Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Was Born.

With my birthday approaching, I knew I had to get my driver's license renewed before the 27th when it would expire.  I certainly didn't want to take the driver's tests again, so today I finally made it to the DMV. When I presented  myself to the dispenser of licenses and handed over my old license, which happened to be one from when we lived in Tennessee,  she informed me I would have to go down the hall to the state examiner, since it was an out-of-state license.

"Do you have a birth certificate or a passport?" the clerk asked.  I told her I wasn't sure if I  had a birth certificate, and I certainly didn't have a passport.  "Well, that's what you have to have," she said, summarily dismissing me.

We had some errands to do and decided to do them before going home to search for the birth certificate.  I'd remembered seeing it sometime in the not-too-distant past, but I didn't remember where. And I had just gone through all kinds of papers, pictures and mementos during a spell of nostalgia.  Oh, God, let me find it, I prayed.

"Howard, do you think you filed it with your birth certificate?" I asked my OCD mate.  He told me he has three copies of his.  He said he wasn't sure, but when we got home I helped him look through folders.  I gave up and went to put away the groceries we'd bought.  I knew we couldn't get another copy before my birthday, and anyway, we were going away for a few days for a family reunion.  I resigned myself to having to take the driver's test again.

Just then Howard called me.  "Did you find it?" I asked, but he didn't answer.  I went into the bedroom and he held up a folded sheet of paper tantalizingly.  "You found it!" I shouted gleefully.  I looked at the old document and marveled again at the data.  Mama was 29 when I was born, and Daddy was 34.  I couldn't imagine them being so young!  Then I saw the old familiar name of our then-neighbor as someone in attendance at my home birth (the doctor didn't get there in time.)  The ink was faded and a little illegible in places, but there was my name, weight and other vital information.

Back at the DMV, the examiner studied my birth certificate for an interminably long time.  "Is there a problem?" I finally asked.

"Well," he said, "Right here where it says 'boy or girl?' nothing has been checked."  I smiled, because I had noticed the oversight, or perhaps the check mark had worn off.  After  all, the info had been recorded in 1940, a few months after I was born.

"Well, I can assure you that I'm a girl, and the mother of six children!" I said.  He said he'd had one other case like that, and he'd had to issue a 6-month permit to the applicant, until she had her birth certificate amended.  That didn't set too well with me!  Much ado about nothing!

He decided to call someone in the front office.  "She was born in 1939," I heard him say.  Then, "No, she is not 39, she was born in 39!" he explained.  Then he said okay, hung up and smiled.  "She said, 'That  means she is 75!  Don't worry about it!'"  My sentiments exactly!  "If you had been 39, you would have had to get it amended," he said, "But you're okay."

I got my picture taken, was handed a new license and was only required to pay $4.00.  What a relief!  Thank you, God!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


"Where did you get that?" I asked a man who came down the aisle in the garden department pushing a cart carrying a lovely, tall plant. He pointed and said it was "back there."  We had been looking for a fern for our front porch for several days, but nobody had one. I told my husband that we had waited too long, since the advent of hot weather seemed to have discouraged the stores from re-stocking them.

But that feathery, fern-like plant would be fine on our screened porch!  And they were on sale, obviously being closed out. I was telling my daughter in a phone conversation about it.  "I can't believe you couldn't find a fern!" she exclaimed.  "They are available everywhere here!"  Well, she lives in a larger area in Georgia, and has several hanging on her wrap-around porch.

"If you get one, just make sure it has a water bowl attached," she advised.  "Ferns in hanging baskets require lots of water." Thinking about our conversation later, it came to me that the same thing is true in the life of a Christian.  We require the refreshing of the Holy Spirit, which should spring up like living water in our souls.

I was touched by something our son Jamie told us the other day.  He said he was playing the piano for a service at Kids' Camp held in their church this past week.  The children, including his little girls, Maddie, 5, and 7-year-old  Anne-Marie, were gathered sitting on the floor for worship time.

"Afterward," he related to  me, "Maddie came up to me and said, 'Daddy, when you were playing the piano, something warm came all over me, and I started to cry.  Then I couldn't quit crying!" It had to have been the  Holy Spirit!

I asked if she was sitting with her sister, but he said the lights had been dimmed and he really couldn't see her. But a little voice that he didn't even recognize in its maturity and clarity came over the microphone that had been set up. It was Maddie testifying about her experience! How precious! I was the one with tears as he told me about it. Thank God for the spiritual atmosphere these children are being raised in!

I was amazed when we were in their home last week and Maddie was persuaded to show me the action movements the kids do when they sing their worship songs at church.  Anne-Marie put on an accompaniment music CD and Maddie, eyes closed, unselfconsciously waved, danced, and at one point, knelt, gracefully prostrating her upper body, arms outstretched with palms on the floor.Then Anne-Marie did a lively, jumping, hand-clapping version to another worship song.

Just as I was attracted to the plant purchase the man had in his cart, people should see something in our lives that make them want to say, or think, "Where did you get that?"  Then we can point them to Jesus, to whom the woman at the well said, "Give me to drink!"

Friday, June 20, 2014

Special Day!

I am so amazed and humbled at the well wishes and words of congratulations we have received from friends and family today for this, our 56th wedding anniversary!  I guess I'm just so used to having anniversaries that it seemed it would be an ordinary day, but as I dwelt on it, I realized it is very special, indeed!  That is a lot of years!  Yet at the same time, it seems to have flown by, with all the memories of a lifetime compressed into a time capsule that I open now and then, pulling one up to reflect upon and long for.

The staff at Red Lobster where we ate seemed impressed with our long marriage, gathering around our table to give us an anniversary card signed by each one.   The card was printed with the date, 6/20/2014, on the front under an artistic design with Happy Anniversary in pretty script in the center.  Inside were the signatures and greetings, over two entwined hearts, with the words, We hope you have many more to come!

Our waitress, who my inquiring husband found out was from a country town not far from us, told us she had been married only one year, but hoped to someday celebrate her 80th anniversary! After our meal of lobster, cheese biscuits, shrimp and vegetables, plus key-lime cheesecake, I returned from the ladies' room to find Howard engaged in conversation with three college-age servers. One had lived in Alaska as a child and regaled us with tales of northern lights, curious bears, and an aggressive moose.

In our early marriage, it was our custom to go to a nice restaurant to have lobster for anniversary meals, but it had been years since I had eaten the treat.  To my surprise, it didn't taste the same as I remembered.  I thought of a story I read once by Elizabeth Sherrill.  She and her husband were celebrating their 50th anniversary in France where they had married and were retracing their travels there.  Somehow the quaint restaurant that they chose had lost its charm as remembered by a starry-eyed bride; she couldn't speak French to the waiter as formerly, since her French had gotten rusty; and the food wasn't what she remembered.

Finally she wondered if there was anything good about the season in which she now found herself.  Suddenly the waiter brought in a beautiful, feathery acacia plant, covered in blossoms.  "Did you grow that in a greenhouse?" she asked, knowing it was winter out, to which he answered, "No. Acacia blooms in all seasons."  She felt this was a message from God to her to remind her that there is good  in every season, and she determined to be open to what God had for her.

I will be 75 in a week.   I'm eagerly looking forward to what God has planned for this season!  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blooming Season

My Knock-Out Roses look as if they've been knocked out!   After blooming profusely and beautifully for a month or more, they have been looking worse than the last rose of summer!  But today I have a glimmer of hope. Fresh blossoms are beginning to appear after weeks of blah!

I was worried that something could be wrong when I saw other bushes around town blooming brightly.  I even looked up info online and found that they do that sometimes and bloom in cycles, but this cycle seemed to be lasting too long. Evidently they are having seasons within a season! In the three years we've had them, I don't recall that ever happening.

Ever since this type of rose was introduced a few years ago, it has become wildly popular, outselling all other rose bushes.  Though the blooms are beautiful and popping with color, they do have a drawback.  They hardly have any smell.  (Not that I miss that!)  With my limited sniffing sense, I'm all about the visual!  But how well I remember the "real" rose scent!

There have been innumerable poems and songs written about the lovely rose, especially in times past.  I recall songs called, "When the Roses Bloom Again," and  "Roses Will Bloom Again," and especially, "Where the Roses Never Fade."  The last song has a verse that says, "Here they bloom but for a season, then their beauty is decayed, I am looking for a city where the roses never fade."

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."  As Christians, we obviously have spiritual seasons, and although we are to be always "instant in season and out of season" (II Timothy 4:2) in sharing the gospel, most experience an ebb and flow in the direction of ministry sometime in their lives.

I was reading about seasonings and spices recently and was surprised that spices have health benefits, especially turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon and black pepper!   Not only adding flavor and zest to food, they are also very beneficial nutritionally, without additional calories.

May our zeal for Christ never become like the faded rose,  and may we never lose the "sweet-smelling savor" of Jesus  in our lives.  We don't have to be "tasteless" Christians, no matter what season we are in, but always retaining the zest and sparkle of new life in Him.   In spite of the showy beauty of the Knock-Out Rose, nothing compares to the scent of the genuine article. The same is true of Christians.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Right Seasoning

Hmm. Why is this corned-beef brisket so bland? I wondered, as I taste-tested my Father's Day meal I was preparing.  I turned the brisket over in its broth of cabbage, potatoes and carrots.  I could see it was getting tender when a small piece flaked off with my fork.  But wait!  That wasn't meat!  Then the light dawned: It was a packet of the seasoning mix  that I had missed and forgotten to put in the pot! No wonder it didn't taste right! I quickly opened and poured it in!

Then something vaguely familiar from the Bible about seasoning popped into my head.  I couldn't remember it exactly, so I ran a reference and found this verse in Colossians 4:6:  "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye are to answer every man." I have experienced words of grace coming from a couple of unexpected sources recently.

Little Maddie, our five-year-old granddaughter in whose home we visited last week, was talking with me upon our arrival and unexpectedly said, "I like your shoes!"  She was referring to some lightweight athletic- type shoes I had worn for our train trip.

"You do?" I said, because the shoes are not necessarily a thing of beauty.  They were even called "Scrubs," and may be nursing shoes, but I liked them for comfort. "What do you like about them?" I asked.

Maddie said, "I like the style!"  ( "Style"" is a word she obviously likes and understands, because when we were there for her birthday a few months ago, she insisted on wearing her be-flowered headband with the huge flower on her brow.  Every time anyone tried to get her to push it up, she would say, "This is my style!").  Anyway, I enjoyed the compliment coming from such a sweet young lady!

Then yesterday, having gotten home from our trip in the wee hours and being exhausted, I was late getting dressed.  I had washed my hair and put on a dash of lipstick before we went to the grocery for a few things. Walking down the aisle with my cart, preoccupied but seeing a couple of young girls about my granddaughters' ages tagging along with their parents' cart, I passed them and thought how cute they were. Then I heard one say something to me that I couldn't make out.

"What did you say?" I asked, turning around to see the solemn-looking little girl looking into my eyes, to which she replied, "You look pretty today."  Wow!  What a nice thing to say to a stranger!  "Why, thank you, Sweetheart," I managed to say as I walked away with a warm glow.  Such grace from a child!

A funny thing happened awhile ago, as I was thinking of writing this article.  My husband and I had just come home from some errands, including mailing some letters. We had intended to go to the bank to make a deposit, but I hadn't been able to find a check that had come for me in the mail while we were gone. I remembered opening it and looking at it, and placing it on the mantle.  Then looking at it again and putting it down on a bookcase, but it was nowhere to be found!

I have a  fancy salt and pepper shaker set from Cracker Barrel with words of inspiration written in graceful script on them.  I went to check the exact wording, thinking it was a scripture.  It turned out that the pepper shaker said, "Season your words!" and the salt shaker said, "Salt your offerings!"  As my glance fell on a plate behind them, there was the check leaning against it!  It was on our A-line bookshelves!

My husband loved his special meal, seasoned just right.  And I, a forthright and to-the-point speaker, am trying, by faith, to "season" my words.  After all, "Faith is your companion," were the words on the decorative plate!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Little Engine That Couldn't!

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have about a 15-minute delay because a train is stalled across the tracks, blocking our departure," the conductor's voice came over the train's intercom. "They should have it out of the way shortly.  Thank you for your patience," he said.

We were on the last leg of our rail journey after spending a week with son Jamie's family in Houston.  Our trip down had been flawless, with our oldest son Mark and wife Rhonda picking us up at the whistle stop close to their home near Austin.  After treating us to supper, they took us halfway to our destination where Jamie met us, then it would be on to his and Tammy's house for our eagerly anticipated visit with them and the little granddaughters, not to mention baby Isaac!

Besides our relaxing time doing nothing that week, we had enjoyed parks, a picnic, riding with the kids on a park train tour, an amazing visit to the Museum of Natural Science, church services, and eating out several times, plus gourmet meals Jamie made at home.  Now it was time to go home, with our pony-express relay being reversed: Jamie would meet Rhonda and she would take us to the train.

We were a half hour early, and thirsty after our ride, we took a few minutes to buy cherry limeades at a nearby Sonic in the small town. Before we knew it, the train whistle interrupted our conversation and we hurried to board.  Others had gotten ahead of us, and we saw there was no room to stash our luggage, necessitating  a little rearranging of other suitcases.  Bending over to help, I was suddenly mystified by an icy liquid splashing to the floor and onto carry-on bags as my limeade turned upside down and spilled everywhere through the straw and lid opening..

The conductor had given us cardboard markers, #52 and #53, to tuck under the metal strip above our seats. Going up and down two cars looking for our spaces, we finally located them only to find someone was sitting in one. She looked confused and started to move, but a young girl offered her seat to us so we could sit together.  By this time, I was tired and cross, and Howard was out of breath from struggling with the luggage.  The trip was losing some of its luster, and now, having reached Ft. Worth, we were having this delay!

A little later the voice came on again, saying it would be another half-hour, which extended to an indefinite time that the train, which was carrying a load of coal, could be moved.  I kept my eye on the coal-laden train, and I could see it hadn't moved an inch! After an hour had gone by, the conductor was offering people refunds on their tickets and a chance to travel the next day. We couldn't do that!  I tried unsuccessfully to reach our son Trevor, who had taken us to lunch during our scheduled layover here earlier and had since gone home, about an hour's distance away.

Egged on by the promises that we would take off soon, we sat with bated breath until the conductor came in and offered everyone free coffee.  There were no takers from the disgruntled passengers.  We had told our son Greg, who was to meet us in Oklahoma, of the situation, so he and his son decided to take in a movie to fill the time. When we were still there after the movie, he offered to drive the 3 hours to come and get us.

Meanwhile, Trevor called us back and was appalled  at our predicament. We had been waiting five hours for a new engine to be hooked up to the stalled train. "I'll  come and get you right now!" he exclaimed.  We grabbed our bags, got a refund, and waited for him inside the station.  He was there almost immediately.

After a few suggestions about a way for us to get home, our sons decided that Trevor would drive us to the Oklahoma line, where Greg would come south to meet us.  It worked!  We were all tired, but not as tired as we would be when we finally got home at 3:30 in the morning!  It wouldn't have been so bad, but I I had been awake for more than 24 hours having awakened early that morning!  My bed never felt so good!  My prayers of thanks to God included thanks for our wonderful sons!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

"Anne-Marie, what makes you so full of vinegar tonight?" my daughter-in-law Tammy asked her 7-year-old daughter as she bounced around in animated conversation.

Overhearing, her 5-year-old sister Maddie  piped up, "I didn't have any vinegar today!"  I'm not sure if she is even familiar with vinegar, but this is typical of her remarks that keep me entertained.

When I was unpacking on our arrival here, Maddie came into the room carrying a handful of tangled yarn.  "Mimi, do you know how to sew?" she asked me.  When I told her yarn was for knitting, she asked if I knew how to knit, which I don't. Today it must have still been on her mind, for I heard her say thoughtfully, "I bet my other grandma knows how to knit!"

We were preparing to go out yesterday, and my husband decided to stay home.  Anne-Marie found out her Pa Pa wasn't going, so she put up a plea to stay home, too.  I knew she was a little homebody, but I asked her why she didn't want to go.  "Well," she said, "if we were going to the Lego store, I would want to go.  Or if I was going to a friend's house, I would want to go."  Then, thinking harder, the thoughtful little miss said, "And if it was church, I would really want to go, or if I didn't know where we were going I would want to go."

"Well, we don't know where we are going," I reasoned, although I knew a couple of places we might go, to which she answered, "Yes, I heard  Dad say you were going to Sam's Club."  I get it.  The unknown factor might still present possibilities in her mind, I guess.

Last night was church, and Anne-Marie could hardly wait.  When I came down from upstairs she met me at the door, freshly bathed and shampooed, wearing a longish summer dress with sandals and fairly dancing with excitement. After church, dashing in and out among her friends in the spacious foyer, she was a vision of loveliness, her blonde hair bouncing and the purple dress, longer in the back, floating after her.

No wonder she likes church so much.  I had read a sheaf of papers held by a magnetic clip on their refrigerator that Anne-Marie had typed (yes, she types) as part of her homeschooling.  One was about kids' church.  "First, we have waffles," she wrote, "Chocolate chip or plain."  (This was for Sunday mornings.) "Then we have worship.  Sometimes we feel angels," she continued.  She went on about games they play, the story, and songs they sing.

Other pages were about her baby brother ("His face makes him cute."), or "How to Give a Baby a Bath," the last step being, "Hug and kiss the clean baby."

And that is one of my favorite things about my visit,  hugging and kissing the baby!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Grandparents' Day

Today was beautiful after yesterday's downpour!  And not only was the weather beautiful, with clear, sunny skies and perfect temperatures, the whole day was beautiful, in that I spent fun time with my Houston grandchildren.

"Come here, I want to teach you a game," I called to 7-year-old Anne-Marie and Maddie, 5, who had been playing hide-and-seek for some time. They ran to me expectantly.  I had them stand facing me while I gave them instructions on playing "Mother, May I."

"Maddie, you may take three baby steps," I said, to which she remembered to say, "Mother, May I?"  After her sister had taken a couple of giant steps, it was Maddie's turn again.  This time I told her to take two scissor steps, which she eagerly did, crossing her  feet as I had taught her.  "You forgot to say, 'Mother, May I!" I exclaimed.  She slapped her forehead, laughed and went back to the starting line.

This happened over and over as the girls happily stepped off the assigned instructions, only to laugh in surprise and run back after they forgot to say, "Mother, May I." It was fascinating to see the joy they got out of a simple game from yesteryear, but the novel steps I thought up (rabbit hops, chicken steps and spider walks) and the concentration it took to remember to ask permission kept them engaged. They wanted to play again, but their daddy came out with a picnic basket and an invitation to the park that we could not refuse.

"Mimi, do you want to go into the forest with me?" Anne-Marie asked after we had eaten our lunch.  She was referring to a walking trail through the woods at the edge of the playground.  I agreed, and she led me down the path she had taken before in the cool shadow of overhanging trees.  After wending our way through a couple of turns in the trail, we came upon a creek.  My granddaughter said the path led along the creek and would come out at the opening we had seen at the other side of the park.

We decided to go back the way we had come, though, because the creek was roaring and had washed away much of the trail beside it.  Anne-Marie still had energy to play on the swings and playground equipment, but I took a rest to play with baby Isaac in the shade.

He was really warming up to me, now that we had been here a couple of days.  I fed him his breakfast with a spoon today, a departure from his innovative father's method of having him suck baby food through a straw! It was so cute to see him open his little mouth like a fish as he waited expectantly for each bite. Then tonight at supper his mommy gave him mashed potatoes with sweet potatoes, and he ate like there was no tomorrow!  Maybe he is ready for more table food now that he has turned seven months!

Howard had declined to go on the walking trail earlier, but Maddie had wanted to go.  After I told him about the creek, he wanted to take the wallk.  I called for Maddie, who was playing on the slide with some other children.  "Pa Pa wants to go walking with you now," I told her.

"No, thanks," the independent little red-head said, "I changed my mind!" and went off to join her "friends," leaving us to laugh at her determined little ways.  Their father reigned them in with the promise of snow balls on the way home, a sweet ending to a great day. I'm sure I'll  reflect on it often when we have gone back home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Landmark Decision

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to cross the Brazos River," the voice came over the train's intercom, "An interesting fact is that the early Spanish explorers named it Rios de los Brazos de Dios, meaning 'The River of the Arms of God.'"

We were taking this trip by rail to see family in Texas and had been entertained with sporadic announcements of points of interest along the way.  The name origin of the river reminded me of a beautiful area we had visited in North Carolina called Valle Crucis, or Valley of the Cross, so named by early explorers  for three rivers that come together, forming a cross.

I love the fact that godly names have been given by our forebears to many towns and landmarks across the country.  A little less appealing to me were landmarks pointed out from the train such as the bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde in Lancaster, Texas, and a bit farther on, the filming site of the movie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre at a two-story, columned house visible in the distance

Thankfully, other scenic and informative spots of interest were highlighted.  I had so enjoyed seeing the Washita River Valley in Oklahoma, otherwise known as the Canyon, as the picturesque Washita River meandered over shallow, rocky shoals, the view playing tag with us through the trees as glimpsed from the train window.

And, near Oklahoma's Turner Falls,  the layer upon layer of rocks and sediment shoved up at sharp angles along the roadside where the highway had been cut through the mountains.  "You can see where these mountains have fallen and folded over," our guide said in the geological lesson.

Our son and host Jamie, ever on the lookout for novel eating places, wanted to take us somewhere called "Bubba's Texas Burger Shack," a local Texas  landmark.  He had heard rave reviews about the hamburgers, and we were curious and eager to try them.  As it happened, I had just paid more than I had ever paid before for a haircut at a glistening, glass-walled salon in Houston's Galleria. It had been cloudy all morning, and as we headed toward the cafe, it became a tumultuous, coastal downpour.

We came upon the questionable-looking, rustic eatery, still in the Galleria district, but practically under an overpass.  I hadn't brought my umbrella, but grabbing my granddaughter's Sunday School paper to shield my hair, I dashed with the others up a ramp and under the front porch shelter. We squeezed into the tiny place, thought better of it, then opted to eat at the damp picnic tables on the porch, despite the roar of traffic and gusty  wind.

All I can say, is the burgers were worth it!  Huge, soft, glistening-brown buns (my husband and I could've split one) held hot, thick, juicy beef  (Howard got buffalo) topped with mustard, lettuce and slices of onion. They tasted so real!  Not like the fast-food  hamburgers, just homemade and hearty!  The customers also looked pretty hardy, I must say, in their beards, boots and work clothes. And I guess my hairdo was hardy, too, surviving intact a Texas landmark lunch!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Picked Out

I had rarely seen my husband so excited about anything.  He was in love! He came out of the music store the other day absolutely starry-eyed about the guitar he had discovered for sale there.  He described to me over and over how wonderful it sounded.   He mentioned it several times over the next few days, and when he was in a pensive mood I knew he was thinking about it.

Finally Howard announced his intentions: He was going to buy it!  Never mind that he already has guitars and several other musical instruments.  I heard him calling the store and making arrangements (they took trade-ins).  "I'll be right down," he said to someone on the phone at the store 40 minutes away.  Turns out the man he needed to talk to was out until the next day, so we would go then.

I was surprised to see the pile of instruments my determined husband loaded into the car for evaluation.  At first, we couldn't locate the store, since he'd only been there once (didn't think about using the GPS), but a helpful driver directed us to the right street and I was assigned to keep my eyes peeled for the building. "That's it!" I cried, as we almost went past it.

The friendly clerk was very attentive and checked out a guitar Howard had brought to have adjusted. After he pronounced it in good shape and gave helpful information about it, my eager husband told him we were here for the guitar he had seen the other day and described it.

"Oh, you mean the used Martin back there?" the man said, then he dropped the bombshell. "That guitar was sold yesterday at the end of the day!"  My husband's face fell.  I could feel his disappointment and unbelief. The attendant was very kind and sympathetic, suggesting another fine instrument that had been Howard's second choice the other day.  But nothing would suffice, so leaving his name and number in case another one like the first one came in,  Howard led me out of the music store.

I couldn't help but think of the parables describing the kingdom of heaven that Jesus gave in the Bible. Matthew 13:44 says, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

And in verses 45-46, Jesus says, "Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Nothing in life is as important as gaining the kingdom of heaven.  My preacher husband has been preparing diligently for days a message that he will deliver at a service tonight in a Kansas town. Garnering souls for the kingdom.  That is his real first love.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not So Small Talk

"Give me those two dimes," the man said, looking at Howard's outstretched palm.  He was returning a shopping cart and my husband was searching for a quarter for a deposit on one for us. Howard was looking for enough pennies for the balance to give the man for the cart when he asked teasingly, "Would you take a guitar pick?"

"No, I've got lots of guitar picks," the friendly stranger laughed, "even a pick for  my 5-string banjo!" At the word, banjo, Howard perked up and said incredulously, "You have a 5-string banjo?  I've always wanted to learn how to play one!"

From there he learned the man's name, where he was from, and that he was on city council in his town for 27 years, that he played instruments in church, what church he attended, and that he had known someone we used to know who lived there!  Small world!  But then my people-person husband has a way of drawing someone out.

Take yesterday.  He went into the store for water and stayed a good while.  "I was talking to the bag boys," he explained.  "I told them, 'You should really treasure your time working here, because someday you'll look back on it as a great opportunity.'" He said he told them he worked in his dad's store as a teenager, and that it was a good place to get experience and get to know the customers.

"Yes," the boys exclaimed.  "We always know what this old man is going to buy when he comes in: a ham sandwich and a bag of chips. Every time!"  They told of other predictable customers as they sat mesmerized by the king of talk on a slow evening.

Today Howard came in full of stories he heard while dropping off our truck at the shop.  "I don't know why people tell me everything," he mused, "I guess I just look like someone easy to talk to."  Duh! But this time he was able to be compassionate to a man who with his wife was raising a baby granddaughter.  "Her mother is just in and out," the distressed man had shared.

Well, I know why people are drawn to him and why he is drawn to people.  It is the Holy Spirit in him, and his pastor's heart. God has given Howard the ability to relate to and communicate easily and naturally with people, even strangers.

Jesus was like that.  He could immediately find common ground with people.  He talked of living water with the woman at the well, after asking her for a drink.  He told the great fisherman, Peter, that He would make him a fisher of men. He took little children on his lap and said of such is the kingdom of heaven. He gently suggested to Martha to get out of the kitchen. And he fed the people and told them of Living Bread.

The next time my husband goes into the store for a loaf of bread and stays a long time, I won't say anything. He could be telling them of the Living Bread!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Game of Life

"Do you want to play Scrabble?" our son Greg asked last night.  Of course! We hadn't done that in ages.  I dragged out our wonderful, giant Scrabble set that was stored in it's huge box under the bed. It sits on an elevated turn-table making it necessary for me to get a taller chair (am I shrinking?) to comfortably view the large tiles in their grid.

The game went fast at first. My husband started off with a bang due to a fortunate selection of a few letters of high numerical value that just happened to make words, however tiny, on spaces that doubled or tripled their impact. I couldn't believe it when I challenged his word and the dictionary revealed it to be the word for a letter in the Hebrew alphabet!

Then later, when he was still on a roll, he wrote the word, "fag," for multiple points. "That's not a word!" I exclaimed, but he insisted it meant tired from working,  "You mean fatigue!" I protested.  This time I looked it up and had to laugh at what I read: To make tired by hard work!

Hey, I was supposed to be the Scrabble champ!  All our scores began to rise, even though I was lagging embarrassingly behind.  (Of course, it was because of bad letters!)  And it seemed every time I did have a zinger ready to go, someone got in my space!  I also didn't approve of my opponents' practice of looking up words before they played them, but it was all I could do to keep from doing it myself a few times!

As the hour grew late, we wanted to quit, but the lure of the board kept us transfixed.  Finally we all ended up with one unplayable letter and called it quits.  I kidded Howard that he was like the runner or race horse that didn't pace himself, sprinting ahead early and then not having the stamina to win.  And I was pleased that slow and steady worked for me, coming up from behind  and having the high score at the end of the game.

Life is a lot like a game of Scrabble. We have to work with what we have been given, just as we make words of letters we have randomly chosen.   We are born into different circumstances to our own particular parents, and there is no one else exactly like us.  Even though we have no control over our inherited genetics, or possibly even our environment, it is still up to us to take from these components and make something of them.  Our imagination, ingenuity, education or skill, applied to our situation can make a life uniquely ours, and a very satisfying one, at that.

The Bible says that he formed us and knew us in our mother's womb, and knew our days before any of them came to be, Psalm 139:16. Some say He even planned where we would live, according to Acts 17:26, which says, "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."

Since God put so much planning into our lives and went to all the trouble to make us so intricately and marvelously unique, who are we to complain about God's workmanship or our lot in life? After all, we can do what no one else can do--be our self! And we can finish strong!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Day in the Life

We weren't trying to be difficult patrons, but it did seem as if we were making a lot of requests.  We were eating at a restaurant honoring my Mother's Day gift card my daughter had sent me, and the waiter was taking our drink order.  As usual, this presented a challenge for me, since I avoid caffeine.  "Do you have any kind of lemonade?" I asked.  The young man answered that they had a strawberry lemonade.

After one sip, I questioned, "Does this have artificial sweetener?" detecting the unmistakable bitterness I hate, to which he said, "I don't know, but I'll find out," returning shortly and confirming that it did.  I may not have much sense of taste, but I can taste sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

"Could you make it with sugar?"  I asked, and the patient waiter said he would find out, coming back and apologizing that the drink mix was pre-made and could not be changed.  I settled for root beer, which he said contained no caffeine.

We decided on steak, and gave our order.  After it was turned in, it was Howard's turn to be picky.  When the waiter passed by again, my husband stopped him.  "I was noticing you had something called 'Whiskey Steak'.  I had that in New Orleans once, and it was delicious.  Could you do that to my steak?"  The waiter said he would find out.

"No," he said upon returning, "They said it would have to be marinated."  Then he said something complicated about the marinated vegetables topping the steak being seared first, followed by the the steak picking up the flavor after being seared on the same grill. Howard ate his steak plain, but not before I teased him about "hitting the sauce," referring to the time he raved about the whiskey sauce on some bread pudding we'd ordered.  He assured me the alcohol was burned off in the cooking, though.

My particular husband had chosen a house salad, but was wrestling with the idea that it contained bacon (he loves bacon, but apparently not in salad).  The waiter soothed his worries by offering to serve it on the side. Our meal was delicious, and we even had a bite of dessert, after which our solicitous waiter that we had kept running was probably glad to see us go.

Not wanting to go along to a guitar shop, I was dropped off at my favorite store to browse for a half hour before we headed home. A couple of things caught my eye, and when I slid my debit card into the machine to pay for them, it didn't pick up all the numbers I punched in, so I pushed "Cancel." "You will have to run it through as "Credit" now," the cashier informed me, "So I need to see a picture ID."

No problem, I thought, as I fished for my driver's license.  I couldn't come up with it!  I must have misplaced after needing it for the library the other day!  Finally the manager was called, and she asked, "Is this card in your husband's name?" It was.  "He will have to sign it," she stated. The cashier told her I had wanted to use it as debit.  "Oh, then, you just push "Clear," she said simply, and  my purchase was completed!

Much ado about nothing!  Our activities today reminded me of our requests to God in prayer. Our needs may be seem complicated to us, but He understands completely and can sort things out.  And when our life is muddled by mistakes and failures, He hits the "Clear" button, for he has deposited in our account everything we need through the blood of Jesus Christ!