SINGLE BECAUSE

SINGLE BECAUSE

I have written about this rather annoying but constant question before: “WHY are you still single?!?” Whether one has never been married, or is single again, that is what everyone wants to know, as if we singles have nothing else in our brains about which to converse. You can almost visualize the little mental tallying process going on behind their foreheads, as they secretly work their gray matter, right in your presence, trying to ascertain what it is that is “wrong” with you. For there MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH ANYBODY over the age of 30 years old who does not have a mate.

Are they insane? Abusive? Sociopath? Addict? Cheater? Mentally ill? Secretly involved in an illicit affair? Gay, but afraid to come out? “WHAT is wrong with you”, their eyes seem to scream.

Becoming single again is a time when many of your married or coupled friends drop you off of their guest lists. I mean, what woman in her right mind wants a divorcee around their man, for all divorced women are desperate for a hook up, right? Or they do not want to mess up the seating arrangements at the dinner party, or try to find that “extra” to balance it out. For some, it is as simple as they no longer know how to relate to you.


There is even a local church that asks people to join hands during the offering if you are married, and who says they come into agreement with you if you are single. I’m sorry, but in my Bible it says there is no marriage in heaven. And that we are to be the bride of Christ. So by calling out the single people in the audience, to me is a discrimination that does not need to happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for some of us. A Christian is a Christian, married or single. Period.


And the fact is, though, that singles need their friends even more than others, for we have no significant other off of which to bounce our ideas, soothe our souls, or with which to just enjoy mealtimes. SIngle​ ​people​ ​still​ ​have​ ​a​ ​plethora​ ​of​ ​topics​ ​about​ ​which​ ​to​ ​converse:​ ​we​ ​still​ ​care​ ​about​ ​the weather,​ ​politics,​ ​religion,​ ​health​ ​issues,​ ​the​ ​economy,​ ​our​ ​workplaces,​ ​etc.


Some singles, like myself, are lucky enough to have married friends that they see on a regular basis. Not so much the dinner parties, but brunches, lunches & such are always enjoyable. But many of the singles I know just give up trying to be with their coupled up friends, & find one or more other singles to hang out with from time to time. Some just become semi-reclusive instead, sadly.

All of this being said, it hit me after a recent conversation with a group of single friends about “WHY we are single” that they were, each of them in that group, some of the very BEST all around people that I know. Could it really be true, do nice people just finish last? Is the nice guy who chivalrously opens doors setting himself up to be relegated to the Friend Zone?

After much pondering, combined with reflection on my personal experiences over the past 4-½ years, I have arrived at my own conclusions: The answer is that yes, indeed, SOME people remain single because they are O.C.D. or addicted to drugs or have other characteristics that are off putting to potential mates. But as for most of the singles I know, they do not fit into that category. I know men & women alike who are the salt of the earth – caring individuals with a lot to offer the right person – yet they remain single. WHY??


That is what I am here to tell you!

SINGLE BECAUSE …

… too KIND to lead people on when there is no true connection.

… too SMART to be led on, cheated on, or lied to themselves.

… too LOVING to settle for less than their heart’s desire.

… too STRONG to need someone to carry their weight.

… too much FUN to sit around with couch potatoes all day.

… too ENERGETIC to waste their lives.

… too BEAUTIFUL to allow someone else’s ugly inside.

… too POSITIVE to settle for negativity.

… too ADVENTUROUS to stop seeking.

… too INDEPENDENT to be owned.
… too GENEROUS to take advantage of generosity.


The long list goes on. If you are single, I am here to tell you, there are some really good men & women out there, waiting on someone just like you! If you are not single, I ask that you not judge us for preferring to spend our time walking our dogs or snapping photographs than pretending to care about someone so we can get a free meal, have our bills paid, or a roof over our heads. Though there are indeed single people who do the latter, they are not amongst my close friends, for we are definitely not kindred spirits!!

But just because we are single or single again, that does not change the essence of who we are – one does not suddenly become promiscuous because they sign divorce papers. If we were upstanding, trustworthy citizens prior to divorce, chances are we still are the same. Do not get me wrong – divorce does change people, often in less than becoming ways. However, it does not negate character.

The single people I know are often the very first ones to step up & offer assistance to those in need, or lend a helping hand to their neighbors. They do not care whether that friend or neighbor is married or single. So why should you???


I’m single. By choice. Don’t think I couldn’t find a man to pay my bills or be my meal ticket, if that’s all I wanted? But like many of my single friends, I want that relationship that actually is about more than money or sex. I want a soul connection, & I won’t settle for less than a gentleman with a heart like mine, who values love & loyalty far above luxury & lust. Someone that loves God, family & country. A man’s man that is secure enough  in himself that he does not need to prove his masculinity  by sleeping with every woman  aged 19 to 90 that he can find. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a human being with human desires. Being a lady does not mean that one is a prude. But being single does not mean that one is less the lady.


Cheers to all my single friends who value themselves enough to wait for the right relationship. And kudos to my friends who are couples that are supportive of all of us.


We are single because there is something right with us, not because there is something wrong with us! And those nice guys? They sometimes get a bad rap because they don’t play games that happen to be the same games that people supposedly don’t want to play. But I will let you in on a little secret: While we women do like to be chased, I’m pretty sure it is the bad boy, not the good guy who will finish last. The good guy will stay focused on his prize, valuing her as such, whereas the other guy will be so scattered chasing every little squirrel tail that comes by that he may end up never crossing the finish line and receiving a real trophy.

As for me? Boys, you can open my doors anytime! While I’m a true southern belle, which means that while I am strong enough and perfectly capable of doing it for myself, I do so appreciate a true Southern gentleman who knows that manners do matter! And I am always grateful when my guy goes the extra mile for me, and I am willing to do the same for him. I am from pioneering stock, and as most everybody knows, prima donnas and pioneers don’t belong in the same sentence! Just call me an old fashioned Bama Belle who knows the difference between a gentle man who is in touch with his inner scoundrel, and a bad boy who cannot be reformed. 

I’m Single, Because …!

  • Lou Lehman Sams 

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Four Leaf Clover Bible

Four Leaf Clover Bible

I became a Christian at the age of 11, & I love to read my Bible. Actually, I have several Bibles, because I was once involved in a Bible study program that delved into homiletics. In those days, we did not have access to online Bibles, so I purchased different versions of them for comparison purposes. Some of them even have built in study guides. However, my very favorite Bible is a small new King James version from 1988. It is the Bible that I have carried to church constantly for nearly 30 years. I have read and used it so many times that all of the tabs have fallen off of the edges of the pages. Once it even fell into a toilet. Fortunately, the water was clean! My children played with it when they were little. I have scribbled notes in it. But the thing that stands out the most is a little sticker that I placed on one of the pages a few years ago.


When I was growing up, we did not have Bible journaling sessions. People did not color in their Bibles. Most of the writing was an occasional note from the preacher here or there that especially touched a chord. In previous generations, Bibles were used to record family genealogies, & important information such as birth & death, before the era of government certifications regarding those major life events. So it was not until recent days that I began underlining parts & verses that had touched me in a particular manner. And prior to my divorce, I doubt that I would ever have placed a sticker inside of my Bible.


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To be clear, I did not say “I Do” to one day turn around & say “I Don’t.” But sometimes divorce is necessary. Besides that is story for another day. But here where I live, contested divorces can get very ugly, & worse than that, our backed up court system can mean that they take a very long time to accomplish the process, as in my case, which dragged on for nearly two interminable years.


Living in this same house with an unhappy spouse wears down even the most optimistic of souls. So I did any variety of things to keep myself busy. I did whatever I could to stay out of the volatile atmosphere of that house. I joined a gym. I went to activities with a Meet-Up group for women. I reconnected with girl friends, some of whom I had long since lost touch with prior to that time. I went out sometimes on Friday or Saturday nights to listen to live music with friends. And of course I went to Church, prayed, & read my Bible. And I discovered the joys & challenges of social media. I did a LOT of volunteer work, including being an Ambassador at the local Chamber of Commerce. Anything to keep me out of the tension in that house!


One night, I was meeting with a group of female friends at a restaurant for a “Girl’s Night Out” dinner that I had suggested. On the spur of the moment, I invited another girl from high school that I did not know well, but who I knew was going through a hard time. I arrived a few minutes late, frazzled from a difficult negotiation regarding repairs on the house that I had under contract, and looking very much the worse for wear from having been out showing houses all day in the rain. So when that girl arrived and told me that she had invited a male friend of hers that was also going through a divorce and whom she thought I might enjoy meeting, I was none too happy! I was refusing to date anyone until after my divorce was final. I was not in the mood to meet anyone new. And to top it all off, I looked dreadful! I told her to tell him not to come because it was only women, but she informed me that it was too late, & that he would be arriving momentarily. I ran to the ladies’ restroom, applied a little lipstick & tried to run a brush through my tangled hair. 


I cringed. I did not want to entertain a stranger, but I do that for a living when I show real estate, so I decided that I could suffer through. Sure enough, he walked in & sat beside me almost immediately after I got back to the table. But he was a handsome & charismatic man, filled with charm & personality. Something about his quick wit drew me in. Or perhaps it was the pain that was almost hidden beneath his sparkling blue eyes. I’m always a sucker for someone who is hurting. Nonetheless, we became engaged in a conversation to such an extent that a couple of the ladies at the table began texting me with little jokes, because he & I seemed to be enrapt in one another. As dinner drew to a close, I innocently handed him my business card, because he is in a real estate related industry, & that is what I do: I network. 


I was so surprised when he texted me upon my arrival home. I was flattered by the attention, as I had never texted with a man before. But I quickly let him know I was not interested in dating until my divorce was final. Somehow we developed a friendship over text. In the ensuing months, we would text off & on about all sorts of things, but mostly just about our divorces. We would encourage each other, & commiserate. Not often, but if things got especially trying, we would have an occasional chat on the phone. I decided that I really liked him, & hoped we would date one day. Some times we would go for weeks with no communication. 


Eventually he asked me if I would like to go to a movie, & I agreed, because his mother & kids were our chaperones! And I did break down & meet him for a movie once after that, & we had dinner a couple of times. But each of us had contested & highly contentious divorces, so no dating. Secretly, I hoped that we would date after our divorces were final. 


This was long before I had ever heard of SQuire Rushnell’s books “Divine Alignment” & “God Winks.” The concept of a series of unusual coincidences being signs from God was foreign to me & my religious upbringing. But in his writings, Rushnell cites numerous examples of repeated “coincidences” that turn out to be a part of Divine alignment, or God trying to get your attention. These things can be number sequences, things in Nature, phone calls, etc. and though I did not know then during that two year period of my divorce, a Bible verse that I encountered repeatedly in numerous places was just that: God winking at me.


It started one night when I was playing “Bible Roulette”, which is where you are praying about something & ask God to speak to you through a Bible verse. I was getting a divorce at the worst possible time – real estate was a not exactly booming in 2011, as we were still, as a nation, feeling the after effects of the Economic crisis of 2008-2009. And of course, my soon to be ex-husband’s attorney was adversarial, looking for anything at all against me to try to make me look bad in court. Though I had done nothing wrong & had never committed adultery, my own attorney had been successfully playing the game of trying to make me feel as if the other side was “our” mortal enemy. It is always “us” against “them” in contested divorce cases. As I prayed for comfort, I randomly opened my Bible to this verse:


 “The Lord is my rock & my fortress & my deliverer, the God of my strength, In whom I will trust. My shield & the horn of my salvation, My stronghold, & My refuge. My Savior, you save me from violence. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, So shall I be saved from my enemies.” – 2 Samuel 22:2-4.


The words leapt off of the page, for this was the exact same verse that I had claimed when I had been embroiled in another spiritual battle of a different nature back in 1997. Back then, I had purchased a paperweight with that verse on it, & put it on my desk as a reminder of impending victory, which indeed did come. Anyway, after that evening, I began seeing that Bible verse turn up frequently, & not just in my Bible, but on plaques in stores, on email devotionals, in sermons at Church, on Christian shows on TV, in houses I was showing, etc. so I knew immediately what to quote to this male friend of mine when he called me one night to chat. He was filled with desperation, because, as sometimes happens in nasty divorces where considerable resources are involved, he was being falsely accused of something. (No, it did not involve me.) I read this verse to him, & prayed with him on the phone.


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His battle was much worse than mine, & some days I would just text him that verse & tell him I was praying for him, & for a favorable outcome. One day, he told me he was worried that his luck was running out. Again, I prayed with him. Later that same day, I was standing in the back yard of a home I was showing, & I looked down to see that I was standing in a bed of clover. There was a four leaf clover! I stooped & plucked that little clover. Though I used to look for four leaf clovers in beds of clover when I was a child, that was the very first one I had ever found in my entire life! So I snapped a picture of it on my cell phone, & texted it to him as a sign that his luck was about to change for the better. Later, at home, I randomly opened my Bible to insert that clover to press it, & sure enough, it fell open to 2 Samuel 22, so I gently placed that four leaf clover there, & left it there for many months. 


Finally, my divorce was final, & I was looking forward to to the prospect of going on my first date since I had met my ex-husband so many years before. This man’s divorce was still not final, but I decided to invite him to stop by my new townhouse for a few minutes, so I could give him a birthday present. We were not dating, but I wanted to give him that clover. So I bought a tiny shadow box, printed out that verse, & glued the clover to it. I thought this might help him get through the final days of his divorce. But I bought myself a four leaf clover sticker, & placed it on that page in my Bible as a reminder that God is faithful to be our refuge & our strength, as He has been mine many times before.


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A few weeks later, I met another handsome, charming, & witty man, & fell in love with him. Two days after I agreed to date him exclusively, the first man’s divorce became final, & he called me to invite me out on a real dinner date. I explained that I was in a relationship with someone, but thanked him for the offer. As I hung up the phone, I wept. It was almost as if I was breaking up with a man with whom I had never even been in a relationship. But I loved the man I was dating, & I refused to be disloyal to him. Occasionally, the first guy would text me to see if I was still in that relationship, & each time I would tell him that I was, & wish him well. However, after nineteen months, I separated from my new love, & I found myself once again without a significant other. After many months of  being single yet again, I texted the first man, but this time he was in a relationship. But I knew that we had a bond from surviving those extraordinarily stressful divorces, & that we would always be friends. 


A couple of months ago, the first man & I reconnected, & had a lovely dinner date, where he came to my home & picked me up for a real date! During dinner, we caught up with all that had transpired since we had last spoken. He told me that he still has the little shadow box with the four leaf clover & that Bible verse in it on his kitchen window sill, where he can see it for encouragement every single morning. It was such a simple gesture on my part, but it goes to show you that the smallest things can sometimes have a lasting impact. 


After dinner, we went back to my place & rented a movie. We were both exhausted from work, so about half way through, he had to leave, as he lives quite some distance away. It was a very pleasant evening with a dear “old friend.” But the chemistry I thought I felt when we first met just was not there. If ever we go out again, I am sure it would just be as friends this time. Yet I know that God did bring us together for a reason. It just was not for the reason I originally thought.


Something may be happening in your life, & you do not understand the reason. Hold on. You may understand it – eventually. After reading this, I hope that you will think of some small gesture that you can make towards a friend who is going through a tough time. Whatever it is that your heart comes up with to do, I assure you that they need it! 


As for me? I got another God wink this morning. After seeing that verse & that clover sticker in my Bible yesterday, I decided to write this blog post. But I had to write an offer on a house instead. I awakened this morning thinking again about writing it. But I hesitated. Then I saw a sweet friend’s Facebook post. She is struggling with some things right now, & her son had picked her several four leaf clovers for good luck. I told her that is a sign that her luck is about to change. And it was a sign for me to write this – for whom, I do not know. But I hope you find a four leaf clover somewhere today. Or at least read 2 Samuel 22:2-4. God IS your rock, your FORTRESS, & YOUR deliverer! Good luck is on its way. 


P. S. Thanks, God, for winking at me, today! 


– 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.

BENEATH HER RAY BANS

BENEATH HER RAY BANS

  

 

As she whizzed about her yard on her bright green riding lawn mower which had an equally bright yellow seat cutting the straggly weeds down to size, no one would have guessed that a gathering of tears lay pooled beneath the Ray Bans perched on her face. Though the sun was not out, she wore them anyway, presumably to keep the crow’s feet at bay, but on this particular day, more so to hide her sadness. For with each pass of the mower, she collected more than grass clippings, but also thoughts. And with each pass, she mowed down the memories of the past that were akin to weeds down to size.

Learning to operate & maintain a riding lawn mower, a weedeater, or a blower were never on her Bucket List. But that is not why she was sad. She remembered that he had promised to do this very thing for her. But when she had realized that he was not able to cut down his own memories of the past – even though they were like pretty weeds that, though they bore little blossoms that appeared to be attractive, would inevitably choke out all of the good from him – she had cut him loose. She knew, down deep in her being that to watch him surround himself with those weeds until they overtook his very essence, well, that was a scene she could not bear to watch. She had helped water the garden of his soul, & she had seen him blossom & come alive before her very eyes! She knew how beautiful he could become when he was loved the way God intended. 

But she had also seen the pervasive intrusion of the weeds as they spread silently yet persistently & overtook his life in such a manner that one day, all you could see was the weeds – you could not recognize him at all any more. Was he really even still there, beneath those weeds at all? Or had those weeds killed him?

She kept going back & forth, back & forth, excising the weeds from her own yard, all the while remembering when she had to be strong & firmly but decisively remove some tenacious weeds from her own life. She had to grasp them, take hold of them, & yank them out by their very roots, for to allow any small portion of them to remain would have been giving them permission to grow & take hold of her life again, & weeds have no place in a proper garden. 


One Wikipedia definition of a weed is “a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, ‘a plant in the wrong place.” That is exactly what she had seen happening with him, for she saw that these weeds of his were in keeping with the definition in the Oxford Dictionary, which said a weed is a “plant not valued for use or beauty, growing wild & rank, & regarded as cumbering the ground or hindering vegetation.” And though she well understood obligations, as she was always diligent to honor her own commitments, she knew, whether he realized it or not, that the weeds which he allowed to overtake him were cumbersome to him, & indeed, they were hindering him from becoming the man that God intended. She knew this, because she had seen a glimpse of that man, & the picture of the garden that they had planned to plant together still lingered in her mind. Oh, how she wished she could use the water from those tears that still lay pooled beneath her Ray Bans to refresh his soul & nourish his garden. IF ONLY …


But she had to, as occasionally happens, remove him from her garden, as one must once in awhile rid their garden of good vegetation along with the bad.  Sometimes the two are so entwined that you accidentally or intentionally have to remove the good in order to eliminate the bad. And so it had to be. She could not allow the aggressive & unsavory weeds that were dragging him down to choke the life out of her.  She sighed, remembering how beautiful their days had been – except for those weeds! They were gone now, & as she kept cutting those memories down to size, little tears slipped from her eyes & trickled down her face until those pools beneath her Ray Bans were no more. Gone, like the tops of the weeds she had just mown down. But there was more work left to do: she knew that in order to grow her own garden that she had to dig deeper, & kill the very roots that remained beneath the surface. And so she did so. 


She dug deeper. And after all had been done, there was a barrenness  to her landscape. There was a void where those dreams used to bloom. So she planted more seeds, & stood back, & waited for them to take hold, grow, & bloom. She would be sure to nourish & cultivate them. 

  

One has no responsibility to care for weeds. Those people that plant themselves out of place in our lives, & who do not belong there, will only choke the life out of our dreams if we allow them to continue to take hold of us. No, no more weeds remained. She smiled as the sun burst forth over her head. The gentle breeze dried the lingering traces of sadness where once the tears had trickled down her cheeks. And now, the only thing that lay beneath her Ray Bans were smiling eyes that were filled with hope for the future. 

She could not wait to see what would spring forth from her garden! She hoped that there would be luscious berries, red tomatoes, all sorts of vegetables, bright buttercups, fragrant roses, & peonies. She loved peonies! Once in vogue, but then relegated to the common man’s yard, she adored their hardy beauty, because no matter how many times you chopped them down, they always seemed to come back, bringing with them their large, bountiful, & difficult to ignore blooms. Sort of like the story of her own life.


 And her garden would have NO WEEDS! She cared about it too much to allow that. Besides, his garden had enough weeds for the both of them. And though she felt a twinge of sadness for him because he allowed those invasive things to overrun him, there would be no more tears beneath her Ray Bans for him.  With a tad of irony she recalled how fastidious he was with his own lawn – he liked everything to be so perfect for the passersby to see. But she knew his secret: inside his carefully camouflaged front door lay a mess of tangled weeds that were choking the heart & soul out of him. She thought about that time that they had made fun of all of the little purple weeds that had overtaken some of the lawns in his neighborhood as they had strolled past them, hand in hand, one warm Summer’s Eve. Those weeds had made such a significant blanket of purple that it was almost as if they had been intentionally planted there, but they had both known that it was not by design. Yet the homeowners had chosen to ignore them & let them take over their yards, sort of like he had done with his personal life. But it was his garden, &  that was his choice to make. 


As for her, she dreamed of that house with the wrap around porch, the acreage with the gazebo that stood on  a dock extending out into the pond, the park bench beneath the weeping willow tree, the porch swing rocking back & forth, the workshop for special projects, the fire pit for chilly nights, the Japanese maple for fiery Fall colors, the fragrance of the Southern Magnolia tree, the little vegetable garden out back, the sunny rose garden with a dozen different varieties of Jackson & Perkins roses, & the screened porch overlooking the swimming pool out back from whence the laughter of yet to be conceived grandchildren would one day ring out. 

All of the beatiful pieces of the patchwork quilt of the future they’d talked about sharing floated through her mind, & she felt their loss in the pit of her stomach. Though they had never materialized, they had still become an integral part of her, & she had mourned their passing. Finally, she realized that though he had chosen to allow the weeds in his life to choke out his dreams, that the only way that those weeds would destroy her own dreams was if she let them. And she was determined not to let them! 


Everything that she had imagined was hers for the taking. All she had to do was take care of the garden of her own soul, & God would bring the rain & the sun, & all of the rest would follow. She was sure of that. So she turned off the ignition switch to that big John Deere mower which she had bought so that he would not have to work so hard cutting the grass, & was thankful for the unexpected blessing that she had in it. Though it had been an extravagance to her budget at the time, she had purchased it for him, because she could not stand the thought of him laboring so hard to cut both his & her lawns after working so hard all week long. She had bought it for him, not knowing that one day it would make her own job of eradicating  weeds all the more easier. 


As she reached up to adjust the green John Deere cap atop her head, she recalled with a faint smile the day that she had ordered it. When she had bought the new mower she  had received something in the mail saying that she would get a free John Deere cap, & that she could choose whether she wanted it to be pink or green. He had laughed at her, & said that pink does not go with John Deere!  He had teasingly threatened that he would take a pink John Deere cap outside & shoot it if she got that color. So she had ordered the green one instead. Not because he  had said to do so, but because she had wanted & intended to give it to him, one of many little expressions of her love & appreciation to him. That green & yellow cap finally had arrived a couple of weeks after she had broken it off with him. She could not bring herself to wear it at that time, because she had hoped for a while that he would come to his senses & decide that he would rather have someone to help water his garden, rather than fill it with weeds. Finally the time had come for her to pull that cap out of its hiding place in her closet, & though she had absolutely never seen herself as a John Deere kind of girl, she had stuck it on her head as if it was some sort of badge of honor. 

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 She adjusted that cap, & then she removed her Ray Bans, & sat there with her face lifted towards the blue sky, & as she breathed a sigh of Thanksgiving, she wondered what must the neighbors be thinking of her now? But it did not really matter, as she was busy planning the things that she was going to plant in her garden …

And when she walked back inside, there in the mirror she saw the smile that lay beneath her Ray Bans!!!  

– Lou Lehman Sams