Let There Be Light!

I’ve lived in my home for a little more than five years now and I love it. But the place is over 30 years old and so are its light fixtures. “Dim” would be an understatement to describe the lighting in the hall, the kitchen, and the nook.  Dad offered to help me improve and update it.  Dads are much less expensive than professional electricians and he assured me he could take care of this.

We went to a few lighting stores in the city and after about 45 minutes in the last store, I found what I was looking for. I talked to the salesperson and ordered what I wanted.

When the lights came a few weeks later, we got to work. We got everything out of the Dad replaces light in nook April 2017boxes and took out the directions. Dad took down the old fixtures and handed them to me.  I gave him the new lights and their respective covers.  In each case, Dad looked at the new light, examined  the wires in the ceiling, and figured out how they went together so he could install the new ones.

 

 

 

Between the two of us, we got the lights lined up in the hallway where they looked good and threw off adequate lighting.

Dad replaces light in kitchen April 2017

What a difference it makes! The increased light in the hallway makes it much more inviting when people come over and when I come home.  The lights in the nook, and the kitchen both make it easier to function in the kitchen as well as making it more comfortable on the eyes.

It took a couple hours for to take down and put up the five lights Thanks Dad. I couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

 

 

When a Dog Walk Becomes a Ministry

By Ellen Andersen

I’d started down the street, taking Tommy for a walk last week. Five minutes later, I discovered God had more in mind for me than simply a short stroll. I’d walked into a ministry. When Tommy and I were about halfway down the street, my neighbor stepped out of her house and called to me.

“Ellen.” I turned to my right.Jo in front of Betty's house

“Hi Jo.”

“Are you going to Bi-Lo?”

“No. I’m just taking Tommy for a short walk.”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “I was hoping someone was going to Bi-Lo. I need some cream cheese for some pies and a cake I want to make for my grandkids this weekend and it’s too far for me to drive. I can’t drive that far anymore.” (Jo’s in her late eighties and is rather frail.)

I walked about 3 more steps then turned around, deciding it wouldn’t be a big deal to pick up something at the store. I told her I would go for her.

“Oh, great! I just need some cream cheese—four packages. It’s on sale this week. And you know, that milk stuff in the can. I don’t remember what it’s called.

“Evaporated milk?” I suggested.

“Yeah, that. I need two of those. I’m making dessert for when my grandkids come. And I need . . .”

I laughed and said, “You’re going to have to write this stuff down, Jo. I’m not gonna remember it all.”

“Oh sure. I will.” Jo ambled into her house, doing her best to balance with her walker. She found a piece of paper and a pen, and dug out her advertisement with the sales on it. Sure enough, cream cheese was on sale. She put Campbells’ tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup (two each please) along with three or four more items on her list. I had to smile.

Jo took some money out of her purse and handed it to me. “I think this will be enough,” she said. “Do you want more?” I assured her it’d be plenty.

Because she can’t drive more than around the corner, she’s usually cooped up at home.

“Do you want me to come with you? To help you?” she asked. She hoped I’d yes so she could get out of the house, not because she thought I needed help. I declined, telling her I’m not strong enough to help her balance. I could just see the two of us in trouble walking in the parking lot. Puppy dog eyes begged me to take her with me, but safety comes first. I walked Tommy home then drove to the store.

I don’t shop at Bi-Lo so I had no idea where to find things for her. Fortunately, I’m not shy about asking for help. I spotted some people who seemed to know where things were and they pointed me in the right direction. One lady even took me to exactly what I needed a couple aisles down.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived back at Jo’s, groceries in hand. She stood outside, smiling as I pulled up. Jo tried to take a bag from me.

“It’s okay, Jo. I’ve got it.”

“I don’t want it to be too heavy for you” she said.

“Thanks Jo, but it’s not too heavy. Really.”

We walked into her house, put everything on the counter and stuck the cream cheese in the fridge. I handed her a little over six dollars in change. Jo tried to give me a dollar for having gone. “For the gas”, she said. I declined. It was just down the street.

A few days later, Jo spotted me as she headed home from the mailbox. She headed toward me and said, “I made the pie for my grandkids. They really liked it.” She proceeded to tell me about their time together.

It was such a small thing to do, but getting those things for her at the store meant a lot to Jo and she had a great time with her grandkids. Little favors can mean a lot to someone. Even just a mile’s drive to the store.

Thoughtfulness in a Snowstorm

By Ellen Andersen

Everything in New York City was completely opposite of what I was used to. I grew up in the desert in California, with few neighbors in a small town. Most everyone knew each other and were generally friendly, offering a smile if not a personal greeting.  When I moved to New York City for graduate school, the difference in people’s lifestyles took me by surprise.  I was 3,000 miles from home but still in the same country so I didn’t expect such a culture shock.

Suddenly, I lived in a place where no one spoke to anyone else, despite there being millions of other people there. I’d never seen life move so fast.  People were literally running from one place to another, without so much as a quick hello.  No one made eye contact or spoke to each other unless they had planned to meet up somewhere.

Public transportation took us wherever we needed to go and people were packed like sardines on the subway or buses, not saying a word to each other. Perhaps they were focused on their agenda for the day. Or it may have been a way to retreat from the stress of fast-paced life. Whatever the reason, it was a 180 degree turn from what had been normal for me.

One day in my second year, there was a large snowstorm  there that dumped two feet of snow overnight.  blizzard-NYC Small Acts of Kindness blog postIt had been predicted, but the intensity of this one surprised everyone—even the natives.

It was cold, but the sun was shining and reflecting beautifully off the snow. Most businesses had shut down except a few grocery stores.  It seemed that life had come to a standstill, even in the middle of the city.

As I walked down the block, I saw an elderly lady walking with a cane and carrying a bag of groceries. She began to cross Broadway, but had a hard time with all the snow. A younger gentleman saw her, stopped what he was doing, and gently took her hand, helping her across.  He made sure any cars that had braved the weather stopped and let the two of them get to the other side. He demonstrated compassion for someone he didn’t know who needed help. It wasn’t a particularly heroic thing to do, but in the middle of the snow it made a difference to her.

What have you done or witnessed that impacted someone for the better? Share it here so we might all benefit from the experience.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Cash in the Mail

By Ellen Andersen

As a social worker, I enjoyed working with other medical professionals, taking care of people during an illness in the hospital and afterward, in home health. One of my favorite settings, though, was hospice, where I could had the privilege of helping patients and their families adjust to and cope with a terminal illness. There are multiple aspects to it, from legal arrangements to making medical decisions for a person’s care, to the emotions that surround a person who’s sick and their family. I was the one to help them navigate all of it.

I’d just gotten my job a few months earlier, had adjusted to the commute, and had learned my way around the cities we served.

One day I went into work and my boss, Linda, greeted me, saying “Hi Ellen. I have some bad news. We’re closed now.”

“What do you mean we’re closed?” It didn’t make any sense. Medical services don’t “close”.

“The hospital’s decided to close the hospice. They’re going to contract out hospice services with VistaCare.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It’s just a business decision they’ve made. They’ve been talking about what to do with the hospice side of the business for a while now and that’s what they’ve decided.” Shaking my head, I walked to my car, wondering what to do next.

I looked for work steadily for a few months but nothing panned out. One day, when I picked up the mail I found a letter addressed to eLan anDerson, printed money_envelope $20sloppily as a four-year-old would. Eyebrows raised, I opened it. There was no letter or note inside, just two 20 dollar bills. I looked at the envelope again and there was no return address. The postmark was from Los Angeles, about 25 miles from my house. Obviously, the person who sent it didn’t want me to know who they were since I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles.

I suspected it was someone from the singles class at my church. They all knew I’d lost my job and had been praying for me.  I shared my surprise and delight over the gift the following Sunday and mentioned that it had been anonymous. I said I wished I knew who it was so I could thank them. I looked from one person to another but no one gave themselves away. It’s been over 15 years now and I still don’t know who was so generous.

Whoever it was may not have thought of it as much of a sacrifice on their part, but it meant a lot to me. It’s not so much the amount of money they gave, but the fact that they thought of me and wanted to reach out in some way. Even though they couldn’t provide me with another job, they did what they could to show that they cared. That meant a lot. Even if we can’t solve a problem or fix a situation for someone, we can still give of ourselves.  

What have you witnessed where you’ve seen someone selflessly give of themselves?  Perhaps with their time, or talent. Or maybe you’ve been the one to make a difference for someone else and they let you know.  Share it here.

 

Surprise At A Car Repair Garage

I misjudged the entrance to the library so when I turned into the driveway I hit the curb and drove over it. No big deal, I figured. The car still ran fine so I thought nothing of it.  That afternoon, I went to a friend’s house and he saw a bulge in my right front tire.  He was concerned it might soon blow and cause an accident, so I called AAA for roadside assistance to put on my spare tire.

I figured I’d need a new tire since the sidewall had been damaged. I’d just gotten it nine months earlier.

The warranty was good for a year and I hadn’t driven too far. So I knew it’d still be good, but would likely be pro-rated and I’d have to pay 75% of the cost of a new tire, plus labor for mounting and balancing. I estimated the cost at about $100. A lot of money, but I had no choice if I was to be safe on the road. I found my warranty and tucked it in my purse.

The next day I automotive-repair-garagedrove to the nearest auto repair garage, Killian’s Auto Repair, less than five miles from my home. I’d been there several times before and the owner knows me by name.

I walked in and when Steve saw me he smiled and asked what he could do for me. I told him about the mishap I’d had the day before and gave him a copy of my warranty.  He said he’d have his guy take a look at it.

I took a seat, grabbed a cup of coffee, and watched the presidential inauguration with him. After about 45 minutes the car had a new tire and was ready to go. Steve handed me the keys.  I pulled out my checkbook and asked him how much I owed him.  He shook his head and waved his hand.

“Nothing.”

“Really?”

“Nope.”

I thought it would cost $100 and it was free! What a treat. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.  It made me smile that day, thankful for an unexpected blessing.

What surprises have you had that made you smile? Share it with us in the comments section.

Every YES Involves a NO

By Ellen Andersen

So, how are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions now, one week into the year? If you are like many of us, frustration has set in.  Several years ago, I read a devotion by Glynnis Whitwer that I believe goes perfectly with this time of year. I’ve adapted it for today’s post. See what you think.

Maybe you are already behind on your read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan.  Are the numbers on the scale increasing, rather than decreasing?  Did that goal to reduce television watching stop when your favorite show started again?

While we love to set goals, living them out is infinitely more challenging. That’s because every time we set a goal for ourselves, a more appealing alternative is presented.  Just when you decide to diet, someone brings you a plate of brownies they “baked just for you.”  As soon as you decide to get up early and pray, the cold weather makes it much more appealing to stay in bed.  And that decision to stop gossiping gets challenged when some interesting news about your boss finds its way to your inbox.

Every good intention will be met with a challenge at some point. Without a plan, most of us will abandon those intentions, telling ourselves we knew we couldn’t  _________ (fill in the blank) anyway.

This happens because we overlook the fact that every “yes” we say, requires a “no” to something else. Without that understanding, we operate outside of how life works, and underestimate the cost of achieving our goals.

Here’s an example of what I mean. When you say “yes” to reading your Bible every day, you have to say “no” to the morning news or your favorite novel.  If you say “yes” to teaching a small group of women, you’ll need to say “no” to your favorite Tuesday night tv show, plus free time to prepare.

There will always be a sacrifice of something when we desire to move forward in an area of our lives. Goals are exciting.  Possibility of change is alluring.  Sacrifice is hard, but worth it in the big picture of our lives.  In fact, it’s the road Jesus called His followers to walk daily.

The resolutions you set at the beginning of the year have great value if they help you grow into a more disciplined, mature follower of Christ. However, if you feel like you’ve reached a plateau, or hit a dead end, perhaps it’s time to evaluate if you’ve said enough “no’s.”

This year, let’s remove the “New Year’s” label, and reevaluate the goals we’ve set. Let’s recommit to them and consider what we’ll have to sacrifice to make them happen.

I particularly like Glynnis’ statement that “every ‘yes’ requires a ‘no’ [to something else]” I’d never thought about that before. So each New Year’s Resolution requires a sacrifice on our part.

I want to spend my time more intentionally this year. More specifically, I want to focus on preparing for Bible study, and reading.  That means I’ll need to remember those things and focus on them when I have free time, instead of wasting it on mindless activities like computer games.

What are your goals for this year? What will you need to give up in order to achieve them?  Let’s get the conversation going.

Christmas

By Ellen Andersen

I love this time of year. The Christmas season. I think about caroling, getting together with family and friends, Christmas parties, shopping for gifts, special church services where we celebrate Christ having come to live with and ultimately save us from our sins. But I’ve been thinking about other things this year too.

Instead of just thinking about Christmas decorations with Christmas lights, a tree and ornaments and presents underneath just waiting to be unwrapped to surprise their img_1834recipients.  Instead of a manger scene with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by cows, sheep, shepherds and wise men, just waiting for the big moment for Jesus to come into the world I’ve been thinking about what it was really like back then in all likelihood.

Jesus was born in a manger, yes, I know that. Most of us do. But it hadn’t occurred to me that this means he was born in a barn. A BARN, of all places. The cows weren’t lying down and sheep sitting still just outside the stable like they do in our typical manger scenes. They were roaming around, making all the messes and noises that cows and sheep do. Mooo, Baaa, Mooo, Baaa, Mooo, Baaa. Rolling in the mud and shaking it off. Then there were the donkeys that Joseph and Mary rode to get there adding to the choir.

It wasn’t a pretty little place set up just for Mary and Joseph to be surrounded by doctors and nurses to take care of the baby when he was born. A room with sterilized tools, trained doctors who would wash a baby before placing him in clean cloths and then in his mother’s arms. No, it was a barn with hay, straw, dirt and mud. Not exactly the kind of place I’d expect a savior to come into the world. Who thinks like that?

So who thinks like that? GOD does.

Isaiah was right when he spoke of the Lord who said, “My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8)

And Christmas is just the beginning. He has much more in store for our lives. With the way He thinks it’s unpredictable, to say the least.  A little scary since I don’t have any control, and I REALLY like to be in control, or at least think I am . But I trust God since He loves me. And He always does what He says even though we don’t know how He’ll do it or when.

How about you?  What have you witnessed or gone through that God used in a way you never expected?  Share it here.

 

 

Thanksgiving Traditions

grandma-just-before-surgery-dec-2015By Ellen Andersen

Next week is Thanksgiving, a time when we look back over the past year and celebrate  what we’re grateful for. One thing I’m most thankful for is my family. We’ve always gotten together at Grandma’s house.    The family’s changed over the years with the grandkids getting married and having kids.  Now some of the great grandkids are married too.

Still, traditions continue. Everyone brings something for a potluck of everyone’s favorite foods. Turkey (of course), stuffing, cranberry sauce–both canned and homemade (there an on-going debate in my family as to which is the “real” kind). cranberries Then there’s mashed potatoes, an appetizer that always illustrates Aunt Mina’s creativity, rolls, cornbread, fruit salad, hot veggies, deviled eggs, and several pies.  Festivities typically start around noon that day, with people arriving from all over California, where most of my family lives. We travel from South Carolina to be there. It’s a long way, but always worth it, as we only get to see the whole family once a year.

food-spread-for-thxgiving

After a large meal, meal everyone goes for a walk even though it’s getting dark. The cool air helps wake us up,  countering the effects of the tryptophan in the turkey. At least that’s the theory. It works to some extent.

 Charades is a family tradition each year for us. We form two teams (guys vs. girls) and each dessert-at-thanksgivingteam comes up with movies, books, songs, and TV shows for someone on the other team to act out without saying anything or making any noises.  Everyone has up to three minutes for their team to come up with the right answer.  There’s always lots of laughter, teasing, and good-natured competitiveness.  In recent years, we’ve had additional games such as Fish Bowl and a Factoid Game.  Whatever the details, it’s guaranteed to be fun.

So, how about you? What does Thanksgiving mean to you?  How do you celebrate the holiday?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Housewarming Surprise

I’d just bought a new home and while it had a nice floor plan, it needed some TLC in the front. Overgrown bushes hid the house from the street and obscured the view from the kitchen window. mauldin-home-before-taking-out-front-bush Dad and some friends spent quite a bit of time getting rid of some of the bushes. One day around noon, Mom suggested we go over and see how it was coming along. They’d made progress. We went inside and pretty soon a friend of mine from my Bible study drove up.

 

She said Mom had called so she decided to come over to see how things were progressing. After a few more minutes someone else from Bible study showed up.

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Soon more and more people showed up, having planned a surprise housewarming. Some who couldn’t be there even arranged to have gifts delivered on their behalf. I later learned Mom and my friends had planned it all a few months earlier, having made sure I would be there when they came.

 

They’d ordered pizzas for lunch too! I spent the next couple hours talking with good 220friends about my new home and opening their gifts that ranged from toilet paper to hand towels to dishwasher detergent. Flour, sugar, and vanilla (because I love to bake) soup and picnic supplies were among other gifts.

 

It was so thoughtful of them to think of it and plan the surprise for me. It’s wonderful to have friends you trust with personal joys and struggles, who will celebrate exciting news and even surprise you like my friends did that day. It’s times like this that make me realize I’m truly blessed.

Unexpected Sources of Calm

By Ellen Andersen

I was on my way to a meeting shortly before 2:00 p.m. and was getting on the freeway at a very short on-ramp. When I merged with traffic, I heard a crunch. I’d hit someone in a smart car.  She lost control of her car and I did too.  I found myself headed backwards. I turned around and pulled off the road as fast as I could. A second later, I saw a car flip twice and land in the ditch upside down next to the freeway.  It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.  Strangers pulled off the road to help and people were on their cell phones calling 9-1-1.

People ran to the car in the ditch and a few came to check on me. One was a nurse named Sharon who asked if I was all right and offered to stay and help.  Another man came said, “Do you go to Fellowship Greenville?”  I nodded, wondering how he knew that. He said he’d seen the church window sticker.  He asked if I was ok and said he was praying for me.  I figured it was just a nice thing for him to say.  He told me a little later that he was a pastor at a local church and that he knew my pastor well and was good friends with another couple in our church.

upside-down-car

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

 

The man asked if he could call anyone for me. I handed him my cell phone and asked him to call my folks to let them know what had happened. After he gave them the details, he came back to the car and prayed with and for me that God would make me calm and give me peace. He prayed for the other person in the wreck too.

A police officer came over and asked if I was ok and I told him I didn’t know what to do. He had me sit in the car and turn the air conditioner on full blast so I wouldn’t be so hot.  When I asked, he said his name was Steven.  He stayed with me and held my hand for a long time.  I really needed that.

Nothing made the nurse come back, the pastor stop and call my parents and then pray with me. The police officer didn’t have to help me back into my car on a swelteringly hot day to help me cool off and calm down. But they did.  It made a difference in an awful time.