COPY AND PASTE

COPY AND PASTE

So let me get this straight here … 

In the past few months on social media I have scrolled through:

* 987,675,432 political posts, many of which had zero point, & quite a few which could possibly be classified as hate-filled diatribes against the other parties,

* 321,456,877 pictures of puppies in various cute poses,

* 123,432,567 posts of people whining over the common cold, or getting caught at a traffic light,

* 2,908 rude or vulgar crass comments,

* 3,400 pictures of drooling babies with half chewed food strewn down their bibs,

* 986,655 posts disparaging others for their religious beliefs,

* 352 pictures of romantic Valentine’s dates,

* 221 posts about the Grammy awards,

* 899,543,211 pitches to buy mascara or creams that will keep me from ever aging,

And 

Countless posts about what is for dinner, vacation, wardrobe, etc.

Now, admittedly, I have pretty much posted something in almost every category above, including my never ending stream of sunset pictures. (With the exception of being hate-filled or disparaging towards others with differing religious or political beliefs. I do not believe in that.)

But some of you are upset that I, along with others, have copied & pasted a post to raise awareness for the ravages of cancer? Seriously, not much on social media ticks me off, but this one does. Cancer is a dreadful disaster that pretty much affects every single family in the United States. I once had a family member tell me that they would rather die than go through the ravages of chemotherapy again. (Although they did choose to do that very thing when their cancer returned.)

The post that I copied & pasted was not threatening a curse if you chose not to participate. It was not promising money or blessings if you chose to do so. It was originally written by a cancer survivor to raise awareness. And note that I posted it on my own wall, without peppering people’s private inboxes. 

By raising awareness, many things are accomplished in the battle, such as the propensity for the opening of pocketbooks to help fund research to eradicate the disease & save lives increases, as well as the opening of hearts to have more compassion & sympathy towards its victims, which should hopefully entail more personal support services to help them win their victories.

I am proud to call each of you on my Friend’s list my friend, whether I know you in person or only via social media. If you unfriend me over this post or the one that prompted it, I will be disappointed, but it will not hurt my feelings. I will not apologize for the post I copied & pasted. Flooding the newsfeed with it in order to raise awareness is much better than 99% of the posts I see floating by, including my own feeble attempts at inspiration. 

If you are a cancer survivor, know that I stand beside you, praising God for your victory. If you are currently battling any form of cancer now, I pray for peace, healing, strength, courage, & ultimately victory. 

If you have never had to face this beast called Cancer in your own life, I ask you this, have you ever done any of the following?

Watched an acquaintances posts showing her child, sick, month after month, until finally she loses the battle? 

Held the hands of one of the bravest women you know & prayed with her as her eyes filled with tears because she was facing a second cancer surgery?

Listened to a childhood friend tell how she elected to have a preventative mastectomy on her second breast at the same time she had the necessary mastectomy of the other one, because of her genetic predisposition to recurrence?

Sat beside a friend at BUNCO who told you, in the midst of a female conversation about cup sizes, that, “I have no breasts. Mine were cut off (due to cancer)”?

Attended the funeral of a family member who lost their lives to cancer?

Had a total stranger break down into tears of joy & hug you for raising money at a Relay for Life booth at a festival?

Visited sick children in the hospital who were bald from radiation & chemo therapy?

Tried to comfort a young mother whose child had been diagnosed with leukemia?

Had a woman who was dying with liver cancer look you straight in the eyes & tell you that she was not ready to die yet, a few weeks before she succumbed to that disease?

Reunited with a high school friend on Facebook, only to learn of his passing a couple of weeks after he posted a prayer request for his upcoming liver scans?

Walked into the Clearview Cancer Institute & had them take your photograph so they can make sure that they give the right treatments to you when you come back?      

Watched a TV documentary showing a young 9 year old boy’s battle & loss of his life to leukemia?

I have done all of these things, and much more! I have had precancerous cells, but never had cancer. I have had five legit cancer scares. I have seen family members suffer with cancer, & the effects of treatment. I have seen business colleagues lives totally redefined from it all. 

Yes, the fact that people have complained about a copy & paste social media post written by a cancer survivor to raise awareness for cancer makes me mad. Fighting mad!! I will stand beside you, pray for you, raise money with you, run errands for you, walk in the Relay for a life with you, or whatever it takes to help you through, should you fall victim. 

As for the rest of you, I hope & pray you will find something else to complain about, because this is one complaint that my logical & reasonable mind will not tolerate. If you need to unfollow or unfriend me as a result, so be it. But I pray that you nor your family members never have to face this disease. Unfortunately, the odds do not support that, as one in four people gets cancer. May God bless you, whether you are a victim, a survivor, a family member, or just a complainer. Whatever the case, save your complaints for your own page, I ain’t interested. 

And setting aside the cancer for just one brief moment, think about what good you might could accomplish in the time that you are wasting in complaining about someone else’s posts? Whether they are writing about puppies, politics, or posting pics of their personal stuff, they are entitled to write whatever they please on their own pages, as long as they are not breaking the law. In case you don’t know, there are nifty little features called scrolling, deleting, & unfollowing these days.

I wish I could say that I feel much better now that I have written this. But I don’t. I am just hoping that the time I took to write this post will somehow make it to the hands of one of those whose calloused hearts need revelation. Thank you.

– 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 

PRAYING FOR TROLLS

PRAYING FOR TROLLS

Today I am praying for a Troll. Not just a Troll, but a Troll whose identity I do not know. Last year, I temporarily took down my blog due to malicious comments from an admitted Atheistic professor at a University in the State of Tennessee. I had already blocked him on FB. It seems that he had nothing better to do in life than mock my comments about God. He also tried to make me feel bad by posting comments on my blog that no one is interested in reading it, except him, and things like that. A GOOGLE search showed that particular professor is known for being an Internet Troll, and that he has apparently made hateful and disturbing comments on some of his own students’ and former students’ blogs. But after some prayer, I decided not to be intimidated by him into not posting my writings.

Now, I have another Troll. This one is presumably named Karen. I say presumably, because there is not a photo attached to “her” avatar, and if I click on it, I do not get directed to her blog. She has made multiple disparaging comments about my blog. Regarding Two Dinner Dates, she posted that my first date obviously ditched me intentionally due to my weight problem. Sorry to disappoint, Karen, but while I definitely want to lose some weight, I am a size 6/small, and I do not think that classifies me in that category. And that man which I wrote about took me on a lovely dinner date the next week. So there! Nanny nanny boo boo, LOL. 

 

Regarding Enough is Enough, she said the post made her feel melancholy and hopeless, because no one should depend on god to do things for them. Then she told me that I need to get some hobbies. And then that I need to go to the gym, so that I can lose that weight and maybe get a quality fit date for a change. Let’s see: God does things for me every single day of my life. I have more hobbies than most people do, and I do not think my schedule will accommodate another one at this time. I already go to the gym. And obviously she did not see the last guy I dated for 3 months, who most definitely is, without a doubt, one of the fittest men in his age group that I know, LOL. 

I am posting this because there will be other people who are targeted by trolls such as these who will not have the strength of spirit to shield them from the poisonous arrows that they shoot towards them. I logically and rationally reasoned out that this person obviously does not know me, because everything she attacked was so blatantly and obviously false.

But what if? What if I was grossly overweight, and struggling to lose it? What if I had not had a dinner date that was physically fit? What if I had no hobbies, and did not know how to begin a new one? Most importantly, what if I was doubting my faith in God?

Trolls such as these are dangerous people. I do not understand their motivation. They are unhappy, lost souls who seek to destroy other’s happiness and peace of mind. My best advice: Do not let them!! Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous and very sage words that are often quoted: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent!” No one. That’s right, Professor, I do not have to give you the power to make me feel inferior. And Karen, (if that is your real name), no “offense”, but your lack of logic is just laughable. No, you do not get my consent, either! 

So both of you should move on down the road. Preferably you will do so silently, but if you must regurgitate such negativity into the atmosphere, please do so on your own blogs. Then again, perhaps you have to post such distasteful things such as refuting God’s existence, attacking people’s physical appearance, and trying to undermine people’s self-esteem on other people’s blogs because you are so vile in your behaviors that no one would read yours?

Please, don’t get me wrong, people. I know atheists and agnostics that are moral, kind, law abiding citizens who do not feel the need to randomly attack other people or their efforts to inspire others. But these Trolls? Well, there is a reason that the trolls of fairy tales were of small stature, and lived beneath bridges. (NOT a reflection on homeless people who live beneath them in modern times!)

So why on earth would I pray for these Trolls? First, I pray that they will find the Light, for I do believe that they are lost souls. Next, I pray for all of their targets, that God will shield them and protect them from their efforts at belittling, demeaning, and discouraging them. Last, I pray that God will, by this post, somehow redeem the harm that they sought to inflict by helping someone else be strong. “The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the horn of my salvation, my Stronghold.” – Psalm 18:2. Amen.

Pray. Kick those Trolls back beneath those bridges. Be strong, my friends!

 

– 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.

SOME TIMES I CRY

SOME TIMES I CRY

Ironic, how life is cyclical. I was cleaning out some old files on my computer, & ran across this unpublished post from 2012, when I was awaiting finalization of my divorce. WAITING being the operative word. That process did come to completion a few months after I wrote this, which was almost exactly 3 years ago. I fell into a whirlwind new relationship, & thought I had my life’s direction redefined, only to find that, 9 months ago, I entered another tailspin, & another time of WAITING. Ironic, how I found this old post completely accidentally, coincidentally the morning after a friend commented on how some people may think that someone like me who APPEARS to have it all together must surely have moments of feeling down just like everyone else. Or perhaps it was not a coincidence that I found this today? For we were speaking about how people do not like to admit when they are feeling depressed, & that there is no shame in feeling that way, nor in asking for help with it.

Me? If/when I feel that way, I pray. I pray a LOT. I read my Bible. I read inspirational books. I confide in a couple of Godly girl friends. I go out & entertain myself & others. I volunteer my time to help those that are less fortunate (for there is always someone less fortunate.) And I write. A lot. Some of it makes it online, & some of it, like this post, sits unread on my computer.

Both periods of waiting, the one I wrote about in the post below, & the one I am just now leaving behind, were filled with wondering about an uncertain future. Both left me puzzling & pondering life itself. Both inspired me to regurgitate some of my thoughts onto my computer screen, & reflect some of them back onto my friends via social media. And both of them taught me a little more about the act of WAITING on the Lord to guide me.

Please note that I am fine. There is no cause for alarm. I do not cry like I used to cry. Not saying that I no longer shed any tears – that would not be the truth at all. Just that the watershed moments are far fewer than they used to be. The grieving of loss is over, & I am putting my dancing shoes back on! I am ready to leave the former dance partners in the past, fill my dance card, &  live & love again! And I am finally going to share this post that I was hesitant to share back on my Facebook page way back then. Maybe it will help someone else pass the time while they are WAITING.

P.S. I DID rappel off of that building, & I have the video to prove it, LOL.

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SOMETIMES I CRY

(THE TRUTH ABOUT ME

)

There is not a week that goes by, but someone tells me, out of the blue, how much they enjoy reading my Facebook posts. Often, it is someone that I never even really see post anything themselves. Hearing those words is all that someone who thrives on communication like me needs in order to keep writing, so if it seems like I make a lot of posts, well, you have only yourselves to blame, tee hee. I do try to find inspiration in ordinary, everyday things, & when I see it, I think that perhaps someone’s day might be a little brighter if I share it, instead of keeping it to myself. So I post. And I post. And I post some more. When I am posting to try to cheer someone else up, though, it also cheers me up, because SOMETIMES I CRY!

I know that there are going to be people who read this that shake their heads & cluck their tongues thinking, “What on earth is she putting on Facebook now?” But that is all right with me. I know that there are those who believe that people should be reserved about what they post & that personal issues should all be private. That is all right, too – for them. But as for me, I believe that this is MY Facebook, & I should feel free to post whatever I feel like posting (as long as it does not hurt other people.)

So here goes: the other truth about me is that I HATE WAITING!!! The past few days I have really been thinking about this topic of waiting, & like Emerson, I always wondered about how much of life is spent waiting. Waiting for anything has always slightly annoyed me. But as I grew older, I began to realize that waiting, if used the right way, can be a very productive part of life. For instance, if one has to wait to resume normal activities after surgery, the waiting is a time of healing. If one has to wait for test results, the waiting can be a time of renewing one’s faith, & drawing closer to God. If the waiting entails getting through trials, then perhaps one can become stronger during that time. Still, I HATE WAITING.

Losing patience, & searching for inspiration, I recalled things I’ve heard about waiting. Ben Franklin said that “He that can have patience, can have what he will.” That sounds good! But then, Abraham Lincoln said, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.” Ok, so I guess we are supposed to “hustle” while we are waiting. In his famous poem, “If”, Rudyard Kipling states, “… If you can wait, & not be tired by waiting… then you will be a man, my son.” So, we should hustle, but not to such an extent that we get tired. All right, then. The Bible says, in Isaiah, that those who “wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run & not be weary; they shall walk & not faint.” So there we have the key, I guess, in that we should wait for the Lord, & His timing. Still, I HATE WAITING!
I have learned, for the most part, to make constructive use of the waiting times in life. I would take a book to doctor’s offices (never fails, though – take a good book that you really want to read, & they will get you back immediately, ha ha), take a little walk while waiting on my son to finish practice, check email & return phone calls in between baseball games, file my nails if stuck in traffic, & strike up conversations with strangers while waiting in lines. Waiting times can turn into “Blessing Times”, if we will just let them. 

But still, I HATE WAITING!

I find myself in an extraordinary circumstance in life currently, where I am in limbo, awaiting actions by others before I may move forward. I’ve read, walked, emailed, talked, & filed my nails plenty, all the while waiting. I must confess, I have become tired by waiting, & sometimes I DO cry! (I do not find that to be a sign of weakness, but rather one of compassion – “Jesus wept.”) I cry because I am ready to move forward. I cry for my children. None of us ever asked for any of this present situation. It just “Is what it is.”

Meanwhile, I stay BUSY! I’ve always told the kids that “THE BEST way to forget your own troubles is to get out & do something for someone else.” So, as I have since I was about 13 years old, I volunteer my time. I try to keep challenged by trying new things. (For those that are wondering, like my former neighbor, who asked me, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?” when he heard that I am going to rappel off of The Times Building, no, I have not lost my sanity, & no, I am not going through a Mid-Life Crisis, either. I am trying to conquer some of my fears, though, & I think the only way to do that is to just do it!) I work a lot! I do things for self-improvement. Basically, I do all of the things in life that I have always done (well, all except the jumping off of a building part – YIKES!)

The way I see it, each day of life is a GIFT from God! I don’t know about you, but when I give someone a gift, I do so with the hope & expectation that perhaps it is something that they will really enjoy using. I refuse to let my daily gifts of life sit unused, collecting dust, but rather intend to fully experience & appreciate each & every one of them. I realize that God WANTS ME TO ENJOY & USE THE GIFTS HE GIVES ME, INCLUDING THE GIFT OF TIME & that includes the days that are contained in this time of waiting. It’s not that I do not take what is transpiring in my life seriously – believe me, I do take it very seriously. It’s just that I refuse to let it define me, & I am determined to spend each & every day doing a little something to make a difference. At the end of the day, I do not want to imagine God being disappointed that I let my gift sit unused, or that I did not appreciate it. I want Him to know that I relished it, that I cherished it, & that I enjoyed it, as it was intended.

The preacher T.D. Jakes has this take on waiting: “Timing is so important! If you are going to be successful in dance, you must be able to respond to rhythm and timing. It’s the same in the Spirit. People who don’t understand God’s timing can become spiritually spastic, trying to make the right things happen at the wrong time. They don’t get His rhythm – and everyone can tell they are out of step. They birth things prematurely, threatening the very lives of their God-given dreams. – T. D. Jakes”. 

The Lord knows I waited a very long time to take this “Leap of Faith”. I waited until the timing was right. It was difficult, & some times I cried. But now that I have done so, I am ready for the music to start! I AM READY TO DANCE! I am ready to go out & claim the dreams that God has given me. I hope that I have made the very best use of my waiting time, & I truly am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Now you know the truth about me: SOME TIMES I CRY, I HATE WAITING, & I AM READY TO DANCE! 

Now, I pray that the wait will soon be over. If you are my friend, & have read this far please pray that for me & my kids – pray that the waiting time will end very soon, so we can get up & dance to the rhythm of the beat which He has orchestrated for us.

(Please remember, though, that if you find yourself in a “waiting time”, & need a friend to read with, talk to, email, volunteer with, or pray with, I am your girl – I’ve had plenty of practice!)

– Lou Lehman Sams
April 7, 2012

RICH IN HIS ARMS

RICH IN HIS ARMS

I went to a Women’s Conference
I was looking for You there –
And as soon as the lady began to speak
I thought, “This just isn’t fair.”

I only wanted a closer glimpse of You
Instead, the images mirrored myself to me.
Boy, were they accurate –
My sins were right there for me to see.

As I’ve been hurt through pain & fire,
Back to the world I’ve made a hasty retreat,
When all You’ve ever wanted from me
Was to lay it all at YOUR feet.

Yet I’ve been tested, & I’ve come up short,
All the while searching around,
Looking for someone to understand –
Someone with feet firmly planted on the ground.

At times, I’d half turn to You,
Yet the other half I turned still away.
Hearing Your answers, but not listening,
Afraid of the words You might say.

“My child, it’s been too long,
Since we walked alone, just you & I.
And I want us to fellowship
But not just when you cry!”

Then I looked down deep inside myself
Grasping for the strength to smile.
Instead, I found a Father’s love,
Reserved just for a special child.

I thank You, Lord for helping me,
Holding me in Your arms so secure
When no one else was there for me,

In YOU, I was rich, instead of poor.

~ Lou Lehman Sams
02/14/1997

Footnote: I ran across this from many years ago, & while it is not a great piece of work, I hope that it’s message comes across – sometimes God leads us into places where it seems that no one understands or cares for us, just so we can grow in our relationship with Him. And this is not just a one time thing: sort of like parents let their children go out & play with their friends, but still insist on spending one on one time with them. I wish that the day I attended that conference & wrote this piece was the last time I neglected one on one time with my Father – but that would be a sin of another type. I hope that whoever reads this will take some one on one time today to spend with God – He misses You when you forget to do so! ~ L.L.S.

HOLIDAY & EVERYDAY MIRACLES

HOLIDAY & EVERYDAY MIRACLES

I have posted a couple of things about believing in miracles on my social media in the past few weeks, & without disclosing any details, I must give credit where credit is due: I have had the pleasure of witnessing one of those this holiday season!! Please do not misunderstand, I do have some prayer requests that I am still awaiting answers on, & I will continue to lift my those things that concern my family & friends up in prayer until we get answers one way or another. But as this year comes to a close – a year fraught with many smiles, but many tears as well for me personally – I must THANK GOD for this thing that He has done. And though at times I have had sorrow so intense that it flooded my entire being with sadness so scathing that I thought my heart would break for real, I have had the blessings of good friends & loving family members who have been there to dry my tears, make me laugh, feed me, go on adventures with me, shop with me, & help me pick up the pieces yet again.

Friends, God has sent me who & what I have needed at just the exact times that I needed them, & He will do so for you, if you will just ask Him to help. Most importantly, I have spent MUCH time with Him – watching His masterful hand as it painted some of the most astounding sunsets I have ever seen, listening to His voice in the bluebird & cardinals songs, feeling His touch as a gentle breeze caressed my cheeks & my puppy’s cold nose nuzzled against my hand, smelled His presence in wild honeysuckle vines, & tasted His goodness in meals prepared by fine chefs & fond friends.

Yes, in ways it has been one of my least favorite years, but tucked inside the pages of that book called 2014, I also find some of my fondest memories, as well. As we celebrate the new beginning that comes with tomorrow, Lord willing, I hope that you will join me in setting aside those tough spots, rough places, disappointments & heartaches & reflect instead upon those miracles that God wrought in your life & those of your loved ones during 2014.

I know that some of you will say that there were none – if you feel that way, please go look outside your window & see the sun shining down; or go & hold your baby, grand baby, puppy, or kitten & feel their touch on against your arms; or savor the taste of a juicy orange, a sweet Krispy Kreme doughnut, or some your favorite health food; or listen to the sound of a violin, guitar, piano, or voice of an artist in your favorite musical selection; or maybe just smell the scent of that cologne you got for Christmas, or an apple cinnamon candle as it burns, or the crips cool air of Winter time – for there are miracles both big & small around you, if you will just be cognizant of their taste, smell, sight, sound & feel.

Most importantly, pause for a moment or two to experience whatever & whomever God places in your path this New Year’s Eve – for this day, though designated as a special holiday, is really just a day like all others, & that is one in which is intended to be lived with all of your senses. Let us remember the good & the bad as needed, knowing that the painful moments make us appreciate the pleasurable ones. If there were no crises in our lives, we would have no need of miracles, & it is in the miracles that we truly feel His touch. Yet, lest we forget, He sends His miracles shining down on us every single day, in both small & large ways, whether we realize that we need them or not. Happy New Year!!!

~ Lou Lehman Sams