Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
We have a new house guest who moved in with us a couple of days ago. He just finished a rehab program that lasted 8 months. His name is Chris. Our preacher, Paul, had him over in his office yesterday talking to him.
Chris was sitting there antsy and anxious, wondering what he was going to do for work. He was worried about how he was going to get his phone turned on. And...a million other questions were running through his mind. Finally Paul said to him..."I know exactly what you should do!" Chris said, "What?" Paul said, "Unpack your bags!"
What great advice! Chris had now been here two full days and had not unpacked his bags. They were sitting in the middle of the bedroom where he put them when he came in. I had empty drawers for him, but he had not unpacked!
Sometimes the most worthy goal for any of us is simply to "unpack our bags!"' We worry and we fret about what is going to happen tomorrow or next week...or even the next hour! Just the act of unpacking our bags can be calming. If we do the job that is right in front of us...maybe even a job that we have been sidestepping for several days...it's amazing how quickly everything else seems to fall into place.
So, if you are concerned about tomorrow (and who of us isn't!)...just simply start with what is in front of you, and unpack your bags.
I read a story this past week about a little girl who told her Mother that she didn't like to sleep by herself because there was a dragon in her closet. She said that every time she went to sleep the dragon came out, so she couldn't go to sleep.
The Mother told her little girl..."oh don't worry. I have the perfect thing to give you to kill the dragon. Every time you wake up you just point this at the closet, turn it on, and immediately the dragon will go away!" Then, she handed the little girl a flashlight.
The next morning, the little girl was ecstatic! She ran into the kitchen exclaiming, "It worked, it worked! Every time that dragon woke me up, I was able to make him go away!"
Dragons will always run away from the light.
I have written about my wonderful sister, Millie, before. Here's another delightful story about her (My younger sister, Teresa, reminded me of this the other night. ):
We were at one of the guy's shows, "A Whale of a Tale" and Tommy led the people in that old hymn..."I was sinking deep in sin, ("Love Lifted Me.") After we sang the first line, Teresa leaned over and said,"Whee-e-e-e!"
When I was a little girl and sat beside my older sister in church and we sang that hymn, she would always sing that first line..."I was sinking deep in sin".....then she would lean over to me and go "Whee-e-e-e!" I always felt a little wicked when she did that, but all these years later, in my mind, I always go "Whee-e-e-e!"
My sister was one of the best people I have ever known. I love that little wicked streak in her.
I have often commented that we have very few success stories from the people we work with out on the street. This is one!
I met Todd several years ago under the 640 bridge. He and I clicked for some reason, and every week he sought me out. Unlike a lot of the people who come down there for a free meal, he worked. He often came in his work clothes. I do know that one place he worked was at the University of Tennessee in maintenance. He also worked some in construction. I don't know for sure, but I suspect he got the construction jobs by standing outside Home Depot or Lowes and waiting for contractors to hire him.
(Notice I said he was standing outside a lumber company waiting to be hired...not on the street corner at a red light with his hand out.)
I hadn't seen Todd in awhile....over a year at least. This past Wednesday night, he came up to me all smiles! After hugging me, he said, "I have something to show you!" He pulled out his wallet and showed me his driver's license! Then he said "I also bought a car!", and he pointed it out sitting across the lot where we serve food.
I asked if he still had his apartment (the last time I saw him he had moved into an apartment.) He said, "No...I have a house!" I then sent him over to show off his license to Tommy, John boy, Tommy Halcomb and Rod.
He has a steady job now and is working every day.
Stories like this give me hope in a world that needs hope right now. I see so many sad and weary faces under the bridge that when I run across someone like Todd, I realize that no one is hopeless and when I get discouraged thinking I have no success stories, I think of Todd.
It was one of those dreams that a person often has just before waking.
I was in New York City. A group of friends were with me. These friends were new to the city and didn't know their way around. We got onto a train and were standing in the aisle waiting for the train to leave the station.
I looked out the window and one of the girls who was in our party was standing on the platform looking scared! I started banging on the window and yelling to her "Get on the train! Get on the train." Just then I looked and the conductor had his head out looking down the track. (The conductors do that on the trains in NY to be sure all is clear before shutting the doors.) I started yelling at him "tell her to get on the train."
He either didn't hear me or ignored me and he shut the doors. The train left the station and I turned to the rest of the people with me and said "we'll get off at the next station and go back and get her." But...they all looked at me sadly and somehow I knew that we couldn't go back.
I interpreted this dream immediately. I may be wrong but I don't think so. What do you think?
It was a cool night under the bridge. Even though it was the first of August, there was a hint of fall in the air. It was chilly enough that I wore a long sleeved shirt.
They forgot to pack dessert at the warehouse, so we gave out MRE's instead.. (Army's Meals Ready To Eat.) Each of the meals has a dessert, and the people who live under the bridge, love dessert!
I was by myself this night, so Tommy stood with me to pass out the MRE's. We love to interact with the people who come through the line and we always get a story. This night was no exception.
He was tall and very thin. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked as if most of the sadness of the world had settled on his shoulders. He asked if he could have two meals. We said yes. Then he said, "all I do is walk walk walk.....and look......then, instead of saying the word "up", he pointed to the sky. We knew he meant that he looked toward heaven and Jesus.
I came away, as I always do, having been ministered to, rather than ministering. All day I have thought about that man.
I walked a lot at church camp last week. I looked down to keep from stumbling. I looked to see how much further I had to climb to get to the top of the hill. I looked at my watch to see how long I had been walking, and I huffed and I puffed.....but
Did I look up? Did I look toward heaven? Did I look toward Jesus?
Last night, we were playing Tommy's game he invented called, The Story Salad. One of the topics was "A Lesson Learned." All of us shared a life lesson we had learned somewhere along the way. I reached back into my memory bank, and told a story that even John boy and Tommy had never heard! I thought I had pretty much revealed my whole life to them! I am betting that Jason has never heard it either.
Here is my "lesson learned."
I went to college in 1958. It was my first time to be on my own. I was 17 years old. I would turn 18 in a month. I went to Milligan college, about a hundred miles away from home. I came home after one semester, feeling as if I had become a grown up and had learned pretty much, in that one semester, all I would ever need to know. I certainly had surpassed my parents in wisdom and knowledge!
As I have written many times, as a parent and as a person, I have always said that my Mother was unsurpassed. She was as near perfect a person that I have ever known. However, Miss "Big Girl on Campus", Pat, was even superior to this "perfect" person, my Mother!
After being home a few days, my Mother looked at me one day and said, "Patricia...you were always the easiest of my children. I never worried about you and you were always a fun child to be around. The room lit up when you came into it! However, since you have been away at college, this is no longer true. You don't even seem like the same child! You are arrogant and hateful. You are not even fun to be around. You need to go off by yourself and think about how you are acting and where you are headed.
I did. I changed that day. I wanted to be the person my Mother had always thought I was. I am not saying I am a wonderful person, but I do try to not be that snob who came home from my first year in college thinking I knew more than anyone else. I will never be the person my Mother was...but I want to be.
My Mother, Lila Forester, in her freshman year at Radford State Teacher's college, Radford, Virginia
My cousin, Judy sent me this and I wanted to share it with all of you. I have no idea who wrote it, so hopefully, won't be breaking any copyright laws! When Tommy and I first married, I always wore an apron! Somewhere along the way I stopped. I may just start doing it again! Enjoy!
The History of 'APRONS'
I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principle use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material. But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.
Send this to those who would know (and love) the story about Grandma's aprons.
Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.
They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron - but love...
I have a friend in West Virginia, Jami, who not only "Mothers" her own children, but any child who happens to be near by who needs "Mothering." On more than one occasion, I have heard Jami discipline a child who needed it. It was not always HER child! One of her nieces, Brynley, told us that the one phrase she hears from her Aunt Jami over and over is "make good choices."
So many things in life come down to making good choices. Even if you are in a horrible situation, you can CHOOSE whether or not to be miserable. People who have survived concentration camp, can testify to this.
We are living in a time...more than any other time in my lifetime, when it is becoming harder and harder to decide for good rather than evil. We were watching Harry Potter last night (I know I know...not everyone thinks Harry Potter is suitable watching material) and one phrase jumped out at me. It was said by Albus Dumbledore. He said "Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right."
I love that. Most people would say we must choose between what is right and what is wrong. That choice might be a little clearer. Choosing between what is easy and what is right, might not be.
Do you ever wish you could do something over? Dumb question, right? I am constantly having something pop into my head and wishing, "Oh, how I would love to go back and do that over! I would do it so differently!"
I wonder, too, why it is now - when I am in my 80's - that some things become clearer to me. I am constantly saying to myself, "Why didn't I realize that when I was in my 20's or 30's or even 70's?!" Still, every day, even in my 80's, I go, "Wow! That thing I said or did...last week, or yesterday, or even within the last hour, should have been done or said differently. Wish I could go back and do it over!"
I was thinking about that this morning and I immediately thought, "Thank God for Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever!" He doesn't wish for do overs because He never makes a mistake. That must surely mean that He didn't make a mistake when He made you and me.
I think the problem arises when we think we have to be perfect. That doesn't mean we don't stop striving for perfection, but the One who IS perfect stands in the gap for us. He will make ALL things work together for our good, if we keep loving him and keep His purpose and His kingdom always in front of us. It's when we start to think it is all up to us.
Many times, as I drift off to sleep at night, I will say my old childhood prayer: "Now I lay me, down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep....."
It is up to us to pray. It is up to Him to keep.