Beauty Queens

People use what they have. I first heard this statement while listening to a conversation about an extraordinarily handsome young man who had landed a lucrative modeling contract. Naturally, there were a couple of people who just had to make catty, disparaging remarks, mainly about how it was a good thing he had looks because he had nothing else behind those pretty blue eyes. He was “eye candy,” just not too sharp. That’s when Marsha remarked that everyone uses what he has.

I thought of Marsha’s comment last week when reading a letter to the editor in the local newspaper. The writer was protesting an earlier article that had made unkind and degrading remarks about beauty queens. Why, she wondered, was it okay for male sports figures to get their girlfriends pregnant, experiment with drugs, act promiscuously, get drunk, and so forth, but a girl using her beauty and talents to secure scholarships and to represent her state or nation was mocked or ridiculed?

The controversy made me think of Queen Esther. If not for her beauty in besotting the king, her people the Jews would have all been destroyed. In fact, she became queen primarily because of her looks when she entered what amounts to a beauty contest, and the king ended up loving her above all the other women. She was brave, gutsy, and loyal to her people, but it was her physical attractiveness that initially won the king’s heart.  

 One of my favorite lines is at the end of verse 14 in Chapter 4 when Mordecai asked her, “…who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Who knows but that golfers, teachers, taxi drivers, beauty queens, accountants, and football players are all in the “kingdom for such a time as this?” People should all use what they have whether it be brawn, brains, or beauty

Hour of Joy

Is it possible to be uplifted, soothed, and inspired all at the same time? Hope so because that’s how I feel after going to a musical “fireside” at church. I started to take the path of  least resistance and stay home. It would have been easier, after all, to stay dressed in casual (bummy) clothes than get re-dressed in more appropriate “Sunday-go-to-meeting” attire. And then there’s this great book I wanted to continue reading…but what a treat I would have missed.

Music can touch a soul like nothing else. Tonight there were solos, duets, and group presentations. The hour began with young, talented Allysa’s instrumental rendition of a lovely hymn and concluded with the choir singing “Father, This Hour Has Been One of Joy.” I LOVED it. I felt imbued with spiritually and a feeling of goodwill towards all mankind (womankind too). Afterwards, almost everyone stayed around for a bit of socializing, and everyone seemed both happy and peaceful. Is that possible?

I’m not a musician. In fact, I can’t read a note of music and wouldn’t know a flat from a sharp (I’m not even sure those are musical terms), but I do know what touches my heart and soul, and it was tonight’s melodic songs of praise, worship, and thanksgiving. Here’s the closing song. Although I can’t reproduce the reverent, soul stirring manner in which the choir vocalized it, I can at least share the words.

” Father, this hour has been one of joy;
We thank thee for thy many blessings.
Our hearts are filled with thy gracious love
And thy tender caring.”

Can you see why I enjoyed the service so much? It was one of joy. Has anyone out there got a special musical experience to share?

Where was/is Dad?

Everyone is abuzz with talk about the woman in Hanahan, SC who left her small children in a hot car while she went to work. The children were later found dead in trash bags beneath their kitchen sink, bathed and dressed by their mother. Apparently, she was afraid to lose her job and had no one to help her with the care of her children. No one.

Caught in what psychologists call an avoidance/avoidance conflict, she chose work over the children. Or did she choose work because of the children? Since she was the only breadwinner, Shawn and Triniti depended on their mother for sustenance. I’m not condoning her actions by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just saying that I can sense the agonizing decision that she had to make, wistfully hoping that the children would be waiting for her when her workday was over.

This issue brings to light many social issues, one being deadbeat dads. Where was the father of these babies? Isn’t he responsible too? So many times fingers are pointed at the unfit, neglectful mother while the father of these little ones isn’t even mentioned. In our society, four of ten children are born to single mothers, and many people seem fine with that. Huh??? I just don’t get it. Call me old-fashioned, but I know from experience, observation, and tons of research that children fare better with both parents around to raise them, to tag team.

What are the answers? I don’t know. I’m thinking of the line of a hymn that asks, “Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly?” Indeed, how many of us would have helped this young woman with her children that day or any day? Even as I write this, there are thousands of mothers and children who need us. What are we doing…that is, what are we doing besides talking about the issue?

Random Act of Kindness

As I write this, there’s a woman heading home to Montana who will probably reach into her purse and wipe her hands with a scented towelette from Bath and Body Works. There are others scattered from south Georgia to the coast of South Carolina who are cleaning their hands with foam soap or perhaps applying antibacterial hand cream to soften and scent their hands. Some are using cotton blossom while others prefer brown sugar vanilla or perhaps more of a fruity scent like peach or pineapple.

What all of these good-smelling gals have in common is their benefactor, a student who knows and practices the lessons behind “random acts of kindness.”  Because of his kind letter and gift card, I was prompted to “pay it forward” and follow his example by using the card for surprise gifts for these ladies. I think AG would approve of that gesture, and I’d like to think that Willie Mae, Judy, Shirley, Ann, Carrie, Elizabeth, and Amanda will now emulate his generosity as they “pay it forward.”

Prodigal’s Mother

Let’s get back to the Prodigal’s mother. I can’t stop wondering about her and why she’s missing from this parable. Is it because the story is symbolic of our Heavenly Father’s acceptance and forgiveness of us and our wasteful, prodigal wanderings and not of a female creator and forgiver? Is it because women stayed behind the scenes in that day and time? As a mother in 2007, when any of my children arrive, I do everything possible to make them feel welcome, and as time allows, I really make  a big production out of it.

If anyone knows where this mother was or why she’s missing from the story in Luke, please enlighten me.

Prodigal Son’s Brother

I can’t stop thinking of the Prodigal son…and of all the other characters involved including his father, older brother, and even his mother. Where was she? Was she inside preparing some of her son’s favorite dishes? What about when he first appeared on the horizon? Had she been watching and praying? When he arrived, did she go outside to see what the ruckus was all about? Was she allowed to fall on his neck and kiss him too?

I’ll focus on the mother another day. Today I’m thinking of the relationship between father and son. I’m zeroing in on them because of a conversation that I had with Elizabeth and Paul last week as we enjoyed a meal together. Curious about family furniture, Paul began asking questions about who got what and why. How did his older sister end up with the dining room table and chairs? And why did his other sister have Granny’s furniture, including the very table we were sitting around that day?

“The green leather couch is mine, right?” he asked. I told him that I was currently using and enjoying that couch but that I’d make sure that he wouldn’t be  forgotten when the time came to give away family possessions. In fact, without even thinking about it, the words of the Prodigal’s father came to mind, and I said, “Don’t you know that all that I have is thine?” He recognized the phrase immediately, and we chatted briefly about the story.

Although Paul isn’t the older son who’s been loyally working for years without even one fatted calf being prepared in his honor, he’s a human being who wonders, like all of us, how it seems that some people appear to have more than we do. I’ve read and listened to much commentary on the older brother’s attitude, and many see him as whiney and ungrateful. I see him as human. I also see that despite feeling left out and passed over, he feels secure enough in his relationship with his father to ask questions about his perceived mistreatment.

My children are all huge Harry Potter fans, and I’m feeling a little like the Prodigal’s older brother this morning. Have any of you ever wondered why J.K Rowling is a billionaire and you’re not?

Let It Be

I’m stressed to the max. For real. A month or so ago I mentioned that we put our house on the market in November, but did I also mention that we bought another one? Yep, we did. Feeling confidently optimistic, we secured a “bridge loan” that involves paying  only the interest on the loan. Sounds great, right? It is and it isn’t. It’s nice in that we get to live in the new house, but coming up with nearly $900 extra per month is a major hassle…no, that’s not the word. It’s a major stressor, a stressor that has lots of little hassles attached to it. Here it is nearly August, and the house still sits there, empty and quiet, and we’re feeling more than a little uneasy about our finances.

On the way home from work yesterday, I was experiencing what psychologists might call cognitive anxiety as I thought of what our next step might be. We have a problem; what’s the solution? My thoughts were running a little wild, and I decided to turn the radio on for distraction. Immediately, Paul McCartney’s voice reminded me to “let it be.”  I once read that he wrote that song at a time when the Beatles were going through sort of a rough patch, and he was uncertain about their future. Plus, a couple of them had married, and their lives were different from what they had been…and from what Paul’s was like. He was in an in-between place, feeling stressed and concerned about the future. One night he awakened from a dream in which his mother (whose name was Mary)  visited him and told him to “let it be.”

Mother Mary’s words affected her son profoundly, and all these decades later, they touched me, a woman driving home from work in America. What great advice. I’m trying to follow it, to let things be.  It reminds me of another similar admonition to “Let go and let God.” Perhaps the former Beatle’s song was a reminder from above.