By Connie Cavanaugh –
I walked into the chiropractor’s office for the first time last year. I had never been to a chiropractor because I didn’t think I needed one. I held off and held off not wanting to spend the money and finally one day my neck and back were in so much pain I was desperate.
I dragged myself into Dr. Kong’s office and waited dejectedly in the torture chamber. I had never met Dr. Kong even though he had been recommended to me. I was picturing a tiny diminutive Asian man who would gently palpate my boo-boos and say soothing words.
The door flew open and in charged a man who looked more like King Kong than Dr. Kong! He was well over six feet tall and his booming voice could bring down the walls of Jericho.
Before I even had a chance to tell him how sore I was he bellowed: “Tell me one good thing that happened to you today!”
He caught me with my mouth open. I was stunned. One good thing? The reason I was there was because I was in pain! And another bad thing was that it was costing me money! And he’s asking me for one good thing?
He waited, hands on hips like a Germanic conqueror from the Middle Ages.
Seriously! He really means this, I thought.
“Okay, here goes,” I said, hoping to buy some time. I really had to dig deep but finally I came up with something.
“The sun is shining.” Whew! Now maybe he’ll start gently massaging my sore neck.
“Great!” He hollered. “Tell me one more good thing.”
You’ve got to be kidding? It took me a few minutes to come up with one! Okay, maybe he’ll give me a gratitude discount or something if I play along so I tried again:
“My grandkids came over for tea and toast this morning in their PJs. I love having them live so close by.”
“How wonderful for you!” He shouted. “What’s one more?”
Good grief? When would this end? If I was paying him by the minute, he was racking up a bill without helping my problem!
Frustrated, I declared sarcastically:
“Only my neck and back hurt, the rest of me feels great.”
“Aaaahhhhh,” he said, more softly. “That’s wonderful that you feel so good other than this little problem with your neck and back. Let’s see what I can do to help you.”
He got me! I didn’t even realize it but when I walked in the door, I was drowning in self-pity, so focused on my sore neck and back. It was consuming me. I was already leafing through nursing home brochures, convinced I would be in a wheelchair before long and need a mechanical lift to go potty. Dr. Kong saw the look on my face and knew what I needed – a little gratitude to get me outside myself and open my eyes to all the blessings I still had.
Gratitude shifts your focus from what you’ve lost or what you lack to all the blessings you still have. Tom Brewster must understand this gratitude principle because he wrote a book entitled: Only Paralyzed from the Neck Down. I haven’t read the book but what message does this title send? It tells me: My body doesn’t work but thank God I’ve still got a brain. I can think. I can smile. I can see. I can hear. I can laugh. I can kiss. I can smell. I can taste. Only paralyzed from the neck down. Gratitude changes everything.
By Connie Cavanaugh –
If every empty-nest mom went to work as a private investigator, it would solve the “What now?” question as well as put a lid squarely on crime. No one is better qualified for detective work than a woman who has raised a vanload of kids.
Case in Point: Our 17-year-old son JP slouched in to the kitchen and sat down. Glancing up furtively then lowering his gaze, he began, “Uh, I have, uh, something to, uh, tell you.”
I stated coolly: “You hit a tree with dad’s car.”
His head snapped up, eyes bugged out, mouth went slack. “Who told you?”
PIs never reveal their sources. I smiled. An email from the mom of one of JP’s friends had arrived earlier. JP’s friend mentioned the accident to his older brother who immediately squealed. The friend’s mom was my prayer partner. Bingo!
I handed my son a Ziploc bag that held the bit of tree bark I had extracted from the dented headlight’s rim with tweezers moments earlier.
“You’re good,” he said shaking his head in admiration.
Case in Point: On her 19th birthday our oldest daughter decided “to be a bit rebellious.” Christine secretly acquired a navel ring. She had queried me some months earlier: “If God wanted us to wear bellybutton rings he would have put earlobes on our abdomens!” She never raised the topic again.
After getting the ring, she wore long shirts and avoided me. If I saw her at all, it was her back. I quickly diagnosed her strange behavior. But I waited, knowing she’d eventually crack. A week passed and she found me in the kitchen – the confessional in our home.
“Um, mom. I, um, need to, well I want to, I mean I should probably let you know,” Christine began, her head lowered.
I cut to the chase.
“You got your bellybutton pierced.”
“How did you know?” she shrieked. “Did Anita tell you?”
“Your sister never said boo. I have a certain je ne sais qua,” I blithely replied.
“Wow,” she whispered reverently.
The truth was, I peeked one night after she was asleep. Gotcha!
Case in Point: But the easiest detective work I ever did involved our middle child. During her first year of university in a nearby city, she lived at home and carpooled to classes. Occasionally she borrowed my car. On one of those days, she asked if she could stay in the city for the evening to hang out with a chum. I was a bit nervous when she mentioned which friend. I knew this cowgirl liked to frequent a certain western-theme dance club in the city and I didn’t want Anita going there. She assured me she wouldn’t go near the place and she’d be home by 11 p.m.
As promised, she came home on time and after a short visit with her dad and me, went to bed. The next day when I went out to my car, I saw a small piece of paper under the windshield wiper. It was a parking ticket. From the parking lot of the club I had asked her not to attend. Exhibit A!
“I gotta hand it to you Mom,” Anita croaked.
I can’t take all the credit for this fine detective work. I owe something to my mother who passed on to me the prayer she prayed – with great success – for her eight children from the time they were tiny: “Lord, I don’t expect my kids to be perfect, but I do ask that when they’re not, You help me catch them!” Amen!
By Connie Cavanaugh –
Women buzzed around the “Love and Respect” marriage conference registration table in the church foyer, eager to sign up. The men leaned on the walls, staying well back. They had been to these gigs before and weren’t too keen on spending money to learn how messed up they were. The women, me included, secretly hoped our husbands would hear all the things they were doing wrong, smarten up, and become more like us.
The conference facilitators were Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. I had seen their video clips on their web site and I figured Emerson would disarm us with laughter, then he’d swoop in for the kill: all the men would see their mistakes and repent, they would commit themselves to try harder and we women would go home validated. I couldn’t wait!
Erelong I would discover that pride goeth before a marriage conference.
We gathered on Friday night and took our seats amid the noisy throng. As expected, Emerson had us hooting with laughter as he dramaticly played both roles in a marital spat. Before long I was riveted to my seat as he talked about the way our culture had vilified men for 30 years — in an attempt to raise awareness and create gender equality, popular culture has normalized male bashing and tried to feminize men. He explained that God created men and women equal but different and it was that “different-ness” that provided the romantic spark as well as fostered the misunderstandings.
The more Emerson talked, the taller my husband sat. I, however, was sinking, stunned by my naivety. This was a spiritual encounter with Truth and it would set me free from the cultural lies I had swallowed for years.
I watched my husband and dozens of other men fight back tears when Emerson talked about a man’s primal need for respect in a culture that is saturated with romantic notions of love but sadly lacking in respect. I learned that a man gladly serves and dies for country and family from a sense of honor. That is his way of showing love. Too often, he isn’t thanked or even recognized.
I learned things my parents and grandparents grew up knowing, that when a man works hard and provides for his family, he is serving them in love and this service is worthy of respect. Because my husband has always been quick to say, “I love you” and is very affectionate, I didn’t realize that while my need for love was constantly being met, his need for verbal respect was seriously underfed.
The one who needed to change was me, not my spouse. I had to start expressing my respect and stop taking his contribution for granted.
There was a decidedly different feeling in the air when the crowd was dismissed that night. Gone was the she-dragged-me-here look the men had arrived with three hours earlier. They could hardly wait to come back the next morning.
My husband was pumped! He yakked my ear off all the way home in the car. I was so raw with emotion I barely had the stamina to whisper, “Can you ever forgive me for not voicing my respect and appreciation more often for who you are and all you do?”
For too many years I assumed my husband was the one who needed to do all the changing, if he would just be more like me everything would be great, I thought. The good news is that while pride goeth before a marriage conference, humility cometh after.
By Connie Cavanaugh –
Our three-year-old granddaughter Madi’s middle name should be Houdini. The minute you turn your back on her, she floats away, opens a door more quietly than a safe cracker, slips out and flees! Several frantic searches over the last year have found her happily riding a tricycle down the middle of the street in winter wearing nothing but a diaper, exploring a neighbor’s backyard while frolicking with their dog, or nibbling a snack and playing the Wii in her auntie’s basement a few doors down from Grammy’s house.
That’s why I was a little nervous about leaving her with Papa for an hour while I went with my son and his dogs to the off-leash park. It was Mother’s Day and my daughter, Madi’s mother, needed some rest after a busy weekend of ministry with her youth group and worship team so I gladly volunteered to bring Madi home after church and keep her for the afternoon.
Before leaving for the dog park I made sure Papa understood he must not take his eyes off her for a minute. I locked the door leading outdoors from the family room. Off I went for a happy hour of watching two dogs run, roll, chase balls, splash in the river, shake water all over me, get covered with dirt which quickly became mud, and if dogs could grin, I would say they had grins a mile wide. What apartment dwelling dog doesn’t love an hour of unbridled freedom?
When I got home, windblown and chilly but heart-warmed and happy, the first thing I saw when I stepped inside the house was my wild-eyed husband charging up the stairs from the basement where I had left him and Madi sixty minutes earlier. He was carrying a shoebox.
“I just dropped her off at Christine’s house,” he wheezed. The shoebox he clutched rose and fell on his heaving chest, Christine is our other daughter who lives nearby.
“What’s in the box?” I asked.
Wordlessly, he lifted the lid. I peeked inside.
“Is that what it is?” he asked. “I thought it was a mouse at first but it looked too well fed so my next guess was a gerbil.”
“Where did it come from?”
“According to Madi? Louisiana!” he replied, shaking his head.
The story unfolded. Papa decided to watch a movie with Madi while Grammy was out. A dangerous idea since television is like a narcotic for Pastor Papa, but on Sunday afternoon, TV works faster than Nembutal delivered intravenously. The movie had barely begun when the snoring started.
We have no idea how long Madi waited but she quickly sensed the wind was in her favor, tiptoed upstairs, and let herself out the unlocked front door. She made a beeline next-door where 10-year-old Hannah lives. Hannah often lets Madi play with her hamster.
Hannah’s family wasn’t home so Madi tried both doors; the back door was not locked. She found the hamster in its cage, liberated it, and was heading back to Grammy’s house for some fun when Papa woke up with a start, discovered she was gone and began dashing and calling. He found her outside our front door, clutching the little critter. Thinking she had a mouse in her pudgy fists, he almost threw it into an adjacent green space. But a second look made him think it was more domesticated – hence the “gerbil” classification.
“Madi! Where did you get this gerbil?”
“Louisiana,” she replied with a poker face worthy of Cool Hand Luke.
He asked a second time and got the same response. It was at that point he realized he was dealing with not only an experienced jail breaker but a seasoned perjurer since we live in Canada.
Disgruntled church members, power-hungry deacons, political positioning, tight budgets, needy parishioners – all this and more Pastor Papa handles with diplomacy and grace but a wise man knows his limits. He pried the hamster out of her sweaty grasp amid a flood of weeping, boxed the pet and marched Madi over to Auntie’s house. He knew he was in way over his head.
By Connie Cavanaugh –
“I hate camping,” my husband confessed, late one night.
“You hate camping? Since when? We’ve camped for years!”
“I know,” he admitted. “But I’ve never liked it.”
“You’re the one who researched space efficient camping equipment and bought all those supplies,” I declared. I couldn’t believe my ears. We had camped all across the country with three kids. Everything fit into the trunk of a Volkswagen.
“I like research,” he said. “But not camping. I do it for the kids.”
Our kids loved camping. These adventures were the highpoint of their summer.
We were in a pickle. Not only had we promised our kids we would go camping as soon as school let out, we planned to go with another couple.
We finally concluded that tent camping was too rustic. Perhaps if we brought along a few more comforts, we would enjoy it more. The day we arrived at our campsite we looked like a Saharan camel train. Our van was stuffed, had a bulging topper strapped to the roof and we pulled a huge pop-up trailer.
When we got to our site, within ten minutes our bicycle camping companions, who carried everything in two backpacks and four saddlebags were finished. They erected their pup tent, slung a hammock between two trees, and made tea on what looked like a Bunsen burner. They sipped and watched as we constructed our forest kingdom.
It took three hours to assemble the trailer, the tent, and the screened gazebo for our camp kitchen. We looked like a feeding station for tornado victims. By the time we were done, it was late and everyone was hungry.
Dad got ready to fire up the Coleman stove on the picnic table inside the gazebo. The first “firing” of the season was usually worth watching. We dubbed him Smoky the Bear since he had stomped out many a potential forest fire that resulted from his pyrotechnics. Smoky’s method was to pump the stove until it threatened to burst and then stand back and toss a lit match. The explosion was spectacular. After the mushroom cloud dissipated, the small burner would flame merrily and we would cook dinner.
But this time, something malfunctioned. Kaboom! Flames shot up and out. Only this time, they kept shooting.
Smoky grabbed a beach towel to use as oven mitts. Gingerly he picked up the stove and, dancing like the great Ali, struggled through the tiny zippered opening in his attempt to save the gazebo. Once outside he doused the inferno with water and stomped on the smoldering towel.
He mopped his sweaty brow with the charred towel and looked up to where we were all standing, watching him with grateful amazement. This had been the best annual fireworks display to date. Slowly, we began to applaud.
”Whew!” he exclaimed. “I almost didn’t make it through that dinky doorway. Maybe we should leave it fully unzipped from now on in case this happens again.” The kids and I had noticed that the explosion had melted one entire mesh wall in the gazebo. You could drive a car through the hole that resulted.
“Oh that’s ok,” one of the smart alecks quipped, pointing. “Leave it zipped. We can use this new opening. It’s much bigger.”
Knowing he could never outdo this performance without risking hectares of prime forest, we made that camping trip our swan song. Nowadays we “camp” in an RV at a national park where open fires are not allowed.