Category Archives: Inspiration

What Kids and Teens Are Capable Of! (Greg Warburton)

Greg Warburton, counselor and author, believes strongly that kids and teens have great capacity to be self-reliant if given the opportunity. He shares here what he has observed, learned and encouraged.
Every Tuesday, Greg posts, through his website blog (link), an inspiring story about a self-reliant youth and their contribution to others. He also invites your questions and input on how we can best “set the life stage” for self-reliance building in all youth.
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Ask yourself this question, as you consider if you are open to having your beliefs challenged:

What do I truly believe kids and teens are capable of in the arena of self-reliant action and contribution from the earliest ages?

In my most recent book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance, I explain how I hold an unshakable belief in the capabilities and wisdom of young people, knowing that they can indeed manifest their “I-am-a-one-of-a-kind-human-masterpiece” status!

A FIRST STEP

As a counselor, I strive to see that my work stays rooted in dignity, respect, and compassion. In turn, I’m frequently privileged to watch the process of self-directed change begin to take place in my office. As an example, consider the day when a 12-year-old said this to me:

I was sitting in church the other day and started thinking, if I don’t start acting different I’m going to have a miserable life.

That was a first step on a remarkable journey of self-empowerment for that child. I wish for you, also, a part in a inspiring and fulfilling adventure like this one.

Raising self-reliant children is more important than ever. Change and confusion are constants; there’s no doubt this modern world is increasingly difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, our culture provides little in the way of a tangible, practical, and comprehensive road map for the child traveler. Honestly, that was my mission with this book … to provide a kind of road map.

Rebecca

I had not been counseling long when I met a small, freckle-faced, nine-year-old girl named Rebecca. She did something during our first meeting that I will never forget, and I want to share her story as a way to introduce the power of these ideas.

To begin the conversation about the trouble at home, I said:

Rebecca, your mother is calling the trouble “crying and tantrums.” Is that what you call it or do you have a different name?

“I call it ‘having the fits,’” Rebecca said. From then on, we used Rebecca’s words to describe the trouble.

To gauge her willingness, I asked Rebecca:

Do you think having the fits has taken over your life, or do you think you can still fight against the fits?

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonIn the next moment, only about ten minutes into our first meeting, Rebecca jumped out of her chair, stood up straight and announced:

I’ll just get rid of the fits and grow up!

Just as quickly as Rebecca had made up her mind, I began to get in her way with my doubt. I thought how my professors didn’t teach me about the possibility of change occurring quickly … and certainly not instantly!

I wondered how this nine-year-old girl had figured out what to do about her very troubling behavior within the first few minutes of our first meeting. I began asking her, in a variety of ways, if she was sure that this is all it would take for her life to be better. Within a few minutes, I could see that she was certain.

Fortunately for Rebecca, I had the good sense to stop asking her more questions and just be quiet.

Interactions like this launched my What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! blog-post series. Content also will be related to taking some pressure off parents, teachers and counselors by providing a box full of practical tools as they engage in the adventure of “creating” self-reliant youth that can contribute to the world all along the getting-on-with-growing-UP pathway.

It is my hope you will find this resource helpful and inspiring, and that you will tell others about it. ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work, his book and the blog mentioned in this article, go to his website, selfreliantkids.com.

 

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

Five String Recovery, Part 1 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phil Wadlow, The Changing Behavior Network

If you take a Missouri boy who grew up with bluegrass music and encourage his natural talent for playing it well, you’ll have the ingredients for an awesome career very few can achieve.

Young Phillip Wadlow was that Missouri boy. Everything was falling into place for him, until drugs and alcohol threatened to destroy him and all he held dear. This is his story and his music, in two parts. This interview was recorded in May of 1990, as Phil was completing his first year of recovery and sobriety. It’s a story Phil wants young people to hear, for he hopes they can learn from the wrong turns he took.Five String Recovery, Phillip Wadlow

In this part, Part One, Phil shares how he began using marijuana at a very young age, and how so quickly its use became chronic. But Phil also shares about the music he grew up with and how, at 16, he won a national bluegrass championship. He plays the song that took first place, “Cattle in the Cane.” The joy of being recognized for his music, however, was tainted by the fact he was, by then, completely dependent upon his drug of choice.

Dr. Sutton, the host in this interview, picks up his guitar and accompanies Phil on most of the songs in both parts on the interview. The banjo solo at the opening is an original composition of Phil’s, “Dusty Roads.” (22:12)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE.


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From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 2 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

  • URadio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAnimals sometimes can teach us much about acceptance, compassion and healing. Toby did just that, as shared here by his owner, author Charmaine Hammond.
This interview comes from the very early archives of The Changing Behavior Network. This is part two of a two-part program.

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From Incorrigible to Incrtedible: What Toby Taught Us, Charmaine HammondWhen Charmaine Hammond and her husband, Chris, adopted a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Toby, little did they know what the next few years held in store.

Therapy Dog

Charmaine and Chris were tempted to give up on the big dog, but they didn’t. In return, Toby became an award-winning pet-assisted therapy dog and, in his brief lifetime, achieved Chicken Soup fame and left an indelible paw print in the hearts of all those he touched.

This is a story of love, patience, dedication and faithfulness. It shows us, once again, what can be accomplished when we accept others unconditionally.

Charmaine Hammond

Charmaine is a professional speaker and seminar leader from theOn Toby's Terms, Charmaine Hammond Edmonton area of Alberta. She travels the US and Canada speaking on topics of communication and team building to corporate audiences. But Charmaine continues to promote the values of kindness and caring to Toby’s favorite audience: school children. (17:54)

For more information about A Million Acts of Kindness: Toby’s Global Mission, the movie currently being made on Toby’s life and story, Charmaine’s work as a speaker/trainer, or her heartwarming bestseller, On Toby’s Terms, go to this website:

www.OnTobysTerms.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 1 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAnimals sometimes can teach us much about acceptance, compassion and healing. Toby did just that, as shared here by his owner, author Charmaine Hammond.
This interview comes from the very early archives of The Changing Behavior Network. This is part one of a two-part program.

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From Incorrigible to Incrtedible: What Toby Taught Us, Charmaine HammondWhen Charmaine Hammond and her husband, Chris, adopted a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Toby, little did they know what the next few years held in store.

Therapy Dog

Charmaine and Chris were tempted to give up on the big dog, but they didn’t. In return, Toby became an award-winning pet-assisted therapy dog and, in his brief lifetime, achieved Chicken Soup fame and left an indelible paw print in the hearts of all those he touched.

This is a story of love, patience, dedication and faithfulness. It shows us, once again, what can be accomplished when we accept others unconditionally.

Charmaine Hammond

Charmaine is a professional speaker and seminar leader from theOn Toby's Terms, Charmaine Hammond Edmonton area of Alberta. She travels the US and Canada speaking on topics of communication and team building to corporate audiences. But Charmaine continues to promote the values of kindness and caring to Toby’s favorite audience: school children. (15:32)

For more information about A Million Acts of Kindness: Toby’s Global Mission, the movie currently being made on Toby’s life and story, Charmaine’s work as a speaker/trainer, or her heartwarming bestseller, On Toby’s Terms, go to this website:

www.OnTobysTerms.com

 

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable? (Michael Byron Smith)

How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”

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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?, Michael Byron SmithIf ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?

Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?

Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!

Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.

The Challenge of Confidence

Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.

I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:

Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.

The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.

It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.

Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).

Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’

Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithOnce again, from The Power of Dadhood:

Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.

‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.

Which is it?

So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.

Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.

There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!

And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

Eating and Self-Injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery (Guest: Melissa Groman, LCSW)

BTRadioIntDisorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS 

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Eating and Self-injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery, Melissa Groman

Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.

Difficult to Address

According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.

These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.

Is there hope for change?

Ambivalence is an Issue

Better is Not So Far Away, Melissa GromanOur guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.

Melissa Growman, LCSW

Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

www.melissagroman.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Better Living Through Chemistry? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Our children are watching us, always. With little effort or fanfare, they typically adopt our characteristics, mannerisms, behaviors and beliefs. This can be a good thing, or, as psychologist Dr. Larry Waldman cautions, it can be a path to trouble. A collective desire to always “feel good” seriously can harm us and our most precious relationships. We present, “Better Living Through Chemistry?” –JDS

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Better Living Through Chemistry?, Dr. Larry WaldmanAll living things, human and animal, strive for homeostasis, the ability to keep things in balance. For instance, when they are hungry, they eat; when thirsty, they drink; when sleepy, they nap. Humans, though, take this one step further. Not only do we want our biological processes balanced, we want to feel good. (We feel good when the pleasure center in our brain is stimulated.) Things like alcohol, drugs, fatty and greasy foods, jewelry, fancy cars, expensive clothes, sex and intense video gaming have little to do with balance but everything to do with seeking pleasure. It’s a feeling good movement of epidemic proportion.

To a very large degree, our health care system operates in similar fashion. If the patient doesn’t feel well, a pill is prescribed with the hope they will feel better in the morning.

Dangerous lifestyles

Unquestionably, the number one killer of adults in the United States is lifestyle: bad diet, overeating, lack of exercise, drinking and drugging, and smoking. All these habits are aimed at, that’s right, “feeling good.” Approximately 50% of US adults today are overweight, and, accordingly, there is an epidemic of diabetes and hypertension. How much will the next generation of adult men weigh when most of them spent their entire adolescence seated staring at a video screen? Interestingly, the recreational use of marijuana for purposes of inducing pleasure, has been legalized in several states; it stimulates binge eating.

The response to this situation has been bariatric procedures and, yes, more pills. I distinctly remember a fertilizer/chemical company in the 60s named Monsanto. Their business motto was, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

We had no idea how true that would become.

The Primary Treatment

The primary treatment today for depression and anxiety, the two most common mental health issues, is, again, medication. Antidepressants certainly have a role in the treatment of these major maladies, but pills should not be the only intervention, but that’s often the case. Changing behavior and thoughts have been shown to be quite helpful in managing depression and anxiety, but they rarely are used.

Recently a friend of mine noted he was depressed and his doctor (a general practitioner) had prescribed him Zoloft, a common antidepressant, several weeks ago. He was not yet feeling well.

I asked him, “What is the number one thing you would like to have happen that would might make you feel better?” He answered he would like to be in a relationship. When I next asked him, “What have you done to find a relationship?” he admitted he had done nothing. (I was unaware that Zoloft can bring you a girlfriend.)

Who's Raising Whom, Dr. Larry WaldmanWe discussed ways to increase his odds of finding a partner. A few weeks later, he reported he was feeling better. He had met a woman and they were about to have their third date.

Was it the Zoloft or the behavior? I don’t know for a fact, but my vote is for the changed behavior.

As a long-term behavioral psychologist, I am fond of the statement, “It is easier to behave your way into a new feeling than to feel your way into a new behavior.” I submit lots of people today are taking pills and/or drugs simply hoping to feel better.

A Better Way

Suggestion: The next time you wish to feel better, don’t pop a pill, down a beer, or smoke a joint. Instead, tell your significant other you love them; read a story, take a walk, have a bike ride with your child; stroke your pet; call your parent and tell them you were thinking of them; go to the gym; write a letter of gratitude to someone who has been kind or helpful to you; meditate; do a yoga practice; do some rhythmic breathing. All of these examples, and there are many more, are healthy, natural behaviors that can effectively change our feeling state.

“Better Living Through Chemistry” has led us down a dark and dangerous path. It is time to take a new direction.###

 

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving (Guest: Dr. James Sutton)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio-style InterviewThis short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”

A Valuable Lesson

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving, The Changing Behavior NetworkListen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?

A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.

Dr. James Sutton

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonDr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)

Learn More About THIS BOOK

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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The Tablecloth: A Story for the Christmas Season

BTLifesMoments
Jim Gentil, my friend in Austin, Texas, published this story about nine years ago in his online newsletter, The Power of Positive Living. It captures the essence of the Christmas season. It was originally written by Howard C. Schade under the title of “The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth.” May this story bless your soul, as it has mine. –JDS

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At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle — not exactly.

It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit and prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood.

But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down-church. They felt that, with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

The Storm

stormBut, late in December, a severe story whipped through the river valley; the worst blow fell on the church. A huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they could not hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.

It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who had any use for such a thing today. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel.

It was a great triumph. Happily, he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

The Woman in the Cold

busstopJust before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop.

“The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, inviting her into the church to get warm.

She told him she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town, but she had been turned down. As a Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed.

She then looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.

She looked a the beautiful tablecloth with with remembering eyes.

“It is Mine!”

The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers as tears welled in her kind eyes.

But they were happy tears of recognition.

“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it.

“My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, and that, in being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

But she never saw him again. Later, she heard he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt it was my fault to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment.”

The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, “No, no, the cloth has found its way to you. You need it. It has purpose here; I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it.”

She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.

The Repairman

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It has been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight. It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceilings of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him the church looked more beautiful than ever before.

chimesFrom the generous donations that were given, a few days later the pastor had the local jeweler, who was also the clock-and-watch repairman, come to repair the church chimes.

The repairman’s gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance, he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked upon it intently.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife, God rest her, and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table (and here he gave a big smile) for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner.”

Reunited

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in the church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers.

The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” he said, through desperate tears.

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman for the governess position and got her address. Then they both drove to the city.

The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissful tears. They held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again.

Purpose in the Storm

True love seems to find a way. To all who hear or read this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knock a hole in the wall of the church.

So, Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams or your goals, just remember to have enough faith and enough belief in those dreams and goals to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar.

Then watch the miracles come. ###