God Will Provide

1/9/16

My grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago. In a family that has been blessed by longevity, she is the first person in my immediate family to die. Gram was the family matriarch on Mom’s side of the family. Despite the fact that she was born with a handicap, Gram had a zest for life. Her mantra, “God will provide,” allowed her to enjoy every day without worrying about tomorrow.

When I was preparing the eulogy that I would give at her memorial service, I was thinking about the many ways that God provided for her—the ways that He lived up to her trust in Him. The first was before she even knew He was caring for her…I moved to Florida about 13 years ago; so now when I go back to NY, I act like a tourist. Last summer, I took my sons to see the Statue of Liberty and we visited Ellis Island. While I was there, something really powerful struck me. Gram came to America from Italy when she was about 3 years old. That would’ve been around 1923 or 1924. According to the historical records at Ellis Island during that time period, there were doctors who were doing physical and mental exams on all immigrants. If an immigrant was found to have an illness or even a physical deformity, he or she would be sent back to their country of origin. So that left me wondering, How did she do it? Gram was born with one leg shorter than the other. How did she, with her physical handicap, get passed the physical exam? Was the doctor not paying close attention or maybe he was on a break? Was her mother carrying her so they wouldn’t notice her legs? Maybe the doctor who did the examination felt sorry for her and allowed her through? It is something that we will never know. And yet, it is a moment in her life that could’ve changed absolutely everything! I wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t been granted permission to America that day! I’d like to think that it was through the grace of God that she got here and that it was His provisions that allowed her passage to her new life.

Another example of God’s goodness was when she was moved in with her family in Port Chester, NY. Apparently her parents couldn’t afford to keep her with them and they had no room for her where they were living, so they had her live with her aunt and cousins. To most children who would have to live without their parents, this would be an extremely difficult and sad situation, but to Gram, it was a blessing beyond measure! She grew up as an only child and she hated that she was alone because she never had anyone to play with. But then, when she got to live with her cousins, it was like having instant siblings. She had playmates and she loved it there. Once again, God provided for her and turned a difficult situation into a blessing. He added to that blessing ten-fold when she married my grandfather and inherited his family of nine siblings.

She never let her handicap hold her back from living every day to its fullest. She swam, danced, jumped rope, drove, worked, and traveled. She was blessed with children and grandchildren whose company she loved more than life itself. She never passed up the chance to go out to eat or to attend a party. Gram loved going to the beach and soaked in the sun. She was the first to ante up to a game of cards. She enjoyed a glass of wine at happy hour, an occasional cold beer on a hot summer’s day, or even a shot of Goldschlagger if it was offered to her! She was always the perfect companion for a late-night movie, cup of coffee, piece of cake, or even a casino trip. She and Pop weren’t rich by any stretch, and yet they always seemed to have just enough. Especially as they got older, they never fretted about where they would end up. They didn’t like to plan out the steps too far into the future. They didn’t dwell or complain about how they were lacking. Instead they always made the best of what they did have; they were generous with it; and they always said, “Don’t worry, God will provide.”

I don’t remember Gram being an overtly Christian woman. She wasn’t preachy and she didn’t attend church too often. However, the relationship that she had with God when no one was looking was a different story altogether. One time, I went to visit her and my grandfather at their apartment in Peekskill, NY. When I walked in, Gram was sitting in her chair in the corner of the room. She had her eyes closed and her hand was resting on a stack of papers. I assumed that she was sleeping. But when she heard me, she opened her eyes quickly and said, “I’m almost done. Just a minute.” Huh? Almost done with what? Napping? A few moments later, she opened her eyes and said, “Okay. I’m finished.” I asked what she was “finished” with and she opened her hand to show me her stack of papers. I’m finished praying. “Praying? Praying for whom? Here? In the middle of the day?” At this point in my life, I was a “pray the same prayers before bed” kinda girl. I’m not sure why, but the realization that Gram was praying for people mid-day was strange to me. As it turns out, Gram prayed for people everyday—lots of people, by name—maybe even some of you reading this right now! She had a daily routine and it included saying her prayers. She was faithful about that and it made an impression on me that day. It also made me feel good because in my heart I was sure that I was included in her daily chats with God. 

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Now when I usually think of this Scripture, I think of someone’s “purpose” as being something that is big and grand, like someone’s job or their life’s conquest or their legacy. Thinking back on Gram’s life, I think that her purpose may have been a bit less glamorous, but no less purposeful or powerful than anyone else’s. Her purpose was carried out in the way that she lived. She showed us by her life that we can do anything by trusting in God. Her life proved to us that He worked all things out for good—no matter how difficult or burdensome they seemed. I for one am grateful to her for fulfilling that purpose, whether she knew she was doing it or not. To see the life of a lonely, poor, handicapped immigrant transformed into one that was filled with laughter, adventure, family, friends, and an abundance of love is quite inspirational. And then to know that she lived that life believing and trusting that “God would provide” and time and time again, He did? Well, that’s enough proof for me to want the same for my life. Thanks for your example, Gram…

Lord, it’s your deal. I trust you and I’m all in.
me and gram

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

12/5/16

To everything…turn, turn, turn…
I remember the first time I realized that the song, “Higher Ground,” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was actually a remake of a song that was originally written and sung by Stevie Wonder. My thoughts were, No way! Stevie Wonder did this first?! I thought this was a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song!

My thoughts were quite similar several years ago when I came across this little diddy… “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV) My thoughts were, No way! This is in the Bible?! I thought this was The Byrds’ song… “To everything—turn, turn, turn. There is a season- turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven… Sometimes we are just more familiar with the remake than we are with the original and this was definitely one of those eye-opening situations for me.

Either way, the message from the Byrds song and the one from its Biblical original is the same: There is a time for everything. The seasons of our lives come and go. We all have that in common—the passage of time. It is one of those rare unifying elements that all of creation experiences. We cannot stop it, slow it down, speed it up, or avoid it. We can usually choose how we utilize it and decide how we are going to spend our precious but fleeting days, hours, minutes, seconds. We hate to waste it, but at the same time; we often make choices that do just that.

The season we are currently in, a.k.a. “the holidays,” gets to be the craziest time of the year. But does it have to be? Do we really have to shop for matching outfits to get professional photos done so we can send 500 Christmas pictures to everyone we’ve ever met? Does our house need to be more decorated with lights than Cinderella’s castle at Disney World? Will my son really love that 6-foot crane that he requested from Santa once January rolls around—how about once I’ve finished paying it off from the credit card bill in the Spring?
I know, I know, I’m starting to sound like a Scrooge. Bah humbug, right? But seriously, what is it all about? We put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything just right—the perfect decorations, the perfect meal, the perfect presents, etc. etc. It is just too much and we are NOT perfect! We need to give ourselves a break!

I grew up in an Italian family. On Christmas Eve, we would gather together and eat the seafood meal of a lifetime. The tradition is that we should have at least seven different fishes represented, and of course, there was always pasta as well. I believe the seven-fish rule represents the seven hills of Rome. I’m not even certain if that’s the reason we had to have seven—hence my point—why? It becomes a little crazy. I think of all the years that I would go through the shopping list and do the count off: 1) shrimp scampi, 2) mussels (to go with the linguine), 3) clams oreganata, 4) scallops wrapped in bacon, 5) baccala (cod salad), 6) stuffed flounder and 7) ? . What should we have for number 7? Oh no! Christmas Eve is ruined! We don’t have a 7th fish! Let’s fry some shrimp; that’s a different dish than shrimp scampi. But would that qualify as the 7th fish?! Um, technically, the flounder and the cod are the only “fish” on the entire list; so I guess we were actually five short of our seven fishes anyway. Haha!
Anyway, you get what I am trying to say. Traditions are wonderful. Presents are fantastic. The decorations look beautiful. We just get so wrapped up (excuse the pun!) in all the season’s “must-haves” that we forget about the purpose of it all. It wasn’t until I spent my first post-divorce Christmas Eve at home, by myself, that I realized how unimportant all of those previous “must-haves” really were.

A few lines down from the Scripture that I quoted earlier it says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toils—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 NIV)
Consequently, I don’t think Jesus’s birth was put on our calendars for the purpose of stressing us out! Like the Scripture says: eat, drink, and be merry; but you can’t do that if you are so stuck on the things that might be lacking from your holiday.

So I invite you to join me in forgiving ourselves this season. We may not have the best Christmas card photo (or we may not get to send cards out at all, sorry!); we may eat off paper plates instead of fine china; we may not be able to afford everything off of the wish list; and we may not even have all seven fishes on Christmas Eve, but we do have each other. Let’s choose to spend our time wisely and decide which “must-haves” are most important. As you already know, our time is limited…turn, turn, turn.