Archive for August, 2010

Birthdays, memories and things that make me smile

August 7, 2010

I have a friend who remembers my birthday because it is on the same day as the day her cats: Fred, Monkey and Funny Face, were born.  She celebrates their birthday and remembers me – sometimes even gives me a call and makes a joke out of remembering my birthday because it is the same as Fred, Monkey and Funny Face.

My Dad could never remember birthdays.  He remembered seasons.  He remembered his oldest daughter born in cold weather just before spring; youngest daughter (that would be yours truly) was born in very hot, dog days of summer;  the next offspring – the first son – born at potato planting time; and the last son – must have been born in hot weather because when they brought him home from the hospital the ambulance personnel had wrapped him in a blanket and they shouldn’t have. There was no air conditioning in the ambulance.  Dad’s sister, My Aunt Amie, unwrapped the hot little baby and said he looked like a boiled lobster – very red.  She became rather red herself as her anger simmered over the ignorance of the male ambulance attendants.  She was ready to give them a few choice words that would have seared their ears with some heat.  My baby brother recovered from almost being cooked like a pig in a blanket.  (He turned out to be one handsome dude, nevertheless.)

My mother remembered my birthday by remembering the ordeal of my birth on that day and also that she had waited many years to hold an infant in her arms again. She would recall the joy and never mention the pain.  For maybe twenty or thirty years she called me on my birthday and sang happy birthday to me.  It always sounded like music to my ears!  Then in 2005 she forgot my birthday.  It hurt. It hurt because my mother was losing her memory.  It hurt because I could no longer hear her sweet singing.  It hurt when I visited her a few days later to take care of her for two weeks during eye surgery and she did not know that her caretaker was her second born,  her Geneva Jean.  I had been there a week when I found out that she didn’t know who I was and that she had asked my sister who that nice girl was that had been taking care of her.

That night I cried myself to sleep.

My mother went to heaven in December where she is now forever young and has a clear mind. She probably remembers birthdays again and smiles at the thought of each of her children coming into the world.  But, I miss her happy birthday songs.

Yesterday was my birthday.  Just writing that sentence caused me to smile.  It was a happy day.  I had received a free meal from Furr’s restaurant via email for my birthday.  Friends joined me there to celebrate.  We talked and laughed, and I was showered with love and gifts.  I gave and received hugs.  What a blast!

Last night I thought about when I was a child.  Mother used to tell how every birthday after I blew out the candles on the cake and my family sang “happy birthday”, that I would sing the loudest.  With a huge smile on my face, I would sing, “Happy Birthday to Me!  Happy Birthday to Me!”  I’m just a party animal, what can I say?

Yesterday my oldest son sent me a funny video and posted a funny greeting on my facebook.  “Hippy boidie two ewes and many moles!”   I wrote back that I didn’t need any more moles, thank you very much.  We like to tease each other, son #1 and I.

I arrived home last night to messages on my phone.  Son #2 had called and wished me a happy birthday and hoped that I was out enjoying myself.  I definitely was and it made me happy to hear from him.   My sister had called.  The recorder had captured her mellow alto voice singing “Happy Birthday.”  She left a jolly message as well, and I smiled some more.  More than a smile . . . there is just something that creeps over me that fills me with happiness when someone sings to me.

The last voice I heard was a live call from someone special, The Dragon Slayer, who sang “Happy Birthday” to me and spoke a blessing for me.  It made me want to join Snoopy in the happy dance.

And last but not least, I thought about how God had given me so many birthdays when according to doctors I was not supposed to live past the age of ten.  I had severe heart damage and was an invalid.  My parents had been told to save their money for my funeral.  My expiration date was less than three months.   But God . . . BUT GOD . . . healed me within that next week.

Every birthday is a gift – another year given to me by my wonderful Heavenly Father.   When I reached the milestone birthdays –  you know which ones they are – the ones that make us wince and wonder how we could possibly be getting old so fast; I have not gone into depression at being “so old.”  Instead I’ve been thankful for all the years that I have been given beyond what I was supposed to have lived. That’s quite a gift, wouldn’t you say?

So, yeah, “Happy Birthday to me.  Happy birthday to me.  Happy birthday to me-e-e-eeeeee.  Happy Birthday to me!”

Do you want to join me in the Snoopy happy dance?  Be careful now.  Don’t fall off the dog house roof.

Not just a hug, but so much more . . .

August 2, 2010

When is a hug more than just a hug?   Last month I had some encounters that were amazing and I learned more about a simple hug. It was my monthly speaking engagement at Restore Hope.  I love that name, “Restore Hope”.  People come to Restore Hope who are having a hard time making ends meet. They need food or clothing or help with their rent. They may be out of work, the working poor with not enough money to cover basic essentials, overwhelmed with medical bills or on the verge of being homeless. Whatever their situation, there is a sense of desperation, they need some hope.

No one is required to attend chapel. They are invited to attend.

During my talk I shared that I’m known for my hugs. People at my church sometimes line up for a hug. I shared that a few weeks before I had given a lady a hug at church.  She said, “I just love your hugs!  And that smile!  Those eyes sparkle with joy!”
“You’re looking at someone who has spent a great portion of her life in depression,” I replied.  “I was diagnosed with four different kinds of depression and the joy you now see is because the Lord had healed my heart.”

This lady has known me for about six years, yet, she laughed and said, “I would have never known that you ever suffered from depression!”   We both agreed that our God is amazing.

As I shared with the audience at Restore Hope how Jesus came to heal the broken hearted, to comfort those who grieve, to provide for those who mourn, to take the ashes of our broken, messed up lives and turn them into a thing of beauty, to give us a garment of praise in exchange for depression and despair, [Isaiah 62:1-3] every eye was upon me as they listened intently.

It is the custom at Restore Hope that after the message has been given anyone who wants prayer may come and receive prayer or they may wait until they fill out their paperwork, then fill out a request to see the chaplain and receive prayer later.

“I don’t want prayer, I want one of your hugs,” a tall lady announced.  I gave her a warm hug.  “Oh, that felt so good.  Just what I needed. Thank you!”

To my surprise, no one wanted prayer. They wanted hugs! And so the hugging began.

As each person was hugged, they smiled and thanked me.  I was smiling too. It does a body good to be hugged.  It nourishes the soul. So many of us do not have human touch for days or weeks at a time.  Touch is healing.  I was being blessed as well.

Thinking that I was not needed further I stayed in the chapel and visited with the chaplain assistant.

About ten or fifteen minutes later an elegantly groomed woman came in the chapel doors.  About half way across the room she extended her arms towards me, smiling, and walked briskly towards me.  I instinctively extended my arms towards her and we ended up in a wonderful hug.  Hugging her was like hugging my long lost sister.  (She wasn’t in the audience when I spoke, so this was a mystery.)

This lady (who I will call Linda)  was there with her sister who was going through treatment for cancer.   Linda had lost her high paying job in another state.  Unemployed, she was available to help her sister who was in the last stages of cancer.  Linda’s sister was not able to work and was needing help with her rent.  While we talked, the sister was being seen by the social workers and counselors at Restore Hope.

Linda shared with me the things she had learned through her unemployment about the true value of material things. For too long she had focused on acquiring and spending money.  Now she was on a spiritual journey to get back in a walk with Jesus. She was spending time meditating and praying. She was learning to forgive those who had hurt her.

As she shared, I was able to encourage her and pray with her.  Then the sister came in and Linda said, “This lady will pray for you!”

Sister was very open to prayer.  Sister was very ill and was wearing a mask to protect herself from being infected by others. I asked what she desired me to pray for and as she shared I felt such love and compassion towards her.  After I prayed, each lady reached up and was given a hug.  Not just a shrug of a hug –  we swapped a warm, “holding you like my sister, I want all the best in the world for you,” hug. They had tears in their eyes and thanked me. They were smiling through their tears.

Again, I thought I was through for the day, but as I walked through the lobby where people sat at tables, I was asked for prayer. I gave prayer and hugs.

I left there with my love tank full.  I had received as well as given. Thank you, Lord, for simple hugs.

Sometimes, we need a hug more than we need a prayer.   A hug can be a healing balm to the soul.  Sometimes . . .  a hug restores our hope.