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The Neighbor

The girl sat at home alone; at least without human company, but the family cat was there.

At 10, she had become an expert at faking a sick day. The truth was she didn’t want to go to school. She had always been a bit of a square peg, and now with her family still reeling from a bitter divorce, facing her school friends with their in-tact families seemed a bit too daunting for a Monday. Money was tight for a single mother of four, especially when said mother happened to be employed as a waitress. A day off to care for a sick child was not really an option when you worked for tips.

Her mother reluctantly left her youngest child home alone, knowing there were neighbors next door and across the street the girl could call in case of an emergency.

The girl was enjoying her solitude. She was ordinarily a talkative, outgoing child, but lately wasn’t really feeling that way. She was perfectly content with the company of the television and the family cat, Nicky.

Nicky was another matter. After an expensive series of treatments for feline leukemia, he was finally in remission. He represented the life before her dad announced (on Christmas day, no less) that he was leaving. Nicky was a reminder of a family unbroken – Dad, Mom, sisters, brother, dog and cat. Perhaps that was too much to expect from a cat, but as the girl sat there with the cat purring in her lap, she felt comforted.

That is, until the cat fell from her lap and onto the floor. He began to pant and become limp. Terrified, she did the first thing that came to her mind. She called Mrs. Jones.

The Jones family lived two doors down. Their youngest daughter was friends with the girl’s older sister. They were a good, Christian family who always seemed to be doing something for someone else. Mrs. Jones was one of the kindest, most sincere people that the girl had ever met in her young life. Even though the neighbors obviously knew what was going on in that house, the girl never felt judged or pitied by Mrs. Jones – only loved.

The girl dialed the Jones house, said something incoherent into the phone through her tears and hung up. Mrs. Jones was there in a matter of minutes. She embraced the young girl and told her it was going to be okay. She then calmly wrapped the cat into a towel, and walked with the girl and the cat the short distance to her driveway.

The girl sobbed quietly on the way to the vet. She knew that Nicky would not be making the return ride home in the car. Alas he did not, but Mrs. Jones was there. And somehow that made the ride home much more bearable.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that little girl was me. As I sat at the funeral of Mrs. Jones over 30 years later, I reflected upon how on that day and on countless other days for countless other people, her kindess and love reflected the Love of Christ. She really understood about that kind of love. I am so grateful for people in my life like Mrs. Jones.

The wolf will live with the lamb

I’ve been updating my painting blog lately. Mostly because people keep asking me if I have a website, and if I gave them this one, I’m guessing my phone would pretty much quit ringing. Anyway, I have already scheduled several posts and am working on some more. One of my favorite nurseries is one I did for Grace Presbyterian Church. I painted three rooms, each with a different bible theme. I knew I wanted the infant nursery to have baby animals, so I decided to use Isaiah 11:6. I will post all the pictures next Sunday over on Stuff I Painted.

I must confess, prophetic scripture passages aren’t exactly my strength, and when I read this passage, I knew it would work for what I wanted to do in the nursery space, but I never really understood what the verse meant. It’s actually pretty cool. In the interest of context, here’s Isaiah 11: 1-9:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

I love this scripture because rather than describing Jesus as coming from the Kingdom of David, it uses the more humble description of “the stump of Jesse”. It also tells me that there will come a time when wickedness and evil will be destroyed; that Love really does win.

Feel free to expound on the commentary of this portion of scripture in the comments section. I’d love to read your thoughts on it. Happy Sunday, y’all!

What NOT to give for Valentine’s Day

I would like to state for the record that my dh and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know my anniversary is also in February. We celebrate that. I’m not hating on February 14. Feel free to spend your hard earned money on fattening chocolate, overpriced greeting cards and jewelry, dying flowers and stuffed animals that no one over the age of six should own. Okay, maybe I am hating on it a little bit…

But seriously, as a recovering pack rat, I am vehemently anti-crap. Have you been to Walmart, Target, et. al. the day AFTER Valentine’s Day? It is a virtual wasteland of pink, red and white leftovers that no one needed in the first place. While I am tempted to do so, I will not begin a rant about how there are about a million worthy charities that will suffer because of the economy, and how they could use the money that people will spend on sentimental, sappy, useless items; the recepients of which will keep forever so as not to feel like uncaring, heartless robots. Okay, maybe I’m hating on it A LOT!

Now girlfriends, don’t be mad at me for writing this. You know I’m not a girly-girl. In fact, when it comes to February 14, I’m kind of a guy. Truth be told, I’m not really romantic in the traditional sense of the word. Flowers, candy and jewelry are great if you like that stuff, but I’m a pretty low maintenance chick when it comes to personal, material things. The kind of things that I appreciate are more intangible: offering to take and/or pick up the kids from school or some extracurricular activity, emptying the dishwasher and loading it, picking up donuts on Sunday morning before church as I rush around trying to get ready, getting the kids up and letting me sleep in occasionally on a school day, picking up dinner when it’s obvious I don’t have a clue or a plan for the evening meal. These are all things that my husband does for me on a regular basis. He makes me feel special every day. For me, Valentine’s Day displays of love and appreciation seem forced, superficial and manipulative.

If this day is special for you and your main squeeze, please don’t take offense to my distaste of it. I may be hating on the manipulation behind the holiday and how incredibly depressing and left out it can make single people feel, but I would never hate on genuine displays of love and affection (as long as they are the appropriate and non-creepy variety). And speaking of genuine displays of love and affection, here is a commercial that is the complete opposite of that. It also makes me want to projectile vomit:

Conclusion: You give her a bear = She owes you something in return (wink, wink).

NOTE: For my male readers that think it would be a great idea to forward this post to their wives in lieu of the usual Valentine’s Day gift, I need to remind you of three things:

  1. If February 14 is a special day for her, you might want to indulge her.
  2. The couch is probably a lousy place to spend a Saturday night, and
  3. I’m guessing your lovely wife does not fart then blame it on the dog — there are two sides to every coin.

Angela wrote a post about this too. Check it out.

For more helpful shopping tips for Valentine’s Day, check out my post on The Fellowship of the Traveling Smartypants

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