When I was the Stranger to Avoid

Why should she be suspicious of me? Can’t she tell by looking that I’m a good person and only want to help? And who pinned a BEWARE OF THE STRANGER sign on my shirt?

How quickly I forgot that earning trust is work.

As I searched for mushrooms in a crowded produce department last year, I maneuvered my cart around a young mother and her brood. A little girl hung on to the outside of the cart, asking for strawberries, and a wide-eyed infant squirmed in his sling. The woman had to be overwhelmed.

A minute later I heard their cart hit the cement floor, scattering their groceries. Mom calmed her terrified daughter and reached to get their belongings out of the way of other shoppers.

How well I remember shopping with multiple children in tow, taking care to keep them safe from sharp objects and questionable people.

Parking my cart out of the shopping lane, I picked up some bags of produce and cans and set them back in her cart. When I found a cell phone, I handed it to Mom thinking she’d be grateful I’d rescued it. Instead, she scrutinized me as though I might grab it and run.

I’m sure to her I looked like a meddling nuisance, a stranger who shouldn’t be trusted. I’d thought the same things of people who seemed overly friendly to my children.

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18 ESV).

Now I knew that she didn’t need me for a best friend at that moment. Instead, the best way to love my neighbor that day was to back off. Spotting a loose dime on the floor, I bent down to pick it up, knowing I was still being watched. I handed it to the little girl. “Here, why don’t you hold this for your mommy?”

And I slipped quietly away.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Welcome the Stranger – Leviticus 19:34

We didn’t know anyone in our new community when we moved into our country home. Both my husband and I had lived in Eugene since elementary school, not realizing how deep our roots had grown—or how important they were.

We’d stayed in the same school district for decades, taking part in athletic competitions, after school clubs, community events, and church activities with our neighbors and peers, so it was astonishing when we found ourselves viewed with suspicion by so many.

We were overlooked

I approached the line in front of the neighborhood church with my children in tow, hoping to register them for the week-long Vacation Bible School.

Several glanced my way, sizing me up, but didn’t hold my gaze long. I encouraged and played with my kids, but we stood alone, not included in others’ conversations.

It was a rude awakening, but insightful. They behaved much like I did in the same situation. I place a higher value on relationships now, having a greater appreciation for the friendships I’ve already developed and being more willing to invest in new ones.

Love your neighbor as yourself

“But the stranger who resides with you shall be to you like someone native-born among you; and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34 AMP).

As the sun beat down on the top of my head, I noticed a woman making her way down the line greeting people. She managed to animate the crowd with her friendliness, laughter erupting wherever she stopped. She didn’t bypass me. Instead she introduced herself, asked questions about my family, listened intently.

In the next few weeks our sons became friends at school. I entertained the notion that Friendly Woman was my new best friend exclusively. Then I remembered it appeared she made everyone feel that way.

Let’s not forget how it feels to be unnoticed, or how the kindness of one person can make our day.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

What I Learned from a Doll – Proverbs 18:21

I held the covers over my head and turned the cell phone away from my sleeping husband. In a breathy voice I recorded my thoughts, watching to see if Jerry might stir. He’s a man who can sleep through branches scraping against the roof and our dog’s barking, but apparently not a whispering woman in his bed. Rats.

That killed any chance of keeping track of my thoughts while in bed. From now on I would have to leave the room to write down the stories that come in the night.

doll eyes. alexas_fotos .free pixabay

I’d put in my order that day, for copies of the book, Jesus Talked to Me Today: True Stories of Children’s Encounters with Angels, Miracles, and God, which includes my story about a doll I carried in my pocket and how I learned about Jesus through her.

In the night I found I have another doll story to tell.

The other doll

My 8″ Betsy McCall doll was very talented, able to sit upright because of her bendable, lifelike knees. She was dressed in the TV Time outfit, a cute teal jumper and blue pants. I looked forward to coming home from first grade and posing her on the dresser in the garage, where we admired each other and shared our secrets.

One night I had a nightmare about her watching me from her perch as I teased her about the hinges in her knees. She smiled. Emboldened, I mocked their ugliness, and though her expression didn’t change, she lowered her chin and tilted to one side. Then, like a marshmallow melting on the end of a roasting stick, she slumped over.

My words had destroyed my friend

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

My precious doll disappeared from my life. I don’t know what happened to her, but I have no memory of playing with her after that dream. The lesson endures, however, and I hope to never forget the image of my words’ affect on her. I don’t ever want someone damaged because of something I’ve said, even in jest.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

I Don’t Love Her – Matthew 22:34-40

One of life’s sweetest blessings is when my grandchildren holler “GRAN – MAAAAA!” and come running to greet me. They haven’t knocked me down yet, but their exuberance is certainly felt. One Sunday after church, however, I wasn’t too happy about my grandson’s behavior.

brothers loving. lonnieBradley .freeImages

He’d been playing near the bleachers at the back of the gym, and I caught him making a mean, ugly face to a little girl. Appalled, I drew him aside. “Jackson, why did you do that?”

With his innocent dark eyes peering deep into mine he simply explained, “I do not love her.”

While I appreciated his openness, in my mind I pulled out my grandma to-do list and added, Teach grandchildren what Jesus said about love.

What Jesus said

My grandchildren’s greetings prove they know I love them and find me easy to love back. But what if loving isn’t always so easy?

Jesus said,“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV).

The fact that we were commanded to love God inherently shows that it doesn’t come naturally, we get to choose to love him. Thirty-nine years ago my husband pursued a relationship with me, and I chose to respond. Love grew from our choices.

Doing love

I used to think it sounded arrogant for God to say, “You must love me,” and yet, because he is the Creator and Love itself, it’s perfectly reasonable. Without love, we’re nothing (see 1 John 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13).

My grandson has gained more experience in practicing love—not only as a brother to his siblings, but now as an older foster brother to a rambunctious little guy. Like all of us, he’s learning that love involves challenges, and that’s OK. Without having to work at it, our love would only be an expression of feelings that come and go like the wind.

We need to remember demonstrating love doesn’t always bring immediate happiness, but its rewards are worth the investment. And ultimately, loving others helps us understand God’s enduring love for us. We can all be a little challenging sometimes, don’t you think?

Don’t ask my husband.

by Kathy Davis

Stranger in the Parking Lot – 1 Corinthians 13:2

I left the ladies meeting early, carrying my newborn across the empty church parking lot. Someone called my name, but I didn’t recognize her. Feeling protective of my son and hoping she might be addressing someone else, I ignored her.

The stranger approached anyway, carrying a paper bag. “This is for you.” She shoved it toward me, her eyes sparkling. “I heard you say you didn’t have a new blanket for your second child, and I thought every baby should have his own new blanket.”

Aaron. Joshua. Imthelittle brother 5-1980

I thanked her because it was the right thing to do, though I disagreed. I reasoned that a baby doesn’t know how old a blanket is, he just needs to feel loved. Buckling myself into the car, we headed home.

Was that love? 

The woman had annoyed me. She gave me a gift I didn’t want in a way I didn’t appreciate. Does that mean she was unloving? No.

Were my actions unloving? Yes.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV).

When I pulled the blanket out of the bag and saw its light denim blues and beige stripes, I realized it was a wonderful gift. Like Sam, I Am and his Green Eggs and Ham, I liked it!

After my attitude adjustment I asked God for a second chance to express kindness to the woman, and a few weeks later I had the opportunity to do just that.

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Love means letting others love you “their way”

A couple years ago, that same son and his wife added a baby girl to the family, and my daughter and I conspired to make a blanket for her. We followed the pattern of the stranger’s gift with the long, coordinating flannel strips, using bolder, more contemporary colors this time.

And this year, another daughter joined their family. This newest sweetheart needs a blanket of her own (my way of saying, “I know they don’t need more baby blankets, but I need to love her this way for now”).

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As I stitched the binding around it, I knew my efforts would not win any prizes. Sewing isn’t one of my favorite things to do, though loving others certainly is.

Let me know if you would feel loved if I gave you my bag of left over flannel scraps.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis