Wednesday, October 14, 2009


We have a multi-million dollar project at work that is relying on state and federal grants to be completed, but is being held up by another division of federal bureaucracy. The term limit on the grants will expire before the project is completed if the specific agency holding up the progress doesn’t get everything in order and file the appropriate paperwork, which has already put us behind in the schedule and definitely over budget. Yes, I work for the government. In South Carolina.

We live in a rural county with a higher than average unemployment rate. Not much happens here. We don’t get a lot of attention on the state government level. We’re the ones that usually have to kick and scream to get state officials to notice, and we don’t normally have all that much to kick and scream about. So, it was unusual when the Governor’s office called us and said he wanted to come meet us and talk about the project.

And that he did. The black sedan pulled up and parked. He and a driver got out. The two of them and my boss and I went into a construction trailer where all the woes of our project were laid out. Governor Mark Sanford seemed genuinely interested in our project and problem. He was interested in being educated about it. He asked more than once how he could help. A little over an hour later, the two of them got back in the black sedan and drove away.

Before they were even out of the drive, my boss said, “There’s one lonely man.”

I imagine Gov. Sanford has lost a lot of “friends” because of his recent behavior. He’s still getting grief over it.

We joked a little about the Gov. having to come slumming to the rural counties where nothing ever happens in order to find someone who will really needs him, or at least needs the power of his office and authority.

Our project is further along the process now and even potential future needs are on the Governor's radar. So the truth is, we do need him and the power of his office.

I’m not here to defend or defeat any of Gov. Sanford’s actions regarding his family or mistress or travel arrangements or money. All I know is that he messed up, he knows he messed up, he admitted his shortcomings, and now he’s trying to make the best of a bad situation.

We’re not all public figures or celebrities that make the news, but we’ve all messed up. We’ve all done things where the consequences knocked us down a notch or two from our comfortable perches. We’ve been taken down to a level lower than we’ve ever been before. It’s ugly and dirty. It hurts. It’s embarrassing.

But when you’re down like that, look around. There are people already down there who need you; people who can’t even see your ugly because they’re squinting so hard from their own pain; people whose need is greater than the shame of your fall. When you’re down, serve. That’s when you’ll see lives redeemed. Even your own.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Psalm 103-2-5

Friday, October 2, 2009

Getting Ready

I went to visit my parents this past weekend. They live a little over 3 hours south of here. It was not really a spontaneous trip, but sort of. I’ve been trying to find some time to make the trip, but little obstacles either at my house or theirs kept me from it. When I saw a small window of opportunity last week, I decided I better take it.

I had been thinking about it but had not really made any actual preparations to go, or be gone. Once I crossed the bridge from thinking about it to actually doing it, I rapidly started making that mental list of tasks I needed to complete before I got on the road.

I was going to make the trip by myself because Scott was already committed to some things here. I wasn’t going to be gone long, but it did involve packing an overnight bag. I needed something to sleep in, something to wear the next day, and as always, two extra pairs of underwear just in case.

Then there are all the bathroom products. We don’t travel that much anymore, so we don’t really keep a separate stash of that stuff in miniature sizes. At home, Scott and I share the same tube of toothpaste, bar of soap, bottle of shampoo, hair dryer, and a few other health and beauty products. Before I left, I had to make sure I had everything I would need packed in my bag while still leaving Scott with everything he would need. He’s very discerning man and is particular about his grooming needs. And trust me; you really wouldn’t want to see him without the benefits of shampoo and a blow dryer.

It required a trip to Wal-Mart.

Then there’s all the media. Was the battery on my iPod fully charged? Do I have any minutes on the pre-paid phone I use just for things like this? Don’t forget to put my Bible in my bag along with the book I’m currently reading. Oh, and the GPS.

I also couldn’t forget the little cooler for my snacks and Coke Zeros (and for bringing Scott some Sonny’s BBQ on the way home).

There are some other things I always do around the house before I leave on any trip that lasts longer than 24 hours. It’s that thought of “what if something happens” that persuades me to do these things.

What if I have car trouble and end up having to stay longer than I planned?

What if a tree falls on my house (not a far-fetched notion in my neck of the woods!) while I’m gone and someone other than Scott has to go inside my house?

What if someone comes to visit Scott while I’m away? What if it’s someone that needs to spend the night?

It goes on and on.

So, in preparation and anticipation, I do things like empty all the trash cans in the house and take the bags out to the bin outside.

I made a pitcher of tea and put it in the refrigerator. Just in case. While I didn’t do it this time, I usually throw out all the leftover food in the fridge.

I tried to get all the laundry done and put away. If something happened to me, I wouldn’t want Scott to have to deal with it without a stack of clean underwear and hankies in his dresser drawer.

I cleaned the toilets.

Once I finished at home, I had to go to the office and do the same thing. Check all the emails and voice mails and respond appropriately. I had to clean off my desk, put all the pending stuff in one stack each labeled with an instructional sticky note (as a reminder to myself when I got back, if nothing else!), and then file everything else where it belongs. I mean, what if something happened to me and someone else had to some in, sit at my desk and do my job? It would be difficult enough without my efforts in trying to make it easier for them.

I had to call my parents and tell them I was coming and approximately what time I would arrive. I had to call my sisters and tell them too.

I stopped by Scott’s office to give him a hug and kiss and tell him I love him, then I drove through Sonic to get a Route 44 iced tea for the road.

I did as much as I could and finally got on the road to see my parents.

My Dad is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He’s halfway through the treatments. When he gets the second half behind him he’ll have radiation to deal with. I’ve never had chemo, but I know it’s hard, especially if you’re 86 years old. The doctors have said that the type of cancer he has is treatable and curable. They did not say the treatment would be easy. I guess it’s what they don’t say that is always the hardest to understand.

He is a survivor of a heart attack, open heart surgery, surgeries for other types of cancers, WWII, three daughters, 50+ years of marriage, and who knows what else. He has always been the kind of person that once he sets his mind on something, there is not much that can change his mind or dissuade him from pressing on. He told me that this chemo has been one of the hardest things he’s ever done.

I tried to remind him that this was only temporary. There is an end to it. I tried to help them experience less stress and more hope.

There wasn’t much else I could do, or that they would let me do for them.

On the 3-hour drive back home, it’s all I could think about. It’s only temporary.

I empty trash cans. I make pitchers of tea. I buy extra toothpaste and pre-paid phone cards. I leave instructional sticky notes on yet-to-be-done stacks. I kiss my husband. I visit my parents. Falling trees. Unexpected guests. Car trouble. Cancer. Chemo. Memories.

All temporary. There is nothing in this world that I can prepare for that is not temporary.

But that “what if” question still burns in my heart. That “what if” won’t let me get out of the state of preparation. I have to keep trying to help the people and things around me get ready, but not for anything in this world.

One day there will be no more temporary anything. Falling trees and car trouble and cancer and dirty laundry and all the things I’ve left undone – they will all be gone.

Eternity is permanent. Forever and ever to infinity and beyond.

All the more reason to prepare.

"Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1Peter 3:14-15