books.” “Thankful for my life, even though it is hard right now.” “Thankful that I can still have fun with friends, even though my heart is broken.” “Thankful for tears to release SORROW.” (I only let negativity slip onto a slip those 3 times. I suggest that you limit all negativity, if you elect to do your own Jar of Blessings.) “Thankful for a heart that loves God.” I could see a pattern developing. It was as if God called me away from a person whom I had given too much of my time & attention in order that He could have more of my devotion. Now, the entire time I was in that relationship, I prayed, went to Church, worshipped, & read my Bible. However, I did not spend a lot of one on one time with God. And I know that God wants that from each of us on a regular basis. I am reminded of a plaque that a client once gave me that spoke to finding balance in life. It was one of those type of picture posts one would post on social media to encourage others, & she gave it to me because, at that point in time, I was working 12-14 hours per day, every single day. She was worried that I was a workaholic. (Really, I wasn’t, but such were the demands of the real estate market at that time.) Anyway, I think that God is trying to tell me to find better balance in life. As I looked at these slips of paper, there was the time when I was in a relationship, time when I was grieving, time when I allowed healing, & finally, time after I allowed healing to take place. Last year, I had four seasons of my life that were as distinctive as the seasons of weather are supposed to be.

Like the traditional seasons, each of my seasons had different blessings. As I sat there in the bed, finally feeling the pain medicine bring relief, I began worshipping God for ALL of the things He had brought to me. I am thankful that He has given me the conviction to look for something to be thankful for every day. Examples of small things: I was thankful for my work out at the gym; for time alone with God, taking pictures of His creation; support & encouragement of a friend; dinner with friends; thankful for so many invitations to weddings, parties, business & social events; thankful for opportunities to minister to others; thankful for new friendships & renewal of old ones; thankful for FUN with family & friends; thankful I am learning to pray with greater expectancy; thankful I have someone to sit with at Church; thankful for FAITH; thankful for sunsets; thankful for God speaking to me through various means; thankful for Snickers to watch TV with me.

And finally, I saw my slips as they reflected yet another new beginning in my life: “Thankful for the courage to move forward.” “Thankful for inspiration found on Facebook.” “Thankful that I painted my hallway by myself.” “Thankful I made it down to that swimming hole all alone without encountering any bears.” “Thankful that I live in the USA, & I am FREE!” “Thankful for optimism.””Thankful my son is coming home for Christmas break!!!” “Thankful I get to see BOTH my kids at Christmas!” “Thankful for HOPE!” “Thankful God forgives my mistakes.” “Thankful for a nice walk on Monte Sano.” “Thankful for nice walk around UA campus with my son & his friend.” “Thankful for Church.” “Thankful my posts helped encourage someone today.” “Thankful for Church on TV.” “Thankful I did not ruin my lawn mower.” (Although it smokes when I start it, & nearly new riding mowers should not do that – hopefully God will bless me with a friend to help me figure out that issue when mowing season rolls back around .) “Thankful for God’s provisions.” “Thankful I was able to repair the loose brick on the step in the garage by myself.” “Thankful for ME!” (I meant I am thankful that God has made me who I am – I sometimes get flack for being so open with my life, especially my personal life, but it is by sharing that we give, & it is in giving to others that we receive the greatest blessings of all.) I have quite a few slips stating that I am thankful for safe travels (I have done a lot of traveling alone this year) & for safety on my walks (Snickers, my miniature dachshund, is not a very intimidating guard dog) & for safety for my kids.

Interestingly, except for the trips I took, ball games I attended, & the new car my son got, none of my slips included many physical things. I may not have the biggest house, my Mommy-mobile may be getting older, & I may not have a lot of expensive jewelry, but I have SO MUCH for which to be thankful. Including the trips & ball games was more for the experiences & camaraderies than the monetary values. And the car? Well, my son needed reliable transportation, & who does not want their son to have something good? And of course, I had slips where I was thankful for answered prayers where friends survived surgeries, for healing, & for other things God has wrought in the lives of those I love. For I also feel blessed when God blesses those that are near & dear to my heart.

So what now? I am going in search of another, different blessings jar. I want a new one, for it will be holding new blessings. I think I shall use this one for its intended purpose – to serve beverages. And I am going to find PRETTY paper strips for 2015, as well. I am trying to decide exactly what to do with these slips of paper – do I shred them as I did all of those old prayer journals? Do I set them ablaze in my fire pit? Do I bag them up or place them in a box to be viewed some other day? I shall pray about that. But I do know that there is something inexplicably wonderful about looking back over a year’s worth of blessings. As for those people whose names were on slips as having blessed my life in 2014, but who are no longer a part of it? The good news is that, once you have given a blessing, you can never take it back, so those blessings will forever remain a part of my story. I still miss them, but realize that they are busy offering the gift of blessing others now. I pray that whomever they are blessing, that those people will be just as thankful for every little ordinary and every day thing, like watching a ball game, or a hot dog supper, as I was. I am looking forward to seeing what sunsets, ball games, friends, dinners, moments with loved ones, Church services, & ordinary & every day things make it into my new Jar of Blessings for 2015. Maybe, just maybe, I will be lucky enough to get 1 or 2 extraordinary miracles thrown in, as well.

Won’t you consider starting one of your own? Even on those days when the only thing you can think to be grateful for is the fact that you are alive, you will be glad that you took the time to write that down. And this time, next year, even if you do not feel compelled to share how you have been blessed in a blog, I will rejoice with you over the many great & wondrous things that God has done in your life!!

I realize that some of my co-workers, business colleagues, family, friends & acquaintances do not understand why I write such personal things. And that is okay, because God calls us each to different things in this life. My calling, it seems is to write & speak. Other writers & speakers understand. Other people do not. I also recognize that by my writing these things out for people to read, I am probably limiting my dating pool significantly – it takes a special man to be able to handle someone as open & honest as me. But that is all right, too, because I deserve nothing less, & if a man cannot handle my need to write encouraging things for other people, well, I guess he cannot handle me, either. I suppose it is a little like my Jar of Blessings – sometimes my heart just gets to be so full that I must empty it out in order to allow other things in. Therefore, I pour out my thoughts, readying my mind for the next ones God wants to plant there. And I pour out my heart, preparing it to receive whatever else God has in mind to place inside it.

Today, I am thankful for the courage to do the things I feel that God calls me to do, even when I feel fearful, do not want to do them, & do not understand why I am called to do them. I am thankful that He has a better way than me.

Lou Lehman Sams
January 2015

Postscript: I regret that I did not follow through & begin a new jar of blessings for 2015. But I have had MANY blessings this year!!! I hope to start a new jar in 2016. Or better yet, perhaps I will just pull that same jar out of the pantry & use a legal pad again. It was not the look that was beautiful, but the sentiments, anyway. Sometimes the prettiest things come in the plainest wrappers … L.L.S.

Country Hearts

COUNTRY HEARTS

Far out into the countryside, where the stubble of the faces of fields shaven from their summer beards of cornstalks & soybean plants surrounds tiny houses graced with old pick-up trucks, there can be found a little Church with a big heart. The red brick of the original building is crowned with a non-descript white steeple that is topped with a tiny cross. The building is dwarfed by its younger sister, a huge white metal structure that serves as a multi-purpose facility – part gym, part banquet hall, & part whatever someone needs it to be.

I arrived for brunch on a Saturday morning, not knowing exactly what to expect. Ladies of the Church had decorated the tables, as is the fashion nowadays with different themes, & there was everything from crocheted baby clothes to spray painted tree branches to brown pottery serve ware as centerpieces. The men of the congregation served the pancakes, sausage & coffee, & graciously bussed the tables, so the women could be about their business of networking with their guests.

When the program began, everyone participated in Acapella singing, which was a bit lost I not the cavernous building, but I was most thankful for this fact, as I. Cannot carry a tune. Thankfully, there are filters between the time sounds of songs leave the lips of musically challenged people such as myself & the time that said songs reach Heaven, so that all of them are a “joyful noise”! And I do love to sing!

The program consisted of the leaders of different ministries that the Church either sponsors or contributes to in a regular basis. I do not recall every word spoken by each woman who got up to give a personal testimony and/or explain the ministry that they are in loved in, & I did not take copious notes. But it struck me that, way out there “in the sticks” was a piece of the Heart of God.

The ministries that were highlighted included things such as helping provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged children, helping abused women break the cycle of co-dependency, helping women escape drug & alcohol addiction, & clothing children who have lost all of their belongings due to fire or being placed into foster care. Each lady had a unique story to tell, & each one demonstrated a true heart for helping others.

But a few things struck me more than others, such as the relatively young lady whose voice broke as she told of having survived not one but two very abusive & controlling marriages. She was teary-eyed, & you could see the joy break through from the tears as she pointed to her third husband, one of the Men of Integrity that helped serve our delicious brunch. She offered hope to women who may be in similar situations & told about finding peace. One of the women said that “Shalom” means “peace – nothing broken or missing.” And when you are in an abusive relationship, it is not only broken, but peace is missing from your life.

There w the young lady who is putting on the local Relay for Life. She smiled as she lovingly spoke of the sister whom she had lost to death due to breast cancer, & as she introduced an older lady who is a three time cancer survivor. This you lady got the applause she so richly deserved as she helped ask for volunteers for this upcoming event.

There were the two women who had been long time friends, but who were not in touch on a daily basis but who were each given, separately, the same vision for a ministry to clothe the children of the community. They have clothed 389 children with 8-10 outfits each since they began their ministry a few short years ago. They spoke of how God planted that idea into their hearts, & how, whenever it seems that there will not be enough clothing articles to fit a particular need, God always provides somehow.

An especially touching testimony was that of a woman who was once one of the participants in a program designed to help women fight addiction. She actually entered this program, which is available through scholarship money after a nominal $500 entrance fee, back in 2011, & since she has graduated, she is promoting the program. I saw her hugging & holding on to one of the other women during the song service, so I knew that she was nervous about giving her testimony when I saw her head to the front of the room. I prayed for. God to give her strength to say what needed to be said, & her message was very attention getting. One thing she said that stuck in my mind is this: “An addiction is ANYTHING that separates you from God.” And she was right! People automatically assume that addictions must be alcohol or drugs; however, people can be addicted to any number of other things, such as food, possessions, violence, sex, drama, gossip, & co-dependency. that will really make you stop & think!

And a other lady who almost broke down as she told of her husband’s recent extended hospital stay, & how women if the Church came to see them, sent them cards, & brought them food, even on Christmas Day! “Loving people, & being there for them is what it’s all about!” she declared. And she was right, too!

And then came the lady who had invited me to the brunch. She & her daughter took center stage, & I was surprised when she said that her daughter was going to do the talking, because this lady is very outgoing & vivacious. But she stood there beaming as brightly as any mother has ever done so as she watched her daughter explain what their misty was all about. It is like a huge inline yard sale, EXCEPT that everything that is donated is given away FREE to whomever needs it. What an AWESOME idea! Instead of trying to sell that unused item for a couple of dollars at a yard sale, you give it away to someone that really needs it! The name of the ministry is, appropriately, “Hearts For Freely Giving”. And the name denotes exactly what every Christian is called to do: freely give!

There are so many ways that someone can give: you can give of your time & talents when you volunteer to help clean up after a tornado, to put on an arts festival, to take care of sick children in the first aid room at school to serve on a P.T.A., to keep the children in the Nursery at Church, etc. The list is literally endless. You can give of yourself when you listen to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of their health or the loss of their job. And you can give of your hearts as did this wonderful group of women, as they welcomed in people throughout the community to encourage them to seek out their own ministries, & to give of their own hearts.

The program concluded with a young lady speaking about how she & one of the other speakers had begin that. Loathing ministry for kids. She told about how they wanted to make sure that every child in the community had a pair of gym shorts & shoes so that they could participate in P.E., & not be relegated to the bleachers. Can you imagine that? Not even having proper clothes to participate in Physical Education Class?

Then she quoted Isaiah 61:1-3, which says this:
” The Year of the Lord’s Favor
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”

May 2015 be the Year of the Lord’s Favor for anyone reading this. May you find a heart to freely give of yourself to proclaim good news for the poor, to help heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, & to comfort those who mourn. May you find someone to love, & when they need you, “just be there for them.” And may God turn all of your ashes into beauty, & your mourning into joy!

– Lou Lehman Sams

GO FLY A KITE!!!

GO FLY A KITE!!!

There are some things that make even the hardiest of souls flinch when they think of attempting them alone, and I must confess that there was a time in my life when I was more timid about being out in public places without an escort. However, with age I’ve become comfortable with who I am, and I have no trouble going for a walk, dining in a full service restaurant, or exercising at the gym unaccompanied. Though I am blessed with many friends with whom to go shopping, I do not mind going by myself. I’ve noticed that, on those rare occasions that I must visit the supermarket at unusually late hours, the place almost always has a couple of men or women who, judging by the items that they place onto the conveyor belt at check-out, undoubtedly live alone. Their covert glances, and the quick movements away to avoid eye contact belie the fact that they are uncomfortable buying their groceries by themselves, and I cannot help but feel a small twinge of pity for them.



Being alone does not have to mean being lonely. As a matter of fact, because I spend so much of my time working with people in my day to day job, I will admit that I relish the occasional solo outing. Inevitably, though, whether I am dining out, pumping gas, or at the gym, I will invariably find myself making a new “friend”, as I seldom meet a stranger. I understand that not everyone has an outgoing personality, nor do they desire to have that trait. And even I find myself balking at attending Church or going to a movie at the theater all by myself.

This evening, I decided to go for an impromptu walk. I set out alone, quite happy to have some time to reflect on recent events, to meditate, to offer prayers heavenward and just enjoy the soft summer wind breathing its breath upon my cheeks.

As I started the trek up the hill behind my place, I saw a kite wafting lazily in the evening breeze, suspended in a surreal manner above the green space adjacent to the play ground. Hearing the laughter of children and getting to see them enjoy themselves always makes me happy, & I expectantly looked forward to topping the hill in order that I could see the child or children who would most certainly be found frolicking beneath the kite dancing on the night air.   But as I drew closer, I realized that there was no child present, but only a single, adult lady controlling the kite’s flight. I scanned the area surrounding her, thinking that her son or daughter must be there – somewhere – but was unable to spot anyone. Interesting, I thought, as I made my way on past her and set out for a short walk.



As I made my way back again, I once again saw the multi-colored contraption, and once again, I saw the single lady holding the handle below the string that was attached to the kite. I stopped for a moment, and watched, as she, with a soft smile on her face, slowly walked back and forth, with her eyes all the while on her kite. I was mesmerized with the idea that an adult would actually go out and fly a kite all alone, unaccompanied by a romantic date or children. She seemed at peace with herself, and with her situation, and though I did not approach her nor attempt to speak to her, I surmised that she was having fun entertaining herself. I contemplated why society has moulded us in such a manner as to make it appear to be odd or unusual to do certain things by oneself.



I thought about the times in the past when, on glorious, blue sky, breeze-filled Spring days I had wished my grown children were young enough to want to enjoy the simple art of flying a kite with me as they had done when they were little kids. I recalled how, not having anyone to fly a kite with, I just abandoned the idea altogether. But as I watched this lady, so comfortable with her task, I decided that I shall add kite-flying to my list of things that I am comfortable doing all alone. The next time I get the urge, should I not find a companion willing to accompany me, I shall, like the woman from my neighborhood, go out by myself, and, finding my own peace, fly my own kite.



Is there something that you wish that you were not uncomfortable doing by yourself? If so, what is it? There is a whole world out there waiting for you to reach out and enjoy the simple pleasures that it offers. Some things are indeed, much more fun to do with a friend, a lover, or a family member. But if none of them is available, or ready, willing and able to catch a summer’s breeze with you, step out and do it anyway. There is no shame in being alone. And let’s face it, there are only so many evenings each year when the weather is perfect for flying a kite. Besides, you might just find yourself, like the serene lady I encountered, caught up in a moment all your own, smiling contentedly at your feat, or like me, a silent observer, caught up in a moment all my own, and smiling, just as contentedly, at the scene. The next time you feel like it, GO FLY A KITE!!!



~ L.L.S.