March Madness

January 13, 2023 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

Ah, March.

The old saying is that it comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.

In my house it comes in with my husband’s siren call of “IT’S MARCH MADNESS TIME!!!”

Final four brackets are discussed around water coolers throughout the nation. The merits of coaching staffs, star players and recent injuries are rehashed as the pool of college basketball teams dwindles progressively throughout the weeks.

And I am left to twiddle my thumbs and wonder what the excitement is all about. Actually, I usually use the College Basketball play-offs as a time to catch up on my “to-read” list on my Kindle.

I’m not anti-sports by any stretch of the imagination. My blood starts pumping in late August as football season arrives on the scene. It’s a game I understand. The patient boyfriend of one of my best friends in high school spent many Sunday afternoons instructing us. He joyfully explained the game’s rules and nuances. He has the undying gratitude of my husband.

I also enjoy baseball, to an extent. Take me out to the ballgame and I’m happy to root for the home team and enjoy the peanuts and Crackerjack. Watching a game on television is equal to a dose of Nyquil to me, but hey, a snoozing wife is better than a nagging one, right?

But basketball? I don’t get it. It’s a lot of frantic running around for a couple of hours until the last two minutes of the game. Then somehow, those that play basketball, are able to bend the space-time continuum and stretch two minutes into a half-hour. Endless time-outs, fouls and free throws create the ultimate drama for my husband, while I’m left scratching my head wondering why he bothered to watch the other 38 minutes of the game. I’ve told him before, they should just put two minutes on the clock, and 64 points for each team, then let them battle it out for the win.

As amusing as my limited sports knowledge is, why am I writing about it here? Well, it occurred to me to look at basketball as an example of how to live my life. I tend to take my life very seriously, running frantically from goal to goal, project to project, just like those players on the court. Trying to “score” in the game of life. But in reality, my main objective should not be in running myself ragged, but in using every moment, like those last two minutes in a game, to its fullest. To appreciate each second of the day that God has given me and use it to draw closer to Him. And besides, some of the most exciting moments of a game are played in those final seconds. I hope I can look back at the end of my life and know that I have, to paraphrase from Paul in Acts 20, “Finished the race and completed the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”

Puppy Power

December 20, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

I know it sounds odd to say, but a puppy brought me closer to God.

It started innocently one Sunday after church when my family and I stopped at a pet store. The volunteers from the shelter saw me coming from a mile away and set their sights. I know they did. As soon as I saw their little bundles of white fluff, they had me.

To be honest, we’d come to the open house of the Little White Dog Rescue with the intention of adopting a dog. I just hadn’t intended on coming home with two. But my family fell in love with a little Maltese/Poodle mix while my heart melted when I held the Bichon/Shih Tzu puppy. The ladies from the rescue told me they’d make us a deal on adoption fees if we took them both.

My brain argued with my emotions. Don’t do it! Two puppies at once? Are you nuts? If you’re not now, you will be when you try to train them both!

But thankfully, my heart won out. We brought the two little fur balls home with us and began the process of housebreaking.

A week of them on separate schedules and different bad habits was enough to make me tear out my hair. Not that anyone one noticed. My hair blended in nicely with the tufts of fur, squeaky toys and rope bones the tiny beasts left all over the house. My attitude had sunk from joy to frustration faster than a puppy can lift his leg to mark a piano.

One of the hardest things to get used to was waking up by 5:30 to take Ollie, the hair ball I’d fallen in love with, outside for his morning constitutional. Because his sibling still lay sleeping soundly in her crate, I hesitated to bring Ollie back to the bedroom after our walks. That meant I had to stay awake with him in the kitchen because, as everyone knows, an unsupervised puppy causes more havoc than a class one tornado.

At first, this new routine was another source of aggravation. The siren call of flannel sheets can be overwhelming on cold, dark, winter mornings. I longed to crawl back into bed and hibernate until the sun rose. But I realized something around the second or third week of this new normal.
I’d been seeking the motivation to wake up earlier to spend more time with my Bible and in prayer, but invariably would pull the covers over my head when the alarm rang. It’s a lot easier to ignore an inanimate object than a whining puppy. Ollie’s schedule pushed me out of my laziness and into a time of quiet intimacy with God.

I’ve come to love the hour or so I spend with Ollie curled up at my feet while I sip my tea and read God’s word. He may be the cutest answer to prayer I’ve ever received.

Being Committed

November 29, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

Ah, the New Year. A time to look over past achievements and set goals for the future. A good friend of mine once asked, “If I’ve accomplished all my New Year’s Resolutions by January 9th, did I set my goals too low?”

Maybe.

I hate making goals. They mock me. As soon as I make one, all of life seems to conjoin to keep me from accomplishing it. If I say I’m going to lose weight, then strangers start throwing chocolate my way. If I promise I’m going to write a certain amount of words each day, then my computer freezes or my zip drive gets lost. If I commit to a quiet time in Bible study and prayer, then every telemarketer from here to Mumbai calls for that exact hour.

Instead of “goals” I prefer lists. They’re a little less formal. More laid back. A list invites me to accomplish it, rather than demanding my participation. I can check things off at my leisure. There’s no deadline. No obligation.

This kind of attitude doesn’t work in my walk with God, however. Not if I want to grow in any measurable way. God doesn’t demand that I seek Him, but He certainly rewards those who are faithful. If I’m putting my relationship with God on some kind of checklist, then there’s a good chance I’m taking it too lightly. Treating it too casually. There’s a saying, the difference between being involved with someone and being committed to them is like a ham and eggs breakfast. The chicken is involved with the meal. The pig is committed.

This year I’m setting one goal. I’m going to strive to be more committed to my relationship to God. Intentional in the time I spend with Him. Not out of obligation, or because He’s on my list of “things to do,” but because I long to have the kind of faith that He desires for me.

The great thing about this resolution is I can’t set a deadline for when I have to have it accomplished. There is no actual “goal.” I will never be perfect or sinless. I can never know all there is to know about God. He will never run out of ways to surprise me. Although I can never fulfill this resolution, I can never fail at it either, because as long as I am seeking to know more about Him, I’ll be successful.

Blinded by the Light

November 1, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

For years, as the rest of the world succumbed to the lure of smaller, shinier and showier mobile devices, I resisted change. The last of my friends to get a cell phone, when I did, I made sure it was already archaic.

“Nothing fancy,” I told the guy at the store. “I just want to make calls, not microwave my dinner.”

I hung on to that dinosaur for as long as I could. Until it developed a mind of its own—shutting down and turning off at will. Randomly calling people when I hadn’t pressed their number. When the keyboard got so sticky I couldn’t send texts (the only way my kids communicate with me now) I broke down and entered the technologically advanced age of the smartphone (but only because anything less is now considered a museum quality antique).

And what I feared would happen, has happened.

I am constantly distracted by the shiny.

In my defense, the screen saver shot is of my adorable puppy dog.
How can I not stop to peek at her beautiful brown eyes when they appear on my phone?

And, look there! The little message face is smiling! It means I have a new text! Someone loves me! (Or they want me to pick up milk when I’m out, but the subtext is they care).

I’m not the only one. I’m sure you’ve noticed how everyone seems to keep their heads down as they type away on their mobile devices. No one has a conversation anymore without also checking their email, their Facebook page or crushing some candy. We’ve lost the art of face-to-face communication and instead find our BFFs in chat rooms and social networking sites.

But that’s not where real relationships are found.

Those are found in undistracted quiet times over a cup of coffee while you let a friend rant about a difficult job situation. They also develop in the silences that occur on long walks before the day begins, when the world, and your friend, are just waking up. Hastily written texts can’t take the place of a comforting hug. A Facebook post isn’t the same as a handwritten note.

The same is true of God. If I want a real relationship with Him, a deeper relationship, it means I have to spend time with Him. It means making myself stop playing another round of “Words with Friends” and opening up my Bible. It means not posting a picture of the great lunch I’m eating, but remembering to thank the one who provided it for me. These were things I used to do, but I’ve let myself get blinded by the lights. If I have one resolution for this coming New Year, it’s that I return to the less shiny days of my past and reconnect with God.

My “friends” on Facebook might start to wonder where I’ve gone, but God will know exactly where I am.

Satisfaction

October 7, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

It’s tough to be satisfied in our crazy world.

We stop at a restaurant for a light lunch and somehow get talked into ordering a triple bacon deluxe with extra cheese and super-sized fries.

We invest in a new computer, only to be disappointed the following week when its next generation arrives on the shelves with ten times the previous processing speed, 100% more storage and new technology so it’ll pay all your bills while it cooks your dinner.

My husband’s mother was recently singing his praises to family members we hadn’t seen in years. “John performs with his band around Omaha. He’s really good. You should hear the songs he’s written for Kim.”

My husband’s cousin, Cathy, turned to her spouse in mock reproach. “You’ve never written me a song.”

My mother-in-law continued, “John’s written Kim lots of songs! Funny ones. Romantic ones. They’re all wonderful.”

Cathy playfully smacked her husband Todd on the arm. “How come you’ve never written me a song?”

John, embarrassed by his mother’s attention, jumped to Todd’s defense. “He built you a house! I think that’s enough!”

“Yeah!” Todd laughed, thankful for the back-up.

It’s true. The deck we were sitting on had been designed and built by Todd. Not to mention the entire beautiful house.

In Cathy’s defense, we all tend to forget the blessings of the past because we are constantly bombarded with the message that to be happy, we need something new. How much time do we spend asking God for more; instead of thanking Him for all he has already provided in our lives?

Psalm 90:14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days”(NIV). It’s my goal to wake up each day, rejoicing in all God has given me, instead of striving each day for more.

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