Thursday, June 30, 2011

Heroes

Excuse me while I boast about another of my amazing grandchildren! My daughter told me yesterday her husband had received a call at work about their son, Reid, from his boss at his lifeguard job. “Your son is incredible,” the pool manager said. “He saved a boy's life today!” The sixteen-year-old has been working there since he took classes and was certified as a lifeguard earlier this spring.

“Really?” I exclaimed. “Tell me about it!” I found out that a group of youths were gathered around the high-diving board, all urging each other to dive off. Finally, a boy took the plunge. Cries of "He doesn't know how to swim!" filled the air, and Reid could see the 14-year-old splashing frantically in the water. The manager told how Reid had cannonballed into the water from his perch on the lifeguard stand, and as per his training, carried the flotation device to offer the victim. The boy struggled against Reid, so he had to be put on the tube. As Reid towed him in, the boy sputtered that he guess he should've learned how to swim before he jumped!

“We’re so proud of Reid!” the lady went on. “That boy would have drowned!” I haven’t congratulated my grandson yet, but I’m sure he would grin his shy grin, shrug it off and act as if it were all in a day’s work (despite his 13-year-old sister's report that his head has grown a little). His father worked for years as a protector of society in police work, and his mother has helped save countless lives in her nursing career, so he comes from a family tradition of bravery and service. No doubt he is experiencing something of the gratitude and gratification they must have felt that comes with helping others.

Our grandson, Kyle, 14, is making us grateful, too. He is spending his summer going on short trips ministering in youth camps, vacation Bible schools and special meetings with a team from his church. He plays the guitar, participates in skits, and helps in other ways. A conflict of schedules prevented his coming to see us with his parents, Trevor and Jennifer, just last week; his youth minister was depending on him, so Kyle didn’t let him down. (Thankfully, I had gotten a glimpse of him last month when we spent the night with them!)

There isn’t space to write of all our eighteen grandchildren, each wonderful gifts from God who regularly make us proud, as did (and do) their parents before them. Children are a heritage of the Lord, the Bible says. And Psalm 128:6 promises that (to everyone that fears the Lord and walks in His ways, v.1) “thou shalt see thy children’s children.” A blessing, indeed!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Childlike Faith

The other day someone wrote on face book that his 4-year old daughter asked him to read the story of the cross from a children’s Bible. Then he led her in a prayer of salvation. Since my granddaughter is about the same age, I wondered about the maturity of her spirituality. I know she loves church and singing in the worship and praise.

As if in answer to my thoughts, my phone rang yesterday and my son said, “Guess what Anne-Marie said to me!” I couldn’t imagine, since we’re constantly amazed at what comes out of her mouth. (Last week when she was visiting here from Houston, she said in their hotel room, “I miss Hooston. It’s the greatest planet on earth!”) Her father went on, “She said, ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ ‘Romans 3:23!’”

I read once that one of the signs of a gifted child is an early interest in spiritual matters. Of course, what they are exposed to is an important factor. When God is the center of parents’ lives, it can’t help but rub off on the kids. Jesus said, “Suffer (allow) the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14.

Another time, Jesus called a little child to him and told his disciples, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3. He says in verse 10, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

Apparently, their guardian angels hold a place of high importance in Heaven. What does that say about the importance of parents and caretakers of our little ones here on earth? It is true that motherhood (or parenthood) is a high calling, indeed!

The disciples had been asking in verse one about who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was teaching them to be childlike in simple trust and humble service as the way to greatness in the kingdom. He had harsh words for any who would offend or discourage a child, saying in verse 6 that it would be better for such a one to have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the midst of the sea. Would that child offenders be punished that way today!

Jesus is also referring to childlike believers when he says “little ones.” In verses 11-13, he includes the lost as little ones who have gone astray. He says, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish,” Matthew 18:14.

In insuring our children’s salvation, it would seem that “the sooner, the better,” or as soon as understanding permits, should be the rule. That is the greatest gift of all!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Settle!

Hmm. My computer came on quickly and quietly today. Where was that awful humming and clattering I’d been enduring for the last few months? It began when a compact disc got stuck inside and couldn’t be removed by my husband or computer-savvy sons. So every time I turned on the computer, nothing would happen until the disc finished whirring and rattling, a seemingly interminable time, until it finally stopped and I could proceed.

I looked down and saw something protruding from the side of the computer. I touched it, and the disc slid easily into my hand! It had found it’s way out! Thank God, nothing was damaged, and I was spared a service expense. All of a sudden, my computer feels streamlined and efficient again, and I can work effortlessly and smoothly, unhindered by that major irritant.

Isn’t it funny how we learn to make do? Here I was, used to the inconvenience and making allowances for it, biding my time as patiently as possible every time I turned the computer on until I could get on line. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. I have a history of making-do and accommodating situations like this. For instance, once we moved into a new home, and my dryer was not hooked up for 8 months! I don’t remember why, now, but it was something to do with the connection, which was easily fixed when my husband got to it! Meanwhile, we just got used to going to the dryer at the Laundromat for a family of 5 children!

The next home we bought had a kitchen range in place, but as time went on, first one electric “eye” or burner would go out and then another, until I was finally cooking for our big family on one burner. It took a lot of juggling to get things done on time for supper! Worse than that, though, the oven eventually went out, too, so I improvised by making cakes and baked goods in the microwave for something like 8 years, if I remember right! And my husband managed an appliance store! (Finally, our married son, who had grown up with our inconveniences, bought us a new kitchen range one Christmas!) I guess I’m just not a complainer, or my husband was awfully busy.

I think too often we “settle”, even in matters of spirituality. I saw a teaching by Mark Chironna last night on television about faith and our ability in God. He said faith acts “as if”. As if something were already done or accomplished. He said God calls things that are not, as though they were, and He is our example. Then, in quoting the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he emphasized the first part of the verse as valid, that we can do all things, not to take away from the last part of the verse. It is his position that we share in God’s creativity.

No doubt that is true to a degree, and it is true that we should set our sights high and not underestimate ourselves. Something that is easy to see in hindsight, but not always when one is young and immature. At any rate, I’m glad my computer is working properly, and even at this late date, I’m realizing that we don’t have to be satisfied, either naturally or spiritually, with the status quo!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Age is a State of Mind

What a way to celebrate my actual birthday! By going to the doctor and having my left leg put in a splint! I had been considering going for sometime, and then today as I talked to my son, Greg, he recommended a doctor who had fixed his carpal tunnel syndrome and it all worked out that I could be seen this afternoon.

After taking x-rays and doing the examination, the doctor said, “You’re tough! I’ve never seen that much swelling in bursae!” Well, I should have gone sooner, I admit, but I was just hoping my knee would get better on its own. I had strained it through over use in climbing stairs a couple of months ago. At least now I know I won’t need surgery, a possibility I was beginning to surmise.

The almost full-length splint is meant to keep my knee immobile, lessening strain and discomfort. I don’t have to wear it at night, though, so I took it off a little while ago, applied some ointment, then walked to the kitchen. Wow! I could really feel those muscles pulling, so it does make a difference, even if I do have to walk like a pirate! I’m to use ice three times a day, too. RICE is the treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. The splint does the compression, I found out.

The doctor had some very strong medicine compounded locally for me; the challenge is that I’m allergic to aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). It will be less likely to cause a reaction since it is applied topically, but when I read that some of the side effects are stroke and heart attack, I was wishing we hadn’t bought it. Think I’ll stick to the BLUE-EMU natural formula cream I have.

The Bible says our days shall be 70 years, and if by strength, 80. Today I turned 72, so I’m in bonus years, now. My older sister is 82, and that gives me hope of longevity. The nurse wanted a list of all my medications, but it wasn’t much of a list. Just allergy meds and Tylenol. I’m blessed with good health, and that’s a bonus. The x-rays showed no sign of arthritis, and that’s a bonus, too. I certainly had a bonus week-end, with out-of-town family visiting, a surprise birthday party, meals at both a fifties diner and a steak house, topped off by taking our guests to church with us, then serving them a home-cooked Sunday dinner. All with a bad knee! Maybe I am tough (for 72)!

Are You Sure?

“Mom, where is that old picture with me as a baby when we were at Disney World?” our son, Jamie, asked when he was here this week-end. To my puzzled look, he went on, “I see it every time I’m here. Where are your old photo albums?”

“Jamie, we didn’t take a picture like that at Disney World,” I insisted. “And I took all the album pictures and put them in boxes,” I explained. The old magnetic photo albums had deteriorated, turning the background pages yellow, but I was able to save the pictures.

Jamie spent an hour or so going through stacks of snapshots, occasionally bursting out in a loud guffaw, saying, “Look, Tammy,” to his wife, who always nodded appreciatively at whatever picture he held up. He was going down memory lane, something I always did when I used to visit at my mother’s house. I loved looking at her old family photos.

Later, I heard, “That’s it! I knew it was here,” as Jamie walked through the dining room. He had picked up a framed family picture sitting on a bookshelf.

“Is that what you meant? That wasn’t taken at Disney World!” I exclaimed. “That was taken at Grandma’s house in her yard. You were six months old when we went to Florida, and here you were a year-and-a-half.”

“Well, Greg is wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt," he said of his then 10-year-old brother, "so I always thought we were at Disney.” Just a wrong assumption that he had never thought to question.

We heard a stirring message at church yesterday about the second coming of our Lord. Part of the emphasis was on the fact that we cannot set dates, as someone has erroneously done recently. Nevertheless, the signs of His soon coming are apparent, as Jesus teaches in Matthew 24. Verse 14 says, “And this gospel shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” While every person in the world may not have heard the gospel, certainly it has gone to all nations.

We may assume that, because we go to church, or used to go to church, and made a commitment many years ago, that we are bound for Heaven. But Revelation 16:15 warns us, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” We have to stay in relationship with Him, and “keep” our garments. We are to be clothed in His righteousness, our garments unspotted from the world. Some wrong assumptions are harmless, but one when it comes to salvation, it doesn’t pay to make wrong assumptions.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Surprise!

Our son, Trevor, and family got in late last night to join with two other sons’ families to celebrate my birthday. They were staying at a hotel, so I invited everyone to our house for breakfast this morning. About nine o’clock we all enjoyed my French Toast Casserole, sausage, biscuits and gravy and had a wonderful time visiting. Son Benjamin, who had arrived on Thursday, would have to leave today at 1:00 to make his flight connections back to Houston.

Trying to think of an activity we’d all enjoy, we settled on going to an estate sale. Even though it took a few stops to coordinate everybody’s arrival at the sale, we all eventually got there, browsed around and found a few things to our liking. I wanted to go to Cann Gardens next, to show our two-year-old granddaughter the fish swimming in their pond, but the others wanted to visit the bookstore.

The bookstore proved fascinating for all, even giving us the chance to sip a cool glass of iced tea while the children selected one item small enough to take home on the plane. They had some money, and it was so cute to watch them practice paying for it by themselves. “If we hurry, we can still stop at Cann Gardens,” I persisted. The others insisted there wasn’t time, so I gave in reluctantly and we headed home. There was a cook-out planned for lunch, so I knew I needed to get home and help with that.

I started to go in the front door, but 4-year-old Anne-Marie wanted to take me to the backyard. We had done some work out there, and everyone was enjoying the new look. Suddenly something caught my eye fluttering on the fence. A row of raffia (hula) skirts and bright flowers were decorating it, and as I looked further, I saw decorations all over the back yard! It was a birthday party! The yard had been transformed into a luau! Tables were lined up laden with food, others held checked cloths, and bright tropical flowers had sprouted along the edge of the yard. Colorful Japanese lanterns hung from yard swings, and luau-themed posters, banners, and placards covered garage, house walls and almost every other available surface.

“Surprise!” my family yelled. Suddenly several leis were put around my neck, flowery bracelets slipped on my arm and a bright flower clipped in my hair. “That’s why we had to come home!” Jamie explained. How had they managed all this? I knew we were to have a birthday cake at some point, but nothing like this! Apparently, our daughter-in-law had slipped away while we were shopping, and she and our son, Greg, and their family had prepared a lavish celebration. There were even guests present, friends we hadn’t seen in some time. Suddenly I was aware of music everywhere.

“Where is the music coming from?” I asked. Our grandson, Adam, said that was from his dad’s truck, parked near the back fence. It was an “oldie” radio station with classic tunes from the fifties and before. They had thought of everything!

“I’ve never had a birthday party!” I exclaimed over Red Velvet cake made by my granddaughter Allison, and my favorite ice cream. That wasn’t something that we did while I was growing up. Just getting another year older seemed present enough. Then when I had my own children, I did many parties and cakes for them, but if I wanted a cake, I usually made my own.

“Well, you have now,” they laughed with me. That was twice they had surprised me in as many days! What a great feeling! All that work, imagination and thoughtfulness just for me! It was a Happy Birthday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

In the Middle of a Miracle

Oh happy day! One that we could only hope in faith believing would come! But now the shadows have been dispelled by the Light of His glorious Goodness and the sun is shining again! Nothing shakes one to the core like learning that a loved one is in danger.

Our young granddaughter had a blemish on her toenail. “Mama, take me to the doctor!” she pestered her mother for a month or more. As a young teen, a perfect appearance meant everything to her. To indulge her daughter over something she felt was superficial, her mom scheduled an appointment.

She was stunned to hear the doctor’s opinion! The nail was removed, and a biopsy taken. Prayers and pleadings went up to God for what might be a dire, life-threatening, situation. Our daughter was told the results would be back in three days, so she was at least thankful for the mercifully brief waiting time.

She heard nothing in three days, nor four, nor five. The answer was always the same. The results are not in yet. Finally, she heard they were doing further testing. Her fears increased. What did this mean? Oh God, we were so desperate, yet not daring to admit the possibility of a negative outcome.

All the family and churches were praying. In the perceived invulnerability of youth, our granddaughter alone did not worry (or at least admit to it). Finally, though, the uncertainty began to wear on her nerves, too. She questioned her mother if she should worry. She was assured all would be well.

Today at last the doctor went over the report. Although he had done hundreds of procedures like this and his considerable experience had given him a wealth of knowledge, he at last had to admit there were no atypical cells in my granddaughter’s biopsy. She was fine! In our opinion, her toe must have become stressed or hurt in strenuous sports activities, although she didn’t recall anything. As a dedicated softball player, who knows how many times she had slid into home plate, or scuffed her toes in the dust of the batter’s mound. Whatever the reason, we give God the glory. If there was something dark and terrible lurking, God had healed it!

Suddenly the trivial worries of every day do not matter so much. However large they loom, they are nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. Our perspective has been renewed, and with it a greater faith in God, the Keeper of the future.

Woo-hoo!

“I’m trying out a new recipe,” my daughter-in-law, Joanna, said over the phone, “do you want to come over for supper tonight?” Howard and I were sitting in the back yard early yesterday morning, tweaking this and that about our new pond, adding a fern here and a bench there.

“Sure, that sounds nice,” I answered. That meant I wouldn’t have to cook supper, and since we’d been busy preparing for our son, Trevor’s, visit with his family, on Saturday, that was one less thing to do. She said come between 6 and 6:30. That night she called just before six, and said everything was ready. I said we would be there at 6:30, and she said a little earlier would be better.

“Whose car is that?” Howard asked as we pulled up to their house a few minutes later. I said it probably belonged to their tenant, who lived in their garage apartment. It could have been anybody, though, since a church friend or Joanna’s mom were often there when she asked us over.

“Knock, knock,” I said, as I simultaneously rapped on the slightly ajar door and turned the knob. A chorus of “Come in!” met us, and there they were, assembled just inside. I stared incongruously for a minute, as I took in their smiling faces, and a vision of two lovely tots materialized before me. My grandbabies from Houston! Angelic, blonde Anne-Marie danced excitedly beside our cherub with the red curls as Maddie smiled tentatively up at us. “How did they get here!” I squealed, as I swooped them up and their parents peeked out from behind the doorway.

They had surprised me for my birthday! It is on Monday, and I knew Trevor was coming, but I had no idea Jamie’s family would come! Especially in the midst of his preparations to go to Japan next weekend! “I told you we were coming this summer,” was Jamie’s reasonable response. Well, who knew? They had really pulled one over on me, someone who is not easy to surprise. That explained that chance remark on Facebook I had picked up that my daughter-in-law, Rhonda, in North Carolina, had written to Trevor about hearing about their trip and what a nice thing that was to do. It had been a conspiracy! (Of the best kind.)

No wonder Jamie had not been answering his phone! I had called him twice that day and got the answering machine both times. They had been on the plane! And that was an airport rental in the driveway. I couldn’t take my eyes off them the whole evening, which ended in a dessert trip to Braum’s. The ice cream was sweet and cold, but watching the children’s faces as they enjoyed it melted my heart like the hot fudge sauce melting the ice cream on the sundae in front of my husband.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Father's Day Feats

My husband prefaced his Father’s Day remarks at church Sunday with a quote from General Douglas MacArthur. “By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. Soldiers destroy so they can build. Fathers don’t destroy, they just keep building.”

Keep building. There’s been a lot of that around here lately. After we had done rudimentary work in backyard improvement with a small stone patio, an arrangement of statuary, flowers and a new swing, our kids were inspired to take it to a whole new level! So for Father’s Day, Greg and Joanna came over Saturday with a truck loaded with bags of garden soil, mulch, weed-resistant liner, paint, lumber, rocks, shovels, plus a pond liner and pump.

With the whirring of a finely tuned machine, they and their kids, Adam and Allison, set to work, while I stood in amazement as they carted our wobbly yard furniture to the alley, manned weed-eaters and shovels, put in shade-tolerant plants, then cutting and sawing, building and attaching new garage doors. While waiting for the garage to be painted by a helper, they passed the time by digging a pond, arranging rocks, setting up a fountain and pump and generally beautifying the place.

I brought out my potato salad, Howard grilled burgers, and we sat in the shade at our picnic table surveying the progress. What a transformation! I mean, it had looked nice before, but now it looked bigger, cleaner, and better! Especially with the remnants of a sawed-up, downed tree removed from where it had lain for a couple of months.

Early Monday morning we were outside enjoying the new environs, admiring some small fish Howard had bought Sunday afternoon. The wind was blowing furiously, and I kept hearing a creaking sound that we’d first heard Saturday from a tree with an old crack in it. I looked up, and the tree had raw wood showing through, and the crack had extended considerably. As the day wore on, and the wind grew stronger, I was increasingly worried. We called an expert who said there was no way to get equipment in to remove the tree, but to call the power company when and if fell on the lines.

When Greg heard about it, he came to check on it, and the first thing I knew, he was on top of the neighboring garage sawing off tree limbs. He was going to take it down! I held my breath and did a lot of praying. Greg was a human monkey, climbing the injured tree, perching on limbs, sawing over his head with a chain saw! I went inside when he finally got down. Good. They would leave it, I thought. Obviously, it wasn’t going to fall, having held his weight.

A little later, Howard called me to come out. The tree was down! They and a neighbor had roped and guided it safely to the ground as it fell from their strategically placed precision cut at its base. All the destroying and building that had taken place that day and the day before was remarkable, but it was nothing compared to a lifetime of building a son, who may not be a soldier, but who is a real trooper!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You Can Bank on It

“There’s a bank in the west,” my husband’s mother, a weather worrier, used to announce ominously, concern furrowing her brow. Not being familiar with the term, when I first heard it I thought she was referring to Wells-Fargo or some frontier financial institution. (Little did I know that some fifty years into the future, “The Bank of the West,” would be imprinted on our checks.)

I thought of that when I found myself saying today as we drove into the grocery parking lot, “Look, there’s a bank in the west.” Sure enough, the looming black clouds in the western sky told us we were in for a rain, at least. Still, we were surprised at the checkout to see that it was a deluge out there! Of course, Howard made it happen, by washing the car earlier! By the time we had sacked our groceries, though, there was only a smattering of random drops plopping here and there like the indignant left-over tears from a child’s tantrum.

I’m sure my mother-in-law had good reason to be storm-skittish, having grown up on the plains of Kansas and living in Oklahoma for most of her married life. Just a few years prior, in 1955, the town had been devastated by a deadly tornado. My mother, however, having been raised in southwest Texas, tended to scoff at storms. She usually just turned over and went back to sleep in bad weather. I was more like her.

The rain returned this afternoon, this time with hail. I called my husband at work, but he didn’t seem concerned about it, and soon it was over, with cooler, gusty winds sweeping away the clouds. It was even nice enough for us to sit in the new backyard swing after supper. My eyes fell upon the two small containers of mossy plants that I had not yet put into the ground. I tucked them between the rocks surrounding our fountain. Before going in, we removed the awning from the swing we had worked so hard to attach yesterday; the wind was about to make it airborne.

Weather storms make us think of the storms of life, which with God’s help we take in stride. I read a quote of Ruth Graham’s that she had borrowed from an old mountain man who helped out with chores while she was raising her kids in the absences of her famous husband: “Make the least of all that goes, the most of all that comes.” In other words, don’t dwell on what you don’t have, but be thankful for what you have. Advice you can take to the bank!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"When Heaven Tries Earth if it be in Tune..."

What a wonderful day! Howard’s birthday and the weather was perfect…what is so rare as a day in June?… We rode with the windows down in his truck as we struck out to enjoy “his” day. His latest obsession is fixing up the back yard, so the first stop was to a farm store to buy fescue seed. (It’s supposed to grow in shade.) Then a swooping drive through Walmart’s outdoor displays of garden soil, decorative rock, and mulch. (We would return later for a steel rake to prep the soil for the grass seed.)

After finding flowering plants on sale and considering cushions for lawn furniture, we decided to check on the lawn swing we’d seen the other day. It was on sale for only a little more than half it’s original price! “You’ll have to pay extra to buy the one on the floor, since it’s already assembled,” the clerk said. My husband’s male ego made him say he would do it himself.

Well, it would have been well worth the fifteen dollars, since it took us nearly three hours of “easy assembly” to put it together. We’re both wiped out, now, but it is beautiful, in a rustically-elegant sort of way. We’ve been resting before going to our kids’ for a birthday supper. Then we’re all going to church together, a perfect ending for his special day.

It may be Howard’s birthday, but I am so excited I feel like it’s mine! I learned today that a proof copy of my second book, “Seasons of the Heart,” is on the way and should be here in a few days! It looked so good to read “Publication date: June 15, 2011” , when I looked up the status on the internet. I plan to speed read it and make any corrections, and hopefully have published copies by the end of the month!

Sometimes God answers prayers in multiples. Howard had a prayer answered Monday; I had prayed that the book would be ready this month; and my laryngitis is gone! Like I said, it was a beautiful day, and June is only half over…the best is yet to be: my birthday, our anniversary, and Father’s Day. Maybe a day in June isn’t such a rare thing, after all!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Elusive Friend

Sleep. It’s a neat trick if you can do it, I thought, as I read the choices on my computer to sleep, hibernate or shut down. I clicked on “sleep” and decided to once more go to bed. Exhausted, I had retired over an hour ago, but slumber had eluded me. None of the ways I arranged a pillow under my knee relieved my discomfort. Apparently I had damaged it through overuse climbing stairs over a month ago on a trip to see family.

Besides that, my head was hurting, no doubt from sinus pressure, worse when I lay down. And that’s when my knee hurts worse. I can live with it during the day, but five minutes after I lie down and it seems sleep is just around the corner, it begins to throb. My tossing and turning were sending excruciating stabs through it, so I struggled to lie still. Sometimes I fear I have RLS--restless leg syndrome.

Not only that, I was cold. My husband had the temperature set just the way he liked it, and he always noticed when I turned it up. That’s when I gave up, threw off the cover, and felt my way back into the living room and opened my laptop. I knew it would make it harder to drift off after looking at the lighted screen, but I couldn’t sleep anyway. It had been like this for days on end, with only a few hours of sleep each night, and I knew it was taking its toll.

After checking all my sites, I went to the kitchen for a snack. Not that I was hungry after a late supper, but a bowl of cereal could sometimes be counted on for a few winks. Finally I fell asleep with the additional help of Tylenol PM and allergy medicine.

Psalms 127:2, tells us, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” I know that the best sleep I get comes from Him. My husband practices putting on the whole armor of God to ward off bad dreams and disturbed sleep, and I often do that, too. The only reason I sometimes sit up late is so I hopefully won’t wake up prematurely. About the time I’m sleeping well, dawn begins to lighten my window, I hear the birds singing, and it’s time to get up. For me, “eating the bread of sorrows”, or worrying, is only about not sleeping. Lord, I’m ready for You to give Your beloved some sleep!

Monday, June 13, 2011

I See!

I told my husband that we could find the lens that had popped out of his prescription glasses if we cleaned the house thoroughly. It had been missing several days, and we had already scoured every conceivable place he could have lost it, to no avail. I was going on his clue that he had walked into the bedroom and tossed the glasses onto a table. Then when he picked them up later, the lens was gone, so he figured that’s where he had lost it.

Well, he cooperated and vacuumed today while I dusted under beds and behind things. We even bought new Swiffer refills for a clean sweep. Once, I could have sworn I heard a glass-like tinkle when something hit the floor while I was dusting, but I could see nothing. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack, I thought as I went through the contents of a waste basket. We had prayed repeatedly, because we hated to spend hundreds of dollars for a new pair of glasses, and he would have to have them. Reading glasses just don’t do it for him.

I had awakened with laryngitis this morning and couldn’t speak above a whisper all day. Twice I made phone calls to loved ones before remembered I couldn’t talk to them. All they got was a croaked explanation and apology for my having called. Tonight, I decided not to go with Howard to a Bible study at a friend’s house, in case what I had might be contagious. Some people in our church have been having similar problems, so I might have picked it up there.

Even though I wasn’t feeling great, I wanted to finish up some laundry I had started today, so I was folding some clothes while I watched television. Suddenly something caught the light, and I heard a ping on the floor. The lens! They must be praying at the meeting! Thank you, Lord! This meant so much! I had just hung up a pair of Howard’s pants, so the lens could have come from there. Maybe he had put them in his pocket on the way to the bedroom and it had fallen out in the pocket. (My efforts at getting him to retrace his steps had ended in frustration, because he wouldn’t discuss anything other than what he had already told me.)

Several of my face book friends had had an ongoing discussion lately about losing things and the comical places they had found them, often after retracing their steps. I mentioned how that always worked for me, but that we had not been successful in finding Howard’s glasses lens. They probably said a prayer, too, as did all our kids that we mentioned it to.

I couldn’t wait for Howard to come home from the meeting; I had the lens placed strategically on the coffee table to surprise him. He got home a little early, and the first thing he said was, “We prayed for you, and that I would find my lens.” That was my dramatic moment! I held it out and his eyes opened wide in delight as he raised his hands and said, “Thank you, Jesus!” He ran and called our friend and told him of the timely answer to their prayer. Now we are thanking God in faith for the answer to prayer for my voice! I can't afford to lose that, either!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oh, My Aching Back!

“Look, there’s a garage sale,” I announced to my husband as we were coming home from eating at Sonic yesterday. Actually, it was in a neighborhood where I usually wouldn’t be likely to stop, but today the sun was shining beautifully and the small cottage looked oddly appealing. There were big, beautiful collector’s dolls in cases, strangely attractive furniture pieces, and the show-stopper of them all, a huge lion fountain!

This caught our eye, and when we glanced around, we saw a lily-pad covered garden pond with all kinds of statuary around it, including a dolphin and, balanced on rocks above the pool, a shallow 3-foot concrete bowl holding a mermaid. Not that I wanted any of that, but Howard did ask about the ubiquitous figure of a straw-hat- wearing little boy holding a fishing pole. They had two of those. The proprietor said everything belonged to his late sister, who obviously had extravagant tastes in yard d├ęcor, and he was getting rid of everything.

“How much for the rocks?” Howard asked of the flat, ornamental stones that were piled along the edge of the driveway. He’d been wanting to make a flagstone patio area out near his garden project. When he was quoted a “rock-bottom” price, he said, “I’ll be back tonight with my truck.”

Thankfully, grandson Adam was available to help him, because he came home with quite a load of them. And they were heavy! I carried a few of the smaller ones, but Adam made several wheelbarrow loads of the rest, piling them in our back yard. Today the fun began. “Don’t lift those! You’ll hurt yourself!” I cautioned my husband, but he wouldn’t be deterred. With both of us working, slowly the shape of a small patio began to take shape. A little excavation was necessary, and it’s not finished yet, but the effect is charming!

Now he is building a gate (to nowhere) as a backdrop for our nook, to be covered in vines to camouflage the garage walls behind it. Where will this all end? I can hardly remember how it got started! We stopped today at Tractor Supply for gate posts, and we saw a wonderful yard swing with awning that would be perfect out back! Well, both our birthdays, anniversary, and Father’s Day are coming up, so maybe we can splurge a little (more)! After all, we need a place to rest and enjoy the view!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Age Has Its Privileges

“Howard, you realize what we’re doing, don’t you?” I asked my husband as we sat in the backyard staring at his “water garden.” “We’re acting like old people,” I laughed. That’s what it reminded me of as we kept adding this or that trinket or embellishment to his creation.

It all started when we had accidentally gotten a statue that had a hose opening for a fountain. I was upset when I hadn’t got the one which reminded me of my granddaughter, Anne-Marie, until I realized this one looked like her little sister, Maddie. Anyway, my husband had activated the fountain feature, and the water really added interest and visual impact, like something alive and moving.

Howard had placed a birdbath bowl on the ground beneath the trickle of water spilling over the edge of a large seashell the little girl held in her lap. Beside it stood the figure of the little boy pouring from the jug; and although there was no water in it, it was still very effective. The whole arrangement included a slatted bench, a birdfeeder hanging on a bracket fastened to the support of a yard swing and a pair of lop-eared resin/stone bunnies which seemed to be sipping from the bowl.

We needed more foliage for a natural look, though, since the trees were farther back. “Just to see how it will look, I can bring an artificial plant from the front porch,” I offered. The big, fringed leaves of the plant were very realistic nestled around the fountain, wet and glistening from being hosed off. Howard liked it, and I remembered another life-like plant I had, and shortly added it to give the rabbits cover.

From there it was searching for rocks to balance the plants, then bringing a smaller grotto-like fountain to sit in the bird bath and continue the waterfall as it spilled into it. I seemed to be doing most of the work here, getting into the project as the director made suggestions. “We need the water to come down over the boy,” he noted. So I positioned a wide plant leaf to catch the water and act as a trough. Nature made it look so easy, but my artificial leaf still worked, just like in the animated Disney forest scenes when the water drops musically down the foliage.

One thing led to another, what with another rabbit, an additional decorative birdbath and a few bricks brought from the front, until I made the comment about old people. Well, we are in our early 70’s, the “young-old” (80’s being “old” and “old-old” beyond that), but I will draw the line when he starts putting up windmills and birds with propeller-wings in trees!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

True Colors

I know hanging curtains with a spouse is dangerous to a marriage, but that is nothing compared to hanging a flag! We had admired the stars and stripes billowing patriotically in the wind on a house across the street, so when I saw a flag set at Lowes yesterday, I suggested we get it. The red, white and blue would be pretty against our white, craftsman-style bungalow.

We got up bright and early this morning and filled our planter in front with red and white flowers, anticipating kids visiting later this month. “Let’s put the flag up, too!” I said brightly. Howard was agreeable, and went to fetch his ladder. I got out the flag and read the simple instructions to mount it. Howard made the pole sections fit when I couldn’t. I carried the flag out with the eager anticipation of a soldier planting it in victory, but I was told to put it back inside until he was ready.

I might have known how the morning would go when he told me the end of a ladder leg had mysteriously broken off. I would have to balance and hold it steady. Then the screws would not penetrate the stubborn board on the house gable, and I was dispatched for thinner screws. I remembered seeing some lying the picnic table and brought them. Those screws kept flying off, and I kept picking them up out of the flower box and handing them to Howard.

“Get me the other drill from the garage!” the “drill” sergeant ordered. Not much better, so I was sent for a pack of new magnetic drill tips he had bought yesterday. Going back on the porch to fetch something, Howard suddenly yelled in pain as blood shot from his finger! An invisible sharp nail had appeared from nowhere as he took hold of a wicker chair as he went in. As the blood stained the white tissue I had in my hand, it dawned on me what the red stripes in the flag were. Yes, courage and valor, which often incurred the shedding of blood.

Finally, my husband said our project was finished. And it looked great! While he had gone to put something away, though, the flag seemed to be dipping curiously lower and lower, as if bowing to someone of importance.

The cheap bracket had bent. “Don’t worry, I can fix that,” my improvising spouse said. All I got was silence to my question of “how”. In fact, the “why” question had been getting me in hot water all morning, as he seemed take it as an affront to his competence. Another trip to the garage and a climb up the ladder, and he had reinforced it. It held this time, and we watched its rewarding billows in appreciation of what it stands for.

The other day at McDonald’s, Howard was having trouble getting a light-haired cashier to understand him. He asked for an empty cup for water, and she uncomprehendingly handed him butter. From my seat I could see him as he pantomimed drinking from a glass, and another employee finally gave him a cup.

The mystery was cleared up last night when the pastor said he was treated with unaccustomed courtesy at McDonald’s yesterday from a staff of smiling, blonde young people lined up behind the counter. He was so intrigued, he inquired of the manager where she got this work force. “They’re from Russia,” she explained, “sent here for training to work in a McDonald’s over there.” What better place to learn than in the land of the free and the home of the brave! And may they see only the good in us while here. After all, diplomacy begins at home, even when hanging the colors!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To be Forewarned is to be Forearmed

There is a popular television commercial in which a person gets a preview of their day, showing the glitches, disasters and irritations ahead of them. After being forewarned of everything from daughter rolling her eyes at mom’s wardrobe advice, to having a flat tire and the elevator being out, the subject, glass in hand, says calmly, “It’s a good thing I had my orange juice!”

I thought about that as the visiting missionary was speaking at church Sunday evening. After telling us about his ministry and after his young daughter sang a tender little song followed by a solo from his wife, the speaker said he wanted to give a short lesson on prayer. He started by saying that while there are many different types of prayer, he wanted to focus on three.

There is the prayer of desperation, the kind many of us are used to praying. When something goes wrong, we quickly call on God to HELP us! David prayed this kind of prayer often. In Psalm 64:1, he prays, “Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.” And in Psalm 61, he beseeches, “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.” We have no trouble calling out to God in times of desperation.

Then there is the prayer of perspiration, one of hard work and perseverance. But we are promised: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,” Isaiah 40:29-31.

Jesus was praying like this when in Luke 22:44, it records: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Guidelines for the prayer of preparation are given in Ephesians 6:10-18, when we are told to put on the whole armour of God. This includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

If we pray the prayer of preparation at the beginning of our day, and are strengthened by prayers of perspiration, we may be less likely to have to pray in desperation, having been equipped against “the fiery darts of the wicked,” or anything else life throws at us. Kind of like drinking your orange juice.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mistaken Identity

“Oh, good!” I said to my husband, “I’m going out to see our statue!” We had just gotten home from church, dinner out, and stopping at our son’s to drop off a birthday bouquet for our daughter-in-law. Greg told us he had delivered our garden statuary we'd bought the day before in our absence. In my haste, I didn’t even put on my shoes, then realized that might not be a good idea when I was halfway across the backyard and had to step gingerly on the prickly grass and thought of stickers.

The statue looked small from here. As I got closer, my mind couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. This wasn’t what I had bought! Where was the standing figure of a winsome little girl in a summer frock, the one that reminded me of my granddaughter? Instead, this was a bare tot holding a giant sea shell with a hole in the middle for a fountain! This was like getting home from the hospital with the wrong baby!

“That’s not our statue!” I called to my husband as I rushed back inside. “He tricked us!” Lots of things were going through my mind, but I could imagine an unscrupulous merchant giving my son the wrong statue when he went to pick it up for us. We had run into Greg at the Herb Fest and told him the man was holding it, and he generously offered to retrieve it for us and put it in his truck. Howard gave him the receipt to claim it and we went on home.

On the phone, Greg explained that this was the one the man said we had bought, and described it as sitting on a table top. I remembered that one; it cost less than ours and had a “sold” sign on it. How could this mistake have been made? Our selection was the only other statue out there, and the one we indicated we wanted. The seller said he would mark it “sold” and we could pick it up later.

To make matters worse, Howard hadn’t kept the receipt, and he didn’t remember the man’s name or business being on there, anyway. We only knew he was out of Oklahoma City. We wouldn’t know who sold it to us until the check cleared and it would be too late to stop payment. I was so outdone, disappointed and angry!

Then I thought about a radio message we’d heard that day on the way to church. The preacher was saying something to the effect that when we want to be the one in control of our lives and what happens to us, not accepting disappointment, but complaining, we are actually hardening our hearts against God--not trusting Him to be the One in control. Did that apply here? He does promise to make all things work for good to those who believe.

Well, Howard actually liked the wrong statuary better, because he could put water through it to make a fountain. And it was more in scale with the one we already had of the little boy. If God is trying to teach me something, that is one thing. I’m sure I’ll know more fully what it is in time. But right now, I sure do miss that little girl!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting Out of the House

Whew! We just returned from the Herb Festival, a bustling plant fair and crafts/flea market exhibit by vendors, gardeners, artists and crafts people from all over the state and beyond. Hundreds of people milled about Cann Gardens, the perfect setting for the annual event. The veranda of the historic home was shaded by ancient trees, making it the coolest spot to relax and take in one of the scheduled shows, speeches, demonstrations on the use of herbs, or other entertainment.

The winding walkways led us past antique yard furniture, artists stalls, hanging baskets overflowing with lush greenery or colorful flowers, and of course, herbs of every description offered for sale in small containers and pots. We spotted an airy, green, hanging basket, an asparagus fern, and made a note to pick one up on our trek back. We are having company later in the month, and I wanted to spruce up our front screened porch.

“Let’s call Greg,” I suggested to my husband. Our son, Greg’s family was here somewhere, and we wanted to meet up with them. We were near the fish pool, so they met us there. Sitting under an arbor with them, we decided to look for a place selling snow cones. Howard was hungry, though, so we found a food stand where he got a Chicago hot dog, and a cold drink for me.

The Herb festival, held on the first Saturday in June, is always a highlight for our daughter-in-law, Joanna, whose birthday on June 6 often coincides with the event. A celebration ritual for them is to enjoy a generous serving of fruit cobbler and homemade ice cream from one of the booths, and often a one-of-a-kind gift, such as handmade porch furniture one year, sold at the fair. Since we were no longer hungry, we continued our stroll, stopping to talk to friends old and new that we happened to bump into.

Strains of beautiful, haunting music made us peer into a gazebo with signs identifying the mysterious sounds as “Andes Music” and “Music from Ecuador”. A bronze-skin man inside was playing an instrument made of what looked like bamboo canes cut into graduated lengths and fastened together in an angular shape, I think called a pan flute. I have hazy memories of seeing such in story books played by mythical creatures. After several fascinating minutes, we moved on.

“Look at that statue,” I pointed out to Howard. It was old, cast in rough concrete, and was of a smiling little girl that reminded me of our four-year-old granddaughter. We had bought one many years ago that was reminiscent of her father when he was four. “Let’s get it,” I said, “we can put it by Jamie’s ‘statue’ in the back yard.” Greg offered to bring it home for us and loaded it into his truck. I’m sure he’s glad we didn’t get the 8-foot antique architectural column we considered for our dining room. The heat may have been getting to us, so it’s a good thing we headed home, carrying our asparagus fern.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Angels Watching over Me

“Which doggie do you want?” the mother asked her little boy as he stood trying to choose the one he would take home. They were all so cute, jumping and bouncing about, most wagging their tails. One friendly little puppy, however, wagged his tail furiously, unable to contain his delight as the child watched. Looking up with a smile, he said to his mother, “I want the one with the happy ending!”

I had been wanting a new sofa, preferably leather, and awhile back when the Lord had blessed us with a little extra, I just knew it was time to get it. But my husband used the windfall for something practical. Not a happy camper, but I tried to be a submissive wife and let it go.

Yesterday he called me from the furniture store where he works, and said, “Do you still want that sofa?” Of course! But how? Turns out they had a close out on one, and with his employee discount, it was a great bargain! I couldn’t believe my ears! By nightfall last night it was in our living room!

Now what to do with the old one? Our son, Greg, helped move it out and was going to store it in his garage until we could decide what we wanted to do with it. But then we noticed our next-door neighbors were setting up for a garage sale. They let us put it for sale on their lawn with their stuff! What timing!

We were talking with our pastor son in North Carolina, and he mentioned that their church was “mothering” another church. The district headquarters had asked them to supply speakers for the small congregation since they had no pastor. Mark told us, “I said to the superintendent, ‘What you need, is my Dad!’” Mark knew that we had been feeling adrift recently since Howard gave up a position as Associate Pastor at a local church.

“Well, I did receive a prophecy last night at a revival we have been attending, that ‘It’s not over, yet!’” Howard replied in amazement.

On the same day all this happened, our daughter-in-law, who works with the Humane Society, called to tell Howard that they had a couple of dachshunds for adoption. She knew nothing would make Howard happier than to have a dog. Who knows? There may be more “happy endings” in our future!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Eternal Mystery

“It sounds as if you and your husband have been having problems for a long time,” the counselor said to his patient. “When did they start?”

“When he tried to get in the wedding picture!” the wife scowled.

Another husband/wife joke. The differences between men and women are an inexhaustible source of material for comedians, punsters, or just the average person. After all, we can all relate.

Just this week a face book friend was bemoaning that her all-male family, a husband and three almost-grown sons, just didn’t get it when she needed the right response from them concerning her feelings in a situation. All her female friends, including myself, commiserated. We’d all been there.

But let’s face it. Do we really want our men to be so sensitive? How could they fulfill their God-given role of being a buffer between their family and the world if they were easily offended, read something into every situation, and were as in-tune with their feelings as are most of us females?

My husband and I raised four sons, and I must admit, I enjoyed their straight forward, uncomplicated personalities. They usually meant what they said, and said what they meant. Their brains were not sensing hidden meanings in conversations or interpreting looks and facial expressions. And they were fair. They had a sense of justice that could easily overlook emotions and do the right thing.

My two daughters, though, were more like me. In fact, we were so much alike, we had our moments. Oh, I loved the things we had in common--chatting, shopping, understanding--and they’re my dearest friends today, but they thought too much like me. God seems to gift females with a special awareness, which can be a two-edged sword, equipping us for nurturing and protecting, yet giving us insight and a questioning nature. (Someone said the word “why” should be deleted from a wife’s vocabulary.)

I can see traits in my 4-year-old granddaughter that point to female reasoning already. I suspect she has learned to go over her father’s head in getting her way. She prays about it. Last week she prayed that God would tell Santa to bring her a pop-up Jasmine book. (Her daddy thinks she has too many toys already.) Jamie, our son, takes care of the children while his wife works, an arrangement they made when they started their family. Anne-Marie is beginning to see this might not be the norm, and she was heard praying the other night that her mommy would stay home with her while her daddy went to work. Early spirituality, or feminine wiles? Either way, those wheels are turning!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fragile! Handle With Care!

“Oh! I left my glasses!” I exclaimed after we’d gone a few miles down the road. We’d just left our son’s house in Houston, and Howard didn’t want to go back.

“Don’t you have some more in your purse?” he asked hopefully, knowing I had lots of readers.

“Not my eyeglasses!” I retorted. “The set of glasses I bought at Sam’s!” Jamie had needed to pick up something at Sam’s Club, and he asked if we wanted to go in with him. I jumped at the chance, having missed the store since there wasn’t one where we live in Oklahoma. We frequented the place regularly in Mississippi, whether for church purchases or our own.

I loved looking at the housewares, and right away I spotted a set of pretty stemware goblets. “Elegant crystal for formal or casual dining,” the package read, and they were only $10. Not that I don’t have plenty of glasses, but Howard loves to drink from stemware, so I put them in my basket, and then in the back of Jamie’s van until we got back to their house.

“Did you unload the glasses and put them in our car?” I asked Howard after we had gone to bed. He said he would do it before we left for home. Well, we had forgotten by that time. Not to worry, our granddaughter Allison, who had gone to Houston with us, stayed on for a few days to help out with babysitting, and her parents would be picking her up at the end of the week. She promised to bring them home with her.

A few days later, I called to chat, and I was surprised to learn that Allison was being picked up a day early by her aunt, who lives in Houston. Allison assured me she had the box of glassware with her and would put them in her parents’ car when they came. Plans changed, and they all decided to meet in San Antonio. My glasses went along.

We were visiting at Greg’s house a couple of nights ago, when Allison left the room and came back carrying a box. She unceremoniously plopped my crystal down on the coffee table in front of me. Babysitting her little cousins was one thing, but babysitting my bargain was a little more than she had bargained for! I will formally apologize by setting a pretty place for her with a too-familiar-goblet when I have them over for dinner soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Patience

“You are in the middle of a miracle,” the evangelist preached at the revival the other night. He was emphasizing that we are not to give up when we get discouraged. Quoting the scripture, “All things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to His purpose,” he referenced several illustrations.

Joseph didn’t realize he was in the middle of a miracle when he was sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown into prison, then forgotten about by the man whose dream he had interpreted. But God worked it out in a way that was not only for his good, but for that of the whole nation.

Daniel didn’t realize he was in the middle of a miracle when he was taken from his people into Babylon, emasculated and turned into a eunuch, and made to learn the Babylonian ways, but he was faithful to God and was promoted by God.

The minister told of a man who had been diagnosed with cancer, and was so despondent that he committed suicide. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that he had received a wrong diagnosis. He gave up too soon. 

Another story was of a well-known person of the time who was a gold miner. He had had some success and was treated well by merchants and backers. But things changed for him, and one day he was broke with no credit. The miner felt sure he was on top of a major lode in the California hills, but he became discouraged when, day after day, month after month, his digging yielded nothing. “This mine has destroyed me,” he said in despair one day, and went home and poisoned his family and committed suicide. The man who took over the mine shortly after hit the mother lode just below where the miner had stopped digging. He had given up too soon.

The preacher asked if we’d heard of the Hanover Building in Chicago. He said it was named for a very wealthy man. Once a hitchhiker was picked up by the man. The hitchhiker, a young man who did not know who the wealthy man was, felt an urge to witness to him and ask him to become a Christian. Mr. Hanover stopped the car, put his head on the steering wheel and gave his life to Christ. He gave the young man his address and told him to look him up if he were ever in Chicago. Years later, the man did just that.

He was met by Mrs. Hanover, and explained that he had met her husband on a certain date and led him into salvation. His wife began to cry. “My husband was killed in an auto accident the day after that date,” she exclaimed. “I had tried to persuade him to get saved for years, and I thought he had died without salvation.” She went on to say that thinking God had failed her, she had left the church and gave up on her faith. She repented, for she knew she had given up too soon.
We can all relate, finding ourselves in situations when we wonder when things will change for us or our loved ones. The Bible tells us to not be weary in well doing, for we will reap in due season if we faint not (become discouraged). After all, we may be in the middle of a miracle.