Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
Yesterday was a full day, as all Wednesdays are. We packed food for the food truck in the morning. It was so hot in the warehouse that I almost got sick. Then Tommy turned on the big exhaust fan and opened up the rolling doors, so it was much better after that! Since we had a long weekend with Memorial Day, we had a lot more to do. We didn't finish until about one in the afternoon.
Last night we went under the bridge. It wasn't too bad, since there was a breeze blowing. We are slowly (hopefully) getting back to normal down there. We put out a few tables for the first time since March, so that people could sit down and eat on a chair instead of the ground. Jessica had fixed scrambled eggs and sausage. Since we have a ton of eggs at the warehouse, that was a good choice!
Lots of people who came through the line expressed how grateful they were for us coming down there each week. I always want to say "I am the one who is blessed!" And I am. I find I feel more at home and more alive when I am under the bridge with the homeless, than I feel anywhere else. I told one woman (Georgia) that I wanted to have her and a friend of hers, Carol, over to eat one night. I asked her if she had any food allergies and she said emphatically ...NO! She said she just liked to eat. This woman is probably in her 70's and it breaks my heart to think what her life has been like. Unlike some though, she is always clean.
As we prepared to walk to our car last night, John boy said "look Mom!" When I glanced up, I saw bubbles! Hundreds of them blowing toward me from across the space under the bridge. One of the homeless men had brought a jar of bubbles with him and as he left with his entourage, he was leaving a trail of bubbles. A small thing, certainly, but to me...a big thing.
Bubbles always make me happy. In a world of too much gloom and doom (especially during this virus) we need more bubbles. Bubbles aren't just for little children. They are for all of us. John boy said we should take a bubble machine down there next time we go. I think I just might do that. I am also thinking of buying enough individual bottles to pass out to everyone, so that when they leave, they can take the bubbles with them.
If you have been having a hard time lately, head to the store and buy a bottle of bubbles. Don't just buy a small one. Get one of those gargantuan ones! When life starts to pull you down, blow a few bubbles to make you look heavenward.
I haven't blogged for a few days, because we have had about 35 people at our house! Our Memorial Day retreat was supposed to be in Gatlinburg, like usual but the hotel cancelled because of the virus. Everyone was SO disappointed, so we decided to go ahead and have it. Our preacher, Paul, said we could have it here and use the gym for our meetings.
So, we sent out a letter and told everyone to bring tents, and camp in the back yard. Some slept on air mattresses in the gym. Lori and Scott (sweet angel pie and sweet baby, as we so fondly call them) even brought a luxury camper!
We had one sad development during the retreat. (Sad, but joyful.) Tommy, John boy and I were sleeping in the living room. I had just gone to sleep about midnight. All of a sudden I felt someone punching my shoulder. I looked up and didn't recognize who it was! I thought, "has someone broken into the house!" Then I realized it was Jami. She whispered, "Audrey's Dad died!" It had just happened. I got up and tiptoed outside. Audrey, John thomas, Jami and I sat and talked and cried and laughed until about 1:30 in the morning. It was sad because her Dad is no longer with her, but joyful because he is with Jesus!
Then Audrey got a shower and climbed into bed with Jami instead of sleeping in her tent. (And no....Robert was not in the bed!) Audrey left the next morning and left a giant hole!
Everyone agreed that we should keep doing the retreats here. We probably won't, but it was so different. Misty Carpenter, whom we now call Vista, (ask her) said that she liked it better because every night we sat around the fire and really got to know each other. If felt as if we went even deeper in our friendships this weekend.
We are located on a major highway (yes....right on it!) but in the back yard it felt as if we were in the woods all alone. At night it looked so cozy. Lori strung lights on her camper and I put a strand on each tent.
We also went to the Lost Sheep warehouse on Saturday afternoon and worked all afternoon! I was astounded at the work we got done! I honestly did not expect to get all of the projects done that we had to do over there. We did! It was hard, dirty, hot work, but this crew rose to the challenge. I honestly have never met a group like this one. I have been on mission trips and worked in camps and campus ministry and churches all over the country, but have not found the dedication to service like this group. So thank you to the crue. (I know it's spelled wrong. That's what we call each other.)
I could keep writing, but one can not truly give justice to something this exciting and meaningful. You end up always saying the worn out phrase, "You just had to be there."
So....next time....come! You won't regret it!
Last night Jason came over and we watched a documentary about the Beastie Boys. They were a rap group back in the 80's when he and John boy were teenagers. In fact, my boys did a rap album back in the day and I could hear the influence when I watched the show.
However, as is usually true with a documentary or movie about someone famous, this one proved to me once again how empty and shallow fame is. Two of the members of the group were on stage narrating scenes from all those long ago days and they still talked and acted like they were teenagers. (The third member died of cancer.)
They did the presentation to a full house, and I thought it sad that the people were laughing at things that should not have even been said, much less laughed about.
The longer I live, and the closer I get to leaving this planet, the more I realize that even I have put too much trust in this world. Sure....more and more I am putting my focus on the next life. But, I wonder why I didn't do it sooner. Why did I think I had to have so much? Why did I "collect" so much junk? Now that my eyes have been opened (sort of).....I am trying to divest myself of 80 years of "stuff."
You might say, surely you don't have stuff that is 80 years old! YES I DO! I have a baby blanket that my uncle gave me when I was born. It's hard to part with something like that. I finally gave my bicycle away (to Audrey) that I have had since I was seven years old...73 years. I gave my dolls to my niece KK in South Carolina. They were about 75 years old. So yes, I have stuff. You better believe I have stuff. I even think that word is an ugly word....STUFF. (Some words are just more ugly....like pimples, or acne or diarrhea.)
Then, there are the words which are beautiful...or as Tommy would say...feel good in your mouth. Words like HOME and LOVE and FAMILY and BABY. But the best sounding word of all is JESUS.
In the show last night, not one time did I hear that word. How sad to live your whole life only thinking about fame and fortune and stuff. At the risk of sounding hokey, here is an old quote that you have probably seen as a bumper sticker on a beat up old truck with a gun rack in the back window and an actual gun in the rack. It's true though, and worth quoting.....
"Only one life will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
Tonight we had ice cream for dessert. It's our current favorite....Sea Salt and Caramel. As I was eating I told the guys that when summer hits, I go back to summers growing up in Fountain City. We were walking the other day and all of a sudden I said to Tommy..."do you smell that?" That is a smell that I have only smelled in Fountain City in the summer. It's unique to Fountain City. I can't describe it, but it always takes me back to my childhood. It's a sweet, cloying smell.
Eating ice cream takes me back as well. Almost from the very first hot summer day, we would start begging for homemade ice cream. We got ice cream from Kay's all during the year, but in the summer we wanted homemade. Mother would make a custard on the stove, and Daddy would pull out the ancient ice cream maker and ice cream salt. Then came the very best part. ....... PEACHES from the market over on Forest Avenue! Farmers would come from all around and park their trucks with produce and Daddy and I would go shopping. We bought beans and corn and all sorts of things for Mother to can.
But...the best thing was peaches! How I loved those. I even liked the fuzzy peeling! When we dumped the peaches into the ice cream, I could already taste it. Sometimes Daddy would let us help turn the crank, but mostly he did it. When he started having trouble turning the handle we knew it was just about ready. That's when my sister Teresa and I started claiming "the paddle." We both wanted to be the one to get to lick the ice cream off the paddle!
I don't think people make ice cream anymore. How sad. There is no ice cream anywhere that tastes like homemade. They can advertise "tastes like homemade," but in reality, none of it does.
Do you ever wish, for just a day, you could go back to those simpler times? Back before cell phones and video games and tv and all the distractions. ( I actually saw two girls running on the Tweetsie Trail in Elizabethton today carrying their cell phones! What is wrong with our world!)
Summer is here. Put your cell phone and your computer and your tv in a room, lock the door, and go outside with your family and make a big freezer of ice cream. Invite the neighbors in, give the kids a jar with holes in the lids to catch fireflies, and listen to the katydids sing.
A friend of mine wrote a blog today (attached) and it made me laugh....then it made me a little sad.
He was talking about the Kellogg's company advertising for ages that they have 10 essential vitamins and minerals in their cereal. An investigation showed that they have been slipping NON essential vitamins and minerals into their cereal! I have attached the blog, so you need to read it to get the full impact.
At first I was laughing, and then I thought of something that immediately made me sad....or at least a little melancholy. It's a story about my Daddy and Corn Flakes.
When my Daddy was in ICU hooked up to all kinds of machinery and not able to talk, he motioned for a pencil and paper and wrote two words....Corn Flakes.
My Daddy loved Corn Flakes and literally, on his death bed, he wanted someone to bring him some to eat.
I wrote my friend to tell him how he had made me laugh, and almost immediately, made me cry. I told him that perhaps if those investigators had removed those non essential vitamins and minerals all those years ago, my Daddy would still be alive!
(And for those of you who aren't into sarcasm and take everything at face value, just ignore this blog and also John's blog!)
Hm-m-m-m....I suddenly had an overcoming urge for a bowl of cornflakes. (a semi quote from "Raising Arizona" for you fans out there.)
Cereal Company Fined for Adding Non-Essential Vitamins to Corn Flakesby John Branyan
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all learned that some people are more important than others. Essential people perpetuate civilization. Non-essential people are disposable. The Kellogg company in Battle Creek, Michigan learned the same is true of nutrients.
Kellogg has been fortifying breakfast cereal with "10 essential vitamins and minerals" for decades. Thanks to a recent investigation funded by taxpayers, we know that the cereal company has also been slipping non-essential vitamins and minerals into corn flakes.
A spokesperson for the investigation committee describes the scandal, "We suspect non-essential vitamins are present in many Kellogg cereals but our investigation proved, beyond all doubt, that non-essential nutrients are present in corn flakes. Experts agree that during this pandemic crisis, only essential vitamins and minerals can be allowed to do their jobs. We have all the evidence we need to shut down this billion dollar industry and save lives!"
When asked how the committee determined which vitamins were non-essential, the spokesperson responded, "It is disappointing that you would even ask that question. Don't you care about people? I care about people! Everyone in this committee cares about people! We're out here every day risking our necks to keep you safe! It wouldn't hurt to show a little gratitude, you selfish fiend!"
At this point, the interview ended because the clouds parted and the investigative committee ascended into heaven.
We have been having a retreat in Gatlinburg at the same hotel (Glenstone Lodge) for several years now. We started with one, then went to two, then to three a year. We have had over 20 now. One is Memorial Day weekend, one at the end of September and one in February around Valentine's day.
This year we have been holding our breath hoping that the hotel will be open. They have been waiting on an ok from the governor, because of the virus. He said no. At first we thought, no retreat. Then we thought. yes retreat!
We have been blessed to live in a house that sits on 6 acres of land and it has a gym as well. We checked with Paul (the preacher at the church here) and he said Yes! So, we contacted everyone and told them to bring tents and campers and we were going to have the retreat.
I, for one, am looking forward to it. I am praying it doesn't rain, but if it does, we have the gym. I hope we can have a fire and sit around and sing and talk and just be thankful and bless the Lord for all the ways He "causes things to happen." He is Jehovah Jireh, our provider. Why would anyone not want to follow Him?
If you are going stir crazy, join us in our back yard the last weekend in May. I have a feeling it will be even better than Gatlinburg!
Yesterday was just that! Every now and then you have one of those days where everything seems to go smoothly. You get everything done that you wanted to and it all just falls into place.
First of all, we went to the warehouse to bag food, only to be told that we did so much the day before we didn't need to do it. We decided to go to the store and get all the stuff we needed for last night. We were having some of the boys from youth group in for hot dogs and a Bible study.
While we were out we got a text that they needed us to work first shift giving out the food, so we headed back home. One of the neighborhood kids was there as well as John boy, so they told us they could work and we could finish our errands and other tasks.
We went back to the store, got everything done then came home. We had borrowed the big grill from the gym to fix hot dogs, and Tommy got busy cleaning it. It was filthy. I got everything ready for the cookout and we got wood ready in our fire pit so we could have a fire when the boys got there.
The day was just perfect. It was a little windy so I prayed the wind would die down so that my umbrellas on the patio wouldn't blow away! The wind died down! Thank you Lord!
Tommy is memorizing the book of Mark in the New Testament, so for our study he recited a little of that and then we talked about it. He asked the boys what they thought it meant to be a disciple and also what it meant to follow someone. He talked about how Jesus came to Peter, Andrew, James and John and said ...follow Me...and they did.
We stayed outside around the fire until about 10 p.m. It was a perfect spring night. Not too cold, and bug free. I don't know when I have had such a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day. I look forward to next week when the boys come back for another Bible study. I am hoping and praying that they will see the need to make disciples of their friends and when they come back next week they will say to those friends, "follow me."
Photo by Meiying Ng at Unsplash
John boy has been doing a song a night in a short mini concert (15 min) every night this month. He chose the word Lonely and is doing a song either about loneliness or with the word lonely somewhere in the song. Last night, he and a friend, Kathryn, who plays cello, played a classical piece because the key it is written in is considered the loneliness key.
I have heard a lot of people say they are lonely or know people who are lonely, especially since this virus hit back at the end of March. I haven't been, but I know that lots have been.
I started thinking about whether or not Jesus was ever lonely. I don't think He was. He often tried to find a solitary place, or a lonely place, to go in order to get alone by Himself to talk to His Father. It was hard for Him sometimes, because the crowds were always trying to get close to Him. They needed healing, or needed to eat or just wanted to sit and listen to Him talk.
I don't blame them! I would have been right there shoving my way to the front....trying just to touch the hem of His cloak. I would have even tried to climb in the boat with Him when he got into one to teach the crowds because they were so close to Him he could barely move! I would have asked Him over and over again to give me that "living" water He was talking about in John 4:10.
I would have had my friends lower me through the roof of the house to get to him, since it was so crowded I wouldn't have been able to go through the front door. I would have been sitting right there beside the campfire as He cooked fish to feed His friends. I don't even like fish, but I would have eaten what HE had cooked.
I would have walked with Him and talked with Him and listened as He told me I was one of His own.
Well, then, why don't I do all this...every day? Why am I not trying my best to get as close to Him as I can get? Why am I not reaching out to touch the hem of His garment? Why am I not walking with Him and talking with Him? I don't have to ever be lonely if I am trying to get as close to Jesus every day as I can possibly get.
The good part is that I don't have to cut a hole in the roof and have my friends let me down to get to Him. All I have to do is say.....Jesus.
He is there. He is close. He is ready to heal. He is ready to feed me. He is ready to give me living water.
We get up every day saying this. (The song is from The Sound of Music, in case you didn't know.)
So far, we have been busy every day. Since the quarantine hit over a month ago, we have managed to work every day at the Lost Sheep Warehouse. All of our speaking and singing gigs have been cancelled through the summer.
I find myself wondering....What Will the FUTURE Be Like....I wonder! My trust is in the Lord, so I am not fearful, nor do I worry. But I do wonder. Are we just going to "social distance" ourselves from now on? Are we going to go everywhere, even on hikes in the woods, wearing masks? (I actually saw a couple doing that...with no one else around. We were up on the road driving away from our hike when we saw them.)
I cannot believe how quickly our world has spun out of control. Our so called leaders are calling all the shots, and we are letting them. We believe everything that comes out of the mouths of the politicians. We trust what the media is telling us. We listen to people on radio and tv who surely are "experts" on everything.
And yet, we forget that our Lord told us that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (II Timothy 1:7)
I am concerned that we are so wrapped up in staying safe from a virus that we may or may not catch, that our focus has shifted from the only One who can save us.
After reading my friend Audrey's blog this morning, it triggered something in me and I realized I have never actually "blogged" about breaking my hip. Don't worry, my friends didn't do it but you will see the connection at the end.
We were under the bridge on a Wednesday night. Tommy was preaching and he had asked me to share a story that night. I did, then stepped back away from the mic so he could finish the sermon. When I stepped back, my feet got tangled in the cords for the sound system and I hit the ground, hard. Everyone gasped and he turned to see what was the matter. I told him I was fine and to finish his sermon, I just sat there until he was done.
He and some others pulled me to my feet and one of the cops, Steve, came over and said, "You are going to the hospital." I told him no that I was fine. He told me to stand on my leg. It felt like jello! He told Tommy to get the van and he lifted me into it. (He's a big man!)
I have never broken a bone in my life, so I just thought it was a bunch of hooey. We got to the emergency room and sat there until about 3 in the morning. They finally x rayed my hip and sure enough, it was broken. I still tried to tell the Dr. she had made a mistake! She just patted my leg and said "honey, this is what i do for a living. I know what a broken hip looks like!"
They finally moved me into a room sometime in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Around 4 0r 5 on Thursday afternoon, they did surgery, about 24 hours after I had broken it. I have also never been put to sleep before, so was a little anxious about that.
Right before they put me under, the nurses came into the room where they were doing the surgery, with a blue rubber glove blown up like a balloon, and a Reece's peanut butter cup tied to the end. The balloon glove said Happy Birthday! It was my birthday and I had totally forgotten. I told them to please be sure my balloon and peanut butter cup made it to my room after surgery. They assured me it would. It did!
The next thing I remember is waking, being deathly sick and telling the nurse I wanted Tommy. "Who's Tommy?" she said. I said, "my husband." She said, "Well, you can't have him!" Too funny! Just in case you missed it, it is now Thursday night..over 24 hours after I broke my hip.
The next day is Friday, and I wake up, get up out of the bed and dress. No one is around to tell me not to, so I walk down the hall. I did pretty good, so I walked again. I went about 6 rounds before the nurse came in to "walk" me. She had a big harness to hook onto me in case I fell! I just started dying laughing. "I've already been BY MYSELF, 6 times," I told her!
After my walk with the nurse, I started waiting on the Dr. to come in and dismiss me. I HAD to get to Gatlinburg that night for our September retreat! It started at 7...around 48 hours after the incident under the bridge. I waited and paced for the Dr. to come in and dismiss me. Finally he came. He told me he was going to sign me up for rehab. I told him there was no need. I had been doing my own rehab. (They had given me a sheet with exercises on it that I had already started doing....plus the walking.)
He then told me he was going to write me a prescription for pain medicine. I told him I had not taken any pain medicine from the time they started trying to shove it on me when I came in, to the present time, and I didn't intend to take any. He looked rather stunned then said, "Ok. I guess you can go!"
I had already told Tommy to go on to Gatlinburg for the retreat and I would get my sister, Teresa to bring me up. As soon as that Dr. gave the word, she and I got out of there! She took me home and I put a black garbage bag on my leg and got into the shower. Then we headed to Gatlinburg. Now here is the part of the story I like the best.
I had called Tommy and told him I was on the way. When we got on the road down to the hotel, I called again. He had everyone at the retreat go outside the hotel to greet me! What a reunion! I couldn't help but get teary eyed (and I rarely cry!) I thought to myself, "This is what heaven will be like....I will either be in the crowd greeting or I will be the one being greeted." You cannot put a price on friendship. You cannot really explain it. But you can be thankful and never cease to praise the Lord for sending certain people into your life.
Two days after breaking my hip and having 3 long screws put in, I was standing with my friends in Gatlinburg, singing praises. I don't think I have ever sung with such gusto!
Now, here is a funny p.s. to the story.
Cindy Bates and her family have a reputation for always being late - to everything. As I pulled up in front of the hotel, I got a text from Cindy. "I just heard about your hip. I am so upset. I don't even want to come to the retreat! Where ARE you?"
I wrote back, "I am sitting in front of the hotel. Where are you?" She was still in Pigeon Forge on her way. I beat her! You can't make this stuff up!