Category Archives: Compassion

Meet An Old Lady

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An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.

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(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.

What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.

Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??

But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.

“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.

She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.

She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.

The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.

Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.

If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.

Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.

The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.

The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.

Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”

I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become.  I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.

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IMHO

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Women could never be accused of being opinionated.

Co-sleeping or crib sleeping? Cry it out, or soothe to sleep? Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?  Cloth or disposable? Shots or no shots? Home, public, or private school? Lots of kids, or no kids? Stay-at-home mom or work-away-from-home mom? TV or no TV? Skirts only, or pants too? Sugar or no sugar? PTA or no PTA? Makeup or no makeup? Band or athletics? Too much Facebook, not enough Facebook, or no Facebook? Long hair or short hair? Courtship or dating? Kids should have phones, or kids shouldn’t have phones? Vegan, vegetarian or carnivore? Organic or inorganic? College or trade school? Be fit and exercise, or embrace the body you have? 

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Okay, so maybe we DO have a lot of opinions. Like Lady Violet, we think we are never wrong. And IMHO (in my humble opinion) that means a lot of different ways for us to feel superior – or inferior – to one another. I know I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this – and I’m trying to remind myself that in matters of opinion, I need to be more careful with my attitude. (And even in matters that aren’t opinions, but doctrine, I still need to be careful with my attitude toward others!)

We shouldn’t quarrel over opinions (Rom. 14:1). We should put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…forgiving each other,” ( Col. 3:12-17). And we should be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…” (Phil. 2:2-4).

We women need each other. We need to lean on one another, to cry on each other’s shoulders, to laugh together, and to know we aren’t being scrutinized or criticized when our backs are turned. We need to build one another up instead of tearing one another down. We need to be more gentle and less harsh and assertive about our views.

But that’s just my opinion. 🙂

Rooted in Forgiveness

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“Let me tell you something: I am a man. A sob hit me somewhere around my ankles; it came surging upward…I was just bawling, as I hadn’t since I was a baby. ‘Meester Kinte!’ I just felt like I was weeping for all of history’s incredible atrocities against fellowmen, which seems to be mankind’s greatest flaw…” (Alex Haley, describing his journey back to his ancestor’s African village in Roots: The Saga of An American Family200px-Haley_roots

“Abolishing slavery settles the fate for all coming time, not only of the millions in bondage but of unborn millions to come. Shall we stop this bleeding? We must cure ourselves of slavery. This amendment is that cure. Here stepped out upon the world’s stage now with the fate of human dignity upon our hands. Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment.” (Abraham Lincoln, from the movie “Lincoln”)

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“A confession, which…comes too late…It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” (John Newton, former slave trader turned abolitionist) john newton

Last week I finished reading Alex Haley’s saga Roots. Then in Sunday’s sermon, John mentioned the slave-trading captain John Newton, who late in his life penned the words to what we now know as the song “Amazing Grace”. And yesterday, John and I went to see the movie “Lincoln”. Not surprisingly, my mind has been a muddle of questions about how mankind is capable of participating in — and tolerating — the wrongs committed against one another. How could they live with the guilty bloodstains on their souls?

The description of the conditions aboard slave ships is horrific. The separation from home and loved ones; the lack of warmth and nourishment, the rampant disease and widespread filth are conditions that are nearly unimaginable to someone like me who has never experienced true want or mistreatment.

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If my son / husband / father (or any of my loved ones) had been stolen, beaten, shackled, chained, starved, tortured, sold, forced into slavery, and humiliated, I don’t know that I could ever forgive the ones responsible.  Can God forgive them of such?

Could God forgive David of reckless adultery, or of plotting the violent murder of an innocent man? Could God forgive Saul/Paul of his participation in the violence against early Christians? Could God forgive the ones responsible for crucifying His Son, as Jesus asked Him to do? Can God forgive ME?

In the face of his shame David said “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” and “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit,” (Psalm 51). Despite the guilt he must have felt (and the temptation we often feel to deny ourselves forgiveness,) Paul said “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Phil. 3:13-14). John said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

I’m so thankful that anyone – ANYONE – can make the choice to turn from their past, be obedient to God and receive His forgiveness – even the worst slave-trader and murderer. And I’m so thankful that God is not like me, with my unforgiving, stubborn, prideful, grudge-holding tendencies. HIS grace and forgiveness are full and complete:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:8-12

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!

Near to the Brokenhearted

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Today’s tragedy reinforces what is truly important. I do not take for granted that all of my loved ones are safe today. My heart is broken for those parents whose arms are empty tonight.

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“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, oh children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” Psalm 34

Misery

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Today John made us miserable. Wait, I meant to say that he told us HOW to be miserable! (I know a few people who don’t need any help in this area and can be perfectly miserable without any help from me, thank you very much.) Of course his point was to show us how our actions and attitudes may be counter-intuitive (I had to look that one up) to our own happiness. I couldn’t help thinking that many of his points mirrored how I often felt about my size.

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First – he said to think (and talk) about yourself as much as possible. I may not have verbalized it very often, but I thought about my weight a lot. A LOT. Like, every time I passed a mirror, or bent over, or tried to button a pair of pants. That was a lot of brain space I used up thinking about myself and how I looked. Being self-absorbed with my physical appearance took away from my ability to be a whole-hearted servant of God. (And by the way, these are MY experiences…I know not every person who struggles with their weight has the same issues as me.) God wants us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). In a weird way, my weight was a source of negative conceit, which one definition explains as an exaggerated opinion of oneself. Losing some of the “baggage” has freed up that section of my brain that was preoccupied with thoughts of ME.

John also said that I could be miserable if I was suspicious and jealous of everyone. Now, being suspicious isn’t one of my character flaws…but I have to admit to some jealousy. Especially if a person was naturally thin, or was successful at losing weight. I wondered what it was like for those lucky thin girls to slide into a pair of size 8 jeans, or ESPECIALLY to be able to (1) eat a juicy hamburger, (2) dip their fries into ranch dressing and then (3) chow down on a chocolate-drizzled slab of cheesecake without gaining an ounce. Sigh. I guess I still have some work to do on this jealousy thing. But yes – I also used to be jealous of people who managed to lose weight. If I could, I would write the following sentence in a teeny tiny font where you couldn’t read it. I would tell myself “they’ll gain it all back.” The thought of the possibility of my friends hoping I’ll gain my weight again makes me sad. I’ve learned to appreciate even more what God says about love – it is kind and doesn’t envy and doesn’t think evil of others. I am thankful for friends who rejoice when I rejoice and weep when I weep – and I regret the times I have not been a better friend to others in this way. I am resolved to do better.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings. I feel like I should pay a therapist’s fee to whoever reads my blog. But don’t hold your breath.

Food log for the day: 1 ½ cup raisin brain in milk for breakfast; roasted chicken breast and ½ cup pinto beans for lunch; too many of my favorite Buffalo Pretzel chips, spring mix salad with 2 oz chicken breast, boiled egg, 2 tbsp feta cheese, and 2 tsp Olive Garden dressing (FROM SAM’S – GO GET SOME, IT’S YUMMY!) for supper, and a package of maple cream of wheat for a snack. And I confess to eating 6 M&M’s. And a teaspoon of peanut butter.

Pray.

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John prayed for me to lose weight. I guess some women might find that offensive…and I guess if I thought he was asking God to turn me into Angelina Jolie, I might have been offended. (And because he knows what’s good for him, he was careful how he told me.)

I knew he was asking God to help me be healthier. But it caught me a little by surprise, because I tend to think that God has much bigger things to pay attention to than “Carla’s struggle with fat.” The more I thought about it, though, the more comfort I felt. There is no anxiety too small or too large that can’t be given over to Him, because He cares for me and you. I read that in 1 Peter 5, and tell other people about it, and I need to remember that it applies to me, too.

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I put that picture in the middle there to distract you from my food log for the day, because my determination was low, and my struggle was high. For breakfast I had a few cocoa roasted almonds, 2 ounces of Boar’s Head ham, and 1/2 cup of cottage cheese. That’s pretty much the end of the determination. Lunch and supper consisted of two Mexican food places: Garcias and Trudy’s.  Garcia’s = chips. I had two cheese enchiladas and about 1/4 cup each of rice and beans. And chips. At Trudy’s I had two smoked chicken tacos. (Man, I wish I could re-create those smoked chicken tacos at home!) And chips.

I bet even Angelina Jolie wouldn’t be able to resist Garcia’s chips.