I have met so many wonderful friends through books. Some are fictional, and some are flesh and bone friends...but all have made a difference in my life in one way or another. We all impact each other's lives. Sometimes it is by something you say that makes me think, and other times it is by a gesture or kindness. And yet other times it may be something that dug deeper, hurt my feelings, or made me sad. Still you made a difference. Through this blog I would like to introduce you to some people who have blessed me with their writing...and I hope you will be blessed as well!

Coffee or Tea?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What is YOUR Legacy?

     It seems everyday I see a post where someone I knew left this world, and their loved ones were left with the challenge to write about the legacy they left behind. I have spent countless hours pondering what I have left for future generations.
     I remember seeing a plaque hanging in an office one time that read, "In a hundred years it may not matter what kind of house I live in, the kind of car I drove, or the amount of money that was  in my back account...but it might matter if I made a difference in the life of a child". I knew that was where my legacy would lie.
     But it doesn't end there. Our legacy isn't always some sweet little thing we did to help someone. Sadly some leave a tainted bitter legacy for the descendants to have to learn to live with. Bernie Madoff  left a history that will follow his name long after the last scoop of dirt is thrown in his grave. His sons will forever carry that cancer on their name, even if they had nothing to do with his sins.
     I remember a lady who touched my heart many years ago, back in Gatlinburg, Tn. Her name was Candy Stacey, and she was the cousin of Dolly Parton (but then most natives to that area were).  She bared a strong resemblance, with platinum blond hair and ruby red lipstick. She wasn't afraid to wear bold colors and paint her nails to match her lips. But most of all, Candy always had a smile on her face! We worked together selling camping memberships, and one day she was visibly absent from her front desk where she greeted our guests as they entered the waiting room. When she came back in she had a bandage wrapped around her arm, and looked pale and weak. I guess I was one of the few who didn't know that  Candy had cancer and was taking chemotherapy. When she came back from the bathroom after emptying her stomach one more time, I asked her why she didn't just go home, to which she laughed and said, "Why honey I can't go home. Someone has to be here to greet these people and get them some coffee, and make them feel at home!"
     "Surely they can get someone else. How can you be so cheerful when you feel so bad?" It didn't make sense to me, I would be home, lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself and waiting for someone to wait on me.
     "Oh sweetie, I never know when the last time you are going to see me is going to be, and  I don't want anyone remembering me looking all sickly and not smiling! It makes people feel better if you smile and have fun with them. That is the way I want to be remembered." And that is the way  I will always remember Candy. She went home to be with Jesus a few years later. There must have been thousands she made smile during that time.
     This year someone challenged people to find their "word" for the year, to inspire and motivate them throughout the year. Some choose "purpose" and set out to discover their purpose in life. Others chose "serve" and are working on being a better servant for Jesus. I have chosen "legacy".  I want to discover my own legacy to leave behind. Will I challenge someone to make a difference in  the lives of others? Will I take a missions trip and raise funds to put in wells for clean water for some third world country? Or will I live only for myself? Striving to survive, and forgetting about the effect my life will have on others. A positive difference takes work.
     I hope my prayers make a difference in the lives of those I pray for, but that is in private and not for any recognition. I write, and naturally dream of my words touching someone someday. I want to encourage others and pray it inspires them to make a difference in the life of others in a positive way. But there has to be actions to go with our words and prayers. If we meet a man who is hungry but we don't feed them, and only offer to pray for them, our words are just lost in the wind.  If we live in a big fancy house and drive an expensive car, but fail to offer a cold drink to the homeless man on the corner we pass every day, we have failed to touch his life...even if we pray for him every day. What good will our fancy treasures do us when we are gone?
      A lady named Fran Blakley taught me how to sell timeshare in a real and practical way. She said if she left her jewelry to her only daughter, Debbie, and Debbie decided to take up with some worthless bum, he would probably sell her jewelry before they removed her lifeless body from the hospital. If she left antiques, he would probably have an appraiser out to the house before the funeral. But if she left her memories, Debbie would never lose them. So she took her on a special vacation every year, just the two of them, making memories to last a lifetime. And when she died she was going to leave her timeshare for Debbie to take her own children to exotic places and make memories of their own someday. It was her legacy to her beloved daughter and future grandchildren.
     I share all of this with you because someone touched my life this week in a special way, and I realized her legacy has always been to cheer others on to success and keep them encouraged. This girl was a cheerleader when I was in high school, and never stopped once she left those hallowed halls. She lives a healthy active life we all could take lessons from, but more than that she never stopped caring about people. When I shared a couple of weeks ago about receiving my second ticket in a week's time for no inspection stickers (even though I was on my way to get the inspection) that the $230 was going to be a tough blow on my budget, she immediately jumped into that cheerleader skirt and grabbed her check book! I didn't post that as a request, I was just venting! I tried to protest, but she refused to listen...telling me she understood and had been there herself one time. Those words meant more than the check. The day the check arrived was the last day to pay my electric bill...and of course the check just covered that amount! Without her help I never could have covered that bill. I know I am not the only one she has blessed. It just comes naturally for her.
     I will forever remember these people, and long after their lives have ended, the stories I have shared with my children will keep their legacies alive.
     I hope that someday when my last breath has escaped my lips, that someone will look at their children and smile and say, "I remember her, she ..." and they will tell something that I did that made a difference in their life in a positive way...I want to encourage, bless, and inspire others in the ways these great people have done for me.
     One of the greatest legacys ever offered was over 2000 years ago and people are still talking about it. A 33 year old man loved us enough he died for us. He didn't just die, he was beaten beyond recognition, tortured until his life left his body, and ridiculed and stripped naked as they hung him on a cross. He suffered greater pain than we will ever know...because he loved you more than you are capable of understanding. He did it because he wanted you to be forgiven and live forever in Heaven. Would YOU do that for someone else?  
     What is YOUR legacy? Who's life are YOU touching? Are you offering a drink to the thirsty, or just a prayer? Are you willing to suffer and die for people you don't even know?
     We aren't promised forever to leave our mark in this world, so you better get started...

Friday, March 9, 2012

"Do our pets go to Heaven, Mommy?"

     I remember well hearing a man who was teaching our Sunday School class state firmly that he believed there would be no pets in Heaven. Jaws dropped, and mouths whispered to one another their disagreement. 
     "Well there won't be. You might as well accept that now. They have no souls." he continued to a disapproving crowd. "You show me one place where it says there will be!" he challenged us.
     I found this wonderful book on the internet. Check it out!
     Never being one to keep my mouth shut, and always ready for a good debate I raised my hand. 
     "Ummmm, Pastor Jim, I know you love good food."
     "Yes Ma'am, I sure do!" he grinned.
     "And you are always talking about that great banqueting table..." I teased.
     "Oh yes, it is going to make anything you have seen on this earth look like junk food!"
     "Then I have to ask...is this banquet going to be vegetarian?" I waited for his response. Hey, it might be and I wouldn't mind a bit. I am all for saving the animals.
     "Oh no," he laughed, "I don't eat that rabbit food! It is going to have steak and lobster, and prime rib and fried chicken...all just the way you like it! And if I get my way we will be able to eat all we want and never feel too full." The smile on his face showed he was already putting his napkin around his neck. 
     "Then Jim, where are you going to get the meat? I mean if I am to believe what you say is true, there are not going to be any animals in Heaven...so where is the meat going to come from?"
     The smile slipped down off his face and he suddenly realized what he had been saying. He began to back peddle and try to figure out how he could make his logic fit.      
     Everyone has their own interpretation of what they read, and Pastor Jim was dedicated to reading and studying God's word...but he wasn't a pet person. For anyone who has ever shared their heart with an animal of any kind knows that God created the animals before mankind...for companionship. God loved animals of every kind, that's why He created them. In Genesis it says man was to eat of the trees and plants, but never said God told him to eat His precious animals. 
     I won't argue vegetarianism vs. eating meat because it is a passionate subject that everyone has a strong opinion in. That isn't the subject here.  But there are clearly certain animals that man has come to love more than others and has domesticated as pets. While we might love to own a bear or a tiger, they were too unpredictable to make a pet. So we watch them and admire their beauty at a distance. Man chose the cow over the horse for food, and fish over reptiles. The thought of eating their beloved dogs or cats is completely unacceptable to our society...while some countries prefer them... and eat monkey brains too! 
     God knew we needed more love. We needed a companion we could tell our secrets to, and that would love us unconditionally.
     People who have shared their love with a pet know the relationship exceeds words. Often we love our pets more than we love other human beings. My dogs were more faithful, forgiving, dedicated, and loving than any man I ever knew. They love me unconditionally, forgive me without question, and were home every night.  When I needed someone to share my feelings with, my beloved dogs were always right by my side. 

     Stevie, my youngest daughter is 21. She has always been introverted and kept her feelings to herself...until she met Deuffenschmirtz.  "Deuffy" as she calls him, is her cross-eyed tuxedo cat. I was playing on craigslist reading the pets section when up comes this crazy looking black and white cat with half of a mustache and crossed eyes. Stevie knew immediately she had to have him! The next day I went and picked him up and it was love at first sight. She carries him around on her shoulder, and he allows her to carry him upside down, or wrapped around her neck, or any way she wants to...as long as she carries him. He reaches up with his little paw and grabs her food and shares it with her. And he sleeps right next to her. He breaks all of the cats' rules of conduct. Boo, my son's black queen of the kingdom, is appalled that he acts so humanly.  She would much prefer he shows his royalty. He has brought her out of herself, and made her come alive. She loves him more than she has ever loved anything or anyone.  He is the first thing she looks for in the morning, and the last one she talks to at night. They are one. They are soul mates. He completes her, as I worry no man ever will.
     Dharma was my son's hamster. He loved her, too. Hamsters only live a couple of years, and she was no exception. One year while he was away at church wilderness camp, Dharma crossed over that rainbow bridge.  We all cried. We missed her so much. Her cage sat next to the television, and her vacancy left a huge void. We packed away her little wheel and all of her tunnels, and vowed never to have another hamster again,  to steal our hearts and run to Heaven with them after only two years.
     Rocky and Murphy were friends most of their lives, We got Rocky on Stevie's 1st birthday...he had the same birthday she did and they celebrated together.  Rocky was a mixture of possibly sheltie, cocker spaniel, and maybe springer spaniel too. He was so devoted to his family. I always knew where he was, usually laying at my feet protecting me. For thirteen years he did that. He never held a grudge when I did stupid things. He always just loved me.  He never ran off, always taking his job as body guard seriously. 
     When we moved to the East Coast Murphy joined us. He was my grandson's dog and we couldn't stand to part with him when it was decided he couldn't keep him anymore. He was a deaf Dalmatian and had a mind of his own. He often ran off and I would worry that we would never see him again. But eventually he would come home, tired and thirsty ready to behave. He usually sniffed out a park, or found his way to the kid's school.  Once, when we lived in Amarillo, Tx. I heard my boss say she hated to see dogs running down the busy 5 lane street in front of our store. I responded by saying I hoped it wasn't a dalmatian...but naturally, it was! There he wandered without a care, in and out of traffic, until he got thirsty. My boss and I ran to try and capture him before he got hurt.  Sherry always carried dog bones in her car, so she brought her car around and grabbed the treats, and I slipped around behind him, knowing he couldn't hear me. Sherry got his attention and I grabbed his collar. Murphy happily jumped in her car, always happy to take a ride. He had no idea how dangerous Western Ave. could be during rush hour, or how close he came to going "home" early. I went home and spoiled him rotten. I never appreciated him more than at that moment. Once again he had sniffed us out!
     I look back to the many furry friends who stole my heart..."Ugly Dog" was a little rat terrier we found in the woods in Oregon one year running with her sister, a cute freckled face spaniel who clearly didn't share the same paternity. As time went by people would say, where's the little ugly one? So "Ugly Dog" it was.  But she found a way around that demeaning moniker... she smiled! She showed her teeth and smiled a beautiful smile every time you asked her to, or if she was happy. Yep, a lot like the doggie dentures commercial! Then there was "Shep" our farm dog who was never afraid of anything until a mighty thunderstorm rocked his world one day. I happened to be looking out the window when I saw fire falling from the sky. It struck a massive oak tree in our front yard, which as luck would have it was where ol Shep was sleeping that day.  The lightening swirled around that old tree and hit the ground, leaving a huge hole right where Shep had been sleeping minutes earlier. He hightailed it to the front porch and I found him cowering under rocking chair, shaking with tears running down his face. I never saw him afraid of anything before that. After that he stayed indoors on cloudy days, and looked for cover if it thundered. There was Damien, my oldest daughter's mini pin who thought he was the biggest dog on the block, and Nirat her big black cat who believed he was a panther as he stalked his prey. I will never forget Trixie, or Sandi,  my first dogs who protected me and allowed me to lean on them as I learned to walk. There were so many others, dogs, cats, birds, fish, and guinea pigs. Each one was part of our family and a piece of our heart. I still miss each of them every day.
     In the last year I have cried with so many friends who have said good-bye to their dearest friends, and I know the pain they are feeling. It can compare with the loss of parents and spouses for many of us. I always send them a copy of the poem "Rainbow Bridge" and stop and pray for them to find comfort in knowing they will see them again in Heaven. I know God brought us the animal to bring us His love in a physical form, because I have seen the healing a pet can bring in it's touch. Doctors have even proven that animals aid in helping ailing patients heal faster, the elderly to respond to their therapy,  and service dogs keep their companions alive. There will be a reward for them in heaven, right next to the throne of God. 
                    This is Edgrrr, our newest family member.

  "Yes, baby, our pets do go to Heaven. Even God needs to feel their loving touch after a rough day of healing, or the heartbreak of man's rejection."

Arwyn was my Granddog. She brought so much love in her short time with us.  She was an angel with four legs.

Ruby was the best friend of my dear friend Dale Cannon for over 14 years. She took a large part of his heart when she left this earth. Ruby traveled to knap-ins with Dale and visited all over the country, and in the winter curled up next to him to keep him warm on those cold Minnesota nights.

This was our family in 2000. Rocky, Murphy and Tara were always faithful to watch over us as we traveled across country. Tara was young there and still had color to her hair (but then so did I!).

This was my Tara shortly before God called her home. She always laid right by my side.

It's been almost 10 years since the boys left us to cross that rainbow bridge, and I still cry at the vacancy they left.

Do you have a story about a beloved friend you would like to remember? Feel free to share your story here, and be sure to post a picture! What are your thoughts...do you agree or disagree with my opinion? I can't imagine Heaven without my furry friends...what about YOU?