Who Did He Ask to Dinner?!

I was a senior at Piedmont Bible College in January of 1978 when this tall, handsome student came walking across the parking lot on a Wednesday evening.  We had a tradition at PBC on Wednesday evenings.  The guys would wear suits and it was a night for asking a girl to dinner.  Girls would sit in the windows watching to see who would walk over to Lee Hall, and if the guy didn’t usually accompany a girl to dinner then the tongues would fly as the girls tried to guess each new young man’s date.
On that night the new male student who walked into the sight of all those wondering girls was Gary Moore.  And walking back across the parking lot with Gary was me!  I would say lucky me, but I don’t believe in luck so in keeping with this being Bible college I’ll say that I was blessed!  HaHa!  But I was and I still am today……..blessed to still be walking with this wonderful man, Gary Moore.
My eye had been on Gary ever since I walked into the student center on our small North Carolina campus in January a year earlier and had instantly noticed this new second semester student.  He fit several of my very serious future husband requirements, the first two being:  1) he was tall  2) he was handsome.  Very spiritual, huh?
It was also convenient that I was the student council secretary/treasurer and that I had access to the student mail boxes………in which I inserted special announcements……and in which I also took a look at Gary’s mail to see if he was getting letters from girls.  Yes, I did that.  And yes, he was getting such letters.  So I gave up hope on ever attracting Gary’s attention.  I decided that it would be friendship that we would share.  But I sure did still notice him.
Things happened……I dated another guy during the fall of my senior year.  And Gary kept going home to Bryson City on the weekends….to see girls, I thought, but in reality he was helping out in his home church.  He actually attended a mission’s retreat that Piedmont held at Groundhog Mountain that fall because I encouraged him to come.  I didn’t know that he thought I was wanting him to come so I could spend time with him, so when I drove up with the other guy that I was starting to date, Gary nearly decided that he had already had enough of me.  
My boyfriend and I broke up before Christmas.  And just before I left to go home for the holidays, Gary came in the dining hall and gave me a Christmas stocking!  Except he also gave one to my best friend Janet!!  Now I was confused!  But when I returned from Christmas break, Gary finally asked me to dinner on that Wednesday night……and all the girls sitting in the windows were surprised that it was me walking to dinner with Gary.
We never looked back from that point forward.  Love was blossoming for both of us.  But soon there was a big bump in the road.   A huge bump for me, and could have been for us……..except for the integrity of this man I was getting to know so well.  
I noticed that something weird was going on with my neck.  I couldn’t quite define it but things weren’t feeling right in there at all.  Before long I noticed that my neck was wanting to pull uncontrollably to the right.  I tried to hide it but eventually it became noticeable to everyone.  And the pain became severe.  My dear friend Janet talked to my parents, and I ended up going to different doctors in order to find out what was going on with my muscles.  It was a challenge to finish my last semester of college, especially writing my senior thesis, with my neck pulling and the pain being so bad.  Plus the drugs the doctors put me on were strong…….things like Valium and other calming drugs in an effort to quieten those muscle spasms.
Doctors didn’t have any idea about what was happening to me.  Several blamed stress, so they put me on some pretty strong drugs for that.  Nothing was helping at all.  I walked around most of the time with my right hand raised up to my neck.  Holding the back of my neck helped relieve the spasms a little.  I hung on for as long as I could, finishing my course work and knowing that I could graduate.  But the pain was so strong and the pulling so severe that just before I was to march in our graduation ceremonies I ended up in the hospital. 
That was a tough time for me, but it was also a relief to be able to rest.  It was so sad that I didn’t get to march with my class.  I’ll never forget Dr. Drake, Piedmont’s president, coming to my hospital room along with Dean Reinert to present my diploma to me as I lay there in bed.  I think that was a first for them!
Mom and Dad were there as well, worried about me and wondering what was wrong with their girl.  And also there by my side was the man that had come to pick me up for dinner on that Wednesday night four months earlier.  He wore a suit on my graduation day, much like the suit he had worn on our first date, except now he sat on the side of my bed and we both smiled broadly…….just as if I was standing in that auditorium along with the rest of my graduating class to receive my degree.
On a fairly superficial level, my illness was exceptionally hard for me as a young woman.  It changed my appearance, making me look weird as my neck pulled and as I held my right hand around my neck a large part of the time.  I didn’t feel pretty at all.  And pain took a huge toll as well.  It’s hard to be your best or look your best when you’re absorbed in pain.  So on that level alone, I wondered if Gary would stick by me or if he would be turned off.
And what about the future?  We didn’t even have a diagnosis and had no idea what the long term would hold for me……..for my body and my health.  What man would want to venture into that arena?  Gary and I were not engaged……he wasn’t bound to me in any way like that.  Yet there he was, faithful to me with his support and his love and his attention.  He never made me feel weird or ugly or a risk too great to take. 
I moved home to West Virginia to live with my parents, and tried to get well.  Doctors still didn’t know what was wrong.  Gary still wanted to be with me when he could travel from college to visit.  He saw the pain and the awful reactions to drugs and the huge unknown, but he stayed by my side.  And one day he even asked me to marry him!!  I didn’t waste a second before saying yes.  Time and rest helped me get better, but the effects of my illness were still somewhat visible……….and I could definitely feel them.  
We had a beautiful wedding, where I even sang a surprise song to Gary. 
            “God has given you to me, as my loving friend.
              From beginnings love has grown, may its growing never end.
              From beginnings love has grown, may it never end.
              God is joining here today, families and friends.
              Yours are mine and mine are yours, how the richness blends!
              Yours are mine and mine are yours, how the richness blends!
              You are handsome in my eyes, I treasure and adore.
              But my heart determines this, I must love God more.
              Though I love you oh so well, I must love God more.
              I love you where you’re strongest, your strength can help me stand.
              I love you where you’re weakest.
              There I’ll care, I’ll help you there, and give your heart a helping hand.
              God has given you to me, as my loving friend.
              From beginnings love has grown, may it never end.”
So we began our life together.  Today we celebrate 41 years of sharing this journey together and with God.  We have three beautiful children, and a wonderful son-in-law.  We have tons of memories.  We have each other still.
Doctors know now that I have something called Dystonia.  I will always feel the effects of this muscle disease in my neck but I am so very much better than I was back in 1979.  Gary didn’t know this would be the outcome, though.  Yet he loved me regardless, and he showed his strength and integrity when I needed it most.  He’s still doing that today, and I am forever grateful.  
42 years ago I walked across that parking lot with that tall, handsome man.  41 years ago I walked down the aisle to say “I do.”  And I am so thankful that I did!


Aaron went to see Godzilla with his day group on Friday.  He loved it, of course.  It’s a typical big monster disaster movie full of excitement and fighting and suspense and noise and water and fire and bombs……perfect for Aaron!  So perfect, in fact, that since he saw it on Friday he has wanted to see it again……with me. 
That is why I made the decision to let Aaron stay home today for a fun day with Mom.  The most fun part for Aaron, of course, is that we went to see Godzilla.  I was happy to do this as I also like disaster movies, up to a point.  I was game.  Plus I knew that school was still in session today, so hopefully when we went to see Godzilla it wouldn’t be very crowded.  That’s in case Aaron yells or laughs or claps or any number of other very annoying crowded theater behaviors he might exhibit.  I have experience.  Too much experience.
When I told him on Monday that he could stay home on Wednesday and that we would go see Godzilla, he was very happy.  And I was in no way surprised when he asked me what time the movie started.  I told him that it started at 12:30, and then as if on cue he asked, “So what time are we leaving?” 
“We’ll leave a little before 12:00,” I told him.
“So what time will that be?” he asked.
I told him I wasn’t exactly sure.   I was trying to stretch him beyond his normal I-have-to-know-an-exact-time way of thinking.  It didn’t work.
I was the one being stretched as Aaron repeatedly asked me what time we would leave.  An EXACT time, Mom!  Don’t you know anything?  
OK, Aaron.  We’ll leave at 5 till 12:00.  He was satisfied.
Then I heard, “So we’re leaving at 5 till 12:00?” an untold number of times.  Seriously.
And this morning, first thing, it was, “Mom, you said we’re leaving at 5 till 12:00.”  He said this as a matter-of-fact statement, but I knew he was also checking to see if the time was the same……..because sometimes he knows that Mom changes her mind.  So it was a question as well as a statement.
I told him yes, that we would leave at 5 till 12:00.  But just to be sure, he later walked into the kitchen and promptly asked, “We’re leaving at 5 till 12:00?”  I told him yes, and then he continued, “I need to take my glasses and my watch to the theater.”  
“Why do you need to take your watch?” I asked.
“To see when the movie starts,” he answered.  “If I don’t have my watch I get impatient.” 
This makes perfect sense to Aaron.
During the morning, he checked in with me several more times.  “We’re leaving at 5 till 12:00?”  I told him yes, but then I had to muddy the water a little by telling him that we might leave a little earlier than that in order to go by Wal-Mart to check on a DVD he wanted. 
Sure enough, it was about 11:40 when I asked him if he was ready to go.  “It’s not 5 till 12:00,” he flatly responded.  
Of course.
But I reminded him about the DVD search at Wal-Mart, so he was agreeable to that plan and off we went, with his glasses on and his watch pushed halfway up his arm in typical fashion.
Soon we were at the theater, tickets purchased as well as a large buttered popcorn and our free water…….and Aaron a little uncertain about sharing his large buttered popcorn with Mom.  The theater was very uncrowded so I was very happy.  Aaron sat down and then put his popcorn on the floor beside him…….away from me.  I didn’t say a word because I knew what he was doing.  He was waiting for the trailers of upcoming movies to finish.  He will not eat popcorn during the trailers.  Then came all the other preliminary stuff about the surround sound, etc……….and still the popcorn sat on the floor.
You do not eat popcorn until the movie starts, silly people.  Popcorn is for the movie……NOT for movie trailers and advertisements and whatever else is on before the movie starts.  He put a napkin on his lap just right…….and some on the empty seat beside him……and still more napkins in his pocket.  Aaron would glance down at the bucket of large buttered popcorn as if to see if it was still where he placed it, but not one kernel went into his mouth until the movie actually began to play.  Then he bent over and retrieved his large buttered popcorn, and grudgingly shared it with me.  We were off and running.
The movie was as I predicted…….loud, exciting, overly dramatic, unbelievable, and just a great old disaster movie.  Aaron’s favorite!  He did very well throughout.  I only had to hush him maybe 10 times.  Very good!
As we left the theater, Aaron pointed to the bathrooms, where he hurried in while I waited for him.  He didn’t use the bathroom, but had to wash his hands……because he had buttered popcorn grease on them, even though he wiped them and his mouth off repeatedly with the huge pile of napkins that he had strategically placed around him.  Doesn’t matter.  He will wash his hands after a movie, do or die.
We discussed Godzilla all the way to the car, and then all the way to CD Tradepost, where I took him to look for the DVD that is on his radar now.  At least we won’t be talking about 5 till 12:00 anymore, I thought.
The DVD wasn’t in stock, so I went ahead and ordered it from a store across town.  They will ship it straight to our house.  Aaron listened to me give our address, and then asked the clerk, “So when will it be delivered?”  She told him in two or three days.
“So what day is that?” he asked me as I stood there paying for it.  I told him it might be Friday or Saturday…….MIGHT!
Here we go, I thought.  We just finished with the 5 till 12:00 business and he’s already on another countdown.  
We got in the van and as I backed up he asked, “So it’ll be here in two days?  Or three days?”
“Will it be Friday, or Saturday?”
Oh brother. 
One thing I do know……it won’t come soon enough!

Lessons From the Little Rose

Gary and I were ready to take Aaron to meet his group last Thursday morning, and then head down to Texas for Andrea’s graduation.  We were right on time as I walked past our thriving Carpet Rose bush and opened the passenger door of the van, ready to climb inside so we could leave.  A flash of red, though, caught my eye and caused me to pause.  I looked down and right away I spied the small red hue, nearly hidden by all the green foliage of the rose bush. 
I leaned down for a better look and there I saw the first little rose bloom of the season.  It was so small and nearly hidden that it was really a miracle that in my rush I even saw it.  The fragile bloom was probably several days old from the looks of it.  Yet I was delighted to see this wee flower, not only for its beauty but also for the sheer delight it brings to look upon God’s design, and to also see that my rose bush is still growing and producing.  
Lately I’ve had some thoughts go through my mind………some thoughts that are unwelcome and honestly, defeating.  Thoughts about what purpose I have in life at this stage………what am I accomplishing that is of any importance or value……..what else should I be doing or could I be doing………..or what should I have done differently in the past.  Sometimes these thoughts can spur me on to action in areas where I need to act, but I know that of late I’ve been discouraged more than spurred to action. 
I think I get caught up in bigness.  The ones who seem to make the greatest impact are the ones who are the most visible, right?  The teachers and the singers and the authors and on and on and on.  Nothing wrong with any of those things.  But what am I doing?  
Today the Lord has been gently reminding me of lessons I say I’ve learned…..but which seem to need repeating in my head and heart over and over.  It’s not the bigness of the act, or the public attention it may garner that is important.  God desires our obedience above all, and for most of us that obedience is in the daily moments of life that come our way…….unannounced and sometimes hardly recognized.
It’s listening to the dental receptionist tell about her sons and what they’re doing in their lives.  It’s thanking the hygienist for her work and telling her she did a good job.  How often does she hear those words?  It’s seeing a fellow mother of special needs sons……yes, more than one……..and standing in the grocery store parking lot under the sun, sharing our concerns and sharing a lingering, needed hug.  It’s showing the elderly woman how to put her grocery cart in the right line and get her quarter back, which meant so much to her.  It’s letting the young woman with only four items go in front in the grocery line, and seeing her deep appreciation for such a small act.   
It’s giving a listening ear to the neighbor whose husband is on hospice care, and then later taking them some homemade rice pudding………seeing their delight and watching her stand at the counter eating a big spoonful as she grinned from ear to ear.  It’s taking the time to enjoy an unexpected visit from an old friend of Andrew’s who unexpectedly stopped by the house.  It’s in the hug of my husband, welcome and loving.  It’s in stopping to listen to Aaron even when I’m tired……….really listening, and relishing the uniqueness that I would have missed if I had hurried on my way.  It’s in giving an ear to a friend’s call, full of frustration and desperation……….though I have no certain advice. 
It’s in finally climbing into bed and thanking God for the day, praying for my children and for others before I fall asleep.  It’s in pausing to recognize God’s leading in this day, when making rice pudding and sitting down for a surprise visit caused my plans to fall by the wayside……..but what a beautiful journey those wayside trips can be!
All of us wake up with a day before us, a day full of opportunity to serve and love and reach out in what seems like the simplest ways.   Just like my little rose shining there nearly hidden underneath all the crowded leaves of the rose bush, so are these basic acts of kindness that come to us in any given day.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?  Reaching out to the common people around him, meeting their needs and loving them in His name.  
That little rose caught my eye and made me pause in a moment of simple joy.  And our little acts of love and help to others can likewise cause the people we encounter to stop, their spirits caught by surprise perhaps by a kindness that will bless them deeply.  
Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to living our daily lives.  God said that obedience is better than sacrifice.   I want to remember the little red rose, out of sight though it was.  I want to remember to be that rose in others lives.  To be a splash of joy, a beautiful color of blessing, in the most ordinary of ways………but the ways that often mean the most. 

Mother’s Day……Aaron’s Way

 I was sitting at the kitchen table on this beautiful Mother’s Day morning when I heard Aaron yank his bedroom door open upstairs.  Down the stairs he lumbered, and then across the family room he walked with his usual heavy steps.  He didn’t say a word to me as I so obviously sat there, but instead loudly said, “Dad!  I’m ready!”  As Aaron walked by the table where I sat, he glanced over at me with his darting eyes.  He was nervous and had no time for small talk with Mom as he hurried by me, glancing quickly at me again and then looking away once more.  
Aaron hurried downstairs, and then soon he and Gary were both upstairs again, hurrying off to the nearby guest room.  This time Aaron didn’t even look my way, but instead just followed Dad as he kept his focus on Gary’s back.  I heard a little rustling and then back came Aaron, carrying a gorgeous flower arrangement.  He walked over to my chair while I exclaimed my surprise and my delight. 
“Oh Aaron, they’re beautiful!” I said.  “Thank you so much!”
“Uh-huh,” Aaron flatly replied to my thank you. 
By this time, Aaron was off again, walking once more toward Gary who stood in the little hallway.   He took two cards from Gary’s hands and once again came over to where I was as he handed them to me.  He was turning to head off again from all this embarrassing pleasure of Mom’s, but I reached out and pulled him toward me.  
“Wait, Aaron,” I said.  “Let me open the card from you.”
He gave a little half-hearted chuckle, not really wanting to stand there any longer, but he did stay as I opened his card.  I knew that Gary had helped him pick it out.  One of the captions had been whited out by Gary and replaced with a more appropriate word.  The card was perfect and I laughed as I told Aaron that I loved it, and I thanked him again.
“Uh-huh,” he repeated.  And this time I let him walk away after I grabbed a quick, uncomfortable hug………more me hugging Aaron than him responding much.  
This is how Aaron celebrates special days.  Quickly, with as little fanfare as possible, and hopefully no gushing emotion.  Yet he clearly wants to recognize special days…..just on his own terms.  Short, not necessarily sweet, and then we’re done.  
He was ready to cut out coupons that he knew were there waiting on him.  His routine needed to be restored.  And please don’t ask me to talk a lot about this Mother’s Day business, he was thinking, or to say you’re welcome and DEFINITELY not “I love you!”
OK, we’re done, right?  Can I just cut out my coupons and talk about the movie I’m watching or the one I want to watch?  But no!  Dad came in the family room and sat on the couch, and had to mention something else that we were going to do on this special day that’s getting a tad stressful.  
But going out to eat IS pretty fun, and so Aaron agreed to go with us.  Honestly, Gary and I had been unsure about taking Aaron with us, but I was very glad that Gary invited Aaron along…….and even happier that Aaron agreed to go.  We later made our way to the restaurant, where there were a lot of people there celebrating Mother’s Day just like us…….well, like Gary and me.  Not Aaron so much.  But a meal out is worth celebrating, so Aaron didn’t even complain about the crowd.
The host told us that the wait would probably be 20 minutes, so as we stepped to a quieter area to wait, Aaron asked what time it would be when we were called.  Gary gave the time that was about 20 minutes away, and immediately Aaron checked his watch.  Here we go, I thought.  If we don’t get called by just that time we might have a problem, Houston.
I told him it didn’t mean that we would be called at exactly that time.  Aaron said he knew that…..as he checked his watch.  We talked about this and that……he checked his watch.  We discussed an issue he’s been concerned about……he checked his watch.  We talked about the service dog that walked past…..he checked his watch.  I reminded him of the time issue not being exact and he said he understood……as he checked his watch.  I was getting a little nervous……and he checked his watch again.  WHY DID WE EVER BUY HIM A WATCH??!!
Finally, before the 20 minutes were up, we were called and a crisis was averted.  A frustrated Aaron is not a pleasant Aaron to have around a huge, happy crowd of Mother’s Day celebrators.  Thank you, Lord, for small blessings that to us are huge.  As we sat at our table, the server came over and we all agreed on coffee to drink.  Then immediately Aaron asked, “Do you know where the bathrooms are?”
Our server laughed and said, “Of course I know where the bathrooms are.”  I realized that she didn’t quite understand Aaron, but I knew she soon would.  So Gary took Aaron to find the bathroom per the server’s instructions and soon returned, with Aaron not far behind.  We placed our orders, and then Gary and I watched as Aaron took his napkin and began wiping up all the stray coffee and water splashes on the table.  
Soon the table was satisfactory to him, and he proceeded to scarf down his first of several cups of coffee.  Plus his omelet, his hash browns, his biscuit, his water, and more coffee…..in that order.  He only eats one food at a time until it’s gone, and then moves on to the next item, not even wanting his biscuit buttered until he was ready to eat it.  There is a method to all things, you know.  People are silly if they don’t understand this.
Before long, we were on Kellogg driving toward home.  His biggest concern at this point was whether to cut out the page of Burger King coupons that were in the paper or to just leave them together on the sheet.  Are we on coupons again, I thought?  
We passed by one of Aaron’s favorite places, where at least for a time he was distracted from coupons.  Resthaven Cemetery.  Not that Aaron is obsessed with death, but you have to admit that a cemetery is rather unusual and you know how he loves the unusual.  
“You know what they do at that ceremony place?” he asked.  I didn’t even correct him about ceremony versus cemetery.  I wanted to hear his insights his way.  
“What do they do?” we asked.
“They do cremations and burials and one other thing, but I don’t remember the other thing!” he exclaimed.
“Cremations are when you burn yourself!!” he then informed us.
So Gary stepped in at that point and corrected that mispereption as gently as he could, and off we drove to the house, well past the ceremony place and all those things they do there.
I talked Aaron into letting Dad take a couple pictures, barely.  He was so ready to be done with all this Mother’s Day hoopla, and hugging, and thank you’s, and mushy stuff.  Finally he was free to finish a couple lingering coupons and then bounce between his room and the rest of the house, comfortable once again in his world done his way.
I enjoyed calls from Andrew and Andrea, with Aaron trying to interrupt, as usual.  I’m thankful for my three children, thankful to be their mother and to have their love as they have mine.  I’m very thankful for a husband who makes it all possible, and who loves and leads us all still after all these years.
And I’m thankful for celebrating another Mother’s Day…..Aaron’s Way!  
I’ll grab another hug before bed, just watch me!

Mother’s Recipes

I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s.  It was for the most part still a time of innocence and good old fashioned values.  Growing up on North Third Street in Princeton, West Virginia was an experience that I dearly treasure.  There at nearly the top of third street sat our house, with large maple trees out front and apple trees in the back.  We were surrounded by neighbors, most with kids the age of us King kids.  I remember riding bikes, skating, playing hop scotch and jumping rope in the street, sledding in the winter down the Lockhart’s hill, climbing trees, having sleepovers with friends, and playing kick-the-can until our parents called us in at night.  It was a wonderful, carefree childhood. 
Certain sounds and smells carry me back to that time.  When I smell fresh mowed grass, I think of Saturdays when Dad or John would mow the lawn.  Then I can almost smell Mom’s pinto beans, onions, cornbread, and fresh tomatoes out of their garden.  That was a summer Saturday routine at our house.  So many of the highlights of my youth seem to end up in our kitchen where Mom worked her magic.  Our kitchen was the heart of our home.  We cooked and ate and talked and laughed and cried in that one room. 
Of all the things that my mother did so very well, I think her cooking is the thing that we and others remember the most.  Mom was an expert seamstress, a great organizer of our home, a responsible director of the school food service programs in nine WV counties in later years, a college graduate, and she was a beautiful soloist.  But oh, her cooking……
I can still see our kitchen table overflowing with her homemade rolls, ready for her to package and put in the freezer.  She cooked in bulk and cooked ahead because she was just that organized.  Down in our basement, there were two upright freezers full of all sorts of goodies and essentials.  Not only did she freeze, and also can, garden vegetables and fruits, she also made endless dozens of cookies and then froze them in empty coffee cans.  Who can count the number of trips we kids must have made to those freezers, where we would open the door, crack open the coffee can lid, and snatch a frozen cookie…….and then breathe into it as we held it in our mouth, our breath thawing each bite just enough as we ran back outside to our play.
Inside those freezers were stacks of her homemade pizza crusts, each crust separated by waxed paper from the one underneath.  There were little bags of frozen homemade pizza sauce in just the right proportion for each pizza, as well as bags of frozen toppings such as cooked hamburger or sausage, pepperoni, and cheese.  Her pizza was the best!
I’ll never forget how she would bake hamburger on large sheet pans and then cut our hamburgers into squares.  And because you shouldn’t put a square hamburger on a round bun, she made her own square buns.   She even made hot dog buns, and somehow got the recipe for Dairy Queen chili, to boot!
Who of us can forget preparing for Thanksgiving dinner?  Mom’s Cranberry Jello Salad was a staple every year.  She would let each of us kids take a turn at her food grinder, dividing up the cranberries and the whole orange slices equally between us.  We would then turn the handle of the grinder as we listened to the popping of the cranberries and the squishing of the oranges.  The experience is just not the same now with the whirring motors of our food processors.  But it all comes back to me in a rush every time I taste that salad in my own kitchen.
Sunday dinners were always a large affair, with a roast or maybe some fried chicken, and all the fixings.  Often we would have a pastor or a visiting missionary eat with us.  Then we would eat in the dining room and use her good china.  She even had autumn china that had leaves on it, which I thought was pretty amazing.  She taught us the proper way to set a table…….fork on the left, knife on the right with the serrated edge facing the plate, and then the spoon. Drinking glass on the right, above the knife and spoon.  We all knew Mom’s strict rules, too.  Do NOT take seconds until the guests have had seconds.  Do NOT put your elbows on the table.  Do NOT interrupt the conversation.  And by all means, do NOT look at each other and start laughing during dinner!!  That was the hardest one to obey, trust me!  Laughter was always just seconds away at our house.  
Sometimes when money was low at the end of the month, Mom would make fried mush for us to eat.  We just loved it, all buttery and soft.  Mom was embarrassed, though, and we never understood why until we were older.  And sometimes after church on a Sunday night, we would all sit around the table and drink her wonderful hot chocolate while we ate buttered toast.  
We never left for school in the mornings without breakfast.  But it wasn’t only breakfast that Mom made sure we had.  She would also have us open our Bibles with her, and she would then read the devotional Our Daily Bread with us before we left to hurry off to school.  We would follow along with the scripture in our Bibles as she read, and then we would listen to her read the devotion, and we would pray.  
I have some of my mother’s recipes.  Actually, I have many of her recipes.  I spent a year at home between college graduation and marriage, so I took lots of time at home to copy her recipes.  Most are in my hand writing.  
I especially treasure the ones that are in her handwriting.  They are bent and stained and are becoming hard to read as they fade with time, but I would NOT trade them for the best typed recipe in the world.  Not at all!  For her handwriting makes me feel that I have a part of her with me each time I use that recipe.  
Our mother gave each of us, however, the most important recipe there could ever be.  She taught us how to live, teaching us about the proper ingredients and the instructions of living life in the right way.  It went far beyond how to behave at the dinner table when company was there.  It was much more than how to cook a meal, clean off the table, and wash the dishes in the unique way that she followed………and that I bet each of us girls still follow today.
Our mother taught us how vital it was that we ask Christ to be our Lord and our Savior, which we each did at an early age.  She made sure that we knew the importance of beginning our day with time in the Bible and in prayer.  Dad left for work very early so it was up to Mom to be sure that happened……and she faithfully did just that, even when she had to go to work as well.  She taught us to consult the Bible about decisions; to let God have the final say when we wondered what to do about all the issues we faced as we grew up; and to be faithful in attending church, not letting any other activity be more important in our lives.
She taught us girls to be modest, and what to look for in a husband.  Her favorite quote, which she shared many times with me, was – “God gives His very best to those who leave the choice with Him.”  She taught us to handle life’s good times with thankfulness and the bad times with trust.  And she showed us how to handle any situation…….ANY and ALL situations…….with humor.  
Her recipes for life are hidden in our hearts, not written on a card and tucked away in a file.  Her five children, and hopefully our children, carry those values with us every day.  Those instructions are seen in our decisions, our values, our attitudes, our hopes, and most certainly in our laughter.  
Our mother doesn’t know us now.  She doesn’t remember Dad.  She is struggling with some health issues and with Alzheimer’s.  But the ingredients with which she raised us are, and always will be, a part of us.  Her life is bearing fruit in her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  It’s a sweet savor, more wonderful than the smell of her fresh baked rolls.
            “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of
            idleness.  Her children rise up, and call her blessed.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  We love you.

The Broken Rose

If I could push re-wind, I would.  It probably wouldn’t change much but at least I’d have another try.  Would I say things differently?  Would I just not say some things at all?  Better yet, could we just wipe yesterday off the calendar?  But if we were able to do that, we’d also pass up some wonderful moments and some good lessons learned. 

Have you ever had those thoughts as a parent, especially?  Or even as a spouse, or family member, or friend?  Yeah, me too.  Especially after yesterday…….but today has been a new day, a better day, for which I’m very thankful.  Who knows about tomorrow?

Gary and I have been so up and down with Aaron lately because Aaron has been so up and down.  He has been too fixated on a computer game that we wish now we had never let him have again.  When Aaron becomes this consumed with something, that something actually controls him.  Not every day is bad, but yesterday was……..

Aaron did go to his group in the morning, but with anger.  We were mostly silent on the way to meet his group, but the way he slammed the van door when he finally got out of our van told me that his day………and Paradigm’s day……..was going to be very interesting.

Aaron’s broken glasses, carried home in an envelope, told the story.  But so also did the big smile on his face when he came to the front door after being dropped off at home at the end of his day.  He rang the bell multiple times as I went to answer the door, which told me that this was Aaron at the door……….and I wondered why he came to the front door instead of barreling in the garage door. 

I opened our front door and there he stood, grinning, with four beautiful yellow roses.  Well, three beautiful roses…….the fourth rose had broken and was hanging limply among the other three.  Aaron didn’t care.  He was very happy to have brought me pretty flowers, which he always wishes he could do.  He looked so much like a little boy standing there with the three pretty roses and the one broken rose. 

He barged in the door and handed me the roses.  “Here!” he said as he thrust the roses toward me……..and then shocked me to pieces by giving me an unsolicited hug.  “These are because I’m sorry for today and I love you.”

Just knock me over with a feather, would you?

I could tell that time spent with Barb and Brandy at Paradigm had softened him.  They had taken him out to lunch and helped him work through his emotions and his anger.   Barb made sure Aaron had some flowers to bring to Mom. 

How about me?  I was very touched and very happy, but also very realistic.  I wish I wasn’t.  But as soon as Aaron started talking about the game again, I could feel my heart growing cold.  I was tired…….skeptical………not feeling the love at that point.

My lecture didn’t help matters at all.  Aaron and I both ended up with heated words……some even hurtful.  Did I say that I’m tired?  Not an excuse, but a reality as we deal with ongoing Aaron issues.  I just felt like part of my heart had shut down.  Feeling like, OK…….whatever…….I’m done.

Aaron knew this and he was very upset.  I think he was scared of several things……scared of mom being cold……….scared of mom not loving him…….scared of losing his game forever.  And I felt like losing the game was all that mattered to Aaron, yet I couldn’t deny the fear and the anger on his face as we ate supper and he lashed out verbally at me to Gary. 

Thank the Lord for Gary’s calmness and wisdom as he stood strong to be the buffer between Aaron and me.  Finally, Aaron made two things very clear.  First, he wanted me to keep the flowers and put them in a vase, which I did.

Second, he gave me the ultimate insult.  “Mom, you can just watch Wheel of Fortune BY YOURSELF!!!!”   He paused for effect.

“I’m going to watch it in my room BY MYSELF!!!!” he said as he stomped away.

My cold heart stayed cold.  I told him that this was fine.  But his tears told me that he was sad and hurting, and before long I found that my heart was hurting as well.  Still tired……but now sad like Aaron. 

I told Gary that maybe Aaron would calm down if I took him for a milkshake from Sonic.  So Gary went to Aaron’s room to deliver this message.  We knew it would be sweeter coming from Dad’s mouth at this moment rather than from Mom’s. 

I heard Aaron give an enthusiastic yes, and soon he was thumping down the stairs……….in his pajamas and tennis shoes, which made me smile…..for a change.  He sat on the couch with me and was fine, as I held my breath to see how long it would last.

I also held my tongue, which is sometimes hard for me.  I knew that no more lectures were needed right now.  What was needed was a milkshake.  But before the Sonic trip, we sat there together and watched Wheel of Fortune.  Neither of us had to watch it BY OURSELVES!!!  Hallelujah, we got to watch Wheel of Fortune TOGETHER!!!

Aaron was happy and I was happy.  Aaron even got Tater Tots with his milkshake, just for good measure.  I sat there as we watched NCIS, and I glanced over at Aaron seriously eating that favorite milkshake.  Something in my heart felt broken as I looked at him on his favorite chair, sitting Indian style.  He wants things in his world to be right.  We want things in his world to be right, too, but we don’t always have the same definition of “right” as Aaron does.  Sometimes Gary and I have to be parents, with authority and rules, no matter how Aaron reacts.

And sometimes we’re tired.  Just tired of the ups and downs, the temper outbursts, the job of understanding and connecting for Aaron when he can’t.  Or won’t.  Which is it?  Who knows?

So I’ve looked at the roses in my vase on the kitchen table.  Aaron seems oblivious to the broken rose, but I am not.  To me, it’s a perfect picture of our day and sometimes of our life.  Broken…….tired……wilted.  Broken relationships at times……….broken words………broken promises…………broken hearts.

Keeping the broken rose in the midst of the perfect roses, though, also reminds me that our life isn’t all broken.  There is beauty all around us.  A laugh…..a hug…..some progress……..a game of Skip-Bo last night…….Aaron talking about hay barrels today, which always makes me smile. 

It’s also good to remember the broken things so that we can lean on God to fix them.  I sure can’t do the fixing.  I’m very thankful to know the God who can and who does, with great patience and love. 

Much more patience than I sometimes show to Aaron.  Infinite love.

And He never gets tired.  He’s there to hold me up when I am tired.

I love my broken rose.  I love my wonderful Aaron.  And I’m glad that Aaron loves me, broken and all.