A Tribute to Sears – And Kind People

searsTom and I have a special sentimental place in our hearts for Sears, the American store that has been in business for so long. We both grew up with our moms shopping there. My earliest memories of a department store were at the Sears off Fond du Lac in Milwaukee. We entered the store from the back where the first thing you saw and the first thing you experienced was the sight and aroma of the nut, candy and popcorn in the glass cases. My mom would sometimes get us a small paper bag  with red stripes  of Spanish peanuts, still warm from the lights in the glass case.

The neighborhood was deteriorating quickly around that store that had been in business for so long. It eventually closed, and we started going to the store at the Brookfield Square Mall when I was around 12 or so. From then on, that store was a part of my life.  (And Tom’s life as well, unbenownst to me at the time.) Those walls saw me grow up, saw me expecting my first baby. Charlie’s crib was purchased there in the baby department that was by the escalator. Then I shopped there  with two little boys  (after Sam came along) who wore their Toughskins jeans. I bought many little blue suits and white dress shirts and ties there for Charlie and Sammy, always one size apart. School shoes, school clothes and winter coats, all of it at Sears.  Then along came Will years later. Another crib purchased, and then Mary came. Little girls clothes! Easter dresses, Christmas dresses! Ah. Then Jonathan. We bought his first dress clothes there two days after he arrived from Bulgaria. It was Mother’s Day Sunday the next day, and I have photos of us at Sears with his interpreter who flew him here helping us  out.  An exciting and wonderful day that was! All at Sears.

Then Emmy. The night we found out Emmy was on the way we had wandered through Sears and there was Christmas music on the loudspeakers. We passed through the baby department and I admired the Christmas dresses,  for some reason, I was unusually teary eyed and sentimental. There was a reason for that. Our little girl was on the way, and Sears was the backdrop for the news shortly thereafter.

It is sad to see the decline of Sears in recent years. Tom and I still shop there when we can. We have said often that we hope our Sears at Brookfield Square Mall doesn’t go out of business. When it does, we will take it personally.  There is one portion of the outside of the store on the backside that has escaped change. We frequently comment that it’s comforting to have one small bit of continuity from the past.

So today when I spotted this piece in the Chicago Tribune, it really touched my heart. The author of it, who rose above his difficult childhood in such an amazing way, pays tribute to the Sears store that made such a difference in his life. Of course, it was the people there. But somehow you don’t forget the back drop, the scene, and in his case, he has special reason for that. Thank God for kind people. One kind person can have an impact. Several kind people at once can have  a special kind of impact.  A good thing to remember.

(The author of the piece in the Chicago Tribune is Douglas MacKinnon,  former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir “Rolling Pennies in the Dark”.) Alto a thank-you to the wonderful Facebook page, Pleasant Family Shopping, for posting this where I saw it. That page is a lot of sentimental fun from the past. “Like” it if you have a chance.

Don’t Feed the Beast – Understanding Fuel and Malignant Narcissists

Hope comes with understanding in bad situations. Deep confusion leads to despair. I have received many messages of appreciation for the series I have published in the last few years on the topic of narcissistic abuse and toxic people/relationships. A search on my home page (search window is just under comments in the right hand column)  under those terms will locate them. It is eye-opening and tragic  to hear from so many dealing with these issues.

Holidays can bring up a great deal of turmoil, both for those living in the midst of a malignant narcissist’s emotional, spiritual  (or other) abuse or, those who are attempting to recover from it, even years later. The grief over a shattered ideal of a love that never was, wasted time, and often, failure to properly see things earlier is real. A time of year rife with sentiment and memories can open these wounds afresh.

One of the most painful things to watch are the enablers of malignant narcissists. These people serve to provide  fuel for the perpetrator in harming a target. Their intentions, however pious, and their (willful) ignorance are beside the point. No malignant narc can operate without gas in his or her tank to run the engine of emotional and spiritual abuse.  It’s important to understand the fuel and who is providing it in these situations. This is the subject of my latest article, linked here.

Additionally, a good  article by another (and the comments below it) linked here, describes the difference between unconditional love and the toxic variety in these situations. It is crucial to understand this.  It is easy to miss it when your heart and soul are involved with someone.

The latest article I have written  is relevant to all, because even if you have not faced this situation personally, others around you have and are. You don’t want to be one of those operating the fuel pump for evil.  Nobody should want to be a tool in the destruction of others.

apollyon

On Thanksgiving 2016

Will recorded this traditional Thanksgiving hymn a couple of years ago. I thought I’d post it again this Thanksgiving. To American readers, have a wonderful day of thanks with friends and loved ones!

 

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

come-ye-thankful-title

Will Goes Russian

Yesterday, our 20-year-old son Will played at a recital at Wheaton College. He played the Third Movement from Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Dr. Karin Edwards, his teacher, on the accompaniment piano. This is the last 4 minutes of the movement (it is 14 minutes long total.) If anyone would like to see the whole thing, I will post the other 2 segments in the comment section.  A friend of his took this video from the balcony. The video isn’t sharp, but the sound is good!

We heard this piece develop beginning last summer when Will decided to learn it after hearing the Chicago Symphony perform this at Wheaton with a Russian pianist. When Will decides to do something, all you can do is get out of the way. He would finish with his landscaping job where he worked hard all day, and then he would head straight to a church that let him use their grand piano to practice. He would return home at 11pm sometimes, not even having eaten dinner.

What I admire most in our son is his dogged tenacity and his work ethic. I have learned things watching him. This is a tremendously difficult piece of music. At times, it seemed like it would conquer him. But he kept at it, and ultimately, conquered it. That’s the spirit we all need. Never give up. Tomorrow comes the music!   +Soli Deo Gloria+

House with the Yellow Door

20161117_100215Tom has a tradition of planting trees at our homes (we have lived in six in 21 years.) He also has had a tradition of painting our doors a warm red color. The red was inviting, I think.  At our house in South Carolina, he also painted the shutters to match. The shutters had been a dull gray color, and it was a perfect color change for curb appeal.

At our snug ranch house where we moved last year, Tom is getting around to various projects, including putting up shutters a few weeks ago (a good improvement) and painting the bland, white front door. We were going to use red again, but Tom unexpectedly showed me a yellow color on a paint card. Against the white-ish brick on the front of the house, it looked cheerful and bright. So we now have a yellow door.

Every time I pull up to the house, it makes me smile. Along with the field stone borders he put around the little pines he planted and the same border under the Magnolia tree, it makes for a neat front yard.

We have such nice neighbors here. Emily is dear friends with our nearest neighbors whose little granddaughter comes over to play, in addition to the family on the other block who are friendly and helpful. Then there is the lady across the street who comes over with her little dachshund she adopted. Each day she comes by after school for Emily (as she did in the summer), and they take the little dog for a walk. I think Emily is good company for the lady and the dog, once very shy,  is warming up.

By contrast, the political scene has never been uglier in our country. Social media is filled with the carnage. I read the news and try to digest what is going on and end up depressed and discouraged. Whichever way the election would have gone, this was a guaranteed scenario with great anger on one side or the other. In spite of victory laps from political conservatives, I remain convinced this nation is in terrible peril. There are no political answers in this divided country, ultimately. I believe that more than ever. The answer is spiritual, but nobody is interested in that subject at present.  They await miracles from the new political messiah. We will see.

My news about our cheery yellow door isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I thought of it as a metaphor in these dark times. As I have said before, life is really lived in the micro sphere of every day things and people. If Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump, we would still get up every morning and do the little things that make up our lives. The little dachshund would still live across the street with her humans, Emily would still be found talking to the neighbors and making new friends all the time, and I would still spend my days making a home for my family as best I can.

I have learned that to be happy, we have to make a choice to be that way. There is a great deal of evil in the world, more now than ever.  We have all had wounds and hurt from that evil in our lives, some more than others. The losses evil people can cause are undeniable. Among so-called Christians, I am sorry to say that indifference, coldness and brutality are no less prevalent. Those perpetrating it and those who watch silently as enablers seem to go from strength to strength while their victims long for things to be made right. But, having said that, happiness and cheerfulness is still a choice. This is the only life we have, the one God gave us. I believe God does see the injustice and the evil, and in His time, He will vindicate, He will deal with those who have so disregarded His commands to love. Meanwhile, we are called to live in the light.

So don’t hesitate to “paint your door yellow.” Or to put it another way, smile just because, be thankful for what you have, and do a little happy dance, if nothing else, in defiance of the joy killers who seem to so populate the earth these days. I do that. I am home alone a great deal. I put on music sometimes when I am down. My kitchen has a big slippery, laminate  floor, and Em and I do our own dances in our socks until we laugh ourselves silly. Last night, we listened to Sleigh Ride and several other Christmas songs (I know, I know, it isn’t Thanksgiving yet.)  Whatever you do, don’t give in to the darkness. God is the author of joy, not despair. God is in His heaven still. By looking up and not around us, we can remember that best.

Morning Song

My songbird was up early and cheered my heart today. This is what she sang out in the kitchen in the first stanza. (She’s learning this at school.)  There is good counsel in this hymn, written in 1734, Stanza 3 is particularly fitting today with all the fear and tumult on the political scene in our country.

With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.

Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast every care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.

With the Savior at your side,
Foes need not alarm you;
In his promises confide,
And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose
In the mighty master,
Who in wisdom truly knows
How to stem disaster.

If your task by thus begun
With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run,
Toward the promise pressing.
Good will follow every where
While you here must wander.
You at last the joy will share
In the mansions yonder.

Hymn # 483
Lutheran Worship
Author: Peter Frank
Tune: Fang Dein Werk
1st Published in: 1734

songbird

Refuge in the God of Jacob

An Armenian- Russian painter captured waves on his canvases like none other.  These depictions of powerful, translucent waves are beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and the ships in distress add poignancy to the paintings of Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky .  See some of them here at MyModernMet.com

The ships caught in the terrible storms the artist depicted reminded me of the Navy hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save. What a metaphor these scenes are for our country right now, and how appropriate the hymn. We are in deep peril. America, a country that has been a  rich  recipient of grace and favor from Divine hands, has mocked God for too long. The results all around us, as we can see, are catastrophic.  Those who put their trust in God alone  will find refuge from the storm.  There is no other safe place.

Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge

Cheerful Guy

cheerful2Once in a while I treat Emily to the breakfast sandwiches she loves at a local McDonald’s. (I am making quite a confession here!) On  a school morning, if we leave by 7am, we have plenty of time to sit in the parking lot while she munches away and we talk.

There’s a middle-aged man  who works in the drive-through who is there every time on that shift. We sometimes get him on the speaker when we order and, he’s there  either in the money window or the pick-up window. Emily always notices. “Mom, he’s always so cheerful.” He is. He  comes across always as professional, courteous and warm sounding. That is a rare thing in the service industry. So he stood out, even to my young daughter.

Today was one of our drive-through mornings and there he was.  As I took the bag, I told him my daughter calls him “the cheerful guy.” His face broke out in a huge smile. “Well, thank you, that means a lot!” he said.

People like him stand out, because there’s anger everywhere right now, and it’s catching. I feel it catching hold of me thanks to the constant drum beat of terrible things that frankly, we can do little about.  Yes, we are in bad times as a country, but that’s why when you find a cheerful person in your small part of the world, or somebody who smiles when they don’t have to,  who treats you kindly, they shine like a bright light.

It isn’t easy to be cheerful. I think of the man in the drive-through and having to deal with the public all the time. People can be really ugly. Really ugly. But he somehow manages to come across as cheerful anyway.

Here’s to all the cheerful guys and gals who do their best at their jobs, whatever they may be, and treat others well. Whatever your employment, caring about excellence and caring about people is an awesome and rare trait to have. You are a blessing, and you are noticed!

(As a P.S.,  letting people know that you appreciate their cheerfulness may brighten their day. You just never know!)

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22