Category: generosity


How do you say goodbye to someone you’ve known almost your whole life? He’s not family (at least not by blood relation) but he’s absolutely family. I met Larry Morton when I was 12 years old and he was 31. He was married to a sweet, pretty young woman named Ruth Ann. Our families become instant, lifelong friends. They had moved to the Atlanta area from Canada and my Southern family provided endless hours of entertainment for Mort as he observed our quirky sayings, behaviors, and food choices. He loved to practice his southern drawl on my name, calling me “Daaaaawwwwwwn” then flashing his Santa Claus smile. Mort lived with wild abandon, drove a corvette, rode a motorcycle, water skied, snow skied, and (fill in the blank with every other adventurous outing imaginable). I played the piano and it was not unusual for Mort to buy me a new piece of sheet music and bring it over to our house. One of his favorites was “The Entertainer”, a tricky little ragtime piece that I worked hard to master. When Mort and Ruth Ann had their first (and only) child, Nicole, I was convinced she was mine.

Mort taught my brother and me how to water ski at Lake Lanier on a warm Saturday morning in early summer when I was in high school. He showed me how to put my feet in the skis, hold the rope correctly, and lean back. Keeping my knees together and pulling hard when he hit the throttle on the boat, I came up out of the water on my first try! For many years after, my brother and I could not get enough of those early mornings and long days at the lake. Mort, my Dad, my brother, and I would go very early, meeting Ruth Ann and my mom later in the day to eat and hang out at a little cove we discovered. My confidence grew and it wasn’t long before I tried to slalom. That’s when the fun really began! Many a boyfriend tried to survive a day on the lake with my Dad, my brother, and Mort. Very few made it back for a second one.

Mort and Ruth Ann took me to my first professional hockey game – the Atlanta Flames. I was hooked from the first drop of the puck. Going to the games with them was the only time my parents ever let me stay out late on a school night. The highlight of those games came one night after a tough win and a few broken hockey sticks. I managed to wrangle a stick from one of the crew and Ruth Ann and I walked down to the locker room, waiting patiently for those enormous athletes to start leaving. Ruth Ann stood there with me as I sheepishly asked them to sign the stick, which they all graciously did – every last one of them. With my stick covered in Atlanta Flames autographs, I sneaked it in the house later that night and gave it to my brother for his birthday. I thought Mort and Ruth Ann were the coolest people on the planet.

We introduced Mort to my Mom’s hot buttered biscuits and my Dad’s famous ham. He introduced us to Verner’s ginger ale. It has just the right mix of sweet and burn; I love it to this day. Some of my family’s favorite meals come straight out of Ruth Ann’s kitchen. She had been a school teacher in Canada and I was fascinated by her stories of how they did things ‘up North’. Mort and Ruth Ann were easy and comfortable to be with and Mort was the kind of man who always made you feel better after you had been around him, even if only for a few minutes.

I recently heard a Bible study teacher sharing about I Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  He asked what our thoughts were on why love is the greatest. A few people offered up the canned answers: because God is love; because love is a choice; because you can’t have faith and hope without it; because …” And then he explained it in a way I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. He said that faith is something we have here and now that the Bible promises will become sight. Hope is something we have here and now that the Bible promises will be made complete. But love? Love is eternal. Love is past, present, and future. Love will remain love for all eternity. Amazing, isn’t it? How a simple, different way of looking at something – even a word – can open up a whole new concept of what it really means. I can’t help but believe that God gave me the opportunity to hear these truths just a week before we learned that my dear friend, one of my heroes, is on his way Home.
 
Mort, even now your faith is being made sight. Your hope is being made complete. The love you gave your family and the love they gave you will go on forever. Rest, my friend. I love you.

Wednesday afternoon following the end-of-school party (see earlier blog, Summer’s Dance) Rachel and I walked into the house and I was planning to start dinner – a celebration meal of one of my family’s favorite dishes.  However, as I walked upstairs from the basement I was smacked in the face by the realization that the house felt extremely warm.  Here in Atlanta we were blessed with an extremely pleasant Spring and have recently entered the summer days that push temperatures into the 90s.  I checked the thermostat and held my foot up to one of the air conditioning vents.  Everything seemed to be working properly.  Stalling on dinner because I knew the oven would be involved I made a few phone calls, checked my email, and put away some laundry. 

About an hour later the house was still getting warmer and I had a growing concern that we were in for some bad news about our a/c system.  Not something we wanted to have to deal with any time, but especially with Richard and me both unemployed.  By 11pm on Wednesday night the temperature was a sweltering 81 degrees inside the house!  Then I remembered we had a cheer uniform consignment sale scheduled to begin the next morning which meant a house full of moms and cheerleaders trying on uniform parts and pieces trying to save a little before ordering a brand new uniform from the rep.

We decided to go ahead and call our heating and air guy, George, and leave a message so he would know first thing the next morning that we were having trouble.  I was shocked when he answered the phone – it was after 11pm – but very thankful.  He stayed on the phone with me while I checked a few things before concluding that, in fact, we were going to need a service call.  He was planning to be out late in the afternoon on Thursday.  I got up early Thursday morning and opened all the windows trying to move air through the house and was grateful to see that the skies were overcast. 

Consignment sale went well, temperatures stayed moderately comfortable, and the sun stayed hidden behind dense clouds most of the day.  Thank you, Jesus.  Sitting at the computer late Thursday afternoon I looked out the window and saw really dark skies moving in our direction.  Yes!  Rain is coming!  I love, love, love rainy days but it seemed especially welcome knowing that it would carry with it dropping temperatures and breezes.  Boy, was I right!  We had a whopper of a storm – thunder, lightning, lights flickering on and off, and hard rain.

George finally made his way to our house well past dinnertime.  After checking a few things he determined that the pump had gone bad.  Great. How much is this going to cost?  And how long before we have air?  George could tell by the look on our faces that we were near panic mode.  I finally bit the bullet and asked, “how much? and how long?”  He broke into a huge smile and said, “Let me tell you a story.”

George then began to share with us that he had installed a brand new, several-thousand-dollar system for a customer earlier in the week.  This same gentleman had bought a new pump last year but when he opted for the new system he wanted everything brand new, high quality, and that had resulted in another new pump.  The guy could easily have sold the pump to someone else or even sold it back to George but he didn’t.  He told George to put it on his truck thinking that someone else might be in a jam and need one.  Really?  Richard then asked how much the ‘used’ pump would be.  George smiled again and said, “you know, I could sell it but I’d rather bless you with it.”  Really??  Arrangements were made for the new pump and Richard walked outside with George to pay him for the service call – we should at least pay for that.  George wouldn’t accept a penny.

We have been navigating the jagged-edge State of Uncertainty for quite some time.  Our jobs (or lack of), our finances, even our housing is on shaky ground.  I have to admit I’ve been questioning if God is hearing my prayers or cares that my hands and knees are getting bloody.  What began yesterday with overcast skies as a gentle reminder that He knows, He hears, and He cares ended with a shout out of provision for me and my family.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Jesus loves me. This I know.

An anonymous poet once said, “The pouring of compassion, combined with the mixing of gifts and generosity, blend together to serve miracles.”  The first time I saw this printed in a magazine, it was the artwork that caught my attention.  The artist had captured an old world feel, something between Renaissance and Renoir.  I read the words again, promptly tore the page out of the magazine, and taped it up on the wall where I could read it daily – sometimes several times a day.  In light of Mother’s Day I would like to tell you about a very special woman who epitomizes every word of this short but powerful prose – my Mom.
The pouring of compassion… my Mom feels things deeply and even though her strong Southern upbringing won’t always allow her to show it, her heart is as tender as fresh biscuit dough.  She will be the first volunteer to provide a meal for someone who’s sick or recovering from surgery.   When she and my Dad travel, she always tucks away the complimentary shampoo, conditioner, bath gels, and lotions from the hotel so she can deliver them to a local ministry helping underprivileged women.  Whether she’s praying (I’ve heard her) or writing in her journal (I’ve read a few entries), nine times out of ten it’s about someone else and their needs.  When I had breast cancer and was overwhelmed by everyone wanting to take care of me, she touched my arm and said gently, “Sweetie, they love you.  Let them.”
Combined with the mixing of gifts and generosity… my Mom has many gifts and she happily, generously shares them with anyone and everyone.  She has the gift of beauty but you won’t find one vain bone in her tiny frame.  She has the gift of hospitality and can instantly make anyone feel at home, ready to put their feet up on the sofa and stay a while.  She has the gift of creativity and can make the simplest meal beautiful and memorable.  She has the gift of music and sings with a joyful spirit.  She has the gift of reading.  That may sound strange but no one – and I mean no one – can read a story to a child like my Mom.  She can literally make time stand still in a story.  I’m thankful my children have been the benefactors of that one!  Everything she does is blanketed in generosity.  She regularly goes above and beyond and finds tremendous satisfaction in making life a little sweeter for others.
Blend together to serve miracles… my Mom always made our house a home.  We may not have had a lot in the world’s eyes but we didn’t know it.  She made birthdays, Christmas, and sometimes a regular old Saturday morning magical – usually on a shoe string budget.  She worked a full time job, volunteered (for everything) at our church, kept our house clean and the laundry done, carted my brother and me to all our social and sporting events, and taught me by example to be a gracious, kind, compassionate woman.  I learned to respect others by watching her respect others.  I learned to do my best by watching her touch everything with excellence.  I learned the deep satisfaction of a ‘Norman Rockwell’ moment by helping to prepare a special meal and gather her family around the kitchen table.  And I learned to be fiercely loyal to my family by understanding that sometimes it’s alright to not keep your mouth shut.
I lovingly refer to her as ‘Miss Daisy’ (when she’s not around), my children call her ‘Honey’, and our friends know her as ‘Mrs. C’.  She pours compassion, combines it with the mixing of gifts and generosity, and blends it all together to serve miracles.  She is simply, beautifully, my Mom.
 
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