Thursday, May 29, 2014

Old Sol

Aah! Breakfast on the screened front porch!  Such a daily treat for us when the weather is nice.  There is only one problem: the sun.  We love the sunshine, but due to the rising sun's position right now, it shines right in the face of whoever is at the end of the table.

I'd been wanting to get an additional blind to place beside the one that covers part of the porch. I brought it up today after our morning walk in the nearby botanical garden.  "Let's go to Lowe's and look at their porch blinds," I suggested impulsively.

Howard agreed, and soon we were strolling the aisle of the home store.  "Can you tell me where we could find a shade for our porch?" my husband asked a couple of young cashiers standing together in the aisle in front of their registers.

"Oh, you have to go to Lawn and Garden for that," one said, as the other nodded her head.  I thanked her for telling us that and said it was a good thing we asked, as we turned around and retraced our steps toward the garden shop outside.

A red-vested clerk approached us eagerly asking if she could help us.  We told her what we were looking for, and she said, "Oh, you have to go inside the store for that!"  and instructed us which aisle to go to. We said we had just got back from there, and were told to come here.  "Oh, they do that every time!" she said impatiently, "Come on, I'll take you there.  Who told you that?"

"Well, I don't want to incriminate anybody," I hesitated, but she assured me she just wanted them to know where they were.  After we were pointed to the right place, we were faced with a selection of bamboo blinds to choose from.  "I think that's the one we want," I said, after seeing an attractive, woven one that looked the right size.  We hadn't brought measurements.

"No, that's not big enough!" Howard stated, but I insisted it was.  After some back-and-forth he suggested we go home and measure.  We had gotten outside when we decided to go back in and buy it, then return it if it didn't fit, which I was sure it would.

Turned out he was right, but we decided to keep it nevertheless.  It was big enough for our purposes and fit just fine next to the other shade, leaving an unshaded space at the opposite end, which was partially shaded by a shrub, anyway.

All that was child's play compared to the actual hanging of the blind.  Hardware was included, but the project still  required my going to the garage for the drill, collecting hammer from the kitchen drawer, going back for longer screws (which turned out to be nails) when the ones provided were unsatisfactory, and getting the step-ladder from the kitchen.

After laboriously getting it into place, we discovered that the cord was hidden behind the blind, for we had put it up backwards. Once that was righted, we stood back to admire our handiwork, then put things back in place and collapsed for a rest.

Coming in from a drive later, I could see an ugly, orange safety tag on the back of the blind showing through the screen  from the driveway, and another orange strip at the bottom.  I lost no time in removing them, and now I can't wait for the sun to come up in the morning when we'll be able to eat in comfort, and the only orange will be the veiled sun and the juice in the bottle!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good Morning!

I love pineapple, but whenever I buy one it seems to last a long time.  I took some from a storage container in the fridge yesterday and decided to use it up by making a pineapple upside down cake.  I didn't have a recipe, so I got out a box of baking mix and improvised.

Dumping a couple cups into a bowl, I added some sugar, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla, and turned on the mixer. It seemed a little thick and lumpy, then I remembered the key ingredient: Pineapple juice.  I had just enough, making the batter the right consistency this time.

Knowing it wouldn't be a huge cake, I decided on an oval, oven-proof glass pan which I stuck in the microwave to melt butter for the topping.  After I added brown sugar and the pineapple chunks I had sliced up, I poured the batter over the mixture.  The cake rose up and browned beautifully in the oven.  Now what to put it on when I took it out?  The shape wouldn't fit on a regular cake plate.

My favorite oval platter worked perfectly. Turning it upside down on the platter revealed the golden brown topping embedded with the pineapple bits.  It looked luscious, but the proof would be in the tasting. It was delicious!  Light and golden and moist!

After it had cooled and we had had a couple of  pieces, I started to cover the cake with foil.  That might stick, though, I thought.  The clear, glass pan I had baked it in might work, turned upside down.  I washed and dried it, and of course, it fit perfectly as a cover! The cake glowed jewel-like through the glass, surrounded by the worn, gold-edged curves of the old platter.

We are still enjoying my creation as coffee-cake this morning!  Breakfast on the front porch was inviting once again with gorgeous sunshine after days of leaden skies.  Somehow the colorful wicker furniture, the flowers and  the bright cushions all take on a new glow in the clear, yellow light, imparting a feeling of happiness and cheer.  Maybe it's the pineapple!  After all, it is a symbol of friendship and hospitality!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Right Tools

Ooh, these weeds are tough! I thought as I pulled and chopped them in the garden today.  "I need some gardening gloves!" I said to myself, looking at my dirty, bare hands.  "Wait!" I exclaimed out loud, "Didn't I just buy some new garden gloves?"  I had forgotten all about it, but now I remembered my purchase: a birthday card, the gloves and a couple pair of reading glasses. The birthday card had been mailed, and I'd been using the glasses, but what did I do with the gloves?

I looked for them when we got home, and sure enough, there they were on a chair in the corner with a pack of utility knives Howard had bought.  Thankfully they weren't thrown out with the bag, as has happened to other missing small items before!

It was my first stint at weeding our slow-growing garden.  The hard, dry soil resulting from drought-like conditions had kept everything struggling but the weeds.  Now the hard rains of the past couple of days were making them flourish. At  least the soil was soft and most weren't hard to pull up, but some were stubborn with well-established roots.

Having the right equipment is a big help in gardening.  We had to retrace our steps to find our hoe where we had  last left it, and when I rounded up another hoe and some rakes, the going was much easier.  Being unprepared in gardening without the right tools and my battle with the weeds reminded me of spiritual battles we face in the Christian life.

Like the weeds, a bad habit, broken relationship, or sin is best dealt with as soon as possible,  before it grows and gets out of control.  It is relatively easy to pull up a weed when it is small, but when that root grows deep, it puts up a lot of resistance.

Sometimes I resorted to chopping the weeds down.  Things looked better on the surface since I couldn't see the weed anymore.  But I had to admit that was a superficial remedy, because I knew they would just grow back, for the root was still there. The Bible talks about a root of bitterness.

Hebrews 12:15 says, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." Rather, may our situation be as Ephesians 3:17 says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love."

Just as we need the proper equipment when fighting weeds, we are told in Ephesians 6:11, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."  Verses 13-17 lists these vital articles of protection: Belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the spirit, or the word of God.

These equip us for our battle of prayer, for verse 18 admonishes us, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit."  Let's not misplace or forget our "gardening gloves," or forget to read the Bible and pray, but be properly equipped for battle!

Sunday, May 25, 2014


"Oh, no! I forgot my Bible," I said, looking down on my lap in the car.  "And I had it laid out to bring!" I lamented. We were on the way to church, hurrying to get to a 9:00 o'clock Sunday School class.  Oh well, I thought, Pastor has the scriptures on the screen, anyway.  But I knew I would need it in class.

Just then I heard a scraping noise, like ice or snow sliding off our car, but this was a warm, May morning. I had heard that sound once before, when I had left my purse on top of the car. Then an unwelcome thought surfaced.  In my haste, was it was possible I had put my Bible there when opening the car door?

"Turn around and go back to see!" I implored my husband.  There was no traffic on the lightly-traveled street, so he backed up slowly.  All I could see after backing several yards was a discarded water bottle. "Did you leave a bottle of water on top of the car?" I asked Howard.  He hadn't, so I urged him to go back a little farther.

Then I spied something black lying in the gutter.  "I think I see it!" I burst out. A minute later, I scooped up my Bible!  Thankfully, it had a cover on it and wasn't damaged at all.  I cringed to think what it would have looked like unprotected by the heavy material--cover probably ripped off and pages tattered and blowing in the wind.

"Well, I guess we were covered by the Word," I quipped, about riding along with the Bible on the roof.  But I got to thinking of how the Lord protects us.  We often pray for a covering of angels when we set out for a trip, not only for us, but for loved ones who may be traveling. "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways," we might quote from Psalm 91:11.

Not that we all don't encounter some bumps and bruises in life, but David writes encouraging words for the believer as contrasted with the wicked in Psalm  37.  He writes in verse 23, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way. (24), Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand."

I have heard that preached to mean if we make mistakes in life and fall, we should not be discouraged and depressed forever, knowing that the Lord holds us up.  I also believe it could mean physical protection.

We had a friend in Mississippi who had a motorcycle.  One beautiful morning he was going out the door to take a ride and reached for a light jacket.  For some reason he selected a heavy, leather coat, even though it was summer. A few miles down the country road he hit a patch of gravel, lost control and wrecked the bike. He would have been severely scraped and scratched up if he had not been wearing the heavy coat, but he had no serious injuries!  God had him covered!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sentimental Journey

Ever since we came here almost eight years ago after living in the Deep South for 40 years, I have wanted to go to the town just a couple hours away where I lived until age 10.  That was a long time ago, and since I didn't remember specific directions to places from back then, my husband was always reluctant to take me. Yesterday I finally got to go there.

To say things had changed is putting it mildly! The old downtown looked pretty much the same as I remembered it, but of course the names had changed on the plate glass windows of all the buildings that were familiar.  I immediately spotted a former drugstore where my city cousin I was visiting had taken my 13-year-old self for lunch.  I remember feeling so sophisticated as I ordered a ham-salad sandwich and a coke, as per her instructions. We had ice cream, too, and the combination of ice cream served alongside a curvy, coca-cola glass of ice water was a novel sensation for my country-girl palate.

I knew my school where I had attended for a year in "town school" was at the end of the street, and I strained my eyes for the low brick building, expecting it to be somewhat changed since fourth grade.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  It was if a whole city had landed from outer space!  An educational complex of a high school, sports arena and various buildings seemed to have exploded on the scene, enclosed in high fences and expanded and enlarged beyond my imagination.  A lot can happen in 65 years!

The familiar road continued toward the intersection where I remembered turning off into the country to the community where I was raised.  Guess what!  No connecting road on that side of the highway!  We took the one on the other side, which I knew was not right.  Finally we stopped at a little store for directions.  The cashier had never heard of the place we mentioned.  A friendly soft-drink delivery man seemed approachable, and I asked his name, thinking he might be local.  Turns out his relatives are from the town where we presently live! As newly-weds, we had known his grandparents, and they were part of the church we now attend!  Small world!

We found out the name of the road we were looking for was now named 91st street.  We followed that road until it led only to a lake!  Had our community been submerged in a lake?  Getting hungry by this time, we headed for a larger metro close by, had lunch and visited a mall.  We would come back again, this time bolstered with research, which I began when we got home.  The internet revealed the community, called "a populated place," does exist, we had just taken the wrong road.

The Road Not Taken, the poem by Robert Frost, ends with "and that has made all of the difference."  Next time, we'll take a map, and make a difference of our own!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Jonah and the Whale, or Howard and the Whale Bone

Pondering what to have for supper last night, I was considering options with my husband.  Then I said, "Or I could fry those fish in the freezer."  Howard was enthusiastic.  He'd been looking forward to eating the latest catch from the farm pond.  Our friend had caught them the other day, and since he'd rather catch than clean, he gave them to Howard, who rather enjoys cleaning fish.

They were delicious.  I especially liked the tasty little bream, although I found the bones a bit troublesome. Howard ate eagerly and after supper offered to do the dishes, which he did get around to eventually.  By this time I was lying down.  At one point he came into the room shaking the water from his hands and startled me by saying, "I have a fish bone stuck in my throat!"

"Oh, no!" I exclaimed.  "Do you think you should go to the ER?"  He said he would wait and try to cough it up.  A while later, he said it wasn't bothering him anymore, so I stopped worrying about it and went to sleep.

In the middle of the night, Howard got up and went into the kitchen, taking his Bible, a normal pattern for him in praying and studying the Word.  This morning he said, "Thelma, the most amazing miracle happened in the kitchen last night!"  I couldn't wait to hear it, thinking he would say he felt the presence of God in a strong way, something that happens to him quite often.

"That bone in my throat was really hurting," he said, pointing to the side of his neck.  I hadn't realized it was that deep!  "I was reading the Bible in Hosea 6:1, where it says, 'Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten and he will bind us up'" he went on.  "And then in James, where it says the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up," he continued.

"Suddenly," Howard exclaimed, "I felt something on my tongue!  I reached in and pulled the bone out!"  He was exultant, and so was I!  Praise the Lord!  "It was a miracle!" he said in awe, "Like the time the rock flew out of Michaela's ear, or the time the angel caught Caleb falling out of a tree!"

Yes, I remembered the oft-told story of when our 4-year-old granddaughter was complaining of her ear, and her mother discovered she had put a rock in it.  No amount of trying would remove it, although Julie could hear the ping when she touched it with the tweezers.  Her husband Steve laid his hand on her ear  and prayed, claiming the scripture in Mark 11:23, "That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the  sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that  those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he saith."  Suddenly he felt something hit his palm, and knew it was gone, as affirmed by the doctor at the ER.

6-year-old Caleb lost his footing on the limb of tree in their front yard and was falling to the ground, when he stopped in mid-air, then was lowered gently to safety.  His brother, Joshua, witnessed it, saying wonderingly, "Caleb, were you flying?"  They rushed in where Caleb told Julie, "Mom, I fell out of the tree, but God caught me!"

I'm glad God is still in the miracle-working business!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


"Have you seen my hat?" Howard asked repeatedly over the last few weeks of gusty, Oklahoma winds. I had looked high and low, but his favorite light-weight, golfer-style hat was nowhere to be found.  My handsome husband resorted to borrowing my comb and smoothing his still-black hair in his reflection of a plate glass window of whatever public place we were entering.

"Why don't you use hairspray!" I suggest helpfully, but he doesn't like using it. His fine, wash-and-blow-dry hair is in disarray the minute we step out the door, and he can't stand to have a hair out of place.  Oh, for the days of "Wild Root Cream Oil," or the red-colored, oily stuff  favored by him and my brothers when we were teenagers!

"I'm beginning to think you left your hat somewhere," I conclude after another fruitless search.  I think of the time when we had gone through this scenario a few years ago, and one day I received an e-mail from our son we had recently visited in Houston.  He had attached a photo, and there stood our four-year-old granddaughter wearing Pa-Pa's hat with the caption, "Did you forget something?"  No wonder I couldn't find it!  It was 500 miles away!

More recently, some friends from Mississippi where we used to live were passing through town on the way to Kansas.  We hadn't seen them in five or six years, so when they called and suggested we meet them at a local restaurant, we were thrilled.  I recognized the couple immediately through the restaurant window when I saw the man in his signature golfer's hat.  The first thing I said was, "Howard used to have a hat like that!" about the same time our friend said to my husband, "Here's your hat you left at our house five years ago!"

Monday night at the conclusion of our Bible study at the home of friends when one of the men got up to leave, I heard him say to the hostess, "I didn't leave my hat here last week, did I?  I can't find it anywhere!" to which she replied, "No, the only one here is Howard's hat he left a couple of weeks ago."

My ears perked up!  Unaware that Howard was engrossed in a private prayer with the leader, I exclaimed from across the room, "Howard, they found your hat!" He didn't hear me, but a mental picture flashed through my mind of my having him hang his hat on their hall tree when we came in last time we were there.

You would have thought it was Christmas morning by the look of glad surprise on Howard's face when he looked up.  "My hat!" he blurted, "You found my hat!"

Jesus talks about the joy of the lost being found in several Bible stories.  The woman who had lost a coin swept her house clean until she found it, when she was so glad she had to go tell all her neighbors.  The shepherd with the lost sheep left the ninety-and-nine to search for and find the missing one he loved so dearly.  The prodigal son was lost in sin, but the joy his father felt when he returned knew no bounds.  Jesus said the angels in heaven rejoice for a lost sinner who repents.

Jesus is concerned about our lost items and what concerns us, but mostly, He is concerned that we make heaven, where our joy will be complete!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Her Light

Some people we meet in our lifetimes have personalities that are just larger than life. Our friend Pat was one of them.  We moved to the small town of Picayune, Mississippi in 1975 when we were expecting Jamie, our sixth child.  Right away I noticed this friendly lady at the small church we began attending.  She seemed to be always laughing and giving folks little gifts, often surrounded by young people.  Our oldest boy and her sons were young teens and they became fast friends.

Jamie arrived prematurely, and whether the ladies were planning a shower or not, I don't remember, but I do remember "Miss Pat," as she was known in the proper way of addressing adults in the south, arriving at my door when he was a few days old with a carload of gifts.  Cartons of diapers, little outfits, and miscellaneous baby products weren't the only things she brought in that "one woman shower."  Like a ray of sunshine bursting in, her sparkle and smile brightened the whole room for a new "old" mom that day.

With their love for young people, Pat and her husband, Ron, were my older kids' beloved  youth leaders. They got to go to Disney World for the first time on a trip she organized.  With six-month old Jamie in tow, we took our station wagon and went along, too.  We laughed later at  the memory of her kids and mine holding their ears as Jamie screamed the last 100 miles of the trip. If I remember right, Jamie accompanied them with his older brother on a Disney trip years later.  How apropos that Pat loved  "The happiest place on earth."

Miss Pat was our four-year-old daughter Amy's first Sunday School teacher.  Amy loved her class, and one day she proudly brought home a Bible that her teacher had given her for Bible verse memory work. Amy still remembers that and talks about it.  She also remembers  Miss Pat's signature blueberry and cherry cream pies that she would bring to our fellowship meetings. We learned to make them, and they are still among our favorite desserts.

The passage of time would find our families in different parts of the country, but with the marvels of internet, we have reconnected to several old friends of our Picayune days, including Pat and Ron's oldest son Ronnie and his wife, Dawn, with whom we went to church for years before moving away.  I was surprised to see a family picture Dawn posted on Facebook recently with Pat in a wheel chair.  I asked about her, and was told that although she was in poor health, Pat was "still the life of the party!"  I've no doubt that's how heaven would describe her today: The life of the party!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Doubt is Out!

Sometimes it takes a little ingenuity to put over a  lesson to the kids at our Wednesday night session.  The last two Bible stories were set in scenes from the Sea of Galilee, so we had a nautical theme.  We had done the one where Jesus walked on water, and this week's was when Jesus calmed the storm. The illustrations and activities suggested seemed a little lackluster, and the children whizzed through them in record speed.

Their attention was riveted though, when I told them we were going to make paper boats.  "We don't know how!" they complained, but readily began folding the paper as I demonstrated for them.  I had practiced at home, even showing Howard how to master the trick I had learned in childhood.  (Lacking many toys or playthings growing up, we kids had to be creative!)

With a little help, their boats began to take shape, although they wanted to wear the paper hat that appeared first.  It's funny how one does a procedure seemingly automatically, such as slipping a finger into the folds of paper, opening and flattening it, then realizing you have to direct each step for the little ones.

The final hurrah when we pulled the ends to reveal the boat that popped up brought looks of amazement and satisfaction. I wanted them to write "Peace, be still," on the sides, but in their imaginations the little sailors were already sailing the stormy sea.

Last week, we had adapted the kids' song, "Peter, James, John in a Sailboat," to include, "Jesus came walking on the water," and other verses of Peter's short water walk and his cry for help from Jesus.  For this week, Howard and I had added verses about Jesus sleeping on the pillow, the stormy billows, "Peace be still," and not being afraid, with copies for each child.

As Howard picked the lively tune on the guitar, the children became a parade marching around the table, singing lustily and loudly from the sheets they waved in their hands.  (I was beginning to doubt the axiom, "Music soothes the savage beast.")

Hopefully, the theme of  "Do not doubt Jesus" stayed with them and they will think of it when they look at their paper boats they proudly took home!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Senior Moments

"Mama, I'm sending you a gift-card on line to your favorite restaurant for Mother's Day," my daughter Amy said over the phone Sunday.  "Will you have any trouble getting it printed off?"  I thanked her and assured her it would be fine.  I wasn't sure our printer was working, but I told her our grandson Adam could print it for us, or we could go to the library, where we've had things printed before.

We ran into Adam a couple of days ago, and he said he would be glad to print it, I should just bring my laptop over.  We followed him to his apartment, and after he showed us around the place, he turned on my computer and his printer.  We visited with small talk while he walked back and forth from his computer room to the printer.  He seemed a bit distracted, and finally he said that there were complications because he had done something different with his system recently.  I hated to put him to any more trouble, so I said we would just get it done at the library.

This morning we set out on some errands, including a stop at the library, but first my husband wanted to go feed our remaining pig, the huge Chester White we keep at our son's farm. I love saving table scraps for her, so we grabbed her bucket of  tasty morsels and drove the short distance into the country.  She gobbled her food, only a little distracted by the yapping of the tiny, resident chihuahua grabbing bites of her breakfast. Thankfully, the mild-mannered pig ignored him, although he was practically in her mouth.

She needed to be watered, so Howard asked me to turn the water on from the farmhouse spigot.  I traipsed up the hill and found that yard work from yesterday had necessitated that the long, long, hose be wound neatly around a holder.  I couldn't unwind or pull the lengthy hose, since it was intertwined with a second hose.  Turning the water on to see which hose was filling, I stepped in the overflow and soaked my new athletic shoes. Howard took over and I opened the car door to wait inside.  Not soon enough to avoid the little dog springing onto my lap with muddy feet on my clean jeans, though.

After a grocery stop, we made it to the library.  The attendant waited patiently for Howard to produce his library card to use the computer.  She offered to look it up on her computer and found the card was expired. I couldn't find my infrequently used card, either, and she said my name wasn't even on the computer. "We've had everything changed recently, and it isn't picking up all the names," she said.   Taking the elevator (seniors and disabled only) back upstairs, Howard got a new card and sat down at the computer.   For some reason we couldn't get online and it wouldn't take the password we remembered.

Hungry and anxious to get home, we got in the car only to have it sputter and fail to start.  Howard said it wasn't getting gas, since we had parked on a slant next to the curb. "I thought you were going to get gas at Walmart!" I pointed out, but obviously he forgot.  After prayer and during his repeated attempts to get it started, I was noticing a tall, husky man wearing a bandanna lounging around the library steps, seemingly waiting for someone.

"I'm going to see if I can push it so that it's level and can get gas," Howard said.  I didn't want him to do that, and  suggested asking the man standing over there to help him.  "I'm not asking anyone to help me," he said.

"But he's a biker-type and looks strong," I insisted.  He took a look and went to talk to him.  I saw the man nod and stride toward the car.  With what seemed like barely a flick of his little finger we were level and the car started.  The filling station was our first stop on the way home. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all!"  I think He had put the stranger there on purpose just when we needed help! And we will enjoy that meal out yet!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Heritage of the Lord

Awards day!  When our son Jamie was in second grade, his teacher sent home a notice of an Awards Day in their class, just like the high school.  I was excited to go and see what award he might be getting.  I knew he was a good student, and very creative.  I sat down eagerly on one of the small chairs arranged for the group of parents, mostly mothers, who appeared just as proud and expectant as I was.

The teacher began by calling out the award for "Best Speller."  That had to be Jamie, I thought, since he made A's in spelling.  No, it went to someone else.  "Best Reader" came up, and again he was passed over. When  "Best Writer" wasn't his either, I began to wonder.  How could that be?  On and on the presentations went, then "Best Artist" came up.  A cinch!  Wrong!  My plastic smile was beginning to fade.  What was wrong with this teacher?  A sickening feeling came over me.  What if he didn't get anything?

Finally, all awards were given out.  Then the teacher said, "We have one very special award," and she handed it to Jamie.  In big letters I read, "Super Student Award" on the large, decorative document.  I breathed a sigh of relief, wiped my brow and grabbed the hand of my unconcerned offspring and headed home.

Fast forward 30 years.  Yesterday was graduation and Awards Day at the Home School Enrichment program our grandchildren attend weekly.  Jamie's little girl, Maddie, was graduating Pre-K, and Anne-Marie was completing first grade. Daddy, Mommy and Nana were there. Jamie called me last night, and I asked how the program went.

"That's what I wanted to tell you," he began.  I couldn't see his face, but it sounded like he was smiling.  "The teacher said Maddie was very social, and excelled in instructing the other students.  (The little red-head can be quite assertive!)

"What about Anne-Marie?" I asked, to which he replied,  "Well, there were 17 students, and we waited through award after award, wondering why Anne-Marie hadn't received one. Finally," he went on, "She was next to the the last one left, and the teacher called her up and gave her an award."

The suspense was killing me.  "What kind?" I asked, and with a chuckle, he said, "A  'Super Achievement Award!'" De ja vu! "Now you know how I felt when you were in 2nd grade!" I exclaimed, to which he said with a chuckle, "I know, I was telling Tammy about that."

"Her teacher told us,'Anne-Marie could run this school!'" (Must take after her mother, a Type A personality in top management in her career.)

If parents are so pleased when their children excel, think how God must feel when we do well! His love for us far outweighs parental love! "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn thee," Jeremiah 31:3. Better than the best award!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Every Day is Mothers Day!

We saw the parade again Sunday !  Rounding the same curve as last week on the way to church, there they were!  Three grown geese crossing the road followed single-file by a string of goslings, a little bigger than last week.  I guess Mom goose had her mate and a mother's helper with her, since it was Mother's day!  Since we were on the same time schedule, perhaps they were on their way to church, too!  After all, some people say they worship outdoors in nature!

My husband has sold the three little pigs.  Mama pig was very unhappy about it, although the last of her litter were "teenagers."  This normally placid, sweet-natured sow turned into a squealing, teeth-baring, protective mama at the sight of her babies being taken away.  They were not even in the same pen as their mother, but close enough that she always kept an eye on them.

Sadly, sometimes animals are better parents than people. God has put in them protective, mothering instincts that many in our society deny or ignore. Isaiah 49:15 asks, "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, but I will not forget thee."

I Kings 3:16-28, gives the story of two mothers, one compassionate and the other not at all.  It is the account of the famous decision made by King Solomon when the mothers of newborns, one living and one dead in the night, disputed over the live baby.  It was only when the wise king called for a sword to divide the baby in half that the real mother was revealed.  She was willing to give up the child to spare his life, while the other mother wanted him killed.  The king rescinded his order, awarding the baby to its rightful mother.

"And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment." I Kings 3:26. Would that our laws and leaders today let innocents live, rather than frivolously allowing them to be destroyed in the womb!

God assures us that He cares for us and will never forget us, saying in Isaiah 49:16, "Behold, I have graven you upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."  When my husband wants to remember something, he often writes it in his hand, which is fine until he washes his hands. Jesus had us in mind when the nails pierced His hands, and the scars an ever-present reminder of why He died.  Perhaps the walls are the protection and concern for our well-being that He has for us.

We put farm animals in pens for their protection and security, and mother hens hide chicks under their wings. I have read that a goose will even spread her wings over her goslings and push them underwater until danger is past. The psalmist David implored God to "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings."  Again scripture says in Psalm 91:4, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust."

Mothers have an enormous responsibility and privilege in rearing children, and mother love is strong, even in creatures.  May we look to God in this tremendous charge and find comfort and assurance under His wings. He is mighty to save!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mama's Hands

A surgeon's hands are long and slender, I suppose,
But Mama's hands could pluck a splinter, plant a rose.
A musician's hands receive admiring looks,
But no more than my Mama's, when she cooks.

Not beauteous, slim, or manicured,
Just working hands which long have life endured.
Work-roughened, gnarled a little, they are tender still,
So cool upon the fevered brow of one who's ill.

"Whatever your hands find to do, doeth it," the Bible says,
And Mama's hands were quick to answer "Yes."
With one swift movement they could rip a bandage up,
Tie up a wound, a finger, or a cut.

Like wing-ed things I used to see them fly
O'er berry patch or cotton field, container high
To the brim, when ours were only half.
"How do you do it?" we would ask, but she would only laugh.

"Idle hands are the devil's workshop," so they say,
Mama's hands won't have to answer that on Judgment Day.
Her hands have spent a lifetime washing dishes,
Patching pants and cutting switches.

Smoothing every childhood braid in place,
They washed roughly, yet tenderly each grimy face.
They can crochet pretty lace or hang diapers,
(Look, she lifts them to her face.)

They make homemaking an art,
But Mama's hands just give expression to her heart.
Someday she to Jesus will be raised,
For when I saw her go, her hands gave praise.

(In memory of Beulah Cope Pruitt for Mother's Day)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Feeding Mom

Friday was so beautiful with the clear, cool weather we decided to go to Stillwater for lunch and shopping.  "Where shall we eat?" I asked my husband as we drove along, to which he answered, "Well, I have a coupon for a free chicken sandwich at Chick Fil A, we could eat there."

Normally, that is one of my favorite places, but I said, "Why not Olive Garden? We could make it an early Mother's Day lunch, since everything will be crowded on Sunday."  Howard was agreeable, and soon we were looking over lunch selections on the menu, deciding on the soup, salad and bread sticks we always enjoy.

The waitress brought our order promptly, and I was all set to relish the savory soup. I was immediately disappointed when I tasted that the soup wasn't hot.  In fact, it was barely warmer than lukewarm. Howard said his wasn't hot, either.  We were hungry, so we began to eat it anyway.  Later, when the waitress came by and asked how we were doing, I told her about the soup.

"Would you like me to bring you another bowl?" she offered, and we both said yes.  After a while, it seemed none was forthcoming, and pretty soon a manager came by and apologized, saying we would have some fresh soup right away.  Then another manager-type appeared and was very solicitous, promising to heat the soup and bring us a new bowl.  This she did, accompanied this time by the other manager, still profusely apologizing.

"You will not have to pay for this lunch," the lady in charge informed us. And in fact," she said, "here is a gift-card for another meal later on."

"Well," I said, "this was for Mother's Day, so I guess the next one can be for Father's Day!"  She laughed and said, "Yes, Mother's Day and Father's Day is on us!"

When we got home and checked the mail, I saw an envelope that looked like a Mother's Day card. Sure enough, it was from our oldest son, Mark, who had included a gift-card from Cracker Barrel, good for a meal or shopping!

This morning, I got a call from daughter Amy, who said she was sending me a Mother's Day gift-card on line, and wondered if I liked Olive Garden or Cracker Barrel best.  She laughed when I told her I already had one from both places, so I made a selection from another restaurant.

I was blessed with many thoughtful remembrances for Mother's Day.  I loved the phone calls, cards, gifts, and flowers. I think our town may have to add more eating places, though, to accommodate my business!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Jesus Loves the Little Children

"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," the radio preacher quoted.  Howard and I were in the car half listening as we ran errands.  "Just slap him across the face and you will find what is in his heart," the speaker emphasized, catching my attention.

"You know they used to do that in WWII," my husband informed me.  "When someone approached looking like a U.S. soldier on the battlefield, they would kick him in the shin.  Whatever expletive came out of his mouth would be in his native tongue, and they would know whether or not he was an enemy."

Wow!  That reminded me of what happened the night before when we were having Kids' Church.  I was assisting a child in a teaching game where the player tossed a marker on a floor poster, landing on any one of short prayer segments he was to finish, such as "God please help me _____," or "God I need you when____," etc.  I was leaning in to see the words, when he abruptly tossed his marker, popped up like a spring and slammed his head into my nose!  Thankfully, all that came out of my mouth was a yelp of pain!

Our lesson was "Do not doubt Jesus," dealing with Jesus walking on the water and Peter doing the  impossible by also walking on water, however briefly.  This segment where we stuck masking tape to the floor in the shape of a "boat" went well, with the "disciples" rocking in the boat while the others were "wind" and "waves," with fluttering sheets of paper. The other applications, not so much.

Teaching them to focus on Jesus, we made memory cards out of sheets of paper on which they drew matching pictures for the game.  They had to focus on the cards to remember where they were when they had been mixed up, then try to match them as they turned them over.  The problem was, the pictures they drew with markers were slightly visible through the copy paper to their sharp eyes, so they finished that game in record time.

The lesson suggested making a masking tape "balance beam" on the floor, having the children walk the ten-foot length without looking down, only focusing on the leader (Jesus) at the other end, who would direct their steps.  With their expert balance and young agility, they each sailed down the beam in record time with no missteps!

An illustration of doing the impossible was when we had them cut a piece of paper into a shape that they could walk through.  I was surprised at their ingenuity when they simply sliced the paper in two, laying the pieces side-by-side, indicating they could walk through it!  A more complicated way was when we showed them how to fold and cut the paper in such a way that when they opened it up, it formed a large circle that a child could actually step through.

They had done the impossible.  And so had we!.  With the Lord's help, we had another successful session, implanting truth and faith to the youngest among us, and, coming out relatively unscathed, probably learning as much from them as they learned from us!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

World without End, Amen!

The picture was of my mom and dad, heads together and smiling, his arm around her shoulder, standing in front of their  rose-covered porch trellis. It is a precious picture from a time when they were younger and in good health.  My niece had posted it on our family page, and although I've seen it many times, I'm always moved by it.  "Love it," I wrote back, "Now they are together where the roses never fade."

A few seconds later I read her comment, "I was just going to write that!"  Someone else wrote that it sounded like a song, and I shared that it was an old song that my husband's dad used to sing, although I didn't remember the words.  Not long after, the title, Where the Roses Never Fade, appeared on the screen, along with a video of the song being sung by a talented artist.  My niece said she Googled it.  What instant communication and information at our finger tips!

This morning, our rose bush, which only a few days ago had its first blossoms, was bursting with beautiful flowers.  I just had to take a phone picture of it and send it to my daughter in Georgia.  Earlier, I had clipped a bouquet to fill my two tall vases on the dining room table.  My phone beeped with Amy's text reply: "Beautiful!" Then I sent her a shot of the ones on the table, and instantly she texted, "Mom, I  picked some from my rose bushes this morning and took them  in the house, too!"   Then she wrote, LOL, and I laughed, too, that mother and daughter were on the same wavelength.

Yesterday my husband let me out in front of Walmart to get out of the wind while he parked the car.  Killing time to wait for him and noticing the racks of Mother's Day cards displayed prominently near the entrance, I began to browse through them.  One in particular caught my eye.  It was very large and attractive with trees, flowers and birds on the front.  When I opened it, I was surprised by a pop-up scene of  a cottage, trees, flowers and a rainbow. The distinctive music of What a Wonderful World with the voice of Louis Armstrong pealed out, singing of seeing trees of green, and red roses, too.

The song had  become familiar and dear to me when Amy's family had it as the background for a dvd they made for us one Christmas.  A montage of photos of their children at different ages melted my heart and forever embedded that tune in my mind. Yes, it's a wonderful world, but how much more wonderful will it be in heaven, where the roses never fade, communication will be instant, and we will know as we are known?

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Handiwork of God

I had been saving a ham bone to cook with beans.  It was quite large and I was waiting for my husband to cut it in two so  I could use half of it. Since he was busy, I decided to do it myself, separating the bone at the joint.  It actually popped out pretty easily, and all I had to do was cut through the fibrous thingy holding it together.

I was amazed as I looked down at the glistening ball and socket joint of the shank ham. Such a beautiful piece of God's creation!  Perfectly designed and looking like a work of art chiseled in marble. One of the Creator's masterpieces that had never seen the light of day!

God has so many marvels that are there for us to see and enjoy, and many that we may never see, but that have been recorded in pictures or films by others.  I think of the Blue Planet series of television presentations that document the awe-inspiring happenings in our oceans.  Dramatic, beautiful marine life goes on outside the realm of our land environment.

It's a whole 'nother world down there! Gorgeous colors, infinitely compelling scenarios of survival, and evidence of divine intelligence are present, especially  in the clever defense mechanisms of fish and other creatures.  The movie,  Finding Nemo, portrayed with amazing accuracy the species and habits of fish and other aquatic creatures.

In Job 38:16, God asks Job, "Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?"  Then in Job 41:1, He asks, "Canst thou draw out Leviathan with an hook, or  his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?" Verse 11(b) reminds him, "Everything under the whole heaven is mine."

Today I was in my backyard hanging sheets to dry on the clothesline.  I hadn't been out there in a while, and I was impressed at the accidental  beauty of it.  Small purple flowers peeked out from the glossy leaves of ground cover that was trailing along the fence line. Garden statuary, one a verdant green, stood watch over our neglected fish pond encircled by the flat stones we had laid a few years ago. Perhaps this will be the year we re-stock it and again spend mesmerizing summer hours watching the ripple of  goldfish, and koi playing hide-and-seek in the waving moss of our own little piece of God's creation!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Our Father's World

"Look at that!" Howard exclaimed on our way to church this morning.  We were taking our favorite route, wending our way through the curves of Standing Bear Parkway  when I turned to see something right out of the Make Way for Ducklings children's book.  Crossing the bricked parkway in front of us was a mother goose followed single file by about a dozen adorable goslings!  How incredibly cute!  Their downy yellow-and-grey bodies waddling along so importantly awakened the child in me that wanted to scoop one up and cuddle the ball of fluff. They must have been hatched at the pond in Standing Bear Park and were headed to a grassy expanse and arena where the annual Indian Pow-wow is held.

In Sunday School, after prayer requests were prayed over, the teacher asked if anyone had any good experiences to share, and I told about the pleasure of seeing this little vignette of nature. Then Howard surprised me by telling about the baby pigs we have in the country.  He told how they had scooted under the fence and ran to him when he drove up to feed them the other morning.  Revealing a tenderness for animals I didn't know he had, and despite the inconvenience of getting them back inside, he said, "They were hungry, and just so cute and innocent,  looking up at me for feed."

My husband went on, "It made me think of people in the world who are spiritually starving and searching for something to satisfy them," to which I injected, "And all they get is slop!"

"They are hungry for the gospel!"  he emphasized, saying that when he hands out the scripture cards he has printed, people willingly receive them.  "I give them to servers at the drive-through windows at McDonald's, and to clerks in stores."  It's true, I've never seen anyone refuse them.

His analogy made me reflect that so many try to feed their inner craving, which is really a spiritual one, with pig-slop. All kinds of garbage is consumed in the forms of entertainment or other diversions and excesses, which only leave one empty and feeling degraded.

This morning our church had as guest speaker a young aspiring minister who was preaching his first sermon.   We had been forewarned that he might be nervous and the sermon short, but we were pleasantly surprised. The incredibly young-looking preacher was a good speaker, giving a character study on the apostle Peter. He said he identified with Peter's many failures and being a "mess up," but he ended with Jesus giving Peter the charge to "Feed my lambs," and "Feed my sheep."

Young lambs and adult sheep need to be fed, just as Howard feeds our young pigs and their mother.  (The other day I asked him how the pigs were, and he replied, "They were sweet.") Of course, Jesus was talking about people, my husband's concern, too.  Although no longer a pastor, Howard has two preaching engagements coming up, and we work on Wednesdays with the children of the church. Feeding His lambs, and feeding His sheep. Sweet!

Friday, May 2, 2014

May Days

May!  How I love the month of May!  Even the name sounds as if we are given permission to enjoy!  When I was in school, the coming of May heralded freedom at month's end.  In our country school, we wound the Maypole on May 1st.  I'll never forget the long, crepe paper strips fastened to the top of the flagpole (it must not have been that high).  Our teacher coached us on weaving the turquoise lengths with white ones to become an interwoven design as we danced singing around the Maypole.

For one May program,  our mothers stitched crepe paper dresses for the 5th grade girls, made with tiers of gathered ruffles for the skirts (again, turquoise--they must have had a lot of that on hand!). We sang a song about blowing bubbles, wafting our wands like princesses to create iridescent spheres floating magically over the heads of our parents.

My husband says when he was a kid they made May baskets and hung them on neighbors' doors. He told me May Day was something his mother always looked forward to.  Even yesterday he said brightly, "This is May Day!"

On one long, sweltering May afternoon at our country school, the teacher noticed the sweaty boys languishing over their desks after playing ball during our noon recess. Their energy was miraculously restored when they heard her say, "Boys, you can leave early and go swimming at the creek."  Those were the days!

May seems synonymous for Mother's Day, as June is for Father's Day.  I miss buying Mother's Day cards, for our mothers have been gone several years now.  Of course, I do enjoy getting them from my kids, along with the phone calls, special meals and other tokens of love and appreciation they are so thoughtful in remembering.

On a stormy May Monday  in 1962, our second child and first daughter, Julie, was born. It was a couple of days before the Decoration Day holiday, observed then on May 30, now known as  Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.  Although it is a patriotic day to remember our veterans and fallen war heroes, many enjoy the day off for outdoor activities and early summer fun.  We do, too, but nothing compares to our joy and excitement of a new baby girl all those years ago.  When possible, we like to take a trip to Tennessee for her birthday.  Another reason to love May!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Birds 'n' Blooms

I love seeing the stunning photos of birds and the gorgeous shots of  flowers in a magazine we take with the same name as my story title.  But today, I saw a beautiful bird for myself--a bluebird!  I love bluebirds! They are my favorite bird, maybe partly because I hardly ever see one.  I was at the farm, and I glanced up to see a brilliant flash of blue on a utility wire.  When the bird turned to re-position itself, I saw the reddish-brown breast, confirming the species for  me.  I actually felt a warm glow of happiness at the sight!

I felt the same way yesterday when I glanced out and spied a bright red spot on the rosebush.  The first rose! I couldn't believe how it cheered me.  Today there were several more spots of color against the green leaves, and even some pink buds that look ready to open on another bush. With our late spring, these encouraging signs of warmer weather are so welcome!  Not that it's so warm today--we actually covered our plants last night--but higher temperatures are in the forecast.  I have the heat on today, but it will likely be the air conditioner tomorrow.

Petunias, pansies and marigolds are filling my planters out front, the yellow and purple of the pansies echoing the colors of the petunias and marigolds.  I was a little worried that I had waited too late to plant pansies, a cool weather flower, when I put them in several weeks ago.  But the weather has been perfect for them; they are thriving and happy in the chilly air.  I wonder what will happen to them next week, when predictions are for 90-100 degrees!

Actually, the feathers of bluebirds contain no blue pigment!  It's just that their feathers are made by their Creator to absorb all wave lengths of color except blue!  Only the blue wave length is reflected and scattered to appear blue to our eyes!  The wonders of nature are so fascinating!  God has made the world to be endlessly intriguing for us!  No wonder scientists, botanists, and other specialists find their work so rewarding and all absorbing!

Solomon, the wisest man who had ever lived up until his time, gave much of his time to studying his environment.  I Kings 4:32-33 tells of his areas of expertise, with verse 33 reading, "And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop even that springeth out of the wall: he spake of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes."

Thank you, God, for making such a beautiful world.  We can only imagine what you have in store for us in heaven.  According to the child in Heaven is for Real, heaven is much like here, only better!  And I'm sure there will be plenty of birds and blooms!