Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paid in Full: Signed, Sealed and Delivered

"I bought something to send to Maddie to make up for when she got her feelings hurt," I said to son Jamie. The five-year-old had been upset when her sister got a birthday present in the mail and there was nothing for her.

"It's a calendar to mark off days till Christmas," I told him. "There's a piece of candy behind each tab," I explained, to which their father asked warily, "Did you get one for Anne-Marie, too?"

Okay, so a trip to the store to get one for the other competitive little Miss! Well, of course! She would like to mark off the days, too, I realized.

The roof slant on the house-shaped novelty would make it be hard to put in a square box for mailing, I mused later. I definitely wanted it to be in a strong package, since the last semi-fragile item I sent arrived in two pieces! The lightweight box and chocolate figurines in a flimsy plastic tray might not hold up to postal tossing and stacking.

A pizza box! It looked like it would fit in a pizza box. We got one, but the pointed roof didn't fit. Then I saw a HUGE mailing envelope at Walmart, but it was just a tad too small! We managed to get it wrapped by padding the roof with the mailing envelope, modifying the pizza box, and encasing the whole thing in brown paper and mailing tape.

A few days ago I answered a knock at the door to a woman and a couple of boys shivering on my screened porch. "We are selling popcorn for the Boy Scouts," the mom said. (Maybe she said 'delivering.') I asked how much, and she replied, "$15.00."

"Ooh! No, thank you!" I said.

Last night our son Greg called from where he is working out of state. "Mom, I had ordered some popcorn from the Boy Scouts, and my friend called and said you refused to pay!" Say what? "I told her my folks would pay for it, as I was going out of town," he laughed. I found some money he had left, so the next night I received the popcorn! Provision had been made to pay for the popcorn, but I didn't know it!

I thought of how Jesus has paid our debt, even before we knew about Him. Like the passenger on a ship who managed to get a ticket to cross the ocean. He scrimped and saved to afford crackers and cheese to eat, until one day it was called to his attention that his ticket had included meals!

My little granddaughters know how to press in! They will not be denied anything they think is rightfully theirs (at this stage, anyway). Jesus gives the example of the friend coming at midnight to borrow three loaves of bread (Luke 11:5-8). He says the loaves were given because of the friend's persistence.

"And I say unto you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Luke 11:9.

Monday, November 17, 2014

It Is Well

There is nothing like coming in from church on a snowy, wintry Sunday to the aroma of an oven meal wafting through the house! I had surrounded the chicken with carrots, potatoes, onion, and even a sweet potato. There were some fresh green beans I wouldn't have time to cook, then, as an afterthought, I made a couple of small bundles and placed them in the roasting pan, as well.

In a pre-Thanksgiving mode, I guess, I had cut a gorgeous, green-and-orange acorn squash in half, slathered the inside with a brown sugar/butter/maple syrup mixture and baked it. Served in individual bowls and glazed to perfection, the lowly vegetable with the beautiful scallops looked delicious, and tasted that way, too!

We set the table with our prettiest dishes and ate in the dining room. My biggest platter held the colorful vegetables, including the long green beans steamed just right, and the tasty chicken. I even remembered some dinner rolls and warmed them in the oven.

We'd already had a wonderful spiritual "meal" at church. After several of the newer, contemporary songs, our praise and worship service had ended with the stirring hymn, "It is Well with My Soul." The congregation sang the reassuring words with heartfelt fervor:

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrow like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast caused me to say, ""It is well, it is well with my soul.

And especially the verse that says:

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part, but in whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Oh my soul.

Some were moved to go to the altar and pray in the heavy sense of God's presence that prevailed.

The pastor's message, dealing with the uncertainty of our times, held the theme of "Fear Not!" following the scriptures of Luke 21:25-28. Verse 26 tells of "Men's hearts failing them for fear" at the things coming on the earth.

He stressed the words, "Look up," from verse 28: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

Pastor closed the service by having the congregation sing the last verse of the song:

Oh Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as the scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so it is well with my soul!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

21 (Grand) Kids and Counting!

I was in a hurry to mail the birthday package to my almost-eight-year-old granddaughter. I found a box that would fit, but I didn't have any wrapping paper on hand. What about the comics? We still had Sunday's paper, and I at first considered the black-and-white pages of the cartoons, but looking further, I pulled out the brightly-colored smaller comic section.

The books looked cute wrapped individually and tied in a stack with some red grosgrain ribbon I had. I hoped it didn't look too make-do, but I think a grandmother (even a Mimi), is entitled to a little eccentricity!

Face Time came on last night with Anne-Marie displaying the books for the camera. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I could see by her shy smiles that she liked them. And it was a present for me that she read aloud a couple of pages for us! Then she said, "The paper was really neat!" Score!

"Did you get a bike for your birthday?" Pa Pa asked her, to which she replied, "No, I learned how to ride a bike!" Then she went outside and demonstrated her new-found skill for us by wheeling around the yard. I'm sure that good feeling of accomplishing a childhood milestone was like a birthday present, too!

Baby Isaac came onto the scene, and Pa Pa remarked that we heard he had climbed the stairs! "Wanta see?" son Jamie asked. I held my breath as proud daddy put Isaac near the staircase. The little climber, hovered over by dad with the iPhone, didn't stop until he had reached the third floor! The playroom! The mother-lode of toy land!

Thankfully Isaac won't be able to reach the stairs on his own, with all the fences and gates they have. Riding herd on those fences seems to be a constant requirement, though, as I have learned young Isaac's new nickname is "Houdini." If he finds a gap, as he did near the piano recently, he maneuvers, flattens himself against said piano, and squeezes through to freedom!

In mailing Anne-Marie's present, I realized I hadn't put anything in for Maddie, the five-year-old. I'd never forgotten this before, and I could only hope she was getting big enough to understand about birthday presents. Wrong! She sat with head down poring intently over the books as she flipped the pages and refused to look at the camera. I was feeling terrible until she finally looked up, tossed a cascade of red hair and flashed a big smile. It may have helped that I promised to put something in the mail!



Monday, November 10, 2014

Birthdays

"What would you like for your birthday, Anne-Marie?" I asked my granddaughter who is turning eight in a few days. We were on Face Time watching her baby brother open the gift we had sent for his birthday, which is 10 days before that of his big sister.

The little charmer turned her lovely green eyes toward the ceiling and thought a moment, then named something I couldn't quite make out. "What did you say?" I asked, to which she replied, quite clearly this time, "A Target Gift Card!" I laughed in surprise, and realized that she is becoming quite a sophisticated young lady!

Later, I asked her dad for some ideas , telling him I was thinking of getting her some books. He suggested some children's titles, which I found the other day. "I hope she likes them," I said as I spoke to him today.

"Yes, she's into reading," my son said. "She's been reading the Bible to us on the way to church. Right now she's in the Book of Job." Wow! I didn't know she was that sophisticated! I'm used to her serious, grown-up ways, though, since that is her personality. Perhaps it is partly because she is the oldest of the three children. Her dad said she is a thinker and a problem solver.

Maddie, 5, is a thinker, too, one who thinks outside the box! In her imaginative mind, anything is possible, even getting George Washington's autograph, which she requested recently. The other day she was heard pondering, "Why am I so smart? It must be my brain!"

Baby Isaac celebrated being a year old by terrifying his parents yesterday. Our son abruptly hung up the phone during our conversation saying, "I gotta go!" When he called back, he said Tammy had found Isaac at the top of the stairs! He was smiling proudly, as if to say "Look what I can do!" One more space to fence off!

I just found out that Anne-Mary will play Mary in the children's Christmas pageant at their church! She will be perfect for the role. I can just see her blonde tendrils escaping a demure, (probably) blue head covering surrounding her angelic face. Baby Jesus may not have had blonde hair like little Isaac, but by the time he was a year old, I'm sure He was keeping His mother on her toes!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Soothing Rx

"Carol sent you a plant," my husband said as he came in from a Bible study at the home of friends. "It's aloe vera, for your burn," he continued. Oh, I had wanted to use aloe vera when I burned my arm a few days before! But some antiseptic spray had stopped the burning, and now it was healing nicely.

A few hours later I awoke with my arm itching madly at the burn site. I realized I'd probably been scratching it in my sleep, but knowing it was likely just healing as the dry skin peeled off. Still, I couldn't sleep. Then I thought of the aloe vera plant. I went in and broke off a spear and applied the oozy, clear gel to the sensitive skin. After awhile, sleep came easily, and I awoke rested.

I thought of the balm of Gilead mentioned in the Bible. "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" -Jeremiah 8:22. Gilead was an important source of medicines and spices, including balm from balsam trees grown there.

My husband says that when he was a boy, his mother swore by Cow Salve. He said it was applied to any cut or sore that he encountered during the rough play of his childhood. Evidently, she had been introduced to it back on the farm when they applied it to abrasions and scratches on their cattle.

I remember my brothers responding to ads in comic books to sell Cloverine Salve. They were sure they could earn some of the valuable prizes offered: bicycles, bb guns or roller skates and such. Alas, they ended up returning much of the merchandise; although it was only 25 cents for a small, flat tin, not many people wanted to part with their quarters.

I can still see the bonus give-away for those who made a purchase: Dark blue cardboard wall art with religious sayings or verses scrolled in glittery script across the surface. They adorned many modest homes around the countryside back then.

Sometimes the word, salve, is used to mean "sooth," as in hurt feelings. Several months ago, my husband and I were eating out for an early Mother's Day lunch. Disappointingly, the soup we were served was not hot, only barely warm. When the server came by to inquire about everything, I mentioned it. She promised to bring hot soup right away.

After several apologies and promises from various people, we received fresh bowls of soup. Not only that, the manager appeared, saying our lunch was on them and giving us a certificate for a complimentary meal next time we were in. That certainly salved our feelings!

By the time we decided to use the certificate, I could not find it! I searched my purse thoroughly to no avail, as did my husband his wallet. Finally we regretfully gave it up as lost and forgot about it. Then yesterday as I was looking for my voter registration card in my wallet, there it was! The certificate! Now I can't wait to use it! The perfect balm!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

You Are My Sunshine

"That's my sunset!" I exclaimed when I saw the picture on the front page of Monday's paper. A news photographer had captured the same glorious scene (at a better angle) of the setting sun Sunday evening. The stunning celestial display was the harbinger of an approaching cool front bringing rain to our area.

Sure enough, dismal, chilly weather has been ours for a couple of days. It's really not so unpleasant, though. The autumn leaves glisten in the dampness and the warm house is inviting. The sprinkles did not keep us from doing our civic duty of voting this November 4. The little "I Voted" sticker is still on my jacket.

Another important November date for us is November 7th. Our grandson Isaac's first birthday! It was so fun picking out some small toys today to send to him. Maybe I will get to see his reaction to them on Face Time!

Apparently his mom brought down a set of large-size connecting blocks from the upstairs playroom the other day. "You should have seen his eyes light up when he saw the bright-colored, plastic blocks," Jamie said. "Tammy said it was like the time we first put him into his activity saucer and he saw the attached toys. Then he was so excited he was almost shaking!"

His proud father was talking about his little son during our phone conversation today. He said Isaac loves to get out of the gated enclosure of his play area. "I let him walk around through the house yesterday," Jamie said. "He would stop and look, studying everything." Cataloging it in his memory, no doubt. I'm sure the little blonde bundle of curiosity loves his new-found independence since he began walking.

"We caught him trying to brush his hair," Jamie chuckled. "He was using the wrong side of the brush, but going through the motions," he said. Babies are such imitators! That is how they learn, of course, which is why it is so important to set a good example for them.

And they grow up so fast! Our 18-year-old grandson Kyle exercised his privilege to vote for the first time today. We have watched this active boy with the love of airplanes grow into a mature young man who pilots gliders, leads his school band as a drum major, and is into film making, having made his own short movie.

God grant that all our grandchildren have a safe and stable world to grow up in. May our vote make a difference and may we see change for the better in the direction of our country. And may there be many beautiful sunsets ahead!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Open My Eyes, Lord!

Tonight I was watching a Little House on the Prairie episode of when daughter Mary lost her eyesight. It focused on Mary going away to a school for the blind, and how she learned to cope and lead a fulfilling life. I remembered reading in one of the Little House books that their mother told Laura to be Mary's eyes for her. Laura learned to describe in detail the things she saw so that Mary could imagine them. She painted pictures with words for Mary to see through her eyes.

It occurred to me that this act of kindness and compassion for her sightless sister more than likely contributed to Laura Ingalls Wilder's remarkable writing skills that have left readers spellbound for generations. You might say Laura learned to see with her heart, so that Mary could do the same.

A little while ago I happened to be outside at sunset and was glad I had my phone to snap a picture. The clouds were glorious, tinted an orangey-pink against the turquoise of the twilight sky. In the bat of an eye, the colors had drained from the sky, leaving only grey masses like ancient battleships sailing into the horizon.

If we don't open our eyes to the marvels of our surroundings, we fail to see the everyday miracles that God performs so faithfully. And if we don't open our mouth in an effort to reach out to others, we are missing much. Yesterday we attended a funeral, and as people gathered afterward for a fellowship meal, my husband introduced himself to a stranger.

"Hi, my name is Howard Summers," he said as he reached to shake the man's hand. The man then gave Howard his name, to which my husband responded, "I knew people by that name in Mississippi."

"What part of Mississippi?" the man asked, and Howard replied, "Picayune."

"Picayune!" the stranger exclaimed.

"Do you know where that is?" my spouse asked. The man said they had lived there 20 years! They had moved away only a few years before we left there, after our living there 20 years! What are the odds? These people were from western Oklahoma and were only here for this relative's funeral. We had a nice visit recalling familiar businesses, people and places and interests we had in common. Small world!

But a beautiful world it is, full of beautiful people! As a son-in-law gave the eulogy for the departed yesterday, he said, "We all know what a great guy John was, but I think there are a few things about him you didn't know." He listed a few interesting tidbits, then said, "You probably didn't know John was a romantic." He told what a devoted husband our friend was, and concluded by saying, "They celebrated their anniversary every Wednesday!"

I'm thinking, "Here was a man who had learned to see with his heart!"

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October 31

My husband has a soft spot for the down and out, and sometimes he gets more than he bargained for in doing a good deed. When a friend rode up on his bicycle the other day and asked for some odd jobs, Howard spent the morning with him mowing and weed-eating in the yard.

About noon, Howard came in and asked me to make him a sandwich while he took Joe home in our truck. It was only a short distance away, so I wondered what was taking him so long. Then the phone rang. "Joe wants me to help him move a few boxes," Howard said, "I'll be a little late."

Time wore on, and finally my hungry husband came home, explaining: "Joe got evicted from his apartment, and he wanted me take some boxes in my truck to a storage unit he had rented. I said okay, but it turned out he hadn't even packed the boxes yet. When we got to the storage facility, he had to fill out papers to get the unit." So that's what took so long!

"He wants me to come back tomorrow and help him move the rest of his stuff," Howard said wearily. He told me Joe was worried about where he would live, as his girl friend had no room, because her brother was living with her. The next day he found out Joe had secured a place at his niece's home, but he had to sleep on the floor, since more relatives were staying with her.

Yesterday Joe helped Howard and our son cut up a tree and do work on the farm, and when my helpful husband was taking him home, he was informed that Joe needed to find a mattress to sleep on on the hard floor.

"Take me to the Salvation Army," Joe said. They had no mattresses. Joe directed him to several other charitable organizations, but they either had none or no longer gave out mattresses. Try Habitat," Joe said hopefully, "maybe they have one."

An employee was just locking the door to Habitat for Humanity when they arrived. "Do you have any mattresses?" Joe inquired, to which she said, "No, but we just put one in the dumpster out back."

"It looked okay, with no stains," my husband said. "Joe was elated!" Maybe he'll be able to get a good night's sleep and Howard will get some rest!

"Now let's go get some lunch!" my spouse suggested. We had fun taking advantage of the 50-cent corn dogs at Sonic, and the free ice cream (custard) cones at Freddy's! Last night we went to the church Fall Festival, for which we had helped decorate, and enjoyed seeing the cute kiddos, the ingenious program skits with a message, and the fresh-baked soft pretzels. There were also the chocolate fountain (the theme was Willy Wonka), candy apples and plenty of candy!

Going out the church door, I was met by an adorable munchkin coming in covered in fur. "Are you a bear?" I asked the probably 4-year-old child. "No, I'm a girl!" she exclaimed. "What is your costume?" I clarified, and she said, "A fox!"

We got home in time to cover the plants for the expected freeze and went to bed on a satisfied note, thankful for a good day!