Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Story

Finishing my Christmas decorating a couple of weeks ago, I pulled out my treasured Nativity set and started to unwrap the figurines, absently listening to my husband and son, Greg, talk. As I unwrapped each piece, I set it on an occasional table holding a small Christmas tree, intending to place them on the mantle when I finished.

"That looks good, Mom," Greg said, and our grandson, Adam, agreed with him. I started to say I was going to move them, but then I realized how pretty they looked under the green branches with beads draped in scallops above them. It lent a touch of royalty to the scene of regal wise men offering their precious gifts to the newborn King, so I decided to leave them there. The tiny white lights reminded me of stars in that holy night sky.

But when it was time to unplug the lights from their extension cord, my hand bumped the tallest wise man, knocking it over onto the table ledge, and off went his head! I found it under an ottoman and hoped it could be glued back on. A couple nights later, another wise man lost his head! This time it was not so easy to re-align the head to the shoulders! After much wasted gluing effort, I put them away with what pieces I could find.

"How are you at gluing?" I asked my grandson next time they were over. He looked a little skeptical, but said he would take the figurines home and work on them. Last night Greg showed me that he had finished one of them. It's back under the tree, the imperfections covered by a mini-scarf around the neck. The other one is still a work in progress. I solved the problem of unplugging the lights by just leaving them on!

This little incident reminded me of people who are broken and sometimes cast aside by the world. But if they meet and accept Jesus, who is not a babe in a manger anymore, but One Who makes whole, they can be restored. Though they may have scars, cracks and imperfections, these are covered by the love of Jesus, just as his blood covers their sins. And what better time to come to Him than at Christmas? The lights are still on! He never unplugs them, for the light of His love shines forever, even for us who are still a work in progress!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Giving Thanks!

As we were leaving our son's house after a wonderful Thanksgiving family gathering, something on the table caught my eye. Red and shiny, it was the little mask that was part of a cape set I had brought our little grandson, Isaac, just turned three, for his birthday! He had had so much fun wearing it, and exclaiming, "Where my 'gasses'?" when he misplaced it. His family had already left, so I picked the toy up and brought it home to mail to him.

I could see he received it when he showed up sporting it on Facebook yesterday! Then his father sent a video to my phone of Isaac tearing through the house in the red mask. When he saw the FB picture, he had remarked, "Me 'Pider-Man'!"

How we had enjoyed him and the other grandchildren on this trip, especially when we visited the picturesque, historic square of Georgetown, a place that looked like the setting for a Hallmark Christmas movie! Isaac had loved the little old-fashioned toy store with its educational, wooden toys. We could hardly pull him away from a roller-coaster type track where he never tired of placing a marble and watching it roll down the circuitous route.

Our hostess and daughter-in-law, Rhonda, told us of a more modern shopping mall not far from there where an outdoor fireplace was built into the wall of a store complex with rocking chairs out front! That's where Howard spent most of his time with various men-folk of the family, while "us girls" shopped till we dropped!

We were filling time waiting for 5:30 when the lighting of the square was scheduled. Our group was ambling along behind the others toward the courthouse where the festivities would begin. Foot traffic was increasing, and as we drew closer, we saw Mark and Rhonda sitting on a bench, covered up with a patchwork quilt, saving us a place! Did we get smiles and remarks as people passed: "Can we sit with you?" "What a good idea!" "Aw, it's not that cold!"

But it was cold, and at last the ceremony started with Christmas songs. Jolly at first, they were followed by the joyous Christmas hymns, the air filled with the strains of "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger," and others. Then the night world lit up brilliantly as Santa pulled the switch, and every tree, branch and building was outlined in illumination! We carried these memories back on our long trip home to Oklahoma, ready to begin the Christmas season!

Christmas Spirit!

Trees are up (small ones), house decorated, most of the mementos have been pulled out and displayed. I have a good start on Christmas.  The church Christmas play will be this Sunday, and caroling Sunday night.

We felt in the Christmas spirit last Friday, when Howard and I donned red aprons and rang bells for the Salvation Army.  People were bustling in and out of Hobby Lobby, our assigned location, mostly intent on their shopping, but a good many took time to stop, reach in pocket or purse, and place a donation in the kettle.

Exiting the church Sunday, I stopped at the Angel Tree and took a tag with the name of a little boy and his wishes for Christmas.  This was a Salvation Army project, also. It took awhile to find the items on the five-year-old's wish list. (We didn't even know what an Emoji pillow was, nor what kind of Ninja he wanted!) And although our 10-year-old granddaughter thrives on something called Minecraft, I didn't even go there!

Confident we knew where the Salvation Army was, we headed there, but checking directions, we realized this was not the drop-off place. Howard turned the car around as we hunted the elusive location that did not seem to match the street address. "There it is!" I exclaimed after we had circled, back-tracked, and was almost ready to give up. The smiling attendant added my bag to the growing mountain of tagged goods that would soon be delivered to needy children for Christmas. Whew! I thought, next time I may just give money!

Still, someone would have to do the leg work, and gifts for some 400 children would take a lot of shopping! Also, hunting and buying gifts ourselves made it seem more personal as we thought about the child who would receive them. Other personal, hands-on, happenings occurred the day of the bell-ringing. Afterwards, we stopped at McDonald's for lunch. Entering, we noticed a bent figure we recognized as the guy who walks all over town every day, digging in trash cans for food or picking up cigarette stubs and smoking them.

While Howard ordered, I went to the ladies room. I almost bumped into a woman in there sitting in a chair, her body shaking and trembling uncontrollably while a younger woman stood nearby. "Is she sick?" I asked, to which they nodded, and her friend said, "She almost passed out!"

"Can I pray for you?" I heard myself say! She looked surprised, but agreeable. Suddenly I felt the strength of the Holy Spirit as I laid hands on her head and said, "Be healed, in Jesus name!" I thanked them and walked out. Howard had just gotten our order, and when I asked him what took so long, he said he had bought lunch for the man outside. Like I said, the personal touch.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Faithful and True

I saw a meme about coffee this morning that made me think of something that happened last Sunday.  We were to have a fellowship dinner after church, and I was delivering something to the kitchen while Howard waited in the Sunday School classroom.  When I went into the class, I was stunned to see my husband sitting alone in a chair at the back of the room, covered with coffee! He had huge splotches covering the sleeves of his (thankfully, brown) shirt, and stains spreading down his lap and the legs of his (thankfully, brown) pants!

"What happened?" I mouthed in a hoarse whisper, trying not to disturb the teacher who was taking prayer requests.  He tried to explain, and I finally understood that he had gotten a cup of coffee, and balancing it as he sat down, he plopped into the chair harder than he had meant to! The coffee splashed into the air and came down on his clothes!  I grabbed tissues from my purse and blotted furiously. Remarkably, (or miraculously), by the time church was over and the luncheon began, the stains were indiscernible!

We were eating at Chick-fil-A at a college town recently, noting all the orange shirts people in the considerably large crowd there were wearing. OSU was playing a big game, and there were plenty of loyal supporters.  I loved watching the diners, especially the little kids there with their parents.  One little boy, little more than a year old, was wearing the requisite orange t-shirt with a large numeral "1" in a white circle on the back of his shirt.  The tot was being shepherded along by his dad, when, quick as a wink, the child strolled behind the counter at the feet of the employees! They smilingly stepped around him until his dad scooped him up!

Then I noticed a different shirt on one of the patrons.  The slogan on the back read, "Well, I haven't been to Heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma!"  I remember meeting a college-age girl on a train once, who  exclaimed how she would love to go to Oklahoma.  Her eyes sparkled as she talked of wanting to see cowboys and horses in her romanticized view of our state.  I was born here and grew up here, but there are other places I like more!

My husband was reminiscing the other day about customers he had when he worked in New Orleans for many years.  One day a young woman came in to buy some merchandise, giving him a credit reference to contact, which he did.  "Oh, yes! That's my daughter!" the voice on the phone exclaimed, vouching for her trustworthiness.  "We are good people," she went on, and spoke fondly of the girl's late father. "We always kept our gate painted!"

Although Oklahoma may not be Heaven, if our sins our blotted out by Jesus, we can be sure we will see that heavenly gate, not painted, but covered in pearl! "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." Revelation 21:21.

Horses and riders are not limited to Oklahoma, for the Bible speaks of white horses and armies in heaven in Revelation 19:11-14! And our Heavenly Father has had his angels on duty all of our lives, scooping us up from danger when we may have been unaware, like the baby in the restaurant!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Egg-Zactly!

Browsing through a farm magazine I had picked up at the farm supply store while accompanying my husband to get feed yesterday, I was drawn to an article on chickens and their egg production.  The article addressed the problem of reduced egg laying in winter. It brought to the forefront the common sense truth (although I never thought of it that way) that while people think the purpose of eggs is for the plate, in reality, eggs are about chicks  and procreation!  So when the days get shorter with less daylight, it is a signal to the hens that winter is coming on and it's not a good time to reproduce!

This innate wisdom, or instinct, we call it, in the animal world is amazing! God put it in all His creatures, the highest of which is man.  Sometimes, though, we are convinced man doesn't display the intelligence God gave us! 

Feeling worn out and under the weather with a sinus problem, I lay down on the sofa for a rest the other afternoon. I don't remember falling asleep, but when I awoke, it was morning! Thinking I was in my bed, I wondered why I had on daytime clothes.  I staggered to the door and looked out at the early-morning light, glancing at the clock to see it was six a.m.  I found Howard sitting at his desk at the computer and asked what he was doing up so early. 

"It's not early, it's late. When will supper be ready?" I heard incongruously!   It was 6:00 o'clock in the evening! The sun was going down, not coming up! What a disconcerting feeling!  No wonder nothing I could think of sounded good for breakfast! What a relief that I could make good old meat and potatoes that tasted delicious.

In today's world, it may be later than we think.  It seems we in the western world have been asleep in our relative comfort and security.  But now we are beginning to wake up. Winter is coming on. Many are buying up disaster food in case of shortages. Even as we call out to God for His mercy on our nation, we know that someday morning will come. Let's be ready when we hear the call, "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." Matthew 25:6.



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Crazy Daze!

Crazy day! We knew we had several things to do, but foremost was getting a tire replaced.  "Go ahead and do that, and I will get ready while you're gone," I suggested.  When Howard came back, it was almost time for lunch, so we thought we would stop for a bite before his doctor visit for a prescription refill.

Since I was in the mood for a baked potato, we headed to Wendy's.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a vehicle blocking their driveway and the restaurant dark and empty!  They were closed! Who knows what happened? Nothing else appealed to  me, but we set out for McDonald's anyway. I placed our order and went to get iced tea.  That's strange, I thought. Where is the tea?  Then I saw the containers shoved back and the spouts turned away.  No tea! What else could happen?

"Why is there no tea?" I asked a server, who said, "We are out! We are waiting on a truck!"

"You mean you couldn't just go to Walmart and buy some tea?" I asked, then he replied saying, "No, because that wouldn't be McDonald's tea!" "Well, better that than nothing," I responded, which made him laugh, "I know, right?"

When I brought our burgers and soft drinks to the table, Howard said, "I wish I had gotten coffee,"   to which I replied, "I thought of that, but I knew you would rather have it with an apple pie." I would order the pie later so it and the coffee would be hot.

The girl gave me the coffee, and I said, "Could we have the pies now, too?" She looked and said they would take 10 minutes to bake.  Howard's coffee was getting lukewarm.  After awhile, I went back to check on them, and a worker said they didn't have any!  I had already paid!

I heard her tell another customer waiting on pies that it would take 15 minutes to bake them.  Finally Howard went to find out about them, and I could see the other pie customer there too.  At last my husband came back with two apple pies saying, "They were ready, but they gave our pies to another man!" They were HOT, even if the coffee was cold!

After the doctor visit, we headed for the farm to feed the animals, since Howard is able to do that now.  Our grandson had filled in for us while we were away.  I got a scoop of cat food for the barn cats and started to pour it in the customary place, but there was plenty of food already there! Howard told me to feed the chickens while he checked their water.  What's this?  Chicken feed was already on the ground!

We were  beginning to suspect that Adam had fed them before going to school, but I filled a bucket of corn for the pigs and goats, only to see from a distance they had some already! We started home, glad for the new tire, a replacement for a new one we had bought Friday which had left us stranded with a blow-out on the road Saturday!  At least I got some eggs from the nest and tomatoes from the vine. All's well that ends well, and I hope that's the last of our crazy days!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hee-Haw!

You learn something new every day!  I did not know that donkeys have the marking of a cross on their backs until I read a reference to it in a Guidepost article.  Apparently, legend has it that they are marked with a cross because their ancestors served the Lord: A donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem, and later to Egypt to preserve the Christ Child's life.  Jesus rode a donkey in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The cross may not be the same on every donkey, but it is usually a dark streak down their back crossed by another dark streak across the shoulders. How interesting! God in His infinite wisdom and divine creativity has filled the world with strange, beautiful and intriguing creatures. 

Today as I headed to deposit our trash in the alley for pick-up, crossing the backyard I noticed flattened, deflated, web-like objects lying on the ground.  I recognized them as the web-worm nests that have decorated some of the trees lately.  I guess they have their purpose in providing protection for the worms hatched there, who must have a purpose. The strong winds of the past few days have done the job of stripping most of the leaves from some of the trees, while others hang on tenaciously, hopefully to deliver autumn colors soon. 

Object lessons sometimes occur to me from ordinary, everyday things, like the worm webs.  Like sin, the webs may be attractive to some at first, but in the end, when the damage to the trees has been done, they are ugly, empty things, fit for nothing but the gutter. The wind has swept them away, just as the wind of the Holy Spirit sweeps through our souls, leaving us with refreshing, invigorating life and new energies and purpose! 

There is yet another way God used a donkey to serve Him for His purpose.  The story of Balaam and the donkey is told in Numbers 22:21-33. This is the account of the donkey that talked! Three times the donkey saved the pagan prophet Balaam from an angel's sword. The donkey saw the angel with a drawn sword and stubbornly refused to go on, even though his master beat him.  The next time he saw the angel on the path, he pressed against the wall, injuring Balaam's foot. Finally, the donkey lies down in the path and asks why he was beaten three times. God had a lesson for Balaam to learn, and He used a donkey to get through to him!

Next time I see a donkey, I'm going to look for the mark of a cross on his back!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

No Doubt!

"I keep feeling like there's someone else in the car with us!" I remarked as I got back into the car with Howard, daughter Julie and her husband, Steve. We had been traveling since early that morning on our way back to Oklahoma from Tennessee.

"I have the same feeling!" Julie exclaimed.  "I've had it all day!"  Then Howard said he had sensed it too, but he just hadn't said anything. What was it? This feeling of familiarity, of sensing a closeness of a presence?

It came to me that it must be the Holy Spirit! In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."  When could we need Him more than while speeding along for 1,000 miles over mountains, curvy roads and through sometimes-heavy traffic?

Jesus assures us in Matthew 14:16, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever." How comforting to think that was the Holy Spirit guiding and protecting us. The trip was flawless all the way home and all the way back for our dear "chauffeurs".

We had been gone so long, (a month) visiting daughters' families that we had to get a prescription refilled as soon as we got home.  After picking it and a few other items up, we were waiting in a checkout line when I noticed a baby in the cart ahead of us.  He was looking intently toward me, saying, "Na-na, na-na," and pointing.  I smiled at him, thinking maybe I reminded him of his grandmother. He wouldn't stop saying, "Na-na,"  seemingly trying hard to make himself understood.  Soon his parents wheeled him away, and I stepped up to the cashier, only to realize he'd been pointing at a bunch of bananas I'd put on the counter. He wanted a banana!

Thinking about that later, I reflected on our youth.  Many of them say grownups don't understand them.  And we don't, sometimes, as they seem to speak their own language, wear faddish clothes, and sometimes do foolish things.  Yet in their own way, they may be desperately trying to tell us something. Like the baby who wanted the banana, they are hungry: for knowledge, experience, self-confidence, acceptance and on and on. 

Thankfully we can point them to Jesus and the Holy Spirit who will guide and comfort them through the perils and challenges they face, and the achievements they gain.  Their ride will be so much smoother if He is in the car with them!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Finding Grandma!

The highlight of our trip was to look for the ancestral cemetery of my mother's people.  We knew it was near a small hamlet in the Appalachian foothills where Mama spent her childhood. We had even seen pictures of her mother's headstone. So it was with high hopes that we set out  this morning, two carloads of us, without exact directions, but full of confidence that we could locate it.

The views of the mountains were breathtaking, especially glimpsed through an opening in the trees when we caught sight of the Smokey Mountain range in the distance, ghostly spectres looming like phantom sailing ships against the horizon. The immediate mountains seemed close and friendly, the fall colors just beginning to transform them into a palette of red, orange and yellow. No wonder my mother loved these mountains and talked about them all her life!

Her family had moved to Texas when Mama was 12 years old, but she never forgot the fun times of growing up in Tennessee. Her childish antics and adventures were revealed in a 14-page memoir shared only recently with our family from a Texas relative.

Our daughter, Julie, has lived an hour's drive from this area with her family for the past 10 years, and has searched several times for the resting place of her forbears with no avail.  I began to think that would be our lot, as we drove down an endless, curving road, past a settlement we thought near my mother's home place, which never came into view.  Turns out the community does not exist any more, at least not in the name by which Mama knew it. 

Turning around, we decided to stop at a post office, the only substantial business we had encountered.  Although no automobiles were in the parking space, I went in only to read that office hours were from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. weekdays, and 7:00-12:00 Saturdays.  Returning to the car, I saw our granddaughter, driver of the other car, leaning into her father's car window with her phone in hand.  She had Googled the exact location, and shortly we followed the directions up a winding country lane, then a right turn brought us to it!

The scene materialized before my eyes like a movie set!  I had seen this in a picture, and here it was in reality! Yellow leaves from huge trees seemed to cast a restful glow over the fenced lot. The rusty iron gate was not locked, and the aged, even lop-sided, headstones bore their silent, enduring witness to their charges below. A quick glance around revealed the marker I was looking for.  It was the old-fashion stone of the photograph!  My mother's mother, barely 19!  How surreal!

Warm sunlight filtered through the trees almost like a halo as we saw civil war graves, small graves marked by cherubs, and stones of relatives we  hadn't realized rested there. Two of Grandpa's wives were there, his father, my great-grandfather was there, and dates too close together separated by a dash disclosed brief lifetimes.

I still couldn't believe we had found this! It felt like a puzzle piece of history had been put into place! We left with a feeling of gratitude, spirits buoyed by our success, but a little humbled, too, at the presence of those gone before. One of the verses on the headstones read, "Planted on earth, to bloom in heaven." A fine epitaph!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Redeemed!

The pastor told a story this morning relating to his theme of redemption.  In a book on the history of songs, he had read about a prisoner in Brazil who was on death row.  In fact, there were three or four who were to be hanged over the next few days.  A missionary who had come to counsel and pray with them was moved to sing the hymn, Now I Belong to Jesus. Only one of the men responded.  The rugged, unkempt inmate fell and lay prostrate on the dirt floor weeping.

He told the missionary, "I'm going to die in two days and I don't know what to do. Can you help me?"  The missionary gave him hope and the good news of salvation, and he accepted the Lord.  He hugged and embraced the missionary, and when they left, he was reaching through the bars of his cell, singing at the top of his lungs and trying to direct the other inmates in singing the song,  "Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity!"

The sermon stressed the fact that we should admit our own guilt and need of a Savior instead of blaming wrong doings on others. "Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and it's been that way ever since!" came the words from the pulpit.  He told of his two-year-old granddaughter, caught with a marker in her hand and scribbles on the wall, blaming her little friend who had visited.  "She threw an 18-month-old under the bus!" he marveled.

The service closed with communion, after which everyone was invited to bring their empty cup to the front and hold it up to the Lord as a symbol of releasing any bitterness, sin, or lack of dedication, then place it on the altar. It seemed almost everybody went forward. A lighter atmosphere prevailed and smiles reigned as the congregation made its way out the door, and no doubt it remained all the way home. What a great feeling to say with certainty, "I belong to Jesus, and Jesus belongs to me for all eternity!"

Friday, September 30, 2016

Passings

Scrolling through the channels yesterday, my attention was drawn to an arresting tableau in a beautiful building.  I at first thought it a funeral for Shimon Peres, the Israeli prime minister, but I saw it was a church when elaborately clothed clergy circulated on and around the platform. The sight of somber people making their way up the aisle to the altar puzzled me, until I realized it was a communion service.  While most received it, I wondered why some put their arms across their chest, and went on.  I found out later that is what non-Catholics do to receive a blessing instead.

As I viewed the sad assembly, it became apparent  that it was  the funeral of Jose' Fernandez, the acclaimed baseball player who was killed in a boating accident a few days ago. Since I had never seen a Catholic funeral, I was mesmerized and kept watching.

Several speakers came up one by one to give remarks about the departed young man. Emotion was heavy in the room, from the family to the speakers themselves, some of whom wept openly.  One ended his remarks by telling of an incident a couple of years ago when Jose' had been in a pensive mood, dwelling on the disaster of 9/11.  He couldn't get the horrific scene of people jumping out of buildings off his mind, wondering what it was like for them falling to the ground.

The speaker said Jose' hadn't talked about it in a good year and a half, until about six months ago when he said, "I think I know what happened when they faced the end. An angel caught them before they ever hit the earth and took them home to God."  He seemed at peace with the subject then. His friend then said, "That is what I believe happened to Jose'."

Another speaker, through tears, recalled that his star pitcher had come to him awhile back, all happy and smiling, and said, "I bought my mother a house!  I can't believe it!  I'm just a boy from Cuba, and I bought my mother a house in the United States of America!"

When I heard that the athlete was talking about the angels rescuing the 9/11 jumpers, I thought of the old TV show, Quantum Leap. Things would be going along as usual, when the main character was suddenly swept into a new place which he knew nothing about and where he knew no one, with no memory of his former environment!  That is how quickly one can leave this earth.

Thankfully, Someone has "bought" us a house, a home in heaven.  Just as someone may have thought, "No good can come out of Cuba," so someone has said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Jesus started out in people's eyes as an ordinary lad in a small, non-descript village, only to become the Savior of the world. Our heavenly home and our residency has been paid for by His precious blood when He died on the cross.

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building  of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Corinthians 5:1

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

People and Places

"I'll go out to the to the parking lot and get you one!" the kind stranger said as my husband was struggling to get the handicap cart to start. We had unplugged it, and it had started initially, but evidently it wasn't fully charged. "I saw one just outside," he continued as he left for the door.

It was the same quaint-looking, little man we had seen as we were getting out of the car.  He wore a flat top straw hat with a wide, flat brim and farm clothing.  We thought he might be Amish.  Howard thanked him for bringing the cart.  We were picking up a prescription, and after browsing the store while we waited, we ran into the man and his wife as we were exiting the store. The top of her long, grey hair was pulled back to let the rest fall around her shoulders.

"Are you Amish?" Howard asked after thanking them again, to which the man replied, "No, just a blood-washed, born-again child of God!" 

"Then you know the Master!" my loquacious spouse exclaimed, followed by the response, "Not only that, I know the most High God!"

What wonderful people we are meeting in Georgia! The church services were amazing and packed to the brim both Sundays we were there! Coming home from town today we stopped with our grandson for a bite to eat.  "Would you like fries?" the cashier asked as she took the order for hamburgers.  Howard hesitated, then she said, "Oh, I'll just bring you some to the table so you can see if you like them."  Plenty were piled on each plate, and they were the probably the best we'd ever eaten, and so were the burgers!

Saturday we had accompanied our RN daughter on an errand to her hospital in a nearby town. She showed us around her everyday environment, and I must say we were transported back to Howard's hospital experiences a few months ago! Afterwards, we found a store she had heard about, Ollie's Bargain Outlet.  What fun! Carrying top brands of all kinds of new merchandise, the stickers showed reductions for as much as 90 per cent! Howard bought Bibles, and I found Christian children's books  to include with the one I was sending our little grandson in Texas!

We are looking forward to going there again next weekend when our college granddaughter will be able to go with us. Plans are that we will also visit an antique mall there.  Then a trip to see our oldest daughter for a few days in Tennessee! That will wind up our month of vacation. It will be good to get home again and resume our regular routine, but we are so and blessed and thankful for this respite away after a spring and summer of relative confinement during Howard's recuperation. The Lord is good!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Making the Mark

The lamp on her bedside desk revealed something I hadn't seen before, since my husband was the one who slept on that side. She is away at college, so we are staying in our granddaughter's room while visiting her family.  I sat down there to dab some polish on my nails this morning when I noticed it. She had carved her name into the wood of this childhood furniture!  The black paint that had changed it from the original maple camouflaged the inscription, but it was plain as day under the light!  Corrin had left her mark!

Now this bundle-of-energy grandchild is making her mark at college! If she is not studying, cooking,  excelling at sports or hanging with friends, she is thinking of ways to add more to the walls of her living quarters she shares with three other girls.

Corrin has lots of friends, especially those in her sorority.  Her godly dedication is well known among them.  She has a circle of influence--a footprint, you might say. We all leave a footprint, or impression that others observe about us. We are making our mark, whether we realize it or not.

"Even a child is known by his doings, whether it be pure, or whether it be right." Proverbs 20:11.  The Bible also says, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1.

No doubt "Rinnie," as she is affectionately called by her parents, was much younger when she marred or "autographed" her desk. Although she has always had a daring, adventurous bent, it is obvious that she is growing up.  Proverbs 22:4 says, "The reward for humility and favor of the Lord is riches and honor and life."

Just as the light revealed the scar on the desk, the Light of Jesus shines on our mistakes and bad decisions, forgiving them when we repent. Then we are free to share the Good News of salvation with others. "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but  on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." Matthew 5:15. And whether in our own "house" or on the college campus, may the mark that we leave be for Jesus!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Act Now!

That is so cute! I mused to myself as I browsed in the housewares section of a store in Georgia where we are visiting.  I love mason jars as vases, and this one was bigger than the usual pint ones, with the stems of several floppy daisies anchored in a fixative at the bottom. Hmm, maybe I would look a little more, I thought, as several things caught my eye, and I didn't want to accumulate too much on this trip.

Exploring further in the quaint little town, my husband and I located the Christian bookstore/coffee shop we had been to before on our visits. The clearance table with an assortment of items attracted me, and I picked up a couple of small novelties with a Christian motif.  Then I saw a glass cutting board with an artistic coffee mug design and scripture quote on it.  Although I have cutting boards, this would be perfect in my kitchen, what with the coffee theme I have going on.  A little pricey, though, so I would think about it.

A few days later, my daughter and I were in the first store, and I wanted to show her the little vase of flowers.  It was gone!  We looked on several shelves, to no avail.  Nothing else appealed to me. So we left with nothing but the disappointment I was feeling.  Oh well, I didn't give it much more thought.

Then yesterday, Howard and I went back into the bookstore to get a book for our grandson, who will be three in November.  (I had recently seen a video of him "reading" a book--upside down and in French--with animated gestures and expression.)  Since he likes to pray at the table, this was a darling little book about prayer I had seen on our previous visit.  Passing by the clearance table, I felt a twinge of disappointment that the cutting board wasn't there.  The owner said they'd sold it the day before!

"Mama, you'll just have to get what you like when it's there!" my daughter exclaimed about my missing-out scenarios. I agreed. Later I thought about how altar calls are given in church and many people feel drawn to respond, but they think, Not right now, some other time. But the Bible says,   "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near." Isaiah 55:6.

Verses 7-ll implore the unrighteous to return to the Lord, reminding man that "My thoughts are not your thoughts," and that His ways are higher than our ways.  That His word will not return void, but will accomplish the purpose for which He has sent it.

That's what I hope for the little book on prayer for Isaac.  That it will encourage his young desire to pray and accomplish the purpose of my sending it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine and Thou

The picnic spread out on the rustic table looked scrumptious. Our resourceful daughter had laid out crusty sandwiches, chips, cheese (the soft kind in foil wedges), tiny individual packs of peanut butter, and a tantalizing, moist loaf of apple bread she had made this morning, still warm from the oven, all to be washed down by bottle of sparkling apple juice she produced!

The lake behind us sparkled, too, as fish jumped and the sun shone through the branches of the tall pines. We were at Red Top Mountain, her family's favorite get-away and popular recreation area. It was quiet today, though, with only an occasional walker strolling down the path, or a lone long-boarder gliding silently on the smooth water, propelled by the slender pole he held.

Amy is a picnic buff, and as such makes memorable fare.  It was her day off, and when she suggested a picnic, it sounded wonderful!  Just getting up and down the mountain was an experience for us flatlanders.  "You won't get carsick, will you, Mom?" she asked, "the roads are pretty curvy."

Well, they were a little steep, too, but the views were worth it.  Cabins nestled cozily in the pines, a front-porch sitter behind a railing, towel drying in the morning sun and flapping in the breeze, children tentatively picking their way through the trees.  "This is where I had our kids gather huge acorns I shellacked," she said.  I had seen some in a decorative bowl at her house in an attractive arrangement.

Being out in God's creation like this brings new appreciation and awe of His majesty.  I think of Jesus at the Last Supper, when He broke the bread and served wine as a remembrance of His broken body and shed blood. Since walking was the main way people traveled back then, I can imagine Jesus and his followers stopping under the shade of trees and maybe near a stream for a midday lunch or evening meal, probably produced from hampers or bundles carried, or perhaps a supper of fish caught in the stream.  I'm sure conversation flowed freely as friends gathered close, even as did talk at our picnic table.  A type of communion.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Captain, My Captain

We saw the movie, Sully, last night, the story of Chelsea "Sully" Sullenberger, the airline captain who landed his plane in the Hudson river a few years ago. I didn't know what to expect, other than the story of the courageous landing and the survival of everyone on board.  So I was surprised to find an entirely different slant on the story.  Maybe I had missed a lot in the newspapers, but I never thought of him as anything but a hero.

Although the public loved him, the National Transportation Safety Board was not quite so enthusiastic. In fact, the captain was shocked when he was called before them for an investigation.  They argued that he could have made it to the airport and landed safely, according to their flight simulators, which re-enacted the event. It was three days before the matter was settled. But I won't ruin the movie with any more details, other than to say the NTSB seemed more concerned that they had lost a plane than the fact that 155 passengers were saved.

It reminded me of another movie, Moby Dick, based on the book by the same name written by Hermann Melville.  Melville got his inspiration from the accounts of  a real life whaler whose whaling boat was destroyed by a giant whale.  In the movie, the whaler was brought up for charges of destroying the boat, although it was not his fault.

Thoughts occurred to me of a parallel between these events and the ministry of Jesus. When Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, he was wildly heralded by the people.  He was a hero, worthy of being king! But the authorities didn't like it; they didn't care that he came to save the people from their sins.  Their only concern was that he was going to destroy their religious system! Jesus too, was brought up before officials in a kind of "kangaroo court."

It wasn't until three days after his crucifixion when He rose from the dead that He began to be recognized as Saviour!   Ephesians 4:9 says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. Coincidentally, Captain Sullenberger was in a pit of (emotional) darkness for three days.

When the movie was over, the actors portrayed as the people saved on the flight were shown--happy, well, and celebratory.  They looked nothing like the drenched, terrified passengers they represented who almost went to a watery grave. By the same token, the redeemed who die on earth--maybe from debilitating sickness, old age, or in another traumatic way--will look nothing like that in heaven!

 My husband had a vision of heaven when he was in a state of altered consciousness coming out of the anesthesia after heart surgery a few months ago.  He was in awe at the joy and happiness of the saints he saw descending as from a cloud into heaven.  From the way he described the scene, they were "walking and leaping and praising God," like the crippled man who had asked alms from Peter and John and was healed. Acts 3:6.

The people on the airplane trusted and obeyed their captain, and no one was lost. We must trust the "Captain of our salvation" to bring us safely home! "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Hebrews 2:10.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Heirlooms

Putting silverware in the drawer this morning at my daughter's house, my eyes fell on a table knife that brought back memories.  It was a pistol-handled knife that was part of a set I had ordered in the mail many years ago. For some reason, the primitive-looking set appealed to me, maybe reminding me of pilgrims or something.  The forks were three-pronged, prompting a visiting child to say one day, "Why are we eating with meat forks?" I don't remember what happened to the rest of the hardy stainless flatware, but at least Amy has a souvenir of her childhood.

I see other objects around her house that used to be mine, but since my house is largely running over with "stuff," I occasionally pass things on to my daughters.  An attractive pair of plaster (or chalk) busts of a young girl and boy sit atop a display case in her living room.  On seeing them when we come here, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. I remember when they presided from the top shelf of our bookcase wall in Mississippi.  They are even in the background of a family portrait.

Wall art of graceful southern belles at the piano and playing the violin in an antebellum setting hangs in our bedroom here. I bought it a neighbor's garage sale some forty years ago and gave it to Amy when we moved to Wichita in 1995.  Once a friend saw it in her house and convinced Amy it was valuable. She said it was a print of a famous painting and worth a lot of money. "Look, it even has the print number, 24-30 on the back!" she exclaimed, "It means number 24 in a printing of 30."  Turned out it was the dimensions of the picture, 24"x 30".  The appraiser admired the pretty frame, though.

None of these items are valuable, except for the memories they evoke of a time when I was a busy housewife and mother to our brood of six. We are widely scattered now, thanks to almost everyone relocating after hurricane Katrina. Families were God's idea.  "He puts the solitary in families..." Psalm 68:6.  Paul says in Ephesians 3:14-15, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."

We have family in heaven that we will see again someday. I'm so thankful that all our family members on earth, as Christians, are named by His Name.  I love to be with my family and reminisce over old possessions, and after I'm gone, they can have all the keepsakes they want!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Georgia on My Mind

"Mama, would you water my plants for me today?" my daughter asked as she prepared to leave for work.  Of course I would!  We were enjoying our stay at their house after they had driven 16 hours to come and get us, and then 16 hours to take us home with them.  Amy also set out a three-pot crockpot arrangement for me to put meat in for tonight's dinner. 

I set the crockpot indicators on low as daughter had instructed before Howard and I left for an outing in a nearby town.  We had a great afternoon, my getting to look in some favorite stores while my bookworm husband perused reading material at Barnes and Noble.  That was after a southern lunch at Bojangles, which specializes in fried chicken and biscuits.

Hurrying to get home later to water those plants, I was relieved to see we were there before our high school senior granddaughter got home. I put a couple items in the fridge that we had picked up, and went to check the crockpots. Funny I didn't smell anything, but even more incredible was when I removed the lids to find them empty! I hadn't put the meat in!  Mercy me!  I quickly threw everything in, including all the seasonings Amy had set out, and turned the pots to high!  Thankfully, pork chops cook quickly, but I'll probably have to finish them on the stove!

Being away from home is a mixed blessing. We love it, but we have to learn the complications of another household, such as the TV remote system, the kitchen range (they bought a new one), the laundry equipment,  even the quirks of the  AC in the automobile we are so generously given to drive. But the important thing is being with family!

Yesterday we got to visit our college granddaughter and see her new digs: a campus townhouse she shares with three other girls.  Their decorating skills were amazing, we noted as she proudly gave us the grand tour.  Little bouquets of dried flowers and seed pods in mason jars were grouped on end tables and shelves, a vine wreath with a burlap bow nestled cozily on a wall near verses and sayings in beautiful script, while artsy-craftsy signage was scattered tastefully throughout. The resourceful co-eds had fashioned a handy storage piece by attaching circular clamps to a wooden base to hold mason jars, which held toothbrushes, shampoo, and other necessities in the bathroom.

A trip to the grocery store was necessary, as granddaughter needed baking supplies to use in their kitchen.  Corrin loves to cook, even though she has a hotline to mom with questions of  measurements, techniques and ingredients. Needless to say, her table is a popular place! She texted pics to us later of the banana bread she had made. If it was as good as the Bananas Foster she served us there, it was amazing!

My capable, servant-hearted granddaughter reminds me of the busy hostess Martha in the Bible, but she has the spiritual hunger of a Mary as well.  She had a Bible study to go to that night and a meeting later with her "accountability partner." After my kitchen fiasco, I have no trouble believing that this petite little dynamo is a better "Martha" than me, and maybe a better "Mary" too! But that's okay! Don't we always want our kids (and grandkids) to be more than us?

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Good Old Days

And I thought my kitchen was inconvenient!  After all, I had to walk across the room from the sink to range and fridge!  But a letter written by my mother recently surfaced telling what their Tennessee farm life was like a hundred years ago!

Here is how they prepared breakfast:  First, the children had to go to the spring for water and for milk and butter that their mother kept in a box anchored in the ice cold water that sluiced around them.  Next, my future Mama and her siblings ran through their orchard to pick up apples the wind had blown down in the night.  Grandpa liked fried apples for breakfast.  Then Grandma made a foray to the smoke house to slice off a lean chunk of ham to go with the eggs the children had scooted under the house to gather from the nest a hen had hid out. They also picked up a few duck eggs floating in the stream!

I'm sure they all had a ravenous appetite after all that exercise.  And they still had to go to school, to which  my eight-year-old Mama rode her horse.  She wrote about the nice saddle and bridle she had for Dudley, as she had named him.  I recall stories she used to tell about riding him to her Uncle Robert's country store where she would buy things they couldn't raise themselves, such as tea, sugar, coffee, etc. 

This wasn't in her letter, but I remember her saying once she was sent to the store, and her eyes fell on a new pack of crayolas lying on the counter.  The colorful, waxy-smelling crayons  were so tempting, and she felt her hand reach for them and put them in her pocket!  When Grandma discovered them, she sent the crestfallen, but repentant little red-head straight back to return them.  I can't imagine the devout mother I knew doing such a thing, but that was before she knew the Lord.

A hilarious part of the 14-page letter relates an even younger experience at age 4 when she had been at a relative's house and heard a man using interesting words she had never heard before, not knowing they were curse words.  Later Grandma heard her skipping on the porch and making a sing-song of the bad words to the kittens she was holding and cussing roundly!

The love for her country home came through loud and clear as she described the interesting activities that were really work that kept the kids occupied: Taking sticks to knock off the fat worms on their Papa's tobacco crop; knocking the fodder off their sugar cane and later enjoying sopping the molasses from the big pot where it was boiled at the molasses mill; jumping up and down on the dried beans that had climbed the corn stalks so Grandma could winnow them by tossing up in the air for the wind to blow away the chaff, not to mention rocking baby brothers and sisters, whom she believed came in the trunk of the doctor's car!

 Incidents of sadness and tragedy too, were intermingled in Mama's memories, but they were dimmed and softened by the happy times she related, as I'm sure the joys of heaven now eclipse and surpass her amazing life on earth! 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Serendipity

"Happy accident or pleasant surprise." That's what serendipity means.  Yesterday I was remembering a bowl I like to use for potato salad for a large group.  We were having a church dinner, and that bowl would be perfect, I thought.  Seldom used, the beautiful clear, cut-glass bowl was stored in cabinets above the refrigerator. I got a stepstool and pulled the cabinet knobs.  Nothing! It wouldn't budge! With consternation, I could see the doors were painted shut from a kitchen paint job we'd had done several months ago!

It would have been just the right size, looking large with its wide brim but having a medium bowl size, since the potato salad didn't yield quite as much as I wanted. Now I would have to look for another bowl, and most of mine were large or small, or not attractive. Then I thought of a bowl that might work! A heavy, crockery bowl that would suit, not too big and not too little.  And carved into the rim in graceful script were the words, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34:8. I guess the potato salad was good, too, for there was none left.

The day before, we went to the store for a few things I needed for the food I wanted to take to the dinner.  Howard has "graduated" from his walker to a footed cane, but I held his arm as we started to walk up the sloping lot toward the supermarket, since all the handicapped spaces were taken. 

Just then we heard a voice calling, "Would like this basket?" We turned to see a young woman with a couple of kids hanging on about to return her cart to the store.  We gladly accepted! Howard gratefully placed his cane into it and pushed it into the store, where he could ride in a motorized cart.

"That was a blessing!" I said as we walked away.  Not a happy accident, but a God-initiated divine appointment! The lady was there just at the right time with the right support we needed!  It is a common occurrence in the parking lot that someone will offer a basket rather than return it, for which we usually refund their quarter they have deposited. That may have been what she was doing, not realizing that we would not need it for our few purchases, since they would go in the basket of Howard's handicapped cart. But God knew we needed it now for my husband to hold on to!

We were quite rattled by the Saturday morning surprise when our house shook and the air rumbled! Afterward, I looked for anything dislodged in the house, since Howard said he heard something fall.  The only thing I found was a decorative plate lying down on its stand in the bookcase. A pleasant surprise, but not serendipity.  Nor were any of the other happenings only happy accidents, but proof that God is good! Taste and see!

Friday, September 2, 2016

King of the Road

Oh happy day! The doctor has released my husband to drive!  That means I don't  have to be the sole driver anymore!  As we were riding along yesterday out to the country, I caught myself relishing the views out the window.  The clouds were so beautiful! The expanse of sky was so vast! I felt such an exhilaration and freedom as I was able to take my eyes from the road and enjoy the landscape passing by.

In town, I could look at the new shopping center going up and read the names of the stores! I could see the tomato man with his truck set up beside the road selling produce, jams and jellies, and fresh peaches! I could look at the bank clock until the temperature reading came on!

Then it occurred to me that when we move over and let Jesus be our driver in life,  the one in control, it brings a peace and contentment to our souls!  Why fret over something we can't manage or change, when we can turn it over to the Lord and relax and enjoy the scenery?  No longer do I grimly try to second-guess what the cars (or situations) approaching me will do.  Jesus knows what's going to happen in our (to us uncertain) future; He can see what's beyond the curve and take care of it!

I had been fretting over a deep scratch on my arm from a barbed-wire fence in our son's pasture. Probably should have had stitches, I fussed.  But each day, the wound dried up a little more, with a protective "nature's Band-Aid" forming in the scratch.  Finally, the unsightly scab began to crumble, then I worried about the scar.  Surprisingly, little by little, the mark began to fill in with fresh new growth as my miraculous body healed itself!

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are they works; and that my soul knoweth quite well." Psalm 139:14.

The same God who directs our paths also planned the intricacies of our mortal bodies! I used to think that when a wound or sore became red and inflamed, it meant infection. But it is because an army of  red blood cells is rushing to the rescue, bringing circulation and healing! I don't have to worry about the process, because God has already provided for our eventualities and accidents.

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I Peter 5:7. What a liberating thought that is! Why toss and turn and lose sleep when we can leave our worries to God? As someone once said, "He will be up all night anyway."  I might even be able to nap on trips when my husband is driving!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Standard Bearers

"This salad isn't any good," I remarked while eating lunch out.  I had eaten a few bites of the leafy lettuce, spinach, and other greens off the top, but underneath, the leaves were brown-edged, pale and tasted old.  I told my husband I was going to take it back.

"Well, don't say that it wasn't any good!" he implored, to which I asked, "What shall I say, then?" My ever-polite spouse said, "Tell them, 'This salad isn't up to your standards.'" So that is what I did. When the manager was called, I repeated, "This salad isn't up to your standards." They were polite and offered me another salad or refund, but I chose dessert for us both instead!

On another day at a restaurant, after getting Howard seated, I ordered our food and gave Howard's name.  "How is he doing?" the cashier asked.  I was able to tell him he was doing better.  On a previous occasion in answer to that question, I had to report things were going slowly. He later came to our table to chat.  I really didn't think he knew us that well, but he surprised us by telling Howard, "You are on our prayer chain." I wasn't sure I heard him right and asked what he said. He repeated, "You are on our prayer chain at our church."  Wow!  I had no idea! What a blessing from almost a complete stranger!

When our grandson was desperately ill in the hospital recently, their church in Austin organized a conference call prayer chain!  We followed the instructions to participate, giving our name which was to be called when it was our  turn to pray.  We could hear the people praying as each one would come on.  It was like being at a revival or church prayer meeting!  There were obviously so many praying that our name did not come up in the long while we waited. No doubt these fervent prayers were answered when our grandson began to improve and was subsequently dismissed a couple days later!

We were taking our walk a few days ago in Cann Gardens as part of Howard's walking therapy.  He likes to walk awhile and then take a rest on a bench or in a gazebo spaced conveniently along the brick walkway.  We were disappointed when we saw someone was already sitting in one of our favorite resting places, but when Howard asked the man if we could share the seating in the gazebo, he motioned us in.

The guy wore dark glasses and seemed reticent, but the first thing he said when we came in was, "My grandpa died last night." We expressed our sympathy, then he began to pour out things to us of his own near-death experiences from drugs. Howard asked him if had any visions or remembrances of anything during that time, and he said he did but he did not like to talk about what he saw. We did not press him, but my husband gave him a card from his wallet with the scripture, "The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of  all his troubles." Psalm 34:6.

We prayed for the man at our next rest stop. Prayer changes things. May we always bear the standard of Jesus before the world. We never know when it will be us standing in the need of prayer!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Comfort!

Comfort food.  I wanted something, but I didn't know what as I surveyed the pantry shelves. Not a cookie, not cereal, but something. Then I spied it: a box of graham crackers! Perfect with a glass of milk! I guess my subconscious was going back to my childhood, when Mama kept graham crackers for the babies, but not out of my reach!

The other morning, when I knew I didn't share my husband's appetite for eggs and sausage, I made myself a half-recipe of cocoa gravy! Some call it chocolate gravy, but it was always cocoa gravy our mother made for us when we were kids.  I couldn't believe how good it was when I put it over a hot biscuit. A year or so ago I didn't like the way the recipe turned out, so I reduced the sugar by half this time, and it was scrumptious: warm, chocolatey and comforting.

The Bible calls the Holy Spirit our comforter.  I think of the time Jesus startled his disciples by appearing alongside their boat during a storm at sea.  What a comfort it was for them when He got into the boat with them and calmed the storm (Matthew 14:32.) 

Don't you love it when Jesus gets into our boat with us in times of storms and trouble? We have seen  that recently when one of our grandson's life was at peril in the hospital.  We found out later that the doctors and nurses held out little hope for him and didn't expect him to survive.  But Jesus was in the boat! He brought him through!

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted  of God." 2 Corinthians 3-4.

There are countless opportunities to comfort others.  We were comforted by people's generosity and help during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina when we lived on the gulf coast.  Now we have a chance to help those in the Louisiana floods. "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem," Isaiah 66:12, speaking of future rejoicing of God's people.

At one point in Jesus's ministry, his disciples were urging him to eat.  His response to them in John 4:32 was, "I have meat (food) to eat that ye know not of." The disciples wondered if someone had brought him something to eat. "Jesus saith unto them, My meat (food) is to do the will of him that sent me, to finish his work."

As much as we love comfort, sometimes we  have to get out of our comfort zones to help others!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Letters Home

My heart leapt at what I read!  I stumbled onto a Facebook communication to one of my nieces from a name from the past! I didn't know she had been in contact with this cousin, daughter of my Uncle Robert, my mother's brother! The cousin was writing that she had found a letter from Mama, and wondered if my niece wanted it!

All the older generation of my mother's family, including Mama, have passed on, and I was never really in touch with their children.  But here was someone whose maiden name was the same last name as my mother! How I had wondered about this part of our family, always living distantly, their families growing up as ours were, not knowing each other.

I wasted no time in finding my cousin's Facebook page, and I messaged her that I would like a copy of the letter.  She replied immediately that she would send one, saying it was a long letter telling about my mother's childhood! How precious! A glimpse into the past!  She was also searching for pictures to include!

I can't wait to get the packet from her!  I have a large collection of Mama's letters that she wrote to me over the years when we lived in Mississippi, but this sounds like a much older letter, maybe from the days of my childhood? Mama was a good letter writer, and of course when I was little, there was no such thing as the instant communication we have today.

I remember a saved letter I saw once (never mailed, I think) when I was a little girl that she had written to her family in Texas. Her beautiful script covered several pages, tattered, even then. I can still see what she wrote: "Cooking supper, cornbread, buttermilk and poke sallit, what I like!" I can imagine Mama sitting down, wiping her brow with her apron, and finding a stubby pencil to dash off a letter home while she waited for the cornbread to bake in the oven of her wood stove, maybe being interrupted to remove the stove lid and add wood to cook the greens.  (I once asked her how she knew when the oven was hot enough, and she said, "By putting my hand in the oven!")

God sent us a letter, too. It's called the Bible.  It is full of letters from faithful men who were under divine inspiration to send the precious messages to us and all posterity. In it, we can find out about a place we have never seen, but one we will go to someday, if we obey the instruction letter and know and serve God.

There we will meet all the loved ones awaiting us there, some we have never met, but somehow we will know them.  I know my mother is there, the dear saint of God, who yearned for nothing more than to meet her family in heaven.  I plan to be there!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blood, Fire, and Vapor of Smoke!

It's true! When I woke up and opened the bedroom door the house was full of smoke! At first I thought my eyes were just blurry from sleep, but there was a definite fog in the air and it was reaching my nose! "Howard!" I called, for we had risen earlier and I had gone back to bed. I found my unhappy husband leaning over the sink trying to wash something down the drain.  "What happened?" I demanded.

But let me back up.  A week or so ago we started my husband on a reduced-salt diet.  We had a pack of bacon in the fridge from before, and I had planned to pick up some lower-sodium bacon next time I went to the store. But Howard was hungry for bacon now.  We thought maybe we could make it less salty by soaking the bacon in a pan of water.  He even suggested boiling it in water for awhile.  And that is what he did while I was asleep! Only he sat down on the sofa and went to sleep while the water evaporated and the bacon pulverized, filling the house with smoke!

Later that day, after we aired the house and the smoke cleared, we drove to the farm.  It was a beautiful pre-fall day, cool and clear, and perfect to watch the animals inside the pasture fence. The male goat, which has grown a scary set of horns, was aggravating the pigs as they ate some table scraps I had brought for them.  Finally, I had enough of it, and took Howard's footed cane to poke at the aggressive billy through the fence. 

It didn't faze him, so I poked again, this time losing one of the rubber tips of the cane.  I reached in to get it, and jerking my hand back to avoid the goat, I got a horrendous scrape on my arm and hand! I hadn't realized part of the fence was laced with barbed wire! Bleeding and oozing, I saw that I had a rather deep cut on my wrist and a gouge near the back of my hand!  I rushed inside our son's house and washed my wound and doused it with peroxide.  It is healing nicely today, but still looks garish!

Early this morning Howard announced plans to walk in Cann Gardens, a botanical garden near us.  After a couple of errands, we got to the park.  Strange, I thought.  There were several cars gathering in the usually empty park, with formally dressed people getting out, straightening ties and smoothing hair in the breeze.  We proceeded along the curved, cobble stone path and saw through the trees and shrubs that white folding chairs had been set up in rows on the spacious brick terrace behind the historic home on the property.

Then we heard strains of music and glimpsed a small band, complete with a bass violinist and two other violinists drawing their bows over their instruments. A wedding! What a perfect spot and a perfect day for a garden  wedding.  Rather than stare from the walkway, Howard leaning on his walker, we sat down in a gazebo a little way off and watched. Soon guests were being seated by ushers, and three men in dark suits who had been dawdling outside the bushes near us lined up and took their places. Presently we glimpsed a gauzy vision in white appear as the bride went up the aisle.

We continued our walk, but I couldn't help saying, still in awe, "Thank God for weddings."  Then I murmured, "They are a picture of Christ and the church," as Howard nodded.

The old Devil may stomp and snort like an enraged goat and manage to inflict a few wounds, but we know his destiny, and it is not Non-Smoking! Meanwhile, the Bride arrayed in white will be joined with her heavenly Bridgroom, and I'm sure the music will be ethereal!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Come and Dine!

I was reading in the Bible this morning Mark's account of the healing of Jairus's daughter. "And  behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live." Mark 5:22-23.

Jesus agreed, and was going with him, but he had an interruption.  The woman with the issue of blood exercised great faith and bravery born of desperation to make her way through the crowd to touch Jesus. Her faith was rewarded with a marvelous healing.  By that time, word came that the little girl was already dead, and there was no use for Jesus to come. "Be not afraid, only believe," Jesus told the distraught father.

The Bible says she arose at Jesus' command, and walked.  Then Jesus commanded they give her something to eat. Something to eat. That phrase stood out to me when I thought about the newborn Christian.  They have been saved and raised to life, so to speak. "Newness of life," the Bible calls it. What must they do then?   They need to eat!

The little girl's family was told to feed her! The saved person enters into the family of God that needs to nourish the new believer. They are encouraged to go to church to hear the Word, but most importantly, to read the Bible for themselves, learn to feed themselves. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:" I Peter 2:2.

When we returned home last week after an absence of several days, I was so disappointed to find my beautiful plant on the porch wilted and drooping. We were anxious to leave and check on our hospitalized grandson, and I didn't think to make provisions for plant watering. Howard had received the Peace Plant from our Sunday School class when he was in the hospital, and we had enjoyed it ever since, but it looked dead now!

I watered it anyway, day after day, and I saw no improvement. Finally, there was a little spark of life with an almost indiscernible strengthening of the stems, then a leaf looked firm and shiny!  It was coming back to life! Today's surprise rain shower is just what it needs, and I lost no time in setting it outside for the life-giving drops!  We may not see a lot of growth in baby Christians, but with the proper nourishment of living water and the Bread of life, they will flourish!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Week!

"Mom! My pig has purple spots!" our son exclaimed.  Then he said he took a picture of the spots and showed them to the vet. "Her eyes got big, and she said she was going to notify the USDA and they would be out to look at the pig!" he said to our alarm.

Meanwhile, I looked up the symptoms on the internet, and found it did not sound serious. "The meat is not affected," I read. Still, we were uneasy for the next couple of days, until Greg had another phone call from the vet.  "I have been doing some reading, and it's not dangerous," she said. "The USDA will not be out," she finished.

And now the pig is fine, her appetite is back and she is enjoying pig life after her several days of malaise. Apparently she had a virus. Whew! What a week it has been! This time last week we were just getting home from a trip to Texas  to be at the bedside of our grandson in the hospital. A serious infection required a ventilator for almost two weeks, then the side effects of removing it were difficult.  We learned today he is up in his chair, asking for his cell phone! Praise God for His healing power!

The hospital was almost right next door to IKEA, so when we were urged to take a break, we spent an hour of welcome distraction there. It was like a breath of fresh air! Viewing the beautiful room settings, innovative ideas, and tempting merchandise, not to mention reasonable prices, lifted my spirits like a vacation!

Since we were less than two hours from Houston, we diverted our trip homeward to visit briefly with our youngest son's family.  How wonderful to enjoy the little grands and watch them play! Part of the next day was spent observing them in their classes at a creative arts worship event for children at their church.  Seven-year-old Maddie produced an original painting of Jesus and a cross in her art session, then we watched her go over her lines in Drama for a commencement presentation. She was also learning the drums, but we missed that.

Anne-Marie, 9, participated in Voice, singing joyfully with the other kids in a melisma as we watched. I saw videos of her later in creative worship Dance gracefully waving billowing, turquoise fans to music and movement.

2 1/2 year-old Isaac emerged from the nursery occasionally to take rides around the church in a fanciful cart reminiscent of England's red double-decker buses. As I tried to get a shot of his lasagna-smeared face at lunch, he looked past the child facing him on the other side of the table, pointing to me for her to notice, yelling, "It's Mimi!  It's Mimi!"  Our son said the first thing Isaac said when he picked him up from the nursery was, "Where Mimi and Pa Pa?" That warmed me all the way home!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Changing Seasons

School starts tomorrow here. For weeks, parents have been scouring the school supply aisles in the stores for just the right items listed on the papers posted for each school and grade. We were in Walmart today, and school shoppers had an almost panicky look about them as they hurried along with a child in tow, getting necessities at the last minute. It almost reminded me of people ransacking the shelves when an ice storm or hurricane is in the forecast!

I couldn't help thinking of the harried and hurried pace of our lives today, the feeling of a shadow of urgency looming like a cloud in our common subconscious. Everyone knows something is going to happen, but no one knows what. Economic, political, natural disasters--something apocalyptic?  It seems as if God Himself is sending signals that something momentous is imminent.

My husband tells me statistics show that Bible sales are at an all-time high! Hopefully that means people are seeking God. Or likely they are trying to find insight into today's disturbing world events.  Are these the last days?  Or the last of the last days?  Things seem to point in that direction.

Yet much of the world is living in a frenzy!  Schedules keep families running here and there.  Sports, entertainment, eating out and night life consume lives. It is reminiscent of what I have heard about the society of Berlin in WWII when the fall was imminent.  In the book, The Longest Day, the people are portrayed as partying wildly, expecting their doom.

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.  They were concerned to have their lamps lit and burning. The five foolish ones let their light go out.  Our school children go to school to let the light of knowledge fill their minds.  Maybe we all need to go back to the Bible, our textbook for living in this life, and the life to come!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Growth

Oh, no! A tissue got left in a  pocket, and now I had white bits of it stuck to everything in the load of colored clothes!  I hate when that happens!  I knew a lot of it would come off in the dryer, but just in case, I painstakingly picked every shred of it off the garments.  Of particular concern was a new, dark knit shirt that my husband likes. It was covered in what looked to be lint! I was thankfully surprised
when the clothes came out with nothing on them, with only pieces of tissue floating around like feathers in the dryer.

Making dinner later, I needed an onion for the stuffed peppers I was planning.  I opened the top door of the vegetable bin to retrieve one from behind the heart-shaped, screened opening and was met with a swarm of gnats!  Or tiny fruit flies! The culprit was a soft onion in the bottom of the mesh onion bag. If I hadn't found it, the whole bag might have been ruined!

These incidents remind me of sin! If one keeps company with the wrong kind of people, before long, he becomes like them! Their sinful practices rub off and stick to him!  Before long, sin has infected a life.  Jesus said in I Corinthians 5:6, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaventh the whole lump?"  Leaven is another word for yeast, and here it is used as a symbol of impurity.

I remember my mother using yeast to make bread or yeast rolls. It smelled so delicious as she was dissolving it in the water, and the aroma of the bread was intoxicating! Temptations to do wrong can be that way, especially to a young, vulnerable Christian. 

However, leaven can be used as an illustration for good! In another place, Jesus uses it as an example of the spread of the gospel! "Another parable Jesus spake ye unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three  measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." Matthew 12:33.

When the yeast bubbled in the bowl, Mama knew it would make the bread and rolls rise and double in size.  When the word of God is released from our mouths or pulpits, it will do its job. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isaiah 55:11

That word of witness you speak, that little tract you leave,  will prosper and grow in someone's heart!  It is so beautiful to see the statistics of how the gospel of Christianity is spreading around the world!

The boy Samuel responded to the voice of God by saying, "Here am I." Verse 19 of I Samuel 3 says of him, "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground."  None of his words failed to be fulfilled.  Neither will the words of the Lord!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Home

Cleaning our front porch yesterday, straightening the chairs, shaking the rug and sweeping, made me think of the playhouses I had when I was little. I made them myself, picking up sticks and laying them on the ground as outlines for rooms.  I would use chips of broken dishes I found for the "kitchen." Not having another girl to play with, it was totally up to me to use my imagination for my play, and I remember being embarrassed when a grown-up sister looked at my creation.  Kind of like when a parent visits a child's school room and enters his "world".

At that age, we lived on a hilltop in the blackjack woods of Oklahoma.  There was a scenic bluff behind our house that we children called "The Big Rocks."  It was our favorite place to play and a gathering place for my older siblings. I remember looking down toward the bottom lands below and singing at the top of my lungs, "When it's springtime in the Rockies," confident that the song was about our location. One of my playhouses was a big, flat rock with a carpet of green moss hidden among the thick bushes and saplings. (I abandoned this hideaway when I found a big snake coiled in the middle of my "carpet" one day!)

It was about this time that I was taken to church for the first time by an older sister who was fervent for the Lord. I didn't understand much, but a couple years later I remember being touched mightily by God when a friend and I knelt at our pew. We were crying our eyes out and so joyful!

I thought about this Sunday when the righteous child-king Josiah came up in our Sunday School lesson. Our teacher asked how many had been saved as a child. Many hands went up, and although mine didn't, I'm pretty sure that's when I was saved.  I  was filled with the Holy Spirit at age 13 when our family turned to God after the tragic loss of my little brother.

I still enjoy homemaking! I have loved and decorated several homes in our 58 years of marriage, the longest tenure being 20 years where we raised our children in Mississippi. But my heavenly home Jesus is preparing will outshine them all!

"In my father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. 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."  --Jesus, John 14:2-3.





Monday, August 1, 2016

New Generation

"What shall I wear to church?"  Howard asked me.  I pulled out a beautifully ironed pair of white slacks and handed him a new black shirt.

"You look sharp!" I said when we were ready for church. Even the Sunday School class commented on how well he looked when we walked in, one lady in the hall saying, "You're walking tall this morning!" Everyone is glad he is gaining strength and making progress in his recovery.

Sitting in church a little later, we were passed the communion trays.  Suddenly the cup holding the "wine" got tipped in the tray and doused the lap of Howard's white trousers! Purple grape juice made a huge stain running down his pant leg! The usher quickly brought a bundle of tissues, but no amount of blotting removed the vivid color.  It didn't faze my  husband, though, and he sat through the service without complaint.

Our son in Houston had told me that his 7-year-old daughter was getting baptized Sunday! Since I remembered her sister had asked to be baptized at age 8, I asked if Maddie had requested it.  He said, "Well, when her mother asked her why she wanted to be baptized, she said, 'Jesus did it, and you did it, and I want to be the next generation!'".

I thought about that after Howard's mishap. Just as the communion element representing the blood of Jesus was spilled, so was His blood spilled. For all generations! Jesus thought of us when he prayed for the disciples in John 17:20: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word."  Psalm 100:5 says His truth endures to all generations!

Communion is all about Jesus shedding His blood for our sins. We used to sing a song in church about "the blood that stained the old rugged cross."  Try though I might, I haven't yet removed all the stains from Howard's pants, but thank God He has removed the stain of sin from us and all the generations who trust him for salvation!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Massacre!

"Mom! I just witnessed the most horrible thing!" our son's alarmed voice came over the phone.  Knowing he lives near a busy highway, I said with dread, "Oh, no! Was it a car wreck?"

"No! I just saw the pigs eat our little turkey!" I was in shock! We knew two of the young turkeys we had raised from babies had disappeared with no trace, but is this what had happened?

"They each one had hold of a wing and pulled it apart! I was yelling and screaming at them but there was nothing I could do!" I could hear the anguish of my tender-hearted son.  He had never been raised around animals and didn't know pigs would do this, while I remembered as a child seeing our duck's feet sticking out of our pig's mouth!

Greg had decided just days ago that the four turkeys were big enough now to be out of their cage and forage with the hens. Then they started disappearing! We had so enjoyed the two pigs, and I saved table scraps for them every day.  Now I was angry! The cannibals!  Maybe that's what happened to missing chickens we were blaming on the dog!

Still, you can't blame animals for being animals.  And pigs are carnivorous. We just like to look at their cute side (as babies) and expect them to behave as we see fit. It reminds me of a scene in the Lion King movie where the lion tried to resist eating animals, when all he could see was steaks when he looked at them!

Or the illustration of a boy putting a snake inside his shirt to keep it warm after the snake's pitiful pleas that it was cold.  "Why did you bite  me?" the boy cried later, and the snake's reply was "You knew I was a snake when  you picked me up!"

As Christians, we are admonished in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.

But someday there will be harmony in creation, as promised in the Bible, when "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and a little child shall lead them," Isaiah 11:6-7.

And pigs won't eat turkeys!



This is the Day that The Lord Has Made!

Suddenly I was having to yell to get Howard to hear me.  What had happened? He said he had felt his ear pop at one point.  After a couple of days of this, we checked in at the doctor's office.  It was a wax build-up! Now his hearing is back to "normal."  Good news!

But that's not all!  My husband had lost more than thirty pounds after his surgery.  Despite his efforts to eat more, the scales had been stuck for months at that low level, only creeping tantalizingly up a pound or two, then to recede below the scale marker at the next weigh in.  A little discouraged, I hadn't weighed him in several days. 

Then today when the nurse weighed him on the way to the exam room, she quoted a number that was 10 pounds above what he weighed at home!  I laughed, because how could there have been such a discrepancy between our bathroom scale's reading and this one? After the ear check-up, I mentioned that that was quite a difference.  The nurse agreed and said she would check it again. She was right! Howard has gained 10 pounds! Praise God!

We feel he has turned the corner in his recovery! He sleeps well at night, has a good appetite, is not tortured by a bad taste, and is doing more on his own.  The other day he went into a UPS store while I sat in the car!  He has started pumping our gas (Yay)! Sunday at church he even participated in greeting time by going around shaking hands, albeit with his walker.

We had planned to go to the Farmer's Market today, which would start at 4:00 p.m.  At 3:40 I remembered, and knowing that the best stuff goes quickly, I woke  my husband from a nap.  He was tired from an earlier outing at a Seniors' Breakfast.  "Where is your walker?" I asked as we hurried to get to the market.  He didn't know, and I couldn't find it.  Then an unwelcome thought surfaced. Maybe we left it at the restaurant where we had breakfast!  Neither of us could remember his using it to get back in the car, what with his newfound independence!

"Let's go to the Farmer's Market first," we agreed, "then go to the restaurant to see if we left the walker there." Pickings were slim where the farmers were selling their produce, but we managed at least to get some okra and tomatoes, our favorites. Howard waited in the car while I went to check on the walker.  No one had seen it! Maybe I had overlooked it at home, I thought, then Howard said he remembered having it in our dining room! (Getting old is not for sissies!)

"Pull  in to McDonald's," I was instructed, "I want a Dr. Pepper!" As I received it at the window, I glanced in the back seat for my purse. It was nowhere to be seen! I checked the floor in the front and back, and started to panic!  My purse! It had everything important in it! My heart sank with a despair akin to that of leaving your child somewhere! 

Howard said he would find it, and started to get up from his seat while I prayed! Then what materialized before my eyes but my purse! "You were sitting on it!" I shrieked in relief! Thank you, God! And his walker was safe and sound at home.  A very good day!




Monday, July 25, 2016

Dishpan Hands!

I needed a dishpan. I was tired of the water leaking out of the sink when I was washing dishes.   Walking around Dollar General, I spotted a dish drainer, but there were no dishpans to go with it.  Finally I approached the cashier and asked, "Do you have any dishpans?" to which she replied, looking puzzled, "I don't know what you mean by dishpan!"

Drawing a picture in the air of the shape, I said, "A plastic pan that fits in the sink!" Then I was told if they had anything like that they would be in the farthest corner of the store. They had several, and when I took it to the counter, I pointed to the label and said, "See, it says "Dishpan!" The tired cashier said she used that to soak her feet!

Obviously, the young woman didn't wash dishes by hand. I know I'm old-fashioned, but there is something therapeutic about washing dishes.  This morning I looked at the two bottles of detergent on the sink.  One that I didn't particularly like had a lot left, but the other, more efficient one, was getting low.  Maybe I'll just mix them together, I thought.  I did, then a full bottle meant I wouldn't have to buy detergent so soon! It was funny, because one dishwashing liquid was blue, and the other was yellow, so now I have a pretty bottle of green liquid that is quite satisfactory!

In the Bible, we are taught how we all need one another. In Paul's discourse in I Corinthians chapter 12, he uses the analogy of the human body to describe Christians' relationship to each other. We get the idea that no part of our body is more important than the other, no matter how lowly or "comely," as the Bible states, nor is any gift or believer.  We have a mutual need for and dependence on each other.

During an important battle, when the patriarch Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed over Amalek, but when he let down his hand, the enemy prevailed.  Exodus 17:12, "But Moses's hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the  other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."

My kitchen soap, blended together, helps me get an important job done.  I may have dishpan hands, but I can lift them to help others and to praise the Lord!














































































































































































































































































































































Look in the Book!

"Bring me the cell phone!" my husband was calling from his desk.  We had just gotten home and I was starting on a quick supper for us. I stopped what I was doing and went to get the phone from my purse.

"Here it is," I said and went back to the kitchen.  Pretty soon I heard him yelling again for the phone. "I just gave it to you!" I reminded him.  He said he couldn't find it, so I helped him look.  Then I went back and looked in my purse, just in case.  No phone. After several searches, I announced I was fixing supper and we would look for it later, though we had looked everywhere.

After supper I thought about the misplaced phone.  "I'm going to find that phone!" I said determinedly as I got up from the table.  I looked all around the room where the desk is with no success.   Then I prayed, "Lord, help me find that phone!" Just then I saw a black edge of something peeking out of a Bible.  I opened it and there it was! The phone!  I must have placed it on the open Bible and Howard had closed the Book!

How many times have I lost things and couldn't find them until I at last prayed!  It has happened over and over!  Why don't I ask God to help me first thing? I ask myself.  I just automatically start using logic as to where I had something last, or where would be the obvious place, and on and on.

It must be a little lesson on trust from the Heavenly Father, a lesson to call on Him, or else he is looking on in fond amusement, patiently waiting to be asked! Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

I shared this testimony in Sunday School class yesterday, and when the teacher was praying over requests and praise reports, he said among other things, "And we thank you that the lost was found." Of course! It struck me that that was Jesus's sole mission on earth! To find and save the lost!

"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost." Matthew 18:11. These words of Jesus are followed by His illustration of the lost sheep and the shepherd leaving the ninety and nine to find that one.

When we lost our phone, a means of communication, we felt disconnected. But there it was, in the pages of the Bible, a place we can always find connection with God!