Time Well Spent

The first year my husband and I were married, he was helping pastor a small church, plus teaching and administrating their Christian school. During that year, we didn’t have many funds. Most of the students’ families did not have the money to pay their tuition, but it was a need in our community and still is. Through God’s provision and the generosity of others, we never went without having our needs met. We never missed a meal and we managed to keep a roof over our heads. Sometimes we lived on beans and rice, anything in our pantry, or what Jonathan refers to as ‘COW’ (cream of wheat). We passed on all the little luxuries that most people take for granted, like going out to eat or buying things we liked, but didn’t truly need. Both of our vehicles were paid for, so we didn’t have any car payments. We still own the same cars, an ’04 and an ’07 model. Our cell phones were not smart phones and we were on a pay-as-you-go plan. Most of the time, we only had one cell phone between us. We never subscribed to cable or satellite TV and still don’t. Jonathan installed an antenna in the backyard that his father had given him and hooked it up to our TV for local stations. We picked up internet at hotspots. Because of a health condition, I have not been able to work outside the home. But that is another story, which I’ve written before. You can read it here if you’re curious: “Peace.”

By the world’s standards, we were poor, but by God’s standards, we were rich! What we did have was time, and we’ve tried to use it well. Many times we spent ministering to people at the church or helping out our family by offering assistance in whatever way we could that didn’t require money. We planted flowers, flowerbeds, and did landscape work for those who didn’t have the ability and we traveled with people during difficult situations to help out emotionally and physically. We helped take care of a brother who had undergone massive surgery. I’m not saying this to brag, but to share that our perspective on life, was and still is different than many people. We don’t do it for rewards, but we do it out of caring hearts. We happily give of our time to help others and to assist those we love and care for. For our ‘luxury time,’ we explore areas nearby us, by hiking in the woods or camping. We enjoy the scenery around us. We grow a vegetable-herb garden, which keeps our grocery bill down. We can and freeze vegetables, make jellies, and share our abundance. I make gifts at Christmas, and we make food for special events. We send e-cards or call to let others know we love them. During that lean first couple of years, we bought individual cards for others at Christmas. While we stood in the aisle, searching for the perfect cards, we saw cards we wanted to give to each other, but couldn’t afford. So we started a tradition of showing those cards to each other, to express our love and we would savor the moment; then we would put the cards back. Now that my husband is back in engineering, we have the ability to give monetary gifts on occasion, but we still like to peruse the card aisle and show each other cards that we don’t purchase that have ‘just the right verse’ to express what we feel towards each other. And we still like to bless others with our time and our cooking whenever possible.

A few days ago, as I was shopping for craft supplies at Hobby Lobby, I decided to look through the anniversary cards, because our anniversary was coming up. I found a card, but decided not to buy it, but to take a picture with my phone and share it with my husband. It captured perfectly what I feel about the man God put in my life. I would gladly pay the price of the card, but if you want to know where you can purchase it, because it says what you feel about your spouse as well, they have it in the card department at Hobby Lobby. I just wanted to remember our tradition in this way and I did buy another card while I was there. This is the card:

Happy Anniversary!
Happy Anniversary!

Some of my favorite family memories are when we’ve sat around the table after dinner and sang songs or made jokes, and always our vacations, because we were/are together as a family, away from all the distractions. Even times we’ve gathered together to celebrate the life of those who have passed before us, have been precious, because we were together supporting each other, through the sorrow. During those times, we found comfort and joy by the fond and similar memories we shared. I loved hearing the stories as a child and I still do as an adult, even when the stories don’t include me. I remember the hours spent together with my grandfather on the farm, growing vegetables was time well spent, because it was our time alone and I could ask him questions about life, and believe me, I asked questions galore! But my favorite times spent with my grandfather, who was a gentle giant in my eyes, were sitting in their huge front well-maintained yard on any fresh summer evening, off an old country road, that was once well traveled, under huge pecan trees, with my grandmother’s prized red roses waving in the breeze behind us, their scent was heavenly! My grandfather stood an erect, shoulder-back, 6’4″ tall, with broad shoulders, strong arms, and had a stylish crew cut, with hazel green-blue eyes that twinkled behind his glasses and usually wore a smile. He was well-tanned from years of working on the farm that he paid cash for. He didn’t believe in buying anything on credit and I heard that lecture often. “Anything worth having is worth waiting for.” There we sat, with me in my little handmade dresses or short sets that my grandmother lovingly and skillfully sewed, many times without a patten, because of her skill and frugality, not because of lack. My grandfather usually dressed casually in his seersucker, untucked, box-hemmed shirt and khakis, in the afternoon and evenings, off this road which had been bypassed by a major highway, but was once the main thoroughfare from Tulsa to Muskogee.

As we sat in those old metal lawn chairs, under the shade of the massive pecan trees, we guessed the color of the next car that would go by, which were few and far between. He carried singles, tens, twenties, fifties, hundreds, two-hundreds, and five-hundred dollar bills in his wallet, not because he loved money, but because he had grown up during lean times, when his family didn’t have money for shoes for the six boys in the family and because he didn’t trust banks. He had lived through the great depression, the bank collapses, non-insured banks, and the dust bowl. My grandfather would quiz me about which president was on what monetary value and if I knew the answer, he would show me. I was always astonished by the variety of bills he had! He was a wealthy man by worldly standards but he didn’t flaunt it or dress to show it, he was humble and to me he was far wealthier because he spent time with me. He usually was one of the first to help out someone else in need. As we sat there under the long lush nut-laden branches, wafting in the breeze, he quizzed me on history, presidents, politics, science, nature, weather, faith, and anything else he thought I should know. He would tell me stories of how he and his siblings (10 kids in all) traveled by conestoga from MO to TX to OK; looking for work. He told me about the jobs he’d worked over the years and about how he dated my grandmother. Many times, we sang silly songs when there weren’t any cars, with me giggling at my grandfather’s dry wit. On lucky nights we went back out after dinner and cranked ice cream or had ice cold watermelon from the garden and watched the fireflies twinkle in the night sky – those were the days we didn’t have any electronic devices, distractions, or ‘Google.’ Those memories remind me, what do I want to be remembered for? Do I want to be the one who gave lavish gifts and seemed to care little for others, always busy and defending my lack of time? Or do I want to be remembered as someone who listened and devoted my time and energy by interacting with others?

My encouragement for today is to make sure we have time for our family and friends. To me the most valuable gifts are those that come from the heart and involve time, either set aside in each other’s presence, in making the gift, or in doing something for someone they can’t do but would like to be able to do. Another valuable gift is to spend time teaching others skills they want to learn, which we know. These are useful gifts that last and are appreciated. When someone invests their time, it says they feel the other person is valuable. Let’s put down our phones, turn off our TVs and video games, and just enjoy other people’s company. Let’s Interact with each other. Above all, let’s spend time with our Father, but not just in prayer. Let’s spend time in worship, thanking him for all he has created, the abilities he has given us, and the sacrifice he made for all of us. Let’s reflect on the life of Jesus, by reading the Bible. Let’s think of the 33 years that Jesus spent on earth because he Loved us — that is a chunk of change that can’t be measured in Benjamins or McKinleys! Thirty-three years of Jesus’ life, mostly spent in ministry, and then he was rejected by those closest to him at the end of his life on earth. Who have we rejected in our life that we might need to make amends with? Who have we neglected spending time with because we ‘can’t find the time’? Who have we shut out? Let’s put aside our petty grievances and realize that time doesn’t go on forever in this life. Yes, we have eternity, if we have committed to God, but what have we invested with those around us? Have we given them our time and energy or have we spent it in self-driven pleasures or ways to make more money? Have we appreciated the things they’ve done for us? Have we shared Jesus with those around us, not just by talking about him, but by expressing his love? The luxuries will not stay with us when we die, but the memories of time well spent, will stay in the hearts of those we leave behind.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:9-18 NLT

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:36-42 NLT

This is Not the America I Grew Up In

A few years ago, I had a person ask me if this was the America I remembered growing up in. At first I had given him a short response, saying yes, it hasn’t changed much. But shortly after, I realized it has changed and I revised my answer to him. Today, I’m revising that answer again, just seven short years later. I remembered his question this week and I’ve tried to pinpoint what happened to the land that I love? Today, I realize how drastically our nation has changed! First I want to share some definitions of the word ‘freedom.’

Freedom:

  • Exemption from external control, interference, or regulation.
  • Personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery.
  • An absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights.
  • Political or national independence.
  • The state of being free or at liberty.

Just looking at these definitions, I think we are no longer a nation of freedom, because the rights of some people are being held higher than the rights of other’s. I am applying this to the history and decisions of our nation. To be set free is to recognize what we have overcome. When our focus stays on the circumstances we once lived in, those things that oppressed us, we remain captive. There are facts, which cannot be erased from history – nor should they be. We can destroy all the symbols and memorabilia, but then we deny what shaped us into who we are today. How can we see how far we’ve come, if we don’t acknowledge what we’ve been set free from? This was attempted with Holocaust victims; there are some who denied it ever happened and some who have revised history. Fortunately, this movement has not caught on, but what will happen when there are no more survivors? Not that we should focus on their victimization, but we should celebrate that they overcame! We should also watch that it is not repeated. If we focus on what has happened to hurt, instead of what has happened to free us; then we remain victims instead of victors! As a nation, when we erase the wars we’ve fought and survived, we deny the victory of those who survived. We deny who we’ve become when we destroy the evidence.

Ask a victim of domestic violence who has escaped this torture and has been healed from those memories, if they are victims or victors. I am one of them, yet my attacker claimed to my face that he never hit a woman, even though my bruise was there for several months. What was I, if I am not a woman? He was expunged from any wrongdoing, because he had ‘friends’ in government that were able to get the charges dropped. But that did not lessen the damage he inflicted or his culpability. Thank God, I have not gone back into an abusive situation, but to deny that it ever happened, would be to deny who I have become. When we say that barbarous events never occurred, we invalidate those who have been violated, whether it is an individual or a group of people. They do not cease to exist and they do not forget how they were infringed, but they can move beyond those heinous crimes committed against them.

No, this is not the AMERICA I grew up in. I was taught our history; both the good and the bad. It was taught as an example of what could happen again. If we as a nation don’t hold to the principles of our founding fathers, then we are apt to replay the negative, or to return to the tyranny we escaped. The history I learned did not absolve those who sinned against humanity, it held them accountable. History taught us to not go there again. Wiping out the memories only strengthens the chances that it can repeat itself. Because, when we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are apt to repeat them. It may be a different set of people, who are targeted, or it could even be reversed, but it does not make it right. ‘An eye for an eye,’ never produced any winners.

I was also taught to respect authority. We did not backtalk our teachers or there were consequences at school and worse ones at home! There were disciplinary actions in both places! Now it has become almost heroic to defend every right, every move, every action, no matter how misguided, and these delinquent activities are celebrated in some groups. Everyone wants to debate and have their ‘rights’ even if it means denying the ‘rights’ of others.

When I grew up, mealtimes were started after everyone was seated and quieted, with the whole family at the table. We would say a prayer to bless our food and thank God for His provisions and pray for our leaders! We never left the table until everyone was finished eating, or we had asked to be excused. Our conversation during our meal was about our day, keeping each other informed. We were taught manners for eating with politeness. And we were taught etiquette in addressing our elders; such as saying, “yes sir” and “no sir” or “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.” We called our friends parents Mr. or Mrs. unless they insisted otherwise. No “games” were played at the table unless they involved the whole family after eating. We didn’t have cell phones or electronic games. The television was not turned on until all the dishes were cleaned and put away. Television could be viewed without concern that children might see something inappropriate; there was no cursing, illicit sex, or the graphic killing of people shown. Much was left to our imagination. Children were able to go outside and play until dark because it was safe, now some are not safe in broad daylight! Most families went to church together every Sunday. Friday nights the whole town went to the football games during the season. Saturday mornings many locals met at the donut shop and discussed the game.

American Flag

Men wore hats and took them off during the National Anthem and everyone put their hand over their hearts and revered the flag. Nobody spoke during this time of honoring our nation, from children, to teens, to adults. It was silent except for the performance of the anthem. People bowed their heads to pray at public events. School was started each morning when the whole class would stand with their right hand placed on their heart to recite:I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It was not uncommon for someone to pray in school for a person who had a family member who died or was in the hospital. There were no school shootings or the need for metal detectors to get into the buildings. They weren’t necessary! Most school functions were started with prayer: at sporting events, banquets, award ceremonies and graduation — and yes, it was a public school! No, this is not the America I grew up in! He got that right, I agree! I’ve thought about his question off and on through the years. Although I gave him a short quick response, I decided I had a lot more to say on the subject than my short counter to him. There are far more people who disrespect our nation and its history, whether good or bad. History is what defines us and shapes us into who we are today. It is a timeline of how far we’ve come as a nation. To erase history, is to deny the oppression of any people and their victories. The person who asked the question, was attacking me personally regarding an article I had written that he did not agree with. He stated it was not the America he grew up in and that people were calling him un-American, because he questions authority all the time.

When I thought of what he said, I realized we grew up with very different values! Yes, we are given ‘freedom of speech,’ but much of the mainstream media and politicians, pick and choose who has that ‘freedom of speech.’ and have taken it to an extreme to further their agendas. Where did our honor of country go? What happened to the ‘America’ that I grew up in? You might be surprised to find that the crime rates went up when prayer and the mention of God were taken out of school. You can look up the dates and do a comparative analysis. We accommodate other “religions” that chant and call for our death, we recognize beliefs that are antiChrist, and we protect terrorists. In schools we don’t prohibit other nations’ flags, but are starting to ban our own flag because someone finds it offensive?! Why has the Bible been removed from our places of education and workplaces? Who is defending the rights of Christians? Politicians took God out of America and school; let’s bring Him back! May God Bless America Again before we lose the America we once knew. ~ KMcA ©

Fading American flag