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Devotional

Devotional for Davidson Focus for July

Donna Tobin Smith

I called myself a stay-at-home mom when my three sons were young. But the truth is, except for their “baby” stages, we rarely ever just stayed at home. Some of our favorite things to do were to make regular trips to the library for the weekly story hour and enjoy usual trips to the park or the pool. As the boys grew older, not only did we add new activities that the boys would enjoy, but I also took them to places where I thought they might have experiences that would help them grow into responsible young men. One of those places was a local nursing home. I had been asked if I would conduct a weekly craft activity with the residents. I quickly agreed. It sounded like fun to me and I felt that my boys needed lessons in serving others by volunteering to help the residents. The boys could pass out materials and assist the older folks with the activities like cutting and gluing, things that older, arthritic hands may have trouble doing. I can’t believe how much I learned through my experiences with the residents at the nursing home. In fact, there was one lesson that I hadn’t expected to learn. I learned that God will often take my purpose and change it to His purpose, especially in the lives of my sons. I had taken my boys with me so they could learn to serve. I wanted them to have compassion for older people. And although I do think they certainly developed compassion through their weekly visits to the nursing home, I believe that they learned far greater lessons than I could have ever imagined. For example, although my oldest and youngest sons were quick to assist the residents, my middle boy always seemed to be missing when the assignments were given out. One minute I would see him and the next he was gone. I found myself thinking that maybe I would have to sit this boy down and have a little chat with him about responsibility and compassion. Until, that is, I realized where he was spending his time. It seemed that my son had found a friend. Yes, my nine-year-old was mesmerized by am impeccably dressed elderly gentleman. With a coin or a string or whatever he could find, the old man was fascinating my boy with magic tricks. The more I watched, the more awestruck I was by what the Lord was doing. My purpose had been to expose my sons to the residents in the nursing home so my sons would develop responsibility. The Lord’s purpose was that my sons would be friends to people who may have otherwise been forgotten or discarded, to see worth in some of the finest and most productive lives that had ever been lived. Like in the life of my son’s new friend, Mr. H. Lee Waters. I had no idea who my son’s friend was at that time. It was weeks later that one of the nursing assistants told me his name. I still didn’t know the significance of his life, having never heard about his fascinating career as a photographer. And although I never saw him pick up a camera, with a coin or a rubber band, I saw his love for people, especially a nine- year-old boy who could sit by his chair for hours. The Bible says in Psalm 71:9 “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Mr. Waters’ life on earth was nearly over when my son met him. But the memories of this man will stay with him forever. In a life that made a difference to thousands, Mr. Waters also made a difference to one. Even to the very end.

What a shining example of God’s love to us all.

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A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

By Donna Tobin Smith

“Do you ever wonder whether or not to say it?” I was looking for a little empathy, a listening ear. For some reason, I had assumed that as my children grew into young adults that my distinct, audible instructions would gradually transform into a still small voice in their heads.

Surely twenty-something years of a mother’s words would be plenty of time to teach, advise and direct. But as a parent of three grown sons, I continue to find myself in situations when I feel the need to say something, to make some kind of comment. Sometimes it is just a fleeting thought in my head and I am able to dismiss the words rather easily. But sometimes the urge is so strong that I catch myself mentally clamping my hands over my mouth, willing the words not to escape. Then there are the times when I just say it. Not sure whether I should or not, I just say it.

“I do,” she answered. “In fact, let me tell you about last night,” she explained, as she recounted a conversation that she had had with her adult daughter.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” I exclaimed as my friend finished her story. “You do understand.”

I had a story of my own. I had measured my words too. I had avoided the temptation to tell my son what he already knew. I was aware that he had a midnight deadline for a college class that he was taking. He had told me earlier in the day that he had a paper to write, a quiz to take, and another assignment, all due by midnight. I watched as the hours ticked by, mentally noting that he had made not a single attempt to stroke the first key toward completing the assignments.

I stayed out of his room, trying desperately to hold my tongue as the midnight deadline approached. All the while my mind was screaming, “Are you nuts? What if the computer dies? Why are you waiting so late when you know the work is due?” When I nonchalantly sauntered into his room a few minutes after midnight under the guise of putting away laundry, he announced. “11:57. Assignments complete.” Believe it or not, I had not spoken a word

Do you see what I mean? Does it happen to you?

In the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, Solomon penned these wise words of counsel. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

Fortunately, I know the words that have been spoken in our home. I know the godly instructions that have been given to these sons through the years. I am also aware of the times when wise counsel has been ignored and careless words have hurt.

So the next time I wonder whether or not to say it, I will remind myself again of the words of Solomon. And when I speak, I will pray that my words will be “aptly spoken, like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

But most of all, I will pray that one day the words I have spoken to my sons will help them hear God’s words just a little clearer.