Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Legacy

"Isaac just ate, and he's in a good mood if you want to Facetime," my son Jamie said on the phone. Of course! I love to see my little grandson! Face to face is better, but when he's 500 miles away, Facetime is a blessing! Almost-11-month-old Isaac smiled beautifully at me, showing his dimples. He tends to be rather sober, so I was glad to see him happy.

"Can you put him down so I can see him in action?" I asked, so they went into the den where I watched my heart speed-crawl across the room, select a ball from his pile of toys, discard it and survey the coffee table for more possibilities. He held on and walked around it, then went to his father and pulled up. Suddenly he let go and was standing alone! Jamie was as shocked as I was! He'd never done that before!

Baby years go so fast, I was happy to be privy to this milestone! I visited my sister, who is ten years my senior, on Sunday. I wanted to ask her about some family history I was a little fuzzy on, and she started talking about when I was born. Being 85, she likes to reminisce and told me about walking down the lane from school, kicking the dust with her shoe and singing about the beautiful trees, sky and clouds.

"Come in and see your baby sister," she heard as she entered the front door, to which she said in surprise, "What baby sister?" My mother held the small, pink bundle of me and put me in her arms. She hadn't had a clue! As she described the baby sweetness, soft blonde hair, and soft skin of my newborn self, I got a mental picture that seemed to fill a memory gap for me. There were no pictures of me as a baby, but I felt I had just received one.

My sister remembered the hard times of long ago, and the house Daddy built of slender logs where I was born. Somehow my folks raised eleven children, and like the Duggars, I suppose we all worked together. A few days ago I watched a Walton segment where the family had undertaken getting a neighbor's apple harvest in for much-needed money. The exhausting task took the cooperation of everyone picking apples, but they we so gratified to have managed it!

It made me think of a time when some of our children were teenagers still at home and our neighbor's shed burned down. Much of the debris had been cleared, but there was still some residue and cement blocks on the slab, for which our friend was offering $500 to anyone who would clean it up. $500 would come in handy, so we decided to do it. Who knew it would be so hard? We fell into bed at night only to tackle it again the next day, but we finally got it done! I don't remember what we did with the money, but I'm sure it was put to good use!

Thank God for families, our dearest possession on earth. He is so faithful to provide, protect and care for us, in good times or bad. The children (and grandchildren!) are His reward!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sight Unseen

"This is one birthday she'll never forget," I said after visiting our soon to be eight-year-old granddaughter at the hospital. She had been hurt on a four-wheeler and had to have her leg put into a cast today by an orthopedic surgeon. We were getting a bite to eat after leaving her room as she was readying to go home.

"I don't remember my eighth birthday," I said, "but I do remember being eight!" One reason I remember that age is because that's when I had chicken pox!

"Well, I remember my eighth birthday," my husband mused. "Or was it my ninth. Anyway, I sat on the porch all day waiting for the mailman to bring something my mother had ordered for me from Montgomery Ward catalog--a pocket watch!" He said he treasured the watch for years.

Ordering things through the mail was evidently a frequent and favorite activity of his as a boy. He has told of sending away for spy rings, secret codes and other prizes kids treasured back then. The funny thing is, he is still doing that today! Ever so often, something will come addressed to Howard, and to my question, "What have your ordered this time?" he usually says, "I don't remember ordering that!" as he unwraps a pen, notebook, or some gimmick from a credit card company.

The few times I have ordered things from a catalog I have been disappointed. I would much rather buy something in person, especially clothes, which never fit otherwise! Sometimes even the color of an item is wrong, not looking the same shade as the illustration. And objects that are so appealing in the offer are nearly always smaller than they look in the picture.

As our birthdays are reaching ever greater heights, we find ourselves thinking more about heaven. What will it be like? Our imaginations fail us as we try to comprehend our heavenly home. I Corinthians 2:9 tells us, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

Trying to visualize heaven is like an unborn baby trying to imagine what life outside the womb would be like. Like the song says, "I can only imagine." We are not told much about heaven, but we infer from David's words when his child died that loved ones are there. He said as recorded in 2 Samuel 12:23, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."

Jesus promises in John 14:2-3, "...I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." That is all we really need to know, for we can trust the Bible, the letter written to us from God, who does not do false advertising!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Old and New

Tonight we were watching an episode of The Waltons in which John Boy bought his mother a much-needed washing machine. She certainly didn't expect it and had been content to go on washing clothes on a rub-board, but she was overjoyed with the surprise. It was the old style washer, probably with a wringer.

It reminded me of the time my dad surprised my mom with her first automatic washer. He thought she would be pleased when she came in and saw it installed. No way! She was very upset because it wasn't a wringer washing machine--the kind she was used to. (Mama got used to it though, and never looked back!)

I must be my mother's daughter, because I felt the same way about a color TV. Early in our marriage, Howard worked for an appliance store and sold the beautiful color models every day. He could get a good deal on one for us, but for some reason I protested. A color television? An unbelievable luxury! Why should we have one? Black and white was good enough for us, I reasoned. Of course I loved the beautiful set in the maple console that he brought home!

I never thought I would embrace the computer, but now I couldn't do without it. Other electronics like the iPad and iPhone held little interest for me, but now I can't imagine life without them! I remember when phones with cameras came out a few years ago. It seemed an unreachable possibility to have one or know how to use it. Now they are so simple that I love to take pictures and put them online!

Changes come so thick and fast nowadays it's hard to keep up! The children who are raised with such things take it for granted, though. I heard of a father who told his daughter that he didn't have a computer growing up. "Then how did you get on the internet?" she asked in surprise.

I admit I do love old-fashioned things. Antique furniture, the cozy comfort of a fireplace and rocking chair with a fringed afghan thrown over it, old dishes, and log homes. But sometimes we settle for less, thinking that we don't need or deserve something better. We make the mistake of setting our sights too low and just get in a rut of familiarity.

It is easy to do that spiritually, too, just getting by with the status quo or basic knowledge of Christianity and lifestyle. But we are encouraged in the Bible to go deeper in our relationship with God. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you, Jesus said. Draw nigh unto Me and I will draw nigh unto you.

When Jesus was talking about bringing the new message, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the world, He said that new wine can't be put into old wineskins, Matthew 9:17. The people had to accept something new, and change their way of thinking and living. Then in Matthew 13:52, He talks about "a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old." (Knowledge of both the Old and New Testament is beneficial for our Christian growth.)

We need to keep growing in God! "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," Proverbs 4:18.

A Berry Good Morning!

"What would you like for breakfast?" I asked my husband this morning. "If I had some blueberries, I would make blueberry pancakes," I ventured. He settled on eggs, bacon and toast, but I couldn't help but think about the blueberry pancakes I made when our children were growing up.

Blueberries weren't as common then in south Mississippi, our part of the country, so I would buy a box of blueberry pancake mix occasionally. The berries were packed in water in a small can inside the box of mix. I remember using the purple liquid to make blueberry syrup for the pancakes.

As blueberries became more locally grown, we picked huge, grape-like blueberries at a neighboring farm. Such a fun activity and outing for our grandchildren! Later on, we had our own blueberries growing on bushes outside our back door. Oh, the cobblers, muffins and pancakes then!

When hurricane Katrina hit, our friend had about 30 gallons of blueberries in her freezer. Her insurance covered the loss of food due to the long-time power outage, allowing her to collect hundreds of dollars for the ruined blueberries!

At today's prices, she would have been reimbursed even more! But blueberries, a super-food, would have been worth it. I should eat more of them since they are touted as an anti-aging, brain food!

Isn't it remarkable that God created some of the most nutritious foods to be bright and attractive to the eye, insuring that we would eat them? Apples, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, squash, and on and on are delicious and healthful.

Man has processed, manipulated, and imitated so much of our food today we wonder what we are eating. Nature's way is best. Artificial sweeteners are dangerous, margarine and fake butter are bad for you, oils are suspect, and wheat has been modified until it is no longer what it used to be.

Now I read that a little real butter (much tastier), is healthier and benefits eyesight, skin, and brain. Lard is the new gourmet cook's choice. (I could have told you that from the excellence of pies and fried chicken my mother used to make which could not be equaled in flavor, crispness and texture!)

My only dilemma now is that I don't have a big family around to enjoy all the good food I could make for them! Leftovers are a major problem around here, especially with my tendency to save every tidbit in the cute,tiny containers from a plastic storage set. Refrigerator cleaning day keeps my garbage disposal busy!

Thank you, God, for the plenty and excess you have provided! Help us to choose the healthy foods you made, and give me strength to abstain from too many blueberry desserts!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Rite of Switching the Wardrobe

On one of these cool mornings we've been having, I reached for a pair of warm, fleecy sweat pants to wear around the house. Finding only summer things in the drawer, I remembered storing the other warm clothing. It is 48 degrees this morning, so I think it's time to switch them back. My closet also needs to be rearranged so I can access sweaters, jackets and fall clothes.

Even though we've been back here for 7 years, I'm still in the south, where we could wear summer clothes all year long by just adding a sweater or jacket. After living there nearly forty years, I'm still startled by the precise change in seasons here. Fall is right on time, the summer was short, spring too fleeting, and winter will be pushing fall out of the way before we know it.

One change I am looking forward to is when the leaves start to turn. They are looking a little faded now, but in a few weeks I know there will be a riot of glorious colors, even rivaling the colors of spring. I read that Indian summer days with their brief warm spells contrasting with very cool nights are responsible for the depth and intensity of colors in the leaves. The earth is getting a new fall wardrobe, rivaling anything we can buy at the clothing store.

In speaking of the future, the Bible tells how the earth will grow old like a garment and be changed. Psalm 102:25-26 says, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed."

Verse 27 assures us, "But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."

Even as the beauty of autumn eventually gives way to the dead of winter, we look forward to the glories of spring. Paul tells us in Romans 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us," speaking of future glory.

He says in verse 22 that the whole creation groans and travails. And, in verse 23 that we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the redemption of our body.

We used to sing a song in church, that while maybe not grammatically correct, was still right in its theology. It went, "I tell you, the best thing, I ever did do, was to take off the old robe and put on the new. The old robe was dirty, all tattered and torn. The new robe was spotless and never been worn. I tell you, the best thing, I ever did do, was take off the old robe and put on the new!"

Now that's a change of wardrobe!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Fall, Y'all!

I love the golden colors of the fall season! The cooler weather of the past few days has motivated me to begin decorating with these splashes of color, especially nice when the skies are grey, and even better in the soft rays of autumn sunshine!

I had been waiting for the pumpkin shipments to come in at my favorite store, absolutely the best place in town to buy them. They are bigger, have more "personality" with the long stems and often quirky lop-sidedness, not to mention cheaper. A huge one and a medium-size one sat on my patio bench for a couple of days until they found a home in my garden wagon.

Going down into the basement for fall flowers I had stored, I found not only that, but farm baskets, one holding a stuffed, calico turkey wearing a straw hat, and two others, one in which I plopped a floppy scarecrow on top of a still-new burlap coffee bag. Another smaller scarecrow stands stiffly astride the side of the other burlap-draped basket on the porch.

In a storage closet I found a straw pumpkin to fill with the orange and yellow mums from the basement, and a pinky-orange, ceramic pumpkin that looks cute on the dining room table with fall leaves peeping out under the green-stemmed lid.

A yellow, potted chrysanthemum was already on the porch steps, but I needed a few more flowers to add color. We were happily surprised to find a couple of pots at close-out prices, and another of just the right size and rusty-red color to complement the pumpkins.

It just occurred to me what is missing from my fall vignette. A bale of hay! Maybe I can get a small, decorative bale today. I can put it in the wagon with the pumpkins. I noticed yesterday from the road they are not as visible as I would have liked, so we'll see how the hay helps.

We rejoice with the coming of each new season God has given us, but I think fall is my favorite one. I think of the poem I memorized in high school by Emily Dickinson that goes: "The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown. The berry's cheek is plumper, the rose is out of town. The maple wears a gayer scarf, the field a scarlet gown, Lest I should be old fashioned, I'll put a trinket on."

Must be the reason I like to decorate!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Growing Up Strong!

My five-year-old granddaughter Maddie has promoted herself from the nursery/kindergarten department at church to the youth group! "I go to Youth now," she announces after accompanying her dad to one of his services with the teenagers. "It is cray-cray!" she exults, picking up a teen phrase for "crazy."

She also knowledgeably chimed in with a comment during a class her mother was teaching for older kids. Her mom says, "Life doesn't happen to Maddie, Maddie happens to life!" A pretty good description of this little bundle of enthusiasm. She has been turned on to God early in her life. His seed is in her.

I was reminded of something I heard recently. The other day I was looking at a watermelon at a roadside stand. "Are these melons good?" I asked. "I liked one that a friend got here last week." The melon she had served at their house was delicious!

"Yes!" he replied. "Now, they are seeded," he told me. "Watermelons with seeds taste better than seedless." I bought one, partly because it was a small, round melon, and not too big for our family. It was good!

I read a recipe for chicken and noodles in a magazine a few days ago. I was surprised that it recommended using bone-in chicken pieces, served that way. "These are the most flavorful," the author commented. I usually stew the whole chicken, or just use white meat, but this was a quicker method, browning drumsticks and thighs before stewing to develop flavor. "And don't skim the fat," he went on, "flavor is in fat." I will have to try it!

I find bone-in roasts taste better, too. And pork chops with the bone are much better than boneless ones. My husband grew up in a meat market, and he always told me the bone adds flavor.

Maddie may be small, but her zippy personality is full of flavor, sweet and pungent, like the melon! And she is being taught the word of God. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is quick,(alive)and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Our life blood is formed in the marrow of the bones. Scripture teaches that life is in the blood. Thank God for the blood Jesus shed for our salvation, including the salvation of our children and grandchildren. May they always have the backbone to stand up for Jesus! I believe Maddie will!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Alterations

ALTERATIONS, the sign read. We had been wondering about the little shop that had recently opened in a building formerly housing a barber shop and more recently a healing center. We brought a couple of things in to have hemmed and were met by an attractive oriental woman with a beautiful smile.

"I compliment you on your decor," my thoughtful husband announced as we entered the cheery interior. "It looks better than when I used to get my hair cut here."

She smiled her appreciation, and soon Howard was carrying on a conversation with her which revealed she was from Viet Nam. Her bright smile hid a sad past, with both parents and brother having been killed in turmoil there, and her husband being imprisoned for 4 years.

"I waited until he was released, then we came here," she said. She said her father had been a government worker, so I suppose political unrest was involved in the tragedies.
She seemed grateful for the freedom of this country.

We recently marked the anniversary of 9/11. How well I remember that morning in 2001. Howard and I had taken our grandchildren for a walk down our country road to a scenic spot at the bottom of a hill where water ran under a low bridge from a pasture lake. The kids were two and four, and after dabbling their feet in the water and catching tadpoles in the roadside ditch, they were ready to go home. Going up the hill was harder than coming down, so we made a pack-saddle with joined arms to carry 2-year-old Rachel, as Corrin dawdled behind, tossing pebbles or picking wildflowers.

Collapsing on the den sofa as we came in, I saw that our son had the television on. He was taking a break from grad school and working locally this semester. Seeing smoke billowing on the screen and hearing a puzzled narrative from a newsman, I thought it was the scene of a plane crash somewhere. Then I heard incredulous voices raised in amazement and caught sight of a plane hitting a tower. The gravity of the situation became apparent, and the day that had dawned so beautifully became a day of terror.

Now we are in uncertain times again, and as others come here for safety and freedom, we
find ourselves concerned about our own. I heard news commentators speculating yesterday about how when dictators are deposed, if something good is not put in their place, something worse will fill the void.

It reminded me of scriptures in Matthew 12:42-45 and Luke 11:24-26 where Jesus talks about an unclean spirit being cast out of a man, then when it returns and finds
the "house...empty, swept and garnished," he takes seven spirits with him worse than himself into the house and the man's state is worse than the beginning. Jesus is telling us not to be satisfied with just cleaning ourselves up, but to fill our lives with the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is full of wisdom, both spiritual and practical. The alterations lady not only alters clothing, she altered her locale. Moving into freedom is always a good idea. And Jesus is the Truth that sets us free!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Best by Taste Test

"There's nothing like home tea, is there?" I remarked to my husband as we ate supper tonight. He agreed, then I said, "But remember how good the iced tea tasted at that one place on our trip?"

Then ensued a discussion of just where that place was. "It was in Tennessee where you thought you were eating chicken, but it was steak," I ventured. He never would admit that particular mistake, but I suspected something when we walked out of the restaurant that was famous for its biscuits, and he said, "Next time I'm going to get a steak biscuit."

Later he told our daughter and family how good the chicken biscuit was that he had at the restaurant. "Howard, I had the chicken, and you had the steak!" I insisted. "Remember you said how tender it was?", to which he said, "That's because it was chicken." I had to laugh, because there was no dissuading him. I hatched a scheme to go there the next day and have him order steak and prove it to him.

He was not convinced, and said that was not what he'd had the day before. "Take a bite of this chicken!" I said, "Is that what you had?" He looked a little uncertain, but stuck by his guns. Men! How stubborn! His reasoning was that he had ordered chicken, and that's what he got. (In reality, he ordered the chicken for me.)

"But that's not the place with the good tea!" I insisted, a movie playing in my mind of the many places we had eaten. Then I remembered it was at our favorite place in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The chicken/steak incident was in Georgia. Even though I'm supposed to avoid caffeine, the delicious elixir was worth the indulgence.

Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us. Like the time Howard brought me an apple pie from McDonald's. I tasted it and almost spewed it out of my mouth! What was this mushy stuff? Applesauce? My taste is unreliable, but I knew the texture was not apple pie, even though that's what the label said.

"Taste this and tell me what it is!" I demanded to my husband. He took a bite and said it was apple pie. I called McDonald's and described the contents for the manager. "Oh," she said, "that's pumpkin. It must have gotten in the wrong box." Since Howard expected it to be apple, that's what his mind told him it was, just like the steak! (Well, it was sweet and contained cinnamon!)

Psalm 34:8 says, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him." That is one taste we don't quibble over!

Throwback Thursday

"Mimi, since you and Pa Pa have been married 55? years ('56,' I interjected) can you tell Randy and I what your secret is?" my granddaughter Michaela questioned. They have been married a little over a year. "We want to have a long and happy marriage, too!" she stated.

Well, I had no secret to give her, any more than what she already knew about us. She expressed appreciation for her parents' and grandparents' enduring marriages, and also for the fact that there had been no divorces by her husband's parents or grandparents.

She and her husband seem like uncommonly sensible young people. One day when we were grocery shopping on our recent trip there, I mentioned that I always spend more when my husband goes along. "Oh, I don't take Randy shopping," she said. "And I budget and make a list!" I agreed that that was a wise thing to do (although I do enjoy Howard going shopping with me!). They are also serious about their education, he having just graduated college and Michaela taking classes as well as working!

How fast our grandchildren are growing up! And I agree with what one friend said when I posted some family pictures of when the children were young on Facebook's 'Throwback Thursday': "How time fliesssss!" When I look back, I wonder how we raised six children! But God was faithful, meeting our needs and providing for their educations. I read once that to raise good kids there has to be a nurturing figure and an authority figure in the home, in other words, Mom and Dad.

Yesterday, Howard was in Staples getting something copied, which happened to be some Christian material. The clerk surprised him by asking, "Oh, can you tell me in the Bible where it speaks of the Bride of Christ?" She said a customer had remarked, "I don't want to be the "bride" of Christ. Why does the Bible say that?" He gave her the references she wanted.

"Well, the Bible does say marriage represents the relationship of Christ and the church," I said, "calling it a great mystery." There are many scriptures on marriage in the Bible, and I'm sure Michaela and Randy are aware of them, having been brought up in the church. In fact, Randy is to be ordained in ministry in the near future! I think they have access to all they need for a successful marriage! And since they both already work in the church and her parents and grandfather are ministers, you might say they are "throwbacks!" to their ministerial heritage!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Temporary Address

"She is 106 years old!" the nursing home resident said of her friend as they sat side-by-side in wheel chairs. Wow! We had heard about her in the church service just before, as her name was mentioned in a prayer request. Now here she was in the hallway. "She worked for the telephone company, and so did I," our informant shared proudly, "and she worked at the post office, and I did, too!"

When I heard that the church we had recently began attending had a nursing home service, I told my husband, and he quickly inquired about helping with it. This was the first time we had come, and Howard had brought his guitar. We were told to be there at 8:30, but it seemed no one had gathered yet. I asked a wheel-chair patient in the hall if she would like me to push her to the service. She seemed a little disinterested, but she agreed.

I placed her alongside some other residents who had trickled in, but soon she had wheeled herself to a place beside where I was sitting behind a table. "I like it better over here," she stated. Maneuvering into place, she encountered unfriendly resistance by another attendee. I looked to see another oldster firmly pushing against this fellow-resident's wheel chair. "You don't run this place!" the first lady said through clenched teeth, as the other patient glared at her! Apparently everything is not all sweetness and light in nursing homes!

The service seemed well organized, with two men coming in bearing communion trays, one standing at the podium and speaking a few words from scripture, then the other praying before they began passing out the communion elements. They served us as well, and we held our cups and bread, waiting on all to be served. But then I noticed some drinking it immediately and thought it was just their mistake. Turns out that's the way it was done here, and we were left holding our cups as the men left the room! We immediately took our communion!

We had a nice visit with the pianist who had come in to accompany the singing and left immediately afterward. I helped with assisting the patients find the right page in the songbook, and was impressed by their participation in the singing. One male voice dominated as it boomed out. "He used to be the shop teacher in high school," the director confided to me.

After a short devotional, everyone joined together in saying the Lord's prayer and their memory verse, John 3:16. Just before she dismissed, the leader invited Howard to play the guitar and sing, which he thoroughly enjoyed, walking around making eye contact with patients as he strummed and sang a couple of choruses.

Several began wheeling themselves out, and I looked for someone to help. I realized I didn't know their room numbers, and some were obviously not able to tell me. One lady said she knew where her room was, however. I pushed her down the hall and she didn't see her room, so we entered the next hall. Then a tall man met us, saying hello to her. "Her room is around the corner, first room on the right." he said, "I will take her home."

None of us know when our time will come, some may live to be 106 and others younger could go out in a car accident or some other untimely way. When I die, how wonderful it will be to hear God or an angel say, like the man in the hall, "I will take her home!"


Friday, September 5, 2014

All God's Children

I found my shoes! What a surprise! I did not leave them at a motel during our trip! Unpacking, I unzipped a side pocket of one of the suitcases at home, and there they were! I had gone shopping for a replacement pair while in Georgia, but the cute, strappy ones I bought didn't feel so great later and would have to be returned.

"Let's stop at the store and return them before we leave town," I suggested as we were about to depart to visit our Tennessee daughter. It was about 9:30 a.m. when we got to the store, but the sign said they didn't open until 10:00. We decided to wait and return them at the mall in Johnson City. No problem, but I didn't get around to buying any more shoes. And now I don't have to!

One day during our vacation Howard had to get a prescription filled at the Walmart pharmacy. I was waiting for him at a table at the in-store McDonald's, people-watching as they checked out their groceries in front of me. Suddenly a voice said, "I like your shirt." I looked up to see a friendly, Tennessee woman talking to me, and I said, "Thank you!"

"I like the colors," she went on, of my multi-colored top. I told her I had bought it at a store in Kansas. "I like your necklace, too," she continued, "It matches your shirt." Then, "Did you buy that there, too?" I didn't remember where I had bought it, but I thanked her. Soon she took her leave and I could see her going back toward the meat department where she obviously worked.

We had to go to the grocery store after we had gotten home, and as we pushed our basket toward the check-out, a stranger came up to Howard and me and abruptly said, "You are an attractive couple!" I was a bit taken aback, but he had thrown his arm around Howard's shoulder and said, "God told me to move to Blackwell from California."

Soon my loquacious husband was engaged in conversation with him, finding common ground with him about everything from scriptural insights to their residence location. "I bought so-and-so's house," the man volunteered, and Howard knew exactly where that was. The former owner's wife had been the secretary of our junior high school!

I guess we seem very approachable, especially Howard. Recently we had attended a drive-in theater for the viewing of the movie, God's Not Dead! Before it started, Howard went to get me some water. While he was gone, I thought the man in the next car was rather friendly, and when Howard came back, they chatted through the open car windows.

That Sunday at church, a man came up and said, "You were parked next to us at the drive-in!" We hadn't even recognized them, since we were newcomers to the church. Then his wife walked up and surprised us by saying, "I saw this distinguished-looking man walking toward the car with water, and I thought I recognized you!"

Well, my husband does look a little distinguished, I guess, with his reading glasses riding low and his serious demeanor. But I think people really see God in him, and kindred spirits are drawn to him. He has been a minister for nearly 30 years, having preached just last Sunday at our daughter and son-in-law's church in Tennessee.

Isaiah 52:7 reads, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Those were mountains where Howard was preaching, and unlike me, he didn't misplace his shoes!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Home Again

"I want to go through Siloam Springs," my husband announced as we were about to come upon our exit for the highway that would take us to Tulsa. Tulsa. Our nemesis! Every time we were routed through there, we got lost, due to detours around road construction!

"Why do you want to go that way?" I protested, figuring it would take longer, and I was already worn out after two days on the road returning from our trip. He said he hadn't been to the small town in some sixty years, and he wanted to go there. I knew that's where his brother, a young, traveling evangelist, met the girl who would be his wife, and there were family ties there. But he also reminded me that his great-grandfather used to pastor a church nearby, and that his family had taken him there as a small child.

"There was a spring near there where my mother always insisted on stopping for some of the good water," he explained. Actually, I went there and saw the spring and church on a trip with Howard and his family when we were teenage sweethearts.

The route he had decided on would take us to Siloam Springs via Fayetteville. Suddenly I felt like I was back in Tennessee! The curvy, scenic, mountain roads soon gave way to breathtaking beauty! I hadn't seen heights like this since we crossed Sam's Gap and Fancy Gap, deep, blue, mist-shrouded chasms in North Carolina a few years ago! I ooh-ed and ah-ed in appreciation and wonder.

"Jeannean thought this was the prettiest place on earth," Howard said of his late sister-in-law, young then and a school teacher in the area. Well, it was very beautiful! But the hairpin curves were a little unnerving.

He didn't recognize a thing in Siloam Springs, the main thoroughfare of the sleepy little town having been transformed into a strip of restaurants, agencies, banks and other miscellaneous businesses. "What is that thing in the distance?" I asked. It looked like a monument of colossal proportions, but drawing nearer, we saw it was a casino, complete with a waterfall cascading down its rocky heights.

We were hesitant to follow the signs leading to Tulsa, so Howard stopped for directions, even though we had our GPS. We wanted to avoid the detours through the city at all costs. "He said this was the right way," my husband reported, getting back in the car. Sure enough, we navigated through the metropolis and soon found ourselves clear of the city and on the final leg of our journey home!

What if we hadn't taken the route Howard had spontaneously decided to take? We would not have been on a clear path through Tulsa! Thank you, Lord, for being with us on this 2,000 mile trip! We had been safe all the way! Not only that, but our mechanically-inclined grandson had taken it upon himself to work until midnight on the eve of our departure replacing our brakes! Something very necessary on the mountain roads! Every time we make it home safe and sound from a long, arduous trip, we consider it something of a miracle! And I believe it is!

Balancing Act

OMG! Someone fraudulently got our card number! The bank showed an expenditure in Florida, where we had not been on this trip! A wasted vacation morning was spent on calls, faxing, and fixing before we could enjoy strolling the quaint streets of downtown Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest city.

We still had a bad taste in our mouth from a couple of shoddy incidents we experienced before on this trip. I had selected a bottle of water for 99 cents at a convenience store and was charged $1.29. We were promised a free dessert at a restaurant, then charged for it. My husband called it to their attention, and it was grudgingly removed from our tab, but the deduction was never shown on our statement.

Howard had gone in to buy a candy bar at a service station and noticed it was on sale for $1.89. They charged $2.19 at the register and were disgruntled at having to price-check. While most of these infractions were minor, it seemed to show a pattern of deception becoming all too common in retailing.

Thankfully, there are many pleasant memories of our trip that outweigh the disappointments. On entering a dollar store in Tennessee, our ears were met with a courteous, engaging voice on the intercom announcing store specials. Something about the enthusiasm and timbre of the voice made me say, "That sounds like a preacher!"

As we were checking out, Howard complimented the clerk on the store's announcement. The man's voice when he said, "I'm just trying to live for Jesus," prompted my husband to ask, "Was that you?" to which he answered, "Yes, and I wish He was coming back today!"

The woman behind us in line said, "Me, too!" and I said, "Me, too!" also.

Turns out the man behind the register was the store manager. "We go to a Bible study back in Oklahoma taught by the manager of one of these stores!" Howard shared.

When a cashier at a quick stop a few days before said, "Have a blessed day!" as we headed out the door, Howard turned around and said, "I'm glad I came in here!" He gave her and the girl beside her one of the scripture cards that he carries. The piercings at the edge of their smiles didn't detract from their look of sincerity as they promised to keep the cards.

On our way home, we were trying to decide whether or not to have the meatloaf special offered at Cracker Barrel. "Could I have a bite as a sample to see if I like it?" I ventured to the friendly waitress. She went to check, and though it wasn't permitted, we both ordered it. I was surprised (though I don't know why), when I heard Howard say when the server brought our lunch, "Would you ask the blessing over our food?"

"I sure will," she replied, then bowed her head and said, "Lord, I ask you to bless the food of these young people and give them safety on their travels and meet every need they have. In the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen." We thanked her and heard her say as she walked off, "I've never had that happen before!" Then, in an undertone, the mumbled words, "In season and out of season," as she went away shaking her head.