Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mama's Lipstick

I always wished I could do things with my mom like shop in the mall, share makeup secrets or go to the movies and watch romantic comedies.  My wish never materialized.   My mama behaved like a tomboy.  She loved baseball and pitched with a strong right arm.  She could care less about the latest fashion or the latest movies featured on the big screen.  She never polished her fingernails.  

One day after elementary school, I walked into the house to find my mom all dolled up in front of the bathroom mirror, foundation crème, powder, eyebrow pencil and rouge all over the counter sink.  “Who are you?” I asked, thrilled to see my mama putting on the Ritz.  Makeup in place and blotted, she immediately took it off.  “I don’t like the way it feels,” she exclaimed.

She retired in Arizona and protected her dry lips with a light rose lipstick, the color of natural lips, a step above ChapStick.  She wore it a few times experimenting once again with makeup.   I visited and she showed me her new tube.  “I want to give it to you.  I don’t like it,” she said.  I accepted it not for the color, but because it belonged to my mother.  It became a treasure.  For years, it lay next to my pens, staples and paper clips in my top desk drawer at work.   You never know when you just need a touch from mom to ward off a bad day.

I still have the tube of lipstick.  Occasionally I’ll apply it and think of her.  It’s a connection point for me like a kiss from Heaven.

I’m a different mom than my mother.  I have more in common with my adult daughters.  They resemble models with their beautiful Czech features and tall height.  Most of the time, however, you’ll find them in sneakers and tee shirts. They’re athletic, but not tomboys.

I received an early Mother’s Day gift weeks ago.  The girls combined their cash and bought me a Fitbit, a wrist device that records my steps.  I am forever receiving their challenges through email.  I perform or I get the pep talk.  Oh, they are so competitive!  I get it.  They want connection with me like I wanted with my mom.  I embrace it with gusto. 

This Mother’s Day, I reflect on my itty bitty babies whose steps I encouraged their first years.  I ponder how now they are encouraging mine.  We don’t have everything in common, but the most important steps we share together lead us in the right direction.  The direction of our Christian faith and that brings us ultimate fulfillment.  

    If they modeled tee shirts, I would buy one.

Love to get my steps in at this pretty park near my home.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Surprise at the Mall

I lost touch with a writer friend.  I missed her and her cheerful blog posts.  We met up in a most unusual way!  I’m still in awe of how it happened.

I finished my shopping at the mall and took a short cut to get to the parking lot.  The path led me through the food court.  The smell of Chicken Fajitas stopped me in my tracks.  I planned lunch elsewhere, but now I followed my nose.

I chewed my first bite of chicken taco salad when, out of nowhere, a loud redhead moved rapidly past the tables and into the booth with me.  “I know you!”  She shouted.  I pondered if I knew this crazy lady.  Did she mistake me for someone else?  She shouted louder and stuck her finger in my face:  “You’re Mary; you have a blog called Pile of Smiles and you live in the Verde Valley.”   It took me a second to compose myself.  I stopped chewing my food.  I know I stared too long at her face and then she said:  “I’m Jackie; I had a blog years ago – Fresh Anointing Oil.”

Wow, now I recognized her face just as she recognized mine from our blog websites!  We shared our lives through the written word.     Oh, we always said we’d meet up.  She lives in Prescott, just over the mountain from me.  Sadly, it never materialized.  She stopped writing.  Her website waned. We no longer emailed.  We lost touch. 

I couldn’t stop hugging Jackie.  I remember how our spirits meshed as we cried out to God in prayer.  I’m astonished how that woman prays with power and compassion.  She cried when I told her that.   I cherished the connection with her that day.  She’s a real person.  I’m a real person.  We’re not just “bloggers” talking to the air.

Forget Eating!  Let’s Have a Praise Party!
We caught up on each other’s lives.  We marveled at how God took care of us in each and every trial we shared.  We felt joy from head to toe.

I am changed somehow. The quiet drive home in the warm sun allowed me plenty of time to pause and think: 

People really do care!

We help each other through hard times.

Friendship is a gift.

I’m blessed to be part of God’s family
 where His blood flows through our veins.

I studied Luke, Chapter four, where the people in the town of Galilee wanted Jesus to stay and hang out with them.  He told them he couldn’t.  “That’s not why I’m sent,” He said.  “I must go to other towns and bring Good News to them.”

We’ve been sent.  Our blog messages influence, uplift and validate.  Let’s keep those words coming.  Confidently press “publish” because you just never know who you’re going to influence.  And you never know who you are going to meet…it just might be me!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

At Sunset, Another Passover

I met Carol at our writers group.  The last hour after critique in our round table discussion, I learned Carol owned the late, famous Himalayan cat, Joshua!  Artists in Sedona remember Joshua because he often attended their presentations!  Joshua loved people.  A local newspaper article gave him credit for raising money for the humane society.   

Carol spoke affectionately about Joshua.  He was more than a showman.  He was her beloved pet.  My favorite story involves the little boy visiting the art gallery where Carol displayed her art.  The boy’s sister held and cuddled the cat while the little boy told Carol that he longed to hold him but is allergic and watched enviously from a distance.  “Oh, honey, you can hold Joshua.  He’s hypoallergenic,” Carol corrected.  She went on to share how the little guy got permission from his dad and had the best time cuddling Joshua to his face.  When the family gathered to leave, the boy waved goodbye to Joshua.  Carol described the scene:  “Joshua sat upright leaning his right paw forward in the boy’s direction.  With that signal, the little boy ran to the cat and gave him one last hug to last a lifetime.”  Joshua knew how to connect.  Imagine a cat like Joshua bringing healing to people like that! 

I’m preparing for our Seder dinner.  Our Messianic Passover celebration will begin next weekend.  I ironed the white tablecloth and stocked up on Matzo Ball Soup.  I carried the box down from the shelf with the guys’ Kipas, our Haggadas (story books) along with Rabbi Tom’s prayer shawl.  

Once again my husband will gather our family to the table and tell the story.  Our rich Jewish roots as believers remind us that God delivers His people.  Old time prophets predicted a messiah whom we believe to be Jesus Christ, our Savior.  We never roll our eyes or tire of the story.  It points to our heritage and the traditions that never lose their power.

Make That Lamb Your Pet
We remember how Moses told families to choose a spotless lamb from their herd to be a substitute for the sins of their family.  But that’s not all.  The lamb must be brought into the home four days before slaughter.  The family should cuddle with the lamb, handle it and play with it.  This way they will feel the impact, the loss of their pet and the sacrifice of it.  Exodus 12: 3, 6

If you follow strict tradition, you would roast the lamb upright on a stake.  No bones are broken (Exodus 12:46) and the lamb’s intestines are placed on top of his head as a covering.

Jesus came to earth as the Son of God, yet man.  We love His teachings, His miracles and they way He heals mankind.  Jesus is the known as the Pascal Lamb.  He is portrayed in Scripture as a loving man extending grace where the harsh law invokes fear.  Crucified on a cross with arms outstretched wearing a crown of thorns, Jesus, the Son of God took our place.  He’s the perfect sacrifice.  Hebrews 10: 1-18

We are always inspired by the Good News.  After dinner, we sing enthusiastic songs about our healer, our deliverer.  He is God, the second person of the trinity, and enduring to us. He’s alive, raised from the dead and the honored guest at our table.

Chag Sameach!  Happy Passover!     

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's Not Always About the Tomatoes

I like to travel with buddies and rename them.  I vacationed in Costa Rica with Lupe who loves margaritas and gets a little loopy.   I don’t drink but I’m a fun gal.  Just ask my co-worker, Frank.  I nicknamed him Jellyfish.  I packed my underwater camera.  Jellyfish can hold his breath really long.  He modeled for my underwater photo shoot in the colossal pool at the resort our company chose for us.

I am fascinated with rain forests so my favorite thing to do in Costa Rica is to take walks in them.  I signed up for the tour of an organic cacao working farm.  Lupe chose it too.  A group of us piled into tractors to view crops of watermelon, mango, rice and cattle while we chewed on natural sugar cane, their largest product.  We observed monkeys, Toucans, and sloths.

The best part of the tour for me taught about climate change and harvest time as we walked single file among papaya trees, cacao trees, as well as banana, pineapple, palm and macadamias.  

After hours in the rain forest, we returned hungry.  The friendly owners of the ranch served the Peruvian version of Ceviche for lunch.  Their recipe consists of salad ingredients using hearts of palm, tomatoes, limes, celery, avocado, and cilantro. Some of us have allergies to shrimp and onion so the hospitable family left those ingredients out.   We enjoyed it with chips, salsa and ice tea.  I returned to the states and prepared it for my family and got three cheers.

Lupe stayed at our house last weekend and we mulled over photos of lush Costa Rica.  We decided to prepare Ceviche and I hunted for my largest salad bowl.  We gathered most of the ingredients but found only one lonely small almost shriveled tomato in my fruit basket!

Lupe insisted we go all the way into town to buy a tomato but I gave her a big ugly frown.  She carried on:  “Let’s try that store at the corner.”   I sat aimlessly in my car in the parking lot of the country store while Lupe inquired.  They sell liquor, cigarettes, lottery tickets, candy, milk and no tomatoes.  I would tell her: “Told you so.”   I worried when twenty minutes passed and no sign of Lupe.  Finally, she opened the car door carrying two big tomatoes. 

On the drive back to the house, I listened to Lupe’s story about her quest.  In that two-bit shack of a store, Lupe encountered a woman preparing sandwiches to sell.  A hurting woman, a desperate woman hopeless because life is hard and she wondered if anybody out there cared.  God cared!  He sent her Lupe with her incredible gift of encouragement.  She took the time to speak life into the despondent woman.  The woman was grateful and gave Lupe not one but two tomatoes for her listening ear and advice.

We all ate Ceviche that afternoon and it turned out to be the best version ever!  Joy filled the rooms of our home as we gathered to pray not only for the food but for one hurting woman’s heart and future.

It's not always about the tomatoes.

The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush,
    but the words of the godly save lives.

Proverbs 12:6

Want to get creative and make Ceviche?  I'll share my recipe with you:  here

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Roadside Reflection

The mass exodus of vehicles over two miles long crawl out of Phoenix on the Arizona Interstate.  Vehicle after vehicle, bumpers almost touching, inch past the many Saguaro cactus plants that decorate the barren mountain ridge.  People look uncomfortable in the dry heat.  Warning signs caution drivers to shut off air conditioners before the steep mountain climb.   I sense panic.  Fear fills the air like a nasty fog.

It is a scene from The Last Days. People scurry to get out of town; they seek relief.  Independent people concerned only for their lives.  Don’t interrupt their rhythm as they creep forward at a snail’s pace to find safety.

But it is not The Last Days.  An accident three miles ahead causes the stall.  I'm the one that is scared.  I am vulnerable, not to mention hot.  Our car is parked off the side of the road, overheated, while we watch the long procession heading north without us. 

All this traffic!  Where are all these folks coming from?

Trump’s political rally just ended an hour ago.  It’s brutal on this winding highway.  These folks are purpose driven; some young guys use foul language and hand signals.

My companion and I wait.  Her car, the more reliable one, let us down today!  We’re surprised to be stranded when just hours before, we remember laughing at breakfast and shopping in the mall with friends. 

The car starts to cool down, as well as our nerves.

I envisage my daughter who sends me text messages to pray 911 prayers in her drama.  I think to myself:  “Let’s reverse this; time for mom's drama now!”

I text her: “AAA Prayer,” I write, adding on:  “Overheating in 90 degrees on I-17.”

We wait.

We check the fluids; they are plentiful and we turn on the car.  The needle indicates normal temperature.  Someone gives us a break and we merge into the slow traffic.  We drive the rest of the way safely.

It’s a freaky thing that happened with the car that sunny Saturday, thermostat checks ok; water pump checks ok. All I know is that we sent an SOS prayer and we were rescued quickly as we climbed the mountain to home.

She’s a no nonsense prayer warrior, that girl of mine.  And that needle on the water temperature gauge didn’t dare budge toward danger at her command!

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power
and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16