Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hand in Hand

"T'was the night after Christmas and all through the house, Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The presents are scattered and broken I fear, And St. Nicholas won't come again for a year," we used to sing in high school chorus as we finished the song, "The Night Before Christmas."

Well, it's the week after Christmas, and I have already lost my favorite gift: expensive leather gloves from my husband.  I am sick about it.  I'd been so careful to keep up with them on our trip, always tucking them in my purse or the inside pocket of my coat.  It really wasn't cold enough to use them in Georgia, but it was terribly cold when we got home.

I had put the gloves on as we headed out in the frigid weather to buy groceries on Saturday, replenishing our stock that I had purposely depleted before our trip ten days before. It was warm in the car, and I remember taking the gloves off, but putting them on when we got out.  I must have taken them off in the store, and, I assume, put them in my pocket or purse.  But when I wanted to wear them to church Sunday morning, they were no where to be found!

"If I lost them at the grocery store, maybe they've been turned in to Lost and Found," I said hopefully to my husband yesterday.  We needed a few things we had forgotten anyway, so we went back.  Checking out, I noticed it was my favorite checker on duty, the sweet young lady that reminded me so much of one of our beautiful granddaughters in Georgia.  She stopped her work to check a drawer of lost items, pulling out a pair of fleecy cotton gloves, then going to another register and finding a pair of men's gloves.  She said they only put money or lost cards in the office, so apparently mine hadn't been turned in.  I knew it was a long shot, anyway.  They could have been picked up in the parking lot or kept by anyone.

I hadn't expected a present from Howard, since he took  me Christmas shopping for myself early and bought me a coat, shoes and a robe.  So on Christmas morning, when our daughter handed me two packages, I opened one and found a new book she knew I'd like. I thanked her and started to open the other box in her familiar wrapping paper, when she said, "That one's from Dad."  O-oh, so that explained the suspicious activity in a store the day before when she slipped something to Howard and I thought I heard "Here's your card back."  He'd had an accomplice in surprising me.

I hadn't bought him anything, so when we passed a jewelry counter, a tray of  rings behind glass caught my eye.  Howard had lost his wedding band a couple of years ago after wearing it some 53 years.  He had placed it on a bedside table, he said, and when he thought about it days later, it was gone.  Despite an exhaustive search, it has never been found.  "Why don't you get a new wedding band?" I suggested.  He found one he loved in our price range, and he is extremely pleased with it.

"Now I feel like I'm married," he teased.  The next morning when he woke up and I heard him humming and singing snatches of a song I recognized as "Always," I said, "Do you realize that was our wedding song?"  He said he hadn't remembered.  It must have been in his subconscious, though. So even though he lost his original wedding band, and I lost my Christmas gloves, we are still banded together, hand in glove, as we welcome a new year tomorrow!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Visit

"Mimi?" a telephone voice I couldn't place inquired.  "This is Grant!  We are in Oklahoma City and will be passing near you in an hour or two and thought we would stop by!"  Oh, our grandson and his bride of six months! We hadn't seen them since their wedding!  Of course I wanted them to stop!

Their 90-minute drive should give me enough time to get the house in order.  We had just gotten home from a Christmas trip ourselves on Friday night, then after buying groceries on Saturday we had relaxed and recuperated the rest of the day.  Today was Sunday, and after coming home from church and cooking a big meal, it was easy to ignore the suitcases still on the bed, clothes spilling over from our searching out something we needed.

Although I'd cleaned house before our trip, what with going through 10-days' mail and generally messing up in our laid-back euphoria of being home, things were in a bit of disarray.  I could just close the bedroom doors, but what if they wanted to see the house?  Jessica had never been here. I sprang into action and was soon barking orders to my husband for assistance.  While he began to hang up his clothes, I freshened up the bathroom, hanging towels and emptying the wastebasket.

Thankfully, I had done the pile of dishes in the sink accumulated from our lunch, breakfast and Saturday's snacks.  Also, thankfully, there was no church tonight, so we would be home!  Some fast picking up and straightening helped, and while Howard went to the store for snacks and soft drinks, I reinstated Christmas by searching out cords and plugging in the tiny white lights on mantel, nativity scene, little tree and photo displays.  Window candles would be inviting, so they were plugged in, too.  Just as I finished, I heard them at the door.

The television volume on the Walton's had been lowered, and the fireplace was flickering its welcome.  "Wow!" the kids exclaimed when they came into the bright warmth of the room.  "This is cozy!"  "Where is the bathroom?" was the first question on their respective lips, and I was happy to show them.

"I like this house!" Jessica said of our Craftsman bungalow and my slightly-overdone decor of mismatched pieces from a lifetime of homemaking. We had such a good visit!  Family news was discussed, laughs and pictures were shared, with general catching up and clueing our new granddaughter-in-law in on who was who in the family photos.  Grant and Pa Pa made plans for fishing when the weather warms up, so perhaps they will stop by again one of these days!

My many grandchildren are rapidly becoming adults, but we have a small crop of young ones, including little Isaac, who will be two months old in a week.  We may not be rich in this world's goods, but we are rich in loved ones and always happy to see them!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Count Your Blessings Laundry List

"Look on your back porch when you get home," our son Greg said to his dad when Howard called to tell him we had landed in Oklahoma City, to which  I laughed and said, "It's probably Pebbles." They had left for a trip earlier in the same day we got back from ours, and Greg had asked us to go by their house and get their dog to keep for them.  He'd likely brought her by the house himself, I concluded.

As soon as we got home, I went to check our enclosed back porch/laundry room.  No dog, but there sat a brand new clothes dryer! A Christmas present! Our old dryer had died not long ago and we'd been going to a convenient new laundromat that had just opened nearby. We called to thank him, but Greg said his brother Jamie shared in the surprise, so we called him, too. What thoughtful sons!

Going to the laundromat had begun to lose its novelty, although it wasn't all bad, sitting in the warm atmosphere reading magazines and getting a week's washing dried all at once.  Still, those heavy baskets of wet clothes were a chore.  I thought I wanted a clothes line, so a couple of years ago we got an outdoor umbrella dryer to use in nice weather. As much as I enjoyed hanging clothes, wash day was killing me!  I guess we're just not as young as we used to be!

We're back in reality now that Christmas is over and we are home.  It was so nice to enjoy our daughter's beautiful home with no responsibilities, being served tasty meals, going shopping, seeing a couple of new movies, and especially hanging out with the kids.  One day 16-year-old Corrin took us to her favorite place and we had the tallest milkshakes served in old-fashioned soda-fountain glasses. Other times we got a kick out of their friends being over, sprawled all over the den or lounging around after sleepovers.

Our Christmas dinner was picture perfect as daughter Amy served up a crown pork roast wearing paper frills, those cute little chef's hats, wild rice dressing, sweet potato casserole (to die for), and all the trimmings.  When we had room, we topped off the  meal with Red Velvet Cake and/or homemade chocolate bon-bons.

Still, we are glad to be home, snug in our own environment with our books, family photos and a warm hearth surrounded by dear, familiar things.  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home, especially when there is warm, fluffy laundry to look forward to!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fear of Flying

"May I see your identification, please?" asked the check-in attendant as she was issuing our boarding passes for our return trip from Georgia. Since we had round-trip tickets, it had slipped my mind to have my driver's license handy.  I fumbled for my wallet in the depths of my purse, retrieved it and went to pull my ID from the card slot.  It wasn't there!

"Ma'am, my wife is having trouble locating her license. Will any other form of identification work?" my husband implored in his most courteous tone.  She gave us the boarding passes, but said they might not admit us through security without ID. Well, thankfully I found it before we got to security in the side pocket of my purse where I had slipped it after producing it for our flight 10 days ago. We hugged our family who had accompanied us as far as security, me holding back tears at parting after such a wonderful Christmas visit with them, not knowing when we would see them again.

Well, we saw them sooner than expected, because the agent said Howard's boarding pass was missing!  "We were just issued it!" my husband exclaimed.  We went back to where our daughter and grand kids were still standing.  I stayed with them while my frustrated spouse and our 19-year-old grandson headed the long way back to the ticket counter in the Atlanta airport.  Soon they were back saying it was there all along, the man had just overlooked it!

Relieved goodbyes were said again and we successfully passed through the security gauntlet and negotiated our way through escalators, the speeding bullet that was an airport train, and pulling cumbersome carry-ons the length of the long corridor to our gate. "You're at gate four, Mom," our daughter had said, "You won't have far to walk."  She didn't know our walk started at gate 16--a long way to 4!

"Howard, look at these tickets!" I exclaimed when I saw he was in Zone 4, seat 22 A, and I was in Zone 7, 12 E.  "We aren't sitting together!  I can't put my stuff in the overhead by myself!"  He said he would fix it, and after lengthy computer work by the desk attendant, we had new boarding passes sitting together.

What else could go wrong?  Well, nothing except my making him spill his drink, until we began to descend to a lower altitude nearing our destination.  Then all our aforementioned foibles paled in comparison when I was struck with an unbelievable excruciating pain in my head!  It felt like a knife was plunged through my skull into the right side of my head and face!  It kept getting worse!

My sinuses! I had had an allergy attack the night before and hadn't slept well. This had happened to me on a flight some thirteen years ago, and I avoided flying for the next eight years, but I'd never had it when flying since. I thought I was having a stroke, and I was terrified!  I hung on to the memory that in the previous episode it went away after we landed.  Thank God, it did this time, too, but it took awhile.

"Mom, you guys are flying around the country like 20-year-olds," our son Trevor said when he called to see if we had gotten home alright.  Although I was truly thankful to be home safely, I laughed a bit ruefully and said, "I don't think I'll be flying again!"  It's not the flying that bothers me, it's the coming down!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Joy to the World

It was Christmas afternoon.  The excitement of opening gifts was past, with the special joy of seeing everyone's eyes light up and hear exclamations of delight and/or squeals of unbelief for at least one surprise or hardly-dared-to-hope-for gift.  After a hearty brunch, Howard and I were relaxing on the porch swing in the lull before dinner preparations.

The weather had at last changed from muggy, mild temperatures following the heavy rains we'd had earlier in the week.  Now the sun was bright, and although the wind was sharp, the cushions of the swing sheltered us a bit, not to mention the warmth of my husband's shoulder next to me. A sense of peace and thankfulness came over me as I thought about God's goodness and about the reason for this special time of year.

It was if God's love was shining down on the planet as the commemoration of the birth of His Son was celebrated around the world, probably the only holiday acknowledged worldwide except for Easter, which marks the culmination of Jesus's earthly life and the provision for our eternal life. In this rarefied atmosphere that comes only once a year, I reflected on the happy crush of shoppers yesterday and the children out this morning playing with new outdoor toys in the beautiful, cold sunshine.

Despite Christmas's being commercialized, Santa-tized and over-sized, the spirit of giving prevails as people reach out to others in efforts large or small, and consciously or unconsciously, follow the divine example of giving.  And that's a good thing.  St. Nicholas knew and demonstrated that.  Even the story of Santa was given as a gift by a father who wanted to inspire wonder in his child.

The term, "Merry Christmas," itself is bestowed to wish joy.  Those who say, "Happy Holidays," are  saying, perhaps inadvertently, "Happy Holy Days," the origin of the word holiday, although most holidays today are just time off from work.

Close family gatherings and warm, fuzzy feelings are soon over as guests go home and everyday routine is taken up.  But if we have Jesus, the true meaning of Christmas in our heart, the joy can abide always. The scriptures teach how we may have eternal life and Christian fellowship that our joy may be full. I John 1:1-4.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24th

What a beautiful Christmas Eve service we attended tonight!  We went with our daughter Amy's family to their church in Marietta where Dr. Mark Walker is pastor.  After several lovely Christmas carols by soloists  and responsive readings from the scriptures, he spoke about how Christmas is all about children.  After all, it began with a Baby.  Stressing the scripture where Jesus says one cannot enter the kingdom of God unless he becomes as a little child, Dr. Walker compared the trust and utter dependence of children with the way we must relate to our heavenly father.

Several children were in attendance, and the small cherubs in the pew in front of us attracted my attention as their parents tried to keep them occupied.  One miniature angel had a sippy cup with a straw that kept her enthralled as she faced backward in the pew.  A cascade of silky, blonde hair fell to the shoulders of her slightly bigger sister, making me think of our own blonde granddaughter when she was younger.  She has reached the ripe old age of seven, now, but she is still an angel.

To end the program, candles were distributed to everyone in the congregation, including the kids, who were given a battery-operated candle of their own.  Candle lighters lit the candles at the ends of the rows, then each person in turn lit the candle of the one next to him, until the whole auditorium was ablaze with light.  A picture of spreading the gospel, the light of Jesus, to the world.

When we got home, the kitchen became a confectionery as the female members of the family immersed themselves in making bon bons, otherwise known as Martha Washington balls. Granddaughter Corrin painstakingly chopped to perfection walnut and pecan meats, while Amy pointed out the advantages of using a mixer to blend the butter, powdered sugar and sweetened condensed milk over my mixing the concoction by hand.  Then Rachel got in on the act as we all rolled a hundred or so balls of it to dip in the shiny, chocolate coating.

The teenagers were good at this, but it took all hands to finish the product. Then Amy arranged them on a silver platter and set them on the screened porch to cool in the crisp night air. Judging from the responses of the samplers, they turned out to be delicious! (The dipped pretzels we made yesterday are all gone.)

Earlier I had rushed home from town to make a pot of potato soup for an early Christmas Eve dinner before we set off for the services.  I had just finished it when the others came in from shopping.  I wasn't hungry and went to get ready for church, thinking I might eat some when we got back. They all said it was good, but by the time I made it to the leftovers, they had already found their way into soup bowls held by my granddaughters who wanted a bedtime snack.  That was okay. With all the candy sampling, I wasn't hungry anyway.  Fellowship with family and the afterglow of attending church on Christmas Eve left me quite full and satisfied!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ties that Bind

Bonding.  That's what I was doing with my granddaughters today as we dipped pretzels and peanut butter sandwich crackers into chocolate almond bark.  Last night after I retired, they helped their parents make Oreo cake balls.  This afternoon I bought the ingredients for Martha Washington dipped candy, something we used to make for holidays when my children were little.  How the price for goody makings has gone up! We spent $25 for the project!

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!  A day that will likely be spent in anticipation and preparation for the big day. In the evening, we plan to go to a Christmas Eve service with our daughter and family at their big church in the Atlanta suburbs.  I'm looking forward to it, especially since they say it is always a wonderful service.

When our children were growing up, it was our tradition to open gifts on Christmas Eve.  There was something so cozy and special about it with the house shining and the kids' eyes bright with excitement as we awaited their father's return from work, then supper, and at last opening presents. They played until they were exhausted, then fell into bed, as likely as not with a new toy or possession tucked in beside them or at least within easy reach, dreaming of what the contents of their stockings would be in the morning.

Now most of our kids' families wait until Christmas morning for the gift opening, which they find to their liking, or possibly they are following the tradition of their spouses.  That is what we will do here at our daughter's home.  Then a special breakfast will be enjoyed, followed  by preparations for Christmas dinner.

I can't believe we've been here almost a week already.  We will go home two days after Christmas and fall back into our own comfortable routine, but missing the energy and activity that comes from three teenagers in the house.  Actually, sometimes it's four, as a friend sleeps over, or sometimes only one or two if absentees are spending the night at the homes of friends.  Kids are such social creatures!   I want them here all the time so I can enjoy them, but being with their peers is high on their priority list right now.

Since we flew here, we are dependent on others for transportation, and our 16-year-old granddaughter is a willing chauffeur, as is her 19-year-old brother when he is available.  How strange!  It used to be us taking them to school, and now they are the ones carrying our purchases, closing our car doors and locating items on the shelves of stores. We will miss them!

Sister, Sister

There is never a dull moment with two beautiful teenage granddaughters around.  Only 17 months apart, they wear the same size and often share clothes with one another, be it willingly or unwillingly. The other evening Rachel, 14, after having languidly lounged around all day and pleading being too tired to join me for a walk, emerged from her room full of spunk and dressed in a cute teen outfit on the way to a birthday party.

"Oh, who's party is it? " I asked, delaying her as she scurried toward the door, to which she replied, "Well, I don't really know her name, she's my friend's cousin."  What with my hearing problem and her rapid speech, a few more indiscernible syllables were lost on me.

I didn't pay much attention to her sister Corrin's muffled phone conversations throughout the evening. Then I saw her carrying an outfit on a hanger toward the door. "What's going on?" I queried.

"I'm taking these clothes to Rachel.  She's staying the night and they're going shopping at the mall tomorrow."  I asked if that wasn't her own new outfit she had worn for a special occasion. "Yes, but she promised to have it back by 4:00 o'clock," she said generously.  Turns out Rachel didn't go to the mall until 4:00, and Corrin had a date at 4:30, when she needed the ensemble.

I was lying on the sofa napping when I noticed Corrin tossing packages around by the Christmas tree, then couldn't believe my eyes when I saw her carefully peeling loose the scotch tape and sliding out the contents of three boxes.  Finally, on the third one, I heard, "Yes!!"

"Mama said I could do this!" she said grimly.  "I'm going to wear Rachel's outfit and put it back after," she said.  Later Amy told me she allowed it when her hysterical daughter had called her at work. (Rachel called later on asking her mom if she could lend her sister's sweater to her friend.)

"They drive me crazy!" Amy said, only half joking.  As a generation removed, it was funny to me. Since there are 10 years between Amy and our daughter, Julie, there was never the fierce competition and sibling rivalry between them that these granddaughters have experienced all their lives.  Of course, there is fierce loyalty, too, as one might expect in a close-knit family.

I wondered how it all came out and was told the unsuspecting party commented when she got home, "How come it looks like less presents under the tree?"  If she only knew, I'm sure she would not have been lying so peacefully next to her sister when I looked in on them.  She may have been sleeping like a log, but what explosion will be kindled if she finds out? We may have Christmas fireworks!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Go Tell it on the Mountain

Nothing could have pleased her father more than when our daughter Amy said, "Dad, how would you like to minister at the nursing home singing and playing the guitar tomorrow?"  Howard's face lit up! We are with her family in Georgia, and this would be one of the days she is the requisite RN at a small facility here.  We hadn't brought his guitar on the plane, though, and grandson Reid had left his back at college.  "Oh, that's alright," she said, "We can borrow one from our neighbor."

And what a fulfilling time it was!  The residents were so welcoming and attentive. My engaging husband had them smiling and singing in no time.  They loved it when Amy added her lovely voice to some of the hymns.  "Praise God, Praise God, Praise God," they sang, raising their arms heavenward on the last verse of "Amazing Grace."

After a lengthy service and we had gathered our things to leave, Amy asked if we would visit some of the rooms of the bedfast who couldn't come to the service.  She has become acquainted with all the patients and some have especially touched her heart.  In the hall, she greeted a man slumped in a wheelchair.  "Hi, Mr. Clemons!  Do you feel like singing today?" The old, black gentleman moaned a little, but she nudged her dad to begin.  At the first strum of the guitar, a deep, melodious sound came from Mr. Clemons as he sang the words of  "Amazing Grace."  It was we who were amazed.

"This lady likes to sing "I'll Fly Away," Amy said as we approached another room.  "She has been bedfast since she was young and injured in a car accident where her children were killed," our daughter confided.  Sure enough, when Howard began the song, this severely contorted lady opened her mouth and joined in joyfully singing the words, bright eyes sparkling in her twisted countenance.

Amy had us pray for several patients, who gladly received prayer and from whom tears often squeezed past tightly shut eyes. We couldn't help dabbing tears of our own as we felt the presence of the Holy Spirit ministering to these precious people.

Amy had told us smilingly about the different personalities of the residents, some cranky, some gossipy, some sweet, others unresponsive, or even vain (one was a noted model of days gone by who still took pride in her appearance), but all, the bossy, the critical or the demanding, needed the good news of the Saviour, news which never grows old no matter how many years one has heard it.  I love to tell the Story!    

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Being infrequent airline passengers, we approached our beloved enemy with a little fear and trepidation yesterday, especially since we weren't accustomed to using Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City.  We normally drive to Wichita, where the airport is relatively easy to access for us, but this time our tickets to Atlanta were from Oklahoma.

The drive down was uneventful, but when the highway veered off toward the airport, the exits we had to take came thick and fast. Thank God for a GPS!  Finally we were at the airport, which seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere, compared to the congestion we'd been through.  We accidentally passed the parking lots and found ourselves in a parking garage for returned rentals.

"What now?" I asked anxiously. My grim-faced spouse didn't answer, but we saw daylight at the opposite end of the building.  Howard kept driving, and soon we were outside, circling until we came upon the parking lot entrance again.  The shuttle picked us up and deposited us at the right terminal.   We began to relax, the first part of our journey almost complete.  We made it through security and were ready for a late lunch at one of the food courts ahead.  We still had a couple of hours to spare, but we were thankful for the extra time.

The flight was unusually smooth!  The ground twinkled as city lights became strings of multi-colored Christmas-tree lights below us.  Jewel-like against the darkness of the earth, they presented a rare--for us--and beautiful sight from above.  A magazine read, a miniature bag of pretzels and a Sprite later, the announcement came on that we were descending to the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International airport.  Then came pulling unwieldy carry-ons down the long passage way.

"How far to baggage claim?" I asked an attendant.  It was several concourses ahead, then down an escalator to the high-speed trains I dreaded.  Getting on, I saw a vacant bench marked "Seniors and Disabled."  "Howard, let's sit down!  It says for seniors!" He didn't hear me, so I repeated it loudly. A smiling woman holding on to a pole said something to me which I didn't quite catch in the whooshing speed of the train.

"What?" I questioned, to which she replied, "I said, 'You both look too young to have to sit down!'" Wow! That made my day and put a spring in my step as we went to meet our kids who had just arrived themselves. We stepped into the beautiful night, thanking God for the miracle of flight!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Son to the Rescue!

Yay!  We have wheels again! Well, we did have a car to drive, but ours has been repaired, thanks to our amazing son!  After Greg and his father laboriously ruled out the fuel pump, Greg suspected something electrical was wrong.  He looked on the internet to see where the sensors were located in our car. The first one was more easily accessible than the one which turned out to be the problem. It was buried deep in the recesses of the mysterious workings of the automobile.

"Do you hear anything?" my husband asked over the phone.  When I said no, he exclaimed,  "The car started the moment I turned on the key!" He was calling from Greg's house where they had been working on the car and wanted me to hear the purr of the engine.  Praise the Lord!  Those were welcome words! Thank God for computers and smart offspring!  Our son saved us a hefty repair bill!

Some mail Howard had been looking for came yesterday, too, so it was turning out to be a good day. Things were coming together in the nick of time before we leave on our trip tomorrow. God is never late; He is always on time!

The car problem reminds me of our human make-up.  Sometimes something is amiss, and we don't know what it is.  We try this or that to make us feel better: New diet, new clothes, new possessions.  Still, there is an achy emptiness that we can't identify. It  may be a heart problem.

The electrical sensor that held the key to our engine's starting was deep within the heart of the car. We couldn't see it, but it was obvious there was loss of connection somewhere. It required a heart transplant, you might say.  God sent His Son to give us a new heart.

As the song says, "I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe, I needed someone to take my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace, My Jesus paid the price that I could never pay."

Sometimes we just need a tune-up, or a reconnecting spiritually.  May we pray like David did as recorded in Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And that is the heart of the matter!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oatmeal Lace

"Can you make those oatmeal cookies now?" my husband asked.  Earlier, he had been perusing the cookie aisle in the grocery store, and seeing his indecisiveness, I offered to make some cookies. We had just put a round box of oats in the basket, and I knew I had butter, vanilla, and other ingredients at home.

But after the Christmas-spirit high of shopping in other stores that afternoon and fixing a hasty supper that evening, my spirits were sagging.  Baking didn't sound very appealing. Then the thought occurred to me that instead of plain old oatmeal cookies, I would try my hand at Oatmeal Lace!  I remembered eating the crispy, buttery cookie a long time ago but had been unable to find the recipe. Now I could look it up on internet!

Wow!  Three sticks of butter?  That was all I had!  Well, there was a stick of margarine I could swap out for one of the butter sticks.  Mistake!  The margarine must have made the batter too thin, because when I dropped the mixture onto the cookie sheet, even though the dollops were inches apart, they spread over the whole pan!  I was more careful on the second sheet, and although they came out too large, they were still separate cookies.

I was supposed to bake the cookies on a parchment-lined pan.  I didn't have parchment, but I figured with all the butter, they would be easy to remove with my spatula.  Wrong!  I managed to scrape most of them off, some even in a shape resembling a cookie, but most were carmelized onto the cookie sheet.  I scraped what cookies I couldn't save intact into a mound of crunchy, brown oat flakes. (Maybe they'd be good as cereal?)  Spread out on a silver tray, the lacy, golden cookies I had salvaged looked almost presentable.

Later, I took a cookie to have with a glass of milk and sat down to enjoy it when I heard a crash. The tray had slid off the baker's rack where I had absent-mindedly shoved it.  The Oatmeal Lace shattered like crystal all over the floor in a million pieces!  Howard helped me sweep it up, and it wound up in the trash can.

You'd think by now I'd know to follow the recipe!  But just as in so many things in life and like so many other people, I had decided to do my own thing.  No big deal when it comes to cookies, but there is a parallel with rules and instructions given in the Bible for living a holy (and wholesome!) life that, if violated, can cause a mess and even leave lives shattered in many cases. Only God can pick up the pieces and restore wholeness to the repentant.  Thankfully, He gives us that chance!

Friday, December 13, 2013

No Laughing Gas Matter

A few weeks ago, I began feeling an unwelcome  twinge in one of my teeth.  As it grew a little more frequent and a little more intense, I narrowed it down to a lower molar covered by a crown from a root canal that I got more than 20 years ago.  Could it be hurting?  Then it occurred to me that we will be flying next week, and if something were wrong with my tooth, I'd better check it out.

But first, I looked it up on the internet and found all kinds of terrifying scenarios: teeth exploding in mid-air, people hospitalized with blood poisoning ("If there is a crown on it, the infection has nowhere to go, so it can go to your brain," etc., etc.  I read that airlines will not even let you on if you have an abscessed tooth.  I couldn't sleep that night for worrying, besides having mild discomfort.

A visit to the dentist became paramount in my mind. Not having a dentist here, I got the name of our son's family's dentist and called first thing the next morning.  Unfortunately, they had no openings and couldn't work me in, despite my insistence. "We have one emergency slot and that has been filled," I was informed.  The receptionist did recommend the only one she knew of who took walk-ins, though.

"I'm sorry, but because of Christmas we are closed the last two weeks of December and have re-scheduled all our patients into the first two weeks, so we have no openings at all," I was told.  "If someone cancels, we'll call you."  They even suggested that I might go to an Urgent Care clinic and get an antibiotic.  That would entail paying for an office visit, so I tried one more dental office. They got me in that afternoon.

"That is not your crown,  the roots on the root canal look fine," the dentist said after viewing my x-ray.  "Ouch!" I winced as he probed further.  "That is your wisdom tooth!" he exclaimed.  It looked fine to me on the x-ray, the huge filling  practically dwarfing the tooth. "You have a cavity in the back which you can't see, and biting down on this tooth is cracking it.  It really should come out," he advised.

Well, it is never good news to lose a tooth, but in this case, it seemed the lesser of two evils, and I was elated.  My crown was intact!  He put me on antibiotics which should clear up any infection, so I was cleared to fly.  We had been so looking forward to this Christmas trip to our daughter and family in Georgia!

I was so relieved!  I had prayed, fretted, and imagined all sorts of obstacles, but the dental staff was very kind and reassuring, and now that I'd put my problems in the hands of a professional, I could relax.  I don't even mind going back in January for the extraction.  I think the Lord had a hand in it all along, using circumstances to prompt me to get help before anything worse happened.  And  if we put our lives in His hands, we won't lose our heavenly crown, either!


me in


Nothing is more frustrating for me than dealing with tape in wrapping or mailing presents! Take yesterday!  I located the tape in a drawer and attempted to attach it to a package.  The tape was stuck in a thin strip where it had ripped, and no amount of unwinding made it revert to the original width.  Throwing it aside, I decided to look further.

Another roll of tape looked promising, but I could not find the end, since it was "invisible" tape and stuck fast. Despite running my finger over the smooth surface of the roll repeatedly, I could not discern where the tape began. What I needed was the desk tape dispenser I had misplaced.

I found it in the kitchen where I had set it in clearing off  my former wrapping station, the dining room table. Carrying the dispenser to the bedroom where I was working, I put it on the bed beside the gifts and Christmas paper.  When that tape failed to make a good hold, I remembered why I had stopped using it before.

But all that was nothing compared to sealing a mailing box.  The trick was to try pull plastic tape from the dispenser, cut it, and have it not reseal itself before I could grab it. The complicated cutting system had to be backward and upside down, I decided, cutting myself on the sharp edge and getting the tape stuck in a hole presumably made to hold the end. Worse yet was keeping the tape straight as I stretched it across the box.  It invariably wrinkled, then left a little tab dangling when I sealed the corners.  What a relief when I finally finished! No wonder people use gift-wrapping services and mailing centers!

I love giving gifts.  Every imperfect, lopsided package is a labor of love.  I think about the first Christmas, when Mary wrapped the first Christmas Gift in her labor of love.  The Gift was from God, given through Mary, who wrapped Him in swaddling clothes with love and tenderness in apparently primitive circumstances and surrounded by lowly animals.

I heard a man on television last night who shed light on these circumstances.  He said that the sheep the shepherds were tending in the fields nearby were sacrificial lambs, being raised in utmost care for their special purpose, intimating that the little lambs in the stable that night were not filthy, unkempt creatures, but clean, unblemished animals.

Luke 2:12, explains, "And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."  The Lamb of God! A sign the shepherds would understand, for they came and found Him. Would that more would understand and accept this Gift today!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Car Trouble!

Something was wrong!  The pulsating sound of car noise suddenly went silent at the stop light. "The car died!" I declared incredulously.

"No, it didn't!" my husband responded, but he turned the key just the same.  The car tried to start, but failed. We were in the middle of the main street in town on a Tuesday afternoon. Thankfully, it wasn't time for the adjacent school to be out, or the traffic might have been worse.  Only an occasional car passed us, seemingly taking no notice of our distress.

"Call Greg!" Howard instructed tersely.  We were only one street over from our son's house, but when I reached him he was across town at a farm supply store.  He promised he would be right there and drove up a few minutes later.  (We live in a small town.)

Just then a man in a pickup truck stopped beside us and asked if we needed a jump.  Howard waved him on, saying he was trying to reach roadside service.  Suddenly a strange young man was helping Greg push our car to the curb.  Leaving Howard with the disabled car, Greg offered to take me home. A little later, he and our grandson were able to push the car to their house to check it out.

Finally Howard came home driving Greg's car.  He told me our mechanically-inclined son was still trying to determine the problem, and they would work on it tomorrow.  The car had been very reliable and had never given us any trouble since we bought it new almost nine years ago.  We couldn't help but think of the many cross-country trips we have taken in it and thanked God that nothing like that had ever happened away from home!

"Who was the young man with you who helped you push the car?" I asked Greg on the drive home, to which he shrugged and said, "I have no idea. I'd never seen him before!"  I had just assumed he came with him, since I had seen no pedestrian in the area.  In the distraction of the moment, I didn't notice him leave.  He seemed to disappear as quickly as he showed up.

We are trusting God that our car will be fixed quickly and without too much expense.  We could see God's hand  in the whole ordeal, from the fact that it happened close to home on a slow-traffic afternoon near our son's house and on an absolutely beautiful day, unlike the frigid temperatures of the day before and the single digits of this morning, to last night's snow being gone from the streets in the warm sunshine, not to mention the mysterious stranger.

The Bible says in Psalm 34:19, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers them out of them all."  Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Church Social

"Are you ready to go out into the winter wonderland?" quipped my daughter-in-law as she picked me up for the church ladies' Christmas party.  Pulling my wraps more tightly around me, I admitted it was awfully cold out there.  Temperatures had huddled in the low 20's all day, and I had complained profusely every time I'd ventured outdoors.

Stepping outside, I caught my breath. Downy flakes were falling thick and fast in a curtain of snow! So that's what she meant!  Our porch light illuminated a swirling blizzard, magnified dramatically as we drove into the night.  How beautiful!  Our first snowfall, not counting the scanty dusting we'd had recently. Suddenly it felt Christmas-y and festive, adding a note of adventure to our outing!

We picked our way carefully up the church stairs through the feathery carpet spreading beneath our feet.  Inside, a sea of red and green spread out on tables met my eye, and I remembered belatedly we were to make crafts, not particularly my cup of tea. A member in a red sweater was decorating a shimmering aluminum tree where I put down the present for the gift exchange, then balanced my plate of deviled eggs and placed them on the counter.

After sampling the delicacies and chatting over the Christmas goodies, we milled through the craft supplies, admiring the examples our leader had made: Ribbon wreaths, centerpieces, and door hangers. Demonstrating by bending a clothes hanger for a base, she made it look easy, so soon I was constructing my own door hanger.  My adventures with the glue gun got me a burnt finger, but a helpful college miss deftly fastened my ornaments to the base of greenery I managed to twist through the hanger.  Topped by a (bit-lopsided) bow and hung on the knob of a display cabinet at home later, my efforts looked credible.

Games of identifying Christmas Bible characters pinned on our backs and writing as many words as possible from "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," were fun and challenging.  The beautiful sample crafts were given as prizes for the winners of the word game, and although I was fast, younger minds outstripped me (but I know it was because I wrote longer words!).

Our evening was abbreviated a bit by uncertainties about the weather, but at least the snow was not icy, so driving conditions were manageable, if exhilarating.  As far as I know, everyone arrived at home safely, and, I am sure, cheered by the fun and fellowship, the glow of Christmas warming hearts and a winter wonderland to dream on. "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?" Job 38:22.  Tonight we had.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Up on the Housetop

"I'm on my way to town to get a gingerbread house kit for the kids," my daughter Amy said over   phone.  "They have already made five," she went on.  Five! When I asked what they were doing with them, she said they were miniature ones for a gingerbread village.  Our 16-year-old granddaughter was home recovering from surgery, bored and depressed, so this was something she could do.

I couldn't help but think of the time about 10 years ago when I was babysitting these grandchildren, and Amy had brought along a gingerbread kit to entertain them.  Well, it looked pretty daunting to me, but after I put a chicken on to stew for supper, we opened the box and began.  How hard could it be? I'd seen one my other grandchildren had made, and it looked straight out of a story book.

The frosting (glue) seemed right, and there were slots on the special tray to hold up the sides while we worked.  Amid much finger licking and tasting, we applied the "glue" and set up the sides.

The young'uns  quickly lost interest when a neighbor child wanted them to play outside, so I carefully applied the roof sections, which I held in place for awhile for a better set.  When one side started to slide, I gently pressed on it, and the roof section split in half!  After trying various things to reinforce it, I resorted to sticking it onto a piece of cardboard.  (Under all that frosting, who would know?)

By the time the three little rosy-cheeked kiddos came in, I was ready to let them decorate it.  They carefully applied gum drops to the roof, M&Ms to the windows, and sprinkles to the pathway. Everything and everybody was getting to be a sticky mess, when one cherub announced, "The front wall caved in!"  We decided we'd call it a picture window and go on.

Then the roof slid off, was re-fastened, and under the weight of little fingers and heavy ornamentation finally collapsed, bringing the house down with it.

Maybe it was the steam from the chicken in the pot that had made the icing unable to stick, but I knew how the man who built his house upon the sand must have felt!  I haven't made a gingerbread house since, but if I do, I won't multi-task, and there will definitely be no children present!  I much prefer a house like the one built on a rock! Matthew 7:24.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This is the Day That the Lord Has Made!

"I thought it wasn't supposed to get cold till Thursday!" I exclaimed yesterday  as we headed out the door to a grey, bone-chilling dampness that penetrated my coat and sweater. Wednesday had been unseasonably warm and beautiful.  We should have gone shopping then.  Still, it was fun to get away, despite an unexpected lunch incident.

"I wonder if there is a KFC here," I said, knowing that at home they had a Wednesday lunch special we liked.  The GPS showed one a mile or so away, but it turned out to be in a seedy part of town, not the bright, cheerful atmosphere in the upscale shopping area of Stillwater we usually enjoyed.  They did not have the special, and as we were placing our order, an overly-friendly disheveled man leaned on Howard's shoulder saying he was hungry.

"Do you know this man?" I heard my husband ask the cashier.  She shook her head, and I busied myself getting our drinks while Howard added one more order to ours.  Then he was engrossed in conversation with the man, no doubt ministering to him, I knew.  Our order came, and the stranger set his down across the room.  Suddenly he was at our table with arms outstretched to embrace us. Taken aback, I waved him off, and Howard said he would talk to him after we ate. He had said he was a diabetic and didn't have money for medicine.  Although he reeked of stale beer, my better half gave him some money, eliciting a promise that he wouldn't buy more with it.

Things got better as we found gift possibilities in a Christmas-y store, wearing ourselves out with shopping and getting an ice-cream cone for the ride home.  Once there, I was inspired to put up my nativity set after retrieving it from storage in the basement.  One thing led to another in my decorating, and I found myself exhausted with supper to prepare before getting ready for church.

The warm, comforting meal of mashed potatoes, collard greens, pork chops and hot cornbread, coupled with the cozy house on this cold winter night tempted me to stay home.  I couldn't believe it when we walked into the church and saw it alive with kids and activity.  I had forgotten it was family night!  We could have stayed home!  Still, who could resist the animation of the children as they played their games!  I even got to assist my little granddaughter with a lesson page at one point, helping her spell out words about God's blessings.

The adults were drafted to play a mad-gab game, deciphering mixed-up letters and words.  This was fun!  I found myself energized and refreshed, not only from the game, but from the earnest words of the kids' leader as he drove home spiritual truths in a way they could understand.  Like the needy man who had tears in his eyes today when Howard told him God loves him and desires to heal him, I found my eyes misting in the knowledge of how God loves the children. I wasn't tired at all when I got home!