Never Say “Never”


This is a picture I took of my mother after she came home from working at the muffler shop.


All those little sayings.  Little gems sparkling in a glorious crown, encircling your head with knowledge, set in gold by those who loved you enough to pass them on.   They twinkle and glow if often recalled.  They tarnish and dull with age if forgotten.  This particular gem of wisdom came to me from my mother:  “Never say ‘Never’.”

My mother.  I watched her as a young girl, mesmerized.  I thought her beautiful, smart, and wise beyond what I could ever achieve.  Maybe all young girls think of their mother this way.  I don’t know.

I sat on the commode lid like it was a front row seat to the best concert in town.  I studied my mother, clothed in her frothy, peach-colored night gown with its matching robe, putting on her makeup.  Baby pink tiles surrounded us with a female hue.  Her mouth formed a little “O” as she put on a thick coat of black mascara.  Her lips pursed alluringly as she applied orange lipstick to her cupid-like lips.  I watched carefully as she strategically dotted on Estee’ Lauder’s Youth Dew cologne.  I didn’t know what she was getting ready for, but I sensed a ritual that I couldn’t wait to take part in.  She didn’t seem to mind my peering into her special time.  With only one bathroom for a family of five, privacy wasn’t something that you thought about much.  I quietly watched and learned.  My mother was the best teacher a girl could have on glamour.

Even when she went to work in my father’s muffler shop and had to learn to weld so that she could put on mufflers and tailpipes, my mother put on her full makeup. Her hair was done as if she was going to worship.  Her flannel shirt looked fit for Marilyn Monroe.  Her jeans were in style with the times, faded and flared in the leg.  Teenage boys praised my mother at school.  How many girls have a mother who can look like a movie star while putting stacks on the coolest truck in town?

It didn’t matter how disheveled she was going to get.  She knew it was a dirty job.  Momma came home every night, exhausted. Burns scarred her skin.  Grease and oil perfumed her clothes.  I learned what it meant to sacrifice and work hard for the welfare of the family.  When Daddy was diagnosed with a severe heart condition (which turned out to be a misdiagnosis) she ran the whole thing with what help she could get from the teenage boys they hired.

I felt a pressure to live up to my mother.  At the same time, I felt that I never would.  If she praised me, I was on cloud nine.  If she berated me, I was the lowest of lows.  Everything I did, or didn’t do, weighed heavily on my mother’s opinion.

One thing sticks out, of all the phrases spoken to me as guidance by my beautiful mother:  Never say ‘never’.

You know?  That is probably one of the truest statements a mother could  pass on to her  daughter.

I know it to be an accurate turn of words.  If you say you will never do something, YOU ARE BOUND TO DO IT!

Paul wrote in Romans 7:19, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (NKJV)

It’s like planting a seed…a weed, really.  You try so hard to aim your arrow at the heart of your problem.  You are focusing so hard.  But, where are your sights?  Are they set on things above, or are they so honed in to the very problem that you are trying to annihilate that you have blinded yourself to everything else?  Are you letting it pull you like a magnet by giving it so much attention?

We must lean on God.  I say this, knowing that I need it the most.  We must go to Him in prayer with the knowledge that He alone is in control.  It is true that we are His glorious creations.  So much good can come from a pure, gentle, and giving heart.  But “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour.”  I Peter 5:8 (NKJV)  Don’t you think that it is his wish that you become distracted with every flaw in your character?  Don’t you know that he wants you to be discouraged?

If you backtrack a little in Peter’s letter, he says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)  HE CARES FOR YOU!!!  Rest in His loving arms.  Pray for His guidance.  Ask for forgiveness and then release your grip on whatever is pulling you down.  Let God pull you out of that dark hole and revel in His excellent Light.

The Handoff

I used to run.  Not this attempt I call “running”, now.  Real running.  Real racing.  Legs pumping, goal reaching, side-stitching powering forward.  Definitely not the fastest.  Certainly not the best, but I loved it.

There were fears I faced: not winning, not pleasing Coach Felty (whom I wanted to please like a father), not doing my best.  The thing I feared more than these was the handoff; that part of the relay when it was your turn to hand the baton over to your team-mate.  What if I dropped it?  What if we lost precious seconds because of me?

We all have a handoff moment in our earthbound journey whether we run, or not.  There comes a time when we pass what we know, what we learned, what we feel to those whose turn it is to carry on the race.

I remember when my father was on his last stretch of the track.  I spent hours with him, caring for him, watching over him.  He sat in a chair at the table, unable to find comfort, afraid to lie down.  He wanted a cigarette in his hand and a piping hot cup of coffee in front of him to sip on.  It was never hot enough and the cigarette was rarely puffed on.  The weight of his sickness didn’t allow him to enjoy even these vices that used to bring him pleasure.  I wanted him in these moments to speak to me.  As I sang hymns to him in the dark, I waited for his words to me.  They never came.  He did teach me to play a domino game called Moon.  To my shame, I can’t remember how to play it.  I don’t know why it was ever important to him to teach me.

This thought came to me in the middle of the night, while I should have been sleeping.  It nagged at me until I got up and dealt with it.  I think we didn’t have a handoff moment.  I think Daddy was more like someone in the crowd, cheering or a teammate, running along-side me to encourage me to do better.  Daddy was a dream-chaser like me.  He taught me that I could learn to do anything I wanted by reading a book or finding someone to instruct me.  He taught me this by example.  He also taught me to love God.  I saw his struggles with being a christian.  I know he wasn’t perfect.  No one is, certainly not someone who loves life as much as Daddy did.  There is always that fence waiting to be climbed, torn down, or simply sat on.

Being the control freak that I am, I want to take charge of my handoff moment.  I want to tell my children now, while I am full of life and not distracted by pain or death some things that I need them to know.

  1.  I love you.  I love you all and I love you all the same.  I know children think that is something parents just say, really having a favorite, but this is my truth.  From the time I knew you were in my womb, I was thrilled.  When they placed you in my arms, they placed part of my heart right there were I could touch and care for it.
  2. I know I made mistakes.  I’m sorry.  I’m also sorry that you will make mistakes with your own children.  It is part of what makes us one of God’s creatures.  I hope that you know that even so, I never wanted to do anything, say anything to hurt you.
  3. If you don’t learn anything else from me, I hope you learn this: God loves you.  Yes.  You will screw up and make a mess of things from time to time.  It is never too late to turn to your Maker and ask for forgiveness.  He is never further away than a prayer, a earnest cry.
  4. I tried to keep your ancestors alive for you through the stories I told.  You may have tired of hearing them, but I hope you will remember.  I hope that you will carry them forward like a treasured heirloom.  Keep them and pass them down.

This is your baton.  Hold tight to it while you run your race.  Don’t forget to release it when it is time.  Your children are standing there, panting with excitement, waiting for their turn.  Their “track” may not be as easy as yours was.  The world is a scary place.  I don’t envy the environment they are being released to.  Let them see that you will meet them where they are and that you will be there when it counts. I see you, standing there waiting for me.  There are not any hands that I would want to pass my baton on to, more. God blessed me with three beautiful souls.  I know you will run faster than me.  That is why God put you where you are.  A good coach always puts the fastest runner last. Now, go!

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

To others that may read this, other than my own children, I hope you take some thought about passing your own baton.  Maybe there is someone’s forgiveness you need to ask.  Maybe there is someone to whom you held a great love, but never told them.  Maybe you know a soul that doesn’t know Jesus and your heart aches with the Spirit’s urging to speak to them, to share the story of your Savior.

Not long ago, my mother told me that she, like me, had waited for some word or instruction from my father.  She honored his request to be cared for and to die at home.  This was at great cost to her.  In the 1980’s, hospice came about once a week.  My father’s cancer was quick in its work and my father suffered much because there was no one there who was qualified to monitor his pain medicine.  He was never put on morphine.  His pain was excruciating and Momma did the best she could.  They spent all their final time together.  She never got the words she craved.

After his passing, she searched the house, going through books and papers, drawers, everywhere she thought he might have hidden a last letter to her.  It was never found.  It was never written.

I believe flowers are better appreciated by the living than by the dead.  All the money we spend on funeral flowers to ease our own suffering could have just as easily be spent on flowers that they could have enjoyed.  Imagine your loved one receiving a beautiful bouquet of their favorite flowers with a note written in your own hand.  See, in your minds eye, them smile as they read your words, as they press their nose in to the soft, velvety petals knowing that they are loved.

We have the power to spread so much joy.  I pray that we will all take the time to honor that gift while God lets us hold it.  How do we best honor it?  By giving it away.

“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 (NKJV)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)