Wednesday, August 26, 2020

God's Fingerprints Are In The Details

My friend Claudia always says, “God is so good at his job.”

I have to agree. He meets my every need. He is in the details. Sometimes he takes care of me in rather unusual ways. Like with a pool table.

Yes, I said pool table. You know, billiards? A rack of balls you try to shoot into side pockets of the table with a stick and another ball? Sounds a bit silly when you try to describe it, but there was nothing silly about my own pool table experience. I shared the story recently with a friend. She asked if I’d ever written in down.

It’s worth sharing…and preserving. So I offer it to you today for reasons I’ll share later.

Many years ago I bought Tom a beautiful pool table for Christmas. He enjoyed playing pool at the student center when we were in college so I thought this would be a nice way for him to relax. We had room for it in our unfinished basement. I gave him the rack, balls, and pool cues for Christmas with a note inside explaining the table would be delivered in January.

It was a plan. But the plan changed slightly when Tom decided to finish the basement first. He worked hard for the next month or so to get the gift intended to bring him some relaxation. The pool table was delivered in February. The whole family enjoyed it as well as the beautiful new living space he created for it.

Tom and I decided to move in 2014. We readied the house we’d occupied for nearly twenty years and started thinking about storing our furnishings until we knew where we’d live next. We accepted an offer from a young couple named Brandon and Heidi. I should tell you that although they had their realtor and we had ours, we actually knew this sweet couple. We had known Brandon and his whole family since he was probably five years old. Tom and I thought it was kind of special to sell the house to a young couple we knew and loved. 

Then the unthinkable happened. Before we closed on the house, Tom died from injuries he sustained while riding his bicycle. Brandon and Heidi graciously let me out of the contract and I continued to live there.

Tom's Pool Table
In 2017, I made the decision to sell the house. I wanted something smaller with everything on one level. I found a ranch style home that needed some updating but was in an area I liked. As soon as my grandchildren heard I was moving they started asking if I was going to take the pool table with me. The reason had nothing to do with Tom. It wasn’t sentimental. It’s simply this: They Can Beat Me at Pool

I knew the pool table would fit in the then unfinished basement because when I first looked at the new place there was a pool table there. The cost of having professionals take down the monstrosity I had given Tom, store it and eventually set up again was crazy. 

I told the kiddos I’d think about it.

The morning I closed on my new home I did the customary buyer “walk through” before meeting the sellers at the real estate office. They were packed up and heading out. The house was nearly empty. Nearly.

“Uh, did you forget something?” I asked. They looked at each other and shrugged. “The pool table?” I asked.

“You didn’t know the pool table came with the house?” the woman asked. She then turned to her real estate agent. “She didn’t know the pool table came with the house.”

“Not to worry,” I assured her. “I’m probably the only person around who is actually happy about it. It means I won’t have to move the one in my current house.”

With the deal closed and the keys in hand, I headed home…uh…back to my original house. I took a picture of Tom’s beautiful pool table. I posted it on Facebook asking if anyone might be interested in buying a pool table. The responses were varied. 

“I love that carpet,” one person wrote.
“Are you getting rid of the light fixture above it?” asked another.
“If I had room, I’d buy it,” said another.

Then my friend, Brandon’s mother, wrote “Matthew wants a pool table for the man-cave in his new house.” Remember Brandon? He and his wife were the ones purchasing the house in 2014. Matthew was Brandon’s brother.

I messaged her with times I would be available.  

“I’ll text him,” she wrote. “He’s off on Friday so maybe he could come then. Why are you selling your pool table?”  

I explained I was moving. “Did you sell your house?” she wrote back.

“No. I haven’t listed it yet.”

A few minutes later, my friend wrote back, “When Matthew and Ashley come to look at the pool table, can they look at your house, too?”

And they bought it. The pool table. The house. They bought it all. 

Pretty incredible, huh? Coincidental? I don’t think so. You see, as I said before, God is good at his job. He promised to take care of me. His fingerprints are all over this sequence of events. 
The "New" PingPong &Pool Table

For instance, I’ve been told that since there was a contract, the new buyers for my house could have forced me to abide by it even though Tom was gone. Brandon and I have talked about this. Brandon feels God put him in that place at that time to protect me. God knew what would happen. When someone told Brandon he could/should force the sale, he said, “I could no more do that to Becky Waters than I could my own mother.” Shortly after that, Brandon and Heidi found a great house.

Then, when it came time to sell that house, I didn’t have to list it, go through showings, or deal with stress of any kind. I simply had to post my pool table on Facebook. God took care of the rest.

When we let him in…and when we look closely at those unusual happenings in our lives, we can watch as God takes care of the details.

All of them. 

Yes, I have a pool table in my new house. It may not be as beautiful as the other one, but it came with the benefit of having a ping-pong table overlay so we can play ping-pong or pool. 

It doesn’t matter. The grandkids beat me at both.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Making The Cut

I cut my hair.

Perhaps I should back up to establish my credentials as a hairstylist. Especially since most of you know me either as a teacher of young children, a professor to young adults, or an author of books.

For forty-three years I cut my husband’s hair. Well, there was that one time he went to a barber. It was shortly after the birth of our first daughter. I was sleep deprived at the time. His decision to have someone else cut his hair was a good one that day. So with that one exception, I cut Tom’s hair for the forty-three years we were married.

Tools of the trade...
I started my one chair, one customer shop because we were in college and had limited financial resources. I eventually moved from my sewing scissors to a real pair of barber scissors. We would spread newspaper on the floor, drape a sheet around Tom’s shoulders, and I’d cut. He cleaned up. We had the routine down to a science. 

He was pleased with my haircutting skills. I was pleased with my new scissors. I used them to trim my bangs or as the girls grew up, I would trim their hair as needed. I did not trust myself to cut my own hair. Not a full-blown haircut.

Until 2020.

I haven’t worried much about my hair during the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t really see anyone. A headband or ponytail is usually sufficient for a Zoom call. I trimmed the dead ends left over from my hair coloring fiasco in Kosovo. But a full cut? No.

Until now. 

Connie B. Dowell, an editor who also has a podcast on writing, scheduled an interview with me last week. It airs today, Wednesday, August 19. Though the interview is a voice recording only, we met on Zoom for our talk. 

Prior to our meeting, I looked in the mirror and felt compelled to try to manage my unruly hair. Nothing worked. It’s naturally curly so my hair pretty much goes where it wants to go. That usually means I have at least one or two curls sticking straight out. I can tame them with curlers or by using a styling cream. Sometimes.

Sometimes. But not on this particular day. 

I tried everything. I really did. Finally, I reached for the scissors. 

“I’m qualified,” I told my mirrored self. “I cut Tom’s hair for years. For weddings and interviews. For business trips, church, everything. I can do this. A full cut.”

I grabbed a comb and started cutting, pulling layers of hair up section by section. The front parts where I could see turned out to be pretty easy… though I did have to cut it a little shorter than I planned to make both sides even. The bangs? No problem. I’ve been cutting my own bangs for years.

You get what you pay for...
I would have been tempted to cut out all of the gray hairs, but after a quick assessment, doing so would have rendered me bald, so I embraced the gray and cut everywhere I could see. 

Satisfied Connie would only see the front, I settled in for the interview. As I said, we recorded the podcast last week. A couple of days later, I decided it was time to finish the job. I retrieved my scissors and comb. I cut the back “by feel.” (Not a technique I would recommend.) I checked everything in the mirror and for the past few days I continue to find errant hairs I clip away. 

I finally called it done. When I mow the lawn and get it uneven, I say, “Done is better than perfect.”

It doesn’t work for hair. Just so you know. 

Therefore, I’m relying on my grandmother’s saying. “The only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is a few weeks.”

In this time of uncertainty it may be a few months. 

I’m sure we are all learning new skills and tackling everyday life the best way we can. Perhaps that will serve to humble us. Perhaps it will make us more accepting of people or at least more tolerant of their shortcomings. I hope so.

And if you want to listen to the podcast on Writing With E’s, CLICK HERE to find Rebecca Waters. The picture you’ll see of me?…Uh…well, that’s another story.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Time for Transformation

Be Transformed By the Renewing of Your Mind.

Transformed. Changed. 

Last week I outlined ways the American experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has followed the pattern, the stages of grief, described by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. If you missed that post, you can find it by clicking HERE. Not everyone responds to these strange times in the same way. We mourn losing the “way things were before.”

Change is the one constant we can actually count on in our lives.The truth is, we are always in a state of change. What has made this change difficult is the suddenness of it all.

There is the fable of putting a frog in a pan of cool water. (Hold on, because this is gross.) According to the tale, if you put a frog in a pan of boiling water it would jump out. But if you put the frog in cool water and very slowly turn up the heat, the frog will adjust to the slow change in temperature, making no attempt to escape. You could cook it alive…or should I say cook it to death.

The point is that we adjust to changes fairly easily when they come in small doses. In fact, we have become complacent about some aspects of our lives simply because the changes were small and therefore didn’t seem to pose a threat to our way of life. I’ll not go into those for this post. I’m sure you can think of many ways the world functions differently than when you were growing up. We all have stories. 

Some change is for the good. Some…well, not so good.

Last week’s post ended on an optimistic note. For Kübler-Ross, the final stage was that breathe deep moment of acceptance. It is a healthy and appropriate place for a person facing death to reach. But for us in this pandemic arena, bombarded with political craziness, and coupled with a greater awakening to the systemic racism that plagues our nation, I applauded the efforts of people and groups who are beyond accepting. They are embracingchange as an opportunity to “make things better.”

I’m one of those people who reads my Bible every morning. Yep, even the hard parts. In the book Paul wrote to the Romans, he says in chapter twelve, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Transformed. Changed.

Not by events beyond our control. Not by a virus. Not by any one person or any one thing. Be transformed by renewing of the mind. The way we think. Change as a deliberate choice; A deliberate change in direction from the chaos of the world to a place of acceptance and even embracing what is to come.
How do we accomplish that?

·      Deliberately choose to focus on the positive over the negative. 
·      Choose joy over despair. 
·      Make a list of things for which you are grateful.
·      Turn off the television during dinner. Instead focus on the delicious food… or at least the fact you have something to eat.
·      Take this gift of time to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Change your way of thinking into positive actions. In doing so, you’ll be happier and healthier. So will the people around you.

Also, if you have a Bible…or the internet, I recommend reading the whole of chapter twelve in Romans. It is a most interesting read, especially for these uncertain times. Here some highlights:

            “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”
            “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
            “Live in harmony with one another.”
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

So what will you do this week to change your mindset?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Moving Through the Pandemic...Good Grief!

Graduate school at the University of Cincinnati afforded me the opportunity to pursue my interest in both education and psychology. Through my studies I learned a great deal about Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who worked with people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. In her book, On Death and Dying, she wrote of five stages she observed terminally ill individuals wrestling with from the point of learning their diagnosis through the course of the illness. Those stages are often referred to as the stages of grief or the stages of loss.

Over time, people have often tried to use the stages to explain behaviors during all types of loss. I don’t always agree with those applications. That said, I’m sharing an application of my own.

I’ve been observing the ebb and flow of American responses to COVID-19 over the course of these last few months. I can make a case for our reactions following Kübler-Ross’s five stages. You probably can, too.
The stages are as follows:


I first heard about this pandemic in early December, 2019 via Facebook. A young doctor in Wuhan, China was sounding the plea for prayers. He said it was the worst illness he had seen. Because of his fear, he had not returned home to his wife who was pregnant with their first child. “I fear none of us will survive this,” he wrote.  Sound familiar? It did to me. I had heard those very words from a friend in Taiwan during the SARS outbreak.

My thoughts were probably much like yours: Those poor people. And It won’t happen here. Even as we watched the horrific images coming out of Italy, we patted ourselves on the back and assured ourselves it wouldn’t reach our shores. 

But it already had. Denial.

Anger is the next stage. Predictably, we as a country reached that stage early on. Some lingered there –assigning blame and pointing fingers; First, at the Chinese who had the audacity to get sick first and then at the doctors who couldn’t seem to come up with a quick fix. 

Denial and anger still rage. We hear it when people say, “I don’t need a mask and no one is going to make me wear one!” 

Bargaining. Marked by statements such as “If only we’d gone to the doctor sooner” or “If only we’d been warned earlier.” Some people try to strike a deal with God while others ask, “What if we had taken this pandemic seriously from the beginning?” And a few are bargaining with the very lives we’re supposed to protect, fearing that a dip in economy is worse than somebody else’s son dying. I’m not being cynical here. I am merely listening and observing rhetoric surrounding COVID-19.

Depression. It’s real. I’ve listened to friends who feel “overwhelmed” or “isolated and so alone.” Some are confused. I can’t fault them that. Clarity on what to do in a pandemic has NOT been the norm. We’ve all received mixed messages. Only if we begin to feel stuck –without hope—do we need to worry. A slightly depressed state in this COVID-19 environment is normal.

But all this serves to bring me to the final stage described by Kübler-Ross: Acceptance
From Crafting to Work Station

I watched acceptance emerge this past week in my own family. Something happened—be it a trigger of some sort or perhaps simply the rolling by of time. I don’t know exactly what it was, but my oldest daughter who had been taking her computer here and there in the house to do her work, transformed her “scrapbooking” area, her crafting desk, into a home office. 


At the same time, my youngest daughter, whose company has made a decision to not open their building again until sometime in 2021, painted the guest bedroom and established it as her work area. She, her husband, and two daughters each painted a canvas for the space using vibrant colors and whatever technique they chose.


Acceptance is healthy. It isn’t giving-in or giving-up. Acceptance is moving forward. It’s living within healthy guidelines and advancing to a place of thriving. 

But now I offer one more stage. A stage of healing called Embracing.

Last week I wrote of a church in the Cincinnati area moving beyond acceptance to a place of embracing a new way to reach out to people. Embracing is healthy. Even healthier than “acceptance.” If you missed that post, you can click on it HERE.

No, schools in our area of the country haven’t been able to move to that place yet, save one. Middletown school, just north of Cincinnati made an early decision to not open building doors. Their teachers have a jump start on making stellar digital delivery of instruction a viable option. School board members are working to meet the diverse needs of their student population in new and creative ways. Will it be perfect? No. It will be better than those school districts stuck in the bargaining stage, though. It’s a process. A complicated one.

Where are you in the scheme of things? What are you doing to move through this strange time? I would love to hear how other people and groups are both accepting and in some cases embracing change as a new and even exciting opportunity.