Saturday, August 31, 2013

Discoveries

My husband's mood of nostalgia was still prevailing a few days ago when he said, "I'm going to Winfield to see my cousin!" Then he continued, "And I'm also going to try to find Sandra while I'm up there." I knew who he meant. We had looked up his cousin a few years ago and found him changed from the strikingly handsome man with the Summers' looks that I remembered to an emaciated old man on a breathing machine.

Sandra was a valued former employee from the store in New Orleans. He heard that she had moved to Winfield, Kansas, where she was from, since then. It had been a good 30 years, but he has been curious about her, especially since someone at church living in that area said there were a lot of families there with her last name.

So yesterday Howard and our son Greg took the 40-mile trip down memory lane. I asked him about their excursion when he got home. "I couldn't get anyone to come to the door at Martin's house," he explained, "then a neighbor came out and said he had passed away five months ago." I was afraid of something like that.

I knew how he felt, since I had cousins living about two hours away in the town where I was born and had always intended to look them up. But sadly, during a genealogy search my niece was doing, she found they had both passed away, one in 2010 and the other last year.

I had asked him before they left how he expected to find Sandra, his old secretary. He said you ask around, talk to people--at McDonald's, the police department, etc. The police called a number that was listed, but the answer was that she didn't live there anymore. Howard had just gotten home after dropping Greg at his house when the phone rang with the news that Sandra had called. She had moved to Topeka. Howard returned the call and they had a nice chat. When he told her he was 75, she couldn't believe it, but then again, she was 62!

He didn't say much about the trip to me, but I figured it was because his findings were saddening and disappointing. Then at breakfast today he dropped the tidbit that he and our son had visited a music store in Arkansas City. To hear him tell it, it was a store to end all music stores! He described the guitars, fairly salivating over a Taylor guitar he had tried, and related stories the proprietor shared about former hippie customers who spent thousands there. Apparently a huge bluegrass festival is held at the fairgrounds there about this time every year, and he said there were already many trailers gathering.

"This guitar store was better than the ones they have in Houston!" he went on. Here I was hoping that he had gotten digging up the past out of his system, but being the eternal optimist that he his, he always looks on the bright side, and this trip was no exception! Who knows what the next venture will bring?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Surprises

One day last week we had occasion to be in Blackwell, our home town, and Howard had the urge to look up a classmate that he heard ran a resale shop there. His intent was to ask her about her brother, his old pal and childhood playmate. Since we had had scarcely any contact with any of his class in 57 years, living away during most of that time, I was surprised he wanted to renew acquaintances at this point in our lives.

Nevertheless, we wandered around the well-kept store until a clerk came to wait on us. Howard explained our situation and was told by the friendly, curious woman that the proprietor had the day off. She told us her name, which sounded familiar, and it turned out she was a member of his class, although we didn't remember her. After recalling many classmates they both knew, I realized my husband hadn't told her his name. "Tell her who you are!" I said.

"Howard Summers!" she gasped at hearing his name. "Do you remember what we did?" I was all ears, but he looked puzzled. "We stood up at Hugh and Nancy's wedding!" Hugh Evans? Howard had been trying to get in touch with him forever! She then explained she was the bride's cousin, which we had forgotten if we ever knew that. Then we asked if she were related to a another girl by the same last name that we remembered. "My cousin!" she exclaimed.

She began rambling on, bringing up familiar names and said, "Carolyn (still best friend of the subject of our inquiry) is in the back. She would love to see you!" We went back to see a group of white-haired little volunteer ladies (some we remembered as being high school cheerleaders) folding clothes around a table.

Before we knew it, it was like old home week. Threads of memory were being pulled, each one leading to a another acquaintance and being woven into a tapestry taking shape of a community we had all but forgotten. By the time we left, we had exchanged phone numbers and had been eagerly invited to some upcoming get-togethers! "We had only nine last time," someone lamented.

How unexpected was this mini-reunion! Something else unexpected happened today. I had resolved yesterday to go back to the doctor, since my knee pain wasn't any better. I felt it was an exercise in futility, though, since he had let me know last month that he was not interested in giving me a cortisone shot (which I wanted) at that point, citing dangers and precautions. Still, I was suffering and the medicine wasn't helping much. We prayed before we got there that I would get satisfaction.

The doctor wasn't in, but had left a PA in charge. After examining me, he suggested a steroid joint injection without my even asking! Praise God! I came out of there feeling like a load of depression had been lifted and am now looking forward to a pain-free life again! I might even feel like attending that get-together!

To Each His Own

"Those boys are worse than the Katzenjammer Kids!" the talkative senior citizen lamented after telling of her 6-and 7-year old (great?)grandsons' behavior. We were sitting in the out-patient surgery waiting room while our son was having knee surgery, and her grandchild was having a tosilectomy.

She had directed her comments to a middle-aged woman across from her, but on seeing the blank look on the woman's face, I commented, "She probably doesn't know who The Katzenjammer Kids are." When she shook her head in confusion, I told her it was a comic-strip from a long time ago. I remember reading it at about age 8, wondering at the antics of the twin-boy characters, as well as puzzling out the strange words and accents, recalling the stock verdict when he boys got into mischief, "Comes der hairbrush!"

A little later, the voluble talker said across the room to me, "I like your shoes." I had worn these sandals to pamper my painful knee, since they were the flattest ones I have. I responded with a "Thank you," saying they were comfortable. "And they look good on your feet," she went on. My summer pedicure must still be holding on, I thought thankfully.

Anyway, I liked this frank, open woman who was completely unselfconscious and commented entertainingly on whatever occurred to her in the crowded waiting room. I wish I could be more like that, I reflected. But I was reminded of the lead story I read in Guideposts that morning about a man who had wanted to be just like his adored and admired grandpa. Grandpa could do anything, from plumbing to building to putting things together without reading the instructions. He was the boy's hero.

Alas, the grandson despaired of his own inabilities until his grandfather told him, "God has given us both a toolbox. Not the same toolbox, though," encouraging the young boy that he would find his gift someday. And it turned out that he did, which he managed to use in honoring his grandparent in the end.

My husband has the gift of instant rapport with people he has just met. Today at a vegetable stand I had to give up waiting on him to go sit in the car while he visited with the proprietor. God gave him these gifts which he has used in ministry and meeting the public in business.

In Paul's day, many people started preferring a different teacher. Acts 18:24 says, "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus." Paul addressed this in I Corinthians 1:11 when he hears of the contention over some favoring Apollos and some himself. He sums up the situation and challenges the people to maturity when he says, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase, I Corinthians 3:6.

We all have different gifts as Christians. The important thing is that we use them for the Lord and honoring our Father!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Awesome and Amazing!

"Look, Howard," I said as I glimpsed a display in Walmart, "Maddie would like these!" It was a rack of a novelty item by Nestle's Quik--eyeglass frames made from flexible drinking straws that looped around the ears before ending in the glass of chocolate milk.

We walked on, and their Pa Pa said, "Why don't you get it, then?" I went back and got one for Maddie and her big sister. We had just come from their house last week, and I was missing my granddaughters. After a couple of days I got them mailed, and today I see a message on Facebook from our son that was a video of the girls unwrapping the package!

6-year-old Anne-Marie tentatively attempts to open the mailing envelope, and Maddie,4, appears with some blunt scissors to facilitate the job. Soon they are puzzling at the contents, then smiling as they figure out what the gadgets are. "Tell Mimi 'Thank You,'" their father prompts them. They do, then Maddie holds her palm up to the camera and says, "Wait! Don't turn it off yet! I want to say something!" Then she says, "These are awesome and amazing!"

I laughed when I realized what she said, and I laughed harder when I saw the next video of them drinking from the straws. Maddie looked like the little red-haired, bespectacled girl from Dennis the Menace, and one side of Anne-Marie's glasses slipped comically down as the liquid climbed and circulated around their eyes and over their ears. It was funny! It was almost as good as being there. Such a little gesture that gave me (and them) so much pleasure.

Our son Greg had knee surgery yesterday, and our daughter-in-law asked me if I would come over and make a sandwich for his lunch today. Of course I would! I decided to make some soup, though, from a chicken I had baked. With celery, onions, carrots and rice, the scanty chicken turned into a delicious soup, plenty for his lunch with a sandwich and a piece of cake. Howard had a bowl of it, too, then seconds. I was not hungry then, and after our visit I took the pot home to wash it.

Hungry by this time, I decided to warm the tiny bit of soup in the bottom of the pot that was mostly dry and bare. It made almost a small bowlful for me, to which I added a PBJ sandwich. At one point I looked at my bowl and laughed. Howard came in and asked what I was laughing about. "I think God has multiplied this soup!" I said. I had eaten and was full, and there was still plenty of soup in the bowl! I really couldn't have eaten the rest of it, but it was so good, I did! Was God blessing me for looking after my son?

I had more opportunity to serve family when the local grandchildren came over after school. I fixed their requested Ramen noodles, made popcorn and gave them cookies. Later, I nudged them away from TV cartoons and sat with them on the porch while they played restaurant with my
decorative fruit baskets and school with Pa Pa's yellow legal pad and markers. Being a mom and a Mimi is awesome and amazing!

A Love Story

We didn't want to miss the funeral of one of the figures of our past when we heard about his passing. Actually, he wasn't a close friend, but as the adult son of our long-ago pastors, we felt like we knew him. As a young man, he had presented a visitation seminar at our church when we were young marrieds. Living away in the south for a lifetime, we had heard snippets of his rise to prominence in his career, but it seems his overwhelming attribute was his love for his fellow man.

Well, I should say, first was his love of God, as testified to by several speakers at his services yesterday. One even drew an analogy to Abraham, establishing altars wherever he went, as this individual was active in church work, as well as community service, wherever his career for the oil company took him.

A particularly telling incident shared yesterday was this gentleman's response to the passing of a sad legend in our community. Lydie Marland, girl-wife of an Oklahoma governor and oil magnate who had lived briefly in the Marland mansion erected for her here by her husband, had returned in her last years after living anonymously in hiding, unable to face the disgrace of lost fortune. She had come back to the only security she had, Lydie's cottage, the one piece of real estate left for her on the mansion grounds that she had paid taxes on over the years from different mailing addresses around the country.

Old and tattered, her youth and beauty gone along with her most of her teeth, she wandered waif-like around the grounds, occasionally spotted as a fleeting shadow. This friend, a vice-president by then of the company her husband founded, directed his wife to see that the flowers and arrangements at her funeral were befitting of the First Lady of Conoco and a First Lady of Oklahoma.

Included in the modest funeral program handed to us was a folded sheet of paper with a poem written years ago by the deceased to his wife. It was a beautiful tribute of devotion and appreciation on their 30th anniversary. His love for her was a theme repeated often in the
service. In one of the eulogies, a former pastor of the departed related a story of when they were invited to a picnic by the older couple.

"At last, some home cooking!" the young pastor exclaimed on seeing the elaborate feast being taken from the picnic basket. Our friend took him aside and instructed him that his wife was his dearest friend and greatest blessing on earth, and he should treat her as such and be careful of her feelings.

One of the loves of his life was mentoring young couples and and conducting marriage seminars. Evidently, his own worked out well, as attested to by adoring grandchildren whose voices broke in giving fond memories of a grandpa-built tree house, his encouragement of
their youthful dreams, and prayers and example he set over the years. "When I woke up at their house, Grandma would be in the kitchen making a huge breakfast, and I would find Grandpa in his study reading the Bible," one spoke.

A victim of Alzheimer's in his last years and resident of a nursing home, he was still communicating his love for his wife on her visits. She had been trying unsuccessfully for some time to sell their substantial home, keeping him abreast of the progress. It seemed fitting that when at last she was able to give him the news that it had sold and that the transaction was completed, the brilliant financier, his earthly house in order, in a few minutes departed to his heavenly home, moving to the place prepared for him, not made by human hands.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Home Grown

"Is that someone knocking at the door?" I said Friday afternoon as I detected a slight sound outside. Howard went out, and soon I heard him talking to someone. I looked out and was surprised to see a minister friend we hadn't seen in ages. He had brought us some produce from their garden! It was sitting just inside the door on our screened porch where he had placed it when he thought we were not home. I went out to join them, while our friend stood on the steps, saying he should get back to his wife in the car.

I went to say hi to her, not having seen her for a long time. "I read your book every day," the older lady said. "I keep it in the bathroom." (Someone else told me that, too!) I told her I had three more books now, and asked her husband to wait a minute. They were so nice to bring us those beautiful tomatoes and fresh green beans that I got copies of the other three books and gave them to her. She seemed so thrilled.

We sliced into a tomato as soon as they left. Talk about delicious! We ate two then and two for supper, relishing their sunshine-fresh flavor. I can't wait to cook the green beans! I would have had them last night, but we were invited for a pizza/game night at the home of our granddaughter. Pizza is not normally our cup of tea, but who could refuse an invitation like that?

Family games of Taboo, Uno, and Scrabble followed (I brought my king-size edition), interspersed by the passing of soft drinks and fresh-baked brownies. Our granddaughter and her room mate cousin were hosting their first event since moving into the house recently.

We got to see everyone again at church this morning. It was a blessed service with our son, Greg, helping lead the music. My eyes welled up in praise and gratitude at hearing the level of his skill and talent, all used for the Lord. Later, I remarked to his father that all four of our sons could get together and hold a revival! Two of them are preachers, and all are musicians and/or on worship teams! One of our daughters is a preacher's wife, and the other one sings beautifully!

We may not be much as gardeners, but with the Lord's help we did raise a good crop of kids!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Growing in God

When my son found his four-year-old daughter watching a kids' cartoon he discourages because he considers it too old for her, Maddie said, "I tried not to look." Reading this on his Facebook post, I had to smile at her sweet innocence. She is obviously developing a conscience.

Visiting at their house last week, I heard her say a couple of times of some small mishap, "That was my fault." Wow! What a serious little girl, I thought. I mentioned this to Jamie, and he said, "Yeah, she and Anne-Marie are all about 'fault.' They're constantly arguing to each other, 'That was your fault!'"

The other night at Bible study, we were discussing Hebrews 13:7:"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." One person said sometimes leaders can be legalistic in their beliefs, teaching against certain styles of dress, etc. The pastor asked for reasons why this might be, and I said one reason might be the wrong interpretation of scripture.

For instance, our grandchildren had a high school pastor who said he wasn't allowed to play marbles as a child. His parents told him Jesus said, "Marble (marvel) not (that I said unto you...etc.") Cheryl Prewitt, one-time Miss America, said that as children they were not allowed to play with dolls, because her grandpa said "doll" came from the word, "idol." Perhaps, but it is innate that little girls like to play with dolls.

In thinking of the rules that come with legalism, I thought of something I heard on a teaching tape of a speaker at Jamie's church who was referencing Matthew 22:36, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" The Pharisees had over 600 laws, and they believed they were all equally important, so this was a trick question for Jesus. He answered that the greatest was to "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."

Then, by putting "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," in second place, He showed that some commandments were more important than others and silenced his questioners. Then he said, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets," inferring that by keeping these two commands, which summarize the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament moral laws, a person would naturally fulfill all the commands.

Thankfully, we don't have to keep a bunch of rules! Sorting out the Bible meanings can be confusing for adults, let alone children, evidenced by this conversation Jamie related the other day. Anne-Marie, 6, was reading her Children's Bible, and her dad remarked that Jesus and his family were Jews. Anne-Marie said, "We are Jews," to which he said, "No, we are Gentiles." His little daughter replied, "We are reptiles, too!" "No," he responded, "We are mammals!" We all have a lot to learn!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In the Moment

Making a peach cobbler yesterday, I couldn't help but fondly reminisce about doing the same thing on our vacation in Texas last week. My little granddaughters, Maddie, 4, and Anne-Marie, 6, were helping me, Maddie handing me one by one the gorgeous peaches to be peeled. When they were all sliced and sweetened and put into the baking pan, I showed them how to make a lattice topping.

They watched intently as I cut the rolled-out pie crust into strips, curious about the whole process. "Over and under," I instructed, guiding little fingers that grasped the pastry strips. "In and out," I murmured, as they patiently took turns alternating the rows until a work of art gradually emerged in front of them. A little crooked, maybe, but still a work of art!

We had bought so many of the lovely peaches when we were at Sam's Club with our son Jamie that I was afraid the huge cobbler would not be eaten, but it was so delicious the pan was empty by the time we went home a few days later.

Spending time with the girls in little unguarded moments like these provided insights into their personalities and made us realize how much they had expanded in their minds and ideas since we saw them several months ago. One day we went to a children's museum with them, and thankfully, their father was along, because we couldn't have kept up with them. Climbing on towers and racing to this or that activity, they were powerhouses of energy!

In one exhibit there was a lesson on the development of a chicken. A chart with illustrations of the chick's growth from egg to hatching was on the wall, and several eggs were lying under a plastic dome on a table. Maddie was looking at them when a boy of about eight came up and proclaimed, "Those are not real eggs!" to which Maddie responded, "Yes, they are real!"

This went on for several minutes. The boy with the jet-black hair spoke very articulately and knowledgeably with a bit of a foreign accent as he maintained, "They are made out of a special material that just makes them look real!" Maddie held her ground, arguing that they were indeed real. About that time, a staff member walked up and said some had hatched recently, and these were about to hatch! I was proud of my granddaughter!

These memories warm my heart even as the baking cobbler had warmed my kitchen after I got home.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Brotherhood of the Traveling Parents

"Mom, I will drive you to Norman to the train station," our son Greg announced. Wow! Really? What a big help! We had decided to take the Heartland Flyer to visit our sons in Texas, but we would have to board in Oklahoma City or Norman, which we preferred. "But I will have to take you the night before," Greg continued. That was alright, we could get a hotel and get a taxi to take us to the station early the next morning.

All went well, with our having time that evening to have a nice supper with Greg and grandson Adam before they drove the 80 miles home. The next day found us comfortably ensconced on the train and enjoying the view of the rocks and rills of Oklahoma. We were to have a two-hour wait at Ft. Worth before taking our connecting train to Austin, our destination. Our train was running an hour late, and the Austin train hadn't arrived, although it was imminent. We stood on the platform with others waiting in the sweltering temperatures for 45 minutes, reluctant to risk missing it by going inside. The accommodations of lounge car, observation car, and dining car
on the Texas Eagle were well worth the wait, though.

Arrangements had been made for us to meet son Jamie and his family at older son Mark's house in Austin, then return with them to their house in Houston the next day. I called Mark to give him a heads up that we were almost there. "The conductor said in eight minutes we'll be in Taylor, and in Austin in 55 minutes," I told him.

A few minutes later the phone rang, and Mark said, "Did you say Taylor? That's just 15 minutes from our house! Get off at Taylor!" I jerked Howard from his conversation with the old preacher he had joined in the seat ahead of us. We grabbed our carry-ons, hastily retrieved our luggage and made our exit just as the train screeched to a halt at a whistle stop in the small town.

"Is Jamie here yet?" I asked Mark after he had loaded our luggage. He said Jamie's family was waiting for us at a restaurant where we would all have dinner, the best barbecue place in town. Well, it was good, and novel to eat off a sheet of butcher paper piled with creamed corn, baked beans and brisket. The next day our fare was at a famed taco place. This was Texas, after all!

A wonderful week of playing with the little granddaughters, tagging along at the great food stores (including Sam's), eating everything from Mexican, to French, to seafood, followed. Not only that, we went to church three times (once to hear Jamie preach to Chinese youth), visited the Children's Museum with the kids and last, but not least, had a great time at Kemah, a lovely resort town with boardwalks, exciting rides and waterfront views. I felt like I was seeing the great catch of fish from the Bible when a solid mass of hundreds of catfish swarmed at one of the many 25-cent fish-food vending locations on the fenced walkway, their hungry mouths gaping and their bodies thrashing in the swirling waters below us.

The week ended with Jamie taking us back to Mark's house to catch our train for home. First, though, we had an incredible evening with Mark and Rhonda at the Oasis restaurant on Lake Travis. We had been there over twenty years before, but the original building had since been destroyed by fire, and an imposing, castle-like structure of native stone had replaced it. Strolling through the winding brick plaza surrounded by soft lights and the music from a live band somewhere made me feel transported to Italy. The meal, the view, the fellowship and the weather combined for a memorable finale of our visit.

One more treat awaited us, though, as our son Trevor met our train for a 3-hour layover in Ft. Worth. Our sweet red-head took us to eat at Sweet Tomatoes, an all-you-can-eat trendy restaurant specializing in a make-your-own-salad bar, soup and bread selections, and home baked cakes and muffins, which we relished over an hour of visiting, laughing and catching up. After driving us through attractions like the Botanical Gardens and Ft. Worth's Sundance Square, Trevor waved goodbye and we boarded the train for the last leg of our journey, where our faithful son Greg was waiting at Norman to take us home.

Wow! Being with all four sons on this trip was amazing! As the Bible says in Psalm 127:3-5, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord...As arrows in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of the youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them." Including our two daughters, that is a full quiver!

Monday, August 19, 2013

This Ole House

"Are the kids sad when you go over to your old house?" I asked my son Jamie. He had said he took Maddie and Anne-Marie with him when he goes over to do touch-up and minor repairs in readying the house for sale.

"No, they don't say anything," he replied. "They like our new house."

I admitted that it made me sad when I thought of the nursery left behind that he had painted with wall murals of gamboling lambs being led by the Good Shepherd with hand-lettered verses of the 23rd Psalm bordering the ceiling.

But when I reflected on our conversation, I could understand why the children were unaffected. Without the throbbing, pulsing life of their family living in it, the house was just an empty shell, just as the body of a departed one is merely the shell that contained the soul and spirit of the one living there.

A few days later, our son Mark and his wife Rhonda took us for a wonderful evening of sightseeing and dining at the Oasis, a restaurant built clinging to the side of a mountain where we ate on one of the balconies with a view of Lake Travis below. The umbrellas positioned over the tables in bright, Mexican colors shielded diners from the western sun. But when it dropped low on the horizon, waiters collapsed our shade for an unimpeded view of Old Sol sliding into a mountain valley and sinking as if into the lake.

It was the fete accompli of the day, drawing applause and even a "Yay, God!" once. It was riveting to visually detect the sun moving by degrees until the last curve of the orange orb was blotted out by the infinitesimal turning of the earth.

The gorgeous sunset, which drew camera-laden guests into a clump on a landing for an attempt at winning a photographic prize (the best sunset shot was exhibited in a showroom inside), was beginning to lose its fire. When I next looked, the sky was a colorless grey, streaked with strata of dark clouds. The light had gone out, like the color draining from a face when the light of the soul is gone.

The Bible calls our body a tabernacle, or a tent, a temporary dwelling. "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, and house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," II Corinthians 5:1. Verse 6 says, "...whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." And verse 8, "...we are...willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." We will never have to move from that house!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Following the song service at our son's family's church we were visiting, the minister said, "I will speak for a short time, then we are having the children from Kids' Church come down for something special." He went on to explain that they have been being taught on hearing from God and ministering in prayer.

I had heard from our son about the unusual way many in the church had employed something called a treasure hunt in prayer direction. It seems that during prayer in which they have asked God for some kind of clue as to whom they should pray for, images may come to mind of random things, such as a color, an article of clothing, a brand name, or any other impression that they feel is from God. The children had been introduced to this, too, and were prepared to pray for the adults that night, guided by the notes they had taken from clues they had received in prayer.

The minister told of a time his own young sons had ministered in this way, having been impressed by the words, "Fanta Orange." They had gone to a supermarket and hoped to see someone with an orange cap or shirt, indicating their prayer subject. Alas, they couldn't spot anyone who seemed to fit their prayer clue. Finally, they went to the soft drink aisle where they approached a man, asking if they could pray for him. He warmed to the children, being humbly appreciative of them, and shared some family problems he was having. After prayer, they bid him good-bye, and as they looked back, he was reaching for a Fanta Orange drink!

Twelve or fifteen children traipsed into the sanctuary last night following their service upstairs. "If this weren't the last night Anne-Marie has to be in the nursery, she would be here, too!" I whispered to my husband about our granddaughter. Just then I caught a glimpse of a little blonde, flitting like a light among the group! Anne-Marie, our little pray-er!

Dividing into small teams and armed with their treasure clues, the children had no trouble finding prayer needs matching their criteria. It was all very touching as the earnest children called out to God and trustingly believed for answered prayer. Although we were not selected for prayer, on the way out of the auditorium my husband and I asked a group of kids to pray for us. The Lord's presence was very real as they prayed! I definitely felt a touch from God!

Today our granddaughter is glowing in triumph as a loose tooth she has nursed for days gave way to her sudden resolve to do the deed! She now has a cute, gap-toothed smile, a minor milestone of childhood maturity and courage, sure to serve her well in the days ahead in a life lived for the Lord.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Children's Children

I looked up from my nap to see 4-year-old Maddie tentatively touching her Pa Pa's arm while he was asleep in his chair. She was wearing my glasses halfway down her nose like she has seen him wear his.

We are definitely bonding during this week of our visit! At lunch Maddie declared to us with a bounce of her red curls, "I think you should move here." That was after Pa Pa had teased that he was taking her and her 6-year-old sister Anne-Marie home with us. She went to ask her daddy if she could go, and came back with the proclamation: "I have good news and bad news!"

Then dramatically she said, "The bad news is that he said I couldn't go, but the good news is that I might go next time!" Not having seen these grandchildren in almost five months, we are amazed and delighted at the knowledge and wit that pops out of them like berries on the popcorn trees we had in Mississippi!

Today in the car Maddie was amusing herself by singing an off-key version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." I sang along finishing with the phrase "Its fleece was white as snow." "The hair or fur of a sheep is called 'fleece,'" I explained, to which she replied, "No, their fur is called 'wool!'" Duh!

We were pleasantly surprised to find that our visit co-incided with a graduation ceremony for Anne-Marie on Sunday as she moved from the church's nursery department to Kids' Church. The small-fry were gowned in royal blue graduation robes with requisite mortar boards balanced precariously on their bobbing heads. They were formally recognized by the congregation, and to our delight, Anne-Marie was chosen to pray before they took their seats. Her little-girl voice rang clear and strong over the large audience in her brief, but articulate prayer. Be still, my heart!

Each graduate was presented with a Beginner's Bible, and I asked my granddaughter to read a portion to me when we got home. I was amazed! She read with expression and proper inflection, not tripping over words like "Israelites," "support," "battle," or heroes' names, as the sentences slid smoothly from her tongue.

Well, she is home-schooled, and church is a large part of her life. What can I expect?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Days of Shade and Sunshine

"Look, Maddie," I said to my 4-year-old granddaughter. "Bring me your flower and I'll show you something. She had found a vinca blossom beside the plant and had been floating it in their wading pool. I was watching them play outside while our son went to an engagement.

"He loves me, he loves me not," I said as I plucked each tiny petal from the flower. One after the other came off, as she watched, fascinated. Then, only one was left: "He loves me!" I exclaimed, as she giggled in surprise and delight.

They had loved donning their swim suits (well, Maddie said, "Look, Mimi! Swim shorts!") and filling the pool from the hose. After splashing and pouring water on the flowers and each other for awhile, they looked around for something else to do. 6-year-old Anne-Marie took her bike from the garage, and I spied some sidewalk chalk in a clear plastic box stored from their recent move.

"Do you want me to make you a hop-scotch?" I asked after she had made a few swooping loops on the bike.

"No, I can make it," she said confidently. Soon she had painstakingly constructed the game diagram, complete with a number on each square. Then she tossed a fallen leaf from a live-oak tree onto a square for a marker, but the wind blew it away.

"Here, take this pebble," I said, handing her a smooth, shiny stone from the driveway edge. She jumped expertly for several minutes, balancing to bend and pick up the stone when she came to it, while Maddie studied her intently. Then it was Maddie's turn, which started out endearingly awkward then became surprisingly skilled by the time she lost interest.

A green lizard came into the shadow of the porch where I was sitting, halting long enough for me to call the children. "Where? Where?" they cried until they spotted it scurrying into the shrubbery. Its brown colors turned greenish against a plant stem, and I said it must be a chameleon. "Yes, yes, it's a chameleon!" Anne-Marie concluded.

Their grandfather came out to watch them while I went inside to cool off, and before long they were in changing back into their play clothes and hunting a snack. Quieter activities followed with their ipad and electronic toys, then giving way to "making a craft for mommy" with crayons and art paper.

I love the gentle play of girls. They are a pleasure to watch as I feast my eyes on them, storing up memories of their dear little faces for when we will have to go home all too soon, and finding them changed, if ever so slightly, when we see them again.

Journey

"What time do you think we'll get to Austin?" I inquired of the passenger across the aisle. I'd just overheard a conversation between her and the talkative traveler in front of me as he wondered about his arrival time farther on. She gave me an estimate, and as the man rambled on, I heard him mention the name of a town that sounded familiar.

"My husband knew someone from there," I ventured to the back of the seat. The older gentleman picked up on my conversational tidbit like a trout grabbing a lure, and he was off. Just then Howard came back from getting us something from the train's snack bar and I nudged him toward the conversation. After a few tentative remarks, they were conversing like old friends.

In the curious way strangers have of sharing details of their lives, it came out that the other man was a retired pastor, and from there they had much in common, not the least of which was gospel music and favorite singers. Finally, Howard could stand it no longer and said as he stood up, "Do you mind if I sit with you?" I settled contentedly back in my seat to the satisfactory murmur of two preachers with their heads together.

Earlier, searching for seats in the crowded cars, we found an arrangement of three seats facing the windows in the observation car. "Are these taken?" we asked of a woman sitting in one of them, who immediately moved over and invited us to sit down. A lovely conversation sprouted as we learned she was visiting from California.

"I miss my grandchildren," she said wistfully, to which I exclaimed, "That's why we're here, too!" Turns out she had six children, three of whom had moved to Texas. Although she was Mormon, we had much in common, and her eyes lit up as I shared how God had provided for our family after Howard went into the ministry in mid-life. "What blessings!" she marvelled.

At a restaurant yesterday, Howard and our son (like father-like son) kept up such a lively repartee with our waitress that I thought we would never get our food! The jovial black woman had roots in the south and unabashedly boasted of her cooking skills. "My northern friends almost kill themselves on my red beans and rice!" she declared.

"Did you ever hear of Picayune, Mississippi?" my husband asked about the town where we'd raised our family. Her eyes grew wide, as she blurted, "Picayune? I know exactly where that is!" When a reference was made by our son to something in Disney World, our knowledgeable hostess recalled it, gesturing with her forearm the exact directions to it.

Not only have we been feasting at all the novel eating places our kids have taken us, but we are also having a feast of commonality with those we meet along the way!





Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Taken for Granted

"Do you have any dessert?" Howard asked me after supper last night. I at first said no, then I remembered a ripe peach we had in the crisper. I told him I could make a peach shortcake if he wanted, remembering some baking mix I had in the kitchen. He liked the idea, and soon I was mixing a couple of shortcake biscuits.

In the middle of that, the phone rang, and I carried on a long conversation with my daughter-in-law whom I hadn't seen in several days. Getting back to the kitchen, I was distractedly following along with the shortcake recipe on the box, when I realized I had followed the directions for pancakes! I knew I had never put egg in shortcake before!

Earlier that day I had remarked to the stylist while getting my nails done, "Well, school starts this week!" She and the girl next to her looked puzzled, finally convincing me it is next week. "I should keep current on these things, since I will be keeping my granddaughters after school," I laughed. My wrong assumptions made me think of something that happened at church Sunday.

To back up, a couple of years ago when our pastors were absent for an extended period during their recuperation from an automobile accident, one of the ladies made personalized chair-back covers for their customary seats. The pastor's was marked in large, embroidered letters, "Reserved for Mr. Gibson." I puzzled over that until someone explained he was nicknamed that for his fondness of his Gibson guitar. The seat where his wife always sat had a cover that read, "Reserved for Sister Clara." Sadly, we lost our dear pastor's wife nearly 6 months ago, but the seat cover is still there.

"Why are you sitting back there?" I smiled to a friend behind me who usually sat next to the reserved chair on our row. Her daughter was with her and she answered, "She didn't want to sit in Clara's chair." A newcomer next to me overheard and looked puzzled, and I saw her whispering to the lady next to her.

Realizing her confusion, I later explained about the reserved chairs. "I wondered!" she said, "I heard no one wanted to sit in Clara's chair, then I saw where the pastor was sitting, and thought, well, he's sitting in Mr. Gibson's chair!" The situation provided a bit of comic relief in a poignant moment but made me realize we shouldn't assume strangers would understand the gesture!

Even Jesus's parents made a wrong assumption once that cost them three days of anxiety. They had each assumed that their 12-year-old was in the group that was returning home after the Feast of Passover. Some say that since Jesus had technically reached manhood by the beginning of his 13th year, Mary probably thought he was with his father. Joseph, on the other hand, may have assumed their young boy was still with his mother.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a teachable moment for the couple when Jesus was found "about his Father's business." We can learn a lesson, too, by not taking it for granted that everyone we meet knows about Jesus. We may assume a person is saved and fail to present the gospel to them. We,too, should be about our Father's business. There is no mistake about that!

Monday, August 5, 2013

On the Menu

With blueberries so plentiful lately, I decided I would make a blueberry cobbler. I had also picked up a pack of frozen blueberries, which I thought I would use and save the fresh ones for our morning oatmeal. After I had opened the package, I noticed the serving suggestions and ideas on the back, and was surprised to find an italicized quote below them.

It was from Isaiah 40:31 and read, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Wow! I knew blueberries were considered a super food, but I had never associated them with that verse! They are full of antioxidants, which prevent cell deterioration from oxidation and are believed to fight or prevent many diseases, including cancer. It is remarkable that so many so-called super foods are beautiful to look at, brightly colored and taste delicious. God's forethought to insure we would eat them!

The Bible says in Psalm 103:5 that God satisfies our mouth with good things, so that our youth is renewed like an eagle's! And what tastes better than blueberry cobbler? I'll admit I had more than my share of it! There are other benefits from the Lord listed in this Psalm: Forgiveness of sin; healing; safety; lovingkindness and tender mercies; and defense of the oppressed, to name a few.

He doesn't provide these benefits just occasionally or once in a while. Psalm 68:19 reminds us, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." Daily!

It is apparent to me that the real Superfood is the Word of God! When we feast on scriptures like these and others throughout the Bible, we get the spiritual nutrients we need to become healthy Christians! Like an antioxidant, the Word of God strengthens our defense system and wards off the cancer of sin and Satan's attacks.

Psalm 119:30 says, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple." Brain food! Enlightenment! No, we don't put it in our mouth; it comes through the eye gate: We have to read it! And it's berry good!

Sustenance

Meals take funny turns sometimes. Thursday I decided to make hamburger stew for supper, but just before supper time, my husband returned a call we noticed, and a friend invited him to a singing event at a cowboy church, which included food. The stew turned out wonderful, and I had a bowl by myself. I had planned to make cornbread, but I found a lone square in the freezer, which was plenty for me.

I figured we would eat the stew the next day, but it was Friday, the day our favorite diner served beans and cornbread, which sounded good after shopping. Well, we would eat the stew for supper, I reasoned.

I was getting ready to warm it up while Howard relaxed on the screened porch, when he came in carrying a foil-wrapped parcel. "Look what our neighbor brought over!" he said, "He was grilling and gave this to us!" It was a small slab of brisket! We dived right in and had an incredible sandwich with some baked beans from a can in the cupboard.

It wasn't until Saturday evening that we enjoyed the stew, accompanied by a pan of cornbread and topped off with fresh blueberry pie and ice cream. Everything was so good we almost ate ourselves sick! Sunday morning I put a roast in for after church, and Howard said it was the best he'd ever tasted! He still had room for an encore of blueberry pie, though!

What a stirring service we had at church! Our pastor preached on "Wake Up, America!" and the altars were full afterwards as our hearts broke for our country and earnest prayers of petitions and supplication went up to the Lord.

Last night we had a message on faith and answered prayer, interspersed by the pastor's testimony on coming to Christ at age 12 and the conversion of his family. We laughed till we cried over the hilarious scenarios he depicted of his determination to get to church with the ulterior motive of the promise of getting to hold the pastor's guitar!

He still loves the guitar, and we loved the rest of the blueberry cobbler when we got home, a sweet ending to a day of feasting on the Lord's goodness!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Voice of Approval

"Most men don't like their mother-in-law, but I had the best mother-in-law in the world," a visitor, the former pastor of a member, said when asked to share a few words at church this morning. He elaborated by saying he knew nothing about God until he married into that family, and his mother-in-law led him to the Lord, then became his spiritual mentor.

It reminded me of how much my husband loved my mother, even though at church one day after she had visited for a couple of weeks he said from the pulpit, "My mother-in-law just went home, and I'm so happy!" It only came out wrong, because he meant to say how happy he was that she had come, but that didn't stop the titter of laughter!

What they had in common (besides me) was their love for the Lord! When we visited them, breakfast went on forever as her well-worn Bible invariably came out and they preached to each other, joyfully sharing truths and discoveries from God's Word. I'm afraid I was always wanting to get to the family news, hearing them talk and getting a word in edgewise sometimes.

Another visitor who has been at church a couple of times (although many knew her from when she previously attended there) is obviously very spiritual and dedicated to God. "She reminds me of Mama," I whispered to Howard during service the other night when her praises kept bubbling over in weeping and prayer during her testimony to God's goodness.

"Me, too," he nodded. Talking about it on the way home, we agreed it was not just her red hair and stooped posture like my dear mother as she grew older, but it was for the same tenderness and sensitivity to His Spirit.

Howard had given a prayer request this morning concerning the need for revival in our churches. As we were leaving, this same lady stopped him and said, "I just want to tell you, that you have a very professional voice. You need to use it professionally!" I told her that he is a preacher and has done radio in the past. She agreed with me that he needs to do that even more!

We have been praying for God to open an avenue of ministry for my husband. Maybe this word of wisdom from a stranger is the nudge he needs to actively seek out an opportunity! After all, how can he resist a message from a saintly look-alike of my mother?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Snapshots

"It's a good thing we're not on Candid Camera," my husband quipped. We were having lunch at Olive Garden, and I did not like the soup I had ordered, so he traded with me. He did not like my soup either, so after a few bites, I pushed his bowl across the table to him. The waiter came by asking if we needed anything, and I explained about the soup.

"I don't like that kind, either," he admitted. "My favorite is the chicken soup. Would you like me to bring you a sample?" I agreed, but that didn't taste great, either, so I gave it to Howard in return for the rest of his potato soup. It was spicy, but at least I could taste it. He loved the sample and said he was going to order it next time.

We had come to Stillwater to shop for some room-darkening panels for our bedroom windows, since the early-morning light wakes us too early, and a neighbor's yard light keeps us awake at night. I had looked at several with the packages showing one panel 40" x 84" for a high price. Suddenly I saw one containing two panels with 80" x 84" on the package for less money. What a bargain! (It wasn't until later I realized it meant that was the size for both panels combined!)

We had recently returned to our room after sleeping in the guest room because I like that mattress better, but after seeing my spouse's feet extending through the spindles of the footboard, I thought better of it. The purchase of a memory foam pad for our bed solved the problem, except for the intrusive light, which we managed to fix with the panels.

Just as we got ready for bed last night, a pesky fly flew into the room, the same one that had been eluding me in the kitchen, I think. "Would you get the fly swatter?" I asked my husband. "It's on the back of the kitchen door." He was gone for awhile, then came in the room carrying a flashlight.

"You couldn't find it?" I said, to which he replied, "Yes, but it wasn't hanging on the door!" He had thought I said, "flashlight!" Candid Camera, here we come!

Life, especially marriage, is full of mistakes, misunderstandings and imperfections, but the Bible tells us in I Peter 3:8, "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous."

This follows the injunction to husbands and wives at the beginning of the chapter, ending with the charge in verse 7, "Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." Now that's the photo you want to keep!