All posts by Patty LaRoche

Snobs by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

There were five BMW’s, six Mercedes, two Porsche’s, one Bentley and two Jaguar’s in this lot,” said Dave after looking for a parking spot here in Jupiter, Florida, where he and I are living for a few months.

And don’t forget,” I added, “our 2005 Toyota pick-up.”

People were impressed,” laughed Dave.

The other day I returned a shawl to a local department store. It had been purchased to be worn over a sleeveless dress at my son’s wedding last month…and had I lost the 20 pounds necessary to zip up the dress, it would have worked out splendidly to cover my trembling triceps. Since that depressing weight-loss-thing didn’t happen, I was forced to wear a different dress—one with long sleeves—that resembled a parachute more than something classy.

Handing the shawl to the lady at the cash register, I laughed as I shared that same explanation when she asked if anything was wrong with it. She stared at me like I had asked permission to break her kneecaps.

Perhaps she is having a bad day, I told myself.

Apparently, a lot of people in this part of the country are having bad days.

My girlfriend Alice and I went to lunch last week. Our waiter was gruff and there only to get a tip. When I told Alice he was a snob, she agreed.

Perhaps he is having a bad day,” I told my friend.

Probably not,” she answered. “You’ll get used to it.”

I’m not so sure. I don’t do well with hoity-toity people…until, that is, I have to face facts, come off of my high horse and ask myself if I could be a slice of that snob pie. After all, Christians are not exempt. Do we, for example, subconsciously place the pastor on a spiritual level superior to the church custodian? Do we praise the soloist with the flawless vibrato while ignoring the couple who faithfully hand out bulletins week after week? Do we whisper excitedly when the millionaire walks through the church doors but ignore the mentally-challenged woman who ambles to the front for prayer?

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (James 2:1) There is a story about how (then) Governor Ronald Reagan and Nancy sat in the same seats when they attended California’s Bel Aire Presbyterian Church. One morning, when they were late, two college students occupied their seats. An usher came down the aisle and asked the students if they would move. They did, and the Reagans were brought in and seated. To his credit, the pastor got up from his place on the platform, walked down to the college students and said, As long as I am pastor of this church, that will never happen again.” He understood James 2: 2-4 (ESV): For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I cannot fathom favoring one person over another, at least not until I honestly search my heart and wonder if my attitude towards rude department store personnel and waiters is my way of setting myself, in some snobbish, judgmental way, a notch or two above them.

Surely not, I tell myself.

I’m WAY above that.

Interruptions by Patty LaRoche

I don’t mean to interrupt people. I just randomly remember things and get really excited.” I saw that plaque in a diner and knew exactly what it meant. If I don’t share my thoughts immediately, they will be gone…immediately. Still, I force myself to refrain because it’s downright rude to interrupt. I mean, how many times have you been telling a story when someone one-ups you or changes the subject and takes over the conversation? Without ever asking you to finish yours? I-R-R-I-T-A-T-I-N-G!

A newly-purchased sign, hanging in my step daughter’s kitchen, counters that quote.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?” Nikki purchased it, hoping a relative gets the point.

And no, I am not that relative.

I’m really not.

On the day of last year’s eclipse, I was at my friend Marti’s house. She was watching her granddaughter, Isabel, and was explaining the solar phenomenon to her. As Marti and I talked, Isabel exploded with random thoughts. Each time, Marti gently told her granddaughter that the adults were visiting and she needed to wait her turn. Isabel tried to be patient, and then she did what every well-mannered child does when she can wait no longer—she raised her hand and waved it frantically. Her behavior was delightful.

Many adults could learn from her example.

Of course, we all know that all interrupting is not always bad. Some news should not wait, like telling me that my grandchild is playing with matches or the neighbor’s dog is chewing on my patio furniture. In reality, life is all about interruptions, isn’t it? Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian, wrote, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered my interruptions were my work.” I get it. Most of my articles are based on something happening I wasn’t expecting. Our life’s narrative is constantly being rewritten because of interruptions. In the past year, several of my friends have found that to be true. Cancer. A hurricane. An unexpected pregnancy. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Care of an elderly parent. Addiction. Mental illness. Death. The Bible is jam-packed with interruptions. A young girl’s life was interrupted to be told that she would bring the Messiah into the world. Jesus was constantly interrupted by evil spirits or arrogant religious teachers, moments that gave him an opportunity to remind his listeners of grace. Judas interrupted Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples and again with his prayer time in the Garden, all leading up to the incredible sadness after Jesus’ death being interrupted by the life-changing news that his grave was empty. And for those whose lives are based on that resurrection, there remains one final interruption for which we must be prepared. We find it in Thessalonians 1:16-17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Now, that’s an interruption we can’t afford to miss.

Australian Open by Patty LaRoche

Three times a year I live vicariously by watching professional tennis tournaments on television: Wimbledon; The U.S. Open; and the Australian Open. The seasoned veterans give me hope when they pummel the young upstarts. I even enjoy the fairly predictable interviews following their matches. Thank the crowd. Give credit to the “talented” opponent. Address how hard they worked to get this win.

At age 32, Rafael Nadal of Spain currently is ranked #2 in the world. A couple of his accomplishments include 17 Grand Slam singles titles, the second most in history for a male player, and a record 33 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. In other words, he plays better than I do.

Following his semi-final win, he said something like this: “I wake up every morning thinking about what I need to do to be a better tennis player, either on the court or at the gym.” This morning, in my prayer time, those words kept replaying in my head. Do I wake up every morning thinking about what I need to do to represent Christ better? To give unselfishly. To take better care of my body. To speak loving words.

I must admit, the last one is difficult for me. Actually, they all are, but that’s for another article. My mouth was put to the test while texting five friends during the Chief’s game against the Patriots. Diana, my disabled friend from Tulsa, watched the broadcast from her wheelchair. Her text comments demonstrated her sweet, Chiefs-defending attitude.

Is it me or are those Patriots gigantic guys?”

Brady’s front line looks like huge walking trees.”

When a timeout was taken to review a play in which the Chiefs scored a touchdown after a Patriots’ return specialist appeared to touch the ball, my friend immediately commented: “It looks deflected.” I, Miss Negative, disagreed. The officials concurred, I am not proud to say.

After the Chiefs lost, Diana had one final remark: “I’m just so disappointed for our guys. They played so hard against a team that seemed to get almost every break.” (Notice she said “for”’ our guys, not “in” our guys.)

Compare Diana’s remarks to mine:

This is ugly. We can come back but have to stop leaving so many holes for the Patriots’ offense.”

Mahomes (the Chief’s quarterback) seems nervous.”

A penalty for lining up in the neutral zone? That’s something you learn in flag football.”

I ended with this: “Sad to say, but the Patriots just outplayed us.” And then, realizing how negative I was, added, “We’ll get ‘em next year.” My other girlfriends chimed in that the refs made bad calls and the rule for coin tosses in tie games needs to be changed.

They were true fans. I was not. Ask Dave. He managed to sit in the same room with me while I ranted, buried my head under a pillow and yelled at the television set. My husband’s only comment was that Tom Brady is a strong Christian and I should take that into account…which I did not.

So, today is a new day. I can learn from my bad attitude and dwell on what is important, like thinking of ways to represent Christ better to everyone I encounter. Before I do that, however, I’ll just take a quick break and turn on ESPN2 to see how badly Serena Williams, my favorite female player, destroyed Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals last night.


It had to be the umpires. Yes, I’ll go with that. (See? I learn from my mistakes.)

Mariott’s Buffet by Patty LaRoche

Omelets cooked to order. Crispy bacon and zesty sausage. Tasty spinach quiche with homemade crust. Oatmeal topped with our choice of walnuts, brown sugar and cran-raisins. Cantaloupe and strawberries and kiwi, oh my! Dave and I chose to splurge on an all-you-can-eat Marriott buffet because we would be leaving the hotel that day and moving into our rental home. Celebration time!

We had been in Jupiter, Florida, for three weeks, and while we looked for an apartment to rent, the Florida Marlins, Dave’s employer, paid for our hotel room. Every morning at 6:00, Dave left for work. Some days he ate a cold bagel; other days, a banana or an apple. When he arrived back at the hotel around noon, the first thing we did was find a nearby restaurant for lunch, and trust me! Diners in Jupiter, Florida, are much more expensive than in the Midwest. (Granted, I could have eaten at the Marriott restaurant after he left for the ballpark, but that’s just not the kind of selfish person I am.)

Save your comments, close friends.

Back to the buffet. Dave and I agreed that the spread was one of the best ever, but then we realized we had not asked the price of our meals. Not smart. When the waiter handed my husband the bill, Dave appeared perplexed, not horror-struck.

I think they made a mistake,” he began. “The word ‘COMP’ appears at the top, and $8.95 is scratched out. This meal has to be more than that for one person, let alone two, and I have no idea what the ‘COMP’ is all about. We’ll figure it out when we leave.” Dave signed our room number and his name, tipped the waiter and we left.

Check-out time. As Dave loaded the truck, I went to the front desk to settle our account and was told our balance was zero.

My husband and I both had your buffet this morning, so how much is that? I asked.

It’s $18.95 per person.”

No wonder it was so good, I told myself. “Well, that should be added on.”

The Marriott representative smiled. “The Marlins paid for it.”

I didn’t understand and asked how the Marlins knew we were going to eat there this morning.

They probably didn’t, but that was part of your room package. The Marlins covered a meal every day you were here. They didn’t tell you?”

Uh, no. No, they didn’t.”

I couldn’t wait to share the news with Dave. Here we had been offered a freebie feast, but we hadn’t take advantage of it because no one bothered to share the good news with us. No one had given us a chance to “take it or leave it.”

Although the parallels aren’t exact, there is a spiritual application here. We Christians know that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6); we know that eternity is a gift that was paid for with his blood (Hebrews 9:14); and we know that we are to feed God’s people with that “Good News,” the Gospel (Mark 16:15). The only thing it costs us is a little time and the potential for rejection. (Heaven forbid it cost us monetarily.)

Like the Marlins, if we fail to share that news, we are denying others an opportunity to “take it or leave it.” The Marriott’s buffet was temporary, but God’s is everlasting and one no one can afford to miss.

God Provides by Patty LaRoche

We would move to Jupiter, Florida, for a year. Dave would work as the rehabilitation coach for the injured Miami Marlins’ pitchers. We would rent a lovely, furnished, two-bedroom condominium near the ballpark, buy two bikes, swim, play tennis and find a church on fire for Jesus. That was the plan…which wasn’t quite as do-able as it sounded.

Apparently New Yorkers migrate to Jupiter during the winter months, booking their rentals a year in advance. (Who stays behind and shovels Buffalo’s sidewalks is what I want to know.) Unless we spend Dave’s entire paycheck (not to mention, I would need to get a waitressing job), we were out of luck. We were going to have to settle…for Plan B.

Asking for a covered parking spot? Perhaps a shady tree would do.

A washer and dryer in the unit? Laundromats are fun places to witness about Jesus…you know, captive audience and all that.

Furniture? For $1,100 a month, we could rent the “middle” package… the one with cardboard cones supporting the coffee table.

A pool and tennis court? Hahahahaha

Maybe we could buy something small. Like a fixer-upper. And not fixer-upper it.

On one apartment-seeking drive, we saw an older beach home with a “For Rent” sign in its front yard. I immediately called the realtor’s number and was told it had just rented…for $20,000 a month. I started laughing. “Did you say $20,000 a MONTH?”

I know,” he answered. “But it is on the beach, and it has a 100’ pier.”

Is that pier plated with gold?” I asked. Dave told me to hang up.

My husband noticed an “Open House” sign at a trailer park and pulled into its entrance. The owner was a sweet little lady who carried a bottle of Pine Sol around as she proudly showed us her home. At least it would be clean, I told myself. It was furnished, had a carport and a washer and dryer. Never mind there was no pool or tennis court or workout room OR that it wasn’t even for rent, and for $220,000, we could move in at the beginning of February.

One realtor offered us a furnished unit that apparently had been decorated by someone on a very tight budget—like, oh say, $100.00. It did, however, have a pool and a workout room and a tennis court. Oops! Check that. The tennis court was filled with construction materials because each unit was being rebuilt due to water damage from poorly-designed roofs. Ours already had been rebuilt, we were told. This was to be good news. Dave said we had no choice.

Yes, we did. We could jump off a gold-plated pier.

This morning, right before Dave accepted the contract on that unit, I had this crazy idea to phone the church Dave and I attended last Sunday and asked if they knew of anyone who might help us. They did. Her name is Rhonda; she is a church volunteer and also a realtor. She contacted me, I explained our predicament, and the first thing she said was, “May I pray with you?” And pray she did! She called on the name of Jesus and let loose! I was driving at the time, but had our truck had a sunroof, I would have been transported to Heaven. It was glorious!

And guess what! Within 24 hours we were signing the lease on a cozy duplex with not just a single garage but a double one. In our latest email correspondence, I wrote this to Rhonda: “How does God do it? Amazing.” Her response? “RIGHT! He always blows me away. I have been especially on fire since we prayed! Honored to be a witness of His Grace.”

Me too, Rhonda. Me too.

Ephesians 3:20-21– Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Emphasis: mine)

Baptism by Patty LaRoche

When you hear the word “Baptism,” what comes to mind? Infant sprinkle? Immersion? Unimportant? Necessary for salvation? Few Christian topics are more controversial. From the time John the Baptist showed up munching on locusts and honey, the concept of Baptism has been debated, and just as soon as I think I have it figured out, another scripture comes along to show why people disagree.

A few years ago, at our couples’ Bible study, the question of Baptism–as a requisite for entrance into Heaven–came up (not a topic I would recommend for baby believers). One person made the typical defense for it not being necessary: Jesus promised the un-baptized thief hanging on a cross beside him that “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Others claimed that to be a non-issue because the crucifixion was pre-resurrection; it was after Jesus died and rose again that Baptism became mandatory. (If you find that Bible passage, please let me know.)

Ephesians 2:8-9 was read to the group. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Grace, not works. Baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Quickly, that was discounted when a church leader used Acts 2:38 as a defense for Baptism’s necessity: And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Aha! Baptism is necessary for salvation.

Not according to one author who, for example, used the Greek definition of the word “for” in Acts 2:38 as a way of proving Baptism is not required for salvation. (which of course was Greek to me). Another attempted to prove his point by writing about the Negative Inference Fallacy—”Just because Acts 2:38 says ‘repent and be baptized….for the forgiveness of sins…and the gift of the Holy Spirit’ does not mean that if one repents and is not baptized, he will not receive forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

See what I mean? One says “Yea.” Another says “Nay.”

What’s a person to do?

A week after their wedding, Andy and Kristen, our son and (now—hooray!) daughter-in-law, were baptized together in the gulf waters off the coast of Pine Island, Florida. Andy’s brother, Adam, performed the ceremony after sharing a few thoughts about Baptism. First, he said, it is an outward demonstration of participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Second, it symbolizes the commitment Andy and Kristen made at their wedding since, in Scripture, the Bride refers to the Church, and the bridegroom to Jesus. Third, “Marriage” is integral to the purest of relationships, just like Baptism connects us to Jesus Christ: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Gal. 3:27

Still, the question remains: Is it necessary for salvation?

I don’t know, but I do know that I liked the answer our Bible study leader gave our group about its significance: “Jesus was baptized, and if he is our example, why shouldn’t we?”

No one could disagree with that.

The First Glimpse by Patty LaRoche

The notice, slid under our hotel room door, warned of “gale-like winds” and imminent danger. We were to “stay tuned to the National Weather Advisory for updates.” I didn’t need the NWA. Opening my hotel balcony door was proof that 40-mph gusts were nothing to compete against. Palm trees curved instead of standing upright, and no one braved an early morning walk. In four hours, our son Andy would marry Kristen at a beach ceremony, the same beach that now fought to hold back a rising tide destined for surfers, not a bride and groom.

Months ago, Kristen and her mother traveled to Florida to choose the perfect spot on Marco Island for this destination wedding. December “never had” weather issues, so with no climate worries, the date was chosen and preparations began.

The morning of the wedding, the bride, her five bridesmaids, her mother and I met with the professional hair stylists and make-up artists. John, the wedding planner, periodically knocked on the door to plead with Kristen to move the event inside, fearing dishes and glasses at the reception would become projectiles if not anchored properly. Kristen’s dream always had been to have a beach wedding. Why should a baby hurricane mess up her plans?

Only when the rain came did John get his way. I’m sure there was no small, behind-the-scenes panic as flowery, altar backdrops and musical equipment was moved inside, chairs set up and hotel personnel assigned to redirect the guests. Still, Kristen insisted the “first-viewing” would be outside. At least she would have that part of her dream come true.

First-viewings are a relatively new concept. To prevent guests at the reception from waiting over an hour while post-ceremony photographs are taken, pictures now occur before the wedding. This, of course, prevents the groom from being dazzled when his lovely bride appears for the first time at the back of the church. To give the couple a semblance of that suspense, the groom’s back is turned until the bride walks up, taps him on the shoulder, and he pivots to see her for the first time. The moment is staged in precise detail by the photographer, but it is one that, in Andy and Kristen’s case, perfect strangers stopped to admire from the safety of the windowed corridor. The moment is tender and unforgettable.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of the “first viewing” we Christians will have when we one day meet Jesus face-to-face. Granted, details throughout Scripture are fuzzy, but I encourage you to read Acts 7 to get an idea of what it will be like. In this chapter, the Jewish leaders are stoning the apostle Stephen who has just blamed them for Jesus’ death. And he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”…And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

I don’t know if our “first viewing” with Jesus will be anything similar to Stephen’s, but if the tears I shed watching Andy being stunned by his bride’s radiance are any indication, Heaven better prepare for a gale-life storm when I see my Savior for the first time! Can you imagine seeing his nail-scarred wrists as he opens his arms to greet his bride? Now, that’s a wedding we don’t want to miss.

Kayak by Patty LaRoche

As I write this, I am looking out my condo window at the ocean. This morning, all is peaceful. The tide is low, many early morning types are strolling the beach, picking up sea shells or just loosening their joints. The sea looks harmless. Maybe I will go for a swim. After all, this is my last day here. Tomorrow, Dave and I begin our trek home to Kansas. From there we will drive to Florida where he has taken a job for the next 12 months.

But I won’t go for a swim. Not after last night’s phone call from my youngest son, Andy.

First, a little background. He and his brother Jeff take a trip every year, and since Andy is getting married in two weeks, this would be their final one together. They, along with their friend Chris, chose Belize.

According to Andy, mid-afternoon the three rented a kayak to use as a sort of landing pad when they snorkeled. Before long, they realized the current had carried them further from their starting point, so they attempted to head back. No matter how hard they rowed or swam, the shoreline became increasingly distant. For over an hour they tried… to no avail.

Realizing it soon would be dark, Jeff and Andy decided to swim to shore for help. Chris, although a national Rugby player, was not a good swimmer, so he would stay on the kayak and wait for help. After twenty minutes of struggling against the current, my sons realized the futility in their efforts and returned to the kayak. Occasionally they would see a boat in the distance and would yell for help, but no one heard their screams. They prayed. Their fun excursion was turning out to be anything but.

Don’t panic.” “Remain calm.” “We rented this kayak, so someone has to know we haven’t returned and send help.” All great advice, but as night fell, they decided to make one last effort to make it to shore. Jeff threw his arm over the front of the kayak, Chris rowed, and Andy pushed from the end of the kayak, figuring their swim fins would help. They would go as long and as hard as they could…which lasted about fifteen minutes. Suddenly, a wave lifted them up and threw them onto a reef. Their goggles and one of the oars went flying as the kayak tipped, dumping them all onto the hard surface. Jeff’s leg was bleeding badly, and while they were tending to that, they noticed a boat’s light in the distance.

This time, their screams were heard. They were rescued and taken to shore where they were told that no kayak should have been rented that day. The tide was far too dangerous, and just the week before, two men dared the same type of current and never made it back. My sons and their friend had trusted a young man (wanting to make a few dollars) instead of investing a little time into Googling the sea condition for that day.

As a result, what started out looking harmless proved that accomplished athletes have no power compared to the ocean’s undercurrent. I told Andy that I hoped they realized how God had protected them that night. He assured me they did.

Many people I know have found that something “harmless” has led to their downfall. A tiny white lie. A bit of gossip. An angry word. A sneak peek at a porn site. A choice not to forgive. And suddenly, they are in over their heads in sin. They have depended on their own abilities to control those harmless temptations instead of taking the time–and making the effort– to find where their trust should be placed. Psalm 9:10 speaks to that perfect constant: “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Just ask Andy, Jeff and Chris.

Christmas 2018 by Patty LaRoche

The following letter, written to Santa and sent to me in an email, probably can tell the story of many young mothers.

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good mom all year. I’ve fed, cleaned and cuddled my two children on demand, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground, and figured out how to attach nine patches onto my daughter’s girl scout sash with staples and a glue gun. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases since I had to write this letter with my son’s red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I’ll find any more free time in the next 18 years. Here are my Christmas wishes: I’d like a pair of legs that don’t ache after a day of chasing kids (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don’t flap in the breeze but are strong enough to carry a screaming toddler out of the candy aisle in the grocery store. I’d also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy. If you’re hauling big ticket items this year, I’d like a car with a radio that only plays adult music, a television that doesn’t broadcast any programs containing talking animals and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone. On the practical side, I could use a talking daughter doll that says, “Yes, Mommy” to boost my parental confidence, and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools. And please don’t forget the Playdoh Travel Pack. It comes in three fluorescent colors and is guaranteed to crumble on any carpet making the in-laws’ house seem just like mine. If it’s too late to find any of these products, I’d settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container. Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the chimney and come in and dry off by the fire so you don’t catch a cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table but don’t eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet. Yours Always…Mom

To all of you Moms, Dads and other readers of this column, I hope this Christmas is filled with blessings celebrating Jesus Christ. To Him be all the glory. He is my Lord and Savior. I pray he is yours too.

Bachelor Party by Patty LaRoche

Herding butterflies would have been easier. Jeff, our oldest son, was hosting a bachelor party for his younger brother, Andy, here in Mazatlán, and 29 of Andy’s friends had come to celebrate. Eleven condominiums were rented for four days, a day-long fishing trip was scheduled, as was a golf competition at a spectacular course. Other than that, according to Jeff, the men could do “whatever they wanted.”

My job was to help organize. No problema. I love to organize. I would need spreadsheets for flight schedules, condo roomie preferences, likes or dislikes for shellfish and guacamole, rankings for ocean swimming abilities, number of golf clubs to rent, etc. Jeff kept reminding me that these were not my girlfriends. Many of the guys wouldn’t book their flights until the day before, much less know if they would participate in the scheduled activities until it was time to load the vans. Jeff was right. These definitely were not my girlfriends who book trips months in advance, the same day they start packing.

How did these guys function? How could I pair them up for taxis or book them on the shuttle if I had no idea when they arrived? How many vans did I need, if these guys all operated by the seat of their golf pants? How would I possibly keep track of them all for four days?

My carefree hubby was no help. “Patty, don’t stress about it. You’re not going to change the way these guys operate.” Dave apparently didn’t realize that these 30-48 year olds were free spirits, only three of them spoke any Spanish, and none had ever been to Mazatlán before. I wanted a buddy system, preferably like kindergarten field trips where they’re all roped together.

Jeff questioned my micromanaging, not understanding that, in life, someone has to take care of the details. Right? I was a wreck the entire four days. Five of the guests chose to take the ferry to “find a place” that rented jet skis instead of go fishing. Others wandered off to tour the historic part of Mazatlán. My two nephews went to Mass at the Cathedral, walking two miles to catch a cab because the annual Marathon runners had closed the streets. I had no control!

On the day most of the guys left Mazatlán, Brad was nowhere to be found. Andy finally checked his room and realized his suitcase was gone, so “He probably already left.”

Probably? Probably? Shoot me now!

I can’t help it. I am a Martha. Hear me roar. Luke 10:38-42 was written for me. You probably know the story. Jesus and his amigos were invited to Martha and Mary’s home. Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Martha, distracted by all of the details involved in being a good hostess, was annoyed that Mary lounged while she labored over a hot stove. (I repeat–Someone has to take care of the details, right?) At her wit’s end, Martha ratted out Mary to Jesus. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Yes! Yes! I get it. I would have loved to have been on a jet ski or riding in a golf cart instead of sitting at home, stewing about the safety of…well, however many men were wherever they were. Surely Jesus empathized and told Mary to be more sensitive, right?

Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed— indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (When I read that, my roar becomes a whimper.)

It wasn’t until Andy’s friends said their good-byes that I realized how much time I had spent fretting. So, when they all shared that they couldn’t wait to come back, I knew what I would do differently once they booked those flights.

I would book my own. To go see my girlfriends…in the United States.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Cindy at Palapa by Patty LaRoche

There was an interesting exchange at the Palapa, our poolside gathering spot, the week before Thanksgiving. Six women started the conversation by trying to decide when “Black Friday” was held here in Mazatlán. No one would miss out on the big-bargain, tug-of-war.

It begins today.”

No, it starts next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.”

That’s when it starts in the United States, not in Mexico.”

Back-and-forth the discussion went, until Cindy, my smart-but-dingy friend, spoke up. “I thought that happened at Easter, not Thanksgiving.”

I couldn’t help myself. (Actually, I could, but I didn’t.) “Well, since one deals with the Pilgrims and one deals with Jesus, there’s really quite a difference.” Everyone started laughing, even Cindy, until she thought about our conversation for a few seconds.

I probably missed that part in our youth group. I think the nuns didn’t like us because we went to public school and just showed up once a week for religion classes. They would rap our knuckles with a ruler when we didn’t pay attention. I got smacked a lot.”

Several chuckles later, Cindy became serious. “I just always get sad on Black Friday.” Surely she wasn’t talking about shopping, so if this sadness was about the day Jesus died, I was touched.

Yea,” she continued, “because that’s when my friends were injured in a terrible car wreck. It was just a couple of days before Easter. I’ll never forget it.”

What in the world? “Actually,” I said, “the Friday before Easter isn’t called Black Friday. It’s called Good Friday, and it’s the day Jesus died.”

Cindy looked at me like I had just fallen off a turkey truck. “Well, what’s so good about that?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Good grief, Cindy,” I laughed. “I’m surprised you have any knuckles left.”

I love unplanned conversations about Jesus, for that’s where he seems to make the greatest impact. Just mentioning his name reminds people that he is real and a part of my life…which is why I don’t understand Christians who are paralyzed at the thought of including him in their everyday conversations. How many opportunities they miss! (Trust me, I’ve missed more than I can count.)

2 Timothy 4:2 reminds us to be prepared to talk about God, no matter whether the time is favorable or not. After Peter healed a man, he took advantage of the awe-struck crowd by sharing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. That was not his intent. He had set out that morning to pray in the temple, but then this unexpected opportunity presented itself. Peter could have walked through the throng of people, shaking hands, perhaps signing an autograph or two, but he didn’t. Recognizing a chance to remind people what Jesus had done for them, he began sharing the highlights of what he knew about his Savior.

Granted, Peter’s talk ended with many people turning their lives over to Jesus, and mine ended up in laughter, but I think every mention of Jesus or God counts. After all, you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

Will and Christina by Patty LaRoche

Maybe you could strain your stuffing.”

The stuffing recipe was new, a five-star dish, loaded with sausage, bacon and mushrooms. The photo-shopped picture—with precisely placed red peppers and browned bread chunks– was my Thanksgiving experiment for this year, the year when I needed to impress.

I knew what had gone wrong. I had become distracted when the recipe called for 4 cups of water, and since I was halving-again the ingredients, six were necessary. But had I already poured in four…or six? How was I to know? The bread had soaked up all of the water, so there was no way to dump it out and remeasure. I stood by my Dutch oven, staring, waiting for the brain cells to engage. Four cups or six cups, that was the question. Unfortunately, that was also the answer. I added two more cups, rationalizing that moist stuffing is better than dry. It isn’t.

That wasn’t the only mistake. Dave and I were half-way to our son’s family’s house for dinner when I realized I had left my salad’s apple/parsley garnish at home. My lovely apple-lemon-cranberry jello dish would be naked, and since my stuffing had required additional baking time, there was no time to turn around and retrieve it, especially since I needed to run by the grocery store to pick up one of those cheater brown gravy mixes because I had only enough turkey drippings to make gravy for two small children. I would supplement and hope no one noticed. In the end, my lack of jello garnish didn’t matter anyway because I got distracted (are you seeing a pattern here?) and forgot to add my lovely apple-lemon-cranberry dish to the buffet spread until after everyone had eaten.

I had wanted my contribution to be perfect. Our son’s lifelong friend, Will, and his wife, Christina, were visiting from New York. Will owns the #1 restaurant in the WORLD, and Christina owns 15 pastry shops scattered across the country. If you watch the television show Master Chef, you will recognize her as one of the judges. But here I was, straining my gourmet turkey stuffing (aka, mush) while Christina noticed my faux gravy mixes and offered to whisk away. It was she who sweetly suggested the stuffing could serve as a fancy gravy for the potatoes that I surprisingly had not ruined, probably thanks to two sticks of butter, one of cream cheese and overkill on half-and-half, facts I would not share, considering Will and Christina eat only healthy food.

In the end, the young couple raved about the meal, finding nothing but positives in my negatives. Here they were, two perfectionists in the food industry, and they were determined to make me feel unembarrassed. Christina even commented on how many mistakes are made in preparing pastries and that it’s how you correct the problems that makes the difference. I have no doubt their upbeat attitude contributes to their restaurant success.

Ephesians 4:29 addresses the way we talk to others: “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” Let’s face it. We are either an encourager or a discourager. I have been both. As a wife, a parent, a teacher, a committee member. And I can honestly tell you, looking for ways to build someone up is far more effective than tearing them down. Christina modeled that for me on Thanksgiving Day. She saw nothing but good in my efforts.

I expect that any day I should get her invitation to appear on Master Chef.

Yes indeed, any day.