Out of the Mouths of Babes…

February 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kathi Macias –

One of my all-time favorite shows was “Kids Say the Darndest Things” with host Art Linkletter. Art has long since gone on to his heavenly reward, but once in awhile I’ll see a rerun of an old program and realize how hilarious it was. Nothing was scripted, nothing rehearsed—just natural and spontaneous, which no one does better than kids.

I remember a time like that with one of my granddaughters. Brittney was four or five, and I took her with me to run some errands. On the way home I wanted to stop at the cemetery and leave some flowers on a relative’s grave. I decided it could be a good learning experience for Brittney, so we talked as we made our way to the gravesite.

“What are all those numbers under the names?” she asked, peering down at the headstones as we passed by.

“Those are the dates they were born and when they died,” I explained.

She thought about that for a minute, and I realized this was quite a challenge for someone her age. I decided to give her some examples.

“This lady,” I said, “was born in 1938 and died in 1989. That means she was 51 when she died.”

Her eyes grew wide, but she didn’t say anything. Quite obviously she concluded the woman was quite elderly.

I then pointed out one who had died quite young—in his twenties. She nodded and continued on.

Then we stopped to gaze at an ornate headstone that caught her eye. She tried to read the dates, but when I realized she was struggling, I intervened, explaining that the woman was 98 when she died.

Brittney’s head snapped up, her brown eyes nearly popped out of her head, and she said in a voice tinged with awe, “Wow, she was ready!”

After I quit laughing, I realized I’d been handed the teachable moment I’d hoped for and promptly used her comment to talk about “being ready” before we die.

And then, in August of this year, my 90-year-old mother went home to be with Jesus. Was she ready? Absolutely! Brittney, who is now almost 21, sat with many of her cousins at the memorial service to honor this matriarch of our family.

One of the little ones in attendance, Annabelle, was not quite four at the time. She’d been hearing statements to the effect that her great grandma was dead and wasn’t quite sure what that meant. But when she couldn’t find Grandma anywhere, she’d shrug and say, “Grandma’s dead,” as if that explained her absence.

As the hour-long service went on, with some of Mom’s favorite songs being sung, a video shown about heaven and “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me playing in the background, not to mention the favorite memories shared by many who loved her, I wondered what the youngest member of the family thought about all that was going on.

I didn’t have long to wonder. As the service came to a close and people gathered around to offer hugs and condolences, Annabelle ran up to us with her blue eyes shining and a smile spread across her face.

“Grandma’s not dead,” she announced, as if she’d just made the most wonderful discovery ever. “She’s in heaven!”

Whether Annabelle had figured it out on her own or with the help of the memorial service—or whether an angel had whispered it to her—she was right. And she had reminded each one of us of the great truth that if we’re truly “ready”—as I had explained to Brittney years earlier—our loved ones who go on before us are not dead at all. They are simply in heaven, worshiping the Savior who ensured their safe passage through the valley of death into the presence of the Father.

September Song

January 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kathi Macias –

September has always been my favorite month of the year. Seriously! Even—especially—when I was a kid. Yep, I was one of those “nerds” who loved school and couldn’t wait for summer vacation to end so we could get back into the classroom.

Most of my friends and both of my little brothers thought I was nuts. They were more like those two kids in the Staple’s commercial who drag up and down the aisles, looking like they just lost their best friend, while their dad leaps and dances through the store, tossing school supplies into his basket before racing toward the check stand.

I’m one of those people who, given half a chance and unlimited funds, would be a perpetual student. I absolutely love the challenge of learning a new topic and then acing a test on it.

And that’s another reason my younger brothers weren’t all that wild about September. They would show up in a new classroom and, as soon as the teacher spotted their unusual last name, hear her declare, “Oh, you must be Kathi’s brother. We’ll expect great things from you this year.” 

Groan.

As I progressed from grammar school to junior and senior high, I also loved the excitement of running for (and usually winning) a spot on student council. Entering the science fair was another treat because it meant I could spend my evenings and weekends working on my project while my brothers did silly things like playing outside or watching cartoons.

(Did I mention I was a firstborn? A type-A personality? An over-achiever? No? But you already figured that out, didn’t you?)

All well and good…until school becomes a thing of the past and real life happens right in front of you. Then what?

My husband and I married young—very young. Eighteen, to be exact. And we did so in the month of September. In the two years that followed, we had two babies, thirteen months apart. For the very first time in my life, I realized I did NOT know everything, nor was it necessarily fun to try and learn. Diapers? Are you kidding me? That was definitely before the days of disposables. (You don’t even want to go there.) Sleep deprivation? I set a new record that even “Sleepless inSeattle” hasn’t come close to breaking.

You know the one thing I did learn during those first couple of years? That a human being who weighs less than my head and can’t even sit up can at the same time absolutely take over the lives of two adults. Throw a second pint-sized person into the mix, and life as we knew it was over.

There were times during those early years of non-stop diaper changing and midnight feedings that I didn’t think I was going to make it. Suddenly straight-A averages and honor roll listings didn’t mean much. All I wanted was to be able to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time and to be able to eat an entire meal in one sitting.

But before I knew it, those years were behind me. Now, as another September is upon us, I look back on those early years with nostalgia. If I had them to live over again, which ones would I choose—the years where I couldn’t wait to get back to school and learn something new, or the years when I witnessed my child’s first smile or heard his first word? Hands-down, the sleepless years with my little ones.

September is a good month to reflect on the past…and to prioritize the future. Perhaps that’s why the Jewish calendar starts in September, rather than January. I’m approaching this September with a song of praise and thanksgiving in my heart and on my lips for all that God has blessed me with through the years. I encourage you to do the same.

With Two You Get Eggrolls

December 11, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kathi Macias –

I can’t remember if the “eggrolls” title above was a book or a movie, but my dad was famous for saying it every time he took us out for Chinese food (which wasn’t often, as people ate out a lot less often in those days—took too long to harness the horses to the buggy, you know).

Seriously, with Mom and Dad in the front seat and us three kids in the back, we’d have the “eggrolls” discussion long before we arrived at Hissing Dragons. “Let me do the ordering,” Dad would say (as if that were a novel suggestion). “I know how to get the most food for the least money, including free eggrolls. So just keep your mouths shut until the food arrives.”

Since all I really cared about were the fortune cookies, that wasn’t much of a problem. But fifty-plus years later, I realize how much of my dad’s training has stuck with me. My husband absolutely adores Chinese food, so we go out to eat it fairly regularly. The minute we sit down and open the menus, I start looking for specials—two-for-one, buy-this-and-get-that-free, etc. I can’t tell you the times I’ve ordered something I don’t even like just because something else I don’t dislike quite as much comes with it.

Old habits die hard, as they say, and my 90-year-old mom is the proof of that. In the facility where she now lives, she shares her meals with two table-mates, Rita and Laura. The three of them compare notes about health, families, activities (or lack thereof)…and food. That, of course, is a big one. My mom actually called me the other day to complain that they served liver and onions for dinner, something she refuses to eat.

“So are you still hungry, Mom?” I asked in response. “You know, I left some sandwich items in the refrigerator in your room. You can ask your caregiver to help you make a sandwich.”

“Oh, no, I’m not hungry,” she assured me. “I seldom eat what they serve for dinner anyway because I’m still full from lunch.” (That’s not surprising because they finish lunch at 12:30 and go back down to the dining room for dinner at 4—just long enough in between for an afternoon nap.) “It’s just the principle of the thing,” she explained. “I hate liver and onions, and I thought you should know that’s what they gave us for dinner.”

Sigh. I’m never sure how to handle that sort of situation, so I usually just change the subject. But as much as she despises liver and onions, there is one meal at the facility that ranks at the top of her favorites list: eggrolls. At last twice a month they serve eggrolls (along with a few other items) for either lunch or dinner, and Mom always calls me to rave about them. But the last time she had them, she also had a revelation that really rocked her world.

“They give eggrolls to everyone,” she said, amazement evident in her voice.

“And why wouldn’t they?” I asked.

“Well, I just assumed I got them because I share a table with Rita and Laura, but today I noticed there were a couple of people sitting at tables by themselves, and they got eggrolls too!”

It was nearly too much for her to comprehend, though she quickly added that it wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t get them. After all, it was sad enough that they sat by themselves at mealtime; there was no reason to punish them further by depriving them of eggrolls.

I’ve learned a lot watching my mom age, and not just about eggrolls and who’s entitled to them. I understand a little better now that the Scriptures tell us that the death, or passing, of God’s people is precious in His sight. And it isn’t limited to that one moment in time when a believer takes that last breath and departs for heaven. It is the sometimes lengthy process, that cutting of earthly ties so we can finally soar into God’s presence. Barring some unexpected event, Mom will probably get there ahead of me, but I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if, when I arrive soon after her, I find she’s already sitting at the banquet table, sharing eggrolls with my dad. Something tells me they won’t mind if I join them.

Declaring My Dependence

September 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kathi Macias –

June and July have always been my favorite months. I don’t know if it’s because they fall in the middle of the year or I just like the weather, but these two months tend to put a smile on my face.

June makes sense. After all, when you’re young, June means school is out and summer vacation begins, and it doesn’t get much better than that. But July kicks it up a notch for me, starting with all the celebrations associated with the Fourth.

Now I have to say that my husband grills the best steaks and tri-tips this side of anywhere, but my personal Fourth of July picnic-and-barbecue memories have made me a hamburger-and-hot-dog kind of girl. Even though we often went on Memorial Day outings at the end of May, the REAL summer activities didn’t seem to kick off until the Fourth. That’s when the company my dad worked for had these incredible picnics at the park that we kids looked forward to all year. There was dirt everywhere, so our mothers gave up yelling at us to stay out of it. Even better, there was a little stream that ran through the park—not deep enough that those same mothers forbade us to go near it, but just deep enough to be swarming with pollywogs. You wouldn’t believe how many of those disgusting little critters we’d scoop up into old canning jars filled with dirty water from the stream. Then we’d carry them home as trophies, swearing we’d take care of them and not let them die this year.

Another highlight of the annual outing was the food itself. All the moms brought their specialties, from potato salad to brownies to baked beans. Plus we all got to help make the ice cream, which was mouthwateringly good. But the meat was my favorite part. This is where I fell madly in love with barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers, because the only other alternative was venison steak. When I found out that venison was deer meat (which happened only weeks after my parents took us to the drive-in to see “Bambi”), I swore I’d never touch venison—ever! Thankfully the cooks offered the hot-dog-and-hamburger alternative, and those two items soon became my barbecue staples.

Of course, the best part of those Fourth of July celebrations came when the company picnic ended and the sun went down. That’s when we all piled into our cars and headed for a nearby spot where we could park in rows in the dirt, sit on the hoods of our vehicles or on blankets spread on the ground, and watch the FREE firework display. As we oohed and aahed that it was the best show ever, we were reminded—by many of the adults in attendance—that the glorious colors exploding in the sky were more than just spectacular entertainment. At least one parent always retold just enough of the story of America’s independence to keep the oohing and aahing in perspective.

“Freedom isn’t free,” someone would say. “Many paid a great price so you could sit here and enjoy all this. Some even gave their lives. You should always be thankful.”

I can’t help but wonder if that’s the reason I so love this time of year, and I’m sure it has a lot to do with it. But something else happened one July—the 5th, as a matter of fact, clear back in 1974—that made this June/July season even more special for me.

It was the day I met Jesus, the day I declared not my independence, but my dependence, on the One who paid the greatest price imaginable so that I could be set free—not just here on earth, but forever with the Father.

And that puts it all in eternal perspective, doesn’t it?

June Gloom?

September 6, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kathi Macias –

Okay, if you recognized the term “June gloom,” you must be from California, right? Seriously, June gloom is a major weather phenomenon here on the West Coast, and I for one love it! Why? Because I live in the desert, and June gloom is our last buffer against a summer hot enough to fry your brain five minutes after the sun comes up in the morning. To say it gets hot out here in the California desert is like saying it gets cold in the Antarctic—an understatement if ever there was one.

So what exactly is June gloom? It’s the glorious gray, damp, chilly fog that rolls in off the Pacific nearly every morning from Memorial Day until almost the Fourth of July, holding temperatures down until the sun burns through it and starts heating things up by noon or so. But at least that gives us the morning hours to get outside, take walks, prune the roses, etc. Once that desert sunshine makes its entrance, forget it! We desert rats lock ourselves inside, turn up the AC, and don’t come out again until dark.

It wasn’t always like that, though. There was a time, eons ago, when I despised June gloom, but that was because I lived right on the coast—not anywhere near the desert. June gloom there lasted nearly six months out of the year, and that frigid blanket of damp gray seldom burned off, instead leaving everything cold and miserable—including everyone who lived there.

But we were kids then. When school let out the middle of June, nothing was going to keep us from heading for the beach and catapulting our skinny bodies into the icy cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. I was nearly twenty years old before I found out that blue was not my natural skin color and teeth weren’t supposed to chatter.

Then I got old. Seriously! I refuse to tell you how many times I’ve passed another twenty years and how distant a memory those “skinny bodies” we once took for granted have now become. And somehow, some way, my husband (who grew up in the same gray beach town) and I ended up living in the desert. Now we celebrate June gloom and weep when it disappears because we know what’s coming—115-degree days for about four months or so.

And yet, when that broiling summer sun finally sets in the evening, we’ve discovered that there is nothing to compare to the beauty of desert nights. Along with our neighbors, we crawl out of the woodwork at sundown and revel in the clear night skies, the clean air, and the un-crowded streets and towns we now call home. We’ve learned that home really is “where the heart is,” June gloom notwithstanding, which makes it all the more important that our hearts are focused on God and eternity. For that’s where our Home really is, isn’t it? And what a magnificent Home it will be! No need for June gloom to hold down the temps there, for we will at last be in the ideal place we’ve been yearning for all along.

I’m going to hold that thought as I work my way through this year’s June gloom season—and on into the stifling hot months to follow. After all, in the words of the late Rev. E.V. Hill, “This ain’t it!” And aren’t we glad?

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