Fall Days

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Fall in the Alps, more specifically in Vizille, France, in 2015

It’s been a busy few months since I last wrote. I haven’t quite figured out how being a mom and a blogger work together particularly with a snuggle bug baby. 😉 I’m only writing now because she’s finally settled down for a nap in her bed. Although I hear it all the time to sleep when she does, I needed a little quiet on the couch alone doing some writing.

Motherhood seems to have settled in much as fall seems to finally be settling in here in Middle Tennessee. I often still feel in awe that I’m a mom. Other times, I’m sleepily trying to talk to my husband while we’re both sleep deprived from a fussy, hungry, growing, teething baby and understand somewhat what other moms call “the fog”. Our little darlin’ is as cute as she can be and quite attentive to all that’s going on around her. As several have noted, she has quite the observant, inquisitive stare, particularly when she meets a new person. She’s sitting up, trying to figure out how to crawl, and putting everything she can grab into her mouth. Her giggles and smiles bring us so much joy and light, I’ve begun to wonder how we ever lived without her.

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Playing with her teddy bear

Everyone tells me that it goes by so fast. They mention how theirs are all grown, and it feels like just yesterday when they were as small as our little one. I smile and nod and figure I’ll one day say the same when our little girl is grown and off on her own. My Granny told me on the phone about this time last year that you’re always a mom, it never leaves you, even when your oldest is in his sixties. She was referring to my dad and said that when he was a baby, she used to hold him up in the car window, so people they passed could see the cutest baby that ever was. I feel much the same way about our little girl and know I share that feeling with mothers before me and all around me.

Fall, in particular, brings back a lot of memories for me from times both abroad and in some of the other places I’ve lived. It’s this time of year when I miss seeing the trees changing in the Alps and miss strolls in Happy Hollow Park up in Indiana. I also think of a beautiful October walk with George when we were still dating. What will I remember from these days of early motherhood in the fall? Oh, I’m thinking of chilly, long walks with George pushing the stroller as leaves stick to the wheels on the paved trails in the park. I’m thinking of our baby staring in wonder up at the trees and turning her head to hear the birds singing and flying about. I’ll remember our trip to Lake Tahoe in early October where trying to count how many shades of blue, gray, and green one could see on the lake seemed nearly impossible and how sweet it was to have some walks hand in hand alone with my husband. Perhaps it’s the smells and colors of fall which make it so perfect for making memories.

I think I hear the baby stirring. I better end for now, but tell me, what things do you think of when you think of fall?

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A Little Nose and Little Fingers and Toes: Reflections on Becoming a Mother

It’s been a little over a month since our little one made her appearance. How does time pass by so quickly and so slowly at the same time? She’s growing and changing as little babies tend to do. She’s smiling more and trying to coo as we talk to her and make eye contact. How beautiful it is to have a baby.

Although the birth was much more challenging and difficult than George and I had anticipated even with all of our preparation, that moment of finally holding her and looking into her eyes for the first time was one of the most precious moments of my life. She was so alert and looking around like she was trying to take it all in. I felt so relieved to finally be holding her after 33 hours of labor. I had reached a point in labor after hearing a newborn cry down the hall that I began to wonder if my baby would ever come, if the pain would ever end. It was still a while until she finally came, but I’m thankful God gave me strength to endure. I’m also thankful for my wonderful husband who coached me through it all and helped me feel confident that I could do this. He’s continued to care for us both in the weeks which have followed. Our little girl sure does love her daddy and will often stop fussing as soon as he picks her up and starts talking to her.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. I even dressed up as a mom in kindergarten when we had a “Dress As What You Want to Be When You Grow Up” day. When I did grow up, I struggled with being single as I saw others around me getting married and starting families. I wasn’t sure if it would be God’s will to be a wife and mother, and I had to learn to trust He knew best. All along He was writing a beautiful story and continues to do so while teaching me through it all.

It’s been two years of such big though wonderful changes that sometimes it feels overwhelming. I remember feeling especially overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a mother knowing how important a parent’s role is in shaping a little person’s life as they grow up. I’d just become a wife and now, I was a mother-to-be. How would we know how to raise a little one? The grad student in me wanted to do all the research and read all of the books, but I knew that though I’d find good tips, none of them would tell me what I wanted to know because I need to know who my child is and how best to raise her. God knows best, and He’s given us a sweet little girl to love and raise. If we seek Him, He will show us the way.

There have been some rough times when baby blues have crept in, and I’ve not been sure if I could do this. This especially happens when she’s fussing, and I don’t know what’s wrong. Then, she looks up at me and grins and coos showing her love in her little baby way, and I relax and realize I need to just take it one day at a time. She’s growing and changing and experiencing a lot of firsts, and I know she’ll grow up fast. It’s a sweet though challenging time, and I do cherish her littleness though I often yawn wishing I could also get more sleep.

I can’t say I know much yet about being a mom, but I’ve realized, at the moment, a lot of it just involves love as we care for our little newborn. I began life with George with a new last name to get used to, and now, we have the sweet blessing of getting used to our new names: “Mommy and Daddy”.

Little Funny Things about Life Among the French

As of today, I’ve been here two months. What a crazy two months it’s been too! Wow! I have this week off for vacation. Yay! So, I’m enjoying not doing too much other than getting caught up on stuff though I may take a day trip here and there.

Here’s my next installment of ongoing impressions and observations from life among the French.

(1) BYOB as in….Bring Your Own Bag.

100_1608If you’ve shopped at Aldi in the U.S., you’ve probably already had experience with this. I’m not completely opposed to the idea of bringing your own bags, but it does make for a bit of a marathon at check out. You quickly unload all of your stuff onto the conveyor belt, and then you run (read “speed walk”) to the other end as it’s coming down the little ramp next to the the cash register and start trying to bag your groceries as quickly and efficiently as possible. Then, time’s up when the cashier tells you your total. I’m usually juggling putting stuff in the bag while counting out the needed amount of cash. Sometimes the cashier has had pity on me and has helped, but I am becoming more efficient at this “presentation of, paying for, and bagging up” process of getting groceries. I’ll be a pro by the time I get back to the States! Though the only place this is really a needed skill is at Aldi. If you forget to bring a bag, some small stores will give you a small plastic bag which usually includes some sort of admonition written on it to the effect of “Think of the planet and remember to bring a reusable bag, Moron”. Not those words exactly, but that’s pretty much the gist. Seeing that I reuse those plastic bags quite a bit anyway, I don’t feel guilty about it at all. The bigger stores will require you to buy a bag unless you’re willing to carry your purchases yourself. I don’t mind it too much since these reusable bags are more sturdy and easier to clean than the fabric ones I’ve seen used in the U.S. I just hate having to remember to bring them. The social security/health insurance people were kind to give me a bag. This was probably more of a “forgive us, but it’s going to take forever to process everything” sort of consolation gift, but it is a nice bag. Free advertising if I ever saw it, but I do like the Velcro on the inside of it.

(2) A separated bathroom

French bathroomIn France though maybe it is a European thing (I need to travel more to investigate) the toilet is in its own separate room away from the sink and the bath/shower. This seems rather foreign to the American mind and yes, even not as hygienic, since one is more inclined not to wash one’s hands after doing one’s business because one has to walk over to the other end of the apartment to find the soap and water. Though the French disagree in saying that it is better to keep all the germs from the toilet in a room by themselves with the toilet. They may have a point there since I’ve read that you should never have your toothbrush sitting on a counter anywhere near a toilet due to the germs that are floating around in the air after the toilet is flushed. In any case, these two photos are examples of what it looks like in the apartment where I live. I’m sure, you didn’t quite come to this blog looking for details on such an “interesting topic”, but it is definitely a big difference for an American living among the French. By the way, I love Caroline’s choice in shower curtain. It makes shower time much more cheerful and bright. Just don’t tell that to the pre-coffee Stacey who’s usually wishing there was a switch to turn off all that colorful stimulation early in the morning. 😉

(3) Poles, poles, poles everywhere!

100_1616I have to get used to this every time I return to Europe. You have to pay attention because sometimes these poles are marking where the sidewalk is, where it ends, and sometimes where there is a street crossing the sidewalks. I nearly got hit a couple of times after first arriving as it is not always clearly marked on the smaller streets. To me, the poles seem a tad excessive sometimes. Nearly like we’re cattle being herded in particular direction by the all-knowing higher-ups who placed them there. This particular pole pictured above is just one by itself alerting the person walking that there are trams coming in either direction. Usually, if you look down a street, there are lines of poles on either side of the street. The style of the poles vary too. Sometimes they look like stumps, gates, upside down bowls, white barrels, clowns (not really). etc.

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Though come to think of it, I think Purdue just installed an iron fence along Northwestern in front of the engineering buildings. I suppose, it’s somewhat similar to that.

(4) No dryers.

100_1571“Bring out…..the rack!” That’s the quote from the Monty Python skit which always comes to mind when it’s time to wash clothes. Today being an exception, I seem to always choose days that are rainy to wash clothes which makes it harder to dry them. I’ve been told that the French in general don’t have clothes dryers because it is considered a waste of energy. I really do miss the convenience and the comfort of having fresh out of the dryer clothes. There are some people who do have dryers, just not the vast majority. If you go to a laundry mat here, you’ll also see these big contraptions that you could literally climb in, and if you’re short enough, maybe even stand in which will dry your clothes. I’ve also been rather amused that the washer machine itself on top of taking about two hours or more to wash a load of clothes, sounds like it’s about to lift off and go into orbit when it’s in its wringing cycle. “Transport of Stacey’s unmentionables to the moon in 3…2….1….”

(5) Tex-Mex? Really, France?

100_1638I’ve been rather amused to experience what seems to be a fascination for Texas and “Mexican food”. Believe me, I get much more of a reaction from saying that I’m from Texas than from saying that I live in Indiana. “Texas!? Tu as des cowboys et des lassos???” are some of the most frequent questions I get. Actually, one of the international sections in a store included “Tex-Mex” instead of the typical U.S. stuff I would have expected. I don’t get it though. “Old El Paso” is not that great of a brand in the Texan’s mind if you’re wanting to experience the “vrai” Tex-Mex. But then, making one’s own taco powder isn’t easy either as finding chili powder that has a kick to it is a little bit more of a challenge than I was counting on it being. Seeing a Tex-Mex restaurant on the other side of the river had me laughing thinking of how profitable it might be for someone to actually try to open an authentic Mexican restaurant here. In reality, it would probably be difficult to find the necessary ingredients, so perhaps it wouldn’t be as profitable. I’m also not sure if the French would be as enamored with the real stuff. I mean, we probably mix ingredients and cook things in such a way that might be detrimental to the French idea of “haute cuisine”. I could be wrong. I mean, you should see how packed McDonald’s can be here which means that at least a portion of the population is willing to lower their standards for a meal here and there at least.

There was one thing they got right though in this store. I walked just a little past the “Old El Paso” section and saw what is the favorite drink of most Texans:

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A little on the expensive side with it being over a euro per can, but it was sitting there all the same. Personally, I don’t drink carbonated anything anymore, but it was comforting to see this. It felt sort of like a little wave and howdy-do from home. Now, I wonder how the French would react to a Dublin Dr. Pepper? 😉

The next installments in this topic will include more little things that I find rather amusing, interesting, fascinating, or just plain strange in my continuing adventures. Stay tuned!

Little Fun/Funny Things about Everyday Life in France

It’s been quite a week. I won’t go into all the details here, but I sometimes feel like I have the Midas touch in reverse: instead of everything I touch turning to gold, it ties itself up in a knot and becomes as complicated as possible. I do realize it could be so much worse, so I try to count my blessings! In order to keep some measure of sanity in the midst of the frustration, I love to find little things that I find peculiar or just rather funny that I’ve had to become accustomed to while living here this first month. I’m hoping to write several of these kind of posts during my time here especially as I’m working on a project to develop more culturally centered lessons for my students back home.

(1) Capitalized Last Names

100_1561Probably due to my previous relatively short stays and not having to deal too much with paperwork, I’d never noticed this before. In France, they always capitalize last names. For example, instead of a name being just Laura Smith, in France it would be Laura SMITH or SMITH Laura. In my own culture, putting something in all caps often signifies yelling, so I immediately think of someone saying the first name in a normal voice and then shouting the last name. So, my keys to all the doors I need to get into at school have my name on them, and yes, I nearly laugh every time I look at them because I still read my name in my head with a shouting voice. I’ll just not mention how I have to keep from laughing every time I read names of professors on doors in the hallway. 😀

(2) Doorknobs (or the lack thereof)

I do realize that every apartment and house is different. The doors at school are not like this, but at the apartment where I reside, the doorknob to my room seems straight out of the 1950s. I like it though it is rather loose and having a key sticking out of the door on the other side is a little bothersome. I’m not quite sure why it’s that way, but I’m not too worried about getting locked in. At least, I try not to think about it too much. o_O During my jet lagged nights when I couldn’t sleep, I would sometimes contemplate how I’d escape if someone sinister locked me in my room. Climbing out the window seemed to be my only option which would not be a fun option either due to being on the sixth floor. I digress though. The other funny thing in the apartment is that to open the closets in the hallway or the pantry in the kitchen, there aren’t any doorknobs. One just turns the key sticking out of the keyhole to open the door. The door to the apartment is similar. There is no doorknob on the door, only a keyhole. You keep turning the key to unlock the door and then use the key as the doorknob. Strange, I know! I had an office door somewhat like that once though it did still have a doorknob.

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The doorknob to my room

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(3) Happy Juice

There are several things I love about France and food in France. However, there is one kind of juice in particular that just makes me so happy in addition to coffee (Yes, I just included coffee as a juice because it is ‘life juju’. Questions, class? No? Good! We’ll continue): strawberry juice!!!! I found a jar of it at the store last week and didn’t buy it because I really just needed to get orange juice and not splurge too much on other stuff. However, after a hard week last week, I decided to grab a jar when I went by the store today to stock up on food for the week. I had a skip in my step on the way home, I was so happy! I love, love, LOVE this delicious goodness in a jar!

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(4) Cooking Struggles

One of my dinners from the other night: zucchini, rice, and lemon oregano chicken.

One of my dinners from the other night: zucchini, rice, and lemon oregano chicken.

I’m in France, the land known for its culinary tastes and habits. However, I have few French culinary skills. I’m not saying this won’t change as I’ve been toying with the idea of looking up cooking classes here. I’ll have to see if I can find a reasonable price for one maybe once I get life a little more stabilized. The trouble has been that the recipes that I’m used to making at home don’t always work as well here. For one, not all of the ingredients are the same as one can find in a store at home. I have found a few things to make and have been sticking to those for the moment. Rice is a big part of my diet right now. 😉 I’m in France though, so I would like to benefit from ingredients that I can’t find very easily in the States like crĂȘme fraĂźche. I’ve been ruminating about ways that I could find new recipes to try. I still haven’t tried lighting the oven yet, but I’m determined to try to start using it soon. I came to the conclusion that I should just get a French cookbook and use that as my starting point. Hopefully, it will also provide me with some courage to try lighting the oven too….

100_1565On Saturday afternoon, I needed a break from working on planning lessons and decided that a stroll around town would be just the thing I needed to clear my head. I didn’t quite count on how many people would be out and about on a Saturday, but I walked through a few small streets and poked my head into a couple of bookstores. In one of them, I found a few small books with short, easy, and cheap recipes using ingredients I see quite frequently in the store. I bought this one and am hoping maybe on Thursday or Friday to try one of the recipes in the book as a reward for getting through the first week of my full load of classes.

 (5) English Words in French Advertisements

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I do apologize for the reflection in this particular photo. This is one of the advertisements at some of the tram stops. This is just one of several advertisements I’ve seen that use English as part of its motto. I have no idea how good this candy actually is, but it promises in a mixture of languages to keep you on the happy side of life. Maybe I should grab a bag and report on whether it does indeed help me “Prendre la vie cĂŽtĂ© HAPPY”. 😉

More commentary on little things from everyday life in France to come…

Hand in Hand with Jesus

My younger brother and I were recently on a long, fun road trip. We tried to keep a variety of music playing as singing and humming our favorite hymns and songs from musicals usually helps keep us awake and in a cheerful mood (fatigue often plays a big role in our little sibling arguments). As we drove through the mountains of western Pennsylvania, Jesse popped in a CD of hymns recorded at a singing school we have both attended in the past. The hymn “Hand in Hand with Jesus” came on as we went around curves and descended into valleys. I hummed along to the alto as it brought back memories of singing the chorus of this song with friends as a child. How simple life had seemed then.

I sighed thinking of the simple words of the song and realized how often I really do mess up in this area of my life. I’m much like the toddler who will be holding a parent’s hand until she sees something interesting and then wants to let go to run investigate. I have found that sometimes my Heavenly Father does let go long enough for me to learn that He is worth far more than the things of this world no matter how shiny and appealing they seem, while at other times He strongly holds my hand and won’t let go His grasp as I tug and pull wanting to go run see what all the fuss is about. I don’t always understand and in my immature lamb state of mind, I may pout wondering why He won’t let me go look. Sometimes He reveals to me later how He protected me and sometimes He doesn’t reveal why which is all part of the ongoing lesson of learning to place trust in Him above understanding my circumstances.

I felt convicted as I sat there watching the breath-taking scenery fly by and gazed at the winding road before me. I live a busy life, way too busy of a life. I find myself longing for quiet and keep promising myself that one day I’ll be past this and then can sit down and breathe. However, I’m learning how unrealistic that idea is. Quiet and a state of not being busy are not going to be the themes of my life anytime soon. True, I am doing better about making time to just rest and seek sanctuary from it all, but it’s only a small fraction of the time. If I want to truly walk hand in hand with Jesus each day and seek that true peace and quiet only found in Him, I have to make Him my priority now. This is where I struggle because I want Jesus to be my first priority, but looking at my life right now in how I put my schedule together does not necessarily reflect that desire.

Why, oh why am I so often timid about sharing my faith? I started humming the song “Ashamed of Jesus” yesterday and felt convicted knowing that just the day before I had been afraid to say a blessing over my meal in front of others. I struggle in these areas because I am weak. Each sermon I have heard lately and even providentially the Scriptures I frequently see quoted keep pointing me to Christ and convicting me. I am not strong because I’m not properly seeking His nourishment first thing each day and clinging to Him in everyday life.

“Hand in hand we walk each day, Hand in hand along the way; Walking thus, I cannot stray, Hand in hand with Jesus.”

By His grace, I want to do better each day. There is a reason He tells us in the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 46 to “Be still, and know that I am God” since being still is not our natural inclination as dumb sheep who are so easily lured away from the Shepherd. I hear Him whispering to me to be still and trust Him through reading and hearing the preaching of His Word. I need to listen.

A simple chorus of a song that can be easily memorized by a child can so very often make a profound impression when the Spirit brings it back to mind when that child becomes an adult. May we all recommit our lives to Him and walk hand in hand with Him each day.

30 Days of Thankfulness Concluded

So, as I’m not too surprised happened, I became so busy that I never finished posting on here although I did post on FB. Here’s the last few days that appeared in my Facebook Status:

Day 16: I’m thankful for my dear church Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church. The Lord really blessed me in leading me to them after moving up here. So thankful for the dear members that have made me feel so welcome and took this college kid in like family from day one. I’m thankful for the Word that is preached each Sunday and for the fellowship we have together.

Day 17: I’m thankful for warm clothing on an insanely cold day. I’m also thankful that Mallory Malibu survived getting out for the sake of teaching French since I teach in a couple of places off campus on Mondays. Thankfully, the roads were clear. I hate driving in this stuff, but this Texan has definitely come a long way in winter driving after moving up here. I miss having school cancelled for an inch of snow though…

Day 18: I am thankful to have a warm place to come home to after a long frigid day.

Day 19: I am SO thankful to have gotten a thesis misunderstanding cleared up this morning. Let’s just say the colors, music, and dancing little people have returned to my little grad school world after it had seemed quite dark, gray, and sad last night. Now, to hurry up and finish this paperwork and get this thesis up and running officially!

Day 20: Thankful for food even if tonight’s experiment with a banana pancake recipe was an absolute failure. I have my own recipe, but thought I’d try someone else’s variation. I now have deep fried banana oatmeal mush…stuff. Oh, well, it’s edible at least. I then decided to put the rest of the batter in a bread pan and “bake” it. However, turning on the oven resulted in somehow breaking the control panel on the oven. That’s umm…unfortunately not the first thing I’ve broken this week. However, I’ll be thankful for my banana mush….stuff, the ability to write a plea to maintenance, and that these things are replaceable. *continues munching on banana…stuff*

Day 21: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19 I am thankful that during the past 5 months especially God has made this verse more real to me. I have a tendency to passively believe something, but it is often not until I reach rock bottom of what I can do by my own strength that I realize just how much I need to depend on and trust God.

Day 22: I am thankful for closed doors though they are often frustrating to deal with when one is looking for the right path to take. I don’t understand fully why some doors have been closed in the past. However, it is a comfort to be able to trust in God’s sovereignty and to know deep within oneself that God knows best.

Day 23: I am thankful for rainy days. After experiencing some severe droughts in Texas, I always still get excited to see God’s mercy in sending rain even now that I live in an area that gets regular rainfall.

Day 24 (late): I am thankful for the passion and love of the French language that the Lord has given me. If it wasn’t for His giving me this knowledge and ability to learn and continue learning another language, I definitely would have given up long ago. French has definitely knocked me down more than once and has been quite a lesson in perseverance and in humility. Nothing is more humbling than trying to express yourself in another language which often ends up sounding like a toddler trying to be eloquent. I’m thankful for the doors this language has opened, the compassion I’ve been given for other language learners, the dear friends I have made through this language, the food I’ve been able to try, and the many adventures it has taken me on. {Now, I need to post this in my office for those days when my frustration hits the “Why don’t the French just speak English!?” level. }

Day 25: I am thankful that my students got to try crĂȘpes for the first time today and that I took a break to go see a movie before checking my email this afternoon. Yet another thesis hurdle to jump through, but at least I had the opportunity to get away from the stress and do something fun for a couple of hours. The kids loved the crĂȘpes too! Maybe I’ll have them convinced to go to France based on the food alone by the end of the semester.

Day 26: I am thankful for a very special friend whose birthday is today. I’m so glad we discovered a few years ago over a couple of cups of coffee and a long chat what kindred spirits we were.

Day 27 (late): I am thankful for the dear Capehart family who took me in and made me feel at home on Thanksgiving. I’ve enjoyed many nerdy conversations, learning new games, laughing, drinking super strong coffee, watching movies, relaxing, dancing in the kitchen, and eating great food, but most of all I’ve enjoyed feeling loved, so very happy, and thankful.

Day 28 (late….again ): I am thankful for the many people in my life who have often pushed me out of the “stress box”so to speak that I tend to lock myself in in the midst of the chaos of school and have gotten me to leave the books and go have some fun. There are many of you who’ve done that both recently (like last night) and in the past and even if I did whine about papers needing to be written and books to be read, all of you have insisted that I come out and have fun before I go insane. Thank you! You know who you are, and I’m glad to have friends like you!

Day 29: I’m thankful for my parents: Sam and Mary Latimer. I’m thankful that they got up after the evening service at church on this day (11/29) 44 years ago and became husband and wife. I’m thankful for the Christian example they are and for their love and care over all of us kids. I’m thankful for Dad’s quiet ways of showing that he loves us through fixing things and giving solid advice. I’m thankful for mom’s sweet Southern accent, hospitality, and cooking and for her love for the Lord and her children! My sibs and I have been so blessed to have them as our parents! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Day 30: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” -1 John 3:1-2. I am thankful that Christ called His children out of the darkness of sin and death and into His glorious light! That we who were vile dead sinners through Christ’s blood should be called the sons of God!? It’s one of those truths and evidences of His love and grace that is so amazing, it is absolutely mind boggling for this finite mind. Oh, what amazing grace! I hope that this truth will always be real to me, and that I will try my hardest to always live a life full of thankfulness beyond this thirty days of thankfulness challenge.

Making a Difference?

A Rose from Grandpa Dalton

Maybe it’s part of being an American, but I’m always running into the idea of making a difference. You hear it all the time. Famous celebrities, people in competition shows, students in graduation speeches, and others all say a very similar thing, “I want to make a difference in the world.”

Yes, it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

But, it seems so “me” centered. It seems so nice and sweet, but rarely do I hear someone ask why or what or how. It’s just one phrase that is repeated over and over: “I want to make a difference.”

I’m not condemning this desire. However, I want to try to focus it and bring it into reality. No one seems to define it. What do we mean when we say this? We seem to treat it like going to a convenience store. We’ll just go buy some “difference”, pop it in the microwave, and feel better “making a difference”. Or, do we simply want to make a difference so others will notice that we do?

This always puzzled me until I heard a TED video talking about everyday leadership. The man doing the very short talk was making the point that leadership is not something beyond our reach, instead it is something we can do everyday and not really realize it. It is often the little things we do that make the biggest difference. Let me point to a recent example in my own life that I probably take for granted:

There’s a dear elderly man whom I call Grandpa Dalton who lives at my apartment complex. He’s stops by a lot to make sure I’m still alive or give me flowers and share the latest news around the complex. The other day I was really upset and frustrated about a school related event. I was so upset that Grandpa Dalton was concerned when he saw me getting out of my car with an obviously unhappy face.

I was half-asleep a couple of hours later sitting on my couch trying to read a book for class when I heard the familiar sound of a walker and the steady knock on my door that is synonymous with Grandpa Dalton. I opened the door and there he was with a grin on his face. Then, he looked concerned and asked if I was okay and if there was anything he could do. He saw the stressed, tired look on my face and wanted to know what was wrong. I told him it was something with school but not to worry about it. He touched my face and told me that if there was anything he could do to make it better to let him know because he wanted to help. He then proceeded in his very Dalton-ish manner to tell me all the latest “gossip” of who was doing what around the apartment complex. I guess maybe it wasn’t gossip, it was more just telling me the latest news as only he can tell it. Before he left, he gave me a hug and told me that he hoped things were okay and repeated his offer to help if he could. It meant a lot to me that he cared so much. I think the Lord used him to bring some light into my rather dark day.

That’s the thing about “making a difference”. You don’t always know you’re doing it and it in its purest form, it is completely selfless. A teacher may work many, many years helping kids but never know what an impact he or she made on someone’s life. Or, it may be as simple as an elderly man stopping by to simply say hi to an exhausted grad student.

We shouldn’t make this desire to “make a difference” seem so lofty that we can’t reach it and neither should we degrade it by making it self-centered. You can make a difference everyday by simply being who you are and helping where you can whether or not someone notices you or what you do.