Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
Several years ago, John boy bought me a writing journal. Unlike most journals, this one has a topic for 642 days! I have been trying to do a page a day for awhile now, and thought I would share some of the stories with you. After writing today's story, I decided to post it first....kind of like my blogs...we will go backwards!
Today's assignment was...."Write a short story that is set in Argentina in 1932, in which a teacup plays a crucial role."
THE TEA CUP
As the sun came up over my beautiful homeland...Argentina...I sat on my porch, teacup and tea in hand. I looked across the vast expanse of land that had been my home for as long as I could remember. I was born here in 1842.
Now I was leaving.
I sat in the old swing and sipped my tea out of the same cup from which I had sipped since I was a little girl, sitting here with my Mother.
Mother had a matching tea cup, which I had buried with her. I always felt so grown up sitting here with her...tea cup in hand. Of course in those days, it was more milk than tea!
Now I was old and there were "those" who thought me too old to run the ranch anymore, but what do "they "know?
As I sat sipping and swinging, I looked across the land I had called home for 90 years, and saw...my Mother! Coming for me! Teacup in hand!
How do you find it?
What does it feel like?
What does it do for you?
If you lose it, how do you get it back?
I have thought a lot about these questions lately. Seems like joy is an illusive feeling that all of us want but seem to find so hard to have. Every time I hear someone say "I just want to be happy", or "I just want my children--spouse--friend to be happy", it sounds as if being happy is the ultimate goal of every human being. It's to be had, no matter the cost.
Advertisements even suggest that everyone is entitled to happiness. They imply that if you don't have a certain "thing" you can't be happy. The only way to happiness is to get what you "deserve." The words "happy" and "happen" have the same root. "Happy" is a condition of everything "happening" the way you want it to, which very rarely "happens."
"You asked for it...you got it."
"Don't settle for less when you deserve more."
"How to ask for the raise you deserve."
"Give her the home she deserves."
I could go on but you get the picture. I covet joy....real joy. The joy that only comes from the Lord. Happiness is fleeting. Joy is something you can carry deep inside you all the time, no matter your circumstances. That is what I pray for, both for myself and all of you.
The good thing about remaining joyful is that, every now and then, the Lord throws in a totally unexpected HAPPY! How wonderful is that!
My favorite time of the year is here! Oh...it's still hot outside, but every now and then, I get a glimpse of what is coming---I see one bright red leaf lying on the walking path early in the morning.
I hear a sound that tells me, it's almost here.....the cicadas at night and sometimes during the day!
I smell something on the air that subtlety tells me, it's right around the corner....wood smoke or cinnamon.
I recently had to get a new phone. My carrier said they were going to cut my old one off because it was obsolete! Why do they care how old my phone is! John boy said I could have anything I wanted printed on the case, so this is what I chose.
Cicada 04 . oil on wood panel . Amos Oaks . 2020
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." Lucy Maude Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) My favorite author and my favorite book.
Here are some other Autumn quotes:
"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
"Listen! The wind is rising and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!"
"There are two times of the year. Autumn. And waiting for Autumn."
"And all at once, summer collapsed into fall." Oscar Wilde
"Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple."
"Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I was a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." George Eliot
And I will end with this one...
"Like summer I can be hot. Like winter I can be cold. Like spring I can be warm.
Like Autumn I can be......"
Did you ever have something happen to you that made you think of that old old tv show, "The Twilight Zone?" Just such a thing happened to me today.
I was looking for a pen in the car when we were headed to the store, and Tommy said maybe there is one in your Bible, which was lying between the front two seats. I remembered that yes there was. When I pulled it out a piece of paper came out with it. It was a scripture that my grandson, Cal, had memorized when he was 12 years old. I took a picture of it intending to send it to Cal, when all of a sudden my phone dinged that I had a message. It was Cal! He said "got your e mail! I'm gonna call you this weekend! Love u"
I can hear the Twilight Zone music in my head. I had sent that e mail a week ago! Why this text today and why as soon as I found that note and had taken a picture? Some people would say coincidence. Not me. Of course there is no Twilight Zone, but there is another realm. I like to believe that the Lord orchestrated my encounter with Cal today.
Here is the scripture, and the picture of Cal's note. Pay close attention to the spelling of Patience in Cal's note.
"For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus." Romans 15:4,5
A dear friend has been staying with us for the past month. His wife no longer wants to be married. It looks like right now, the divorce will be final sometime tonight. I know that this past month has been hard on him, because he has been living with us. He has been group texting several of us who are his friends (actually we are his family now!), and he made the statement that he was "so grateful to have all of you in my life. You are all truly family to me and I appreciate all of you for the prayers and kind words. I'll get through this and get back to my normal happy self again."
Another friend in our close knit "family" wrote this. "I say this in love....Sometimes we go through such heartache that we can't go back to a "normal happy self" and that's ok. I believe that's when God brings out His best masterpiece in us and truly brings 'beauty out of ashes'. So my prayer for you is to keep seeking God's word and His will and His way and He will take you to a 'better happy self' that only He can do and return to you what the 'locust have eaten.' " (written by Jami.)
I have another friend who is also going through something similar. We have spent the last two days on the phone. I have been praying for both of these boys. This friend wants it to work, as does the first friend.
In situations like the two above, it is really easy to keep dwelling on the past instead of the future. All of us do it. We fill our minds and our words with "what ifs" and "if onlys." Our Jason does this. I told one of the boys this morning, that the past is just that, the past. If we dwell on that it will drive us crazy. I told him that a long time ago, I had decided that there were certain things I absolutely would not do. For the most part, I have stuck to that. If we can decide what we won't do, it makes it easier to decide what we will do.
Of course these boys are sad. They have given so many years to something they thought would last until "death do us part." Instead it's the end of that dream. However, and I have told both boys this, it is the beginning of what can be a wonderful life. It won't be easy and it won't come overnight, but as the Psalmist says, "weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5. I love how the Message puts it, "The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter."
So, maybe this part of your life is ending. The rest of your life is just beginning...and I pray that there are days of laughter ahead for any of you who are suffering right now.
I had a nice surprise last night. My friend Awesome Audrey texted me that she sure did enjoy my blog yesterday. Lest you think i am bragging on myself, she went on to say that our son Jason, had hijacked my blog space and wrote one of his own! I immediately went to my blog page and read our younger son's blog. What a surprise! What a treat! I have to say that this woman who rarely cries, just about lost it! Not only was this a nice surprise, it was a blessing. Sometimes you like to hear how you appear in your children's minds.
I laughed at some of his childhood memories, but have to admit, the "setting the carpet on fire" part either slipped my mind, or he failed to tell me up until now. I suspect the latter!
Living with our boys as they grew up was always fun. Everyday was an adventure...mainly because their Daddy PLANNED adventures for them.
One of the biggest adventures was a bicycle trip from Elizabethton to Knoxville, about 125 miles. We kept telling the boys we were going to do it, but somehow we never seemed to get around to it. Finally one day Tommy and I looked at each other and said, "we promised, so let's do it."
We set the date (not knowing it was the hottest day of the summer) and left early one morning. None of us had helmets and since I did not know it was going to be that hot, we also had no sun screen...but that's another story. We made it in two days.
Another big adventure was a two day canoe trip with Rodney Oaks. I didn't go on that one, but let them off at the beginning and picked them up at their destination.
Everyday was an adventure with our boys, and both of us say we would go back and do it all again.
It should be this way with our Heavenly Father. Just like our boys said almost every day of their lives, "what are we going to do today Daddy?", we should say to our Heavenly Father, "what are we going to do today Papa?"
I normally don't feel the need to rant on my blog, but this one is too good to pass up.
How many of you get a "hankering" every now and then for a nice cold glass of lemonade? Just the term "nice cold glass of lemonade" evokes pleasant thoughts of sitting on our porch in Fountain City as a little girl drinking one of those ice cold glasses of lemonade. My Mother made it with fresh squeezed lemons which left pulp in the lemonade.
John boy got one of those hankerings the other day after we went to the grocery store. Someone had given him a $10 gift certificate for Chick-fil-A. The line was not only around the building and out into the road, but a double line and kids working the curb instead of a person calling at the window. John boy asked if I minded and I said no, that it seemed to be moving pretty fast. We didn't have to wait long, and while we were waiting I said, "how much is a gallon of lemonade?" John boy said, "maybe $3." I said, "well, why don't you just get 3 gallons since we probably won't be back for awhile. He agreed.
Finally our curb girl came to our window. "How much for a gallon of lemonade?", John boy asked.
"ELEVEN DOLLARS!", she answered!
We drove away lemonadeless. John boy said he wasn't even going to spend a gift certificate on an $11 jug of lemonade.
Some things you just can't make up!
Today, I am hijacking my mother's blog.
Last year I decided to start blogging anonymously. It was a very public diary that I didn’t tell anyone about. I eventually revealed myself in later posts. It was shared with just a handful of individuals very close to me but proved to be a wonderful way for me to stop mulling over the same issues that were plaguing my life at that time. It was free therapy! I still post once and awhile but it feels unnatural to do it now.
As any of you reading know, my mother always has a story (and has the books of these collected insights, and this blog, to prove it). She seems to have an encounter daily that was delivered to her straight from God! I thought that hosting a blog site for her would be fantastic. I was correct in thinking that. It has been a joy to get an almost daily email from mom with another wonderful adventure. I’ve been so honored to be the first to read these and then post them to share with all of you! (And I apologize for sometimes taking a couple of days to get to it!)
I think I was born stubborn. Flip through mom’s books, or search through this blog feed, and you’ll likely find a tale about me drawing on the walls, or catching carpet on fire, or challenging my mother’s explicit order to stop turning the light switch on and off. If you dug really deep, you might hear stories of heartbreak dealing with a rebellious teenager. Whatever has happened, and whatever I’ve done, one thing has remained certain: my mother loved me through it all and has been a constant inspiration.
You may be aware that the last few years have been tough for me emotionally. (If you don’t know that and really want to know about it, feel free to catch up at my blog.) However, I’ve been doing pretty great since February of this year. There were some rather cataclysmic events that took place, in the midst of an already existing mess, that ended up freeing me from the grip that had a hold on me.
I’ve equated that time with being on a boat in the eye of a hurricane. The hurricane turned into a vicious storm. The vicious storm turned into constant rain and enormous waves. That rain turned into a drizzle with a nauseating rocking of the boat. That drizzle turned into grey skies with continued constant swells. Those grey skies turned into a fog. The fog started to break with bits of blue above and then…I could see land. The skies were clear but I was still stuck without a paddle in the middle of a great ocean. I finally made it to shore. On shore, I sat until I had energy to climb the scorched dune. On top of the dune, I rested in a bed of grass but I gazed out at the great ocean that had owned me until I finally got up and walked away. Once and awhile, I’ll hear thunder and look back at the horizon seeing something brewing far, far away with the understanding that I am far enough away to be in any real danger.
Last night I had a moment where I looked back at the horizon. I was filled with guilt and sadness and regret. I didn’t want to do much of anything. When this happens, clothes don’t get put away, the shower curtain doesn’t get closed, dust bunnies occupy the corners of the house, dishes pile up in the sink…
It was 10:30 p.m. I was tired. I was sad. I looked around at the half-clean house and was disheartened. I walked to the kitchen for a glass of water before bed and observed the pile of dishes in the sink, sighed, and thought, “I’ll take care of those after work tomorrow.” The moment that thought crossed my mind, I had a vision of my mother smiling at me. I also had a vision of my mother who showed up at my house two weeks ago with a mop bucket and cleaning supplies to help clean things up. I thought, “My mother would never let this pile of dishes sit here over night.” I can assure you, no matter what she had done all day (and she probably did all of this on that day) - be it pulling weeds around her flowers, organizing shipments at Lost Sheep Ministries, cooking supper, feeding the homeless, checking in on prostitutes…and on, and on - she would have come home exhausted, looked at the dishes, rolled up her sleeves and cleaned them.
Instead of going to bed, I put a record on the turntable, thought about my smiling mother, and cleaned my dishes. When I was done, I cleaned the bathroom and put a load in the laundry! It was midnight by now. Although I appreciated my mothers determination, I was ready for bed and will clean the rest of the house tonight.
I titled this post, “Satori at the Kitchen Sink”. It was a reference to Jack Kerouac’s book “Satori in Paris”. “Satori” is a Japanese word that means a “sudden illumination” or “sudden awakening”. This is not one of Kerouac’s greatest books but it has a couple of moments. A great quote from it reads, “You are equal of the Idol who has given you your inspiration.” I’d ask you to ponder what idol has given you your inspiration today? Was is a broken relationship? Was it anger at your boss? Was it Instagram or Facebook? Was it the stock market? Was is a broken nail? Was it a secret website you gazed at? Was it a cold beer? Was it Trump or Biden?
My mother could easily give you a list of options for an enlightenment or an awakening. Perhaps she’d tell you to bake a cake for someone. I could offer, “clean your dishes.”
Now, mom is not an idol in the sense of an “object of worship”, but certainly as “a person who is greatly admired, loved, or revered” (those are from Webster’s). But I was able to take her example and apply it to my life and the result did indeed elicit an awakening - an illumination - joy!
One more note on Kerouac. I’m leaving you with a quote from his book, “On the Road”. It contains a passage that I have used over and over in life - I’ve almost worn it out, but I don’t think that it can be. It’s like a great pair of jeans or boots or that t-shirt you’ve washed a thousand times that’s so soft and comfortable when you put it on. I refer to this quote when I describe individuals in my life who are special. There are only a handful that I can apply this to, and I’m sure you have these types of people in your life as well! At this moment in the book, Kerouac is walking down the street with his closest friends. He trails back a bit to ponder the moment and looking at his friends writes,
“…they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!""
Thank you mom.
I have thought a lot about that question lately. I see movies and hear stories about the bravery of people and I wonder just how brave I would be if push came to shove. Would I run into a burning building to save someone's life? Would I jump in front of someone who was about to take a bullet? Would I jump into the water to save someone from drowning, even though I can barely stay afloat myself? Would I go to a leper colony and live among the lepers just to minister to them. Would I put myself in harm's way AT ALL in order to minister to other people?
What is it that is so attractive about this life that we want to cling to it? What is so attractive about this planet? I understand not wanting to suffer. That is way down on my list of ways to die. Sometimes taking a bullet would be preferable, because it's fast, if they actually hit their mark!
In all of my days on this earth, I don't think I have ever heard the word FEAR like I have heard it since March.
People are afraid to go to church
People are afraid to go to the store
People are afraid to have people in their homes
People are afraid to walk outside
Many, if questioned, would say, 'I am just trying to be safe and keep other people safe.' It reminds me of a story I read years ago about a family who were "safe" inside their home, sound asleep, when an airplane crashed into their home and killed all of them.
I have decided that there is no safe place in this world except in the Lord. Proverbs 18:10 says "The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe." The Message Bible says, "God's name is a place of protection--good people can run there and be safe."
Next time you are fearful..... Next time you feel unsafe....run to Jesus. He is the ONLY place you can be protected.
Job 13:15 says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Bad things may happen to all of us. That bullet we tried to stop may kill us. We may all get a virus and die. However, if we trust in HIM, we don't have to be afraid.
I hesitate to even write this blog. My heart is heavy. I read about people in Nashville being arrested and fined for not wearing a mask...including a homeless man. I go to Walmart to get vitamins, and turn away when I see everyone being herded into one door...each person wearing a mask.
I hear about a friend being verbally attacked when walking into a store because she DARED to come into the store wearing her scrubs. (She is a receptionist at an eye clinic which is not even seeing patients. She merely sits and answers the phone.)
We are all going like sheep to the slaughter, and trust me, there IS a slaughter coming. I told John boy that I wanted to start wearing a yellow star pinned to my clothing, but he said he was afraid our Jewish friends would be upset. I'm not so sure. I think they, of all people, "get it."
When we are with friends, the conversation invariably goes to the covid problem. We tend to focus on the current problem in our world. Finally, someone says, "let's talk about something else," and we do. When we aren't actually out on the streets or in stores, it is much easier to focus on things that are uplifting rather than things that bring us down.
I was starting to get really "down" today after I read about what was happening in Nashville, then I thought of a verse of scripture. (Scripture is what has gotten me through all this craziness!) It is Psalm 20: 7. It goes "something" like this...
"Some trust in face masks and some in hand sanitizer, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (Prisha version of the Bible.)