A Good & Faithful Man

A good and faithful man lived in the white brick house next door to my mom. Retired, he took care of his house and he watched his grandchildren when they got out of school each day. One day he decided to mow my mom’s yard when he mowed his own. Mom looked out the window and was surprised to see him pushing his mower across her backyard. If I remember right, she opened the backdoor and waited for him to see her there — at which point she said, “Jose, you don’t have to do that! My son-in-law mows it when he can.”

Jose just smiled and nodded his head and said something to the effect of he didn’t mind helping out today.

Eventually, my husband stopped taking his mower to my mom’s because Jose never let the grass get tall enough for my husband to be able to mow. Every time Jose mowed his yard, he would just keep on going until Mom’s yard was mowed, too. It wasn’t just a blessing to Mom. It was a blessing to my husband because he didn’t have to load his riding mower onto the trailer and make the 80 mile roundtrip to mow Mom’s yard.

Mom always said, “We need to do something for Jose. He is so faithful. We need to get him a gift card, bake him a cake, or something.” This was around the time Mom got sick for the last time, and we were preoccupied with doctors’ appointments, radiation treatments, and chemo pills. So we never got around to doing something for Jose.

The day of Mom’s funeral, we were so comforted by the people who came to pay their respects. The person who surprised us, and possibly touched our hearts in the most unexpected way, though, was Jose, sitting in the back row of the funeral home chapel. He smiled and shook our hands and told us how sorry he was for our loss.

Not long afterwards, my sister and I both agreed, “We need to do something for Jose.” Once we decided on selling the house, we made plans on how best to utilize the funds we would earn after the sale. At the top of the list was “something for Jose.” Our commitment to that grew even more, because our good neighbor remained faithful, continuing to mow our yard while we worked on the house.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a thank you note for everything he’d done and my sister went to the bank and withdrew some nice, crisp bills to include with our note. We both agreed that while the sum seemed quite generous by some accounts, we wished it could have been more.

We met up at his house on a Saturday morning and rang the bell. Jose came to the door with his usual smile and we both hugged him and gave him the envelope. He didn’t really look at it at the time; we chatted for several minutes and he told us he had meant to mow the yard before the new owners moved in, but his mower broke down. I told him it was alright because my husband had stopped by with his own mower after doing some yard work for his mother in Dickinson. He just hadn’t been able to mow the backyard because he couldn’t get the mower back there. Jose smiled and said, “I got it after I got my mower fixed. I wanted the new owners to start out with a nice yard.”

After chatting a few more minutes and emphasizing how much Mom (and we) had appreciated him over the years, we hugged again and said we hoped we would see him sometime. We started walking back to our cars, and then had the thought that maybe we should tell the neighbors on the other side how nice their new neighbors were, and say thank you for being good neighbors all these years. We rang their doorbell a couple of times, but no one ever answered, so we started walking back to our cars to leave. At that moment, we saw Jose trotting across the front yard of our old house.

“You made a mistake! You made a mistake!”

Jose thought we’d accidentally put money in his thank you note that was supposed to go towards a bill! We started laughing and told him that it was for him, at which point he said, “Oh, NO! It’s too much! I never did that expecting to get paid!”

We reassured him that we knew he didn’t, that he was a good and faithful neighbor and we wanted to bless him the way he had blessed Mom and us. He shook his head, and then told us a story:

When he first bought his house, he didn’t have a mower and wasn’t able to get one. All he had was a weed wacker. So he used the weed wacker to keep his yard as trimmed up as he could. While he was trimming his yard, he said he prayed to God. He told God, “If you’ll help me get a mower, I will use it to help someone else.” He got a mower and then he said, “I had to keep my side of the bargain.” He didn’t want to ask, and he hoped she wouldn’t get upset or “call the cops” — he just started mowing a little bit of Mom’s yard, and then a little bit more, until he was mowing the entire yard.

And so that’s how Jose started mowing our mom’s yard. He did more than that, though. He kept an eye out for her. One day he saw her taking her trash bag to the outdoor can and she stumbled a little. He jogged over to make sure she was okay, and then he told her, “Just put your trash bag by the front door and I’ll put it in the can for you.” From that point on, he took care of that for her every week.

He is definitely a good and faithful man, and maybe a little bit of an angel, too.

Someone

I’ve been needing to write this for quite a while now. Until today, the words just wouldn’t come. The events described below occurred over the course of roughly eight years.

Have you ever been acquainted with, or even friends with, Someone who is obliviously careless in the way he or she treats people? For all intents and purposes, Someone is great — professing a love for God and people, and usually getting it right.

Until Someone gets it wrong. Repeatedly. And there seems to be no going back. No chance of recovery. Because Someone is completely oblivious to what he or she has done.

In the beginning, I thought I was at fault because I was putting too much value on things. It started with a table that I’d donated to a cause — a piece of furniture that had been in my family for decades, but for which I had no room. All seemed well, until one day I noticed the table sitting outside the building, the mid-century formica curled up by the recent rainstorm, ruined beyond repair. It made me so angry to see the table misused and cast aside — wasted. I regretted donating it, but then I told myself, “You don’t know who did this. And it’s just a THING. It’s not worth getting so angry.”

And so I tried to let it go.

A couple of years later, Someone asked if they could borrow my “old” camera to take some family portraits. It was not my primary camera any longer, but it was still a good camera, one my daughter was beginning to use. I took joy in passing it down to her, and I asked her before loaning it out, since it officially belonged to her. When the camera was returned, I didn’t think to inspect it, but the next time my daughter tried to remove the memory card, the eject button was broken and I had to pry the card out with my fingers. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the contact pins for the memory card were damaged. The camera was ruined. And Someone didn’t say anything. Again, I stifled my anger and reminded myself, “It’s just a THING. Maybe it was an accident.”

And so I tried to let it go.

Most recently, though, the carelessness has had nothing to do with things, and everything to do with people. Someone promised to be there for one of MY people. To fill a parental void left by an absentee parent. Someone made promises. Promises to go visit my person at college and to stay in touch. To step in where the absentee dad had left a void. Someone broke those promises. And my person was left yet again with a wounded heart.

It was getting harder to let it go.

Another one of MY people went through difficult times a couple of years ago. I’m glad to say my person is on the backside of those difficult times and joy fills her face more often than sorrow. But in the dark days she sought counsel from Someone she should have been able to trust. Someone broke her trust because she did not follow Someone’s timeline — she did not heal in the way, or as fast, as Someone wanted.

It was getting much harder to let it go.

Someone else claiming to be her kindred spirit, her soulmate, told her with all seriousness she was going to hell for things done in the dark days, and then turned around and did similar things, if not worse. All the while, Someone else pretended to be one thing around one group and another thing around another group. My person struggled to be transparent, to stop being all things to all people — she finally sought to discover who she is in Jesus Christ. In the discovery of who that is, she opened up her heart to forgiveness and reconciliation. Someone else gave her hope, and then snatched it away, telling her their friendship was ended, that they would never be friends again.

Suddenly all the pieces began to fit together for me. The carelessness with the things. The carelessness with the promises. The carelessness with the confidences. The carelessness with the “rules” — “it’s okay for me, but not for thee.” The carelessness with relationships.

And in that moment, it became easy to let go. To leave those someones behind, to realize that maybe these things happened for a reason because that place, those someones, were not where I (or we) belonged.

Each and every time I think of those someones, I try to ask God to help me forgive the hurts inflicted, however obliviously, on my loved ones and myself. I try to remind myself that those someones probably have no clue how their actions hurt me and mine. And I remember that I am someone, also — to make every effort to treat others with care and loving kindness.

 

The Gift of Lifetime Friends

My guy and I, along with our girl, spent years 1997 – 1999 living in Huntsville, Texas. We moved there, where we’d originally met in college in 1985, when AJ accepted a position in the Human Resources department with the state prison system. Though short, those were good years for us, in large part because we became friends with another married couple who would prove to be more like family than friends.

We visited a church called Family Faith one Sunday and really liked it. The worship was powerful and the sermon series on family was spot on for what we needed at the time. I don’t think it was very long at all, maybe two or three weeks, that one of the ladies there, Lucy Arnold, told me, “You need to meet Alena. I just know you will be great friends.”

I am so grateful for Lucy’s intuition, because she was 100% right regarding Alena. I was 33 years old, Alena was 24 — we immediately hit it off and became fast friends. We both loved to read, we were both relatively new mothers since we had toddlers and she had another baby while we lived in Huntsville. I loved how easy it was to talk with Alena — about anything and everything. She always took her life experiences and turned them around to what God had done for her, what He had taught her. Even though she was younger than me, I learned so much from her!

The bonus of our developing friendship was the friendship that grew between our husbands, too. When two married women become close friends, friendship between their spouses is not always a given. The fact that the four of us enjoy each others’ company so much is a real gift and one we do not take for granted, and it was Clyde who officiated at our wedding vow renewal a few weeks ago. A two hour drive now separates us, but when the opportunity to fellowship presents itself, we are delighted to rearrange schedules, whatever is needed to be able to spend that time together!

Today is Clyde’s 60th birthday and with his characteristic spontaneity he decided to take a day trip to his favorite place, the beach. Alena contacted us to see if we could meet them and their kids out there and, of course, the answer was “yes!” We made it out to Peregrine, going toward San Luis Pass, and the guys got the little portable grill going for hot dogs while Alena and I took a walk down the beach. Such a sweet visit catching up with each other! Upon our return, a fire pit had been dug and a small wood fire was burning in preparation for s’mores. We sat around the fire and talked, and then Clyde wrapped up our evening by leading us in a couple of worship songs.

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Friends and sisters by choice. ❤

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Lots to smile about – we’re together!
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Alena & Clyde, with their kids, plus a few “extras” along for the ride!

How I miss having these people nearby! I love you, Tauriainens! You are the best! ❤

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Alena & Clyde Tauriainen, AJ & Laura Jinkins