A Mentor’s Worth

January 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

In the state of Indiana, automated toll machines stand in place of live operators. Makes sense. More profit. No need for on-site restrooms.

During a recent road trip with my mom, I experienced this marvel of technology. Entering the toll way worked out fine—even though the wind tried to call dibs on my ticket as it spit out of the machine.

Exiting proved more difficult. Desperate for a restroom break, I took the off-ramp and waited behind a red pick-up. Never having used an automated machine, I rolled down my window and read the instructions.

Insert ticket according to picture.

Not too hard. I leaned out the window and popped in my ticket according to the diagram. The slot spit the ticket out. I studied the picture and tried again. This time the breeze caught it before I did.

I threw the shifter in park and rushed out to grab the ticket from underneath my front tire. By now, twelve cars waited behind me. Reinserting the ticket ten additional times did nothing for my emotional distress, the disposition of the other drivers, or my chances for finding a restroom anytime soon.

Decoding diagrams and maps isn’t my thing. What happened to throwing change into a basket? My hands shook and a trickle of sweat ran down my back as I slid in the car and looked at my mom. Even though I am a mom, letting someone else be the mom for a moment can sometimes take the pressure off. “Any ideas?” I asked her.

“Let’s just go through it and pay later.”

I nodded and put the car in drive. Her mom wisdom would have been great, had a long wooden arm not blocked our way. I took a deep breath and begged my bladder to hang on.

My wise mom pointed to the machine. “There’s a help button.”

Help. That’s exactly what I needed.

After I pushed the button, a scratchy voice prompted, “What’s your problem?”

I yelled over the honking behind me. “You mean besides the fifteen cars of aggravated people behind me?”

“Where did you get on the toll road, Ma’am?”

I gave my entrance point and seconds later, the correct exit fee popped up on the Pay This Amount screen. Ever helpful, my mom passed me a cupful of change. The woman in the Hummer inches from my bumper got out of her car. “It’s good,” I held up the change. “Be out of here in just a sec.”

She raised her eyebrows, punctuated her irritation with a sigh, and slid back into her car.

With shaky hands, I force fed the machine. It spit out every other coin. $3.25 and many coin feeds later, the arm raised. I escaped before it fell back down.

Whose idea was it to get rid of the live operators—the people who knew what to do and acted before one stuck traveler multiplied into many?

Not too long after my harrowing ticket booth debacle my oldest son, Kyle, returned from youth camp pumped-up on a vital message—Get a mentor. Be a mentor. People need people.

The message stuck. My tollbooth fiasco would have been a non-event had an attendant been there to help me. I need a mentor to steer me in the right direction when I’m stuck. I need to be a mentor and share the wisdom I’ve learned from others who have taken time to guide me.

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:12-14 NIV).

Broken Inn

November 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Through the tiny glass oval, I watched ant-size cars enlarge as my plane descended into Milwaukee. My morning coffee puddled in my stomach. Shoulders tight, I pulled my purse from under the seat and waited to deplane.

I questioned my decision to fly to Wisconsin to drive my mom to our family reunion in Ohio. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go—but locking two polar opposites in a Toyota Corolla for a day couldn’t end well. Could Laissez-faire Lori and Calendar Kay make it a day, let alone ten, without killing each other?

My mom picked me up and we switched seats. As we entered the ramp for 90/94, my phone rang.

She reached for it. “Talking and driving kills people.”

Miles later, she glanced at the speedometer. “Are you going eighty-five?”

I peeked at the gauge and lifted my foot. “No, I’m only going seventy-six.”

Halfway to Indiana, a theater sign jutted from the road. I changed lanes. “Want to take a break and see a movie?”

She frowned. “That’s not on our schedule.”

With a sigh, I shot past the exit. “How about a spontaneous latte?”

“Great.” She smiled. “I’ll buy.”

By the time we pulled into the motel parking lot to pick up the room key, my neck ached.

A stack of stained mattresses sat piled next to our room. I grimaced, having already paid online at a site where the hotel remains a mystery until you enter your credit card. Hoping the inside proved better than the outside, we swiped the key and went in.

I yanked off the blue floral comforters. My mom rested on the edge of her bed and held up the corner of the blanket.

Think camel hair. With burn holes.

She chuckled. “Did I tell you the news story about the bed bugs?”

I ripped off my blanket and scoured the white sheet for movement. “Can you see them?”

“Of course not. Otherwise people wouldn’t sleep on them.”

While I continued my sheet inspection, she went to the sink to wash her face. The faucet handle fell off.

I dialed the front desk. A monotone voice informed me we could switch rooms to one double bed or stay here with a broken sink. I thanked her for being so helpful and hung up.

I groaned. “What else is wrong with this room?”

Turned out a lot. The TV outlet protruded from a duct-taped hole in the wall. The towel rack had ripped out of the shower. And the corners of the bathroom floor contained various unknown debris. Each time we found a new disaster, my mom laughed louder.

I stared at the carpet with a frown, pulled on socks and sent my friend Tracy pictures of our motel debacle. She texted me back this song.

My faucet broke and my towel bars missin’
The A/C’s on and the grates are hissin’
Lord, bring me back to Texas! 

My mom grabbed the coffee pot off the counter. “I’m making some decaf. Want some?”

“There’s no water.”

“Sure there is.”

Watching her make coffee using faucet water from the tub sent me over the edge and I giggled so hard I fell off the bed. “I’m so not drinking that.”

As laughter escalated to tears rolling down our faces, the tension and stress of the day disappeared. This Broken Inn bonded us, tempered our differences, and pasted a memory into the scrapbook of our lives.

Sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine. “He will fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy” (NIV Job 8:21).

Why Bother?

October 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Some days I wonder why I bother to do anything for myself. Whether it’s reading a good book, which I’ve relegated to the quiet hours of late night. Taking a nap, which happened once last year. Or making good on my promise to write a little bit every day, which I’m attempting to do now.

I began the edit of this article at 9:30 a.m. and it’s now 11:17 a.m.

600 words. One page. Plus a barrage of questions from the three children who occupy my house. One by one, they rotate in to stand at the foot of my bed. I tiptoed into the bedroom earlier, when I thought they were not looking.

My fingers pause, suspended over the keyboard, as I grasp to freeze my train of thought for later.

The exchange goes something like this—
“Can I call Dad? I lost my tiny fairy book. The dog threw up on the stairs. Can I watch Martha Speaks? Do we have legal-size paper for my project—it’s due in an hour? Can I take a bath? Who ate all the Cookie Crisp?”

To which I reply, in order—
“Is your room clean? Did you look in your backpack? Go clean it up, it’s your dog. Is your room clean? Why didn’t you ask me this sooner? Is your room clean? Dad ate the cereal.”

Maybe a recording of my top ten answers would buy me some personal time? Or maybe I should surrender and realize I do not own my time. I may never own my time—as long as small people live in my house.

Lord, I need a revelation. A communiqué. An email. A text message. A tweet. Can nothing ever be about me?

You’re asking the wrong question.

Well, Lord, I often ask the wrong question.

Are you looking through My eyes? Do you want what I want?

Lord, I need more than Your eyes. I’m desperate for Your heart. Help me want to want Your desires. Make them mine. I whisper the verse I’ve hidden in my heart:

“Trust in the LORD…Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart…” (Psalm 37:3-5 NIV).

Failing Fast

September 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland  –

A lone piece of pizza taunted me from the cardboard box. A perfect triangle of hot and greasy heaven—mozzarella browned just so. I sidestepped the mouth-watering heap of cheese and pepperoni and grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl.

“Hey,” I yelled to the kids. “Someone come eat this pizza!”

No one came.

I peeled the banana, shoved it in my mouth, and waited a minute or two for the sound of pounding footsteps on the stairs.

The only sound came from my nails as I clicked them against the white Formica countertop, inches from the pizza box. I wandered around the kitchen, gliding past that last slice of pizza for at least another thirty seconds before grabbing the delicious, gooey pile of Pizza Hut mastery and devouring it.

Nineteen days of self-denial gone in less than a minute.

I’d like to say the pizza sat like a rock in my stomach, but it didn’t. I’d like to say I regretted eating it, but I didn’t. Heaven from the first bite—the tangy sauce danced in my mouth—the richness of the browned cheese tantalized my tongue and warmed my stomach.

How sad to trade twenty-one days of the Daniel Fast for a piece of pizza that took twenty seconds to inhale. Did my moment of weakness undo the other nineteen days? Or the TV I’d given up? Did it negate the prayers seeking God’s blessing over my writing?

Guilt slammed me. What a loser—I couldn’t even make it two more days. Deflated, I curled up on my bed and hugged my pillow.

I had given up sugar, meat, dairy, coffee, and hours of DVR. Despite the natural, healthy food and the extra hours of sleep, I felt awful. And further from God than ever.

As I cried, curled up under the covers, a verse played through the soundtrack in my head. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).

It’s not about the food. It’s about Me. Giving up food and TV pushed you into the arms of books and friends when you were supposed to run to Me with your burdens. Not to other things.

As God whispered truth into my heart, the tears stopped running down my cheeks, and I realized my whole perspective had been off. I hadn’t understood the real reason for the fast.

“Lord,” I whispered,”I’m sorry about the pizza. Help me remember You made me to need You. Help me to run to You first because You are the only One who will truly satisfy.”

Love on Him

July 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

“I hate night class. My throat is on fire—”

During the lengthy pause, I wondered why I had answered my cell.

“—and I got a 65 on the test.”

Kyle’s cranky attitude set my stress on fire.

Twice a week, he griped about Spanish night class and twice a week I lectured about ten key ways to study for college.

I gripped the phone. The semester ended in a few weeks. Not much time left to pull up his grade. “Come home and we’ll talk about it.”

He cut our connection with a typical, “Whatever.”

What did he expect? You have to work hard in college—even if you are still in high school. His college transcript reflected these grades. That’s what dual credit meant.

That’s not what he needs to hear.

Lord, of course that’s what he needs to hear. Slacking off is not an option. Where’s his drive? His motivation?

Love on him. No lectures. No advice.

Over the last year, I’d given a lot of advice in an attempt to fix him. Study more. Use better time management. Make a plan. Beg for extra credit.

Love is the fix.

This has nothing to do with love, Lord. Love doesn’t motivate him or push him to try harder. Look at all the mistakes I made when I was seventeen. I didn’t realize my choices then would affect my life now.

This isn’t about you. Love on him.

The garage door opened with a slow grind and a few seconds later, the back door slammed. Kyle wandered in, dropped his backpack on the couch, and kicked off his shoes in the middle of the hallway. I opened my mouth—

Love on him

—closed it and wrapped my arms around him. Taller than me, he rested his chin on the top of my head. Where was my little boy?

He shivered. “I’m cold and my throat hurts.”

Ah, there he was.

Love on him. Say the opposite of what you want to say.

I wanted to say, you were sick last week. Instead, I hugged him tighter and mumbled into his chest. “Do you want to take a hot bath? I can make you some hot chocolate.” I waited for his standard, “Whatever.”

It didn’t come. He pulled back and lifted the corners of his mouth, just a bit. “A bath and hot chocolate?” His smile deepened. “You gonna run this bath and make the hot chocolate?”

I headed into the kitchen and grabbed a mug. “Right now.”

“We’re not gonna talk about the test?”

“Nope.” I filled the cup with milk and stuck in the microwave.

He picked up his backpack and shoes and headed for the stairs. “Cool. Be right back.”

I slumped against the counter. You were right, Lord. You always are.

Kyle needed loving, not fixing. He needed understanding, not pressure—so he could relax, renew, and recharge.

Exactly the way I do when Jesus loves on me.

Now, Lord, help me remember that next week.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 NIV).

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