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





I TAKE SELFIES

I TAKE SELFIES 



 Not so long ago, if anyone would have predicted that I would be taking photos of birds, other people’s trees after it snows, my dog, or … Drum roll … Taking & actually posting selfies, I would have died laughing! I used to HATE birds. I mean I really DETESTED them! My mother made me stay up very late with her when I was a little girl & watch a re-run of that Alfred Hitchcock classic movie, “The Birds”, & I had nightmares for nearly a week after that. I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with birds!!! And a mockingbird used to swoop down & peck my cat, George Washington, on the head – he did this so many times that poor George had a bald spot atop his head. No lie. Not saying that George did not deserve it. He did, after all, have a propensity for killing birds, & he did destroy that bird’s nest, including its babies. Nonethless, when I was a little girl, birds were creepy critters that I wanted no part of participating with in any way.

However, when one finds oneself sitting outside, reflecting & ruminating during a protracted divorce, one takes note of the fact that there are 6 blue jays living in one’s yard. Fortunately, my cat at that time, Lucky, was not much of a hunter, & the only gift he ever brought home to my doorstep was those nasty little snub-nosed voles, & an occasional mouse.  I guess he did not have a taste for birds, or was not athletic enough to score one. Whatever the case, the jays were safe from him, & they would come & visit with us at the end of the day, as Lucky & I sat swinging to & fro in the splintered old wooden swing in the back yard. We would sit there for extended periods, until darkness fell, or a I saw a coyote wandering through the yard, in which case I would abandon my post & hasten indoors. I was telling a friend about all of the blue jays I would see, & she told me that they stood for persistence, which I sorely needed to survive that season of my life, so I thought that was apopros, given that I needed a lot of tenacity to survive the ordeal of a contested divorce process.



 After my divorce was final, when I moved into the townhouse, I could not believe it when heard myself say that I missed having a big backyard where I could see the stars & the BIRDS. But I did miss them. The house that I live in now has a great back yard with an expansive view of not only the stars, but also phenomenal sunsets! Yes, I take & post pictures of the sunsets, as well! And while I do not feed them, a variety of birds, including cardinals, blue jays, & bluebirds, frequently come & watch the sun set with me & my puppy. They come so often that I sometimes grab my camera  & snap pictures of them to share on social media. I know that there is at least a handful of people who are unable to get out due to illness or disability to enjoy these things in person, so I keep posting the pics for their benefit.  









 And during rare Heart of Dixie snowfalls, I was always too busy making snowmen, having snowball fights, eating snow cream, or making snow angels to take many pictures, let alone photos of other people’s trees. However, when you have six and a half inches of snow in your back yard, & only one tree, no kids to bundle up, no man to engage in a snowball fight, then a walk to see what is going on in the ‘hood is the next best thing. So I snapped pics of people’s trees, & an occasional snowman, & enjoyed a brisk walk just soaking in the scenery. Realizing that some people criticize & complain about how many photos others post, I nonetheless posted a bunch of the pics on FaceBook for my home bound friends & those who do not live here to enjoy, figuring if other people do not want to see them, they know how to use the scroll feature, & just scroll on by. 





 This brings me to the subject of selfies. Once upon a time, about a year or so ago, I used to cast a critical eye on a woman I knew who posted selfies of herself. I thought that meant that she was self-centered. But now that I have walked a mile or so in her shoes, those being that of a single woman living alone, I understand. Just because you live with another person who can take your photo for you, that does not mean that you should criticize someone who does not. What does it matter, anyway, who takes the photos? If your kids live many hours away, & you want them to see that you are faring well, you want to share your excitement about an event, or you need a current photo for that dating website, then you should, if you so choose, take a selfie. Again, if people do not want to see it, they can delete your profile, or scroll on by. My great-aunt, who is in her 90’s just told me yesterday to please keep posting pics, as she loves to keep up with people that way. 





 Last but not least, there is my precious & precocious puppy! No, he does not change much from photo to photo, but he was my companion to ring in the New Year, my partner in photographing the beautiful red-tailed hawk that was sitting on my fence one morning, my friend while walking the Greenway, my dinner companion, etc. etc. If I am going to photograph my life’s events, I cannot omit him. Some people’s pets are their best friends. You take & post pics of your best friends, so why should you care if someone else takes pics of theirs? I will stop & peek at their pups on the days when I have time to do so, will hit the like button for a pretty pic, & just scroll on by if I do not have time to do either. It’s just that easy! 







 Yes, I take selfies now. No, I do not take them at inappropriate times, such as during a worship service at Church, when I am dressed in my unmentionables, or when I’ve got a nasty scrape or bruise. Some things are best left to the privacy of one’s home. But God has shown me that it is okay to do simple things that make me happy, as long as they do not intrude upon someone else’s rights. My private social media pages are for viewing by people that I consider to be my friends. Like a scene from a movie that you do not wish to view, you can always just look away if you do not agree with something, or not buy a ticket to the movie at all. I am secure enough in myself that I am not going to let critics stop me from expressing myself as I see fit. And please do not let them steal your joy, either!! 

 I do not envy people, I’m not jealous of what they have, but  by the same token, I would gladly exchange taking pics of selfies for a boy friend, a husband, or kids at home to spend time with, & take photos of & with, so for those of you who are fortunate enough to have those things, perhaps you would please be so kind as to not be so critical of those of us who do not have them, please? While we are busy taking & posting pics of our puppies, you are snuggled up on the sofa watching a movie with the one you love, or going to watch your son’s baseball game, or reading a bedtime story to your grandkids. Perhaps I am just wired differently: but even when I was in a serious relationship with a man that I loved, whenever I saw a picture posted by a friend that was one of their dogs, a selfie, or some thing that they were having for dinner, I did not condemn them. I was always just happy to see that they were doing well, and enjoying life.

Yes, I look forward to the day when God will hopefully give me a special man with which to build a home, & I will be too busy sharing dinners, walks in the snow, or ringing in the New Year with him to take pics of birds, puppies, & neighbor’s snow laden tree branches, but until that time arrives, I intend to keep living life & enjoying the small blessings God sees fit to grant me, such as writing in my blog & taking photographs.

Haters are gonna hate. Rise above, & express yourself in the manner you wish, so long as you do not harm anyone in the process. I pray that you will find your own joy, & live your life in a way that brings you peace & happiness … 

 – Lou Lehman Sams

THINGS LEFT UNSAID

THINGS LEFT UNSAID

We were nothing more than acquaintances in person, & had only really met face to face less than a handful of times. We would occasionally “Like” one another’s posts on social media, & once got into a small but quickly resolved debate over something he said to one of my posts. But we had not had a conversation via private message but a couple of times, & the previous one was quite some time ago, so I was most surprised to see his name pop up in my inbox out of the blue. However, I was more surprised by the content of his very last message to me.

I do try to stay off of the Gossip Train, which is why I sometimes miss out on important happenings even amongst my friends. It makes me sad if I miss offering condolences upon the loss of a family member when there has been a death, or the opportunity to lift someone up in prayer when they are discouraged, or when I do not go see them in the hospital because I do not know about these things taking place. I spend a lot of time online, but I am frequently multi-tasking, so I can overlook things by mistake in the news feed from my long list of friends. Additionally, & this I do not understand because I am not a technologically proficient person (although I do well enough to do my job & write in my blog), sometimes I get limited feed when I am on my tablet or phone which is typically where I check social media – while waiting on a client, a light to change, or at a doctor’s office. So I tell people that if there is something really important, please send me a text or a private message.

Even though I get more than my fair share of Spam, I do try to read & reply to every email (other than forwards & chain emails) & texts. So I was immediately curious as to what this man, whom had always conducted himself as the perfect gentleman towards me, was writing to me about. I was astounded by the content of his nice, sincere, & obviously heartfelt message to me. In it, he told me that while he is sometimes quiet, people do not usually consider him to be the shy type, except for when it came to ME! He said that he had been wanting to tell me something for a long, long time, but never had the courage to do so. He expressed concern that by doing so it might jeopardize our friendship. And then his confession came: He said that he had always longed to have just one evening to spend having dinner, a bottle of wine, & wonderful conversation with me. There was nothing at all sordid, sexual, or untoward in his proposal. He just wanted to go to dinner with me. I must say I was flattered, but I had no idea that he had been carrying around this inclination for so long.

Yet there are some things a woman “just knows” instinctively, & I knew when I first met this nice man that he was “not my type.” But I believe that it is impossible for a person to have too many friends, & I would have gladly had a dinner & conversation with him, had I known earlier, despite having heard some less than flattering things about him. I typically do not judge people by what others tell me about them, although I do take those things into account as regards my safety or that of my family. And the gossip that I had heard, (even though I had never asked to hear about his dirty laundry, you know how people love to talk), was really only as it pertained to his personal life, & nothing that was illegal, immoral or unethical.

I have many, many friends, both male & female. I am known for being “out there” in terms of being extroverted & being able to talk to most anybody, anytime, anywhere, & about anything. So I wondered why he felt so reserved about approaching me, as I am pretty approachable. Was it because he feared that I had heard gossip about him? I went back to our earlier private conversations, & with chagrin I noticed a message that he had sent to me where he complimented my appearance & said that he thought I had a lot of class. Now that is a very sweet comment, & one that I would not usually let pass without at least a simple “thank you.” But for some reason, I never replied. I wonder now if that hurt his feelings or kept him from further approaching me until now? I know that rejection, whether real or perceived, can cause a person to want to keep someone at arm’s length. So that made it all the more remarkable that he would reach out to me in this manner.

Therefore, I made it a point to immediately reply to this last message. I thanked him for his kind words, & also for the gift of his friendship. I assured him that we were still friends. I am so very glad that I did so, because 12 days later I was shocked & saddened to read that he had died on the operating table.

This has been heavy on my heart. I am glad that he was able to unburden his own heart & say what he had left unsaid for so long. I am glad, also, that he left this world with no doubts as to my friendship, & no regrets from not having, in his words “the courage” to tell me what he really felt.

And I began thinking about how too often many of us do just that – we leave things unsaid. Or we say things that we really do not mean, & never attempt to set the record straight due to fear, anxiety, or pride.

Personally, I have always tried to approach people with whom I have misunderstandings in an effort to resolve them. In a couple of instances, the issues were resolved, yet I found myself under repeated attacks by them to such an extent that it was necessary to cut ties altogether. I hate it when that happens, but that is life. In other instances, people who have felt that I have offended them in some way have not expressed that to me, & therefore I have had no way of knowing of the offense until I heard about it through someone else. And while I can get a little irritated when given poor service, can be pretty assertive when defending my clients in my business, &, like any Momma Bear, I can be downright aggressive in defending my cubs, I try never to intentionally offend anyone, even under these circumstances. And if it is brought to my attention that I have inadvertently done so, I am not too good to try to make amends.

That is a message that has been hitting me right in the face on numerous levels lately, so I am thinking that the Universe is trying to tell me something: Forgiveness is a necessary thing. In order to live a life of peace one must seek both to forgive & to be forgiven. I confess my sins to God regularly. I wish I had none, but yes, that irritation at the customer service representative whose competency is lacking, or the salesperson who proffers a poor attitude, or the serviceperson who fails to show up at the appointed time is not listed as one of the virtues in my Bible, where it says that we are to be slow to take offense. So I talk to God daily & try to make sure that my slate is clean with Him. And He forgives me & offers me that clean slate each & every single time that I ask Him to do so. But He is a good listener, easy to talk to, & it does not take mustering a lot of courage to do so. People who walk the earth in the flesh are a little different matter.

I most admire those whose character & backbone are strong enough that they can not only recognize their deficiencies, but who have enough gumption to make actual apologies. Within the past few months I have had two individuals offer unexpected apologies to me out of the blue – one for something that took place many years ago, & the other for something that happened within the past couple of years. The exact situations are between them, me & God, but I will say that I applaud them for being people who have the courage to speak what is on their hearts & try to make things right. Though they had no way of knowing it, I had forgiven each of them for what they were asking forgiveness for almost immediately after the incidents took place. And my too soft heart had actually prayed about each circumstance right after it happened, that God would make things right. He took His time in doing so, but He did answer each of those prayers! Reflecting upon those issues & hearing the parties involved in the two totally unrelated happenings state that they had wanted to say something sooner but were afraid to do so made me really stop & think.

I have, many times, apologized for my own misconduct to people. But how many times have I ever extended my hand first to let them know that I have forgiven them, even though they have not indicated that they wanted forgiveness? The truth is that I have done this quite a few times & have been met with both resounding successes as well as disappointing rebuttals. It is the results of the latter of the two that have left me reeling & made it difficult for me to trust my heart when God speaks to it telling me to be the first to reach out. Therefore, the answer as to how many times have I been the first to reach out when I was the one who was wronged is that not enough times have I done so!

God HAS been speaking to me a LOT about forgiveness & not leaving things unsaid until it is too late through a variety of channels over the past few months: the death of this man which prompted me to write this; the two apologies I have mentioned; a business associate who recently said to me “Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology.”: multiple preachers whose sermons had forgiveness as their centerpieces; and several books that I have read in the past few months have all made me stop & take a long hard look at where I need to make an effort to bridge the gaps & say those things that have been left unsaid. After all, does it really matter who begins the dialogue, so long as the door gets opened?

And, should the door get slammed in my face, as it has with one particular individual who, for whatever reason, just refuses to listen to or accept me efforts at reconciliation, then I can rest easily & be at peace with my God that I have done my best by making a sincere attempt to make amends. One book said that the people that you forgive do not even have to know that you have forgiven them. I concur with this in theory. However, could they be like the gentleman who just passed away, wishing that we could talk, but not having the courage to start the conversation? He is also one that I applaud, not so much because I do not wish to speak ill of the dead (which I do not care to do – any rumors that may still live on board that Gossip Train about him need to just go right on past my station, as they will not be allowed to de-board here), but because he DID muster the courage to unburden his heart. I wonder if he knew that his time was near? No matter – he did it, & I was given an opportunity to reply to his kind words to me where I had not done so before. When he passed, he was still my friend, & the slate was clean between us, & that is a great feeling to have.

Now, I know some readers will have, like myself, circumstances that are contrary to these, where things were left unsaid & there is now no way to go back & say them. I have been there. The thing to do in that case is tell it to God. He is ultimately the one that needs to forgive you anyway, for all sins are against Him. And once He has forgiven you, that bag is to be left at that station, never to be picked up again. He will carry it the rest of the way for you, if you will only let Him. And the people who refuse to accept your efforts of reconciliation, or those who continue to attack you despite your best attempts? Well, that is on them, not on you. Give that bag to God, as well. He has infinite strength to carry them all.

Meanwhile, focus on the things you can try to change. Is there someone out there you need to reach out to in some fashion? There are, & will always be throughout your lifetime, people with whom it makes no sense for you to try to sustain a relationship: they are the narcissists, the psychopaths, the sociopaths, & those who are just too cruel to contend with unnecessarily. We do not have to resume relationships with everyone that we forgive. But we are called upon to forgive everyone with whom there is an offense. There is a huge difference. Two wrongs do not make a right, but neither do zero rights make a right. Make the right choice: say those unsaid words that offer or request forgiveness as soon as possible – you never know which breath will be your last one here on earth.

~ Lou Lehman Sams

Postscript: If any readers figure out the identity of the deceased in this story – please leave those words unsaid, so that he may Rest In Peace. God bless …

CLOUDY SUNRISES

CLOUDY SUNRISES

Image

Yesterday was a terrible, rotten, no good day. Dealing with issues of a highly personal nature, & not wanting to post details on the web, let’s just say that I was as heartbroken as I have ever been in my entire life. Always an Optimist, known for dispensing encouragement and praying for others at the drop of a hat, suddenly I found myself in circumstances that stopped me dead in my tracks and left me in a place where I could not only not summon the strength to pray, but I could also not even figure out exactly what to pray for anyway. The pain of my heartache brought me to my knees, a place I’ve been many times before. But this time was different, because typically when I find myself in that position, I have a meeting with God while I am there, & this time I could not see, hear, or feel Him at all.

Feeling a loss of faith in humanity, I cried quite a few tears yesterday. Some people equate weeping with weakness, just as some equate kindness with weakness. I assure you that neither of these is true. Tears are like the pressure relief valves on the old fashioned pressure cookers like my grandmother used to cook roast beef in for Sunday dinner after Church – they are like steam that has to escape into the atmosphere in order that an explosion will not occur. And kindness to others is a choice we make each and every day, not a character flaw or deficiency, no matter what others who do not possess it in abundant amounts may think.

Yesterday I was upset and feeling as if I’d lost my best friend in the world. That is an incredibly sickening feeling. Despite some unkind remarks by a person that I should not post so much of my personal business on social media, I turned to my friends on one of my pages and posted a heartfelt prayer request. Within seconds I began to receive texts, calls, comments and emails from caring and concerned friends and family members who cared enough about me to pause from their busy Mondays and not only lift me up in prayer, but write and tell me about it. Being the “Good Southern Girl” that I was raised to be, I tried to acknowledge each and every post, by hitting the “like” button, thanking them, or otherwise commenting. The act of doing this made me pause long enough to stop crying, which was a good thing, because I am quite sure that I was probably beginning to dehydrate a bit.

Finally, I had no choice but to pull myself together and go to work, but all throughout the day, right about the time that I thought that I might lose it again, I would receive a notification on my phone that someone was praying for me. One person wrote to me that they did not think that they’d ever seen a post with so much raw pain in it as mine. This morning a friend texted me that she has never seen someone’s post receive as many replies as mine did. Indeed, I had NUMEROUS replies, which reminds me that, while I have very limited family in this world, and only a handful of cousins locally, God has given me a lot of friends to bridge the gap where blood relations are lacking. So while some folks call it “whining”, and some may think it an embarrassment to ask for prayers or help on social media, I have personally been on both the giving and receiving side of that equation, and it is an experience that I would not want to forgo, no matter what some people may think about it. I am thinking that maybe the naysayers do not understand the power of prayer.

MANY people offered to chat with me on the phone, take me to dinner, buy me a drink or a cup of coffee, or just come over to see me. I greatly appreciated each and every offer of assistance. I accepted the first one that came in, and after we both got off of work, I went over to one of my girl friend’s houses. I would give her a big shout out on social media, but unlike myself, she is a very private person, and I respect her rights to her privacy. Since I have nearly 1,500 friends on FaceBook alone (not saying that she is even on FaceBook), I think I can write about the awesome experience I had with her and still protect her privacy.

I arrived at her place looking a mess! I had pretty much cried off all of my eye make-up, and believe me, I am NOT a pretty sight when that happens. My eyes were puffy from crying and lack of sleep, and my brow was furrowed with the frustrations of the past twenty four hours. As she and her beautiful dog greeted me on their front porch, she said something like this to me, “This is how it is going to be: we can sit and pretend that nothing is wrong and just enjoy the evening; we can chat about what has happened; you can tell me all about it or nothing about it; we can talk and then have a slumber party; we can do all of those things, or we can just sit here in silence and listen to the sounds of the mountain – it is YOUR choice, because this is YOUR time, and I am here for you!” I thought that was the most awesome and amazing thing ever. God surely led me to the right place! Most people, well-intentioned as they may be, either want to control the conversation, or insist on all of the details because they are curious. Not this girl! She designated that time as MY TIME, something that is seldom ever done for me, and it meant more than words can say.

Because of her sincerity and genuine kindness, I collapsed into her arms and wept. After she dried my tears, we sat and chatted for a bit. She is the best kind of listener – she is the one that will just sit and absorb what you want to say without insisting on knowing every tiny detail, so you feel comfortable talking to her. You can ramble on, and she will smile, nod, let you know she is listening, and occasionally interject some sage insights that you may or may not wish to hear. She is the friend that loves you unconditionally, but in such a manner that she will tell you the truth about yourself in the process. At one point she looked at me and said, “After all I saw you go through (she was speaking about my divorce), I’ve never seen you defeated. You look defeated.” I proclaimed to her that for the first time in a very long while, I truly did feel defeated. At that moment in time, I WAS defeated. I was giving in to allowing the misdeeds of others to control my own destiny. I was allowing what someone else did and said affect my own ability to function wholly. “Yes, I AM defeated,” I told her. She exclaimed, “NO! YOU ARE NOT DEFEATED! She called me by my full name and said,  “You are not defeated.” I sat there and cried some more and told her that I was worried, because I think about the women who look to me for support as they go through really tough divorces, like I did. “What will they think? How will I ever be able to minister to them again?” She quickly chastised me by telling me, “You are NOT going to sit here and worry about everyone else in the world. This night is about YOU!” Wow. Just wow. What an incredibly generous gesture on her part. Whenever I would try to steer the conversation back to her, she would very ably turn it right back to where she rightly perceived I needed it to be.

After a few minutes of wallowing in my misery with me, she placed a practice drum pad in front of me and handed me some drumsticks and told me to go ahead and “beat the living daylights out of it.” Ever the perfectionist, I protested that I was not a drummer, and she said it did not matter, for me to just take out my frustrations. So I did. And it felt REALLY, REALLY good!!! Then she put her IPod onto a speaker, and played, “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, a song I’d not heard in FOREVER, but which everyone from my generation knows the words to, so we sang it together. We sang it loudly, and I loved it that she allowed me to sing at the top of my lungs, even though I cannot carry a tune to save my life. Through tears and laughter, we sang and gestured. She has a tremendously beautiful voice, and I, well, I do not, so I apologized and thanked her profusely for letting me release some of the music in my soul. I might be tone deaf, but the music is still there, just waiting for a cheesy song on the radio and an indulgent friend to allow me to let it out. After a couple renditions of that song, she played some other tunes, and showed me how she is learning to play the drums. Then she handed me the drumsticks again, and said, “Here, YOU do it.” I told her that there was absolutely no way I could keep a beat on a drum to music, because I had not ever done it before. But she insisted that I could, and wonder of all wonders, I did it! So I sang a popular old song from my childhood while acting silly with my girl friend, and found my spirit alive & well down deep inside. I knew right then and there that, no matter what happened with the events and people that had caused me to be so incredibly sad in the first place, that I would be all right. I was still ME. I have a rhythm I did not even realize that I possess. Pretty cool stuff.

There was a lot more to last night than I have the space or inclination to go into here. But at one point she insisted that I spend the night, so after some pizza, conversation, and watching the original movie Grease until she decided that she needed to crash, we went to sleep. I must say that sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of someone else’s living room has never felt so comfortable as it did last night, because I felt at ease with my friend, & I knew that her friendship was the “real deal”. I mean, I did sing off key to “I Am Woman”, with no makeup on whatsoever, looking like some sort of refugee, and I, like most typical Southern Belles, do not usually go to even the grocery store without checking my hair & lipstick. I would not ever have allowed that to happen if I thought she would use it against me, ha ha.

Knowing she needed to get up early for work, I set the alarm on my phone extra early, and after folding my linens and leaving her a thank you note on the kitchen counter, I slipped out into the still dark morning to drive home. The sun was just beginning to rise when I got back to my townhouse. Exhausted, I started to head on inside, but I looked at how beautiful the light rays were illuminating the clouds, and decided to take my phone out and snap a picture. There is a steep hill right behind my place, and I figured if it was that pretty down in the little valley below, it must be even prettier up top, so I climbed up there in an attempt to get a better photo. However, I was surprised when I got up there that I could actually see the sunrise better from below.

And therein lie my latest Life Lessons: First of all, the sunrise would not be as beautiful, if there were no clouds to help reflect its beauty back to us. (This is not an original thought on my part, but I do not know to whom to attribute it). Perhaps God allows us dark clouds to pass through our lives in order that we may better see a reflection of Him, as I have done yesterday and today. Second, though it may be difficult to wrap our minds around this concept, sometimes the view is indeed better from the valley. Therefore, perhaps we are made to walk through the valleys in order that we can better appreciate some of the views that Life has to offer. In addition to my sunset analogies, I am taking away from the events of the past couple of days that sometimes the best thing that a friend can do is to simply be there, to listen, to allow the person that is hurting to express that hurt however they choose. Everyone needs a friend that will not allow them to be alone at a time when they feel most alone. A true friend allows another to really feel comfortable enough to let loose the music in their soul, even if they cannot carry a tune.

No matter how dark your day may seem, the sun will still rise tomorrow, and perhaps you will be fortunate enough to see the sun rise through the clouds, and a beautiful view from whatever valley you may find yourself walking through. I hope you will be lucky enough to have a friend that will declare to you that you are not defeated – sometimes that is all we really need, right? An affirmation that all will be well. My friend told me that I could keep the beat of the drum, and lo & behold, I did so! A solid reminder of the power our words can have on someone else’s attitude, self-esteem, & frame of mind.

God has been working to resolve some issues which led to my feeling so disheartened. I must give Him time to work, so I will step back and watch, hoping and praying that the truth will win out, and that it will be a good and wonderful thing. And if that leads to another broken heart? Well, over one hundred comments later, I have found that I have far more friends in this life than I could have ever hoped for or dreamed of, and most certainly one hundred more than I, imperfect human that I am, shall ever deserve. I am thankful for friends. I am SO very thankful for each and every one of them, even the ones that did not know about this situation, or who were too busy or too shy to respond. I love them all nonetheless, for “A Friend loves at ALL times.” I am thankful for those friends of mine that loved me in my very weakest time. I am thankful for my sweet, sweet daughter who, though she lives hours away, texted and called me throughout the day to check on me and make sure I was all right. I am thankful for her gift of encouragement, as well, and how she, too, spoke affirmations to me that I would survive, and that God would either restore the situation, or send me something much better. I am thankful for all of those who could see God’s hand at work when my own eyes were blinded by tears, and who reminded me that He was still as close by to me as ever. I am thankful for Prayer Warriors who stood in the gap for me when the gap was overwhelmingly wide and I could not fathom how to bridge it. And I am thankful for valleys and clouds and sunrises to illuminate them.

I hope that each of you will at some point SING at the top of your lungs. Beat a drum until you feel your frustration begin to subside. Cry on a friend’s shoulder. Watch a sunrise. Hopefully you can even watch a cloudy sunrise. Do whatever it takes to revive the music in your soul, for it is there – each of us has, deep down inside, a song just waiting to escape. And that song, once sung, cannot be unsung. It will always exist in the corners of your memory as a reminder that you do indeed have a rhythm, that you are undefeated, and that you will see amazing things when you find yourself in the valleys of Life, if you will just open your eyes wide enough to see them. Lift up your eyes Heavenward, for it is there that you will see the sunrise!

~ L.L.S.