2:14 p.m. I’m wandering the craft store looking for yarn for a gift/ project.Not hot tea.... but this needs a pic...
2:22 p.m.I panic-I realize that if I don’t get out of here- I risk a way-down the line -parking spot during carpool-that will involve having to count rows to find my car…which is almost math. #fail.

2:24 p.m. I grab good enough yarn and take my place in line. I calculate my estimated wait time. It’s going to be close.

2:28 p.m. Still waiting. Starting to get annoyed. I’m not the only one. “Can’t they open another register?”  So many people are saying the same thing I wonder if it’s a line from a new viral video….

2:30 p.m. I’m next in line. I hear the very raw sounding voice  of the very pierced and creatively hair-colored girl at the register. Her nose is red and sore looking…. I’m convinced she’s a a walking influenza factory. She probably is. I try to calculate how many virus particles are floating around her register. I wish I had a surgical mask.

2:31 As she’s ringing up my purchase, I have sudden onset iced tea and shortbread cookie craving. I immediately decide counting cars is worth it. I’m going to Panera.

Which is when I realize she’s not just a pierced virus carrying cashier…… she’s a human. With a sore throat. Standing right in front of the constantly-opening- in January- sliding glass doors at Michael’s. She’s trapped by responsibility and is obviously: miserable.

“You need a hot tea and honey on your break.” I state- as the captainess of the obvious, that I am. “Hot tea sounds great- but my break is too short.” I’ll have some when I get off work.” I wish I could tell you that i jumped over the counter, grabbed the mic, called  her manager and talked them into letting me finish the girls shift so she could go home without missing pay. I didn’t. Honestly? I was annoyed she was there- passing viral contagion to all she encountered.

I winced as she handed me my bag. I did not want to touch her germies. It was a little like being handed a bag of hanta-virus. At least I had my gloves. I slipped them on before taking the bag. I hoped she’d think it was just the weather- not personal. (Even if it was.I do NOT have time to get sick right now. Just saying.) In truth-she probably just wanted me out of the store. One less customer to deal with means one step closer to going home.

“Feel better.” I told her. More mom-like than I wanted to sound. (I can’t help it. Having a child makes you mother everyone you come in contact with. Maybe it’s viral…. I know I’m not the only mother-of all out there…I’ve been mothered by others- myself. ) It was not my most compassionate moment.

I left. Driving through the parking lot, the tea and cookie craving took over. It drove me straight to Panera. I didn’t bother looking at the clock. “I’ll get there before bedtime.” I thought.

By the time I was in the drive through- I was feeling like a selfish jerk. Here I was- totally NOT sick. About to suck down exactly what that poor girl really needed….

“I could take her a tea and honey…..”

“I don’t have time. I’ll be even LATER.”

“So? You’re late for everything.”

(In case you’re wondering- yes-I was arguing with myself. I like to- either way- I win.)

Which I did.

I rolled down the window and ordered: “I’ll take 2 large hot tea’s with milk and honey and a cookie.”

I drove back to Michael’s. I parked illegally. I went in the out-door.

And then- I made a very tough looking girl- cry. (I was on a roll.)  Accidentally. By interrupting her at work. To hand her hot tea and honey.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for me.” She said between either coughs or sobs…. (They were coughs. She had actually just teared up.  Crying would have involved tears- which could have frozen as she stood by that almost never closed-door, probably creating an icicle to form on her nose ring. Which may have caused frostbite. And probably would have caused her to miss work. Maybe. But, I doubt it, because the plague sure hadn’t. )

I left feeling… well. Conflicted. I felt good that I’d done something to ease someones suffering…. (In my brain- that’s what I did- but let’s face it- it was just a cup of hot tea- not a cure for Influenza.) I also felt: sad. Sad that that was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her. (Even ignoring the hyperbole- i’m sure nicer things have been done… but you get the picture.)

I felt a little puffed up and prideful. I was that chick. The amazing chick who brought a cup of tea to a sick chick.

Which made me feel: guilty. Cause really? duh. Pride has no place in care.

But at least I did: something.

Id love to say that God rewarded my awesomeness with that sweet first in line parking spot. He didn’t. I would like to say that I was on time and that angels carried my car through every light… Not so much. I’d like to say that my tea was still hot when I got around to drinking it. Nope. cold. Id like to say that my explanation as to why I wsa late touched my 10 year old and inspired him to be more considerate of others. Nope. he was mad.

I can’t even say God used his holy- GPS to help me find my car in the line-up. Nope. I totally wandered around and had to hit the stupid “panic” button. (Maybe more ethan once.)  I probably caused a kindergartner to lose bladder control.

But, I did: something.

Ghandi said (At least the internets say he said..)  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Elisa Morgan said: “She Did What She Could.”

I was, and: I did.

I hope you will and do- too.

Matthew 25:37-40  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Maybe, it’s a disease or a disorder….either way- I cannot pass a bookstore without going in. I can’t go into a bookstore without buying a book. (or maybe 5…)

So- yesterday, that’s what I did. I went in to the bookstore as I passed it on my way to the salon, at the mall. And, since I had to pass the bookstore yet again, on the way out of the mall.. I went in again.   Miraculously the first time I left with nothing. I was searching for a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Book for Noah.. (Yes, I use my children as an excuse to book-shop- who doesn’t?) and couldn’t find one. When I returned, I did and then…somehow, I accidently ended up in the (woefully stocked) “Religious” book section. (Funny how that happens, isn’t it?)

As I paced the aisle, staring at the shelves trying to make more books (to choose from) appear, a voice caught my attention: “Just let me know if you need me to move.”  I looked up, to see long straight, blonde hair framing a smiling face. “Oh, I’m just wandering- no need to move.” I replied. “You’re in a good aisle to wander.” She said. I agreed.

She picked up a book and asked me if I’d read it, and what I’d thought.  I had, and well- let’s just say it’s not among my favorites. I was torn how to respond.. and then just went with the truth: “Well- I kind of feel like all of his books are the same.. read one and you’ve pretty much read them all.” I immediately regretted what I’d said. What if she loved that author and I offended her?

I held my breath and waited for her to respond… ready with an apology if necessary…. (I tend to speak my mind- and so, I need to have apologies ready- at all times…) “Oh- I read another book by his wife and was wondering if this one was like a pre-quel or something. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.” I let out my breath. Whew. one less offense to worry about. “No, I think they cover a lot of this in that book- it might be redundant.” “Good- I really want this other book I heard about, but I can’t remember the name…”

We talked for a few minutes, trying to figure out the title. We searched the shelves… nothing. I pulled out my iphone and googled the info she had about the book… Princess something or other…(FYI: there are a LOT of Princess something or other books on the market- just sayin.) we found the title, but, it wasn’t at that store. Her smile faded. “I went to a conference this weekend and I really want this book- they quoted it and it really touched me….”   “I’d go across the street, to Family Christian.. I know they have it over there…”

Her head drooped just a bit. “I have a gift card for this store.”

Oh, that I get. Shopping on a gift card and wishing that the thing you REALLY want would magically appear… and fit your giftcard budget. Been there. Done that.

Which is when I decided to take a risk and (maybe) look crazy at the bookstore. (It wouldn’t be the first time…)

“Ok, so this may sound weird… but, I’d really like to bless you (yes, I actually said: “bless you.” I mean, who says that? Well..apparently- me.) with that book… is it ok if I give you some cash so you can go to Family Christian and pick it up?” I held my breath. I waited to see if I’d offended her… Had I assumed too much?  I mean this chick could have been loaded and was just trying to dump that giftcard before it expired…. what had I done?

Tears started to well up in her eyes. She blinked them away. “Really? You’d do that? You don’t have. to…..” I didn’t wait- that was all I needed.. I slipped a $20 out of my purse and into her hand. We hugged. (I wondered what the heck the college kid looking at manga at the end of the aisle was thinking..) She took it graciously and with a big smile. Then she looked at a book on the shelf… then at me… Have you read this one? I still have that gift card….” “I did and I loved it—- get that one too!”  I smiled.

She left.

I tried not to cry.

I’ve gotta say….It feels amazing when you take a little risk to look silly.. and end up in the middle of a divine appointment… used by God- to yes… “bless” another’s heart.

Tomorrow- (or maybe even today) I challenge you to open your eyes to the people around you….is there a little risk you could take? Take it!  It’s more than worth it….. you’ll be glad you did.

Dear Lord- Thank you for using my weird book-store addiction to help meet the heart need of another woman. I pray that the words she finds in those pages will grow and change her and fill her with the knowledge of your love…. I pray that you’d continue to grow me and stretch me to take risks and reach out in love… even  when I may look crazy… Oh.. and Lord– I also ask you to help me not use weird-irrelevant- semi- archaic words like “bless” in public…. it’s.. just weird. I love you Lord- amen.

I think it was around third grade- that I learned that paper had margins and that margins should be “neat and clean.” In related news: That’s also about the same time I stopped enjoying coloring and drawing. Mostly, it’s because I couldn’t stay in the lines or make my lines look like they “should.” I struggled to keep those margins neat and clean.. It took years of dogged practice- but eventually I got it. (We won’t discuss my penmanship- that has not improved- I’m lucky if it’s near the lines let alone between them.)

Anyway- maybe I got it a little too well. I started applying the “clean margin” rule to my life.

If it didn’t fit neatly within the margins- it was erased. Cleared. Eliminated.

  • Activities that stretched into and muddled my schedule’s margins? Ended.
  • Ideas that didn’t fit onto my nice clean pages of my personal perspective? Eradicated.
  • People who were too messy and complicated to maintain my life’s clean margins with? Mostly, avoided.

Looking back- I see that some of the changes were good. Some were necessary. Some were just convenient. And some… were wrong.

One day, I noticed that the pages of my life were looking a little… ummm “clean.”  Things were predictable and fit well within the margins. My schedule fit. My hobbies fit. My kids and family (for the most part) fit. My bible study time fit. Even my skinny jeans fit. So did my friends. We had a lot in common- and agreed on (most) of the major issues- to be honest- there wasn’t much going on in the margins or in my life.

It wasn’t bad.. it was just.. kind of blank.

The margins were nice and clean. Just like I’d learned to keep them.

Then, I had an unexpected (and much celebrated) pregnancy. Then I had some pretty major changes- that changed my daily life and schedule. Then we faced some changes that moved us into an additional circle of friends. Suddenly- the margins of my life were full of Crayola scribbles and baby food dribbles. I out grew my skinny jeans. I  found myself surrounded by “new people,” in addition to my “old”  people. Some of these were people who disagreed with me on big issues. People who were different. It was messy.

None of it fit very well within my nice clean margins.

The thing is-over time- I started to like it.

I found beauty in those messy margins. I discovered art there. The art of compassion, new perspectives, flexibility and grace.

The relationships are complicated, and loud and messy. And wonderful. The margins of my life didn’t become ruined or tainted as I’d feared….and had worked so hard to try to avoid.  Instead, they stretched. They grew. They became more beautiful than I could imagine.

My life is no longer blank. It is full. Full of people and love and arguing and trying and scribbling and erasing…and art.

Just the way it should be.

Third grade is over. (Thank you, God. I may have spent third grade very near the teacher (who wasn’t too fond of me) and his desk. This was most likely due to my umm verbal proclivity, my general creativity (in avoiding work) and quite possibly- my: ADHD)

What do your margins look like?

Are they a little too neat and tidy? Is your life feeling a little blank?  Maybe it’s time for a little doodling. A little saying yes to what you would have rejected in order to keep those margins spotless. Maybe that messy person is just the one to bring some color into your life…. or maybe some grace.

Go ahead- this year- loosen up your margins a little. Invite someone new (and maybe different?) into your life. Say “yes” to something that stretches you. Embrace the change that comes.

Find the art in the margins….

look for it in those who are marginalized…..I have to think that’s what Jesus would do…. maybe it’s what he did… Matthew 9

Matthew 9: 9-13  “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Dear Lord- let this be a year of pages of lives abundant with the art of your love, your compassion and your grace.  Help me to open up the margins of my life and allow others in… help all of us to do the same, and in s doing to find more of you.. I love you Lord- amen

It was one of those “Black and white” days of winter.  Where the world is painted in shades of dirt.  The slush on the road was the exact color and consistency of dryer lint.  Or maybe, it was the stress of buying gifts for everyone we know, that made it seem that way.  The holidays can be like that.

Especially when you’re in a time and money crunch and are in a trying to get it all done now, mode. Which, we were.

As we drove, there were more reminders of how bad things are economically, than holiday decorations on every corner. I’m pretty sure there were literal “signs of the times” because I saw them. They read: “We buy houses” and “Call NOW, to avoid foreclosure!”

No more silver bells on every street corner, only store closing signs.  Just when the signs had started to melt together like a marketing slush pile, one jumped out at us.

Or maybe it wasn’t the sign, it was the huge, slush dripping, black man holding the sign that caught out attention. With one strong arm he held the sign, and with the other he waved. He had a smile warm enough to melt an iceberg. (I may have suspected he was high-for just a minute.  Just being honest!) I looked a little closer- iPhone in hand in case I needed to report a drunken signer…But he wasn’t smiling vacantly, he made eye contact with each passing car. He was smiling genuinely. (Who knew people still do that?)

I couldn’t help but smile back. Neither could every other driver on that road. It was more contagious than swine flu.

My husband noticed too. “See that guy?” My hubby said.  “He must be freezing!”

” Yeah, I can’t help but smile! We should get him a coffee or something…” I replied. “Well, maybe when we’re done.” I suggested, looking at the clock and wishing it would sloooow down.

By the time we’d turned the next corner and found a parking lace at the mall, I’d forgotten all about he smiling man and the hot coffee.

We finished our errands, then drove to the nearest Starbucks for a treat to celebrate sticking to our budget.  As I held the white chocolate mocha and let it warm my fingers, I remembered that warm smile.

I thought I was losing it when I looked up to see the “STORE CLOSING SALE” sign walking towards the coffee shop. I wondered if I were about to be visited by a ghost of Christmas past…..then I worried whether Starbucks was the next store to close.. (that would be tragic.) Funny how one worry leads to another, isn’t it?

No worries, no paranormal episode being filmed and Starbucks wasn’t in fiscal trouble.  It was time for the smiling sign holder’s coffee break.

“He’s STILL SMILING! I said to my husband. “Hey, …Buy him a coffee, he’s gotta be freezing!!” I told hubby- but he was already reaching for his wallet. We were on the same page. (The first time that day- let’s just say Christmas shopping together can be brutal.)

Hubby walked to the counter with him and offered to buy him a coffee.

I strained to listen while they talked.  (And not look like a SBUX eaves dropper while doing it..)

“You seem to like what you’re doing..” Hubby said.

“I like having a job” Said our sign holding friend.

“Been doing this long?” Hubby asked, curious.

“A few months. I worked for a moving company before the economy tanked.” He said,  warming his frigid hands around the iconic paper cup.

The talk lasted just a bit longer than the coffee. By the end? My husband was  sure it had been a “divine appointment.”  The kind you don’t have programmed into your blackberry.

When the man excused himself to the restroom, my husband returned, looking perplexed.

“His birthday is coming up.. he has twin girls…times are rough but he’s glad to be working… I feel like I should give him something, do something to help.. but I don’t want to you know.. make him feel bad..he’s working, not begging.. you know what I mean?” Hubby said.

“Just be honest with him.. tell him you want to do it to thank him for what he’s doing…making people smile….  If that doesn’t work, tell him to use it to buy something for his girls…for Christmas.” I offered, thinking a little cash to buy gifts for the kids would be rough for anyone to turn down!

Hubby reached for his wallet. I watched him walk over as our new friend was picking up his sign getting ready to head back out into the cold.  I couldn’t make out words as they talked, but my ears strained to hear, anyways. They seemed more serious and intense this time.  I prayed silently: “Lord, please don’t let this offend this guy, let it bless him.”

My heart skipped a beat when I saw those two big men embrace, each with tears in their eyes.

He’d accepted the gift without offense.

We didn’t solve the economic crisis, or get him a more stable job. We just did what we could. So did he. He gave warm smiles and waves to drivers facing their own economic crisis’ as they drove to Christmas shop,  we gave a Venti’ and a few bills to a guy struggling to make ends meet.

In our own ways, we all made a difference that day, to each other.  And, just maybe to the world.

What will you do to make a difference, today?