All posts by Patty LaRoche

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.

Oxygen Mask by Patty LaRoche

I confess, as much as I fly, I pay no attention to the safety message given at the beginning of the flight. If I’ve heard it a thousand times, I’ve heard it once…or something like that. Anyway, the opposite happens when I fly Southwest where many of the flight attendants have perfected comedic routines instead of the boring ones we are accustomed to hearing. One attendant delivered an oxygen mask warning that, had we not been buckled in our seats, would have received a standing ovation. “If you are traveling with a small child or someone needing help (like your husband), you are to put your mask over your nose and mouth before tending to the other person…unless, of course, your spouse has ticked you off that day. In that case, just take care of you.” Even the husbands laughed.

The warning seems silly. An unconscious person cannot help anyone else. Still, the warning is necessary. Jesus spoke words of similar refrain when listing the second-most important commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In order to love someone else, we must love ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have.

One of my best gal-pals in Mazatlán is “Clair” whose husband, “Duane,” is the winningest (Yes, that is a word) high school basketball coach in Oregon’s history. The other day she shared about the counseling they needed a few years into their marriage because no matter what time of day or night, Duane felt responsible for allowing phone calls from parents or home visits from his players. Clair said the counselor’s advice saved their marriage. “You must set boundaries. You must take care of yourselves first. The players come later.”

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Our connection with God is a limitless oxygen tank. Being dependent on Him is necessary for us to breathe physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Physically: We must take care of our bodies, the “temple of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 6:19). Eating well (Congratulations to you whose Thanksgiving feast ended with only one piece of pumpkin pie) and exercising daily (No, lifting that piece of pumpkin pie to your mouth does not qualify) are critical if we are going to have the energy to help someone else. Getting enough sleep, drinking water and striving to become healthy also are necessary to our well-being. No surprises there.

Emotionally: God gave us emotions. He gave us feelings, but He never said we are to be controlled by them. I sometimes get angry with Dave, especially when he complains relentlessly about how my weaving in and out of traffic at high rates of speed bothers him. My anger does not give me the right, however, to stop the car in the middle of the Dallas freeway, get out and demand he drive (although the idea, in all honesty, has crossed my mind). Jesus got angry. And yes, I realize that his was righteous anger and mine was…well, not, but surely we all can agree that anger is an emotion, right? The point is, we need to yield our emotions to God’s will and not our own.

Spiritually: The life-line linking our oxygen mask with God must remain unclogged. Our worldly frets and preoccupations can easily entangle us in matters that are easily solved if we just keep that connection open. Flight attendants always add one more oxygen mask tidbit: “To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you.” Get that? Allowing the mask to hang limply is useless; we must do our part and engage the mask by pulling it towards us. Some call it prayer. I call it conversation with God. Taking my cares and concerns to Him. The difference between the days I do that and the days I don’t is indescribable.

Actually, it’s the only reason I’m not parked in the middle of the Dallas freeway.

Tuxpan, Mexico by Patty LaRoche

 

2 Corinthians 8:7: But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you—make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too.

Three hours away, Hurricane Willa did major damage in the small town of Tuxpan. Last week, an email went out from Peter and Melinda, the Canadian couple who head the orphanage work here in Mazatlán, asking for two things: (1) volunteers, and (2) a truck large enough to pull a big trailer. Dave offered his truck, and I signed up to help.

Donations had allowed Melinda to shop for food, cleaning supplies and personal items which were loaded into the trailer along with chainsaws, wheelbarrows, etc. Our caravan left Mazatlán at sun-up, and once we arrived and parked, the men noticed a young boy and an elderly woman hanging muddy household items on broken tree limbs. With three wheelbarrows and several shovels, they set out to help. Two women from our team joined them to take pictures but immediately returned to the trailer because of the “stench and mosquitoes.” (Not sure what they expected…)

A young couple on a motorcycle stopped to help, sharing that a Red Cross shelter was a few blocks away and pointing to the one passable, residential road. Decisions were made. Food was placed in one car, and, assembly-line style, the other items were divided up into trash bags and loaded into a second van. Within two hours of us arriving, everything had been distributed, and since the shelter was completely out of food, our gift was a welcome relief, as were the mops, toilet paper, diapers, etc., for the owners of the mud-packed homes.

I then joined the men, only to learn that two of the wheelbarrows had lasted only five minutes before their wheels went flat. Five men with shovels were left with one wheelbarrow, and since the house had two-feet of mud in every room, work had been dramatically slowed. Peter was frustrated.

Before leaving Mazatlán, he had given two men explicit instructions to check the wheelbarrows, and since there was little electricity in Tuxpan, not even his air compressor could help.

Stepping into Rosario’s “kitchen,” I was Nancy Kerrigan on skates (the first time any of us had laughed since we arrived). This would be much harder than I had imagined. Grabbing a shovel, I began tackling a tucked-away area that still had three feet of mud in it, occasionally scooping up a pot or pan or lid. Resilient Rosario was thrilled to see some of her prized possessions rescued.

When it was time to leave, I walked (slid) through Rosario’s living room. Hanging a foot from her ceiling was a picture of Jesus’ mother, Mary. It was the same picture I had found on a tree limb outside, only then, her grandchildren were posed in front of it and it was caked in dried mud. We were able to give Rosario some money and saw this proud, Mexican woman’s smile turn to tears as she said, “Dios te bendiga” (“God bless you.”)

El ya tiene,” I answered.

He already has.”

God Is Always Working by Patty LaRoche

Dave and I left early Sunday morning to drive to our winter home in Mazatlán, Mexico, with high hopes of relaxing, working at the orphanages and catching up with dear friends. We were grateful there were only a few problems (Dallas traffic-NUTS!) in the twelve-hour ride from Fort Scott to Lytle, Texas, where we spent the night, approximately two hours from the border. That evening, friends began texting warnings of Hurricane Willa which was to hit Mazatlán Tuesday evening. We figured that, with an early start on Monday, we could beat the storm and be there mid-day Tuesday to protect our property.

We have no common sense.

Dave and I left Lytle at 7:00 A.M. and two hours later pulled over just short of the immigration office in order to find our passports and documents to present to the guards. Upon NOT finding my backpack which held my passport (not to mention, my laptop and cash), I was a little desperate when I spoke. “Dave, didn’t you say that you were bringing my luggage to the car this morning, and the ONLY thing I was to get was my water bottle?”

I said I would get your suitcase and reminded you to get your water. That didn’t mean that was the ONLY thing you were to get.”

“Swell,” I growled. “My backpack, the backpack that I assumed you carried to the car, is in the hotel room. We have to go back.”

Two hours to return to our hotel. Do the math. An EXTRA four hours of driving before even crossing into Mexico. Dave was nonplussed about the entire ordeal. I wanted to bang my head into the dashboard. Four hours seemed like ten.

Around noon we registered our truck and had our documents approved. At 12:30 we were greeted with the Mexico Red Light, meaning we would be delayed as our vehicle had to be inspected, X-rayed and designated drug-free. So, at 1:30 P.M. instead of 9:00 A.M., we were in Mexico. The hurricane was five hours closer than when we started.

At dark, we settled in a hotel room the size of a storm shelter, figuring we now could arrive in Mazatlán around 4:00 P.M. the following day, beating Willa by five hours. WRONG! Text alerts and emails kept us posted on the dangers ahead. People were evacuating Mazatlán and heading for Durango, a city on the other side of the mountains…the mountains we still needed to cross. Should we proceed, we would be driving into 120 mile-per-hour winds and flooded streets. Electricity would be turned off, water polluted and tree damage severe.

When it dawned on us that we really did lack common sense, Dave and I stopped in Durango to spend the night. From there, we continued to receive the devastating news of what awaited us in Mazatlán. Because our condo is on the bottom floor, I pictured our furniture floating, smashing through windows and drifting into the Pacific. But by morning, the forecast changed. Willa had altered courses and missed Mazatlán completely.

There was more good news. The hotel concierge reported that the toll roads now were open which was fortunate since they had been closed the day before. We couldn’t have made the drive even if we dared to! Today was a different story.

In retrospect, it was a blessing my backpack was left in the Lytle hotel room. Those four hours lost possibly prevented us from determinedly pressing forward on our trip, causing us to be on the mountain pass when it was closed.

I wonder how old I will have to be before I live out Paul’s writing to “give thanks in all circumstances.” I could have spent those four extra hours singing praises to God instead of pouting. I’m expecting there to be many more times of testing before I have the common sense to know that God is always working for good, even when I’m not.

Knowledge Of The Truth by Patty LaRoche

Susan’s friend recently enrolled her three-year old in day care. She was stunned as she filled out the application and found not two but three choices for the sex of the child:

(1). Male (2). Female (3). Undecided

What started as a fun, after-church-pizza-get-together for my friends and I soon morphed into a discussion about what is happening to our country. Gender choices for three-year olds? Have we lost our ever-lovin’ minds?

The same week, a young father I recently met shared that since the beginning of 2018, his wife, a pediatric dentist, has treated three twelve-year-old, transgender children. A few years ago, they were in her records as one gender. Now, the records need to be changed. Parents had given permission for this procedure.

I repeat, have we lost our minds? When my kids were twelve, it was hard for me to let them pick out their own clothes, much less their gender! Twelve-year olds are hormonally challenged, immature and prone to mood swings (which is why, in my opinion, middle-school teachers are saints and totally underpaid. I digress).

I am deeply concerned that we as a nation, like some of these parents, are making critically unwise (irreversible?) decisions that are leading us away from moral authority and ultimately, God. Ethical buttons are being pushed. Too many things make no sense.

We no longer are shocked when public speakers on college campuses are shouted off the dais because their audience disagrees with their position. Louder and meaner wins. Peaceful protests are a thing of the past. Now, stores are looted, cars set on fire and rocks pelted at police.

As I write this, San Francisco city officials are conducting meetings to find answers for homeless people defecating on public streets. One reporter wrote, “This is also often a passive-aggressive payback to a society that shows every day that it doesn’t care about it’s (sic) most vulnerable citizens who I often meet on the street: veterans, disabled, elderly, mentally ill, and mothers with babies.”

My suggestion: Perhaps someone needs to create sanctuary cities for those people instead of for illegals.

Speaking of which…recently, hundreds of illegal immigrants entered the United States, creating a nightmare for those responsible for vetting them. Many children arrived with non-relatives and no paperwork to prove who they are. Once it became apparent they expected to be treated with the same rights as U.S. citizens, a geographical, legal, emotional mess ensued. As I write this, approximately 7,000 more Central American migrants are on their way to our border. Which should prevail, justice or mercy? No one seems to know.

My husband and I cross the border between this country and Mexico two-to-four times a year. Without our legal documents, we would be introduced to an escort service (i.e., armed guards) who would love to hear us demand our RIGHTS. You know, our RIGHT to see what an unairconditioned, dirty, crowded, one-meal-a-day jail is all about.

I fear where all of this will lead. Hopefully to our knees. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul tells us what we can do. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

God’s truth. Not the “truth” of people who have lost their ever-lovin’ minds.

Win As Many As Possible by Patty LaRoche

A few months ago, a former classmate and I ran into each other downtown and began discussing our upcoming high school reunion, a conversation that somehow turned into how little we knew about each other’s families, even though we had attended school together for twelve years. She remembered that my father had died when I was young (eight-months old), but not how he died. My knowledge of her family was not much better, for even though we had been best friends in grade school, all I remembered about her dad was that he worked for the railroad and had no sense of smell. “We were so into ourselves,” she said. And I agreed.

Two weeks ago, my high school graduating class celebrated its 50th reunion–which makes no sense, considering I am only 30 years old. (I’m funny.) Anyway, because this was such a special event, a committee of us locals spent several weeks preparing for the celebration, and with our Class of ’68 graduating survivors nearing 165, we counted on large numbers.

Save the Date” postcards were mailed months in advance, but by the registration deadline, only 23 graduates had responded that they would come. Ten of those were on the committee. This was not what we expected. A second email was sent, followed by personal phone calls. A total of 55 registered. A few classmates had health problems that prevented them from attending, but our committee was saddened by those who said that high school was not a good experience, and they had no intention of reliving those years.

Again, not what we expected.

At one of our organizational meetings, we questioned the “Why’s” of such responses. Our committee members had run in different crowds and been involved in various activities during our school years. Two had boyfriends, their primary focus. Still, high school held fond memories for all of us. At one point in our conversation, we questioned if we could have done more to help others have the same kind of experience. I mean, none of us had been unfriendly, but had we been selfishly focused on ourselves?

The answer was obvious.

So, here it is, decades later, and several former classmates still carry the wounds of those years. And even though we cannot turn back the clock and soothe their hurts, we can—and should—learn from this so that today, whatever our circumstance, we become aware of those we encounter who need a kind word or an invitation for a cup of coffee or an opportunity to be valued. Instead of surrounding ourselves with those with whom we are comfortable, maybe it’s time to meet that neighbor who keeps to himself or the cashier at the local convenience store or even an old classmate with whom we have lost contact.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19 are a fresh reminder of what our daily objective should be. “Though I am free, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” In Paul’s early years, he was all about himself. Unlike our committee, his primary focus was to intentionally hurt the Christian community, but once he met Jesus, he cared only about others.

One day, a Heavenly reunion will be held. We Christians carry the invitations for neighbors and pew-mates and random encounters to “Save the Date” as well as the responsibility to follow up with reminders of its importance. None of us want to be the reason someone rejects this eternal opportunity.

What to do?

The answer is obvious.

Miss God’s Will For Your Life? By Patty LaRoche

Sometimes I question if I missed God’s will for my life. What if the choices I made were not God’s best for the Kingdom? I mean, what if God really wanted me to become a lawyer who would fight for those who had been incorrectly incarcerated? I do like to argue and to be a hero, so maybe that was the direction I was to take. Or what if I should have been a horse trainer? How could someone love horses like I do and not use that passion? Then there always is the paramedic profession. Granted, I once performed the Heimlich on a lady who, as it turned out, wasn’t choking, but perhaps I could redeem myself.

Do you ever waste your time with such senseless questions? Paul, a “servant of God,” certainly had the opportunity to do just that. In Acts 16: 6-8, Luke writes this:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

Did you catch it, or did you blow right past it like I did the first dozen times I read it? This is not a leisurely stroll on the local jogging trail. Historians write that Paul’s journey involved thousands of miles of walking, all while trying to figure out what God wanted him to do. I’m frustrated, just thinking about it. Then we come to verse nine:

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Hooray! Celebration time! Finally, a clear direction from God. Strap on your worn-out sandals, Paul. God has plans for you and your friends to tell others about His Son. You soon will be able to sit around a few campfires and share your faith!

Uh, maybe not. Time (perhaps weeks) goes by with no clear opportunity. In fact, the only significant occurrence in scripture is the appearance of a fortune teller who keeps irritating Paul and his companions. No doubt his nerves are a little frayed when he says to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” Which it does.

Good, spiritual move, Paul… until that is, the locals take exception to this exorcism, drag Paul and Silas before the city officials, strip them, “severely” flog them, bind them in chains and throw them into the inner dungeon of the prison. Now, if I’m Silas, I’m going to be looking for a new BFF, and if I’m Paul, I’m going to be throwing a hissy fit to God. And I’m definitely going to be questioning if I missed God’s call on my life.

Not on their eternal radar.

Verse 25-26: And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.

Read the rest of Acts 16. Because of this incarceration, the jailer (and his family) become Christians, and soon a solid Christian community is formed.

We, like Paul, never know how God is using us, but one thing is for certain. No matter what our circumstances, no matter what job we have or the spouse we have chosen or where we live or what problems we are dealing with, God can use us. And if our life isn’t working out like we originally thought it would?

Paul has the answer.

Praise God!

Fake Money by Patty LaRoche

With Dave asleep and my ten-dollar-missionary-money due at this morning’s Bible study, I needed to retrieve my emergency stash from its hiding place. Imagine my surprise when I found not only a ten-dollar bill but a onehundred-dollar one as well. It was Christmas in September! I happily stuffed the money into my purse, headed to the Bible study and placed my $10 in the missionary collection.

Following that meeting and returning home to organize my day, I could hardly wait to share with my (now) awake husband about my windfall. This was happy news for Dave. He asked if I would exchange that bill for five-twenties. No big deal. It all spends the same. Dave handed me the twenties, and I gave him the $100 bill. He paused, rubbed it with his fingers and immediately appeared to lose his happiness. Holding the bill close to my face, Dave pointed out that I had missed one teensy, weensy matter, like the faded words “Play Money” stamped next to Benjamin Franklin’s picture. (And yes, if you are wondering, there was a certain “I think you have done this intentionally and find this funny” tone to his voice.)

Which was ridiculous. This was not Monopoly money. These bills were made to look real, and other than their size, thinness and that nearly invisible “Play Money” wording, could fool anyone…well, except Sherlock Dave.

Thankfully, I had not tried to pass my counterfeit find off at Price Chopper, the top of my errand list. But then it dawned on me. What if my $10 missionary payment also was play money? And what if next Monday, Billie Jo Drake, our Bible study leader, held it up and asked if anyone in our group was missing a fake, ten-dollar bill? Yikes!

When Dave realized that I was clueless (Save your comments), he seemed stunned that I had made such a careless mistake. (Seriously? We’ve been married 45 years. He should be used to this by now). Still, my immediate problem was not my husband; it was having to admit to Billie Jo that I was an idiot. My happiness, like the Play Money wording, was fading. Could I somehow avoid this phone call? Pride sure wanted me to.

I reminded myself that little things like repenting to Bible study leaders is minor compared to acknowledging my failings to God, even though He knows about my sins (and yours—you’re not off the hook here) before I even commit them. Which, when you think about it, should make contrition rather easy. And it would be, were it not for Pride.

Blame it on Adam and Eve. They were the ones who originally disobeyed and hid from God instead of repenting, and since Pride worked so well in the Garden of Eden, maybe that is why Satan relies on it being just as effective today. But there is hope! Even though erring is part of our sinful condition, repenting is a privilege of our Christian condition.

It’s true. God doesn’t bang His head on a table when His children mess up. He knows what we are going to do before we do it. All He asks is that we ask for forgiveness.

It was time to call Billie Jo and…Gulp… try to explain what I had done. She was gracious, checked the bills and told me that none were phonies. I thanked her (and Jesus) and hung up. Hubby wasn’t quite so understanding. He stood there with his hand outstretched, expecting me to give back his twenty-dollar bills and definitely not happy that he had been had…proving my point that no one is exempt from Pride.

Gracie by Patty LaRoche

Gracie loved putting on her sunbonnet, grabbing her decorated basket and picking strawberries in her backyard. When her parents, John and Erin, learned that their precious two-year-old, Downs syndrome daughter had leukemia, their time spent in the Houston hospital almost equaled that of caring for their other two young children. Little did they know, that was as good as it would get. Still, the parents’ faith did not waiver, as Dave and I witnessed when we became a part of their weekly Bible study. On one of Erin’s middle-of-the-night runs to the emergency room with Gracie, an inattentive nurse left the mother-daughter pair alone for hours in the examination room. By the time Erin was allowed to take her child to the oncology floor, Gracie’s heart stopped. Doctors worked for twenty minutes to revive her, but Gracie was left with a severe brain injury.

Many encouraged John and Erin to file a lawsuit. After much prayer, they chose instead to ask the hospital for free access to bless the families of the other oncology children on that ward. The hospital agreed. His Grace Foundation was formed, and money raised went to providing support, gifts, meals, and parking for the parents. That program continues today.

Fast forward fifteen years. Now living in Georgetown, Texas, Erin visited Brookwood, a community of disabled adults in Brookshire, Texas, and was determined to create such a place in her area. In 2011, Brooktown in Georgetown (BIG) opened and began to provide meaningful work, a sense of belonging, dignity, and respect for adults with functional disabilities.

Gracie was enrolled in the public school. Wheelchair-bound, on a feeding tube and unable to talk, she became the delight of the other 3,000+ students in her school. As a senior, she was voted Homecoming Queen, an event carried by major news stations. (See insert.)

 

Last week, when Gracie’s color changed and her perpetual smile disappeared, Erin took her to the E.R. where a cat scan showed no problems. Gracie was sent home, but that night, when her breathing slowed, John and Erin drove their daughter back to the hospital. This time, the news was not good. Gracie had sepsis. Emergency surgery came too late.

Family members were called. Gracie’s sister was two hours from returning to her missionary job in Africa. Others were within driving distance. They praised God when they all made it to the hospital in time, and after singing hymns around Gracie’s bed, Gracie died.

Her aunt, Mollie, penned these words to God in her blog this morning: “I am convinced she (Gracie) had the benefit of enjoying a preview of heaven at three when she had no heartbeat for 20 minutes. I think she saw glorious things she simply could not un-see. Although Gracie returned to us without language we could clearly understand, she never needed words to worship You. After her experience with You “outside” her body, Gracie’s exquisite response to even the mention of Your name was unbridled bliss…I want to be more like Gracie. I want to be fully dependent on You experiencing the unbridled bliss of Your presence. In my utter weakness, please be my boundless strength.”

I pray God does the same for all who mourn the loss of this precious young woman.

I

Bonkers by Patty LaRoche

 

San Francisco has once again made the news. And no, I am not talking about the homeless people using the sidewalks as their personal restrooms; the City Commission is working on a solution to that. I’m referring to its new “No-Shame Dress Code” for its public- school students. August 24th’s USA Today reported that the school district has adopted a policy loosening its clothing code so that students can…well, loosen theirs.

Before going bonkers like I did, be comforted that the school board members have mandated that certain items must be worn: bottoms; tops; shoes; clothing that covers genitals, buttocks and nipples. Okay, go bonkers. Ask yourself, like I did…

Have any of these decision-makers read 1 Timothy 2 which addresses dressing with modesty and self-control?

New to the list of clothing students may wear are midriff-baring shirts, pajamas, and halter tops/ strapless tops. Still, there are restrictions: no bathing suits, visible underwear or clothing with pornographic messages are allowed. At least, not for this year.

Steven Fong, the district’s chief academic officer, spoke about the benefits. “We believe these changes will reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time. Districts across the country are adopting similar revisions for similar reasons. We are excited to be moving forward with a such a student-centered approach.” Other areas are getting on board. California’s Alameda School District “rejects the idea that certain students’ bodies are distracting and therefore must be monitored and covered.”

Bonkers! Bonkers! Bonkers!

According to this article, “Opponents of strict dress codes say punishing students for their clothing is a form of shaming that can result in body-image issues.” The answer? Let students pretty much wear what they want.

Get that? Enter a classroom with your belly hanging over your belt and a cleavage-showing strapless top, and your body-image is going to be “validated” by other students? I have news for these rules-makers. Body-image issues will be magnified, not minimized.

The way people dress is a major indicator of how they feel about themselves, not to mention, preparation for future employment. Try walking into a Walmart interview in your pajamas and tell me how that works for you. In my opinion, if San Francisco really cared about “validating” its students, it would require school uniforms. You know, where everyone looks relatively alike, thereby reducing the competition to one-up each other and actually meeting Fong’s goal to “reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time.”

I am so thankful I live in an area where a school dress code is in place, where school board members give teachers one less ambiguous issue to discipline, where a moral code dictates policy instead of relying on a “student-centered approach.” (You know, where mature adults know when and when not to acquiesce to students’ wishes.)

I pray that Christians in San Francisco rise up and make their voices heard and recognize this dress code solution is a dangerous slippery slope (knowing those slides never seem to move in the direction of morality).

Maybe it’s time they even go a little bonkers.

Cruise by Patty LaRoche

My college sorority friends and I decided this, our 50-year reunion, would be “special”: We would take a cruise to Alaska. What we did not anticipate were the awaiting challenges, like how Carol broke her tooth the night before our trip but decided Orajel and pain killers would dull the ache. For the first four days, that seemed to work. Unfortunately, it was a seven-day voyage.

Since Diana is wheelchair and walker-dependent, she brought along her therapist to share her handicap-equipped room…which was anything but geared for a handicapped person. Seriously. How can a “Handicap” room be too small to accommodate a wheelchair?

Six of us spent our first night in Seattle. For $238 a room (thankfully, split between three of us), we experienced a night in a nasty hotel. Nasty, as in bugs and scalding water. Regardless, we refused to let that dull our excitement for this once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Morning #1: we were awakened by a text that Diana had fallen and was being gurneyed to the ship’s infirmary. She returned in a medical boot to protect her broken foot. Because this was her “good foot”—the other one cannot support any weight—it took six of us using a lift sheet to transfer her to a wheelchair and, whenever her feet swelled, back to bed. There would be no sightseeing or shopping for our dear friend.

Morning #2: Juneau was our first stop where we had paid extra for an excursion to two sites: one to watch whales and the other to view the Mendenhall Glacier…which I imagine is quite spectacular, had it not been for the endless rain and thick fog. Still, from inside our whale-viewing boat where we were protected from the elements, we learned much from our marine biologist guide who demonstrated the intricacies of the humpback, using her seven-inch plastic replica. Diana’s two daughters (who also were on the cruise) weren’t even that lucky; they had booked a helicopter Iditarod dog excursion, but because of the weather, their trip was canceled. They stayed behind to care for their mother.

Morning #3: due to unusually rough waves, two of the girls ended up in bed, sea-sick. I attempted the treadmill.

Use your imagination.

Morning #4: We docked at Sitka and were bussed to the small village where we saw a thirty-minute, all-women, Russian dance troupe. For clarification, these were neither Russian nor professional but were volunteers on their lunch breaks. (This time, an upbeat imagination is required.) That night on the ship we danced to a fantastic “Oldies” band but had to stop when the rough seas caused us to lose what little balance we have left. Following that hour of excitement, three girls had to ice their knees and could walk only short distances for the duration of our trip.

On Day #5, the fog lifted and we were able to sit outside on the large deck and play dominoes. At that time, everything was put into perspective. One of the girls began sharing how the ice packs had not helped her hurting knee. Diana spoke up–you know, the Diana in the wheelchair who can’t walk. “Every time I start to feel sorry for myself, I thank Jesus because I know so many people have it so much worse than I do.”

Here is a woman who loves God passionately, who, because medicine was incorrectly prescribed for her now lives in a residential facility, who had to give up her job, who chokes when she eats, whose shoulders and legs have atrophied, yet she reminded us that things weren’t nearly as bad as we made them out to be.

And if that isn’t a “special” message, I don’t know what is.