Monday, June 25, 2012

Trip Interrupted

"Oh, no!  A traffic jam!" I exclaimed, seeing the line of cars ahead of us.  After creeping along for awhile, I saw a sign, reinforced by a patrol car,  that read, "Detour at Carlile Exit."  We followed the string of traffic as it snaked along interminably down a side road. 

We had been making good time, and with Memphis 80 or so miles down the road, we could make our planned stop-over at Jackson, Tennessee, or even Nashville. With the added daylight hours of this, the second day of summer, that would leave only a few hours to drive tomorrow to our daughter's house in Georgia. My husband had stated he would not drive after dark on this trip, even though he had his vision corrected with new glasses recently.

"Call Jamie," my husband instructed.  Our son always had access to road and driving conditions on his ipad, iphone, or something.  I got him on the phone at his home in Houston and handed the phone to his father.  He directed us in getting to a town about 5 miles away.  But with the bumper-to-bumper traffic from the interstate, the five miles stretched into an hour.  

"Go to the next town," Jamie directed, "You will be more likely to get past the blockage and get back on I-40."  When a patrol car prevented our diverting to the highway, Jamie said it  would be better to go on to Brinkley, 15 miles ahead. 

This was still no better.  We were hardly moving.  3 or 4 hours went by, and both the sun and our gas were getting lower.  We had been sitting on a long bridge packed with semi-trucks, vans and cars, and   I was nervous about so much weight on the bridge.  Finally we came off the bridge, but a heavy growth of dense trees enclosed us on each side.  It was downright claustrophobic with no end in sight.

"Let's turn around!" I pleaded.  "We could backtrack, get a hotel, and maybe I-40 would be cleared by morning!"  Howard edged the car tentatively to see if there was on-coming traffic.  There was.  Trucks, especially, had obviously been turning  around and seeking an outlet.  Next time he looked, the way was clear, and we nervously executed a u-turn in the middle of the road.

This was smooth sailing as we passed miles and miles of  traffic in the other lane, all headed unknowingly into this morass.  I felt so bad when I saw a bus full of people about to be stranded for who knew how long.  "This reminds me of people falling off into Hell," my husband pronounced morbidly.  I had to agree, and wanted to warn them, but we couldn't.

"I'm hungry and I need a bathroom!" I wailed.  We finally came to a service station and were  told there was a restaurant and a motel in the next town.  At the "greasy spoon" cafe, the only one in town, the waitress told us of a nice motel just a mile down the road.  We finished our fried catfish, located the indeed nice lodging, fell exhausted into bed and thanked God for watching over us.  Although we didn't get a head start on the next day's driving, we arrived safely and gratefully in time for supper.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Picked Out!

"Everybody bring me your old credit cards!"  Jamie called, as he set a funny little device on the table.

"Why? Are you going to cut up our credit cards?" I  teased.  Three of our families were there, and we were curious.  "Just your expired ones," he answered.

I went to get my purse and pulled out several: AARP insurance cards, road service cards, and others I had stuck in my wallet.  He inserted one, pushed the lever, and out came a guitar pick! Howard was delighted!

Soon we had several, making as many as four picks at a time!  This was fun.  My husband was always losing guitar picks, and these were just the right thinness to suit his needs.  After a couple of dozen and a very entertaining half hour, we cleaned up the mess and our son put the cutter away.

Something out of nothing--always a rewarding feeling.  Or you might say our cards were repurposed!  Kind of like our lives as we grow older.  We might feel as if we are as useless as an expired, worthless piece of plastic.  And then, if we let Him, God can give us new purpose. We can suddenly find ourselves useful in bringing music to someone's life, just as the guitar picks are when my husband is playing guitar for the worship services at church, ministering at a nursing home, or just playing for the family.

I always felt my purpose was to raise a family.  But now the children we brought up are grown with families of their own, with some of their kids getting married and giving them grandchildren.  We live distant from most of them, but I find I have purpose in remembering their birthdays, sharing old stories when we are together, and living a life as an example as a Christian mother and grandmother.

At present, we are making our home with one of our sons and his family.  During school, we help with picking up the kids and watching over them when necessary.  I enjoy making occasional meals for the family.  Usually, our meals are from a prescribed menu, but I take the liberty of making traditional dishes of old favorites our kids grew up on.  Kitchen chores are a homely routine that I can do to be a blessing.

With so much time on my hands, I have repurposed myself to be a writer, recording what I hope are inspiring devotional thoughts.  I have four books out, in addition to my blog.  For the first time, I recently checked a tracking device on my blogs and found out they have been viewed over 12,000 times!  That alone inspires me! 

My main responsibility now is to be supportive  of my husband and his ministry.  We are eager to be used in a lifestyle that was repurposed over 25 years ago when he left the business world to go into full-time ministry.  It may be part-time now, but we are still making beautiful music together, with no expiration date in sight!  

Monday, June 18, 2012


"Hmm, 'Mark's cell', it said," I mused, seeing the words on my cell phone as I pulled it from my purse.

"What? Marcella's dead!" my husband exclaimed in surprise.

"No!" I laughed, realizing he had misunderstood. We both have hearing problems, so I couldn't laugh too much, especially after what happened the next day.

I was sitting at the computer with my bedroom door ajar. My daughter-in-law, Joanna, saw me, and said, "Wanna ride to the phone store?"

"No, thanks," I answered. I knew that a new ATT&T had opened recently, but I distinctly dislike going into phone stores. An hour or so later, I saw the children with purple stains on their mouths.

"What have you been eating?" I asked, and they answered, "Snow cones. Mommy took us to get some."

Oh-h! That's what she'd asked me, "Wanna ride to the snow-cone store?"! Something is sometimes lost in the translation with grandparents.

Nothing was lost in the translation the past few days, though, as my husband's birthday and Father's Day were celebrated. All our six kids remembered their father, each in his or her own way. Greg had been asking what he could get his dad for his birthday, and I couldn't think of a thing until finally I remembered his hair dryer had gone out. Howard was as pleased with that as he could have been with anything. (Greg surprised him with some antique musical instruments for Father's Day.)

Son Mark sent us three envelopes: one a joint birthday card (my birthday is soon, also), one with an anniversary card, and an envelope with a Father's Day card. They enjoyed two long telephone conversations, as well.

As her gift to her dad, daughter Julie wrote a moving tribute and posted it on Facebook; it brought tears to our eyes. Son Trevor called him for both birthday and Father's Day. Daughter Amy talked to him at length both days. Our youngest, Jamie, surprised his father with a Keurig coffee maker for his birthday. At the end of the day yesterday, I saw a message on Facebook from him. "It's not midnight yet, so it's still Father's Day. Happy Father's Day!"

Talking to Jamie today, at the end of our conversation I asked him if the kids had said anything funny. He thought a minute, and said, "Maddie (3) did something wrong the other day, and I corrected her. She looked up and said, 'I apologize.'" She is learning to communicate and say all the right things! No translation necessary in any of the thoughts from our kids, either. The love came through loud and clear!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Music to His Ears

"Oh, look! The Farmer's Market!" I exclaimed to my husband this morning. It is held only a couple times a week, and we usually forget about it. "Let's stop, maybe we can find some fresh green beans," I suggested.

We didn't, but we did find some beautiful peaches, which I plan to use for a Father's Day dessert tomorrow. And Howard was fascinated by a hippie-looking man sitting beside one of the vegetable stands singing and playing the guitar. His guitar case was open and several dollars had accumulated in it. (He was living Howard's dream!) They talked at length, and then I heard my husband asking for directions somewhere.

"Where were you asking about?" I asked as we left.

"He told me there's a guitar sale going on about 5 miles out of town, and they have all kinds of musical instruments!" Howard replied excitedly.

Turns out it was an auction, and a pleasant enough setting with goods displayed on tables in a yard, the auctioneer's chant ringing out over each box or item. We watched with interest for awile, then I was ready to go. But on the way out, Howard asked about the musical instruments. "Oh, they're inside," a lady directed us. "Go on in!"

Thankfully, we hadn't missed this treasure trove! The house was packed with beautiful cabinetry of every description: buffets, hutches, bookcases, display cases, shelves, carvings of birds, geese--all handmade--and of course, tables spread with interesting-looking instruments. The auctioneers didn't even know what most of them were, but customers identified them as autoharps, dulcimers, potato mandolin, miniature violins, banjos, a banjolin, and several kinds of guitars.

Howard stood tirelessly waiting for his favorites to be auctioned, while I toured the rest of the house. The other rooms were just as fascinating with huge dining sets, beds, etc. (That would explain all the band saws, routers, and other equipment for sale in the yard.)

In one bedroom, a couple of old, wrinkled pages covered in handwriting lay on a bureau. I picked one up and read, "Dad, you have to make a decision about your clothes. Please sort through them and keep what you have to have. I'm not playing this game any longer." It was signed, "Your son." The next note contained instructions to "Do not go through the barrel, just take two or three suits and keep them. No more games."

The woman who told us to go into the house said it was her dad's home, and he had made all the furniture. Apparently the family was getting rid of all his things. It struck me as unbearably sad, since the father had obviously invested a lifetime of work in all the carefully crafted furnishings, even to the point of excess in the sometimes strange carvings and what-nots.

At last the musical instruments were being auctioned, and by that time, our son, Greg, who loves music as much as his father, had joined us. I saw Howard standing with a dulcimer under his arm, and watched as he and Greg bid several times as other things crossed the auction block. In the end, they had bought a 4-string banjo, the dulcimer, and a banjo uke. "Happy Father's Day, Dad," Greg said as he picked up the tab. Now that's a thoughtful son!


Titanic! The very word evokes awe and fascination, as the 100th anniversary of the ship's disaster is marked this year. Our son took us to the Science Museum in Houston last week to see an exhibit recreating the experience through viewing actual artifacts and a mock-up of sections of the great ocean liner.

We had seen one of these attractions in Branson (the guide told us there are four different exhibits across the country), but this one featured going into the bottom of the ship where the giant furnaces were stoked for the boilers to produce steam to power the ship. Dark and lit mostly by the glow of the furnaces, it was a somber scene with the backdrop of the throbbing engines adding realism to the display.

We saw one of the giant screwlike valves salvaged from the wreckage used to close the waterproof compartments. These were activated by pushing a button, which was the key to making the ship "unsinkable." The legend on a placard above told how the attendant barely escaped with his life by pushing the button and jumping through just in time. The captain reportedly said the ship could withstand losing one compartment, or even up to four, but with six lost, it was just a matter of hours before the end.

One glass case had dozens of individual porcelain au gratin baking dishes lined up in sand, just as they had been discovered. Their wooden cabinet had deteriorated, leaving them arranged just as they had been on the shelves. A poignant scene repeated many times was an occasional recovered cooking pot or sauce pan, along with the actual photograph of it lying on the bottom of the ocean, with a description of its use to make the rich sauces and meals served the privileged passengers.

There were stories recorded of narrow escapes by some who had scheduled a passage on the doomed liner, and for one reason or another, their plans were changed (one man had been shanghied, which inadvertantly saved his life). Others had changed their tickets to be aboard the fabled ship, as was evidenced in the triumphant messages we read in the faded, old script of recovered letters.

Several stories dealt with gold, money, or jewelry that was known to be in the luggage and trunks of the passengers. One man was purported to be carrying the family fortune, another a money belt full of hidden treasure, and another a suitcase full of jewels. Accounts like this are enough to inspire treasure hunters today.

The artifacts and incidents of the Titanic are reminiscent of evidence of other sudden destructions found by archeologists in digs of past civilizations. People were stopped in the midst of their everyday lives by volcanoes or other natural disasters. We know that biblically there will be a time when earthly life will be interrupted by what what we know as the Rapture, or the catching away of the Bride of Christ, the church--the Blessed Hope, I Thessalonians 4:17. That is the ship of salvation that is truly unsinkable!

Friday, June 15, 2012

High Flight

Our 15-year-old grandson has an interesting hobby. Or I should say, a passion. For flying. Gliders, that is. We got a glimpse of why this activity is so fascinating when we were at their house last week and stopped at TSA (Texas Soaring Association), where he was putting in his volunteer hours in order to earn flying time.

First, the setting was lovely. And peaceful. No motor noises, just the soft whisk of wind as the magnificent gliders sailed silently and gracefully like some kind of giant, white birds. The low-humidity air and the mesquite trees on the grounds transported me to the environment of my parents’ home I remembered from the many years they lived in Texas.

Chairs and tables were strewn about under a shelter for observers, and while the younger members of the family accompanied Kyle on the long walk to the hangar to view “his” glider, we chatted with one of the adult volunteer workers. Nearly all were commercial or professional pilots, many retired. “We just love to be around airplanes,” he said. “No one gets paid but the kids,” he went on.

We asked him about “thermals,” a term our grandson bandied around, and he pointed to a fluffy cloud in the sky. “When you see cumulous clouds like this, you can tell the heat is rising. Actually, they should be flat on the bottom for good thermals,” he explained. “That one is a little too round, but there are still some good thermals out there today.”

I found out that when the warm air rises, it becomes cooler, forming droplets of moisture that make up the clouds. The gliders depend on the lift and thermals for making their flight possible. Kyle eats all this information up and speaks knowledgeably about his sport. “How can you control the plane up there?” I asked, since there is no engine.

“We have lots of control,” he stated confidently, going into a lengthy explanation which was largely lost on me. I’m glad he has all this information under his belt, because yesterday he made his first solo flight! Prayers went up like the thermals when we heard he was going up. After an anxious 45 minutes or so, we got word from his father that he had safely landed!

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence I cometh, and wither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” John 3:8. Glider soarers depend on the listing of the wind and the thermal columns, and I’m glad our solo pilot also depends on the Holy Spirit, both in flying and his everyday walk!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Innovation for Impression

"Mom, I'm afraid I have some bad news," our son, Jamie said from the front seat as we sped along a Houston highway. "I'm afraid I'm going to be pretty busy for a couple of days, and I might have to ask you to watch the kids."

That was bad news? Music to my ears was more like it! I loved being with these young grandchildren. He explained that he was involved in Kids' Camp at church for a part of the next two days of our visit.

It seems he was "special effects" man, or project coordinator or something. I had been seeing mysterious goings on around the kitchen range and unlikely products in grocery bags. In fact, there was a whole gross(?) of brown paper bags freshly opened and spilling onto the dining room table. Part of that mystery was explained in his sermon Sunday at the Chinese church, however.

Speaking through an interpeter, our innovative son used object lessons to illustrate his message on "Focus", as in focusing on faith or fear. Three Chinese youth were called forward and instructed to put the paper bags, on which were written words like Cancer, Doubt, and Fear, over their heads. A fourth youth, wearing a white throw around his shoulders, represented Jesus. One girl was given scissors to cut out a window where she could see Jesus. She still had cancer, but her focus was on Jesus, ultimately being healed.

A little later, the youths placed Ace bandages around arm, leg, or head. A demonstration of prayer for each one followed. Two were unaffected, but the bandage fell from a third, indicating healing. The application was that prayer should always be offered for the sick, even though all might not be healed. (An effective time of real prayer followed after the service, in which several people testified to healing.)

But back to the other props. I heard Jamie tell his wife that the special effects on the Kids' Camp lessons, "The Miracles of Jesus," were a great success. They walked on water, saw water turned to wine, witnessed a miracle of food provision, saw a fig tree wither, and experienced a miraculous catch of fish.

"How did you do that?" I asked. It seems if you mix enough cornstarch with water, one can walk on it, however briefly. It easily supported the weight of a child hurrying across it. Turning the water into wine was accomplished easily enough by pouring water into a pitcher containing dry grape kool-aid, invisible from a distance.

The congealed gelatin I had seen in a pan on the stove was explained when I saw various sizes of fish molds on the counter at home. "Where did you get those?" I asked Jamie, to which he replied, "I found them online." He had produced dozens of silvery, shiny, fish for the disciples' nets.

We had heard much sawing and hammering going on in the garage, and it seems Jamie had built a special cart to conceal a boy who would mysteriously replace the Chick-Fila lunch, ("They made a mistake; I ordered 40, but I only got one.") as soon as one disappeared. The kids gasped as all were fed.

"What about the fig tree?" I asked. He said he had built a revolving platform with a withered tree on one side, separated by a partition, with a live, healthy tree which appeared when the kids were distracted.

After two days, our tired son revived enough to show his parents the town, and then some. No small feat in itself!

Sun, Sand, and Ocean Waves

"I can hear it! I can really hear the ocean!" my 5-year-old granddaughter exclaimed, holding the seashell to her ear. Her eyes were wide with delight at this discovery. She had been holding the small shell that had formerly held a hermit crab and had found that fascinating enough. Then I told her to listen, and she was in wonder.

"How does the ocean get in there, Mimi?" she marveled.

"Well, you have to use your imagination a little," I told her, "but God made it so the air passing through it sounds like ocean waves." Actually, it was almost an indiscernable whisper to me, but with Anne-Marie's sensitive ears, she heard it plainly.

The next day, I heard a small voice say several times from the back seat, "The ocean is sure quiet today." She had the shell to her ear, but evidently it wasn't coming through loud and clear. Probably the traffic, I thought.

What a wonderful trip to the beach we had had with her cousins. She had frolicked in the waves, rode over them in a kayak with Uncle Greg, and played in the sand. At one point, the unmistakable musical tones of an ice cream truck drew everyone from the water like a magnet.

The ferry boat ride, the pelicans, running up and down the stairs of the beautiful beach house, and the hermit crabs poking their pointy claws out of sea shells would make indelible memories. When Maddie, 3, saw a black lighthouse in the distance, she exclaimed, "The Eiffel Tower!" They had just returned from France, but it couldn't have been more fun than their day at the beach! They had only to listen to the sea shells to remind them.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Near and Dear

"Mom,is Joanna down there?" I heard when I answered the phone from my son, Greg.

"No, Greg, we're not at home. We're at Nardin," I told him. He was calling from upstairs at his house, thinking we were downstairs and calling down to us to locate his wife.

How funny, I thought. Thanks to cell phones, we're never out of reach, no matter how far away we are. It was Memorial Day week-end, and we had gotten out of the house to take a drive, ending up at a small town some 25 miles away. "I wonder when "Nardin Days" is," my husband had remarked, thinking of the heritage celebration held every year at this town that neighbors the one where we grew up.

"Oh," I exclaimed, suddenly remembering, "I think it's today!" Since we were already going in that direction we kept driving. "I hope it's not over!" I said, although it was three o'clock by then. Every year the date slips up on us and we miss it. We pulled into the little village to see a green, park-like space with chuck wagon, tables, and evidence of a celebration, but no people. We met one vehicle pulling a trailer on the way out.

"When is "Nardin Days"? my husband asked as he lowered his window and the truck stopped.

"It was today," the cowboy hat-wearing driver said aimiably, leaning out the window. "We were the first ones here and the last ones to leave." We noticed the sign on his trailer read, "HORSESHOEING".

After a friendly chat, they took their leave and we wandered around a bit. The little country church door stood open, and we went in, engulfed in history and memories. My parents had lived just catty-cornered across the street when I was first married, and my mother attended that church. After reading the names, many familiar, on the memorial bricks in front of a Heritage Center, and driving through the largely deserted town, we continued on our way.

A few nights earlier, we were attending highschool graduation ceremonies for our grandson, Adam. "Would everyone please stand for the Presentation of Colors and the Pledge of Allegiance," the voice over the loud speaker rang out. Just then my phone rang. I could see it was my daughter calling from Georgia, so I spoke into it as discreetly as possible.

"Mama, would you have Joanna text Allison and have her unlock her door that joins Corrin's room? Corrin is uneasy with the doors between them locked." These two granddaughters--cousins--were on a trip of a lifetime to Paris, France, with our son Jamie's family. I relayed the message to Allison's mother sitting in front of us. She misunderstood, thinking Corrin, 14, was locked out of her room and in the hall, but Allison's return text assured her that Corrin was safely in her room.

Next ensued a flurry of trans-Atlantic messages: from Corrin to her mother, urging her not to tell her Uncle Jamie, asleep in the next room, as she would be embarrassed to be thought immature; from Joanna to Allison to clarify the situation; and Allison to her mother. After a couple of conversations between Georgia and Ponca City, we got the news that the connecting door was left ajar, and the girls were finally sleeping peacefully, 5,000 miles away.

What a circuitous route to still a daughter's fears--from Paris to Atlanta, Atlanta to Oklahoma, Oklahoma to Paris, Atlanta to Paris, and finally, Georgia to Oklahoma-- so we could all rest easy, even though safety was just a wall away.

Sometimes we treat God the same way. We seek answers from here and there, forgetting that He is always available to hear our prayers. No need to text, call long-distance, tweet, twitter, or use a GPS. He is closer than the next room, even in our hearts.